9 Best Practices for Creating Email Signup Forms

9 Best Practices for Creating Email Signup Forms
Ivan Kreimer Ivan Kreimer Feb 3, 2023 —  9 min read

If you’re trying to build your email list, it’s crucial to have efficient email signup forms.

Simple as they seem, there’s more to them than meets the eye. A poorly-designed signup form can easily confuse your visitors, making them less likely to join your list. They can even mislead or interrupt them on their path to purchase.

The result? You lose new potential subscribers and money.

But don’t despair because, in this article, you’ll see how the following email signup form best practices will help you set your website on the path to a fast-growing email list.

1. Popups work — but don’t rely on them alone

Modal popups are the most popular type of email signup form. With an average signup rate of 4.44% on desktop and 7.93% on mobile, they are also insanely effective. This makes modals an obvious choice for your list-building strategy.

However, there are more types of email signup forms than popups. To name a few, you have:

  • Slide-ins
  • Fullscreens (also known as “welcome mats”)
  • Floating bars (also known as “fixed bars”)
  • Embedded forms (i.e., the ones fixed on a page)

With these many options, you may ask yourself, “why should I use these other forms when my modal popups work just fine?”

The answer is that modals are a great starting point for your list-building campaigns — assuming you trigger them properly and can use good imagery and copy (more on these points later).

But in other cases, there are better options. For example:

  • If you want to grow your list fast at whatever cost, a fullscreen is better
  • If you want to target low-intent shoppers with a non-promotional offer (like an ebook), an inline form might be better
  • If you want to communicate a message site-wide, a floating bar is better

To show you how different types of signup forms can perform, we ran a test in our own blog:

Different types of email signup forms compared

Fullscreens were the highest converting at 3.41%, while modal popups followed them closely at 2.95%. Sidebars finished third at 2.61%, followed by the bottom bar (2.3%) and slide-in (2.17%).

Before you go and dump all of your slide-ins and mobile popups for fullscreens, remember that this was a test in our blog. Your website’s results will vary greatly.

Fullscreens are usually too aggressive to depend on them alone. But in some parts of your site (like your blog), for some people (like returning visitors), and for certain needs (growing your list fast), they can work.

You should consider testing different email signup forms and see which ones work best for you while remembering the following eight best practices.

(FYI, our popup builder allows you to create all these email signup forms easily in a few clicks – and split-test them, too. So no excuses 😉)

2. Segment for desktop and mobile

Different devices create different user experiences.

Just compare reading this article on your computer versus on your phone. Quite different experiences, would you agree?

If reading a page on different devices varies greatly, imagine how much it is to see an email signup form. Just look at the following popup as I see it on my MacBook Pro 13”:

An modal email signup form on a MacBook Pro 13’’ screen

Now, look at the same popup squeezed to fit in a mobile device:

A modal email signup form on a smaller screen of a mobile device

It’s not the same experience at all. The former popup looked good, while the latter looked like it took up too much space.

We can call this situation the “desktop-mobile UX inconsistency problem,” and it’s critical you get it right. Without good UX, you can’t expect to generate conversions — email signups or otherwise.

To avoid this problem, you want to either adapt your signup forms to all screen sizes or create separate forms for desktop and mobile devices.

Desktop signup forms can be larger, can include imagery, and feature longer copy. Mobile signup forms should be smaller, have properly sized images (or no images), and use shorter copy.

This shouldn’t take too much work, as every major popup software tool (ahem, like Getsitecontrol) lets you make these changes easily.

Most of your work creating an email signup form should be focused on finding the right offer, writing the copy, and targeting it to the right people.

Once you do that, you can duplicate it and adapt it to mobile devices, simplifying the design, as mentioned before.

Why is it so important to get your mobile popup design right? Because popups can help you generate leads on mobile – often more efficiently than on desktop.

In one study, we analyzed the email signup forms of 200+ sites using Getsitecontrol (90% of which were ecommerce stores), and we found mobile popups converted 74.27% higher on average than their desktop counterparts.

Average email signup rate for email popups on mobile and desktop devices

In other words, if your website receives mobile traffic, you want to make sure your email signup forms follow the best practices and look user-friendly on smaller screens.

3. Use relevant images

Our tests showed that adding images to email signup popups increased their conversions by 63.49% — from 2.63% to 4.3%.

Email signup rates for popups with images and without images

But just because engagement and conversions increase with images, it doesn’t mean any image will do. The goal is to use images that connect to your offer.

Your images should magnify your copy and represent what you’re offering your visitors. For example, if you’re offering a discount on the first purchase, you can show your products:

Clarins uses a fullscreen email signup form to grow their email list

Similarly, you can show your products being used or how your visitors will look once they use them:

Email signup form featuring a picture of a customer using the product

To make things more interesting, you can use GIFs instead of still images:

4. Minimize the number of input fields

Another point that is often overlooked is the number of input fields, which plays a huge role in your forms’ performance.

A well-known conversion optimization principle states that the fewer input fields you present, the higher the conversions.

One study found that pop-up forms with one and two input fields converted more than three times better than those with more.

Drip’s study shows that 1 or 2 is the optimal number of fields for an email signup form

The results seem obvious — too many input fields are uncomfortable and may look intimidating, too. That is especially true for mobile visitors.

Keep your input fields to two at most. If you need more, use a two-step approach where people click a button, fill in one field first, and then they fill in the rest.

5. Make your email signup forms relevant to the context

There’s one thing all high-converting email signup forms have in common: they’re relevant to a visitor’s session context.

In other words, what you present will look appealing and useful for someone, given the current page and their intent (the intent could be to learn more about your brand, to shop, or to educate themselves).

For example, offering a welcome discount on a product page to a first-time visitor may be relevant:

Offering a welcome discount to first-time visitors is a good email signup form practice

But a returning website visitor who already knows your brand, would probably be surprised to see such an offer.

It’s a common practice to present more “aggressive” discount offers for first-time visitors who come from an ad or your email newsletter.

At the same time, if you’re using your blog to build an email list, offering a discount in exchange for an email signup might not be the best decision. Why? Because someone who’s landed on your blog might still be in the awareness stage, not ready to purchase.

Instead, you can offer a different type of lead magnet when inviting them to your newsletter:

Before you get tangled up creating complex segmentation for all your opt-in forms, starting with the low-hanging fruit is best.

Start by excluding first-time visitors, those coming from unprofitable locations, or those in low-intent pages like the “About us” from your aggressive offers.

Then, you can create more specific offers for your higher-value visitors, like returning, email subscribers, and past customers.

6. Use behavioral targeting

If contextualizing your opt-in forms will increase your conversions, targeting them based on your visitors’ behaviors will blow your mind 🤯

There are three behavioral triggers to use. The first one is time delays.

Our tests showed that delaying popups for more than five seconds generated 52.02% more conversions than delaying them for two to five seconds.

Similarly, Drip found that a time delay of eight seconds generated a 3.62% conversion rate, outperforming the second result by 34.57%.

Stats showing the optimal time delay for a pop-up email signup form

Another option is to use scroll delays. According to Drip, the ten highest-performing email signup forms were those shown after a visitor scrolled at least 35% of a page.

Stats showing the optimal page depth for email signup forms to pop up

Finally, consider using exit-intent popups to grow your email list.

Think of it this way. The fact that a visitor is leaving your website without purchasing doesn’t mean they don’t like your brand or they don’t want to buy from you. It merely means they don’t want to buy from you now.

So why not offer them a coupon for their first purchase and increase the chances of them returning to your website? Here is what it may look like:

Email signup form triggered by exit-intent

Wondering if this approach works? Our studies found that you can convert up to 7% of abandoning visitors, into email subscribers if you offer a next-purchase coupon.

7. Diversify your lead magnets

A lead magnet is any offer you give out for free to gain new email subscribers. That can include:

  • Coupons and discounts
  • Giveaways
  • Ebooks
  • Email “drip” courses
  • Access to special sales
  • Access to loyalty programs

For the most part, a discount can work wonders for most ecommerce stores. But just like modal popups, you shouldn’t rely on them alone.

Not only can you lose money with them if you target them incorrectly, but as you saw, your offers should vary depending on the page and intent of the visitor.

What matters is that you offer something to your visitors. Asking them to sign up for your newsletter won’t be of any value. But if you position this type of offer as a way to get access to exclusive products and discounts, it’ll work better.

Example of email signup form by August Alchemy

In our research, we found that signup forms without lead magnets saw conversions of 3.83% on mobile and 1.84% on desktop. But with a lead magnet, the forms converted 7.73% visitors on mobile and 4.7% on desktop — a 101.82% and 155.43% improvement, respectively.

Stats showing email signup rights for pop-up forms with a lead magnet and without it

8. Use “click triggers” around your CTAs

What you offer and how you offer it matters more than the CTA. But we have discussed in another article what words to write in an email signup CTA, so we won’t discuss this now.

Instead, there’s something few people know about that will improve your conversions considerably: using click triggers.

“What’s that?” you may ask.

A click trigger is anything that surrounds a CTA, usually below it, emphasizing the value the visitor will get and what they can expect after clicking the CTA. That includes using:

  • Testimonials
  • Review ratings
  • Press mentions
  • Awards
  • Privacy guarantees

A click trigger to use for your email signup forms is to mention how many other people have signed up for your offer:

Using click triggers is one of the best email signup form practices

Testimonials and press mentions are also incredibly powerful ways to persuade people to sign up:

Backlinko is using testimonials as a click trigger for his email signup form

9. Make it easy to opt-out

Before we close, there’s one final best practice that may seem counterintuitive but that will increase your conversions.

When creating your opt-in forms, add an “opt-out” button. Doing so will allow your visitors to reject your offers without leaving your site:

Our tests found that email signup forms with an opt-out button saw 14.34% higher conversion rates (8.05% versus 7.04%).

Stats showing that email signup forms featuring an opt-out button convert slightly better than signup forms without an opt-out button

How to optimize your email signup forms: summary

Following these email signup form best practices shouldn’t be too hard if you get started now. Each one will give you a nice boost in your conversions that, when put together, will boost your list growth and sales.

To summarize everything you saw here, here are the eight email signup form best practices to use:

  1. Go beyond modal popups and try slide-ins, floating bars, inline forms, and fullscreens
  2. Segment and adapt your forms for desktop and mobile devices
  3. Use relevant images in your email signup forms
  4. Lower the number of input fields
  5. Focus your offers on the context in which your forms appear, so they’re more relevant
  6. Use different types of lead magnets — not just discounts, but ebooks and exclusive deals
  7. Use “click triggers” like testimonials and press mentions (i.e., logos)
  8. Add an opt-out button to your forms

Ivan Kreimer is a freelance content writer for hire who creates educational content for SaaS businesses like Leadfeeder and Campaign Monitor. In his pastime, he likes to help people become freelance writers. Besides writing for smart people who read sites like Getsitecontrol, Ivan has also written in sites like Entrepreneur, MarketingProfs, TheNextWeb, and many other influential websites.

You're reading Getsitecontrol blog where marketing experts share proven tactics to grow your online business. This article is a part of Lead generation section.

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