By Kim Krause© 2004 Cre8pc.com/UsabilityEffect.com
We've all seen them.
They come in various sizes, and though they look innocent enough, they're really a mysterious black hole leading to something even more puzzling.
Hard to believe, but it's true. A newsletter signup box can be that easy thing you stick in a corner, yet you come to realize it's not earning its keep. People aren't signing up. Not long ago I did some troubleshooting for a company who couldn't figure out why there were so few subscribers to their newsletter. After they received my report, they wrote back, "To be honest, we put that up because we were told its good to have a newsletter." Nobody told them it takes a lot more than putting up a little signup box on a web page.
Here's a rundown, in no particular order, of things to consider if you publish a newsletter or any type of subscription-based publication (such as news updates or sales promotions) that requires asking for someone's email address and their name. The idea behind the list is to increase conversions, reduce signup abandonment and inspire interest in your subscription offering.
1. Are there too many opportunities for signup?
Some web sites appear desperate. There may be a text link in the global navigation and footer, plus a box placed on every single web page. Some web sites have two boxes - one above the page fold and a duplicate below the fold. Not to mention pop-ups!
2. Did you extend a polite invitation during conversational content somewhere?
There are many ways to invite signups, such as when introducing yourself or company, in a form return page when you direct visitors back to the homepage or somewhere of interest, or as an item in the About Us content. Link to a page containing information about the newsletter, which also has a sign up form on it.
3. Does the box contain scan words such as "Free", "Sales", Special"? (Ex. "Subscribe to our free newsletter.")
4. Did you study your target market to learn if there is a need for your type of newsletter? Who are your intended readers?
5. Be careful. Some forms are confusing, such as when they ask for a mailing address for an EMAIL only newsletter. Why do you want to know where they live? (If you have a good reason, it's best to clearly state what that is.)
6. Is the newsletter intended for an International audience? If there is a reason to ask for personal information, make sure the form is designed for International users to fill out.
8. A simple newsletter sign up box should request a user name and email address that will accept the email. Instructions near or inside the box, or in the newsletter information page, explaining they'll receive a confirmation email verifying their information will increase user confidence.
9. Always link to a sample issue. Otherwise, they have no idea what they're signing up for. Always refer to the title of the publication. I've seen signup requests for publications with no name!
10. Provide free archives. A history of a newsletter indicates if it's new, or an established publication. The latter hints at authority on the subject matter. If new, note somewhere that archives will be provided. In this way, you offer a second chance to sign up later, once the prospect has an opportunity to see the product.
11. Have you seen this? I have. Some newsletters ask for content suggestions and ideas, but they don't have an issue available, or archives online, making it difficult to understand what they cover, or what was previously written about.
12. How often does it arrive? Make sure this is indicated on the informational page.
13. Is it HTML or text based? Do you offer a choice?
14. What are the benefits of subscribing? Does it teach? Offer discounts? Accept advertising?
15. How good is it? Provide testimonials and reader feedback, with their permission. This is especially helpful in competitive industries.
16. If your publication is monthly, here's an idea from magazine publishers. In your information page, list the topics to come in the next year beforehand. This is great for fee-based publications too. Keep the reader interested by what you plan to cover.
7. Offer referral incentives. This may make more sense for fee-based publications, but be creative. If you're a consultant, and want to drive up readership, is there something you can offer such as free 15 minutes of your time, or a give away ezine, or discount on future services?
18. Announce upcoming issues on your homepage, and the publication itself. Some newsletters come the same day, every week. If for some reason they will NOT be delivered, make sure to warn subscribers in the previous issue. Otherwise, you may be bombarded with "Where's my newsletter!" emails.
19. Avoid relying on a simple box signup alone. Place a "View information" text link inside it that invites your visitor to learn more, gain trust, and get excited about your publication. Place a "Tell a friend" box on the information page too, for fast and easy referrals to your newsletter.
20. For more ideas on how to promote and present a newsletter offering, study the techniques used by Successful-Sites. There's information on the writers, pictures, archives, topics, resources, and more!
Kim Krause is the owner of Cre8pc.com and the newly launched UsabilityEffect.com. She is also the administrator of the popular Cre8asite Forums.
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