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 want to present a newsletter or any type of
subscription-based publication (such as news updates, 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
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.
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.
form. This explains exactly what will happen to the subscriber’s
email address and any other information they’re asked to give.
If they don’t trust your motives, they may refuse to sign up.
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
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
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
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
17. 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!
Usability Consultant, Kimberly Krause Berg, is the owner of
UsabilityEffect.com, Cre8pc.com, Cre8asiteForums.com and
co-founder of Cre8asite.net. Her background in organic search
engine optimization, combined with web site usability
consulting, offers unique insight into web site development.