Newsletter Forms: Best Practice, Analysis and Examples
Most websites will include a newsletter sign up form. The whole point of a sign up form, from a company’s point of view, is to provide content and engage with customers. And from a customer’s point of view, is to receive something useful from you; hints and tips, offers or free resources.
Email marketing requires a list – without a list there can be no sends. So how can you get hold of email addresses is a legal and straightforward way? Through your website visitors. The law in the UK states that email address must be opt-in, meaning the user gives their permission to receive emails from you.
Your sign up page forms a crucial part of your email marketing strategy. A bad newsletter sign up form can drive potential customers away, but can be forgotten about when building a website.
Here are 10 Best Practices to follow when creating and placing a newsletter sign up form:
1. Make your form easy to find
This may seem obvious, but brands easily forget this. Many sites place their sign up form in the corner of the page, and not in a prominent place on the welcome page. How can you expect people to find your newsletter if not? Why not place your form in the same place on each page?
2. Gain visitor trust
In this technological world, we are aware that handing out your personal data can be risky. Spammers, phishers and general online fraud is enough to put anyone off. Include a simple sentence such as ‘This site NEVER shares your personal information with a third party’. Reassure your visitors that their email addresses will be kept safe.
3. Tell visitors what they’ll get
Tell the user what they can expect to receive before they sign up. Many brands will try to avoid telling the user this, until after they’ve signed up. However, internet users are cagey these days, so it’s best to inform them upfront.
4. Set a frequency
Decide how often your newsletter will be sent and stick to it. If you tell visitors you’ll send monthly newsletter, and you send them fortnightly, people will assume you’re spamming them, and they’ll unsubscribe.
5. Offer a sample
Allow your users to see at least part of the content you intend to send them. If your sign up page is too cluttered, consider linking out to a specific sample page, before the user spends their valuable time filling out your form.
6. Ask for their main email
By having access to their main email address, you’re ensuring your email gets opened and seen. Use a word like ‘main’ or ‘primary’ next to the email field.
7. Avoid sales jargon
The average internet user is probably not familiar with jargon, so be aware of the language you use. Ask people to ‘sign-up’ rather than ‘subscribe’. People assume a subscription is something that they have to pay for, and this word may convey the wrong signals to your visitors.
8. Get the email address first
If a newsletter form has multiple fields, including name, email, DOB, country, favourite ice cream flavour, it can be off-putting for new visitors. Keep your sign up page to two fields, name and email address, and ask for further information on the next page. If they enter their email address and then leave, at least you have captured some form of data.
9. Watch the syntax
If your user types in their email address incorrectly, it can result in an email address being useless. Some sites will offer additional functionality such as prompting a user if something is spelt incorrectly, such as ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. Remember to clean your list for small errors such as this.
10. Test, test, test
As with the majority of marketing techniques, the only way to ensure it works is to test, and test again, and then text one more to be sure. There is no substitute to real time experience. Try your own experiments and track the effects of the changes to get the most out of them. Try putting the form in the top left for a week, and then in the top right for the following week.
Try using these best practices and see if your sign ups increase.
Here a few examples, from various sectors and industries. See how they use the sign up form, how you could use their technique, or if you’d do something different.
When looking for a newsletter sign up form, I tend to scroll to the bottom of the screen, and try to find the form within the footer of the home page. Halfords newsletter sign up is exactly where I thought it would be. It isn’t glaringly obvious, as it’s the same colour text and background, but they’ve avoided using jargon, and the CTA is obvious.
This sign up form was found under the Become a Member tab, which is located on the main navigation bar. I understand why they are encouraging visitors to become members, rather than just simply signing up to a newsletter. On this page, I am happy that AA has included a short form, for just my name and email address, on which I can sign up.
This newsletter isn’t in a very obvious first. After searching for the sign up form in the footer of the home page, I tend to look in the Contact Us section next. The form has a specific page dedicated to it, which captures a lot of information, which is placed under the News section. This encourages those visitors who are looking for news, to sign up immediately, although it isn’t friendly to those visitors who are just stopping by.
Farleys Solicitors have placed their sign up form in an area that I would expect, and it was super easy to find. The bottom right, on the Contact Us page is a great spot for your sign up form; however, if it was on the homepage, I’m sure a lot more data could be captured. Maybe Farleys could try it on the homepage to test how effective it could be.
The Healthy Company
The Healthy Company has arranged their site in a similar way to Farleys. The sign up form is placed on the Register page, in the hope that visitors will enter their details into the newsletter form at the same time as registering to access more online services. Again, they could place the form on the homepage to try and capture more data. I like the colour of the form, as it stands out from the rest of the page.
This newsletter sign up form, albeit small, does inform the customer about what they will be receiving when they have signed up. The form doesn’t capture a lot of data, so Icelolly couldn’t use any personalisation in their email newsletters, unless they captured it at a later date. The form is just above the fold when on the homepage, so catches the visitor’s eye.
Every retail email I have looked at, places their sign up form in this location. It’s centred, meaning the visitor should skim over the form, but it still stands out from the black background. Once I had signed up for their newsletter, I received a small thank you, but they didn’t ask me to enter any more data. They could’ve taken me to a new page, on which I enter my name and date of birth, so that they can use some of personalisation in my emails.
This newsletter form was linked from the home page. On the homepage, just under the fold was a CTA which stated ‘Sign up!’ and I was taken to a general Sign Up page, but then I aim my focus and sign up for specific newsletters. I am also given a choice about which kind of emails I would like to receive. Whilst I think it is good that I am given a choice, I think this could put potential visitors off, especially if they’re in a rush.
The future of emails newsletter sign ups?
For the last couple of years, Google has been testing using email capture forms in Google Ads. As you can see in the example below, this allows an email sign up without even entering the site. Google calls this feature ‘Contact and email form extensions’.
This is both good and bad. It’s good because I’m sure the number of email signs ups will increase, and advertisers should see a high response rate, and hopefully sales, due to the fantastic positioning that brands are paying for.
This is bad for two reasons. The risk of spam is heightened when a sign up form is placed in such an open space. Spammers will purposely attack sign up forms and open comments if they are available. If you are using this Google function, prepare for some spam emails.
This function is currently a beta version and is not available for everyone. Google doesn’t seem to be following a pattern with this function, and according to tinylever.com Google are only offering this service to their biggest advertisers, meaning if you give them more money, they’ll help you out.
If this function is successful, Google may implement it, and make it available for all PPC customers. Keep an eye out for any updates.
Amy is our Campaign Manager and works with our clients to ensure all campaigns follow an effective campaign strategy and produce results.