Our Strategies to Get More Email Subscribers

The 1 big idea: Make it ridiculously easy to sign up

I’ve got this idea about email marketing, and it goes something like this:

  • Create amazing content that people want to read all the time
  • Ask permission to send amazing content to people’s emails.
  • Ask again.
  • Ask a couple more times.

Basically, if you’ve got great content and you make it easy for people to sign up for email updates, you should begin to see significant list growth.

We’re hopeful that we’re headed down a good path with creating amazing content here at the Buffer blog. It’s an ongoing process for us, and we’re always open for ways to improve. (hint, hint) As for the second part of the email equation …

We knew we could make it easier for our happy readers to sign up for email updates.

So we did.

Here’s how it went.

Double the list growth in only 30 days

We implemented several changes to our email signup forms in July (see below), so we had the opportunity to easily compare growth from the previous months to growth in July. Previously, in May and June, we had averaged a pretty steady 2,349 monthly email signups from our two blogs, Buffer Social and Buffer Open.

In July, we had 5,450 email signups!

That’s more than double the previous month! Specifically, it’s 130 percent growth, month-over-month—more than we ever expected to see in our first month of experimentation.

Our crazy amount of signup sources: 9 ways to capture new subscribers

Here’s a good comparison of what we were doing before this email push and what we were doing after.

Before: Slideup form

After: Slideup form, blog homepage email capture, HelloBar, sidebar ad, postscript CTA, Twitter lead gen cards, Facebook newsletter signup, SlideShare, Qzzr

Essentially, we added nine times the email capture opportunities.

Not every one of these new areas was a hit, yet collectively the addition of so many unmissable opportunities to sign up led to a huge uptick in growth.

Here’s a chart of a typical week with our email list and how each of the different sources contributes to overall growth.

It’s funny that at the first of the month, when the email signups started rolling in, I kind of sat back in awe that we were getting so many new subscribers! (Yay, and welcome!) Then I realized I should probably be finding a way to track where all these signups came from.

We use MailChimp to manage the email on our blog list, and to track signups here, you can cross your fingers that one of two methods work.

  • The app you use to collect email is recognized by MailChimp automatically (e.g., HelloBar and Twitter)
  • Your embedded signup form includes a hidden field that you can handcode to include a variable that makes it possible to track the source (e.g., all the rest of our sources)

Eventually, we were able to get everything wired up so that we could track the total number of signups from each source (feel free to ask in the comments if you have any questions about how we got this working). With these numbers, we could more easily see which sources brought us the most signups and where to focus our efforts.

Here’s a little more on each of our nine signup sources.

Slideup box

Our best-performing email signup form on the blog has been the slideup, which brings us a little more than 400 new signups each week. It’s the closest thing we have to an outright pop-up (which we hear can be super useful for collecting emails).

Our slideup comes up from the right-hand corner of the page whenever a new visitor scrolls 60 percent of the way down the page. If you close the slideup, we store a cookie that reminds us not to show you the slideup again for 30 days.

The results: All this is managed via the free WordPress plugin Dreamgrow Scroll Triggered Box. We control the HTML that goes in the box, and we use this to place some CTA copy and a MailChimp signup form that includes a hidden field so we can track our slideup signups.

HelloBar for email

We had long used the HelloBar to drive visits to the main page of the Buffer app, which I imagine might be how most SaaS blogs use it. HelloBar works wonders on conversions.

However, when our priorities for the blog shifted, we decided to change the HelloBar on the majority of pages to an email capture form. There were two big reasons why this worked so well for us:

  1. The HelloBar integrates seamlessly with our MailChimp list. The only real difficulty here was figuring out how to ensure that double-opt in was turned on for our list.
  2. HelloBar lets you test variations of your copy, buttons, and CTA. Here are a couple of different versions we tried. The winner actually became the basis for our email copy on several other locations for CTAs.

The results: We typically receive 350 or more signups each week from HelloBar, and it even held our top spot for email signups in the first couple weeks of July.

A featured box for email signups on the homepage of the blog

We were super stoked about getting this one live on the blog. Since our blog homepage is the third-most-visited page on the blog, month-after-month, it made a lot of sense to optimize this page as best we could to meet our goals. If there’d ever be a page deserving a unique design, it’d be the blog homepage!

At first, we tried a plugin called PlugMatter, which worked amazingly well but just didn’t quite fit the blog design we were after. So we had our designers set us up with a new one. Our blog redesign came a few days after, so the homepage CTA changed again. Here’s the version that you see today:

The results: This feature box on the homepage accounts for 150+ email signups each week, good for third on our list of signup sources.

Sidebar email signup

As we’ve shifted priorities on the Buffer blog over the years, the design and layout has shifted, too. One of the most recent shifts was toward a simpler, cleaner layout that took everything out of the right sidebar and replaced it with a Buffer app CTA. When this changed, we lost our sidebar email signup.

We put the sidebar back online for a brief time while we were growing our list, and it definitely helped. Although not as much as you might think.