If you’ve heard it once, you’ve probably heard it a thousand times:
“OMG I can’t believe you’re not doing email marketing on your site.”
“Didn’t you hear that Google is dead? Email’s the only place left you can reach your audience.”
“The money’s in the email list!!!”
Yeah, there is a lot of buzz about email marketing and why you should be doing it – but as I’ve discovered, email is probably the most neglected part of every website owner or blogger’s business. Literally, it’s the thing that everyone says “I know I should be doing it but I just don’t know what to do/how to do it.” If you feel the same, you’re not alone.
Before diving too deep into the mechanics of an effective email marketing strategy for any website, you’ve gotta start convincing people to give you their email addresses – and there are lots of ways to collect emails.
In this post, I’ll breakdown the top ways to collect emails. I don’t recommend using them all at once – instead I suggest choosing one that sounds interesting and trying it for a while. See how your audience responds, and adjust your email collection strategy accordingly. (Yes, you need a strategy just to collect emails, and another one for email marketing itself!) Read on to discover the variety of ways to collect emails on your site.
The Best Ways to Collect Emails
Wanna know a secret? The best way to collect emails is the way that your audience responds to. That’s going to be different for every single website owner – and for every single website. What works on one of my sites does not work on others – because the audiences are different!
So as you start working on a strategy to collect email addresses from your audience, you’re probably going to want to test a few different ways to collect emails. I recommend setting up a new form or format, and letting it run until it has received at least 1,000 impressions. With 1,000 pairs of eyeballs seeing your form, pop-up, or whatever, you’ll know whether it’s working or not. Then you can tweak the text, adjust the style, or try a different signup form altogether.
1. Embedded Forms
Email signup forms are pretty much ubiquitous on the internet – you’ve undoubtedly seen them. In case you’re not exactly sure what they are, it’s usually a stylized box within your content where the reader can enter their email (and other info) in exchange for your email incentive.
Every major email marketing provider offers easy ways to add the necessary code to your site to start collecting emails.
Pop-ups – as readers we love to hate them, and we hate to love them! But as site owners, pop-ups can be a powerful way to collect emails as they’re very disruptive, I mean… Insistent, I mean… impossible to ignore.
As a reader, you have to engage with (close) the pop-up if you choose not to put your email in, to get back to the content on the website. That means they can be a powerful way to collect emails if you use them wisely – and sparingly.
A new cousin of the pop-up form, slide-ins create a similar but less intrusive experience, especially on desktop. (On mobile, they have almost the same experience since they usually take up the entire screen!) I use slide-ins on several of my sites, including London On My Mind (here) and Follow the Butterflies (here).
A slide-in will come in from the lower left or right corner of the screen, usually after a set amount of time or after the reader has reached a certain percentage of the way down the page. They look a lot like pop-ups and embed forms, but just appear in a different way.
4. Welcome Mats
Welcome Mats are like pop-ups on steroids: they appear above your webpage as the first thing the reader sees when they arrive. They are even more disruptive/intrusive but also correspondingly more effective at collecting emails as they’re literally right in your face.
I personally don’t (and haven’t really ever) used Welcome Mats to collect emails. They bug me so much personally that I don’t want my readers to have that same experience.
That said, they can be used strategically – just like with pop-ups. If, for example, you’re running a short-term campaign or have a giveaway with a deadline, you might use a Welcome Mat to get more attention and collect more emails.
5. Top Bars
Top Bars take the Welcome Mat back down to size: they appear and hove at the top of your page with email collection fields – but aren’t nearly as intrusive as pop-ups or Welcome Mats.
I’ve used Top Bars to much better success than Welcome Mats in the same examples I just mentioned – they’re great for short-term bursts to collect emails about a campaign, giveaway, or something similar.
(I also use Top Bars occasionally for important campaigns I’m running – I used them for the Valerie & Valise Alaska Summer Travel Summit to give away a free ebook, and to promote my new Harry Potter podcast on Follow the Butterflies.)
6. Exit Pop-Ups
If you are one of those people who either loves pop-ups or really wants to try one, opt instead for the less annoying cousin: the exit pop-up. These use technology to identify when the person is likely to move their mouse to close the tab/window – then the pop-up appears.
Exit pop-ups are a great way to re-engage a reader who might be about to leave; if your email incentive taps into that same sentiment, they can be great at collecting emails.
(One common example is the “Wait, don’t go – here’s a discount” exit pop-up you see on a lot of ecommerce sites.)
As I mentioned when suggesting quiz results as an email signup incentive, this is one of my favorite – and often overlooked – strategies for collecting emails.
It’s often overlooked, I think, because it’s a lot more work than just brainstorming a lead magnet and putting a form into your posts. Coming up with a quiz requires thinking of what people will be willing to engage with, the questions to ask – and their answers, and what the results should be that will be worth giving an email for.
Here are some of the quizzes I’ve successfully used and other ideas I’ve had:
- Get Your Personalized Alaska Itinerary (Valerie & Valise) – Readers answer a few questions and then receive one of 6 one-page PDFs with a “custom” itinerary to help them plan their trip.
- Which Color Tieks Should You Buy? (Valerie & Valise) – Readers answer a few silly questions and then are redirected to a product on an affiliate partner’s webpage (this is a huge affiliate marketing opportunity too)
- Which Magical Potion Should You Make Today? (Follow the Butterflies) – Readers answer funny questions to get redirected to recipes on my site.
And we all know Buzzfeed literally built their business on quizzes, so they’re definitely a powerful way to engage your audience and collect emails.
I use a tool called Interact (tryinteract.com) to create quizzes; they have a setting that requires an email to release the results, which is how I collect emails in the process.
Giveaways can be a great way to collect emails – provided you do them in such a way that you only get emails from people who are truly interested in what you offer on your site.
There’s nothing more depressing than running a giveaway only to end up with tons of spam emails or emails for people who never open your emails again.
I’ve done several giveaways like that – I’m pretty sure 100% of every one of those emails has ended up being deleted in the end.
Instead, think of running a giveaway within a very narrow framework: the prize needs to be something that totally aligns with your brand, and the way you market the giveaway needs to be in line with your normal marketing strategies. While giveaways can be a great way to build your audience on new channels, they’re more powerful when you tap into existing channels to build your email list.
For example, I only run giveaways that I promote within my own blog posts – and I don’t splash those posts across social media. I want my readers – my existing readers – to find the giveaway and give me their email too. I don’t want new readers who aren’t already aware of or aligned with my site strategy to put in their emails and never come back.
9. (Free) Webinars
If you have a skill, offer a service, or are an expert on a specific topic, offering an online webinar can be a great way to reach a new audience and build an email list in the process.
Almost anyone can offer a webinar on some topic, so give some thought to what you could spend 30-45 minutes speaking about that would also provide value to your readers. It could be an educational program (like tips on doing something), an instructional experience (like a cooking class), or an inspirational opportunity (like showing people something they’ve never seen before).
The key here – like giveaways – is to only offer webinars that align with your brand and build that audience. There’s no point collecting emails from people who aren’t interested in what your site is all about.
10. Social Media
Finally, you can always use social media to collect emails, though this is a bit tougher than other methods.
If you use a “link in bio” service, be sure to have a “Sign up for my email list” option; you can also use other apps on some social media channels (like Facebook pages) to allow easy email signups.
This might not be super effective, as it’s even harder to offer an email incentive through social media email collection than other methods, but it doesn’t hurt to set it up. It requires virtually no maintenance, too!
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to collect emails – it’s just a matter of trying each one on your site to see which ones you feel comfortable using and resonate with your audience. Collecting emails requires striking a balance of attention-grabbing and not interfering with the user experience. Only by testing can you determine which ones work well without annoying your audience.
Have any questions about how to collect emails on your own site? Let me know in the comments!