How to Improve Your Email Subscription Rate

You’re a content creator. You sell books, make movies, make games, do artwork, or whatever it is you do. You know that your blog, despite its content being available for free, is more important than any individual work that you actually charge for, because that’s how you build a core audience that wants to buy from you or hire you in the future. If you’re new to this, you’ve also read that having a good, well-engaged email list is crucial to keeping the most devoted part of your audience engaged, but you don’t really know how to go about building one, and you kind of suck at keeping your best words short enough to fill out an email subscription form.

Well, I’ve already given you a heads-up on how to get started. Read that. Now come back here. I’m going to tell you how to make your email list get a higher conversion rate.

How to Build an Email List Pre-Suasively

For reference, this was my old email signup form:

Email signup form WordPress

And here is my new one:

Email signup form Optin Cat

My old one usually topped out at around a 1.5% conversion rate. 1.5% is low for my new one, which usually hovers at around 2% or more.

That might not sound like a lot, but the more traffic you get, the bigger the difference it is. Let’s say that you get 10,000 unique visitors to your blog a month.

10,000 x 0.015 = 150 subscribers a month.

10,000 x 0.02 = 200 subscribers a month.

So by changing the wording on your email subscription form a little bit, you get 50 more subscribers each month. That’s 600 more a year than you’d otherwise have gotten.

The more traffic you get, the bigger the difference an extra percentage point makes.

And if all these numbers sound low to you – 1%, 1.5%, 2%, then welcome to the world of marketing. One of the best web copywriters in the world, Maria Veloso, mentions that on the web, even a 0.5% conversion rate is good (on anything, not just email forms). You’ll probably never get a rate of over 5%, no matter how good your copy is, and you have to be really good to get close to that margin.

So your goal is to increase those conversion percentages by as much as possible. As you can see, even a 0.5% bump can make a world of difference.

So I’m now going to give you a leg up on the mechanism I used in my second conversion form. You’ll of course note that my headline (the most important part of any piece of copy) didn’t change, nor did the guarantee of privacy at the bottom. What changed was my body copy, and I wrote it based on part of the “channeled attention” approach that Robert Cialdini lays out in Pre-Suasion.

I immediately begin with directing attention to an authority figure in Robert Greene and his well-known bestseller The 48 Laws of Power. This is then followed up with a command: “now hear the story retold.” I then begin my main message, which is delivered in story form rather than a recitation of facts or a string of sentences.

In addition to channeling attention to another familiar thing (the Sith of Star Wars), I pose a mystery, something Robert Cialdini calls a “magnetizer” of attention. What Sith chicanery? Who’s the girl? How are the laws of power at work everywhere? What places haven’t you noticed? Who’s using or ignoring them at their own peril? And what separates life’s winners from its losers?

There’s also of course, the benefit with a call to action in “make yourself more powerful,” which is combined with the fear of not knowing exactly how losers are made.

While this second email subscription form is a bit longer than my first one, it’s actually easier to read because of the narrative technique being used, and the proof is in the subscription rate.

So in addition to doing everything I mentioned in my previous post on this subject, you can use some elements of Pre-Suasion in your subscription form to get a better response. This means that you should start out by channeling attention to one of the six universal principles of influence:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Social Proof
  3. Liking
  4. Scarcity
  5. Consistency
  6. Authority

While any of these could work, social proof, authority, or scarcity work the best in this situation. For example, if your list already has a very large number of people on it, you can use that in your signup form, which hits the social proof trigger. If you’re offering a book or DVD giveaway to a pool of email subscribers, a time or supply limit hits the scarcity trigger. I’ve already made use of the authority trigger.

Start with this in your headline or your first paragraph, and then deliver your main message.

You can find out much more about channeling attention to these universally influential principles in Pre-Suasion.

Test for the Best Result

Obviously, you have to test to see which email forms are getting the better subscription rates. While you’ll always have peaks and valleys, if within 30 days your email signup forms aren’t netting a 1% conversion rate, you should probably rewrite them. If they are, you can coast with them for a while, but never be afraid to test a different one. This was honestly a mistake I made, because for the longest time I didn’t test out a new one. Within days of putting the new one out, it was clear that the newer email signup form was performing better.

Bowser victory pose

Never be content with something that’s just “good enough.” I know that means that soon, I’ll have to test out yet another subscription form.


And that’s all there really is to it. Think of your email subscription forms as a way to cheaply and easily test your persuasion and copywriting skills, and just get to work from there.

For another example of Pre-Suasion-style copy head over to Stumped’s Amazon page, where I use another, more fleshed out, mystery story.