The Highest Converting Email Opt-In Form I’m Using (It’s not what you think it is)

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Recently, I’ve been running a lot of optimization tests for my email opt-in forms.

Here’s what I’ve discovered to be the highest converting one. The cool thing is, it’s not just for this blog. The results have been constant for every site that I run.

Meaning… you can try them for yourself and hopefully see an instant boost to your conversion rates.


If you’ve been a frequent visitor, you may have noticed very frequent changes being thrown up on the blog.

One week, I would have a sidebar. The next week I wouldn’t.

One week, my body font was tiny. The next week, it was huge.

One week, my popup would say this:

popup old

The next week, it would say this:

popup new

One week, my homepage looked like this.

homepage landing page old

The next week, it looked like this.

homepage landing page new

This wasn’t me just sporadically throwing up changes up on the site (well, some of it was 🙂 I love messing around with HTML and CSS when I’m bored).

But at the same time, I was running optimization tests on RankXL in attempts to capture the maximum number of email subscribers (without being spammy).

In this post, I’ll share what I’ve found to be the best converting opt-in form on the blog, and any other blog I’m running.

HINT: It’s not what you think it is. And it is definitely not what I was thinking it would be either.

The best converting opt-in form

You’re here for the answer, so let’s get straight to it.

The highest converting form on this blog comes from this call to action right here:

cta in footer

It’s the call to action in the footer.

If you scroll down to the bottom of any page on RankXL, you’ll notice this big section at the bottom.

This thing is responsible for collecting up to 70% of all daily email subscribers on RankXL.

And it’s converting at a whopping 12%!

Keep in mind this is a site-wide opt-in form located on every page of my blog. It’s not an opt-in on a dedicated landing page.

As such, it should fit the same category as something like a site-wide popup, which usually converts at anywhere between 1-5%.

So if you think of it like that, this CTA is doing amazing. Over double the conversions of the best performing popups I’ve ever tried.

It’s funny because when I set this form up, I was expecting around 1% conversion rate. That’s because I used to have a similar form up in the header of every page as well.

header opt-in on rankxl

The header form converted at around 2%. Since the footer section was at the bottom, way below the fold, and few people scrolled all the way to the bottom of pages, I expected it to convert much lower.

Boy, was I wrong.

It’s safe to say… the footer call to action converts… really, really well! Surprisingly well.

However, there is something you MUST do if you want this CTA to work.

Ditch the sidebar on articles

I’ve had a sidebar on RankXL for the longest time. I was never a fan of the no-sidebar design, and always preferred 2-column layouts. They just looked nicer.

But testing sidebar vs no-sidebar resulted in very interesting conclusions.

When I had a sidebar, I was only getting 5-6% conversion rate on the footer.

When I ditched the sidebar, it jumped to 10-12%.

I don’t use any mouse tracking software to see exactly what people are doing on the page, so I’m not sure why this is the case. But I’ve tested this multiple times. The footer call to action works best IF there is no sidebar on the page.

Perhaps it has something to do with the center placement of the article when there is no sidebar. They scroll down to the bottom of the page, and see the big CTA and decide to sign up.

Or perhaps it has something to do with where they are on the page. Once they’re at the bottom, they’re usually looking for something to do next so more likely to sign up. On the other hand, something like a popup or page takeover form interferes with what they’re doing and is more likely to be closed/ignored.

Whatever the reason is, it’s working. I’ve implemented this into all of my blogs now and seeing great results across the board.

The copy you use doesn’t really change the results

You might be thinking, “Hey maybe it’s your copy. Maybe people are really compelled by your opt-in incentive.”

Which, at the time of this writing, is this:

footer copy

Wrong.

While what I have now is the highest converting for this blog, I’ve also tried out a bunch of different call to actions, and it didn’t affect conversion rates much at all.

And some of them were completely generic, like this recent one I tested:

generic cta copy

This converted slightly lower, but nothing drastic. Every variant still converted above 10%.

What about a Bottom Of Post opt-in form?

You might also be wondering, what about an opt-in form at the bottom of the post? Wouldn’t that convert better since it’s RIGHT AFTER the blog post, instead of after the comments?

This is what I thought at first too, until I tested it out. And oddly enough, the bottom of post form only converted at 1%.

You’ll notice that I’ve since removed this form.

How to create the footer call to action for your own blog

Want to try this out for your own blog? Awesome, I’ve laid out exactly how to build it below.

This requires a bit of technical work. And if what I share below makes zero sense to you, then it may be best to just hire someone for a quick gig. You should be able to find someone on Upwork or Fiverr.

For the rest of you, I’ll try to make it as “copy and paste-able” as possible.

The first thing you need to do is create a div in your footer.php file.

You want to add this in right at the bottom. Usually, it’ll be right above your footer navigation.

Everyone’s blog design and WordPress theme will be different, so where you add this will be different for everyone.

The code itself looks something like this:

LINE 1: !is_page(‘0000’) is the line of code to not show this CTA on a certain page. For example, maybe you don’t want it to show on the homepage or your thank you page. Or maybe you have a sales page and don’t want an opt-in form showing at the bottom of it.

Replace the 0000 with the page ID you don’t want it to show up on.

LINE 9: This is where your LeadPages code goes.

LeadPages is how I can use 2-step opt-ins which convert much better than an embedded form. If you don’t know what 2-step opt-ins are, it’s a form that shows when you click a button, and it’s what I use for my footer CTA, and pretty much any opt-in form I build.

2-step-opt-in

If you don’t have a LeadPages account, you can get an account here.

Once you paste in your code, make sure you paste in class=”footer-button” to it, like I have it above. This gives it that pretty design from our CSS code.

Making it pretty with CSS

Now we have the form coded in.

Next, we have to make it look pretty with CSS. Copy and paste this code into your theme’s CSS file.

If you’re familiar with CSS, play around with different colors, use different fonts, etc.

Save that, refresh the page, and you should now see a nice footer call to action at the bottom.

new footer section

Other forms I tested

The footer form was the highest converting. But let’s go through some other forms I tested as well.

The sidebar form

sidebar form

Converted very, very poorly at 0.2%. This wasn’t shocking. In the past, the highest I’ve ever gotten a sidebar form to convert was 1%.

The blue box made the site look prettier, but it served no other purpose than that. Yet another reason to ditch the sidebar, at least on your blog posts.

The full screen takeover (welcome mat)

welcome mat

Converted nicely at 3%. However, it lowered my footer call to action by a significant amount. It didn’t make sense to keep this up if it was going to hurt my best converting form by so much.

Especially when the popup converted just as well.

The popup:

popup form

The popup converted at around 1.5-2%. Not great. But it didn’t effect conversion rates on the footer call to action at all.

It’s an exit intent popup, so it only shows when people are about to leave the page.

The same popup with a visual effect:

Adding in this bounce effect brought the same popup to convert at 3%.

I’m using Sumo for my forms, and this can be done easily in your form settings.

The slideout:

slideout form

Instead of a popup, this slides out from the bottom right hand corner once people scroll down 40% of the page.

This converted roughly the same as a popup.

It’s also less intrusive than a popup, so I would have preferred to use this instead.

HOWEVER, it did reduce conversions on the footer CTA by too much, since people would then see 2 call to actions once they reach the bottom of the page.

Homepage landing page

In the past, I’ve tested out various different homepage layouts. The one you see now is the best converting one out of them all.

I used to have the blog roll as my homepage. Wasn’t really optimizing for opt-ins back then.

blog roll homepage style

Then, I tried adding a header opt-in to it. This converted at around 2%.

header form homepage style

Then, I converted the homepage to a simple, full-screen opt-in page. This converted better at 4%.

full screen homepage

Then, I turned the homepage into a detailed landing page with forms at the top and bottom. This converted a lot better at 7%.

detailed homepage

Then, it was all about finding the right copy. Changing the copy to this increased conversions to 10%.

new homepage with better copy

So yeah, the homepage has seen a steady improvement over the years, and I’m finally done with testing… for now.

Finding the right combo

The final part was finding the right combination of forms to use on the site. As you may have noticed, some of the forms convert well on their own, but they wouldn’t work well with others.

A good example being the welcome mat, which converted at 3% but significantly lowered the conversion rate of the footer opt-in. Not good.

I played around with a lot of different combinations of forms, but in the end the best combo turned out to be:

1. Homepage opt-in
2. Popup (with bouncy effect)
3. Footer CTA

These three forms are responsible for collecting 90% of my email subscribers every month (the rest come from content upgrades).

And they work perfectly together without being overly spammy. Because the footer CTA converts so highly, I’ve taken down all other forms that weren’t converting well. They’re just a distraction.

NOTE: Depending on what else I experiment with, this may change. I’ll make note of it here if it ever does.

Conclusion

So that’s basically it. A complete behind the scenes look at how I collect email subscribers, and which forms convert the highest.

If you haven’t tried it before, I highly recommend you give the footer CTA a try. It works surprisingly well and is underutilized on most blogs.

Also, make sure you continue testing. Not just the form itself, but things like copy and the other forms you activate can have an effect on your overall conversion rate.

The trick is to find the right combo, then ditch the underperformers.

32 Comments

  • Reply
    Kim Nguyen
    July 17, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    Thank you for this article.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      July 17, 2018 at 2:05 pm

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Reply
    Rob Rodenparker
    July 17, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    Chris, thank you once again for some truly fantastic content!
    Question: did you test the background color of the footer CTA? I noticed it was black in your examples. I think black serves as a good “bottom layer” content as opposed to content somewhere else on the page. Did you have that same thought?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      July 17, 2018 at 2:06 pm

      Thanks Rob. Only tested white and black. Yup, you’re correct. I think as long as there is a contrast between the rest of your body colors to make it stand out, then it should be good.

  • Reply
    Sylvia
    July 17, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    I always love how in depth you go in your articles; mages your analysis very thorough. I think the quality of your content is what convinces people to sign up by the end. I think your cta being the last thing someone sees on mobile because they have nothing else to scroll through without a sidebar definitely omits distractions.

    By the way, I think you should check your site on mobile because the footer now is only displaying the left third with a black background so over half of your white text is on a white background and can’t be read. Or at least that’s how the device I am on is currently registering it

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      July 17, 2018 at 2:07 pm

      Definitely! Great point about the mobile, Sylvia.

      Hmm, not seeing that on my end. Will need to investigate! Thanks for the heads up.

  • Reply
    Christoffer
    July 17, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    That is very much worth a shot! Thanks for sharing, going to try this on a website of mine 🙂

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      July 17, 2018 at 6:37 pm

      Cool, let me know how it goes!

  • Reply
    Ayoub
    July 17, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    Thank you sir, I really enjoyed reading today’s post as I do every time I read one of your articles.

    for the Footer CTA I think why It’s converting way more than the other placements is because first you’re giving this potential new subscriber enough time to read your entire blog without interrupting him whatsoever, and than at the end your hitting him directly with a big, simple and straightforward CTA to join your newsletter after he had a very good experience reading your article, of course without even thinking he’s gonna
    opt-in in order to receive more valuable information.

    Thank you again and keep up the good work 🙂

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      July 17, 2018 at 6:38 pm

      That’s awesome 🙂 Thanks!

  • Reply
    Robin Khokhar
    July 18, 2018 at 4:04 am

    Hi Chris,
    On your website after a long time. but learned many new things which are worth reading.
    Thanks for the great share.
    have a good week ahead.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      July 18, 2018 at 12:59 pm

      Thank you Robin! You, too 🙂

  • Reply
    Jake
    July 18, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    Chris:

    Read your article and thought I’d share with you what may have happened when you double conversions by ditching your sidebar. If your sidebar populates immediately below the content of your post on mobile (and your sign up form was in the footer) then your readers weren’t seeing it until they scrolled past the sidebar content on mobile… and if over half of your readership is on mobile as most readers are, then this would explain the 2X conversion. Just thought I’d share that with you.

    Also, I would assume your footer conversions are the best because you’ve gained some trust in the reader (via the content) before they hand over an email?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      July 19, 2018 at 11:03 pm

      Great insights, Jake! Probably exactly the reason behind it.

  • Reply
    Erlend
    July 19, 2018 at 8:44 am

    Wont the bounce-rate be negatively affected when there is no sidebar? I would assume that the sidebar is important for sending readers to other posts and improving the User-experience. What are your thoughts on that?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      July 19, 2018 at 11:02 pm

      Not really. Bounce rate can be improved in other ways like having better content within the article, making it more engaging with images, having lots of relevant internal links, etc. The sidebar is more of a discovery section, so I like to keep it on index pages.

  • Reply
    Derek
    July 23, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    Thanks for the great info Chris. Email Marketing is an area I should be focusing on more. You’ve given me a positive jolt to recommit!

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      July 31, 2018 at 3:45 pm

      Thanks Derek! Glad to hear that.

  • Reply
    Lemarc Gentles
    July 24, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    Hey Chris, thanks for this post man really appreciate it.

    So I just tried the code on one of my websites but I notice there’s a little problem.

    The design is broken on mobile. Have you tested it on mobile?

    I get a huge chunk of my traffic from mobile so it would be good if we could test it that way. Not sure what percentage of my traffic scrolls to the bottom on mobile but would be nice even if I still get a few of them to convert from this.

    Thanks again man.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      July 31, 2018 at 3:45 pm

      Ah, yes. The code you put in will need to be configured for mobile in your responsive css. Usually, there are multiple screen sizes to optimize for, and every theme is coded differently, so it wouldn’t make sense for me to share my exact code.

      Whatever your theme’s

      is, you can replace it, and usually that will already be optimized for mobile in the css. Hope that works out.
  • Reply
    Elna | Twins Mommy
    July 29, 2018 at 9:26 pm

    Great post!

    I like the idea of a footer CTA! My only concern is, what if you have a lot of engagement on a post and the post has over 100 comments? Would this type of blog not serve well or would you just remove that footer CTA on blog posts with more than X comments?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      July 31, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks Elna!

      I don’t think there’s any reason to remove it. One of my highest traffic pages has 100+ comments, and a lot of my subscribers come from there.

  • Reply
    Candice
    August 5, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    Hi Chris,

    I’ve been following you for quite sometimes. and I remember in your new year email, you said you will post on your blog more frequent, you even ask what to write because you will spent the entire month to write, you said you write very long blog post that maybe will publish around july, you said you’ll have new course about more advance SEO will coming in mid year or so.. So what happen with All that ‘promise’ Chris? why are you slacking? I hope everything is well with you Chris, waiting for your new Breakthru :DD

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      August 9, 2018 at 3:03 pm

      Aha 🙂 Yeah, I know. Problem is delegating my time between multiple blogs.

      You said this at the perfect time, as I’m just now returning back to write more content for RankXL. It’s coming 🙂

  • Reply
    Melissa
    August 25, 2018 at 3:03 am

    Chris, what do you think on Google new update? I’m in preparation to build a site, and am so confuse now. I don’t know what niche to choose, it said you need to have expertise as the author of the content.
    At first I’m very interested in health related niche, now this just make me scare;)

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      September 11, 2018 at 5:51 pm

      I would advise researching big sites in your targeted niche in SEMrush and check if they dipped or not. If they did, I would stay away from it for now.

  • Reply
    Mel
    August 30, 2018 at 4:09 am

    Just wanted to state that this is one of the best blogs out there… And this article is as good as it gets as usual! Keep it up, and good luck, Chris.

    I have a question though.. I seem to notice that most famous blogs tend to loose more and more engagement (comments and shares). Even blogs like SPI, NeilPatel, IWillTeachYou… or Backlinko..

    I wonder if there’s some known reason to this?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      September 11, 2018 at 5:45 pm

      Thanks Mel!

      Backlinko definitely isn’t losing engagement. Neil Patel publishes so much content now so that’s probably why. A lot of big blogs who publish a lot of content don’t promote their content to their list every time they hit publish so that could be a reason why.

  • Reply
    Jonny Nastor
    September 30, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    Man, I love this. I’ve been toying with the idea of removing my sidebar, but my main objection was thinking my email conversions would drop drastically. You may have just pushed me to test this for myself.

    I would’ve also assumed your bounce rate would fall. But it looks like another commenter asked that and you disproved that assumption too.

    Thanks for this.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      October 1, 2018 at 3:02 pm

      Thanks Jonny! I’m glad this was helpful. Sidebar is really just an aesthetics decision for me now.

  • Reply
    Nomar
    October 1, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    Nice research! And thanks for sharing. This is valuable information I can work with 🙂 Thanks again

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      December 14, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      Thanks Nomar!

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