The Best Ways To Create Effective Email Opt-In Forms & Grow Your List

emaillistoptinformssThis article is from EJ Insider member Colin Grey.

Over the past month I've been doing a lot of work on Opt-In forms, trying to capitalise on my growing traffic. Since it was requested in the forum, I thought I'd share it in a blog post. I'd love to hear what works for you with regards getting people to sign up to your mailing list – leave a comment below.

But to the project, what was I looking to do?

My Aims

In the past I've always had an optin form or two dotted around my sites, but I've never concentrated on it, and I know this has meant missing out on thousands of possible newsletter signups every month. I wanted to put some good looking, prominent opt-in forms at the bottom of every post on three of my highest traffic sites. They all run on WordPress, so I needed a pretty solid solution for that platform that's totally portable between sites, and template agnostic. 

I don't mind paying for things if they save me time, so I was looking at paid platforms too. I could probably knock something up myself, but again, better to pay for a ready-made solution if it's cheaper than the time I'd lose developing it. I use Mailchimp as my provider but just about all of these work with Aweber and the others. Here's a look at the tools I went through.

Mailchimp: Both Auto and Plugin Based

So, the first option was just to use plain old Mailchimp forms. As you'd expect, Mailchimp lets you create forms within it's own platform. The problem is, there's no easy way to make them stay on the same page after signup, as opposed to directing the user off to a ‘Thankyou Page'. You can direct the user to another page on your own site, but not keep them on the same page. This was a big requirement for me as I wanted the user to sign-up, and then still be on the same page to take whatever other actions are available.

For example, one of my highest traffic pages is a resource guide, earning affiliate income through kit sales. I want to gain signups from this big source of traffic, but I also want them to stay on the page, and perhaps click an affiliate link. Sending them off to a Mailchimp thankyou page is pretty useless. So, no-go for Mailchimp forms. 

MailChimp for WordPress Plugin – This is a great little plugin. Really flexible, and keeps the user on the same page when they signup. Setup and integration with Mailchimp was a Breeze, and I had it running in no time. But….. the free version only allows 1 form per site. So, I couldn't have two different offers on one site, which I required. I want to capture people for a standard newsletter, but also for a Free course I'm offering.

There is a PRO version of this plugin, but it's $100 for multiple sites. I'm not averse to that – it's a good plugin – but that pricepoint brings in a lot of competitors. For some the free version of this will be perfect. If you've got one list and one offer for your site, this will do the job perfectly – dive in.

Opt-In Skin

Opt-In Skin (aff link) – I'd heard a lot about this plugin, and the features list is pretty convincing. I ended up buying the top-end package for $99, thinking it would solve my problems. I was attracted by the A/B testing, and by the nice looking templates.

To be honest, in action it's a good tool. It does the job well. But… it sends the signup off to the Thankyou page. So, another possible lost affiliate comission.

This isn't an issue for a lot of sites at all – often you'll want to direct a signup to a thankyou page of your own, for example, with further reading, resources, etc. But, for my purposes on one particular site, I needed to keep the reader where they are.

Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms (aff link) – This is the one I really wanted from the start, but it's got the big price tag. It's $200 for the developer version which allows unlimited sites, and all the payment integrations. But… it has a massive range of features, and tonnes that I'll use in future, such as surveys, polls, quizzes and ecommerce functions. Having used it now, it's so easy to work with, create forms, tie it into other tools such as Mailchimp, etc. I've now created two forms for my site with Gravity Forms, both tied into a different Mailchimp list, and it's working perfectly. It can either keep the user on the same page with a refresh, or it can use Ajax to even keep them at the same point on the page, so pretty seamless.

How to Implement Your Forms

I'm actually tying it in with another tool I use called MaxBannerAds (aff link). MaxBannerAds lets you set up a set of adverts, and place them on your site either with a Shortcode, or in the source code itself. Currently I'm placing the forms manually in posts with the Shortcode. The advantage of this is that it randomly cycles through the 2 forms I've created, showing one or the other to each reader. It offers stats on views and conversions, so this is giving me the A/B testing that I thought I'd use Opt-In Skin for. 

I hope this little project proves useful to others, and saves you a little time in research. I like to log these strands of thinking as sometimes I look back a year later and wonder why exactly I chose one thing over another, even though it's way cheaper. This way I can remember why it's worth renewing Gravity forms rather than downgrading to Opt-In Skin.

Again, I'd love to hear what you use. Let me know in the comments below!

Colin Grey

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