At the beginning of 2014, I set a goal to reach 50,000 email subscribers for OkDork.com, my personal blog about marketing.
When the year began, there were about 12,250 subscribers and 35 new subscribers were joining each day. Like any good marketer will do, I sat down and did the math. To reach my goal of 50,000 subscribers I would need almost a 3X increase in the number of new, daily subscribers. Eeek!
Where to even begin?
Personally, I love posts and articles that share marketing tactics that and walk you through each step, so in this article, I'm going start from that point -- that "eeek" moment when I realized I need to make some big changes to reach my goal. I’m going to give you the number one tactic I used to increase the number of new email subscribers on OkDork and share the logic behind the process so you can take it and apply it to your own business.
Setting One Goal and Sticking to It
Back in 2005, when I worked as employee #30 at Facebook, I would bring all kinds of new ideas and different product features to Mark Zuckerberg. To me, every idea seemed worth sharing, trying, and implementing. I didn’t have a framework or a set of priorities -- I just had a bunch of ideas that I wanted to try.
Finally, one day Mark pushed back. On a whiteboard he wrote the word, “GROWTH.”
He proclaimed to the entire team that we would not entertain ANY idea unless it helped Facebook grow by total number of “users.” (He actually hates the word “users”.)
Lesson learned: Focus on moving one metric at a time. This simplifies every single decision you make and helps prioritize which actions to take.
So I applied that lesson to my website's situation. For OkDork, I decided that the only thing that mattered was getting new email subscribers and reaching 50,000 email subscribers by the end of 2014.
Instead of trying to increase on-page time, improve SEO, get guest bloggers, grow social media followers, and get more YouTube followers … I focused solely on email subscribers.
For most of us, it’s too easy to set 5 or 6 goals and then when we don’t reach them, we have an excuse: “Well, we were trying to reach all of these other goals and we got distracted.”
Instead, you should commit to just one goal for a 30-day period and track it daily. You’ll be much more likely to achieve what you want.
Okay, so my goal was set. Now how did I go about achieving it?
Working With What I Had
For generating email contacts, I always encourage people to work with what they already have instead of starting from scratch. So I looked at my analytics to see which pages accounted for most of OkDork’s traffic -- it's easiest to optimize and get more emails from highly trafficked pages. One of my highest trafficked pages was my blog homepage:
But the page was filled with distractions. There were articles to read and links to Archives and the About page. All of the distractions meant that many readers (even those that came back consistently) were NOT doing the one thing I wanted them to do: sign up for my emails to get future articles.
So where WAS I asking for emails?
At the bottom of posts
Via an email popup
On the right side of the blog in the sidebar
All very light and passive ways of asking for an email address.
At that time, my overall email conversion rate was around 3%.
With the majority of my traffic going to that homepage I wondered how I could re-focus the reader to make it easier for them to subscribe and enter their email address.
So I started to look around and see how other websites got people to give over their email addresses:
Notice anything in common? They all want your email first.
One caveat before going forward: for this tactic to work, your site and content has to be a site worth reading and getting emailed about. Otherwise asking for an email address at the start is just plain annoying.
I then took the page where the majority of my traffic landed and made that the starting point for optimization. A friend of mine, Donny, created the WordPress plugin so my homepage became exactly the same as above. It was ugly:
But it started working. My homepage became the number one source of new email subscribers. Conversion overall came to around 5%. That seems small, but it’s nearly a 100% increase with a change that took a less than a day.
Further Optimizing My Homepage
Because that small change was so successful I wanted to optimize it further and see what would happen if I put more time into it. I wanted the page to be as appealing as possible so that if I was landing there, I would want to give my email address. :)
To do that I made four major changes to the homepage:
1) Sexier Design
I got a designer to make a spiffy, yet clean-looking homepage.
2) Copy That Benefits the Reader
I focused the copy on the benefit to the reader, not the features of what I'd provide. Originally, the copy read “I like you,” but I soon realized that was a bit strong for a first time visitor to the blog -- they don’t know me or even like me yet.
Instead, I changed the copy to appeal to both new and repeat visitors (while still keeping my personality present -- see “tacos” below). The readers that get the most out of the content on OkDork are entrepreneurs and marketers. Many of them are looking for help, hacks, and new ways to grow their own business or their startups -- so that's what I focused the copy on.
3) Added Social Proof
Next I added quotes from Hiten Shah and Andrew Warner. Many visitors to OkDork already know Hiten and Andrew and respect them greatly. Adding the quotes increased sign-ups further and gave people reassurance that I wasn’t going to send them spam.
4) Removed the Navigation Bar
While it’s important to have easy to use navigation, the menu/header bar is often the most distracting element on a homepage. Now visitors couldn’t skip around unless they left their email address or scrolled past the quotes and clicked “Read the Blog”. You can see a ton of people were clicking on the menu in the heat mat below ... so I said sayanora to it. Focus visitors on the actions you want them to take.
Once all of these changes were implemented, email conversions increased to 8% of all site visitors. I was on my way to achieving my goal.
How You Can Get the Same Results
Each site is different -- what worked for me may not work for you. Here's how you can figure out what'll work for you:
1) Write down the number one goal of your website in the next 90 days. You can use the spreadsheet to figure out what you need to do to get there.
2) Find the number one page your visitors are landing on your website.
3) Go test 10 changes to that page and see for yourself how much closer to your goal you got!
Originally published Jul 9, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated March 11 2019