Steal These Top 5 Opt-In Boxes to Build a Killer Email List

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This is a guest post by Marc Howard

So you've decided that you want to step-up your email list building but you aren't sure what the next move is.  Should I just add email box on my sidebar and be done with it?  Should my email form simply ask visitors to subscribe or should I use a better call-to-action?  Should I use a pop-up form?

Let's review five email opt-in boxes from five high-traffic sites that have spent a long time trying to figure out these same problem.

Here's what we'll learn today in our email opt-in review:

  1. What makes the offer so compelling.
  2. Exactly what website it is used on.
  3. How the opt-in box was made.

Keep in mind that although some of these require a bit of design and optimization skills even if you have neither of these skills you can still create a very effective and high-converting opt-in box.

In fact we'll share some great resources to get started at the end of this review.

OPT-IN #1: themuse.com

The Muse is a career site that matches job seekers with employers, answers career questions, provides free online job training courses and even lets you see real office pictures inside of a company before the interview so you can “try before you buy” so to speak.

Opt-in box from themuse.com

1. What makes the offer so compelling?

  • The Visual Technique:
    The opt-in uses a visually appealing balance of blue and orange (that would even make a color wheel happy) along with a subtle grid that looks like the background of a notebook that you would use to take notes at a job interview (ok maybe I’m pushing it  bit there but that’s the first thing that struck with me).  It also has a small logo to remind you again of the name of the company–almost as if to burn it into your eyes to remember later should you decide not to sign up.
  • The Bait:
    The popup simply asks “Are you ready for your next interview?”  Then it offers 31 questions that you should expect on your next interview for free in exchange for your email address.  Chances are if you are a visitor on this site, you are more than likely in the market for a job–and the one thing that strikes fear into the hearts of most interviewees is the thought of not being prepared for the one question that will make them look unqualified.  This offer provides a solution in a quick cheat sheet that you can be sure to rehearse with before the big day. 
  • The Choice:
    Your decision is to either click the big, beautiful, orange and bold “Get the Top 31 Interview Questions” button or to click the small, text-only “No thanks, I’ll just wing it.”  Now unless you’re the boss’s nephew what happens to most people when they try to go unprepared into an interview and wing it?  So it's an easy choice that gives you a compelling reason to take the offer versus the consequences of not taking the offer.

2. What technology are they using to create this opt-in?
BounceExchange

3. When does the opt-in appear?
Appears on-exit (when your mouse moves off of the page as if you are leaving to visit somewhere else).

OPT-IN #2: quicksprout.com

Quicksprout.com opt-in

After entering your website–if you want detailed report you are asked for your email.

Quicksprout is the brainchild of Neil Patel (the founder of other ventures such as CrazyEgg and KISSMetrics)–and who is arguably one of the top influencers in the online marketing biz today.  The funny thing is when you go to his quicksprout.com homepage you may see the above or you could see something completely different.  Why?  Well, the dirty little secret is that Neil is also a pro at “AB testing”–or showing a different homepage or opt-in to a different audience to test which design or copy is the best performer.  Slick right?

1. What makes the offer so compelling?

  • The Visual Technique:
    The yellow and green are easy on the eyes and with visually standing out all-caps black text as the call-to-action (CTA).
  • The Bait:
    The message “DO YOU WANT MORE TRAFFIC?” is a no-brainer for most people.  To sweeten the deal Neil doesn’t ask for your coveted email address but simply your URL–sounds like a pretty safe bet right?  Note that the second image is after you pop in your URL and see the basic results (various SEO scores on your on-page HTML elements, social reach, page load speed, etc.).  If you want to download the full results in PDF or Excel format upon choosing to do so you are prompted for your email address.  Very clever as the “free” report has clearly provided value before he asks you to fork over your ever-so-precious email addy.  The smaller text suggests that you will be also put on an early access list for other upcoming tools–this element of exclusivity certainly sweetens the bait.
  • The Choice:
    This one is a bit tricky as there are some behind the scenes requirements.  The first is that you need to have a Google Analytics (GA) account so that Quicksprout’s service can connect to your site and conduct an in-depth scan.  Note: If you have a website or a blog but do NOT yet have a GA or Clicky account–stop now and set one up.  Why? You cannot manage what you cannot measure.  The choice is to enter in your URL or to compare your URL with 3 other sites.  Another great option as who doesn’t like to know what the competition is up to?

2. What technology are they using to create this opt-in?
Based on Neil’s blog, this is an SEO tool that he designed in-house.  Bummer because yeah I wanted to “borrow” it too for one of my sites.  Well no worries because here is a link to some URL site tester SEO tools that you can borrow and in fact you can “white label” them into your very own service so no one will know the difference.  You’re welcome. 🙂

3. When does the opt-in appear?
Appears on-exit (when your mouse moves off of the page as if you are leaving to visit somewhere else).  Note: A newly designed Quicksprout homepage now has this URL tester directly on its landing page.

OPT-IN #3:  lifehack.org

Lifehack.org opt-in #1

Lifehack.org opt-in #2 (upon clicking “I agree”)

Lifehack is a site that provides exactly what the name implies–life hacks and other tips to improve the quality of your life.  To that end, this opt-in box gets straight to the point.

1. What makes the offer so compelling?

  • The Visual Technique:
    It's a very simple black, blue and grey design with no other distractions.
  • The Bait:
    The cleverness of this opt-in is that it doesn’t directly ask  for your email–heck it doesn’t even try to bribe you with an offer, ebook or some other bait.  It simply makes a statement in which you either agree or disagree with.  This is quite a powerful technique since it’s so unassuming and not immediately begging for your email.
  • The Choice:
    So the choice is either “I agree” or “I disagree”.  The target audience for this site tends to be folks that are fans of self-improvement.  Upon “agreeing” you are then prompted for your email (ah–there it is!), which simply states “We think so, too!”  With such a warm fuzzy kumbaya feeling of belongingness, you’d have to be heartless not to fork over your email, no?  While I don’t have the conversion metrics for this opt-in I’ll go so far as to estimate it well above the industry average of 1-3%.

2. What technology are they using to create this opt-in?
As far as could be told from the page’s HTML code this appears to either be an in-house solution or a very well hidden white-label solution with technology.  Leave a comment below if you can figure it out.

3. When does the opt-in appear?
This opt-in box also appears upon exit intent.

OPT-IN #4:  videofruit.com

Videofruit.com homepage (with social proof just before the fold)

Videofruit.com opt-in #2 (after clicking the first opt-in above)

Videofruit was founded by Brian Dean, another top internet marketer who is now laser-focusing on how to convert traffic to opt-in to lists and announced it as his primary 2015 goal.

1. What makes the offer so compelling?

  • The Visual Technique:
    This one is a bit different as it’s not exactly a pop-up opt-in but a landing page opt-in.  The “SHOW ME THE FORMULA” button is a beautiful orange in all-caps Raleway font and has a very prominent call-to-action (CTA).  Note just “above the fold” (landing page vernacular for the stuff that is visible before you have to scroll down) is his social proof with logos from NBC, Moz, ESPN, etc. as partners and clients.  Trust me–there are very, very few internet marketers that can claim that starting line-up.
  • The Bait:
    If a trusted and authoritative online marketing expert offers to show you the exact formula of how he grew his list to 10,000 and gross $200,000 in his first year–would you be tempted to shell over your email?  I would.
  • The Choice:
    This landing page has no other options (i.e. no Blog, About, etc.) to distract from the one conversion goal: get your email.  The lesser choices the easier it is to measure and test an opt-in for maximum effectiveness.

2. What technology are they using to create this opt-in?
VideoFruit uses the popular landing page builder and opt-in integration tool Leadpages. 

3. When does the opt-in appear?
This opt-in is imbedded in the page however upon clicking you’ll see the second box prompting for your email address.  Note the clever percent complete showing you that you are 50% complete before getting the formula.

The mental tactic of progress bars dates back to early gaming days and shows (a) what the goal is and (b) the completeness of the goal.  For an excellent in-depth psychological understanding of the power of progress completeness bars see this article from KISSmetrics.

OPT-IN #5:  copyhackers.com

Copyhackers.org opt-in

Did we save the best for last?  You be the judge and let us know in the comments below.  Enter CopyHackers.com–at the helm are Joanna Wiebe and Lance Jones, arguably two of the BEST persuasion experts on the planet.

1. What makes the offer so compelling?

  • The Visual Technique:
    The are many subtle things going on in the opt-in above but from a visual perspective the elements that stand out most are “FREE” and “YES”–with YES in a bold red.  Note how “NO” is greyed-out.  Also the little guy with the stick actually moves!  He shakes his stick at the “YES” option as a further cue school-teacher style.  A picture of the guide in embedded into an iPad screen subtly letting you know that you can view and enjoy it at your leisure on you tablet.  Neat, eh?
  • The Bait:
    172 pages of actionable persuasion tips are offered–basically a free book on persuasion engineering for no cost and “based on 1000’s of hours of research”.
  • The Choice:
    So you can either choose “YES Get the free guide” or “NO I’m already a persuasion expert”.  Are you a persuasion expert?  Although I leverage many of these tactics on my client sites these guys are on the cutting-edge in persuasion research and behavior techniques of conversion.  Even if you are a “persuasion expert”–what have you got to lose by downloading a free guide where surely you may be able to find at least one new idea within its colossal 172 pages!

2. What technology are they using to create this opt-in?
CopyHackers uses Bounce Exchange, by far not the cheapest solution on the block but awfully effective and almost fully managed by a team of Conversion-Rate-Optimizers-as-a-Service (CROaaS)–yep, I’m coining this term baby.  In fact, plans START at $6,000 per MONTH.

There are many excellent and far cheaper alternatives depending on if you want landing page integration, analytics, tracking, AB testing, etc.

3. When does the opt-in appear?
This opt-in appears when you attempt to leave the page on exit-intent.

What’s next?  Depends on what your goal is.  One thing is certain however–if you have a blog or website where you want to continue interacting with visitors that have left the site email capture is one of the most reliable ways.

This is because no matter where you rank in Google search results pages (SERPs) you will always be at the whim of the next Google algorithm tweak which you have little control over and worse-case can make searches for your keywords relative to your product or service plummet in organic search.

What this means is that you’ll then end up plunking out additional dollars for paid search.  Capturing email addresses avoids all of this and gives you a direct communication channel to your followers and prospects.

If all this seems overwhelming don’t worry we were all there once.  Just remember to always test to see if there is a tweak that gives you a better conversion rate.  Just start with asking yourself–what is it about my opt-in that makes it compelling?


Marc lives and breathes digital growth strategies and shows other digital entrepreneurs and micro-business owners how to grow their online business, generate more traffic and turn visitors into leads. He shares his latest techniques from the battlefield at http://whenyouliveinthenow.com.

Marc Howard

1 Comment

  1. cleoradarley on July 11, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    Informative ideas , I loved the points . Does someone know if I would be able to acquire a fillable a form copy to fill out ?

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