I spend a lot of time clicking around the Internet. I subscribe to some great newsletters like Big Revolution and Hacker Newsletter to keep up on the world’s digital happenings. So it’s safe to say that not only do I like receiving newsletters, I also like visiting sites that I’ve never been to before if a piece of content is recommended by someone I trust.
In fact, I might just leave your site without even reading your content.
This needs to stop
I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I don’t think I’m the only person on Earth that hates spam. When you email me out of the blue I will unsubscribe and report spam immediately to keep my inbox as pristine as possible (and it works, I only receive a few emails per day on my personal account, it’s one of the reasons why I’m still moderately sane).
Hitting me with a pop-in upon my arrival is the same thing. It’s spamming my eyeballs with something I don’t want when I came explicitly from something else. And it’s not just annoying, it’s counter-productive.
You really want me to know that you have a newsletter? In fact you want me to know so bad that you are willing to tell me about it without even giving me a reason to subscribe?
Sure, sure, you read an article about getting people to sign up first, that’s the best practice for data collection – but I have news for you. You can collect all the data that you want: if it’s trash, it’s worthless. And anyone signing up for a newsletter on one of those immediate pop-ins is either a grandmother who thinks she’s logging in to her social security account or someone who is going to unsubscribe the first time they receive an email from you because they have no reason to remember why they signed up in the first place!
The proper way to annoy me with your email sign up
The entire point of content marketing and thus most websites is to establish your credibility. You need to let people discover why you are worth their time – before asking them to give out something as valuable as their email address.
I’ve written before about how important it is to bring people into your owned ecosystems, but there are better ways to do it that improve the user experience by showing basic decency to your visitors.
I’m the biggest fan of integrating a sign up directly into your content, preferably at the end of articles or in a sidebar that scrolls with the content. If someone reads your article to the end, and they found value in what you had to say, they will probably like to hear more. This is the place where the most valuable sign ups happen.
“But wait” – you cry – “no one is going to sign up if I hide my sign up boxes at the end!”
If people aren’t reading to the end of your articles, why would they have any reason to read your newsletter?
The other reason that it’s better to integrate into your content is the fact that you can create dedicated creative assets that tell people why they should sign up. If it’s just to get your articles, you will need to sell it. Test copy on different pages, so instead of just “sign up for updates” give it some personality “sign up for the snarkiest tech commentary published exclusively on Google+”
If you really, really want to do the pop-in thing, please use a mouse-out option. This is where the pop-in only appears when the mouse cursor leaves the browser window. It is supposed to be when you are going to switch to something else, and when you risk losing a visitor forever.
People don’t want to forget about cool things they find. But the web is not kind to remembering the past. Even with unlimited tabs open in Chrome and accounts on Pocket and Evernote, you will lose stuff that you wanted to keep. The subscription then becomes a chance to not lose contact. Plus you are certain to not disrupt the experience that someone has when visiting your site. Hitting them with a message like “waaaaaiitttt! What if we never see each other again? Sign up here so I can send you messages of love” can go a long way in showing your personality and playing to the fear of forgetting that plagues many an Internet denizen.