By now, you’ve probably heard what happened at that August 2018 meeting between Facebook and some Australian media executives. After (reportedly) proclaiming “Mark [Zuckerberg] doesn’t care about publishers,” Facebook’s global head of news partnerships (reportedly) made it known exactly where publishers stand with the platform itself:
“We are not interested in talking to you about your traffic and referrals any more. That is the old world and there is no going back.”
It would be shocking…if you weren’t paying attention, that is.
While Facebook denies the accuracy of the quote, publishers need only look at their falling Facebook traffic to see the accuracy of the sentiment. Publishers know that, if those endless graphs of tanking referral traffic are any indication, Facebook hasn’t cared about publishers in a long time—if ever.
With the days of easy traffic in the past, it’s time to work on direct audience relationships, and there’s no better way to kick off strong audience relationships than by getting visitors to join your email list.
Is your email list growth at a standstill? Improving your email conversion rates could be as simple as making a few changes to optimize your email capture. If your email list isn’t growing as fast as you’d like, try a few of these tweaks.
Simplify your email capture forms.
If you want people to sign up for your email list, often it’s best to just ask for their email. That’s it. The more fields you throw onto your form, the less likely a visitor is to submit the form.
“What if I need more user data?” Well, when your form is too long to complete, you’ll lose out on the email address and that user data. To maximize data collection, use a progressive capture form to collect the email address first, then invite users to fill out more form fields only after they submit the email.
Make your capture forms hard-to-miss.
When first-time visitors come to your site, can they find your email capture forms? Is your email newsletter signup buried at the bottom of your page? Buried on a different page?
If they can’t find it, they can’t convert, so it’s important that your email signup form is easy to find. Ideally, you’d bring it straight to the user. Active capture widgets, such as sliding boxes and sticky footers, use movement to capture visitor attention without harming their user experience.
Tweak your capture form copy.
Ultimately, the newsletter signup is a value exchange: visitors get high-quality content in their inbox, and you get that ever-valuable direct line of communication. But if your email capture form copy doesn’t communicate the value of your content, you’re missing out on conversions!
Use your email capture copy to let potential subscribers know what they get in return. Tell them the kind of content they’ll receive, as well as how often they can expect it. Also, consider A/B testing this copy to see what resonates with your audience.
Make your newsletter offer more relevant by tailoring your capture widget to the content the visitor is currently viewing.
What email capture copy will resonate with your audience most? Often, it’s copy that aligns with what your visitor is reading; if they’re reading about it, you can assume they’re interested in it. Rather than simply telling visitors they can receive more of your content, you can double conversions by saying they can receive more content like the content they’re currently reading.
Okay, but not all of your content is the same, so how can you ensure your capture widgets are always relevant? With contextual capture. You can deploy capture widgets that target specific types of tagged content. For instance, if visitors are viewing your sports content, you can drive more conversions by deploying a widget that specifically mentions the sport—or even the sports team—they’re reading about.
Adjust the timing of your capture widgets.
The most effective email capture widgets capture a visitor’s attention at the moment when they’re most likely to convert. Typically, that moment isn’t “the second a new visitor arrives.”
If visitors have never seen your content before, will an immediate lightbox really convert them? Probably not. More likely, they’ll close it just as quickly as it appeared. Then, even if they do decided to keep reading and join your email list, they’ve already closed your capture widget. Will they still be able to sign up?
Try delaying your active capture widgets until new visitors have been on your page for a while. Depending on your site, you may even find success delaying widgets until the second or third pageview of a session.
Tailor your email capture tactics to your traffic source.
Visitors from different traffic sources (search, social, direct, etc.) tend to behave differently. While Facebook visitors tend to view one article quickly and leave immediately, visitors from email hang around a bit longer (another reason the email list is so valuable). By optimizing capture to predicted behavior, you increase the likelihood of conversion.
For instance, if your capture widget doesn’t pop up until the third pageview, your social visitors won’t stay around long enough to see it. By deploying more aggressive (but not too aggressive) capture tactics to these visitors, you can increase your potential for conversion without annoying more engaged readers.
Use mobile-friendly email capture widgets.
Mobile conversion rates tend to trail conversion rates on desktop. Why? Sometimes, it comes down to the user experience. If visitors have to pinch and zoom and scroll and rotate just to type in their email address, you probably won’t get that email address.
To keep your conversion rates high, be sure to design mobile-friendly or responsive email capture widgets. You may even consider using one-tap subscription so potential subscribers don’t have to type an email address on a tiny keyboard. Not only is it easier for your audience, it prevents typos.
Leverage email in exchange for access to quality content.
Do you consistently create quality content? Put it to use. You can leverage your best work to collect more email addresses by putting top content behind an email wall. Visitors can access these articles after they opt into a newsletter. Publishers with paid subscription business models may also choose to grant access to a free article (or additional articles, if you have a metered paywall) in exchange for a newsletter signup.
Then, if visitors try to skirt your meter with private browsing, you can also deploy a wall that limits access to all articles unless they drop incognito mode or offer their email. The same can be done with visitors who use ad blockers: allow them to continue blocking ads in exchange for an email address.
Coordinate email capture with your browser push strategy.
Still, asking for an email address might be too much for some visitors. In that case, you can ask them to join your browser push audience. Opting into browser push notifications requires less effort than a newsletter signup, which can help you connect directly with audiences who are hesitant to part with their email address.
Of course, you don’t want to bombard new visitors with multiple calls-to-action asking them to opt into emails, browser push notifications, and whatever else you offer. And as powerful as push is, getting the email address is better; you don’t want to deter users who would be more than happy to join your email list.
The answer? Go for the email address first. Then, if you find that your email capture widgets aren’t converting a user, you can show them a widget that asks them to opt into push notifications. With a direct link to the user, you may eventually nurture them into an email subscriber, or more.
If publishers have no hope of going back to the easy traffic Facebook provided, they can go forward with the pursuit of quality—valuable, engaged audiences—over quantity. Growing your email list is a good place to start.