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How to optimize your email signup form (and turn it into a lead capture machine)

· 19 min read · Tips and resources · April 9, 2021

Email signup form rule #1: Get right to the point! So let’s skip a fancy intro and start optimizing your signup forms today.

In this article, we’ll show you how to make your newsletter signup form more attractive and compelling so your website visitors will immediately see the value and sign up.

An email signup form is a tool used by marketers to collect new subscribers for their mailing list. Signup forms in MailerLite include embedded forms, pop-up forms and landing pages.

Email list signup forms serve one purpose: to get people to subscribe.

Every signup form includes form fields in which new email subscribers can enter their information (such as email address, name, phone number etc) and provide consent to receive newsletters. 

Your email signup form is your invitation. Your virtual business card. Your firm (or not so firm) handshake on a promise. So make something that leaves an impression.

A successful email signup form goes beyond a headline saying “Sign up for our newsletter.” In this chapter, you’ll learn how the right copy can make all the difference.

Let’s say you install a pop-up signup form on your website. Right before a website visitor leaves, they’ll see a pop-up that motivates them to sign up for your newsletter.

Which one would make you click?

Signup form A/B test subscribe copy example - mailerlite

Our guess is option B. 

A headline that promotes free shipping is more appealing than a generic text saying “Newsletter.”

A well-designed signup form with the right copy can increase conversion rates, build your email list and generate more sales. Which is why it makes sense to optimize your newsletter signup form.

When we talk about email signup forms, you often hear the word “leads” mentioned. 

A lead essentially means that you’re saving contact information from a person that shows interest in your product or service. The aim of a lead is to nurture the relationship and to turn this person into a paying customer (also called lead conversion).

Leads can be collected in a variety of ways, both offline and online. When you’re adding, let’s say, a newsletter signup form or a quote request form to your website, you’re capturing leads.

Your email newsletter signup form is the tool you use to save the contact information. It’s up to you to position the signup form strategically so people see it and will take action.

There are a lot of different ways to promote your signup form:

  • As a link in the description of your YouTube video

  • As a URL in the about section of your social media profile

  • In the show notes of your podcast

  • Weaved in a blog article as a content upgrade

  • In the about section on your website

  • Mentioning it in the webinar you’re hosting

  • Linking to it from a paid advertisement

  • Offline using a forms app or pen and paper (trade show, event, etc)

  • Integrated on a dedicated landing page (like below)

MailerLite email signup form

Once you’ve captured a lead, it’s up to you to make your new subscriber feel excited about your brand. After someone signs up, you can create a lead magnet email sequence automation to establish a relationship.

Lead generation with email marketing example
  1. Anna clicks on a Google ad that promotes a free blogging course

  2. Anna is redirected to a landing page with a little teaser video that explains what the course entails. She then adds her name and email to sign up

  3. A double opt-in email is sent so she can confirm her subscription

  4. Once confirmed, she gets a welcome email that makes her excited about her upcoming course

  5. A day later, Anna receives an email with all the details to get her started, like her logins, the course material and an exclusive Facebook group to join

  6. The following 10 days, Anne gets an email every day with a new lesson

  7. On day 12, after the course has ended, Anna receives an email where she’s asked to leave her feedback (directly within the email with help from an embedded survey)

  8. After that, she receives an email that promotes an advanced paid blogging course. Since she’s already familiar with the quality and value of the course, the chances of Anna upgrading to a paid course are much higher

First things first: Start with your WHY. 

It’s clear why you want website visitors to sign up, but what’s in it for them? Why is your newsletter signup valuable and not another addition to their growing pile of unopened emails?

Take a moment and define what makes your newsletter relevant. Then take that answer and weave it into your signup form. Website visitors want to be convinced your newsletter adds value before signing up.

Got it? Great!

Here are 10 signup form elements you can play around with to build your own blazing lead capture machine.

1. Signup reason

Will you just spam their inbox with newsletters that promote your products or do your newsletters actually offer something of value?

Your signup reason should be clear and written as alluring as possible.

How this is best done depends on your audience.

For example, a luxury brand like Gucci will say that its newsletter gives subscribers access to the latest collections, events and initiatives. Their audience is interested in being in the know.

Gucci signup form example

However, an online shop like T.J. Maxx advertises free shipping as their main USP (unique selling point). Their customers are more focused on saving money and snatching a good deal.

T.J. Maxx signup form example

Once you know the main USPs you want to use, you can further optimize the wording. How things are written (or even in which order) can influence your subscriber rate.

We recommend keeping an eye on your signup form stats and optimize the wording once you’ve collected enough data. You can use a tool like Google Analytics to run A/B tests. When running an A/B test, vary with 1 element at a time so you know which element was responsible for making the difference.

2. Signup form content

When it comes to the signup form content, there are a lot of elements you can play around with.

First, the wording. Slightly changing a headline from “Join our newsletter” to “Sign up to receive exclusive content” can make all the difference. What works best for you is a matter of running A/B tests, and then some more.

Second, the button. Yes, even the button can influence your success.

Take this case study for example: When changed their button text from “Sign up +” to “Sign Up & Get the Best Daily Tips” they saw a 31,54% increase in signups.

betting expert form before and after optimization

Third, the colors and styling of your signup form. We’d advise you to keep your signup form in the same style as your website colors, to make sure it blends in nicely with the rest of your design. That being said, you do want your signup form to pop.

Play around with different colors, add an image background to your signup form, make the heading a little bigger—make little tweaks once at a time and analyze if the signup rate increases.

3. Signup form placement

Where you place your signup form is probably one of the most influential factors when it comes to your signup success. You’ll want to place it so people can actually see it.

The most common places to integrate a signup form on your website are:

  • Footer (bottom of the page)

  • Header

  • About page

  • Sidebar

  • Underneath or weaved into a blog post

  • On a dedicated landing page

  • As a floating bar

  • Resources page

  • Sign-up page

Don’t be shy to embed your signup form in a variety of places. Pop-ups are a great way to notice website visitors, as you quite literally can’t get around them.

When using signup form pop-ups, don’t get too excited. Start, for example, with a form on 1 page and set it as an exit intent pop-up, meaning it’ll first show up as the customer is about to leave your website. This is the least in-your-face type of way to implement a pop-up.

If you want your email list sign up promotion to be more visible, you can set the pop-up to appear after a few seconds.

When using signup form pop-ups, don’t get too excited. Start, for example, with a form on 1 page and set it as an exit intent pop-up, meaning it’ll first show up as the customer is about to leave your website. This is the least in-your-face type of way to implement a pop-up.

If you want your email list sign up promotion to be more visible, you can set the pop-up to appear after a few seconds.

4. Show some social proof

Humans are pack animals, and in the same way that we’re more likely to sit down at a restaurant with a courtyard packed full of other customers, we’re more likely to buy products or sign up for newsletter services that other people are already using.

It’s safe to say that most people do some sort of research to find customer reviews before giving their money or email address to a new brand. This is us hunting for social proof.

Instead of waiting for people to google your brand, give them social proof on the signup form. You can include customer reviews or testimonials directly on your landing page. And make sure there are social media links near the forms so that people can visit your social media pages and see what other people are saying about your brand.

Signup form containing social proof

5. Pre-selected topics (tagging subscribers)

Do you offer more than one type of newsletter? Is each newsletter about a different topic? Let subscribers decide which ones they want to receive.

By adding topics to your email newsletter signup form, customers can pre-select themselves which newsletters they’re interested in. When using MailerLite, your new subscribers will automatically be tagged and placed into the right interest group after they’ve self-selected their topics.

Signup form containing pre-selected topics for email tagging

6. Use incentives to sweeten the deal

Either people really love your brand, you’ve crafted a very convincing copy or … you offer an incentive. The latter is the easiest way to attract people for your email list sign up.

An incentive is a little virtual gift you offer in exchange for people giving you their data. This can be a discount, a downloadable or anything your audience might enjoy. Often online shops will offer a discount code, whereas blogs often opt for a checklist, ebook, guide, challenge or online course.

Signup form containing a free 7 day challenge

7. Responsiveness

Do you know what your pop-up looks like on mobile?

Pop-ups that aren’t responsive and are therefore too big for mobile screens can be highly annoying. Website visitors will not be able to easily close the pop-up, which negatively influences their user experience.

The safest way to guarantee your signup form has a low annoyance level is to create the form using email software. These programs, like MailerLite, will automatically resize the form and make them look good on each device.

8. Countdown with a pop-up

Whenever you’re hosting an event, celebrating a special day or releasing new products you want people to know. A great way to make people aware of your event is to use a countdown pop-up. A timer will count down the days, while a CTA button urges people to take the desired action.

Pop-up form containing a countdown timer

9. Make your life easier by using an integration

Implement your signup form outside of your website. Instead of manually messing around with coding, use one of our easy integrations. We’ve got integrations for Facebook, Thrive, Upscribe and plugins for Shopify, Wordpress and WooCommerce. Once you’ve installed the integration, adding a form to the integration website will be a breeze.

10. Keep your list clean and GDPR compliant

So you’ve knuckled down and designed a beautiful newsletter. Let’s make sure you’re collecting subscribers that aren’t robots and understand and consent to receive the content you’re offering.

Write clear and informative copy on your signup form so that potential subscribers know exactly what they’re signing up for. That way, you know the people signing up have a genuine interest in what you’re offering.

Additionally, the best way to maintain good email list hygiene is to optimize your email signup form to collect explicit, active consent. If you have subscribers in the European Union, your signup forms must also be GDPR compliant. But don’t worry, MailerLite has GDPR settings built-in.

Signup form containing MailerLite GDPR settings

Still feeling a little uninspired when it comes to your own signup form? These examples will show you how other brands go about promoting their newsletter subscription. Get inspired by some of the best signup forms!

The Skimm

Their company is a newsletter subscription, so it’s no surprise that a signup form is the first thing you see when you browse to their website.

We love the bold heading and black subscribe button. The text and preview image on the right lets the reader know exactly what they’re signing up for (and if they’re still in doubt, they’re invited to check one of their previous newsletters).

TheSkimm signup form example

Milk Makeup

Cosmetics brand Milk does a good job with their pop-up—it appears a few seconds after you land on their homepage. The all-black form makes the signup form easy to spot on the colorful homepage layout. The copy promises beauty lovers that they’ll be the first to know about new promos and products and that they’ll receive a 15% discount after signing up.

The only things we would have left out are the zip code and birthday information fields. Though it’s tempting to ask a bunch of information to get to know your audience better, your signup rate will most likely decrease when you add too many fields.

Milk Makeup signup form example


HYPEBAE—the go-to destination for women's contemporary streetwear, fashion, beauty and everything else—promotes its newsletter with a pop-up and a signup form that moves along while you scroll down. They styled the form in the same colors as the website, making it visible enough to catch your attention but blended-in enough to not bother you while scanning the article headlines.

HYPEBAE signup form example
HYPEBAE signup email sidebar example

Daniel Wellington

E-commerce watch brand Daniel Wellington integrates signup banners on each individual page on their website, making their newsletter subscription very visible. On their watch band selector page, they also added social media icons—this way they promote all their channels at once.

Daniel Wellington signup form example

Want to see more customer form examples? Visit our lead generation landing page gallery to view many more beautifully designed form templates.

Use our embedded form builder to design your signup form to suit your brand and webpage. New to designing email sign up forms in MailerLite? No problem! Our form builder is easy to use. Let Marcin show you how.

Once you have designed your mailing list sign up form, you can embed your form onto your chosen webpage by following these simple steps:

  1. Navigate to the Forms page.

  2. Click the title of your form.

  3. Scroll down to where it says Embed form into your website. Here you will see two snippets of javascript.
    The first snippet (the larger piece of code) is the MailerLite universal tracking snippet; the second snippet (the small piece of code) is your individual form’s code.

  4. Copy and paste the universal tracking snippet into your website’s HTML just before the closing </head> tag.

Using Wordpress? Install our Wordpress widget to embed a form on your Wordpress site or sidebar.

Take the time to test different elements at a time and constantly tweak your signup form. Small details can make all the difference. Every form you publish will teach you something new about what works best for you and your brand. Which means with every update you’re getting one step closer to creating the ultimate signup form that’s a super-magnet for new subscribers.

Editors note: This article was originally published in October 2019. It has now been updated with new examples and optimization tips.

Start today by optimizing one of the elements above and report back about your results in the comments. We’re excited to hear about your findings!

Erin Ford
I’m Erin, I write content here at MailerLite. When I’m not typing away at my laptop, geeking out over email automation and targeting, you can find me at the nearest beach with my furry little rescue pooch, Alfie.
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