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How to Drastically Increase Subscriber Numbers to Your Email Newsletter

Posted By Darren Rowse 23rd of October 2008 Blog Promotion, Featured Posts 0 Comments

Two weeks ago I was seeing 40 new email subscribers per day to my photography blog email newsletter. This week I’ve been averaging over 350 new subscribers a day. In this post I’ll share the story of how I did it.


In this months ProBlogger Newsletter I gave subscribers some inside information on how I’ve increased the daily newsletter subscriber rate to my photography blog almost tenfold in the last couple of weeks.

Before using this technique I was averaging around 40 new (and verified) subscribers a day to my email newsletter (I use Aweber to manage my email newsletters). To be honest I was pretty happy with that. 40 a day is over 14,000 per year – who would complain about that!

However last week I decided to experiment with a feature that Aweber offers its publishers that I’d resisted using previously – the ability to collect subscribers using a ‘Pop Over’ subscription form.

Most bloggers with newsletters put their subscriber form in a sidebar like this:


This is a good and prominent position above the fold and in a place that people notice.

The Pop Over on the other hand is a form that appears, hovering over the content on the page, after a certain predetermined time frame. Here is one of the versions that I’ve been testing:


These Pop Over subscription forms are of course much more intrusive to readers than a sidebar form – this is the reason I resisted using them for so long. My fear was that they’d annoy readers, page views per visit would drop and that I’d end up with a lot of angry emails from readers.

Aweber gives different options to limit how many times these Pop Overs appear on your site – you can show them to every visitor, limit them to show once per visitor or have them show every ‘X’ days. You can also use what they call a ‘lightbox’ which allows you to have the rest of your content fade and for the form to fade in, slide in from above, below or a side etc. I’m testing the Lightbox against the PopOver at present and my early tests are incredibly positive and are increasing subscriber rates even further than pop overs!

So what was the result of my testing?

I think this chart of my subscriber numbers says a lot:


I think it is probably pretty obvious when the test started. The last days results are still incomplete but look like being similar to the day before.

Average confirmed subscribers per day have risen to over 350 per day (over a year this would translate to over 125,000) so at least on that front it has been successful.

But what has the reader feedback been?

To this point I’ve had two readers email me to complain about the Pop Overs. One saw them multiple times (I suspect because the cookies associated with them seem to be associated with different versions of the Pop Overs). The other complaint came from an iPhone user who said that the Pop Over took up the whole screen and was impossible to close (something Aweber might want to do some testing on).

Did Reader Engagement or Page Views Suffer?

One of my concerns with Pop overs was that readers would be annoyed by them and surf away from the page. As a result I’ve paid particular attention to the ‘pages viewed per visit’ statistic on Google. Here’s how it looks (click to enlarge):


Pages viewed per visitor has remained stable – in fact if anything they are slightly up since I began the experiment!

Considering page views per visitor didn’t go down and I’m adding 350 or so new potential weekly readers to my blog each day I’d say reader engagement has actually significantly been increasing!

Split Test for Better Results

One of the great things about AWeber is that they’ve built in the ability to split test different versions of subscription forms.

This means that you can design two different forms and have them each show 50% of the time to readers of your blog. Over time it becomes clear that one version out performs another enabling you to then test the best performer with another version of the signup form – making incremental improvements as you go along.

I’ve been testing on two levels:

1. Timing – you can test subscription rates on forms that have a short time before appearing versus forms that have a longer time before appearing. I’ve found that forms that take longer periods of time to appear have a slightly higher signup rate. However these forms show to less people as some navigate away from the page.

2. Copy and Design – the copy and design in your signup form impacts signup rates. I’ve found pictures seem to increase signup rates – also giving benefits and strong calls to action seem to increase signup rates also.

As a guide – I’m seeing signup rates of between 4-5.5%, depending upon the forms. I’m still playing with the split testing though – there is lots to learn!

Final Thoughts

Over all I’m pretty happy that I began to experiment with Pop Over signup forms. On DPS they’ve worked very well and are helping me to make first time readers loyal readers.

I don’t think that they’d work with every blog in the same way. For example to this point I’ve resisted using Pop Over subscription forms here on ProBlogger as I think the audience here will be more annoyed by them than on my photography blog as ProBlogger readers tend to be a bit more skeptical of intrusive marketing.

As always – it’s something to test and track. Pay attention to signals of how readers are receiving it and tread carefully. However don’t rule it out completely too quickly – you could be missing out on a significant way to convert first time readers into loyal ones.

One thing that I think would also be good to experiment with is targeting specific types of readers with Pop Overs. I think specifically targeting search engine visitors with these would make more sense than to target those coming from RSS Readers for example (or at least to be able to present different versions of the pop overs to different readers). Aweber didn’t seem to have plans for doing this themselves but suggested that it would be possible to do with a little coding (I’ll need to work out how).

PS: Tomorrow I’d like to follow up this post with the answer to the most common question that I get when I talk about newsletters – why should a blogger consider starting a newsletter? Stay tuned to my RSS feed for this followup post.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Well, people know you and your website. I think because of your already existing establishment and well know brand, people are unlikely to ignore your pop-up window/message IMO.

    Thanks for the post, well written, analysed and informative.

    Also how you are working around the pop up blocker? Won’t it prevent many users (especially new visitors)?

    If I do this on my site which does not have traffic like you, I will be toast! ;-)


  2. I’ve always resisted Pop-Ups as well, though you do make a compelling argument to give it a try. I really like the looks of the results you got.

  3. Curious, did you happen to set a cookie so that a user who returns doesn’t get hit over and over and over again with the popover?

  4. I noticed that John and Shoemoney were using this and luckily Shoe told me your wrote a post about this. This is basically like spamming a user that wants to just read your blog. I’m sure a lot of viewers clear their cookies a least once a week or once a day…


  5. WOW!!! thats’ a surprise pops up work for you, the truth is I find those features on sites very disgusting but with what you have said I think I’m going to give it a try .. serious try

  6. Hi,

    Usually I don’t like pop up windows, especially biog ones, but done with good taste, correct timing and in a logical manner, I think it fits.
    I have a monthly campaign on my blog and even so I can’t get a good number of subscribers.
    I like this system.

    Kind regards,


  7. Hi again,

    Sorry for commenting twice, but just remembered another neat thing that is usually used for advertising.
    It’s those pealing ads. Maybe this method used for this purpose could also work well.

    Kind regards,


  8. I decided to try this today and so far my subscribers have tripled. I knew this would work, but have always been scared off from it, because I wasn’t sure how visitors would react to the pop over.

  9. Well, great idea.. It is similar to landing page, isn’t it ?

  10. Newsletter is a good way to constantly remind your reader to go back to your site again. I subscribe quite a number of newsletter, end up I mark them as spam instead of read through it.

  11. Karl Sultana says: 10/29/2008 at 11:19 pm


    Thanks, I use aweber to deliver blog broad casts to my blog subscribers apart from displaying the rss field so anyone who wants to subscribe can do so… Aweber feature is very easy to use.


  12. That’s PHENOMENAL. Testing and results is all that matters. I think that you’re predictions are right about this blog and pop ups because of the industry, BUT many of the most successful marketers in IM seem to be using them with great success.

    Never Know…lol


  13. About Email Newsletter, I think it’s very interest & important.
    But may be difficult for me and seem spam mail.

  14. Well, you can’t argue with success.

    On the other hand, I won’t be doing it. I hate pop outs. I think they are too intruisive. I bet your readers just love your blogs so much that they would read you anyway! I am not sure. I am really glad it works for you! Good luck in your success!

  15. Ok Darren, I did it and you were dead on. I just installed it today and I can’t believe what just happened. Nice one ;)

    Cant thank you enough.

  16. Wow, it makes me more in love with this blog
    Nice post i need it.

  17. Great information about building your email list using a blog.

  18. I’m looking forward to the follow up to this. What is your photographer newsletter at now and how long did it take you to get to that point?

  19. Aweber as always. Nice stuff. The graph is really showing drastic changes though :D

  20. Very interesting tip. I am going to give this a shot on my local blog and see what the results are like. I’ve been gaining in readers and subscriptions on a regular basis but this may be what takes them to the next level. Thanks Darren.

  21. Pop overs can help increasing conversions but the way you have used it makes it more effective. Thanks for sharing.

  22. As always a great post, and this data is rather conclusive given the sample size. I might have to try this out for myself as I just started a newsletter yesterday.

  23. I browsed around the photography blog but can’t find any pop-up. Is there a reason why you take it down?

  24. We’ve seen the same results on our own sites when we’ve used them and on our clients sites. The key for us has been to make sure that the user only sees the Pop Over (we call them “Floaters”) once upon entry. Once they start seeing them every time they click to a new part of your site that’s when the annoyance comes.

    We’ve also found the lightbox effect to work VERY well. The Motley Fool (fool.com) used to use that and had incredibly high conversion rates. Then someone new took over and got rid of most of their conversion architecture but that’s another story.

    Good to see a blogger try out what some might call a more corporate and traditional “marketing gimmick” and see that the proof is in the numbers! :)

  25. WOW! Those results are amazing… what a huge increase in the @ of opt-ins!! I’m going to have to try it. I had heard of the lightbox pop up from Aweber, what is the other one?

    Traci Moore Blogging over @ http://www.tracimoore.com

  26. >>I go to Aweber to check it out. Try to sign up. Get this message:
    >>We are currently not processing new orders online. Please contact customer service at 800.531.5065 or [email protected] to order.

    Aweber are dishonest profilers.They don’t want foreigners for customers but are afraid to say that honestly. If you are in certain countries you get that phony message. If you go through a proxy you’ll see the message disappears.

    Hey, aweber, why don’t you judge people based on their actions not what country they live in? Or be honest and say what you’re doing in profiling and prejudging people?

  27. Hi Darren,
    Thanks for the great advice! :)

  28. I’ve tried it on my site for the last few days, and though the numbers are not enough evidence yet, the conversion rate is at least 5 times as high as the normal forms!

    Of course, you must take into account, that when visiting ANY page on my site, the normal form is shown, while the pop-up-fade-in form only shows once per visitor. Therefore the higher conversion rates. I can’t really expect loyal readers to subscribe every time they visit my page, right? :-).
    Furthermore, the pop up only appears after 15-20 seconds, so anyone who only visits for 5 seconds (the non-interested, the digg’ers) will not see the pop-up-fade-in form.



  29. Darren,

    I love the way you write blog posts that are supported by real statistics. Furthermore, you show proof of those statistics that engages you more in the article because you actually believe what is being written.

    Anyways, this is a great blog post. I offer a free 5 day ecourse on my website. My subscriber rate is a little over 3%. This is suprising considering I am offering a free course on passive income.

    What I use to implement it is a “Pop Under”. I use it only on the hompage. Why? I use Site Build It to build and operate my website on. They do not offer the option of putting a pop under or any kind of thing like that on the homepage.

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