CASE STUDY: Increasing Email Subscribers on Our Authority Blog

We started a white hat authority blog just three months ago to date and while it is growing rapidly (already at 30,000 visitors per month), our email conversion rate is extremely poor in our opinion. Some methods we can measure and some we can’t. Our goal in this case study is to present a few ways we are going to perform conversion rate optimization for our email subscribers, and implement ways to track conversions better.

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December 29th, 2105
February 12, 2015

In the past three months, we’ve shifted focus from affiliate marketing and SEO to writing a white-hat blog written to hep real people solve real problems. We aren’t pretending to be experts in an unknown niche to us; we are simply blogging about a personal journey that we’re actually taking, so all of our content is 100% real.

Because our journey is real, unique, challenging, and many others wish to pursue a similar journey, our blog has really taken off and our email list is rapidly growing. That said, we think we can be doing a lot better as we aren’t doing a great job of measuring and what measurements we do have are definitely under par with the internet marketing industry.

We’d like to be doing better than your average internet marketer. According to this article, a “good” email subscriber conversion rate is anywhere from 2-12%, and we aren’t even at 2%.

Where We Are Today: Poor Conversion Rates

While we are currently providing great content, have media companies contacting us to have us on their television shows, and have large websites distributing our content, our email opt in rates are simply poor! You’ve heard it before: the money is in the list. If you don’t have a list, you don’t have much at all.

  • SumoMe smart bar: This is one method we are using to collect emails and we have a 0.64% conversion rate with the bar
  • Monthly visitors: 30,000+
  • Email subscribers: 1,323
  • Total subscribers through SumoMe smart bar: 906
  • Subscribers that must have come through our Genesis eNews Extended plugin: 417
  • Estimated total email conversion rate: <1209

Here is what our SumoMe smart bar looks like. This is at the top of our website, always, and visitors can close it if they’d like. It can be a more obtrusive color – I’ll give ya that. But I picked black because it really goes with the minimal theme and idea behind the blog. I could play with different colors if i wanted to.

And here is our Genesis eNews Extended widget. There are no analytics on this thing… so the only way to know how many people are using it is to do a little math in our head. This is currently in the sidebar and is not a sticky widget because we have our “support our blog” badge as our sticky widget.

What We Can’t Measure But Would Like To

  • Total visitor conversion rate: We don’t even officially know what this is. There doesn’t appear to be analytics with the Genesis eNews Extended plugin which is unfortunate. I really only like the plugin because it looks good.
  • Conversion rate by channel / source: This could help us determine which channels are most profitable for us to spend time on. We are spending a significant
  • Conversions by list building type: We can see how our list is growing with time, but we’re not sure exactly where they inputted their email on our website. This is a problem.

Conversion Rate Optimization Plan Of Action

1. Set up an A/B/C Test with the SumoMe Welcome Mat

We need to get A LOT more aggressive when it comes to collecting emails. According to SumoMe, the Welcome Mat has the highest conversion rate of all types of email opt ins and call to actions, so we believe them because their plugin is easy to use. Logical, right? At least it’s a place to start. It can only go up hill from here!

Note: A/B testing is a pro feature. SumoMe Pro is $100/month but you should be able to get all of the email collection options for $40/month. All premium services include a 14-day free trial.

Here is what our welcome mats look like. In order to do a fair A/B/C test, we’re only changing one thing per welcome mat and that is the photo. I think the photo of us dancing with our laptops (this was the day we had our internet installed!) will convert the best followed by the snowy cabin followed by the boring picture of our property-in-development.

There are MANY more styles of welcome mats to test, but these make my “designer eye” happy! We will do more tests later on down the road.

Next, we have to set up our A/B/C tests. This is extremely straightforward to do with SumoMe.

Another thing to note: I have changed the settings so that the welcome mat doesn’t show to current subscribers (we’ll see if that actually works), and that it doesn’t show to the same person more than once in a day.

2. Set up tracking for our SumoMe campaigns in Google Analytics.

With the free version of SumoMe, this isn’t possible. Well, maybe it is if you are a coding guru, but that is not one of our strong points.

We decided to set up events for every time a SumoMe element displays (the smart bar or the welcome mat), which element displays, and when conversions (or subscribes) happen.

This is what the code looks like in SumoMe to track a welcome mat in Google Analytics. (Find the SumoMe Google Analytics tracking pixel here).

The parts you have to customize are the ‘category’, ‘action’, ‘label’ which in this case is ‘SumoMe’, ‘Welcome Mat’, and ‘Welcome Mat 1’. You also need to input your Google Analytics property ID for the property you wish to track the events on.

Just minutes after implementing these tracking codes, here is what the activity looks like in Google Analytics. You can see within a short time just how many times the smart bar and welcome mats were displayed.

Update (12-29-15): Email Conversion Rate Improvements

It has been two weeks since I created this case study, and we’ve already had some outstanding results. We had no idea just how many email conversions we were missing out on! For some reason, we thought that a 0.5% conversion rate was acceptable!

Email Conversion Rate Improvement on Website

Here is what the past 10 days or so look like on our website. Our total email opt-in conversion rate with the welcome mat is 4.32%. That is a 575% improvement!

Just to compare, here is what the conversion rate looks like on our SumoMe Smart Bar.

The difference is astonishing! Who knew that all opt-in methods were not created equal?!

Results of A/B Testing on Welcome Mats

I set up three different welcome mats just to see which one performed the best. I didn’t want to change too much between the welcome mats, so I simply changed out the photo. I wanted to answer the question “Which photo encourages users to subscribe to most?”

As you can see, all welcome mats are performing roughly the same! I didn’t realize how close they would be. Of course, we can continue to test further if we would like… maybe we can get above the 5% mark?

Results of Conversion Rate Tracking in Google Analytics

Now let’s take a look at how our tracking is doing in Google Analytics. As you can see, we’ve had A LOT of subscribers in the two weeks of the case study! We’re getting anywhere from 40 to 80 subscribes a day in total! This includes subscribers from both the SumoMe welcome mat and the smart bar.

Below, you will see the conversion rate by channel. As you can see, Facebook and YouTube visitors are quick to subscribe to our site, while Pinterest and Reddit are much slower.

This makes sense as we have relationships with our audience on Facebook and YouTube, where Pinterest users don’t really know us, and Reddit users are just grumpy and stingy as hell!

After two weeks of testing, this is not bad at all and SumoMe has met our expectations. We really love the tracking pixel feature, which is paid, as is the A/B testing. Try out these features free for two weeks here!

Conversion Rate Optimization Improvement Quick Stats

So in an nutshell, here are some stats over the past two weeks.

  • 584 new email list subscribers  (went from 1,323 to 1907)
  • Went from a 0.65% conversion rate to a 4.32% conversion rate, a 575% improvement

Update (2-12-15)

It’s been almost a full two months since we started this case study. This is what our current stats look like:

  • 4,865 new email list subscribers (went from 1,907 to 6,772)
  • Email opt in conversion rate is 3.86%: This is probably more accurate than the 4.32% conversion rate above since the data is over a longer period of time.

Here is what our email subscribers look like since we started the case study. Data is missing prior to the case study because we didn’t have goal tracking in place for this!

Key Takeaways & Conversion Rate Optimization Tips

Jesse and I were chatting earlier this month about our internet marketing strategy for the next few months and we agreed upon one thing: we are guilty of not taking our own advice.

Sometimes it’s easier to give advice to others than it is to take the advice ourselves, when we really should! We frequently tell our consulting clients to focus on building a strong list, and here we were letting it be more of an after-thought! Shame on us!

Prior to this, we really didn’t have a good way of tracking our email subscribers. We were guilty of getting A LOT of traffic to our site and then letting that all just slip away without even genuinely trying to get emails.

Here is our traffic volume over the pas two months.

Can you imagine how few email subscribers we would have received if we still had a 0.65% email subscriber rate?! It’d be the difference from under 1,000 to over 5,000!

If you only have 500 visitors to your site per month, then having a low conversion rate isn’t going to hurt that bad. However, our blog is gaining momentum so fast and we’ve barely just begun… having a low conversion rate will hurt us if we don’t work on it.

If you are spending time on something, be sure to find something to measure! If you don’t have a benchmark, how will you know if changes made to your site are improving it or not? You don’t!

Building a marketing machine doesn’t happen overnight; it is a process. Keep picking things to work on, measuring results, refining, optimizing, running tests, and overtime you will start to build your marketing machine. Work on mastering one system at a time… a marketing machine is really just made up of a bunch of mini systems!

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