How to build a website which converts email subscribers

Over the last 2 months, Marketing Examples welcomed 31,000 first time visitors. 4,100 of these visitors subscribed to the email list. That’s an email opt-in of 12.9%.

The industry average is 2%. The top 10 percentile average is 5%.

Being obvious works

No matter how amazing your work no one is going to go out of their way to sign up to your email list. You have to make it obvious. Incredibly obvious.

There are four ways to sign up to the Marketing Examples email list:

1) From the fixed position navbar 2) At the end of any article 3) Through the exit intent popup 4) Directly from the subscribe page

I went to a museum recently. On my way out a member of staff told me that every time a new exhibition opens they send out an email and asked whether I’d like to sign up. I said sure.

Now, imagine a parallel universe. Ten seconds after I walk through the museum’s doors the same lady jumps out in front of me and asks if I’d like to join the email list.

The latter is how most popups do work. The former is how they should work. For those unfamiliar, I’m talking about exit intent popups.

The benefit is clear. In waiting until a user is ready to exit your website you’re not going to annoy them by springing open a popup whilst they’re in the middle of an article.

Popups run the game

If human behaviour was rational the exit intent popup on Marketing Examples would be futile. Users have already seen the email box on the home page or at the end of an article. Surely they’ve already decided whether or not to sign up?

The “futile” popup contributes 50% of total sign-ups (all of whom were about to leave the website). Without it Marketing Examples would currently have 2900 subscribers instead of 5800.

Subscribe pages work

The benefit of a dedicated subscribe page is that it allows you to link directly to your email list.

This means any value I create on other platforms (Twitter, Reddit, Startup School, etc …) can be converted directly into email subscribers rather than just exchanged for a website session.

Over the past 3 months 1070 users have come directly to the subscribe page (45% of whom joined the email list). You’ll notice the little spikes every time an article gains traction on another platform.

Asking personally works

The most surefire way of getting someone to do something is… ask them personally. It’s hardly rocket science. Humans respond better to humans than they do to a little box with the word “Subscribe” on.

On YouTube people get this. Most videos include some sort of personal call to action — “Hit the subscribe button”. But on websites impersonal email boxes remain the modus operandi.

On observing this I added a gentle personal nudge to every Marketing Examples case study:

If you liked the article and want to learn from more real world examples joining the email list is really appreciated. Thank you!

Appearance matters

I’ve got 3 simple rules to improve any email section:

1) Explain why people should sign up 2) Add social proof (e.g. Number of subscribers, unsubscribe rate, quote) 3) Replace “Subscribe” with a value-based CTA


Choosing whether or not to subscribe to an email list is a split-second decision. This means that subtle psychological tweaks can make a big difference.

Here’s the checklist:

1) Make it obvious 2) Use an exit-intent popup 3) Get a subscribe page 4) Ask as a human 5) Give a clear reason to sign up 6) Add Social Proof 7) Use value-based messaging

Exit-intent popup implementation is easier than you think. With code:

TODO code snippet

And without code:

  1. OptinMonster connects with EmailOctopus 2.MailMunch & Wisepops connect with Mailchimp, Klaviyo etc …

Most basic exit intent popups default to timeout based on mobile.