Case Study: How I Increased Email Optins By 13.67% By Killing Opt-In Pop Ups (And You Won't Believe What Happened To My Income)

Filed in Case Studies, Email Marketing by on April 23, 2016

Vector email marketing concepts - flat trendy icons - newsletter and subscription - bright illustrations for horizontal banners or headersYou've been told that you need to build an email list a thousand times over, right?

And you are clued up about online marketing so you know it's the lifeblood of any online business or website, especially for small niche sites.

You know it's how you bring people back to your site over and over, build trust and a relationship with them, and make repeat sales.

And that's something EVERY niche business needs.

And you probably even bought an email pop up tool like ThriveLeads or OptinMonster too, no doubt? (Check out our recommended tools and resources)

But you're still not sure how to get started with it.

Or you've added the plugin but struggling to get anyone to hand over their email address, right?

Here's why...

The old methods of adding a simple optin box to the sidebar or below posts just aren't effective anymore, people are blind to them.

And those overly aggressive entry, exit, and other pop up boxes that cannot be missed have lost their effectiveness already

People get pissed off at them and just close them down and they ruin user experience shooting up bounce rate, lowering time spent on site, and decreasing pages per visit.

Plus someone who signs up for a freebie the second they've landed on your site or just as they were about to leave aren't exactly the highest quality subscriber in the first place

A good subscriber is one who has engaged with your content first.

So how exactly do you build an email list that is RESPONSIVE and ENGAGED?

Which is crucial if you want to make any money from it.

That also doesn't negatively affect user experience in any way...it actually IMPROVES it.

Well there is a way:

But very few are doing or even talking about it.

And it involves going against all the standard advice about how to collect email addresses currently floating around in the online marketing world.

And the truly shocking thing is...

You have to turn your optin plugin OFF for it to work.

Yep, KILL your optin plugin!

Sounds fishy, right?

Well don't just take my word for it let me prove it to you...

 

What You'll Learn:

  • Why the common advice about email pop ups given by almost every marketer is wrong.
  • How I increased my opt in rate AND income by killing my opt in pop ups.
  • How to get more engaged subscribers that are interested in buying your products.
  • How to improve your websites bounce rate, time spent on site, and pages per visit.

 

(P.S. If you'd like to download a free list of 34 ways to grow your email list click here or the image below)

 

What Caused Me To Turn Off My Optin Plugin...

For most of the last 2 years I've ran a very aggressive opt in strategy here on NH.

I doubt you can have missed it.

Pop ups would be flying at you every as soon as you landed on the blog and then again every few seconds or any time you moved the mouse.

 

1

 

Entry, exit, slide in, time delayed pop ups

I had them all.

Not to mention little yellow boxes within posts, welcome mats on the home page, hello bar at the top of the pages and optin boxes in the sidebar.

I was very focused on collecting emails.

And it worked....

I have an email list of over 20,000 subscribers at present.

 

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And that's after deleting over 6,000 inactive subscribers last week.

But the problem is most of these subscribers are not very engaged.

My open rates are only 17.58% on average which for a blog is quite low with the average being over 20% reported by MailChimp (Source)

Look don't get me wrong this list is still valuable to me

I make a full time living from this email list alone.

And it helps me sell hundreds of affiliate products per promotion and hundreds more of my of my own every month.

You've seen the screenshots and results from the affiliate contests I enter I'm sure so I won't go into that again here.

But being so aggressive at collecting emails also had a negative affect.

The sites user experience was TERRIBLE.

Bounce rate was at 69.32%.

Time spent on site just 00:02:36.

And pages per visit only 1.86.

These are all terrible stats for a successful blog.

And in part this was caused by the constant barrage of pop ups and other things taking over your screen demanding your email address.

 

Then I Noticed Something Unusual...

One afternoon whilst browsing my favorite blog DigitalMarketer.com over a cup of steaming hot Americano I realized they never attack me with pop ups demanding my email.

They don't have pop ups on their site at all.

And these guys are the biggest and best in the business who test everything to the extreme.

So you know if they aren't using pop ups there's a VERY good reason for it.

So what are they doing?

Well simply...

They have images in each post along with a call to action that lead to dedicated optin / squeeze pages.

Like this...

 

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Source: http://digitalmarketer.com

 

And it suddenly dawned on me.

This makes a LOT of sense.

These dedicated email collection pages easily convert at 40%+ without much optimization.

Compare that to less than 5% with the average entry pop up and less than 3% with the exit ones...

...and you suddenly see why it makes sense to be sending all your leads to these pages.

And NOT using the pop ups.

Plus if you remove the annoying pop ups (and even I knew they were annoying when I was using them but that was the tried and tested way to collect emails at the time) there's a good chance you'll improve user experience too.

But of course at this point this was all just theory.

As I hadn't tested it for myself.

And we both know that marketers don't make assumptions they test, track and record results and make decisions based on data.

So I set out to test it.

And here are the results...

 

The Results Attempt 1: How I Initially DECREASED Email Subscribers By Adding In Images Leading To Landing Pages

So copying DigtalMarketers lead I had a series of images designed that I would add to each post that linked to the optin pages.

One for each main category on the blog.

You'll have seen them, they look like this...

 

4

 

And I added them in (well actually I asked Nader to do it because it was so damn tedious, sorry bud!) to all the posts.

At this point I didn't remove the pop ups or other optin method. I kept everything running.

Yep even though DigitalMarketer didn't have the pop ups I thought I could keep the pop ups AND add in the links to the landing pages and it would work even better.

Then I sat back thinking I was going to see a HUGE increase in subscribers.

Because after all I now had entry pop ups, exit pop ups, welcome mats, side bars AND images pointing to landing pages.

So I'd get your email one way or another, there's no way you could escape from all of that,

One month later I checked the stats and saw actually less people had subscribed than usual.

What?!?

Yep, less.

I checked it twice to see there wasn't a mistake.

It was right...less!

So what was the deal?

Well I'd hazard a guess that because the pops ups were still barraging you every time you visit most of you didn't even get a chance to see the images.

You'd exited the site before you had the chance.

There was far too much going on.

Too many ways to opt in.

So instead of choosing one you just chose none.

Something common when it comes to human behavior.

Barry Schwartz, PhD, at Swarthmore College psychologist and author of "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less" (Ecco, 2004)  famously said that if you give people too many choices often can't make one.

They become anxious, confused, and regretful.

So it's easier just to make no choice at all than a difficult one.

So that's what you did with my optin forms. You made no choice.

And less of you opted in than usual.

FAIL on my part.

So back to the drawing board...

 

The Results Attempt 2: How I INCREASED Email Subscribers By Turning OFF My Optin Plugin AND Adding In Images To Landing Pages

So I wasn't giving up on these images that lead to the optin pages.

I knew DigitalMarketer had to be doing it for good reason.

I just had to accept the fact that I would have to turn my beloved pop ups off.

Yes....the ones I spent the last 2 years optimizing the sh*t out of so they converted the best they possibly could

Which was still only up to 3.89% maximum on my best performing pop up ironically.

The pop ups which for the past 2 years I had been convinced were the ticket to building a big, responsive and highly engaged email list.

I turned these off with huge apprehension (honestly I was crapping myself)

To get any reliable results I'd have to run it for a month.

And if it flopped that meant no new email subscribers for a month.

That could cause a serious blow to my business and income. (Check out how to create a digital product to increase your income)

But I knew I had to do it.

So I turned them off.

And it pained me to do so.

I decided not to look at the results until the full month was up.

Why?

Because I knew if I looked at it after a week and the results didn't seem great I'd panic and turn them back off again ruining the experiment.

 

The Data....

Remember the aim here was to:

  • Increase optin rate and subscriber growth
  • Get more engaged subscribers
  • Increase user experience on the blog (decrease bounce rate, increase time spent on site and pages per visit)

 

Did I Increase Optin Rate & Subscriber Growth?

  • Average subscribers per month with pop ups ON (calculated over past 6 months): 6250
  • Subscribers per month with pop ups OFF: 6386
  • Percentage Increase: +2.71%

Of course an increase of subscribers is not the important metric to look at here it's the conversion rate we are interested in so we need to look at site traffic too:

  • Average website traffic per month with pop ups ON (calculated over past 6 months): 83,769
  • Website traffic per month with pop ups OFF: 75,231 (not sure why but February saw a big drop in traffic for us)

Which means....

  • Average Conversion rate per month with pop ups ON: 7.46%
  • Conversion rate per month with pop ups OFF: 8.48%
  • Percentage Increase: +13.67%

 

Lessons Learned:

Subscriber numbers INCREASED by 2.71% by turning the pop ups off and giving people less ways to optin by

And conversion rate, which is the most important metric here, increased by 13.67% also.

So more options clearly aren't always better. Giving less choice gave better results.

 

(P.S. If you'd like to download a free list of 34 ways to grow your email list click here or the image below)

 

Did I Get More Engaged Subscribers & How Was Income Affected?

My goal was to get more engaged subscribers and HOPEFULLY increase my income.

Let's see if I achieved that...

 

Open rate:

  • With pop ups ON: 17.58% (average)
  • With pop ups OFF: 18.51% (average)
  • Percentage Increase: +5.29%

 

Click rates:

  • With pop ups ON: 9.79% (average)
  • With pop ups OFF: 11.51% (average)
  • Percentage Increase: +17.56%

 

Earning per subscriber:

  • With pop ups ON: $0.85 (average over past 6 months)
  • With pop ups OFF: $0.94
  • Percentage Increase: +10.58%

 

Lessons Learned:

Ironically by making it, slightly, more difficult for visitors to opt in not only did I increase conversion rate and subscribers...

...but I also increased engagement.

Open rate increased by 5.29% on average and click rate by a massive 17.56% when pop ups were turned off.

Which goes back to something I mentioned earlier.

Someone who's just landed on your site or about to leave it probably isn't a good subscriber for you anyway.

So the entry and exit pop ups as attention grabbing as they are can do more harm than good.

But of course all of that is just vanity metrics...

The only thing that matters is your income increases, right?

And it did.

With pop ups on the average earning per subscriber, on average over the past 6 months, was $0.85 and it rose to $0.94 after turning them off.

That's a +10.58% percentage increase.

Very very nice.

 

Did I Improve User Experience On The Blog?

Another important thing I wanted to improve was user experience on the blog.

So that people spent more time consuming content, visiting pages, and on site.

Rather than bouncing fast.

 

With pop ups ON:

  • Bounce rate: 69.32%
  • Time spent on site: 00:02:46
  • Pages per visit: 1.86

 

With pop ups OFF:

  • Bounce rate: 68.43%
  • Time spent on site: 00:02:46
  • Pages per visit: 1.89

 

Results:

  • Bounce rate change: -1.29%
  • Time spent on site change: +5.89%
  • Pages per visit change: +1.74%

 

Lessons Learned:

Bounce rate, time spent on site and pages per visit ALL improved (remember we want bounce rate to decrease so the negative numbers a good one) after the pop ups were turned off.

Not only is engagement when on the list improving and income up but the website user experience benefits too.

 

Overall Lessons Learned on Data:

By lowering the amount of optin options on the blog and removing the the aggressive pop ups we INCREASED subscribers by 2.71%.

That might not seem like much but an increase is an increase and the images, calls to action and optin pages you're sent to can all be optimized and improved for higher conversions.

And conversion rate saw a percentage increase of 13.76% which is huge.

All by giving people LESS choice and making it harder for them to opt in.

And on top of that user experience has improved too...

Bounce rate has dropped albeit only by a marginal amount of 1.29% (better than nothing).

Pages per visit has increased by 1.74% which again is not huge but it's an increase.

And time spent on site has shot up by a respectable 5.89% which is great.

Just by removing the pop ups.

The engagement has been the biggest winner with open rate increasing by 5.29% and click rate by 17.56% which is huge.

And earning per subscriber has seen a percentage increase of 10.58%.

And that's actually the most important aspect of the whole experiment.

There's no good having huge lists of disengaged subscribers with no interest in your emails.

You need to only get the people who WANT to receive your emails and are a good fit for your site, marketing message and promotions.

And you want your bottom line to increase.

So there's been no negative affect yet plenty of positives to turning off pop ups.

 

(P.S. If you'd like to download a free list of 34 ways to grow your email list click here or the image below)

 

So What Does This All Mean & How Do You Use This Data?

Basically...

For NicheHacks turning off plugins has increased subscribers, conversion rate,  engagement, come and improved user experience.

Which is a win win all round.

We get more subscribers, of a better quality, worth more to me and less pissed off website visitors.

I may even test things further by making it more difficult still for subscribers to opt in.

So for example:

Post > click image to go to new page > warm up / teaser content > optin page

It could lead to an even more engaged and responsive list with higher open and click rates.

For you it means...

You need to go test this for yourself and see what results you get.

Yep....sadly it doesn't mean you can take this as gospel and implement without testing it.

What works for one website doesn't always for another.

Go on be brave!

Turn off your pop ups and replace them with images leading to dedicated opt in pages and track the results.

Both on optin numbers, conversion rates, engagement, earnings and user experience.

You might be surprised like I was at the outcome.

Even if you do experience a drop in subscribers or opt in conversion don't be too hasty to write it off as a bad result.

If your user experience has improved massively and subscriber engagement and mostly importantly earnings per subscriber is up then it is worth getting less subscribers yet ones who are higher quality.

So there's only ONE thing left to do...

Go turn off your optin pop up plugin and see what happens.

But before you do that can you do me a quick favor and help the NicheHacks tribe?

I'd love for you to tell me your biggest takeaway from this post in the comments section below because I'd like to know your thoughts on this strategy...

 

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NicheHacks
To date, Stuart has revealed well over 1,500 hot niches.

He's living his dream of being location independent, and having traveled the world, thanks to internet marketing.

The aim with Niche Hacks is to help you live your dream thanks to online marketing, whatever that may be.
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Comments (28)

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  1. Joe Elliott says:

    Very interesting post, I have been following for a while can't say it annoyed me too much and never seen them all. As they say test and test again...

    Thanks for this case study! Added to Buffer!

    Joe

  2. Very interesting study Stuart, thanks for sharing your data.

    Whilst I get what you're saying, I interpret the data slightly differently:

    I suspect the small changes in conversion rate etc (eg. from 7.46% to 8.48%), are probably within the normal range of variation from month to month. What was it for the preceeding months? I suspect you may have seen a similar level of variation without making the changes.

    The good news however, is that subscriptions and conversion rates were certainly no worse, and you created a better user experience by eliminating the popups, which is certainly a good thing.

    So I see the win here as being a better user experience, with no downside. And that's a big win.

    Once again, thanks for sharing.

    Tim

    • NicheHacks says:

      Hey Tim,

      Must have missed your comment earlier. Sorry about that. I will look into what you're saying and see. Don't have the numbers to hand right now and my brains a bit foggy from one too many beers last night. 😉

  3. Sandy says:

    Hi Stuart, thanks for sharing this informative case study. Personally, I do find pop-ups annoying. Had one set up the other day but couldn't stand it kept sliding in. Deactivated since. Hv one on sidebar. Added one at the end of post and it's working well. I do have a burning question though and hope you can enlighten.

    Let's say i would like to give away pdf for my each selected blog post. That's having a button or image or link at the end of the post for visitors to click onto, which leads them to an opt-in form. My understanding is I need to create a list for each pdf post because i need to attach my pdf file to that list. Is there any better, easier option to get this done? Thanks in advance.

    • NicheHacks says:

      You would WANT to create a seperate list for each lead magnet you have so that when people sign up for that lead magnet they automatically get a follow up series of emails closely related to that lead magnet both content and promotional emails. Segmentation is important. Don't add everyone to the same list.

  4. Gibson says:

    Hello Stuart!

    Interesting article. I must say that it really got me thinking as regards the use of popups in all my site.

    Well, I would still maintain the use of pop ups on my squeeze pages and CPA landing pages, however on my blogs, I will toggle it off and on.

    Please I have also republished this post on my blog at http://imarkguru.com/case-study-killing-opt-rates-using-pop-ups/

    Thanks.

  5. Rufat says:

    Good article, BUT I see that you are still using entry pop up and Digital Marketer is using pop up too. I'm a bit confused to be honest.

  6. stellab says:

    Hello -

    I'm always looking at ways to get visitors to my blogs. That's how I found your site.

    May I ask a question: I noticed those "huge" share buttons that overlay content on your posts? Is this normal? Does anyone else find it very annoying?

    I think I did encounter that "welcome mat" mentioned above. My word, am I the only one that finds such things very off-putting?

    I actually think I'd like reading more of your posts, but those pesky share buttiong getting in the way of the text makes it difficult. What has been the experience of you and your readers.

    • NicheHacks says:

      The sharing buttons is an issue with your browser or device. It's not happening to everyone. Most people can see all the content and the share buyttons are at the side of the content. These things will never be 100% perfect sadly. Sorry about that.

      Of course many people will find any form of welcome mat or pop up offputting but they DO gather leads. People put their email addys in them.

  7. stellab says:

    Hello there NicheHacks -

    Thanks so much for replying. I really appreciate that.

    I'm not sure about that floating share button is an issue with my browser ---- I just tried viewing with firefox (before I used IE) and the same thing happened. Yes, it's on the left and always covers up some pretty significant portion of text on that side.

    I also tried using a smaller zoom (I need a bigger zoom for my eyesight, but that didn't help either. I notice there's this pretty wide bar or section or whatever where you advertise to download that 1781 profitable niched. I don't know if that has anything to do with it, but if the text could be moved a bit over to the left it might help.

    I can't believe no one experiences this. I've also run into it at a lot of other sites.

    Anyway, I will try going through some of your other posts as well when I get a chance. But I think at this point my blog may be a lost cause. I get basically no encouragement, VERY few comments, and I just feel I'm wasting my time as I do put quite some effort into most of my posts. I'm not at all even looking to make money from it, it's just a "personal' blog, but feeling as thought you're continually talking to an empty all is very discouraging, to say the least. Ah well, I know you seem to be doing your part to give some tips.

    Anyway, thanks for replying and all the best.

    • NicheHacks says:

      Like you say it happens on other blogs too. It's likely an issue with your set up. You're NOT the only it happens to we've had others experience the same but for the majority it's fine and doesn't happen.

  8. Nathaneal says:

    Love this, I've been checking out different ways to accomplish the same. I am in the beginning phases of building an email list, (and I know it will take time), but I think these things can help me.
    I have my own blog, where I started off failing to capture emails, as well as an ecommerce store where the same happened, I didn't see the value, but now Im head over heels with it.
    Thanks for the small bite of info, Ill be sure to check this site more regularly now!

  9. Russell Lobo says:

    Great post. And a very brave move to experiment considering a significant part of your income comes in via the list. Have you tried removing the hello bar too and checking if you benefit more v/s the income you get from the sumome affiliate?

    • NicheHacks says:

      Pretty much ALL my income comes from the list. The website in it's self makes very very little money. There's a handful of affiliate links sprinkled in posts for things like hosting, aweber, optinmonster, namecheap etc but they rarely convert into sales and account for less than 1% of income.

  10. Great case study!!

    One conclusion that I was able to draw from it was "the less you force the reader to subscribe, the more engaged subscriber you get".

    Am I right Stuart?

    • NicheHacks says:

      Seems to be that way. Get the people who REALLY want to be on your list on it instead of anyone who just wanted a freebie or had a pop up thrown in their face.

  11. Shaun ling says:

    interesting. i have seen many big blogs out there are using pop ups so i never thought of turning the pop ups off for testing.

    have to test it out.

  12. brian says:

    The information sounds realistic but just where do I obtain images.
    Thanks
    Brian

  13. Tony and Claudia says:

    Hi Stuart...how are you doing today?

    Wow! Amazing "eye-opening" case study!

    Thank you for sharing this valuable information.

    We will implement these changes on our websites and watch the awesome results.

    We have one question please:

    "How do you create your cool square images such as the green "34 Ways To Grow Your Email List"

    If you outsource these graphics, can you direct us to the website please?

    Thank you so much 😉