How to Create a Split Test that Mathematically Gets More Email Subscribers

45 amazing comments

email forms

You want to know what the really rich guys do that the rest of us don’t?

They use maths.

They use statistics.

They measure, track, tweak and remove as much guesswork from their business activities as possible.

And as my traffic and readership continues to grow I’m starting to see why. A small change in my opt in form design could result in dozens of missed email subscribers every day. And that works out to a lot of potential customers down the track.

I’ve made a video to show you how to create a split test for your opt in forms to mathematically get more email subscribers.

The post that follows is a bit of background in to what is going on and why everyone should be doing it.

What exactly is a split test?

If you are new to all this stuff you are probably wondering what the heck a split test is!

Simply put:

A split test (or A/B test) is where you run two versions of the same advert and see which one performs the best.

Today the “advert” that we are talking about is our email subscriber opt-in form where we ask people to enter their name and email address and subscribe to our blog.

Why bother?

A few years ago I thought this stuff was for people who had too much time. I honestly thought that it wouldn’t result in a huge difference to my subscriber levels and my time would be better spent producing new content.

I was wrong.

Now I believe the reverse is true: why bother spending time creating all that amazing content if your subscriber form is not working at its absolute best?

What an absolute waste of time.

Split testing two different versions of your email subscription form is one of the most worthwhile things that you can do for your blog or website.

Creating a split test for your opt-in forms, the video

Let’s now watch the video so you can see how the whole process works with Aweber.



As you can see, it takes around two minutes and gives you data that could make a huge difference to your profit margin.

This was one of the main reasons I switched to Aweber for my email marketing and subscriber service.

What elements of your opt-in form should you test?

Now that I have (hopefully!) convinced you that split testing is the new black you are probably wondering what elements of your forms you can change and measure.

Here are some suggestions that I have tried out myself.

  • The copy
    The first and most obvious thing is to run different versions of copy. You might want to change what the header says or what the main pitch is about. This is often the major turn on/off for potential subscribers.
  • The font size
    Header and copy font size can play a big part in how visible, noticeable and actionable your opt-in form is. Play around with larger fonts.
  • The colors
    Do your colors match your branding and blog design? Does it matter? Do louder colors get more attention but result in less subscribers. These are the types of things you need to test.
  • The “submit” button text
    The submit button is a really big player in subscriber rates. Some people find they have more luck with a forceful statement like “Sign Up Now!” and other people find that less committing statements like “Get Started” work a lot better. Brian Clark once commented that he thought the words “Subscribe” sound too much like something you pay for and should be avoided. Test that!
  • The use of images
    I used to run a version of my sidebar ad that had a picture of the free eBook in it. That’s gone now after some split testing showed it didn’t perform as well.
  • The use of social proof
    Social proof is where you use statements like “Join 200,000 others who have already subscribed” to encourage people to sign up. The psychology behind these statements is that people hate being first and really want to know that they aren’t alone. But sometimes this might have a negative effect if people feel like they aren’t getting something fresh and new and exclusive.
  • A different free giveaway
    Maybe it is your free eBook that is hurting your sign up rates. Try a form without one or with a different one and see how things go.

You need to set some really concrete goals here otherwise you could spend your whole life tweaking and testing things that don’t matter. The more study and reading you do, the more you will get a feel for what elements need to be changed and just focus on them.

What makes you sign up?

Can you think of any element of an opt-in form that really makes you want to sign up? Please leave a comment and let me know. We might get some really cool information.

(If you’ve ever done split testing let me know too!)

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45 Comments. Join in. *Closed after 30 days*

  • James

    I split tested an inline sign up form against a slide over and got a 500% increase in sign up rate! Also split tested a static banner against a revolving banner and got a 30% increase in conversion rates.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      James, how many of those 500%ers stay signed up? I found that they often didn’t stick around.


  • Cristina Ansbjerg

    Split testing is great. It’s what makes a difference. Trying to guess what works is almost impossible. “Fact is stranger than fiction”.

    The biggest challenge is when your audience is not big enough. Split-testing results might not be very accurate.

    Good post BT

    #whoisthetyrant


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Cristina – you might be finding out the answer to that hash tag next week. 😉


      1. Cristina Ansbjerg

        I know the answer… I want to spread the hash tag 😉


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          I know… 😉


  • liz@lifedreaming

    Excellent work BT.

    I always wondered what the fuss was about Split Testing and nearly ignored this post but you have social proof so I decided to have a look.

    Glad I did.

    The vid made it really clear how to do one [I do love How To’s] and why it was important – and – then you value added it all by breaking down the key components of a good opt in form. Thanks mate.

    What makes me sign in to someones blog?

    To be honest, their opt in form could be ugly as a toad but if I liked their content and approach then I’ll sign up.

    If I feel the content is lazy or rehashed then I’m out of there and I don’t care if their opt in form sings like an angel and offers me world peace – not going there.

    The split testing process has certainly got me thinking, particularly how I could use it for the sales page we’ll be creating to launch the Life Dreaming Expedition.

    As always – bloody beauty mate!

    Take good care
    Liz


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Liz I love it when you comment. Please do it more often.

      How are things with you? You were moving and re-shuffling things a bit last time right?


      1. liz@lifedreaming

        And I love reading your posts and the comments from the crew.

        Still housesitting in the fabulous wilds of County Wicklow in Ireland.

        Working full time on the final edit of the Life Dreaming online Expedition. Taught myself how to create audio/mp3 [can recommend Audacity – free recording and editing software] and created 3 for the modules. Next week I’m filming the 8 or so short vids that open each of the 8 modules. Then there’s the complete site design [keeping the logo because I LOVE it and want a temp tattoo of it] – and finally – the whole launch.

        You asked!

        Loving it all and learning heaps. This is the only blog I’m really using to get some hints although I have been reading thru some good stuff from Dave Navarro and Naomi – very helpful in getting me to drill down real thinking about my marketing. Hurt my brain but it’s worth it.

        Nice vid and hope the cold goes away.

        Take good care BT


        1. zimbrul

          Liz, thanks for the tip on Audacity and yes, you right: if the content is king the video in emperor.


          1. liz@lifedreaming

            You’re very welcome Zimbrul. Audacity needs an additional download called LAME so you can convert the files and save them as MP3’s. Audacity notes this and gives you a link when you save a file. Audacity also has a window that opens with tutorials. I’d advice having a read of their stuff about recording as it gives tips on sorting some settings. I’m no audio engineer and was very able to sort the setting and then make a basic recording. Audio quality was excellent.

            Re: vids. When I open a workbook online and am given the option of – vid, MP3 or a pdf – I ALWAYS go to the pdf. I love reading and can’t be bothered listening or watching someone. And I know everyone has their own preferences.

            Having said that I did decide to do some vids that welcome people to each module as it gives people a peek at me and the person behind it all.

            BT – it would be interesting to find out from all the fab crew what their preference is – vid, MP3 and/or pdf – and – if their customers have a strong preference.

            Liz


          2. Marcus

            For a great resource on using Audacity, check out “Audacity to Podcast.”
            http://theaudacitytopodcast.com/

            Daniel J. Lewis is the man to see about Audacity and podcasting. Click over to “podcasts” for the good stuff.


  • John King

    In my experience on several sites in different markets, the colour of the submit button and that label on that button can have a huge impact on sign-ups.

    Using green (a positive connotation) out performs other colours tested, and relating the label to the intended “gift” also impacts.

    Nice article… as always 🙂

    John.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      I love the psychology of color. I’d imagine that green has deep seeded happy emotions associated with it – a signal to go.


  • zimbrul

    What makes me sign up? The content of the blog/website. For me, the form, the colours the social proof as you say means nothing. You can have the most beautiful opt-in form if your content does not interest me I don’t sign up. You can put Madonna naked on the page and I won’t sign up. What makes me put my precious email address down in your list is my interest to get useful stuff over to my email, stuff I’m really interested in.
    But I have to admit, split testing is a real science nowadays. And your blog post another useful use of the Internet, cheers.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Thanks Zimbrul. How is your stuff going these days?


      1. zimbrul

        I’m in a middle of a big dilemma, thanks for asking :).


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          I hope it’s not too serious…?

          Thoughts are with you.


    2. Marcus

      I totally agree. If a blogger writes enough good articles, I’ll sign up for their e-mail list. That’s regardless of how the opt-in box looks.

      A good example is AdSense Flippers. They use the standard Aweber form, but they provide so much helpful information I can forgive the lack of a slick form.


      1. the Blog Tyrant

        I’ve heard a lot about those guys lately. Must check it out.


      2. Justin

        Thanks for the mention, Marcus!

        The quality of the content is definitely important to me as well. To be honest, though, some measure of social proof will probably give me incentive to stay on the site and spend time checking it out. Either that or a referral/recommendation from someone I like and trust.

        Lastly – our site design and conversion optimization is pretty horrible. We’ll be looking to correct that in the near future! 🙂


        1. Marcus

          Nice to see you on here, Justin!

          Referrals are big. Maybe half of the bloggers I follow, I found out about through Pat Flynn at Smart Passive Income. Often I’ll follow people Pat interviewed on his podcast. He’s how I discovered AdSense Flippers!

          I dug up the post: “What I’m reading and who I’m in love with right now”
          http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/what-im-reading-and-who-im-in-love-with-right-now/

          As for horrible design, my first impressions of many top blogs was negative. I remember the first time I saw Viperchill’s site, everything seemed off. The name was irrelevant to the content, the design with the little white cartoon men was strange, it all felt weird. Yet now, it’s one of my all-time favorite resources. His current design is way cleaner, more elegant (even Apple-esque!).


          1. the Blog Tyrant

            Yeah I’m a big fan of Glen’s new design. Very clean.


        2. the Blog Tyrant

          Great to see you here Justin.

          You’ve been all over the place lately!


  • zimbrul

    Neutrally speaking now I think “My Free Whatever…” works better because sounds like you give away something that is yours and people love to have other’s stuff for FREE


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      They sure do!


  • Marcus

    I like that you focused on opt-in forms, compared to websites as a whole. Split-testing the design of a homepage or landing page can seem intimidating. Much easier to understand testing a sign-up box. Yet, that’s also where you can make the biggest difference.

    A resource I highly recommend is John Caples’ classic book on copywriting: “Tested Advertising Methods.” (make you get the 4th edition). He spent decades writing mail-order ads.

    That may seem old-fashioned, but the important thing is EVERY technique in his book has been tested, over and over again. Long copy vs. short copy, use of photos, offering a free guide, etc. These all have direct equivalents online. He doesn’t write his opinion of good writing; he focuses on writing that sells.

    Mail-order ads lead to direct sales, and can be tracked for effectiveness. With commercials in TV or other media, there’s a disconnect between the merchant and the end consumer.

    While the book can seem dated in parts, much of it is highly relevant to online marketing. You can see Caples’ principles in use in effective sign-up boxes, Facebook ads, etc.

    Getting back to the modern day, there was a fantastic article in Wired magazine:
    “The A/B Test: Inside the Technology That’s Changing the Rules of Business”
    http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2012/04/ff_abtesting/all/1
    In one case, political staff members were stunned by how wrong their instincts were in designing opt-in forms for voters. Split tests can affect things as important as elections.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      That is an amazing article bro.

      How do you find all this stuff?!


      1. liz@lifedreaming

        Thanks for the article Marcus. very interesting reading.

        I blame you BT!!!!

        As if I don’t have enough to do – now I’m going to do some research on A/B testing.

        One of the reasons I keep coming back to you BT [and that’s as important for all us writers as getting newbie readers] isn’t just your excellent articles.

        What keeps me coming back is the great crew that leave comments and help each other with information and support. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone be rude and everyone treats each other with respect.

        Well done us!

        Now, off to read all that article.

        Have a great weekend everyone.

        Liz


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Yeah it is pretty amazing. I have never really seen a comment area so full of amazing people. In two years I think I’ve had zero negative comments.


  • Glynis Jolly

    Thanks for the no-nonsense advice. Like you, I have been thinking, “What difference does it make?” I think I need to try the A – B split and see if there is a difference.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Let us know how you go.


  • Janet Poole

    Hi BT, I’m new to your list, so I’ll bet you want to know what you did to get me to join!

    I’m non-techy and wanted to set up a free download on my site and wanted to use aweber. But had a few gaps in my knowledge. Also to complicate it, my site is WP.com not .org so that makes it interesting because tailored opt-in form are not allowed.

    I still feel really new to blogging probably because I’ve not spent a huge amount of time analyzing it – also had a steep learning curve with publishing a book at same time.

    Anyway, I discovered you by finding your vid on How to send a free ebook with aweber: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvN4jMuUc2o I could not find that info anywhere! You’re a genius to know what we need.

    Now this split test thing is exactly what I will need soon too.
    Thanks to you I know what to do and will sign up to aweber this weekend and get it done.

    In answer to your question today: I generally only sign up when the content is very practical – how the optin looks probably influences me subconsciously however.

    Thanks so much for making your videos so easy to understand for beginners.
    Janet


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Janet that is so awesome!

      I knew people needed that video because so many people would email me and ask how to do it.

      I still wonder whether I used the right keywords for people to find it on Google.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!


      1. liz@lifedreaming

        Hi Janet
        You can change a few things on your opt in form that might make a difference – even in WP.com

        When you move the widget into place [and in some Themes you have options where you can put it – right, left and in footer although I know BT would recommend top right real estate] you can change the title. It could read ‘Learn More’ or ‘Stay with me’ or ‘Keep in Touch’ – whatever. Then you can customise the longer message people read – ‘save time and get updates straight to your inbox’.

        Even if you can’t change colours you can change the copy and that does make a difference. You can personalise it and connect with your readers.

        I do 1 to 1 sessions here in Ireland for small businesses and artists who want a short and sharp website. I work with them for 4 hours using WP.com to create their site. They can’t afford big money and I find that WP.com themes can be customised enough to make a difference.

        I pulled together an e workbook that I give my clients to support them. I’d be happy to send it across to you via email if that would help. I’ll go to your blog/site and send you a message in your Contact Form [which are so easy peasy to make}. Happy to help you probono if you’re stuck on any dashboard features.http://sitedesignin1day.wordpress.com/

        Best regards
        Liz

        p.s I need to update the eworkbook but itstill has a lot of key info that I’ve pulled together from the wp.com support area and my own experience.

        p.s.s and yes BT – when I tidy up the workbook I’ll put it on the site for everyone and I’m not going to ask for emails as sometimes just sending something out there is part of the karma. I don’t really blog on that site and use it as a low key promotion tool here in Ireland.


  • Frankie

    I’ve tried split testing before but I don’t have enough traffic coming into my blog to tell which split test works best. So for now I’m working on a strategy to try and get more visitors. This was a very informative post and I learned how important it is to split test different areas to see what works best.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Thanks Frankie. Good luck!


    2. Marcus

      You might want to experiment with paid traffic for brief periods to test out variations. Run an ad campaign for a week, send all the traffic to your split test, then close the campaign to review results.

      Lately, I’ve been intrigued by Facebook ads. It allows you to have really fine-grained demographic targeting that’s not available with text ads like Google AdWords.

      For example, you could say that you want your ads to target people who use Mac computers, drink at Starbucks, and listen to music with high-end audiophile headphones. Facebook will even tell you how many people fit those criteria, giving a gauge of the size of your market.

      A good resource for Facebook marketing is Rick Mulready’s site, “I Rock Paid Traffic.” He’s got a ton of instructional videos that will get you up to speed in no time.
      http://irockpaidtraffic.com/category/instructional-videos/


      1. the Blog Tyrant

        The Facebook Ads platform is interesting – I have a lot of theories on why it doesn’t work. Will write about that soon.


  • Sanna

    Hi Blog Tyrant,

    Thanks for again (as usual) great content!
    I´ll read and re-read…….you see I´m one of the “guessers” and I´ve never really understood how to do split testing and if it really matters THAT much……:(
    Now, I see that it does.
    It just always seemed so technical and time consuming……as a fairly new person online, there´s so much to do, consider, learn that I wish I was at least TWO people:)

    Lovely, thanks again! I´ll have another re-think about this!

    Sincerely from Sweden,
    Sanna


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Love to hear how your first split test goes Sanna!


  • Aaron Hoos (@AaronHoos)

    Great post! You’ve highlighted the importance of split-testing your email opt-in, which is a huge opportunity for site owners. One of the rules I try to hammer home for my clients is: EVERYTHING in your business is an opportunity to split test. For example, I’m notorious for tweaking my brand and switching up the topics on my blog and revising my writing style, all to see what works and what doesn’t.

    Split testing is SO awesome and I’d advise any of your readers to take the time to learn it because it WILL make a difference in their business!


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hey Aaron.

      Do you ever worry that split testing too much could lead to incremental-ism and not making any big, epic changes?


  • Samantha

    I’m very new to the blogging world – happened across Pat Flynn’s podcast and went from there just a month ago. I’m following a lot of people through SPI interviews and came across this blog from Problogger. I can honestly say that I’m enjoying reading the comments as much as the posts (sorry BT); they are the most useful I’ve come across! I’m ready to start my first blog tomorrow (think I’m going with Bluehost and definitely Aweber, yet to decide a theme – thoughts anyone?). Fingers crossed!


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