Using opt-in boxes on your website

Thursday, August 21, 2014 by Richard Howe

Every business wants a large and active mailing list. Despite the huge benefits of using social media marketing, emails guarantee that your messages will get to the right people (even if they don’t always open them), in the format you choose and without huge expense. 

It also means that you can reward your loyal customer base with special offers, promotions and freebies. But how to create that list? A good place to start is by using an opt-in box on your website.

What is an opt-in box?

Since December 2003 and the implementation of the Privacy and Electronic Communicatons (EC Directive) Regulations, organisations are forbidden to send out unsolicited marketing emails without the prior consent of the recipient.

One popular way (although it’s not the only way) of getting this ‘prior consent’ is by use of an ‘opt-in’ box on a company’s website. These are the boxes you might see on a site’s front page (“Sign up for our free newsletter today!”), that prompt a visitor to fill in their name and email address in return for some kind of free gift or other incentive.

An opt-in differs from an opt-out in that users must actively complete their name and email address, or tick a box, to confirm their assent, as opposed to ‘un-clicking’ a box to decline.

Where to place your boxes?

You will have seen many websites where the opt-in box is situated at the top of the sidebar on the right-hand side of the screen. The theory is that all readers will see it as soon as they open the page and be more likely to click. Whilst there is much evidence to support this, the sidebar is not the only place to position you box. 

Here are some other common choices:

After a post

This is often an effective method to use because if people have just read a post through to the end, they have presumably found it engaging and are likely to want to read similar material.

In the footer

Similarly with this method, if people have scrolled down right to the bottom, they are probably interested enough to sign up.

As a pop-up feature box

This only works in some niches, so beware; it could alienate your customers! If you have a limited-time special offer for signing up, it could be more effective.

As a banner across the top of your site

Again, this can be irritating to people or can be mistaken for other advertising. The box needs to be carefully designed so that it clearly belongs with your site whilst also drawing your readers’ attention. 

You may also choose to display it there on a temporary basis, so that people don’t become blind to it and simply ignore it after a while.

On your ‘Contact’ or ‘About Us’ page

People are visiting these pages specifically because they want to know more, so an opt-in box here is ideal.

Quick tips

To conclude, here are our tips for making sure that your opt-in boxes are legal, fit for purpose and effective in helping you create a comprehensive mailing list:

  • Make sure your user knows exactly what they’re agreeing to. You will need to include a consent statement that lets them know that they are agreeing to you sending them marketing communications unless they choose to unsubscribe.
  • Only ask for as much information as you actually need. Users don’t want to fill in loads of boxes, so if you don’t need their postcode, don’t ask for it.
  • Make sure your users know that they will be able unsubscribe at any time.
  • Make sure they know that you won’t pass their details onto any third parties (assuming this is the case).
  • Bribe your visitors! Tell them what they will get from signing up, whether that’s a free product, a voucher, a weekly newsletter or access to a special area of your website. Make them feel special!
  • Great design applies just as much to your opt-in boxes as to your site as a whole, so go for something that will entice your visitors to engage.
  • Similarly, spice up your copywriting, adding a bit of humour and getting away from the typical “Sign up today” approach.
  • Don’t overdo it and put opt-in boxes everywhere on your site. This is a difficult one to find the right balance on, and is very dependent on your niche and type of target audience. Remember that you can get feedback from your visitors and adjust accordingly.

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