[NEW TREND] Opt-In Rates Across The Internet Are Dropping (Here’s What To Do About It)

Opt-in rates are starting to plummet. We are on the verge of a sinking titanic of lease building. There is a new trend starting to emerge. That’s what we have to talk about in this episode of The Marketing Show.

So with the success of Groupon and Living Social and Thrill List and company after company after company that is building off of, you know, having a set of e-mail addresses and really, really, really being e-mail based companies, sites across the internet have focused their attention on list building, I mean mainstream companies, direct sales marketers have known forever that the money is in the list and that that’s really where it’s at, but now this whole list building thing is going mainstream. You’ll see blogs now that have pop-ups, opt-in boxes, things underneath the blog post, slide-up bars, everything they can possibly do to get their e-mail address, and this is being replicated on site after site after site after site.

Google wants your e-mail address. Facebook wants your e-mail address. Living Social wants your e-mail address. Groupon wants your e-mail address. Everyone under the sun wants your e-mail address and they’re all mailing you. As a result, we’re starting to see this and not – Most small websites accesses information, but large companies with access to data sets are starting to see that opt-in rates across the board are starting to plummet. Open rates for e-mails across the board are starting to plummet. Click through rates on e-mails across the board are starting to plummet.

Now there are things that can be done about this and smart companies with huge marketing budgets are starting to do things to combat this, and we’re going to talk about that in just a second. So how do you combat this? How do you combat the fact that every – Well, a lot of major sites right now, when you go to them, including major blogs, are all about fundamentally about getting your e-mail address, even sites like copy blogger which use to only have this little discreet opt-in box on the side have now oriented their homepage so that, you know, there’s a huge play to get your e-mail address.

So this is pervasive and this is a trend that isn’t going away. As a result, people are being pickier and pickier about who they give their e-mail addresses to. It used to be you’ve got mail. Now it’s every single site under the sun is trying to get this data. How do you combat this? Well, Groupon has found something interesting. In fact, a lot of sites have found something interesting and that is that if they make it seem at the beginning like they’re not trying to get your e-mail address, if they sort of hide the opt-in behind something else, opt-in rates increase.

So let’s look at Groupon, right. I’m going to go and select my city and click continue, and only after I do that, right, only after I’ve said yes to something, only after I’ve participated in something do I get the opt-in. It’s kind of like a yes letter. If you’ll comply by taking action in one way then they can get you to take a successive action, and that kind of thing, actually from our test, results in a higher opt-in rate. When you can get someone to answer yes or no to a question and then present them with an opt-in box, when you can get someone to select what they’re interested in or what city they’re in and then show them the opt-in box, they’re much more likely to opt in.

Let’s look at what AppSumo is doing, again, another business that runs itself almost entirely by e-mail marketing, right. So here’s a contest. And rather than sort of disarming thing, right, we see it as somewhat threatening sometimes now when we go to a webpage and there’s this glaring obvious opt-in box. We know that this is a sight that is trying to take rather than give when we immediately see an opt-in box. So here’s what AppSumo has done. Step one, answer this question: Who is giving away the Super Sumo Programmer bundle, right? The president, I think. Well, you know, the answer is AppSumo duh, and when you click Submit, now it asks you for the e-mail address. So as you can see, asking for the e-mail address is the second thing because people are starting to get trained now. If they go to a website and they immediately see that opt-in box and it’s sort of this huge play to get your e-mail address, they know that this site is fundamentally about taking and less about giving at least, that’s the emotional response that a lot of people are having.

Let’s go to dentaldestinations.com. This is a site of an avid watcher of the Marketing Show, Mike. Here, again, you don’t see the opt-in box. You click ‘Get your insider report for free’ – Let me click on that – and then after I click on that, you enter your name and the dental procedure, and then, you know – let me just put my name, Clay – and then, only after I’ve completed step one do I get asked for my e-mail address, but again, it’s buried, right. It’s a couple steps deep.

So how can you do this on your website, right? You might not have the capacity to build in this sort of multi-step opt-in process. Well it’s actually pretty easy. You can create sort of the poor man’s version of the two-step opt-in by having banners created, and when folks click on those banners, it brings them to the opt-in page. So this kind of thing does increase conversion rates, and we’ve tested this ourselves. When you can rather than make this huge play for the opt-in, you can have an enticing banner that offers something for free, and after someone clicks on it, it brings them to a second page where you can drive deeper the value proposition and get their full focus on the opt-in, opt-ins generally speaking are going to increase.

So in conclusion, I really have two litmus tests for whether or not you’re going to be on the wrong side of this trend or on the right side of this trend. So litmus test number one, does your site instantly communicate giving or taking? And folks really decide this in a matter of seconds. If folks arrive at your site and there’s like a gazillion opt-in boxes, and there’s this huge play for your e-mail address in more mature markets, not in all markets, in more mature markets that instantly communicates taking, right, if they get to your website and there’s just huge flashing arrows – and this is like a blog, not like a landing page where you’re buying advertising, but this is like a blog that instantly communicates taking, and folks are going to be less likely to opt-in. This is again, the new trend. This isn’t in every single market. This isn’t more mature markets, but this is definitely the way things are going.

Litmus test number two, will people including influencers share this? So here’s what we’re finding and here’s what some of my clients are finding that when they make huge play for the opt-in on sort of a communal property like a blog, again, what we’re talking about right now doesn’t apply as much towards like landing pages, or you know, paid traffic, things like that, but on sites like blogs, and on sort of places where you want, you know, to foster community, will influencers share this content? Influencers, generally speaking, do not share landing pages, but you want them sharing your blog post and sharing content on your blogs, so what we’re finding is that when people make huge play for the opt-in on sites like blogs that yes, the opt-in rate percentage goes up, but the number of people who share articles on Facebook and social media goes down. So in some cases, the percentage of people opting in, right, is a percentage of total traffic is increasing, but traffic is decreasing because influencers and other people, right, are not sharing content. So sharing is going down and traffic is going down, which means you have less traffic and a higher percentage of that less traffic is opting in, and so there can actually be a net loss in opt-ins even though the percentage is going up.

So you really need to ask your self whether or not your site, your content is going to be shared. Now again, landing pages will probably never be shared, so make the big play for the opt-in there. You might want to bury it a couple of steps deep, right. Paid advertising, affiliate traffic, things like that, put it a couple steps deep, but make that big play for the opt-in. Onsites like your blog buried a little bit. Be a little bit more subtle and artful about how you do it. Let me know what you think. My name is Clay Collins, and this episode of The Marketing Show is brought to you by LeadPlayer. Thanks so much and I’ll talk to you later. Bye.

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  • This was an eye-opener, Clay.  Seriously, great video.  I’ve been on a trend to figure out a more creative way of getting emails without doing a forced opt-in, which I’m not really a fan of.

    • I’m really glad that you enjoyed this, Marshall.  BTW . . . do you really buy and sell Iraqi Dinar and help folks invest in the Iraqi Stock Exchange?

      • Yes, that’s my entire business.  What I do on Facebook is solely for testing to see what works, that I then bring back to use in my currency business.

  • Good stuff Clay. I was just thinking about implementing such a strategy the other day. It definitely gets people in the habit of acting before you call them to your real action.

    Quick question…could the lowered optin rates also be due to more people asking for emails without truly understanding why it’s important? You know the copy cats that just do stuff to do it without knowing how to actually use it. Seems like they could be lowering those numbers as well.

    Also think ppl may not be putting a strong enough “ethical bribe” for the email addresses as well. If you know your audience and can bribe them within a few good sentences or points on an optin form conversions should be pretty consistent. Just my thoughts

    • Great questions.  Lower opt-in rates are affect established marketers as well . . . so it’s not just the copycats who are being effected.  The novelty of being on someone’s newsletter, or getting a free report, etc. is going down.  The novelty of getting a deal every day is going down.  AND at the same time, more people are vying for the attention of your market.  That’s the real reason.

      •  Makes sense. Makes even more sense to adapt to the market and implement the strategies you mentioned.


  • Clay, thanks for the shout out on our LP! 

    Great Episode (can I shamelessly say my favorite?)

    • Yes you can, Michael.  Great site.  Did you have your multi-step opt-in process custom written?  How has it affected results?

  • Great points Clay. IT’s sort of like a handshake isn’t it? You shake hands and then you’re friends so it makes sense that we’d “shake hands” by giving our hand to someone vs. trying to take something from them. Great vid. Gotta ask…where the heck do you record? That place looks pretty darn unique.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Andy.  I’m recording on the third floor of my loft/office (I like offices that are really homes).

      • I’ve got three kids 4 and under so home isn’t an option for me but I work to make my office as “homey” as possible. Great video my friend. 

        ONe thing I started doing via Guillebeau’s new book is to have people fill out surveys on issues they’re struggling with (starting a podcast or email overload are the two I’m focusing on). Then I tell them in that process that I will be adding their email to my list. Once they fill out the survey I add them to my list and then send them another email reminding them why they’re getting added to the list. About 80% of the people approve the addition to my list AND I get the information I need to build a better product. I’ve done a lot of textexpanders to make this happen b/c it’s a mix of Google Forms and Mailchimp but it’s working for me! thx again my friend. Keep shipping.  OH yeah, example of what I’m doing is at http://www.FixYourInbox.com – lata

        • I like your site and the whole “take permission” angle.  Also, thanks for sharing your surveys-as-optin-forms tactic.  I appreciate you, Andy.

          • Thanks brother. Hope we can connect someday. Keep shipping.

          • Thanks, Andy.  Will do.

  • Lauchlan

    Hi Clay,

    What you say makes a lot of sense!

    But … it does raise the question ‘if it’s so good, why hasn’t it been implemented on this page (at the time of writing)?

    Is it that this is more like a landing page than a blog or website page, so the traditional optin box (and banner leading to opt in box) work better?

    I’m sure you thought hard about this and tested alternatives, so am interested in this extra perspective 🙂

    PS: for a future show, what impact is this having on open rates and what are your strategies for working to improve open rates in this competitive environment?

    • Well, we’ve def done it on LeadBrite . . . we’ve done it on clients sites, and we’ve done it here (see this banner ad: http://screencast.com/t/Iu0OG8VAmYsu). We offer a two-step opt-in process and are tweaking and testing.

      •  Clay I get a Page not found on the link above

        • The link was just a picture of the sidebar banner image that we’re using on this site: http://avenue81inc.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/newsandupdates.jpg

          • Lauchlan

             For me the banner link goes to a welcome gate …

            I had thought you meant

            (1) collect some kind of information (eg answer a survey question like AppSumo) so they are invested, then
            (2) ask for their email address in a later step.

            Here, it is getting them to click a link and then ask for their email address, which they could also give on the main page – so I thought that was different.

            So that’s great, I understand now that you mean that any kind of two step process works better – even if the first step is just clicking on a banner without entering any info …

            Thanks for the clarifications you gave 🙂

          • No problem!

  • Hi Clay, thanks for bringing this to our attention! Does this mean you’re changing your recommendation on using the welcomegate plugin the first time someone comes to your blog and just using that as a link from a banner instead? Or are still using it and suggesting that as an additional step? 

    • Welcome Gates (when done correctly) still work and are awesome (IMHO).  Someone who arrives at your home page is an incredibly qualified lead.  This applies more to individual blog pages and deep links in your list.

  • Clay,
    Thanks for sharing this great information. I’m going to create a banner in the sidebar and test which of my lists gets the most sign-ups. Thank you.

    • Awesome.  Please share the results when you have them.

  • Jane Eyles-Bennett

    Wow Clay – just brilliant. Another great video with some of the most useful info I have found on the net. Keep it up! Jane Eyles-Bennett

    • Thanks, Jane! Keep on showing up and I’ll keep on making this stuff.

  • Marcos

    Great content Clay!  Is the 2-steps process isn’t like a simple version of the old “Foot-in-the-door Technique”?  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot-in-the-door_technique)  It is easier to break inertia with a small request (clicking yes) before coming up with your big request (enter your e-mail).

  • Clay! Super cool content! Thanks for this! 

  • kevinkermes

    Ridiculously valuable data and actionable steps.  Thanks so much for sharing!

    • You’re absolutely welcome, Kevin.  Thanks for stopping by.

  • Antonio

    This is brilliant!  Its all about getting a little bit of compliance at first.

  • Janet

    Great info!  Just say another way as well with surveys, so this is a great compliment to that as well.  

    • Excellent point about surveys.  Thanks for the kind words.

  • Nippermh

    Would this work for a donate button on a charities page?