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The guide to your Master’s
in sign-ups

7 min read
Sign-up forms can be efficient for collecting email addresses. Or they can be completely useless and gain you a few spam trap addresses at best. And the latter puts you in a tough spot: however great your campaigns are, without a mailing list, you have no recipients and no conversions.
Launching sign-up forms is scary. While an efficient tool for collecting email addresses, they can do much harm if poorly designed. Say you failed to segment the audience properly — this leads to margin losses. And what if your form displays incorrectly? It kills conversion.
And those are just technicalities. The text matters plenty, too: a single wrong word or an extra line in your sign-up form can cost you a lot in terms of conversion and, consequently, sales.
This article answers the most important question: how do you reduce the risks and failproof your sign-up forms?
Note: for the sake of simplicity, in this article, such terms as sign-up forms and web forms are interchangeable.

The importance of sign-up forms

Some may argue that we’re exaggerating the importance of the sign-up forms or their intricacy. After all, how can one word ruin a form’s efficiency? And how can damage from it be that significant?
We'll tell you a short story to answer these questions and support our claims.
Once upon a time, there was a travel company that was losing $12M a year over a single extra line in their sign-up form. As soon as they realized something was off, they researched the issue and found that people usually quit filling out their form at one specific point. To test the theory, they deleted that line, and their profits skyrocketed. Happy end!
And that happened in 2010. Just imagine how much money such a mistake could cost nowadays! It would hurt a lot. This is how crucial sign-up forms really are.
Now let’s go over the things you can do to skip the losing a ton of money and subscribers part.

Keep your spot

Web forms are awesome. They make your website more interactive, and they’re a great way to implement sign-up forms — they are web forms, too.
Sign-up forms are also awesome. They allow for personalization and data collection and provide easy website navigation. For example, you can gently push your customer to complete the purchase by showing him a pop-up with a gift if he does it right now.
The thing is, search engines often don’t find these things as awesome as we do. They can make your website appear lower in the search results based on having web forms alone. And you don’t want it to appear lower — it means less traffic by default.
This is a common concern and a reasonable one. It makes implementing sign-up forms a tough decision all of a sudden. Are they worth losing your position in the search results? How low will your website go?
Luckily for us, there’s an elegant solution that allows sacrificing neither the forms nor the position in the search results. Don’t add web form code to your website directly, and you’ll be in the clear. Search engines don’t detect that, so you can avoid all the trouble and have your prime spot booked.

Keep your margin

Sign-up forms often imply offering some discount in exchange for an email address. While it’s useful for harvesting leads, it costs money to your company — it’s an expense that you take voluntarily.
But if you make too many discounts, it stops being an expense and becomes a significant margin loss. What if some of these people would’ve bought your products even without it? And now there’s no point for them to do so — they just received a sweet 10% discount, which means you lost 10% of the profit.
The prime way to lose money here is by offering discounts to the wrong people. Some of them would buy with no discounts; others can dislike you throwing unnecessary web forms at them. This all causes losses for you. Let’s go over the ways to avoid it.
Thoughtful segmentation
Segmenting your audience allows you to choose who and when to show the web forms. Paired with configuring the web forms themselves, this can go a long way. For example, it’s helpful to filter your audience based on:
  • Type of traffic;
  • Entry page;
  • Device type;
  • Email address record;
  • Previous purchases.
Timing it right
Throwing a bunch of sign-up forms at people who just opened your website for the first time is a bad idea. But this is not the only rule here. For any person that opens your website, some time should pass before you offer them a sign-up form. After all, they likely didn’t open the page to fill out your forms. Let them see what they came here for first and provide some value. Then you can ask for their email address.
Exact timing is an issue for dissertations and a whole lot of A/B testing, but there’s one biggest rule here: don’t google it. Many marketers do, and it only results in failure.
To learn when a form should appear, you only have one reliable source your own website data. Use Google Analytics or other similar tool and find out the average for such things as:
  • Time before bounces;
  • Time spent on the main and other pages;
  • Time before transaction;
  • Time before going to the cart;
  • Any other timing regarding the pages and actions you imply using sign-up forms for.
It will likely take trial and error, but this method will gather the relevant information. Any online recommendations will fail you. Study your customers and your website, don’t rely on anything else.
Web form appearance scenario
Set up at least a basic web form scenario to make the pop-up appearance relevant to the user's situation. This will allow you to greatly increase the efficiency of your sign-up forms while reducing the chances of having the wrong people see a form not meant for them.

Keep their attention

After all this, we finally get to the main hero of the story: the sign-up form itself. You can show your sign-up form at the right time to the right people, and it doesn’t affect your position in the search results. But this is not even close to the end.
They saw the form - now you convince them to fill it out. And this is no easy task. We’ll go over the main aspects here: the types of forms and the basic rules to make them convert.
Sign-up form types
There are three main types of sign-up forms: pop-up forms, inline forms, and landing pages. Their difference lies in how they are displayed — and, therefore, how they are perceived.
1
Pop-up forms, or pop-ups, are not embedded into the page but rather appear whenever you need them to. While they’re great for capturing the user’s attention, many users find them too intrusive. You can avoid such an impression if you set up your pop-ups correctly. Keep in mind that pop-up forms work better for desktops than for mobile.
2
Inline forms, or embedded forms, are already there in the body of the page. They can be put anywhere — as footers, toppers, sidebars, or even right in the middle of the page or text. Inline forms can be truly organic, and this is where they shine. Just don’t overkill it with seamless integration if you want your users to notice the form. If most of your traffic is mobile, go for topper inline forms, as they work better.
3
Landing pages are clean and distraction-free pages dedicated to just one purpose: making a user fill out the form. A user can’t go to any other page from the landing page, so they have no choice but to sign up or leave the website. Landing pages work great if the visitor is your target audience, but you can still boost their efficiency by making them interactive and engaging.
Guidelines for sign-up forms
There are a ton of factors that affect the efficiency of sign-up forms, and most of them are situational. However, some basic guidelines we want to highlight in this article are always relevant.
Let’s go over them:
Less is more
Remove everything extra. Words, lines, and fields that are not essential are to be eliminated. Have no mercy: your forms must be brief and clean.
CTA is crucial
It has to be catchy and native. Submit and Send buttons can kill the user’s motivation even if the rest of the form was OK. Ideally, your CTA should continue the phrase I want to… from the user’s perspective.
Illustrate everything
In sign-up forms, there’s nothing more engaging than selectable images. Other illustrations work wonders, too: use them to make your forms more appealing.
Interactive equals engaging
Making your forms interactive makes them fun, and even adults are easily attracted to anything fun. This doesn’t just apply to sign-up forms. Add interactive elements and watch your engagement and conversion rates grow.
Convenience above all
Treat your forms like you’ll have to keep filling them out for the rest of your life. Anything inconvenient is to be changed. Anything that can be made faster or easier is to be made quicker and easier. The less time it takes to fill out your forms and the more convenient it is, the more people will complete them.

Now up to you

No matter how long and detailed we make this guide, some things will always depend on the particular case. The best tool to figure out what works best for you is A/B testing. No guide will ever bring remotely the same value as conducting tests and seeing what your audience likes and what engages them the best.
This article, however, highlights the main aspects that you should keep in mind. We hope that you find it useful and it helps make your sign-up forms better than ever before.

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