More Email Optin Ideas Than You Can Eat! (And Some You Never Heard Of)

In this post I am going to show you all the ways you can use optin forms on your website to collect email addresses. Not only that, but I am also going to show you (where possible) how effective each method is, and the tools you can use to implement it.


One of the best ways to reach your audience is by email, especially when you are talking about connecting with your visitors or actually selling.

Don’t believe me? Perhaps you think email is too old fashioned, and everyone is on Facebook?

According to a 2014 Email Marketing Consensus Survey by EConsultancy

email marketing was ranked as the best channel in terms of return on investment

That means that your money is best spent engaging and selling to your visitors via email (that is why they say “the money is in the (email) list”!!)

And even if you are not at the stage where you are selling to your audience yet, email is still key to keeping in close contact with them.

After all, what happens when they leave your site after their first visit? More than half will never return (check your Google Analytics New vs Returning Visitors!).

Email is also when the fun really begins. This is where you start communicating with your audience, building trust and slowly getting to know them.

It is also what leads to sales, which is what most of you are interested in, right?

Note: If you want to skip all the blah blah, you can jump right to each method via the (sexy?) navigation below.

How Do You Explode Your Email List Growth?

The big question everyone has is: how do you get the maximum number of people on your email list?

After all, people are starting to get jaded with these popups and sidebar optins forms, right? (I know I am.)

Below I go over all the opin form methods around that you can use to build your list faster than ever before. This includes some tried and true methods, as well as some optin form ideas you have probably heard of (and used). 

Not only that, but I give you

  • all the goodies for each method
  • case studies with real numbers
  • the plugins that you can use to implement this stuff yourself

How nice am I!!  So if you love this, please share it with your friends (and your mum!).

Backlinko Sidebar OptinSidebar Optin Form

Probably one of the most popular and often seen email signup forms is found in the sidebar.

So this is an oldie, but is it a goodie? Let’s take a look at one quick example.

This is the sidebar optin form from Backlinko, which is run by Brian Dean, a guy who knows alot about conversions and collecting email lists.

His form is very well designed, clear, and even has a small testimonial from none other than Neil Patel below it. So it is obviously a compelling offer.

But do these types of forms convert?

The Conversion Results

According to Devesh of DeveshDesign, his extensive testing has found side bar optins to be very low converting indeed:

It was converting between 0.3% and 0.6%. It was so low I gave up on the test and moved on to bigger and better things.

I know Brian Dean must have also tested it, so it must still be worth a few email addresses.

And I still use it, and think you should too.

Just make sure it is not THE ONLY way you are collecting email addresses. 

Keep reading for more interesting options…

​Sidebar Optin Forms

Tools To Implement:

Optin forms can be added to your sidebar by hand, by pasting the HTML into a Text Widget.

Or you can use some of the more powerful plugins out there to do it for you:

Fixed Sidebar Optin

Because sidebar optin forms often convert so poorly, a trick some people have tried is to get the optin box to scroll with the visitor instead of disappearing off the screen like it usually does.

So this baby follows the visitor down the page, like that annoying person at those high-end stores who are always asking if you “need any help!”.

There are not a lot of ways to do this, aside from programming it (or hiring someone skilled enough like: me!), but if you are interested in trying it out to increase your sidebar optins then give the following plugin a try:

Basically you just turn on the stickiness of a specific widget in your sidebar to make sure it stays in view when the user scrolls.

The Popup (or Lightbox)


bloggingwizard popup

Everybody loves to hate the popup, but it’s still as popular as ever.

It blocks the screen and demands attention, so it certainly can’t be missed.

The example above is from Adam Connell, the star behind the BloggingWizard, and if he is using them, they must be converting.

These days there are a number of flavors of lightbox or popup around including:

  • the instant “sign up now”
  • the 10 seconds later method
  • and then my favorite, the less intrusive Exit popup that catches you before you wave goodbye

But which one really works the best? 

And are insta-popups really as annoying and ineffective as people think?

Let’s find out…

The Conversion Results

As much as I love the idea of Exit Intent (ie not bugging people until they are leaving) you have to ask yourself if it is really going to work the best for your audience. 

Which kind of light box/popup is going to get you the best conversions and most emails.

The ever-curious Shane Melaugh at Thrive Themes decided to do a test, and although not yet 100% conclusive his initial results are quite compelling:

Thrive Themes Lightbox Test


The results are clear:

  • the Instant Popup (you know, the one we all hate) gets the most emails.
  • The Exit Intent (aka the least annoying) gets the least.

So what is more important/useful for you when building your list? Annoying less people, or getting more emails.

Of course it is not that straight forward, as it depends on your audience and their experience with popups, but the trend is clear.

Popups / Lightboxes

Tools To Implement:

As one of the most popular optin forms out there, the number of plugins you can use are almost endless.

I have written a huge post on this before, which you can read here, but here are the plugin that offer popups with Exit Intent and more:

Notification Bar (Top)

Neil Patel and his HelloBar are probably responsible for the continued popularity of this little optin method!

Here is an example from one of the best in the business, Marcus Sheridan at the Sales Lion. Below you can see  he is using the notification bar to get email optins. 

Notification Bar Sales Lion

The Notification Bar is also a great way to permanently advertise a new offer. So it can serve multiple purposes!


It’s always there, with it’s bright glaring colors luring you to accept the offer of a free e-book, or check out that new course.

So what can we expect from this slim but apparently effective method?

The Conversion Results

It is hard to get up to date numbers on this optin type, as it is not “the latest and greatest” but Neil Patel has something to say about how it used to fare on his website Quick Sprout:

Did you know the Hellobar on Quick Sprout accounts for 11% of all of my leads?

Obviously he is more popular than you or I, and knows how to optimize his optins with A/B testing, but it certainly shows that it is worth trying.

Notification Bar (Top)

Tools To Implement:

This is used slightly less than other optin form varieties, so some of the bigger plugins don't support it, however there are still a lot of options if you really want to use it:

Notification Bar (Bottom)

This is a more recent development, and there are not so many people doing it (yet), so I thought I would mention this separately.

Apart from the location, there is really not much difference with the Bottom of the page Notification Bar.

Below is an example from one of the more recent versions of this method, the CTA Skin Plugin:

CTA Skin Plugin

Notification Bar (Bottom)

Tools To Implement:

Alternative Optins

As our website isitors became more savvy and started to ignore our amazing offers in the sidebars and popups, the software pros starting innovating to get us more email signups.

And lucky for us, the optin choices just keep on improving and amazing.

Let's take a look at one you have probably seen before

Scroll Boxes

The more polite brother of the popup, the scroll box just slides into view when the user reaches a certain location in a piece of content . Alternatively they can be activated with a timer, but this is not seen so often in the wild.

scrollbox-sumomeThis type of optin form is a great idea for those of you who are not all about grabbing your visitors attention, and slapping them on the face. However, it still has some great things to recommend it:

  • it slides into view (getting attention)
  • it appears when they user is more engaged (more likely to want to optin in to your list)
  • can be placed in multiple locations and moved in a variety of directions

So if you are a big fan of popups, give the scroll box a try and see your email list grow significantly!

The Conversion Results

You might think that a less intrusive version of the popup is going to have pretty lame results. And in some cases you might be right. But Bryan Harris at Video Fruit tried out SumoMe’s Scrollbox and found the results to be quite stunning:

Over the first 5 days I averaged a 5.10% optin rate! That was BETTER than my popup optin rate.

There is no way you can be sure this is going to be the case on every website out there, but it just goes to show you that trying alternatives and keeping up with the trends (ie. surprising your readers) can have amazing returns in marketing.

And just keep trying to build your list, any way you can!

Scroll Boxes

Tools To Implement:

Many of the big optin plugins have this included, so if you are using one of them, then it is probably in there (see below).

There are also some stand alone options (like Dream Triggered Scroll Box) which are good enough if this is the only optin you need.

Here are the options:

End of Blog Post

It is always a good thing to have an offer at the end of your blog posts.

Why? Because people have made it all the way to the end and are definitely keen to hear “what’s next?”. So make sure you have one of these babies, even if it is not the main driver for getting email addresses for your list (like a popup or scrollbox).

Here is an example from Adam Connell at Blogging Wizard:


You can go with the simple “image and link” approach, or use a more sophisticated optin placement tool, depending on the plugin you are using and your mood at the time of course!

The Conversion Results

Andrew Warner at Shades of Info has done some significant testing with his email optins and one of the things he tried was the “end of post” forms.

The numbers are actually quite low (like the sidebar optin) but perhaps the users are far more engaged:

resulted in a 0.36% conversion rate.

End of Post

Tools To Implement:

You could add this to your theme manually by coding something at the end of your single.php file, but that would affect all posts.

If you want more control over what "end of post" form appears on what posts, a professional plugin is a better way to go (I have used both).

Here are the options:

Two-Step Optin

The name of this one is a little confusing as it is not so much two steps, as a click, then optin

So how does this work? Well it is simple, yet very powerful. You just add a link to anything on your site:

  • text
  • images
  • buttons

The key to success with two step optins is to be “in context”. 

What the hell am I talking about? Well if you are in the middle of explaining/demonstrating something in a post, and then you provide a link to an offer that is relevant, people are far more likely to click on that link.

That link then leads to a popup optin, which would perhaps otherwise be ignored, but in this case is very welcome indeed!

There are ways of making this more compelling of course, but the effect is amazing! Watch those emails roll in.

The Conversion Results

The king of these types of optins is Brian Dean of Backlinko, who made great use of this idea with his content upgrades.

Don’t be confused by the name, it is simply extra information you give to your audience that is a little more than is in the current content.

It could be a checklist to help them implement what you are teaching, an infographic summary, a focused video course. Anything really.

It just has to be hyper-related to the current content. Especially to your best content. People want more!

So what kind of results did Brian get?

Before implementing the Content Upgrade, that page was converting at .54%.

(After) The result? A 785% increase in conversions!

Now you are probably very interested in this type of optin!

Check out Brian’s post and see how he did it.

Two-Step Optin

Tools To Implement:

The only real way to implement this, apart from hiring a programmer is to use one of the following tools:

Here are the options:

Welcome Mat/Gate (Full Screen Optin)

One of the latest trends in email optins, and perhaps highest converting optins around, is the Welcome Mat or Gate.

Normally only activated on the homepage, and only for the first visit, this is basically a popup on steroids! It takes over the complete screen and makes it extremely hard for anyone to ignore.

Of course people can exit the screen with a button, but because this optin method is so new, most people will not do so as quickly or easily – resulting in more attention, and more email sign ups.

Here is an example from OK Dork from Noah Kagan:

OK Dork Welcome Mat

The Conversion Results

So what kind of amazing results are people seeing with the Welcome Mat optin?

Brian Harris (from Video Fruit) who is always looking for new ways to get email subscribers, wrote an amazing post on Noah Kagan’s OK Dork blog detailing how he first began boosting his email list.

And in that post he tested the Welcome Mat with some great results:

14.89% conversion (223 email subscribers) in the first 30 days.

And when you compare that to the below 1% for sidebar, and average of 5% conversion for good popups, this is amazing!

You can also read more about how the guys at Growth Hackers were similarly stunned by their results with this technique:

seeing a 2.6X improvement in webinar sign ups, and 40% lift in total sign up rates using the Welcome Mat.

Welcome Mat/Gate (Full Screen) Optin

Tools To Implement:

This is one of those optin methods that you really have to try, as the results can be stunning.

There are not so many tools implementing it yet, but you have a few options already"

Feature Box

Derek Halpern of Social Triggers is well known for growing his email list and this is one of his favorite ways.

The feature box is an area you place at the top of your home page, showcasing your email list and the main reasons why people should care enough to opt in.

This is not a new idea, as conversion experts use this so called “hero section” of the home page is similar ways all the time, but it is certainly a great way to get more email subscribers.

Conversion Results

Back when he was first trying this idea out, Derek Halpern wrote a post on DIYThemes outlining his results, and they were quite impressive:

Literally overnight, our daily new subscribers to the Thesis blog shot up by 51.7%, and has stayed that way ever since.

Of course, this was a while ago, and people have seen this a lot now, but it is still worth trying. And it’s worth noting that Derek, although using a different variation, is still big on this idea:

Social Triggers Feature Box

Feature Box

Tools To Implement:

This is probably the rarest optin in the plugins I have seen.

Currently none of the big optin plugins have it, but you can add it either manually (which Is what I do for my clients) or using something like:

Multiple-Choice Optin

Another email optin variation that was popularized by Neil Patel of Quicksprout. (such a trendsetter! or maybe I am just a groupie?)

Here is an example from his website:

Multi Choice optin form

The multi-choice optin is another very high converting option you might want to consider.

It is based on the idea of commitment and consistency, something you can read more about in Caldini’s famous book – Influence.

The short version is this:

  • Present the visitor with a popup showing a choice
  • The obvious choice (usually YES) leads to an optin form like on a normal popup

Because the user makes a choice in the first step, they are more likely to optin in the second step. This is because of the psychology of consistency: the fact that once a choice is made, people usually follow through to remain consistent.

It can be very effective indeed., although I have not found any case studies to support my supposition – yet

Multiple-Choice Optin

Tools To Implement:

Just a few options for this cutting edge method:

Content Locker Optin

Many of you are probably familiar with the social content locker, which is a plugin that asks people to share your content before accessing some extra “locked” content. This locked content could be:

  • extra information (hidden)
  • or a link to a pdf or audio/video

It is kinda similar to the content upgrade idea using the 2 Step Optin.

But if you are like me, and find emails far more useful and important than an extra social share, then the Content Locker Optin is a welcome alternative.

Bloom Content Locker Optin

Content Locker Optin

Tools To Implement:

These are the plugins I know of that have either have this feature or do this standalone:

Other Optin Ideas

New ideas for getting more email optins are always appearing, and the following are a few more you might want to add to your optin arsenal:

Which Optins Should You Implement?

There is no right or wrong when it comes to email list building and using optin forms on your website.

But you should always be testing and trying new methods, as visitors are slipping through the cracks constantly.

For my clients, I always recommend the following as a minimum:

  • sidebar optin towards the top of the sidebar (yes it is low converting, but it catches a few people on your blog)
  • popup (exit intent or timed at 10 seconds – or both or the plugin allows)
  • alternative to a popup is slide-in (not both)
  • end of blog post optin (catches very interested people)

So that is normally 3 optins across your website and blog.

Taking It Further Like a Pro

If you want to get the maximum emails possible, then you could also try the Welcome Mat (which I will be doing when I get a chance) or the Top/Bottom Notification Bar too.

But here is the kicker.

All of these methods can be vastly improved by tweaking and tuning AND applying them in context.

However, if you do not have A/B Testing facilities in your plugin then this is very difficult indeed. You have to try it manually, and that is tough.

So I definitely recommend that you grab yourself a plugin that can give you as much freedom (optin form choices), control over where the optins are shown (pages, posts, categories etc) and A/B Testing all rolled into one.

The options I suggest checking out are:

I personally use Thrive Leads with a touch of LeadPages thrown in (just because I have both).

Take Action Now

So now you have a massive arsenal of optin methods to use, get out there and start applying them and boosting your email list building!

And if you have some great results to show, let me know – I am going to start showing case studies on Mad Lemmings in the near future. So why not be the first to be featured!


About the Author Ashley Faulkes

Ashley is obsessed with SEO and WordPress. He is also the founder of Mad Lemmings. When he is not busy helping clients get higher on Google he can be found doing crazy sports in the Swiss Alps (or eating too much chocolate - a habit he is trying to break).

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