How to get sign-ups that actually convert!


There’s a ton of people giving out advice on how to get more email sign ups. While their advice may be useful, if they are not qualified, you will not gain anything at all.

Unqualified sign ups will never convert into customers. If you have found yourselves more than once in this position, the question “why is this happening again?” most probably is in your mind right now. The answer is pretty simple actually because they never actually wished to hear back from you in the first place, let alone complete a purchase.

Qualified signups, however, are possible to convert much more readily. Email campaigns directed at them result in a better ROI.

It is a fact that people chase signups because it is an easy, instant metric. After all, more traffic means more conversions, right? Well, let me be clear. No. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

The thing is that the further down the funnel these sign-ups have gone before it becomes apparent that they are not a good fit, the more time and budget you have thrown at them. You just end up wasting your money, since there is not a chance of getting anything in return from this investment.

Those sign-ups will be part of the cohort that you retarget and remarket to. You will be segmenting them and analyzing their click-throughs and opens. You will be even trying to figure out if they would be more responsive if you altered your layout, or improved your copy. Maybe you should have another look at that ‘50 Subject Lines That Got Us 1231% More Conversions’ post?

It does not matter how perfectly optimized your emails are or how much time you spend crying over analytics. A big percent of your signups will just never convert.

Not the news you want, I know. However, there’s a silver lining. Just hang in there. The good news is, your conversion rate is high, it is just buried under a mountain of noise.

Email conversion rates differ by industry; their average is around 8% to 10% if we are counting click -throughs.

Let’s say you have a click-through rate of 10%.

If 100% of your traffic is capable of being converted and only 10% of your traffic is converting then that rate is accurate.

If your traffic consists of two groups, one of which is capable of being converted making up 25% of your traffic, while the other one is not, accounting for the other 75%, then that 10% figure is misleading. You are doing two things: attracting many wrong signups and converting at more like 40%.

That is an awesome conversion rate, right? So your aim should be to attract the right subscriptions to swell that 25%. The other 75% of your non-converting sign ups are just a time and money suck. I am sure they are great people, but they are not so great for you since they will never convert.

Don’t CRO Weeds

Attracting the right traffic, to begin with, is key.

So, how are you going to achieve that? Most marketers think that the answer is pretty simple, you just need to have great SEO to get more traffic, interesting content to get more engagement and landing pages perfectly designed to get more sign-ups. All those points are correct – but the real question is who’s signing up. If you are generating sign ups that will never convert then, you are CROing weeds.

Unfortunately, lots of businesses are so concerned about filling the funnel that they will go ahead and fill it with anything. Using tricks like collateral content and optimized signup pages to catch as many email addresses as possible isn’t necessarily moving the business forward. You just end up attracting the wrong audience. People sign up to get content, to access gated material, or because they want to progress to the next page. They are not signing up because they actually want your emails.

Fear the Walking Dead

If customers wanted to sign up for emails, they would give us their real email addresses.




Fake email accounts otherwise called Zombie emails are a major email marketing problem. A majority of signups across all industries give marketers second string or dead email addresses that are being used as gigantic spam folders.

(Full disclosure: I have got one.)

Radicati says most people have on average about 1.5 email addresses, but that is worldwide. Europeans and North Americans have more.



The RPEs

What’s the effect of working off a second or third string email address?




24% of users are responsible for 83% of opens; 76% are responsible for just 17% of opens.

The picture swims into sharper focus when you look at revenue instead of email-only metrics like the open rate.



Again, if we segment primaries and secondaries, then we get two separate conversion rates hidden in the broader figures.

Emails to primary email addresses converted at 64.2%.

Emails to zombie addresses converted at 0.4%.

In money terms, each email is worth 29¢.

Actually, emails to primary email addresses are worth 83% of that $229 revenue,or $190.07.

Emails to primary email addresses have an RPE of 94¢.

Emails to zombie addresses have an RPE of 6¢.

Fear the walking dead: only sign up people who want your emails.

SEO and Content

I do not want to do a deep dive into SEO and content here. I just want to cover the idea that we need to attract the right traffic to get legit signups. That means we have to assess content by using better metrics than traffic. If your latest blog post got 10X the usual amount of traffic, the solution would not be to do ten more like it and let the good times roll.

Moreover, if you are scoring signups disproportionately on one page, check out their quality before you celebrate. What’s their conversion rate compared to the whole of your traffic? If it is significantly higher than average, then you have an in. You just arrived at the point where you have fought your way through the fog, and your analytic efforts are letting you know your real customers.

We need a new approach to email subscriptions, one that privileges quality above all. How do we go about it? First, we need data, which is why we need to track signups.

Tracking signups

How should you track subscriptions?

After all, most standard email tools do not allow you to do that.

There are two ways around this. You can go off label and track your signups. You can also use your analytics tool to track signup behaviors and infer from them.

Track your signups by creating a thank-you page. The page your subscribers see after they sign up doesn’t track subscriptions by default. If you make your own thank you page, however, you can have Google Analytics do it for you.

Alternatively, you can code your own; I am not stopping you.

Here’s the GA way:

In Google Analytics, create a goal and link it to your thank-you page. Then when someone arrives at that page, GA flags it as an event, and you know that someone has signed up.In some email providers, you have to tell them to use that page instead of their own. Use the page to display links to social media and other content to provide value to the subscriber. That’s it; you are ready to go.

Now we can track signups. Great. However, you do not fatten a pig by weighing it. The question remains. How do we get qualified subscriptions?

Getting Qualified Signups

A system that generates qualified signups is when you are using social media to prequalify before signup and then encourage it. That is unsuitable for businesses with high volume business models. If you need to sell something this month that is worthing $29.99 to 1000 people, you cannot personally tweet to all of them.  If we consider the opposite scenario though, where your per-deal revenue is higher, and you need less volume, then the solution is simpler than you thought. You can use Twitter Lead Gen Cards to build a better list, not just a bigger one.

Use a Twitter search of the URLs of your content to find the URLs of anything you have posted recently. Then automatically send a thank-you to each person. (Told you it was time-consuming. Bear with me.)

If they reply, offer them the opportunity to subscribe via an automated Twitter Lead Card. These are available for anyone with a Twitter Ads account.

ProdutHunt’s Ryan Hoover uses exactly this tactic:



This has two advantages: Firstly, it is filtering out anyone who is not genuinely interested. No-one is tweeting you because they cannot move on to the next page if they do not. Secondly, it is making it super easy for people who are genuinely interested in signing up. Twitter’s Lead Generation Cards make one click subscription possible.

‘It is beautifully simple,’ says Ryan. ‘As a result,’ he goes on, ‘60% – 80% of people convert.’

Now that’s a list.

While Ryan does it all by hand and attributes some of the tactic’s success to that personal touch, it is possible to automate it. Triggering app IFTTT (If This, Then That) will automate the initial contact post-retweet, cutting the ramp off the process. Alternatively, there’s TweetAttackPro 4. It is an automated sockpuppet system that can be used to automate every step of the process Ryan lays out – and it can operate from your Twitter API.

Another method is the ‘long qualify.’  Most people’s lists are junk. At the same time, most people use the shortest qualify they can. They jump their visitors right off the bat; as soon as they arrive, there are opt-in forms everywhere. If they are trying to leave? Opt-in exit intent popup. If they scroll down a blog post? Sign-up popup is offering collateral content. It is like it is raining ‘opportunities’ to sign up. That is how you end up getting a list full of people who did not want to give you their email address in the first place.

Use the long qualify method by adding lead boxes to your content instead of chasing subscriptions. By focussing on subscriptions, CRO has tipped over from ‘making it super easy to subscribe’ to ‘making it impossible to avoid grudgingly offering an email address.’ We have talked about the damage that can cause.


Lead boxes are popups that open themselves when a user clicks on a designated link or piece of text.

So what’s the difference between that and the CRO tactics I have just been decrying? A Leadbox opens in response to a user’s relevant action, not just when they scroll down a certain distance or try to leave. So you can attach a lead box to a link to higher-level content, or use it to offer a user who has already demonstrated interest the option to sign up, rather than the obligation. So, leave someone to read through your content in peace for a couple of pages before you ask for an email address.

Will you miss out on sign-up captures by doing it that way?

Well, yes, only in that case that is a good thing.


Building a lead invitation structure, rather than a lead capture one, makes it more likely that your sign ups will come from people who are interested in hearing from you. Your goal should be only to get them to sign up. Well yes, that can mean spending more effort to get it right. This approach is more efficient than setting your whole marketing machine to work on a lead that will never convert or even worse will never see your emails at all.