How to Write High-Converting Sign-Up Form Copy (With Case Studies & Examples)

How to write high-converting sign-up form copyThe copy you use in your sign-up form has direct impact on your sign-up rate. If you’re not actively working on getting the most out of your form copy, you’re leaving leads and money on the table.

In this post, I’ll give you practical tips on how to optimize your form copy for maximum conversion. And, as usual, I’m going to give you a bunch of concrete examples from real A/B tests.

Dude – We don’t want to fill out your form!

I don’t know about you, but personally I don’t get up in the morning thinking to myself, “God I hope I can sign up for at least two email lists today! That would really make my day!”

And I have yet to meet a person who actually gets excited by the idea of having to SIGN UP, SUBMIT, FILL OUT, or JOIN NOW.

Nevertheless, judging by the vast amount of generic sign-up copy, it seems that many marketers believe that people are crazy about giving away personal information and filling out form fields without any particular argument to do so.

Give me a good reason to sign up – relevance and value are king!

Just like with any other offer, you need to give your prospects a good reason to say “Yes”

Think about it this way: You’re asking your prospects to give you their personal information, but what are you going to give them in return? Value or spam?

A transaction is taking place, and if your prospects aren’t sure that they will get something valuable and relevant in return, “Free Updates” just translates to “Free Spam”

All my research indicates that the best way to reduce the anxiety related to signing up is to clarify what’s in it for the receiver.

Here’s an example from the newsletter sign-up form here on ContentVerve.com. A while ago conducted an experiment where I tested completely generic form copy against a version where I added a few bullets clarifying what free updates from ContentVerve.com consist of.

This simple exercise in clarifying value and relevance resulted in an 83.75% increase in sign-ups.

Form copy optimization major lift by clarifying value

Focus on the benefit of signing up – not the act of signing up

Here’s an example from BettingExpert.com where a few simple tweaks to the form copy increased sign-ups by 31.54%.

31.54% increase in sign-ups by adding clarity and value

The control copy is completely generic and focuses on what you have to do (the act of signing up) rather than what you are going to get (the benefit/value of signing up).

The treatment on the other hand focuses totally on what you are going to get. Both the headline and the button copy convey value and relevance.

It might seem like an insignificant change, but as the test results clearly indicate, there’s a huge difference in the perceived value of signing upRead the full case study here >>

The anatomy of your form copy

Apart from the form field copy (which I’m not going to focus on here), your form can include headline, button copy, sub-header/bulleted list, and a privacy policy.

Headline and button copy are mandatory, while the sub-header and privacy policy are optional, depending on the complexity of the offer you want people to sign up for.

Let’s have a closer look at each part

Headline:

As mentioned, it’s all about conveying value and relevance and focusing on the benefit of signing up rather than the act of signing up. So make sure your headline conveys a clear benefit or value.

I like to start by using the word “Get” a lot when I draft headlines. That forces me to focus on answering the most important question, “What’s in it for the prospect?”

Sometimes the most relevant benefit is totally obvious, and sometimes you’ll need to do some testing in order to find the right one.

The test I showed you in the example from BettingExpert.com was not the first one I conducted. I actually started out with a different value proposition that turned out to be quite a backfire – it reduced sign-ups by 12.45%.

So, it would seem that this headline wasn’t relevant to the prospects – even thought it conveyed a value.

Significant drop in sign-ups by reducing relevance

Sub-header / bullet points

You don’t always need a sub-header or bulleted list, but in some cases it can really help clarify value and relevance – especially if the overall offer is kind if generic.

In the example from ContentVerve.com, the main benefit “Get Fresh Updates” is pretty generic, but I couldn’t find a suitable headline that worked better. In this case, the bullets did a wonderful job of establishing relevance and extra value.

Form copy optimization major lift by clarifying value

The same principle applies to sub-headers. I don’t have any particular guidelines for when to use the one or the other – it depends on what works best for your form and your offer.

Button copy

In my experience, optimizing button copy represents the ultimate low-hanging fruit in CRO. Testing buttons is one of my favorite things in the whole world, and I could go on about it for hours.

But I’ll spare you the boredom and just say that the main optimization principle in this context is that the copy should focus on what you’ll gain by clicking – not what you have to part with. Moreover, your button copy should be more than a blatant order like “SUBMIT” or “JOIN NOW”.

For more on how to write high-impact button copy, check out this guest post I did for Unbounce.com, or watch this short how-to video:

Privacy policy

Lately I’ve been geeking out on privacy policy tests, and I have to say that my findings are pretty exciting.

I’ve already showed you a couple of examples from BettingExpert.com, so let’s use that website again. I conducted a series of tests on the sign-up form, experimenting with different privacy policies. I was pretty sure that simply adding a privacy policy would increase sign-ups. Boy was I wrong!

The first one I tested actually reduced sign-ups by 18.70%!

Less sign-ups by adding a privacy policy to a sign-up form

The initial negative test result got me really fired up, and I went ahead and tested a number of different variations (See the full case study here >>). I won’t get into full detail here, but I ended up with a version that worked really well and increased sign-ups by 19.47%.

Here’s the winning treatment:

We guarantee 100% privacy. Your information will not be shared. 

19.47% increase in sign-ups by adding privacy policy to a form

At the moment I’m testing this privacy policy here on ContentVerve.com, and although the results aren’t conclusive yet, the variant with the policy clearly has the highest sign-up rate.

The main thing I learned was that having the word spam in the policy hurt conversions. My hypothesis is that - although the messaging revolves around assuring prospects that they won’t be spammed – the word itself give rise to anxiety in the minds of the prospects.

Therefore, the word spam should be avoided in close proximity to the form.

Don’t rely on your gut – test whether your optimization efforts really work!

Your sign-up form is a mission-critical element, and even small tweaks to the copy can have major impact on sign-ups – and not necessarily a positive one!

Therefore it’s dangerous to base your decisions on gut feeling or best practice. However logical your changes may seem, you really need to gain certainty that you are in fact moving in the right direction. And the best way of doing that is to test your changes on your target audience in real life.

What you should do know

Go over your sign-up forms and ask yourself, “Am I giving my prospects a good reason to sign up, or am I simply ordering them to do so?”

If it turns out that you are simply telling them to sign up, with no particular reason to do so, you’d probably see an increase in sign-ups by working on your form copy. Use the examples and tips I’ve given you in this article as inspiration, and then get cracking on some awesome treatments.

Comments

  1. Really interesting about the use of the word ‘spam’, going to have to test that myself

  2. Awesome post michael, as always. I was wondering if you could share with us the kind of survey questions you use to understand the audience on your next post. It would be awesome !

    Make your day great,
    yassin

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Thank you Yassin!

      That’s a good idea for a blog post – I’ll get around to it at after my upcoming vacation ;-)

      - Michael

  3. Hi Michael,
    thanks for sharing that. I’ve been thinking lately about the issue of unsubscribing and how that might impact subsequent email newsletter sign up rate and related conversion. A bad experience elsewhere might prevent future sign up e.g. user signs up to a newsletter then decides to unsubscribe and goes through the process only to find it unnecessarily hard or worse, having complete it they are still receiving the newsletter. So what once was a wanted email becomes spam in the users eyes. As a result of that experience they would be less willing to subscribe and trial new newsletters / services from other sites on the basis that they can’t be sure they would be able to successfully unsubscribe.

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hi Hugh – Yes, very good point.

      In my experience (and opinion) it all comes down to keeping your promise and giving your audience relevant and valuable content.
      Content only becomes spam when it’s irrelevant. But under all circumstances, it should be as easy as possible to unsubscribe, if you no longer want on be on the list.

      But one must also accept that each list has a life cycle, and that unsubscribes are a natural part of maintaining a list. Moreover, it’s good list hygiene to get rid of the ones who don’t really want to get you content anymore.

      - Michael

  4. Thank you! Have to make some changes immediately to my sign-up form.
    Which software or plug-in do you use – or recommend to create your sign-up forms?
    Have you done any testing on how many seconds people should be “popped” after visiting your page?

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hi Morten – Thanks for your comment!

      Personally I don’t have much experience with pop-up forms. I use a static one in the top of the right hand column, and one at the bottum of each post.
      That works well for me. I use hybrid-connect for my forms. It’s a neat tool with built in A/B testing.

      - Michael

  5. Very informative and motivational post Michael. I have two questions to ask.
    1- How much time you give to make the test usually to each treatment?
    2- Don’t you think by using the word “spam” the rate of signup should be increased as it give guarantee that the site will not send spam in your inbox?

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hi Shahzad – Each A/B test mentioned in this post ran from 21 to 35 days. If you want to learn more about test validity, check out this post: http://contentverve.com/how-to-determine-statistical-significance-ab-test/

      Yes, as I wrote in the post, I assumed the privacy policy would increase signups – but I was wrong, and I laerned something new. That’s the beauty of testing – instead of relying on gut feeling. As I also wrote, every variant I Tested with the word spam in there hurt conversions. Therefore, it seems pretty clear that the word spam should be avoided – no matter how counterintuitive it would seem.

      - Michael

  6. Joe Ward says:

    A common mistake we see is not that a copywriter doesn’t realize the value they offer their visitors… they just forget the visitor doesn’t already know them as well as they do! Wouldn’t it be great if every lead was as enthusiast about what we offer as we are? Ha ha. Your strategy of starting the draft headline with “Get” in order to stay focused on communicating the value is excellent.

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hi Joe – Great point, you totally nailed it man! I think we as marketers have a tendency to assume that visitors for some reason already are as excited about the offer as we are ;-)

      - Michael

  7. thank you for this article (and all your other articles). You truly give your readers some extremely useful tips about sign up form. I just started my own blog and will certainly be following some (if not all) of your advice.

  8. The sign up form is one of the most valuable parts of an online business, and even just a couple minor flaws can kill an absurd amount of future business. It definitely shouldn’t be taken lightly, and these tips will really help me fix a lot of mistakes I’m sure I’ve already made. Gonna take this info back to my opt-in pages and see what I can do to improve them right away. Thanks Michael!

  9. Very interesting that the conversion rate was lower with a freaking privacy police.. simply shows that there is not one golden blueprint for conversion.. Only principles!

  10. I was thoroughly surprised to see that sign-ups went down when the word SPAM was used with the privacy guarantee! So often I see privacy policy statements on sign-up forms that include the word SPAM or some other cutesy wording. It pays to be clear.

  11. Hello Michael,

    Lots of tips you are giving away and I have changed the privacy section for my forms.

    I have a confirmation page where subscribers are shown they need to confirm their subscription,but I still get a big number of people who don’t confirm their subscription. I try to understand what is it wrong with I do. Can you please help?

    Thank you.,Monica

  12. Would you recommend to give a free eBook in exchange of a subscription ?

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hi Guerric – absolutely. I’ve had success building lists with free e-books. On ContentVerve.com I saw a large increase in sign-ups when I launched my free e-book.

      However, “free” doesn’t mean that people want it. And any old e-book won’t do the trick. In my experience you need to write something really valuable and relevant to your audience – otherwise they won’t give you their email.

      - Michael

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