Email Subscription: Forms versus Links

By Daniel Scocco

First of all, if you are not offering email subscriptions on your blog, you should. It is incredibly easy to setup a RSS to email service through Feedburner, and this option will increase your audience with the folks that are not familiar with RSS (believe it or not this represents the majority of the Internet users).

The ratio of email subscribers to total subscribers (email + RSS) will vary depending on your niche. It can be as low as 3% and as high as 30%. Daily Blog Tips has a relatively tech-savvy audience (bloggers), and that explains why out of 5000 subscribers only 200 (4%) people are using the email service. My other blog, Daily Writing Tips, has a more diversified readership, and out of 2400 total subscribers 360 (15%) are subscribing via email.

Regardless of your niche, therefore, I think that email subscriptions are worth it. The numbers will be small on the beginning, but suppose your blog grows to reach 10,000 RSS subscribers, it would be nice to have 1,000 extra readers via email, wouldn’t it?

Now that you are convinced about offering email subscriptions we can enter into the central topic of this article. There are basically two ways to offer email subscriptions on your site: with a subscription form and with a subscription link. Which one is better? We are going to analyze each method individually, and then draw some conclusions.

Email Subscription Forms

emailsubscriptionform.gif

You can see live examples of email subscription forms on Copyblogger and Problogger. Basically there is an input form where the user needs to type its email address and click on “Subscribe.” He will then see the following popup window (for the sake of simplicity we will carry the analysis using the Feedburner service only):

emailsubscriptionformpopip.gif

On this popup the user will need to pass a CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart) filter writing down some letters. Finally, an email will be sent to the user email address containing a link which is used to activate the subscription.

Summary of the steps required for subscription:

  1. Type email address
  2. Click on the link
  3. Type CAPTCHA letters
  4. Click to complete subscription
  5. Open email
  6. Click on activation link

Email Subscription Links

emailsubscriptionlink.gif

You can see live examples of email subscription links on this blog and on FreelanceSwitch. With this method the user will need to click directly on the link, and as a result he will be redirected to a new page that looks like this:

emailsubscriptionklinkpopup.gif

On this page the user will need to type his email address and to pass the CAPTCHA filter by writing down some letters. Once again an email will be sent to the specified address containing a link that will be used for the activation of the subscription.

Summary of the steps required for subscription:

  1. Click on the link
  2. Type email address
  3. Type CAPTCHA letters
  4. Click to complete subscription
  5. Open email
  6. Click on activation link

Conclusions

As you can see, the number of steps required to subscribe with each method is the same. Fixing all other variables (e.g., placement, appeal of the blog, etc.) the chances of someone subscribing via email, therefore, should be similar with both methods.

In my opinion, however, the subscription form has some drawbacks. First of all it uses a lot of space. Precious space if we consider the monetization aspect. Take a look at the Problogger site, for instance. Should Darren decide to remove his email subscriber box and substitute it with an email subscription link below the RSS link, the whole “Sponsors” section would be lifted significantly, putting two more sponsor blocks above the fold (above the fold equals more money when you talk with advertisers).

probloggersubscriptionform.gif

Secondly, subscription forms might create confusion with search boxes.

These arguments do not apply to all blogs, obviously. If the style and positioning are right, subscription forms can be effective (Copyblogger is a good example). Some people also defend that forms are more eye catching.

What do you think? Forms or links are more effective for offering email subscriptions?



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49 Responses to “Email Subscription: Forms versus Links”

  • Net Movie Blogger

    I use the Feed Burner form box on my page. I think it’s easier to see and looks quick and easy.

    As for the e-mail updates… Feed Burner e-mails all of my new content in the e-mail. Will people visit my site if they can read it all in their inbox?

    I would rather only a portion of my update was in the e-mail and you would have to click read more or something to continue to my site to see the new content- like Google Alerts do. Does any program do this or can we add Google Alerts as a e-mail subscription to our blogs?

  • sbunting108

    Thanks I personally use a subscription box! It removes a step!

  • Tech magazine

    I’m looking for a small subscription box but can’t find any, i need it to be fully customizable.
    any thoughts

  • SEO Genius

    Email subscription is definitely something i have considered but like your article stated they do take up a lot of space, space i really have not got to give it away too an email box.

    Maybe not for now.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Aweber.com will do anything you need.

  • Brian

    Daniel – I am setting up a new blog and plan to use the email subscription. In my trials though, using FeedBurner, I see that it sends out the entire post. That doesn’t drive readers to my site nor tempt them to hit my ads. I have searched and am unable to find a way designate that I only want the summary/excerpt of my post sent in the email so that folks will visit the site. Suggestions? Thoughts?

  • Synusiek Starej Kurwy

    I dunno what to say 🙂

  • Yogesh Batra

    gg

  • hso

    Email form works best for me. I do think bringing it up towards the top of the page might help boost subscription; right now I have it way below in the sidebar.

  • iyabo oyawale

    This is an interesting topic and I have gained from all the views expressed but I will go for email subscriptions anyday,anytime.This is because they have boosted my subscription rates so far. So,why change a winning formula?

  • INGRID

    what is internet?

  • dave

    I want to put the form on my blog, but I’m not too familiar with PHP yet and can’t figure out where in the code on sidebar.php to insert the feedburner code. Can someone tell me how or point me in the right direction (like a tutorial of some sort) where I can find out how. I’ve searched high and low and found one site that said “in the location, insert the code” hmmmmm, it would help if I knew WHAT friggin location!

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