The (Easy) Secret To 1,375% More Subscribers

“To lightbox or not to lightbox, that is the question.”
– Shakespeare’s most over-adapted (because it’s perfect) quote

You’re browsing a site and suddenly, a form pops up in your face, blocking the page with an offer you didn’t ask for.

Obnoxious, right? But plenty of sites use lightboxes to request email subscriptions. The common explanation: “They’re annoying, but they work.”

But how is this possible? We’ve got proof from a customer who tested them for herself.

We Were Amazed When We Saw Her Results

Nikki McGonigal is a full-time crafter and blogger with an Etsy shop full of handmade accessories and a site called Nikki, In Stitches.

She sends emails notifying subscribers of fun ideas, new product announcements and the occasional freebie. We were talking with her about her emails when she mentioned her lightbox subscriptions.

She uses both a lightbox and a static sidebar form. The lightbox pops up once every 60 days per site visitor, at a delay of 2 seconds. The inline form is always visible.

Nikki’s Sidebar Form
Nikki's Inline Form

Nikki’s Lightbox
Nikki's Lightbox

Both forms went up on the site in late August of 2012. Eight months later, these are her results:

Form Type Form Displayed Form Filled Out Subscription Rate
Sidebar 178282 643 0.4%
Lightbox 135821 7473 5.5%

The lightbox drove an enormous 1,375% more sign ups than the sidebar form. (Did you see that? 1,375% more!)

Goes to show that getting results doesn’t always mean being polite. If you don’t have a lightbox on your site yet, you may want to reconsider.

It’s important to consider that the forms, though nearly identical, are not quite. The logo visible near the sidebar form is placed directly on the lightbox and the intro text is slightly tweaked.

However, these differences are so negligible that the forms’ placement is by far the most significant difference, and therefore the one responsible for the bulk, if not all, of the difference in sign-up rates.

Getting A Lightbox On Your Site

Just so you know, lightboxes like Nikki’s are super easy to put on your site in AWeber: just selecting an option in the web form generator.

Making A Lightbox

In fact, you can have an entire form built and on your site in 8 clicks and a copy-and-paste. Take a look at the process.

If You’re Not Emailing Yet…

If you haven’t started a newsletter yet because you’re not sure how to drum up an audience, we say take Nikki’s lead and get a lightbox on your site.

Our CS team will walk you through it (let them know you’d like help here), though it’s so easy you probably won’t need them to. Register here to get started.


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  1. Akili

    8/2/2013 3:39 pm

    This was a good study. Thank you, Amanda, and all those who posted remarks. My audience might be a little older and a little less savvy for the Lightbox. The best take-away from this for me has been to re-format the sign-up form to be more prominent on the website by adding color and a border. I’m excited to see how this impacts my opt-in rate.


  2. Tom Roth

    8/4/2013 8:11 am

    I resisted using the lightbox because I was afraid people would abandon the site when it popped up. But the positive results really surprised me. For the last couple of years I have been consistently adding right around 100 subscribers per week. In the one week since I turned on the lightbox (set to display once every 7 days) I gained 300 subscribers – I tripled my subscription rate!

    As for alienating my visitors, my stats show no effect. My end-of-week stats show no change in the number of pageviews per visitor or in my bounce rate. All other stats were the same or improved slightly (but within the range of the normal week-to-week variations). I’ll be keeping the lightbox on, but I may try some A/B testing to see if there is any effect from adjusting the delay or days between displays.

  3. M?nica Salazar

    8/6/2013 12:02 pm

    It?d be perfect if the system recognized the ip already suscribed, and don?t show the lightbox to these readers. This way only non suscribeds would see the box.

    I don’t want to annoy my subscribers with a lightbox when they visit my site after reading an email I sent them.

    I`m looking forward to see how you come up with a solution.


  4. Misan Morrison

    8/6/2013 5:14 pm

    This is a great idea, i only did a light box on my sales page but i will use that on my blog now.


  5. John

    8/7/2013 7:54 am

    How does a lightbox effect page load time when the servers are having issues like yesterday?

    I don’t use one and pulled my sidebar sign-up form as it was delaying page load and blocking everything on the page that needed to load after it. Once the issues were resolved I added it back.

    Granted, AWeber’s servers are fairly reliable but when they have issues it can cause your site to have unnecessary problems due to the form not loading. Just a thought to consider.

  6. Laura

    8/22/2013 9:06 pm

    I love the idea, made a great lightbox form, and can not figure out where to put it on my genesis powered, prose theme website. I put it in custom CSS code function section and my site disappeared!

    I built my site, but do not have much css knowledge.

    Anyone else using genesis/prose having success?

  7. Laura

    8/22/2013 9:12 pm

    Figured it out!

  8. Nigel

    9/10/2013 10:14 am

    We had a similar experience to the case study, though we’ve been going only a few months. For the first 2 months we only used the sidebar – got 2.4% take up for our newsletter.
    Started using a popover a month or so ago. To date the take up is 13.2%.

    I agree with the views above – they are annoying – but they are very effective!

  9. A

    9/16/2013 3:16 pm

    Great post !
    I confirm the lightbox is more effective on my web site too !

  10. Ana Capucho

    9/20/2013 5:48 am

    Congrats on that!
    I’m new here, subscribed to AWeber less than 2 weeks ago and with another strategy I got 23,8% conversion rate. It’s not just the form it’s how you approach your prospects before they come.
    With that strategy we grew from zero to around 2k in 3 days.

  11. Kenneth Elliott

    10/29/2013 10:52 pm

    I am trying this technique on a few of my sites now. Although, I have not seen any sales I am getting a few more signups. I will continue to test to see what is the best technique. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

  12. Gabriel

    1/15/2014 7:54 am

    Hey Amanda,

    Thank you for the article.

    Lightboxes are very efficient because it makes the intention obvious, and with a proper call to action, it works like a charm.

    For those that want more control on how the lightbox is displayed and how it affects the website overall, I recommend you PadiAct .

    It is not unusual for our users to experience subscription rates of over 10%.

    Also, It has been already endorsed by Aweber, and featured numerous times on the Aweber blog. You can find it in your My Apps section.

    You can target people based on source, time spent, how much they’ve scrolled, new or returning visitors, and many other options.

    We probably have the most advanced email collecting tool available to business of all sizes.

  13. Martin

    1/31/2014 7:16 pm

    I might start using the lightbox opt in again. I think the fact that it’s ‘in your face’ – sort of mildly irritating, and gives the reader two choices – subscribe or close – is why it works so well. But having a good lightbox design is important too…

  14. Dane Morgan

    2/9/2014 5:00 pm

    Has anyone here tested the difference in responsiveness between those who signed up through a lightbox and those who signed up through a normal page element?

  15. Amanda Gagnon

    2/10/2014 2:48 pm

    Dane, Besides Nikki (in the post), we’ve tested it and found success. But also, it looks like a few others who commented here have as well.

  16. MailMan

    2/25/2014 6:17 am

    Amanda, many thanks for your article! Really convincing effects. Now, we have no doubts, that it’s worth using, even though its said popups are annoying :). Best regards from Poland

  17. Tom Roth

    2/25/2014 10:02 am

    I posted back in August that in one week I had gone from 100 to 300 new subscribers per week after adding the lightbox. Accounting for the overall increase in new visitors since then, I’ve still maintained roughly the same percentage of new visitors converting to subscribers – which is triple what it was before using the lightbox. I have always had a prominent subscription box in the top of the right column on every page, so the only change has been the addition of the lightbox.

    I have received a handful of complaints that the lightbox popped up even though the person had already subscribed, but I think only one complaint about the lightbox itself.

  18. Amanda Gagnon

    2/25/2014 10:54 pm

    Tom, Thank you for sharing that! I’m so glad to hear it. Checked out your form and good move using the Facebook Connect option as well.

  19. Tim Felmingham

    3/12/2014 11:17 am

    I don’t think there’s any way to stop existing subscribers from seeing the popup unless they subscribed via the popup.

    This is because there is no way to link a subscriber’s email address to that visit – ip addresses change, devices change (viewer may have more than one device) and the browser doesn’t know your email address.

    The popup drops a cookie and that’s what stops it being shown again to people who subscribed via that popup, but if they subscribed another way then the cookie isn’t set.

    Is that correct Amanda?

  20. Danilo Soares

    3/28/2014 1:43 pm

    Excelent .. I have used the Pop Over but I think it’s a good ideia a little change to a light box.

  21. Ingrid Khadijah

    4/7/2014 1:08 pm

    I have this on one of my psychic websites, and I’ve noticed that the lightbox always worked better… I guess it a sign to find this page to tell me to get to plugging this into my newest website!

    Ingrid Khadijah

  22. Vladi Vasilev

    4/10/2014 9:23 pm

    There’s no question at all…

    pop-ups are awesome no matter how much some people philosophize over the subject…

    some people get mad, but it’s impossible to please everybody…

  23. Jordan Coeyman

    4/27/2014 5:27 pm

    Great to see some real data on here, thanks Amanda.

    I think it’s almost humorous how far behind certain business verticals actually lag behind the IM scene, in terms of tools/techniques. Big brands get it, they keep their eye closely to the things that work, like popups..

    What do you think the future of these types of popups will be? I have a hunch that, because of case studies like this, the number of businesses that use tactics will increase.. And thus diluting the effectiveness for “us all”, or more likely per your industry/niche.

    So we’ll have to adapt and figure out new ways to communicate and opt-in to our funnels. More action-based triggers, ones that we almost expect or welcome. Combining these smarter triggers with more contextual messages is a great way to ensure a better conversion rate too.

    Better tools that allow us to customize messages, or pop ups, via the active users location, time, and other things are already here 🙂

  24. christian Aguilar

    5/8/2014 5:26 am

    I don’t need it anymore