How to Get 147% More Readers

There are a lot of reasons why those people may answer “no” when your web form asks them to sign up for your emails. But change the design of your form, and some of them will answer “yes” instead. It’s true. Here are the stories of two companies who netted huge increases in their subscription rates just by testing a design change. Take a look at what they tested, then keep reading to find out what you could test to get results that are just as big.

There are a lot of reasons why people may answer “no” when your web form asks them to sign up for your emails. But change the design of your form, and some of them will answer “yes” instead.

It’s true. Here are the stories of two companies who netted huge increases in their subscription rates just by testing a design change.

Take a look at what they tested, then keep reading to find out what you could test to get results that are just as big.

Talking Avatar: + 131%

Small Business Trends, an online entrepreneurial publication, needed to find the right face to represent their newsletter in its sign-up offer.

They alternated a photo of the editor, Anita Campbell, with a talking avatar that resembled her.

SBT Avatar SmSBT Photo SM

Avatar Anita popped up as soon as the page loaded and talked for 20 seconds about why the viewer should subscribe, giving visitors much more information than the photo form provided.

And she converted 131% more subscribers than Photo Anita.

Red Light, Green Light: + 46%

Internet marketer Eric Graham, aka the “Conversion Doctor,” wanted to design the ultimate submit button.

He ran several tests. For his final split, he tested a simple red border around the button against a red border that changed to green when hovered over.

Red Border

Red Border, Green Roll Over

The color-changing border got 46% clicks more than the simple red border.

According to Graham, the button showed that it was clickable by reacting to the mouse. When the red outline turned green, he theorized, viewers interpreted the change as a “stop” signal changing to “go” – so they did.

Your Design Changes: + ?%

Granted, you have a different audience than SBT and the Conversion Doctor, and a different site. You could make the exact same changes and probably not get the same results.

But there are plenty of things you can test that could turn up results that are just as significant. Try:

A signature photo. The age of the Internet has brought with it an added layer of caution. Hesitating before signing up for anything online is standard – and smart.

Displaying your picture on or near your sign-up form suggests that you’re trustworthy. It indicates that you have nothing to hide.

A photo may not always fit the bill, though, in other ways. It could distract from your content. It might clutter the page. And it might not fit the tone of your campaign.

The colors on your form. You’ll probably want colors that harmonize with your site, whether they blend in or stand out, but you may be surprised what effect each color has.

Take a look at your site’s color scheme, then check out this discussion of the effects of color on marketing. Put together a few possibilities, then test them to see which is best.

The size of your form. Obviously, the bigger the form is, the more attention it will attract. But what is all that space filled with?

If it’s fields to fill in, prospects might tire and quit partway through. If it’s empty space, you may be giving off the impression that your emails lack value.

Could your form benefit from being bigger, or would it run into one of these problems?

Images. An image can draw attention to your form, especially if it evokes something viewers are interested in. It can also shift viewers into a state of mind where they’re more likely to sign up.

On the other hand, if the image attracts too much attention, it could distract from the actual invitation to sign up.

Are you using an image on your form? Should you be?

Submit button design. The button to complete sign-up should be prominent in color and size. Otherwise, site visitors could glance over the form without noticing there is an action to be taken.

But go too large or too bright, and you could come across as obnoxious. Some audiences appreciate loud and clear instructions. Others prefer polite invitations.

Which category do your site visitors fall into? Change your button’s design, and find out!

Have You Tested Your Form?

Have you ever run a split test on your web form?

If not, what are you waiting for? What could you test today?

If you have, what did you find out? We’d love to hear your story!


  1. Shaun Sinclair

    11/16/2010 11:08 am

    I’m constantly testing my sign up forms. I’ll probably try the above. Testing clearly works, as my sign up rate rises month after month. Test, test, test!!!

  2. Joseph D. Shiller

    11/16/2010 11:08 am

    Did photo Anita also pop up and talk? This was unclear above. Which variable accounted for the difference, the avatar, the talking, or the popping?

  3. Daniel Edstrom

    11/16/2010 12:14 pm

    Awesome tips,

    I’m collecting email addresses like a mad man right now!

    Just what I needed!

  4. Gilles Lacroix

    11/16/2010 12:59 pm

    These buttons with MOUSE OVER RED/GREEN are awesome. Do you have any idea if Aweber has any plans of making some of these OR
    where can we get them??

  5. Amanda Gagnon

    11/16/2010 1:28 pm

    Joseph ~ No; the photo was just a photo.

    Gilles ~ Eric Graham gives you the code you need here.

  6. Holly Berberich

    11/16/2010 1:34 pm

    Great article. Your last point on testing is what it’s really all about… testing things like:

    – call to action text
    – the call to action itself (what they are signing up for, ie. a white paper vs. a newsletter)
    – placement of the form on page
    – the information you ask for
    – sign up button color
    – sign up button text
    – background color around the form
    – video or no video

    Sometimes what you *don’t think* will convert ends up being the winner. That’s been a learning experience for me — to let go of what I think will work and to listen to the results. The bottom line is to get your ideal customers to opt in.

  7. Gilles Lacroix

    11/16/2010 2:29 pm

    Can I use the code and integrate it with Aweber button?

  8. Amanda Gagnon

    11/16/2010 2:59 pm

    Holly ~ So true!

    Gilles ~ Yes, once the form is up on your site, you should be able to splice the code for it with Eric’s code here. (Though you’ll probably need to choose a form with a standard button, instead of an image.)

  9. Judy Helm Wright

    11/16/2010 5:03 pm

    Hello from Montana. Fascinating. Great information that reminds me of what I already know and forget to use, and new things to try.

    Curious where you get the avatar that mimics the photo.

  10. Gary

    11/16/2010 5:06 pm

    Interesting, we are just about to start experimenting with a virtual support assistant and are looking at testing between a "real person" image and an avatar so will be good to see if the same runs true for us.

  11. kiatlc

    11/16/2010 8:13 pm

    so Amanda, you mean if I just publish my form using javascript version, the red-green button won’t work, is it?

    I have to copy the html code and adding the button there myself, am I right?

  12. Carl

    11/16/2010 8:49 pm


    Great tips! I’ve been using Eric’s red-green button successfully on one of my site for a few weeks now.

    Since you asked, I thought I’d share my highest converting opt-in form: The yellow background and black dash border helped boost conversion. The annoying pop-up and exit pop-up also helped a ton.

  13. Kathy Kirk

    11/16/2010 9:18 pm

    As always I love what you show us, but how do I get that done? The roll over color, the talking avatar, etc…
    Previous e-mails were about creating characters that were like a prototype of your customers, great idea…how do I do that? How do I create e-mails that look like the examples you use? Certainly not with the themes?

  14. Nathan Thomas

    11/17/2010 7:19 am

    Thanks for another great article!

    Was wondering how we might incorporate the roll over green submit button with a normal AWeber form?

  15. Hung

    11/17/2010 7:25 am

    I love the tip about red border

  16. Ramya

    11/17/2010 8:45 am

    Very useful. Thank you!

  17. Amanda Gagnon

    11/17/2010 10:50 am

    Kathy and Nathan ~ You can add the code from Eric Graham?s post into the code for your AWeber form once the form?s up on your site. If you?re not too comfy with HTML, a web designer should be able to help.

    Remember, though, that these ideas are not Instant Pathways to Much Money – they’re meant to shake up your thinking. Each method is only likely to work on certain sites for specific audiences. The lesson is, brainstorm, get creative and test.

    Carl ~ That form definitely demands attention! I think the trust you inspire with 5K+ visitors and 7 years of testing also help.

  18. Christine

    11/20/2010 6:23 am

    Thanks for the great article. I am new and can use ALL of the help I can get. I have changed my form quite a few times. I’ll try some of the things mentioned in the article to see what works.

  19. Senuka

    11/21/2010 12:16 am

    Thanks about Red light, Green light secret. I had’t known it before.

  20. Akil

    11/22/2010 6:57 pm

    Great post I have actually read about these features adding more of a personal touch. I look forward to implementing these tactics to help boost my readers signing up to my web form.

  21. Yinka Olaito

    11/26/2010 4:58 am

    Thanks for this, I have been considering redesigning my blog, can see a good reason now

  22. Sherman Unkefer

    12/18/2010 9:10 am

    That’s really interesting about the “red button” versus “green button” theory. Interesting to see how we are all so pre-conditioned like that. I think I’ll give that a try.

  23. Perry

    12/21/2010 5:35 pm

    The higher conversion rate on the red to green button doesn’t make much sense. … If it is to be believed at all.

    When they hover over the button, they want to click on it. So it doesn’t matter if it changes color or not. They would have still clicked on it.

    So I don’t know wher he got that idea from.

    One can also put the for right there on the same page, instead of them having to click to go there. Put it right in front of their face, ready to fill out.

  24. Tom Dwan

    6/6/2011 5:05 am

    Great tips about more personall touch. Tnx

  25. Frankie Steyn

    2/10/2012 7:02 am

    I never know the effect of such additions to our websites until I test them.

    Only thing is time is limited and anticipated results unknown!

    Thanks for this tip.

    I have been considering adding a video clip when visitors arrive introducing our site and product offering. I would like to see if the results are the same or better and will let you know once tested over some time.

    Thank again.

  26. Anirudh Bahadur

    5/9/2013 12:25 pm

    Cleaner and simpler forms have always worked for me. 🙂