7 Data-Based List-Building Tips from 1,000,000+ Email Signups

Two things I hear a lot from fellow marketers:

  1. I really need to grow my email list.
  2. Pop-ups annoy me and I’m not sure about using them on my site.

Fair enough. So I asked Noah Kagan, Chief Sumo at SumoMe.com, to provide his best tips and real data to address those issues.

In this guest post, Noah shares the actual results and methods from sites using SumoMe’s List Builder pop-up tool. If you’re looking to build a legion of email fans, here’s your blueprint for success….

It Worked, So We Shared The Blueprint

When we developed SumoMe, our idea was to give away all the same tools we’d used ourselves to grow the AppSumo list to over 750,000 subscribers.

One of our most popular tools is List Builder, a free and super easy way to collect the email addresses of anyone visiting your site. It auto-connects with AWeber, so setup is a cinch.

But most importantly, it works.

In just the past few months, sites like ArtofManliness, WaitButWhy and OkDork have used List Builder to collect over 1,115,942 emails!

List Builder in action on my personal blog, OkDork.
List Builder in action on my personal blog, OkDork.

Email Pop-up Trends and Tips You Need to Know

We looked for trends among the different email pop-ups created by List Builder users, and wanted to share 7 tips to help you get the most emails with this tool:

1. What is the average conversion rate for email pop-ups?

We saw that the average conversion rate for email pop-ups is 1.66%. This means that 1.66% of people that visited a site gave their email.

Explanation: This is super useful for anyone to compare how they are doing vs. an average of thousands of websites. If you are below it, the following tips will help you bump that number up.

Psychology: Imagine meeting a stranger on the street, and he hits you up for cash. How likely are you to give them money? Compare that to someone you have a relationship with, like your brother or parent. What’s the difference? Trust.

Most visitors don’t personally know the owners of a site, so only about 2% of visitors give their email addresses. Consider other ways for people to engage with you (social media, phone) besides just email to establish that trust.

2. How often should you be showing your email pop-up?

Say someone visits your site and an email pop-up shows.

Then they visit your site a day later. Should the pop-up show again?

What about a week later?

Here’s what we saw:


Explanation: Surprisingly, it’s not the worst thing to keep asking people for emails when they visit your site. Every minute and month were very close so we encourage you to go with your personal preference.

This doesn’t mean your visitors should be seeing a popup every minute while browsing your site. This is meant to tell you when to ask for their email after they revisit your site.

Psychology: Overall, pop-ups have a bad rap. As a site owner, why would I want to ask people for an email?

If you have good content, people want to hear from you. Sometimes when I’m on a site that I want to subscribe to and they don’t have an email pop-up, I don’t even know where to look!

Don’t worry too much if it’s once a month or once every minute, just make sure you are at least asking.

Hey? Why haven’t you installed SumoMe? By this point you would already be doubling your daily email signups! 🙂

3. How soon should you show your email pop-up?

The easiest way is to use the “Smart” Pop-Up mode setting. It calculates when your reader is done reading a blog post or browsing your site. Then it asks them for their email.

But if you want to be old-school and set it manually, here’s how soon a pop-up is shown vs. how many emails it collected:


Explanation: Asking people 5 seconds after visiting your site to subscribe to your newsletter gets WAY more emails than any other time period, according to our data.

Psychology: Strike when the iron is hot (but not burning). Give your visitors at least time to look at the site (more than 3 seconds) but ask for their email before your visitor gets distracted with other things on your site. The next tips will teach you what you should have on your pop-up.

4. What headline should you use?

We learned a few different things by looking at the top headlines of different pop-ups:


There were 3 types of effective headlines that we saw.

a) Social Proof: Show how many people have already subscribed.


Psychology: People believing that others are finding value in your content makes them think the content is validated and ultimately valuable.


b) Incentives: Give them a bonus for joining your mailing list.

Example: Get my 6 tips ebook to a better outdoor photograph.

Psychology: No one in their right mind really wants to be getting more emails. But if the email gives something special, people are way more likely to want to give you an email address and receive your offers. Make sure to be specific and make clear the value of the incentive you are offering.


c) Discount: If you own a physical or digital store, give them a coupon for joining your newsletter.

Example: Give your email address for 10% off!

Psychology: Who doesn’t love a discount? By offering a discount to a visitor, you’re immediately giving them a benefit to sharing their email with you.

5. Which color button should you use to ask for an email address?


Explanation: After we removed the data for our default blue color, List Builder email pop-ups that used a red colored button got more emails.

Psychology: What’s the first thing you think of when you visualize the color red? Besides blood from watching too much Game of Thrones … I think of a stop sign. Red is a color most people subconsciously associate with having to stop, think and then take action.

I’m not saying it’s a must for all sites to have such a contrasting color, but it is encouraged. A contrasting color is a pattern interrupt to the color spectrum your visitor sees on the rest of the site.

6. What should your email collection button say?


Explanation: Many people lazily used the word “submit” which is the opposite of what you should do. Top winners were “Send me Free Tips” or “Subscribe Now.”

Psychology: Instead of a neutral word, use reinforcing language about the reason the person is signing up. Example: If you are giving them a bonus, change your button so the visitor will “Get the Bonus.”

7. What should your pop-up text say?


Explanation: The highest email collecting sites offered some unique benefit for people receiving their newsletter.

Psychology: Think about the emails you always open and read. Now compare them to the ones you unsubscribe from or immediately delete when you receive.

Incentives work. The thing to ensure is that you deliver on the incentive you are promising. Make it compelling so a person wants to give you their email address, and then fully deliver on that promise with each email.

Now that you know the key tips and tricks for collecting emails, isn’t it time to go update your own email pop-up? 😉

Noah Kagan



  1. Frances Richardson

    9/30/2014 4:47 pm

    Thanks for the The tips shared in this article was great content and helps any marketer to gain
    major traction in their list building strategy with respect to email marketing.

    Frances Richardson

  2. Hunter Boyle

    10/1/2014 8:28 am

    Thanks for the feedback, Frances. You’re right, this is an effective way to build your email lists. If you use the tool, or pop-ups, keep us posted about your own email marketing results.

    Cheers — Hunter

  3. Helicopter Mom and Just Plane Dad

    10/1/2014 5:49 pm

    Great tips that I can’t wait to implement. Thanks!

  4. Bola

    10/1/2014 9:47 pm

    I was an early user of the list builder feature of Sumo Me with good results but had to quit using it because there was no way of selecting pages I did not want the pop up on like check out pages for instance.

    Tried their URL exclusion set up but could not get the pop up off my check out page.

  5. Lynette Young

    10/2/2014 8:12 am

    Bola – you may want to contact SumoMe directly. They are a great team and I’m sure they can help you out. (I’ve installed the SumoMe on my own site and love it!) — Lynette Y.

  6. Jules

    10/3/2014 8:02 am

    I have just installed the List Builder & Share sumome apps, I cant wait to share my results soonest. Thank You for the detailed info & ease of installation guidance. Will keep you updated.

  7. Hunter Boyle

    10/3/2014 8:28 am

    Hey Jules — that’s awesome, thanks for the comment! Looking forward to hearing how it works for you. Don’t forget to email aweber@sumome.com to get their free email template bundle. Keep us posted!

    Cheers — Hunter

  8. Chris Hamilton

    10/4/2014 9:03 am

    These tips are amazing. I love the fact that Noah shared these results. I went back through some of my sign up pages and made some tweaks based on these results, specifically the color of the buttons. I had orange buttons on some of my pages and immediately changed them to red.

    Thanks to Aweber for pulling this together and for Noah for sharing the data. Please keep bringing posts like this as they are extremely helpful.

  9. Hunter Boyle

    10/4/2014 11:05 am

    Hey Chris, thanks for the awesome feedback! Great to see you putting some test ideas into action. I hope you’re keeping an eye on stats and will let us know how the changes work out for you. We appreciate the comment and yes, look for more posts like this coming soon.

    Cheers — Hunter

  10. Nicholas Marquess

    10/7/2014 5:28 am

    Thanks for the The tips, I am working on marketing my website this week and I am so glad I found this write up.
    Really helped so I appreciate the time you took to write this up


  11. Hunter Boyle

    10/7/2014 9:12 am

    Thanks, Nicholas and good luck with the site updates. Keep us posted on the results you get with this app.

    Cheers — Hunter

  12. Jeremy

    10/10/2014 6:56 pm

    Great post! I took a look at SumoMe, and noticed their signup form is email field only (no name field).

    > http://help.sumome.com/
    Can I add a first name and/or last name field to SumoMe forms?
    >At this time, only the e-mail field is available.

    Since moving to AWeber last year, I started collecting customer full-name (in a “name” field) to personalize the message using AWeber forms. We have always collected customer names and “store account” customer names (with or without a purchase) via the API. So we have 3 lists: a) customers who purchased; b) customers with an account (no purchase yet); and c) newsletter. SumoMe would add to list c). We already segment our broadcasts (clone every broadcast into a “name” and “no-name” version) — so this wouldn’t be the end of the world if we stopped collecting names in the c) newsletter list… BUT…

    What is the opinion of AWeber (and community) re: not collecting subscriber name? Obviously, personalization for customers, absolutely — but has email grown up and subscribers don’t really care if the newsletter has “Dear FirstName” or not? Thanks for your feedback on this!

  13. Hunter Boyle

    10/13/2014 8:20 am

    Hey Jeremy, thanks very much for the feedback and great question on personalization.

    It’s always beneficial to have as much info about subscribers as possible, including name. That said, there are additional ways to collect this info, such as two-step forms, a short survey in welcome and/or follow up messages, or a bonus offer on confirmation pages to name a few. Testing these options for the best results for your site and audience is one way to go, as is testing emails with and without personalization (on a list where you have the info to do both).

    Since it’s difficult to make one prescription for every site and email list, I’d say that since you’re already segmenting and most likely testing the names vs no-names versions, if you’re not seeing a significant loss without that name (not just opens/clicks, but conversions/sales), you could explore that road further with the emails and sign up forms. Hope that helps. Please keep us posted on your efforts!

    Cheers — Hunter

  14. ketul

    10/12/2014 11:31 pm

    thanks…for the tips…i am just follow this marketing services…. and also given the detailed info & ease of installation guide….so…thanks again..

  15. Jeremy

    10/13/2014 8:38 am

    >> there are additional ways to collect this info, such as two-step forms, a short survey in welcome and/or follow up messages, or a bonus offer on confirmation pages to name a few.

    Thanks for this… very interested re: capturing name, specifically if we use SumoMe popup… are you saying that we can add the name field to the opt-in confirmation email? But then we’re asking the user to do more than just click. So this is a potential conversion speed bump. Hmm…

    My gut says test SumoMe without name and see if we can convert from subscriber to customer without a personalized newsletter. If ratios drop (or rise) I’ll report back!

    One other issue re: SumoMe — I sent their support an email about this too — I want to exclude the popup on my site IF a customer is logged in. This would mean nesting the javascript — I am hoping we can nest javascript that asks, “if a customer is logged in, don’t do anything, else show SumoMes script”. I have the script for the “is customer logged in”. I don’t know how to nest scripts. I’m gonna try to learn.


  16. Hunter Boyle

    10/13/2014 8:36 pm

    Thanks, Jeremy. I like your gut on that test and hope you’ll keep us posted on the results. And on the scripting.

    Speaking of SumoMe, I hope you’ll join me, Noah and Sean Ellis of Qualaroo for our webinar on 10/14: http://get.qualaroo.com/email-hacks/

    Looking forward to hearing more from you!

  17. Jeremy

    10/15/2014 10:43 am

    Hunter, I tried, but couldn’t make your webinar yesterday (stuck in traffic). I have been trying to communicate with SumoMe since Oct 10, but the support rep sent me boilerplate response and I was kinda disappointed. I know they offer a free ($10) solution, but support is support and if I ask a question about apples, answering the question about lawn furniture is not going to work if you expect me to trust you. If you have an email for Noah, can you please forward my email to him? Thanks.

  18. Noah Kagan

    10/15/2014 12:31 pm

    Hey Everyone

    Happy to answer any questions / issues / feedback.

    Thanks for the comments!

  19. Noah Kagan

    10/15/2014 12:42 pm


    if you click on the advanced tab of html form you can paste in your own aweber form which CAN include first name and email address:)

  20. Noah Kagan

    10/15/2014 12:42 pm


    Email support@sumome.com and we’ll get you squared away 🙂

  21. Jeremy

    10/15/2014 1:05 pm

    Thank you!