It seems as if every marketing blog or podcast over the past few years has been obsessed with mailing lists. It has been made clear that if you have a popular website but are not doing all you can to capture your visitors’ email addresses, you are an idiot.

The idea is that your website is only the starting point in your relationship with your readers. If the trust you establish through your content is enough for them to give you their email address, you now have the ability to regularly reach out and update them on what is going on at your site (or, more realistically, to remind them that your site exists).

A growing mailing list of interested users is a valuable asset which bolsters and consolidates your site’s traffic. It turns casual traffic into an ongoing relationship.

There has been an explosion of bright, shiny plugins and services designed to help us gather the maximum number of addresses from our visitors and, then, once we have a mailing list, to automate our marketing, optimize our conversions and generally maximize our gains from this previously untapped resource.

So, why is it that so many of us have so many of us have still not got around to doing this apparently obvious thing?

Why are we letting yet another day, week, month or year slip by without sitting down and figuring out how to get started?

It is probably because figuring out the best way to start gathering email addresses and, then, deciding what to do with them, is the perfect storm for website owner procrastination. Every time you tentatively start researching possible products the whole thing gets complicated, fast.

You can lose days wandering around blogs and product websites, wading through technical jargon and marketing mumbo-jumbo … somehow, before I can manage to make any decisions, I just give up and end up watching Donald Trump or road rage videos on YouTube.

What we need is the simplest, quickest possible way to get into the email address capture game, and I believe I may have found the perfect starting point.

 

MailOptin is a simple, all-in-one plugin that gives you all the tools you need to effectively gather email addresses from your visitors, and to automatically send highly-optimized newsletters based on your site’s content.

As both your mailing lists and your own confidence grow, MailOptin provides integration with the key services that will allow you to further enhance your email marketing.

Capturing the Email Address

Few things provoke as much passionate debate as the different types of form that pop-up and ask for your email address. We call them opt-in forms because we are asking the user to opt into our mailing list.

There is no doubt that pop-ups can be highly annoying, and most of us would be entirely happy to never again have our browsing interrupted by them … but … here’s the terrible, awful truth: they work!

As annoying as those forms are, the results are irrefutable. There is no doubt that they are massively more effective at growing your mailing lists than those simple, stationary newsletter sign-up widgets that you see, and ignore, on most websites.

To help you find the right balance of Effective vs Annoying for your site, MailOptin arms you with a variety of opt-in form types:

Popup Optin Form – Click here for a live demo

Notification Bar – Click here for a live demo

Slide-in Optin Forms – Click here for a live demo

Sidebar Widget Optin Forms – Click here for a live demo

Before/After Post Optin Forms – Click here for a live demo

2 Step Opt-in – Click here for a live demo

Once you have chosen the type of optin form, you can use what they call their “Stupidly Simple Form Builder”, which allows you to tweak it to your heart’s content, with a preview changing in real-time in response to your changes.

MailOptin even provides over 30 built-in CSS effects to make your opt-in forms stand out even more. Effects range from gentle slide-ins to alarming flashes, to dramatic spins, to full epileptic.

User-Triggered Popups

Perhaps the most controversial form of opt-in pop-ups are the ones that react to what the user does when they visit a site. You have no doubt noticed that, on some sites, an opt-in pop-up is triggered after you have spent a certain amount of time on a site.

For instance, 20 seconds gives you just enough time to start reading and get interested in a page, meaning that the annoyance of an opt-in pop-up is less likely to make you leave than one which appears immediately, before you have even had a chance to know if you even like the site (how dumb is that?!).

Click here for a live demo of the Time on Site Optin Trigger

 

On other sites, you trigger an opt-in pop-up when you scroll down the page, usually as you approach the end of an article. Again, at that point, you have invested time into the article, you are unlikely to simply leave when the pop-up appears.

The key to both these user-triggered popups is to use the visitor’s own behavior to pick the best time to pushily request their email address without pushing them to just leave.

Click here for a live demo of Scroll Trigger

 

What if the user has already decided to leave and is mousing their way to another tab? MailOptin includes “Exit Intent” detection, allowing you to set an opt-in form to appear just as your users are about to leave.

Yeah, I agree, it feels dirty but, again, we cannot argue with the results. It turns out that a significant percentage of users who were about to leave, and who may have never again returned, do decide to subscribe. On average, 70% of users who leave a website will never return, so, what do we have to lose?

Click here for a live demo of an Exit Intent optin form

Right Time, Right Place

Page-level targeting means you can be highly strategic about when and where your opt-in forms appear on your site. Some posts, or entire categories of post, are going to be more appropriate for certain types of optin form.

You might have a post that attracts a large number of visitors who are interested in a particular subject, you might want to tailor a special newsletter for them which ignore the other categories that your site covers.

You can decide to segment your traffic into new or returning visitors. Show optin forms only to new visitors, or only to returning visitors, or show a different form to each.

Click here for a demo of New vs Returning Visitors Targeting

You can even tailor pop-ups according to how many pages an individual user has visited. I really like this feature because, personally, I would interpret them visiting 3 or 4 pages as a sign that they are interested enough that they would enjoy receiving regular emails or, at least, will not be too annoyed by the interruption.

Click here for a demo of the Pageviews Optin Trigger

Referrer Detection allows you to display certain optin forms, call to actions and custom messages only to visitors coming from certain sites. This gives you incredibly granular control over how you handle different segments of your audience.

“If You Cannot Measure It, You Cannot Improve It”

So, how do you get hold of these magical statistics that let you figure out which type of form is most effective on your site?

Again, MailOptin keeps it simple by providing an analytics tool that presents those stats, allowing you to make data-driven decisions without having to install another plugin.

Another tool, that combines brilliantly with the analytics, is A/B testing, also known as split testing. Instead of trying to guess which type of form, or which design, or which wording will be most effective, you can actually set up different versions to be shown to different visitors.

Once you have recorded a sufficient number of visits, you can study the aggregate data and work out which versions led to the highest percentage of conversions.

Using the Email Addresses

For me, the main thing holding me back from getting started with email marketing was that, quite honestly, I could not visualize HOW I would get started.

MailOptin enables a wonderfully simple starting point, the New Post Notification: let your email subscribers know when you have published a new post. This is just one type of event-triggered email, also known as automated or behavior emails.

What I like about the New Post Notification is that it is the most obvious, straightforward use of your new mailing list. Even if you only have one subscriber, it makes sense that, having given you her email, she clearly value your site and would like to know when a new post becomes available (I say “she” because, in my case, my first subscriber would probably be my mother).

The next step up in event-triggered email types would be the email digest. You probably already receive these from a few of your favorite sites. For instance, every Friday WP Mayor sends out a round-up of all our best articles from that week, providing a handy way for our readers to catch up on anything they might have missed. From the low level of unsubscribes and the high level of opens, we can tell that our readers appreciate this weekly digest.

Why send a weekly digest, why not just email our readers every time we publish a new post? Well, because we publish new posts frequently, sometimes several in one day, that would become annoying very quickly, and we don’t want our beloved readers to hunt us down and beat us to death with our own laptops.

So, if you publish only once or twice per week, a New Post Notification is a good idea, anything more would be better suited to an Email Digest.

Effective Newsletters

Of course, if you are going to send an email it needs to look good, not only so that your subscribers don’t immediately decide to hit the unsubscribe link but, also, so that a reasonable percentage of them decide to click through from the email to your site. You want your emails to be effective.

This is another point at which most site owners decide that this whole email thing might not be worth the bother. You already spend crazy hours making your site interesting, who has time to become an expert on formatting email newsletters too?!

Luckily, MailOptin solves that problem, no need to hire a designer or spend hours dicking around with designs yourself. MailOptin provides an intuitive email template builder that allows you to create, in minutes, a set design for your newsletters that will look good on any device. They even provide some professionally designed templates and have been optimized for conversion, meaning they will increase the number of recipients who decide to read and act upon your newsletter.

You configure the design of your newsletter once, set the schedule (daily, weekly, monthly or what will work best for your content frequency and your intended audience) and, then, leave it to MailOptin.

Integration with Other Services

For me, the primary value of MailOptin is that it gives you a solid, all-in-one starting point. One plugin that gives you the tools you need to gather emails, measure performance, and send effective newsletters.

Once you get started, however, and come to realize what the intelligent use of email can do for your site and business, there is a good chance that you will become interested in what the many email-related services have to offer.

The good news is that, as your interest and expertise grow, MailOptin makes it easy to start using services such as ActiveCampaign, Klaviyo, MailChimp, AWeber, Drip, Campaign Monitor, ConvertKit, Constant Contact, Mailer Lite, GetResponse, Sendy, EmailOctopus, MailPoet, Sendinblue and Convert Fox.

Hooking into these services is as easy, simply enter your username and password or API details into MailOptin.

Your Leads are Valuable – Back Them Up!

MailOptin’s LeadBank feature saves all the valuable data captured when a visitor subscribes, and that goes far beyond just their name and email address.

Retaining all the conversion data such as the page on which it occurred, the type of optin form used, the referring website, the date and time … all information that could prove useful later, and LeadBank saves it all without having to use any third-party service.

Adblock Detection

An unexpected additional feature, but one which makes sense once you think about it, is adblock detection. Between 30 and 40% of Internet users block ads, which is bad news if ad revenue is part of what allows you to keep working on your site. MailOptin can detect when an adblocker is being used and display a popup, explaining that the site depends on ads and asking the user to please whitelist your site (meaning that their adblocking extension will, from then on, allow your site to display ads).

If your site makes money from ads, the Adblock Detection feature adds real additional value to MailOptin.

Pricing

You can download the Lite version of MailOptin for free from the WordPress.org repository and use it for as long as you want.

As you can see from the pricing table below, the paid versions are segmented by both features and the number of sites you can use them on, ranging from $69 per year for one site with a limited feature set to   $269 per year for the full feature set for unlimited sites.

To experience the full feature set, take MailOptin for a free test drive now.

About Donnacha

Donnacha MacGloinn is an editor at WP Mayor. He has worked online for over 25 years and been part of the WordPress community since 2005. He offers WordPress consultancy services at WordSkill.com. His shamefully neglected Twitter account is @WordSkill