Most bloggers are obsessed with conversion rates. They monitor their analytics, continually adjust copy and fiddle with design in a bid to convert more of their readers into email subscribers.

I’ve never really been one of those people. I happily floated through the first two and a half years of my blogging life without concerning myself too much about conversion rates.€“ I just enjoyed what I did.

But a few months ago, I made a conscious decision to make my blog better integrated. I made some key decisions about the purpose of the blog and how it could best help people. These decisions led to a total re-launch with a new design, manifesto, and community forums.

But more importantly for the purposes of this post, my decisions led to an enormous leap forward both in terms of email conversions and overall engagement. Read on to discover how.

The Background

It was early summer when I finally decided that I wanted to re-design my blog, Leaving Work Behind. I had big aspirations for the site but I felt that the current design didn’t reflect where I wanted it to be and€“ my message wasn’t well presented.

I wanted people to hit my site and immediately know what it was all about, but that wasn’t happening. Furthermore, I decided that my number one priority was to get people to sign up by email.

I had deliberated about this in the past, but I came to the decision that the best way that I can help people is by email. As a blogger, it’s the only way I can send people prescribed information in a suitable order. So that was the decision that I made: I was going to put email front and center.

Beyond that, I wanted to give people further opportunities to engage€“ through social media, the forums, and comments. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to do this.

Once I’d figured out what I wanted, I started designing. That’s the right way round to do things.  Don’t start designing until you know exactly what you want to achieve, not just in terms of aesthetics, but also in regards to the overall purpose of your site. It doesn’t make any sense to stumble blindly into things. Instead, you should identify your goals and work to align your design decisions with those priorities.

The Results

I launched my newly-redesigned site on November 4th. The impact was immediate.

I was getting great feedback from my readers in the comments section, but that’s not all. My email subscriptions had taken a huge leap as well. It hasn’t slowed down much since.

In the ten days leading up to the launch I attracted just 39 new email subscribers. In the ten days after, I attracted 195, which is€“ an increase of 500%.

New LWB Subscribers

This wasn’t due to a huge spike in traffic.€“ In fact, the re-launch didn’t attract an inordinate amount of new visitors. While traffic in that period did increase by 44%, the net email conversion rate increase still increased by a factor of 350%.

But that’s not all. The community forums got off to a great start and is going strong so far. One of my fears is that the forum would fall flat, but that has not been the case (touch wood!).

Furthermore, commenting has been as regular as ever and my Facebook and Twitter accounts have continued to grow at a healthy rate, even though I focus less on promoting them in the new design.

So how did I make this all happen? Let’s take a closer look at the key elements of my design (and content) that brought around this result.

Color Scheme

In my opinion, one of the keys to the new design’s success is the color scheme. Take a look:

So, what’s going on here? There are two €œaccent colors:€ blue and green. Their roles are well-defined: blue is used to attract attention, green is used for calls to action.

The aim is to pull people’s eyes to specific parts of the page, then draw their attention even closer to the bright green calls to action.

You will notice that the colors are used relatively sparingly throughout the design; only in the places that I most want people to explore:

  • The feature box
  • My About page
  • My information product and resources page
  • Other email signup forms

Email Signup Opportunities

Speaking of email signups, as I’ve already said, increasing email subscribers was the major focus of my new design. I wanted to see what I could do to increase my email conversion rate, and it turns out that I succeeded in boosting it considerably.

Here are the areas where visitors are given an opportunity to sign up:

  • The homepage feature box
  • The sidebar
  • The footer
  • Within posts and pages
  • When commenting
  • When they try to leave the site (using the excellent OptinMonster plugin)

That seems like a lot at first glance and€“ and it is! But, so long as you’re not being obnoxious and spammy about it, I think that it is hard to under-emphasize email.

In fact, I plan to do even more work to highlight my email signups. Here are some additional areas that I am planning on incorporating signups in:

  • Post footers (I’m currently still ironing out the kinks on this)
  • The community homepage
  • Within the community registration process

I have made it almost impossible for any visitor to come to the site without seeing at least one or two email subscription opportunities. Basically, you can’t go far without being invited to subscribe. However, I try to make it as non-invasive as possible.€“ I try to keep that balance between encouraging people to sign up but not pissing them off.

My usage of OptinMonster is a good example of this. Most pop up plugins serve up their pop up when you first hit the page, which I find infuriating. But I use OptinMonster so that the pop up only appears when people go to leave the page (i.e. when they move the cursor outside of the browser window). This means that they won’t get rudely interrupted by a pop up while they’re exploring a page on my site. This plugin has been an excellent contributor to my email list so far, converting at 1.35% alone. I’ll be sure to split test it to improve that conversion rate.

Tying It All Together

I’ve already said that email subscriptions were my number one priority with the new design. However, I couldn’t ignore the likes of social media, nor do I want to discourage people from joining the forums.

With that in mind, once I have secured an email subscriber, the next thing I want to do is give them the opportunity to join the Leaving Work Behind community in other areas.

First, when people have subscribed, they are redirected to this page, complete with clear social media calls to action. Beyond simply orienting recently signed up readers, this page carries the potential to multiply my readership by encouraging social media engagement.

Moving on, the second email autoresponder they get asks them to like Leaving Work Behind on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, and join the forums.

The third email includes links to all three again. Remember that people are unpredictable. Just because someone didn’t engage with me on social media after the first try doesn’t mean that they won’t do so if prompted again. Some people are wary, careless, or just plain busy, which is why it works for me to reach out a second time.

But that’s not all. I also utilize an awesome WordPress plugin to redirect first-time commenters to this page, within which they are given another opportunity to join the forums or follow me on social media. It makes sense to do this, since commenters are more engaged than your average reader.

The Art of Prioritization

I think that I have managed to create a website that encourages email subscriptions, but doesn’t do so in an overbearing manner. It also manages to promote other means of following, but only when doing so does not overshadow my main objective. I centered my strategy on my goals, and I remembered that my readers are people, too.

So far, the results have been highly encouraging and I am delighted with the outcome.

There are, no doubt, ways in which I can improve upon what I’ve done and I’ll certainly be looking to do so in the future. Few people (or websites) are perfect, so I do my best to always be on the look out for improvements.

With that in mind, I’d love to get your feedback in the comments section. What do you think about the new design and its efficacy? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson