How to Write High-Converting Sign-Up Form Copy (With Case Studies & Examples)

This post originally appeared on ContentVerve.com – which was one of the best CRO blogs around until it disappeared. This was one of my favourite posts by Michael Aagaard which i’ve brought back to keep this great content alive.

The copy you use in your sign-up form has direct impact on your sign-up rate. If you’re not actively working on getting the most out of your form copy, you’re leaving leads and money on the table.

In this post, I’ll give you practical tips on how to optimize your form copy for maximum conversion. And, as usual, I’m going to give you a bunch of concrete examples from real A/B tests.

Dude – We don’t want to fill out your form!

I don’t know about you, but personally I don’t get up in the morning thinking to myself, “God I hope I can sign up for at least two email lists today! That would really make my day!”

And I have yet to meet a person who actually gets excited by the idea of having to SIGN UP, SUBMIT, FILL OUT, or JOIN NOW.

Nevertheless, judging by the vast amount of generic sign-up copy, it seems that many marketers believe that people are crazy about giving away personal information and filling out form fields without any particular argument to do so.

Give me a good reason to sign up – relevance and value are king!

Just like with any other offer, you need to give your prospects a good reason to say “Yes”

Think about it this way: You’re asking your prospects to give you their personal information, but what are you going to give them in return? Value or spam?

A transaction is taking place, and if your prospects aren’t sure that they will get something valuable and relevant in return, “Free Updates” just translates to “Free Spam”

All my research indicates that the best way to reduce the anxiety related to signing up is to clarify what’s in it for the receiver.

Here’s an example from the newsletter sign-up form here on ContentVerve.com. A while ago conducted an experiment where I tested completely generic form copy against a version where I added a few bullets clarifying what free updates from ContentVerve.com consist of.

This simple exercise in clarifying value and relevance resulted in an 83.75% increase in sign-ups.

Focus on the benefit of signing up – not the act of signing up

Here’s an example from BettingExpert.com where a few simple tweaks to the form copy increased sign-ups by 31.54%.

The control copy is completely generic and focuses on what you have to do (the act of signing up) rather than what you are going to get (the benefit/value of signing up).

The treatment on the other hand focuses totally on what you are going to get. Both the headline and the button copy convey value and relevance.

It might seem like an insignificant change, but as the test results clearly indicate, there’s a huge difference in the perceived value of signing up.

The anatomy of your form copy

Apart from the form field copy (which I’m not going to focus on here), your form can include headline, button copy, sub-header/bulleted list, and a privacy policy.

Headline and button copy are mandatory, while the sub-header and privacy policy are optional, depending on the complexity of the offer you want people to sign up for.

Let’s have a closer look at each part:

Headline:
As mentioned, it’s all about conveying value and relevance and focusing on the benefit of signing up rather than the act of signing up. So make sure your headline conveys a clear benefit or value.

I like to start by using the word “Get” a lot when I draft headlines. That forces me to focus on answering the most important question, “What’s in it for the prospect?”

Sometimes the most relevant benefit is totally obvious, and sometimes you’ll need to do some testing in order to find the right one.

The test I showed you in the example from BettingExpert.com was not the first one I conducted. I actually started out with a different value proposition that turned out to be quite a backfire – it reduced sign-ups by 12.45%.

So, it would seem that this headline wasn’t relevant to the prospects – even thought it conveyed a value.

Sub-header / bullet points
You don’t always need a sub-header or bulleted list, but in some cases it can really help clarify value and relevance – especially if the overall offer is kind if generic.

In the example from ContentVerve.com, the main benefit “Get Fresh Updates” is pretty generic, but I couldn’t find a suitable headline that worked better. In this case, the bullets did a wonderful job of establishing relevance and extra value.

The same principle applies to sub-headers. I don’t have any particular guidelines for when to use the one or the other – it depends on what works best for your form and your offer.

Button copy
In my experience, optimizing button copy represents the ultimate low-hanging fruit in CRO. Testing buttons is one of my favorite things in the whole world, and I could go on about it for hours.

But I’ll spare you the boredom and just say that the main optimization principle in this context is that the copy should focus on what you’ll gain by clicking – not what you have to part with. Moreover, your button copy should be more than a blatant order like “SUBMIT” or “JOIN NOW”.

Privacy policy
Lately I’ve been geeking out on privacy policy tests, and I have to say that my findings are pretty exciting.

I’ve already showed you a couple of examples from BettingExpert.com, so let’s use that website again. I conducted a series of tests on the sign-up form, experimenting with different privacy policies. I was pretty sure that simply adding a privacy policy would increase sign-ups. Boy was I wrong!

The first one I tested actually reduced sign-ups by 18.70%!

The initial negative test result got me really fired up, and I went ahead and tested a number of different variations (See the full case study here >>). I won’t get into full detail here, but I ended up with a version that worked really well and increased sign-ups by 19.47%.

Here’s the winning treatment:

We guarantee 100% privacy. Your information will not be shared.

At the moment I’m testing this privacy policy here on ContentVerve.com, and although the results aren’t conclusive yet, the variant with the policy clearly has the highest sign-up rate.

The main thing I learned was that having the word spam in the policy hurt conversions. My hypothesis is that – although the messaging revolves around assuring prospects that they won’t be spammed – the word itself give rise to anxiety in the minds of the prospects.

Therefore, the word spam should be avoided in close proximity to the form.

Don’t rely on your gut – test whether your optimization efforts really work!

Your sign-up form is a mission-critical element, and even small tweaks to the copy can have major impact on sign-ups – and not necessarily a positive one!

Therefore it’s dangerous to base your decisions on gut feeling or best practice. However logical your changes may seem, you really need to gain certainty that you are in fact moving in the right direction. And the best way of doing that is to test your changes on your target audience in real life.

What you should do now

Go over your sign-up forms and ask yourself, “Am I giving my prospects a good reason to sign up, or am I simply ordering them to do so?”

If it turns out that you are simply telling them to sign up, with no particular reason to do so, you’d probably see an increase in sign-ups by working on your form copy. Use the examples and tips I’ve given you in this article as inspiration, and then get cracking on some awesome treatments.

About The Author – Michael Aagaard

Michael Aagaard (aka the Conversion Viking) is a Senior Conversion Optimizer at Unbounce & Top-Rated Keynote Speaker who has spoken at CRO conferences in 11 different countries.

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