Anatomy of the Perfect Signup Form

The signup form is a CTA (Call-to-Action).

Its only purpose is to convert a visitor into a subscriber. But let’s not oversimplify, making people take a specific action is a little more complex.

In this lesson, I’ll show you each one of the elements you should include in your signup form to make it irresistible.

First, let me just insert Obama’s signup form in here so you can appreciate it, and my version of course, so you can compare.

Obama’s “Are You In?” form 

Obama's signup form

And my replica… 

My signup form

We’ll come back to them to discuss at the end of this lesson.

10 Elements you need to include in your email sign up form

1) Headline

The headline has to grab attention, and in order to do that, you should focus on communicating the main benefit. The desired outcome.

Let’s create an example…

A blog about Freelancing that gives away an ebook about getting more clients. The headline could be something like:

“Double your freelance clients in the next 30 days”

  • It makes a pretty bold promise
  • It sets expectations (30 days)
  • It grabs attention, who doesn’t want to increase their client base
  • It focuses on the user

Unfortunately, Even today I still see signup forms with a headline that goes a little like this: “Sign up for our newsletter” or “Subscribe Now!”

Weak headline

Some will even throw in an “it’s free!” in there.

Do you know how many people want to sign up for a newsletter? No-bo-dy.

2) Benefits

One of the most common mistakes we make is to confuse benefits with features, and we end up describing what’s inside rather than communicating what’s in it for them.

The prospect doesn’t care about how many lessons or pages or how it is delivered. They care about outcomes. How you are going to improve their current situation.

Identify what their pain points are and turn those into clear benefits.

Let’s go back to our freelance example. One of the things freelancers hate is working with difficult clients, on the other hand, they might have a few ones they love working with. Another issue is not having enough clients to sustain their practice, in many cases because they don’t know how to market themselves. So we could go with something like…

  • How to work only with your “ideal” clients and dump the rest
  • The marketing strategies to make clients wait in line to hire you

As you can see, these are not characteristics of your free ebook, they are outcomes. They can relate to them and they see a possible solution to their struggle.



3) Visual

Giving away a tangible product like a t-shirt is one thing…

Get a free t-shirt

But when it comes to delivering digital products such as ebooks, online courses or software downloads, that’s a different story.

Your visual has to communicate something that doesn’t really exists in the three-dimensional world, but it still needs to deliver the impression of something valuable that the subscriber will receive.

Either way, an image is worth a thousand words when it comes to fighting for attention online.


I like this idea from Jeff Walker because he offers an ebook in PDF format and, instead of showing the graphic of a book, he’s showcasing it on an iPad. I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel a lot better than a simple PDF download.

Visual of ebook

Tools & Resources

Now, I know what you’re thinking…

“I’m gonna need a designer for this”

Nope. In today’s internet, we have tons of resources and tools to help us build our own graphics without the need of one.

Let me show you how quick I create a graphic for an ebook using only a free mockup I found online and Photoshop. Believe me, I’m not a designer but I get away with a lot of stuff this way.

How to create a graphic for your ebook

Here is the image I created…

Mockup cover

I also put together a list of resources where you can find graphics and tools you can use. You can grab it here (It’s a Google Doc).

4) Keep it simple

You most keep your form simple when it comes to asking for information.

People don’t like filling out forms, and they like giving their personal information even less.

Some folks like to ask only for the email address, if you do this, take in consideration that you will not be able to do any personalization with their names in your campaigns.

I think it’s perfectly okay to ask for the first name.


Here is an example from Marie Forleo.

Marie Forleo signup form

5) Button

The button might seem like one of the most insignificant elements on the form, I mean, it’s just a button, right?

But many people make a big mistake here for not paying attention to it.

There are 2 things to consider:

The color

The button should stand out from the rest of the elements. Use a contrasting color, never a different tone of the same color you’re using in the background or the rest of the elements on the form.

Notice in this example how the button stands out, even though there are several elements.

Color of the button

The copy

The copy is also very important, no-bo-dy wants to “submit” anything. Ever.

Yes, the click on the button is submitting the information on the form to your email provider, but you need to focus on the outcome here. What this individual is doing is trying to download your ebook or get access to your free course.

In this case from John Haydon, the button reads “Send the Course Now.”

Button copy

6) Social Proof

When people feel insecure about something, they look around for validation. Show them that other people trust you.

Social proof gives people the impression that you are the bees knees. It communicates trust.

Social proof is not simply displaying the number of Twitter followers you have, you can use…

Media where you have been featured or mentioned. Just remember to use the actual icons since visuals are much more effective.

Media icons

A testimonial from an influencer. SocialTriggers uses one from Chris Brogan in this form.


And Social Media Examiner uses the number of subscribers that have already joined. They have 350k of them, of corse you don’t have to have that many to impress people, just make sure it’s not 200 or you might give people the wrong impression.

Number of subscribers

7) Positioning

The most common signup form is the one positioned at the top of the sidebar, after all, this is considered the hottest piece of real estate on the screen. Take a look at some of the most popular blogs out there and you’ll see they all have it:

Top of the sidebar

But if that’s the only form on your site, you’re wasting multiple opportunities to grow your list faster.

Let’s list some of the other options (we’ll cover each one of them in the following lessons):

  • Featured box
  • Bottom of the post
  • Footer
  • In-line

8) Stand out

A good practice is to have your form stand out from the rest of the element on the screen. A form that blends in will fail to grab attention.

Make sure your form has enough contrast, the easiest way to do this is to use a color background.

Look at this example from Chris Ducker, do you think you’ll miss the signup form at the bottom of his posts?

Stand out


Let’s recap with a nice visual. Click it to see the larger version (it will open on a separate tab), save it to your computer if you want to use it as a guide.

Anatomy of the perfect signup form

Now, I promised you come back and tell you why the Obama signup form would be such an epic fail if you use it. Here is the video…


Your homework is to plan an effective signup form, and for that we need to construct each element.

I have a worksheet to help you do that. You can grab it here: Signup From Planning Worksheet

You already know what to do to get it (I promise this is the last time I tell you this):

  • If you use Google Drive, simply open the spreadsheet, go to “File” and “Make a Copy” so you can save it to your Drive, from there you will be able to edit and enter your own data
  • If you use Microsoft Excel, you can also download it to your computer by going to “File” and “Download”
  • Kalyani Deshpande

    Here’s a “before” and “after” of the signup form. I added in a benefit and changed the language on the submit button. Would love your thoughts.

  • Kalyani Deshpande

    Here’s a “before” and “after” of the signup form. I added in a benefit
    and changed the language on the submit button. Would love your thoughts!

    • Nice! Thanks for sharing. If you can, come back and share if you saw any improvement in your conversion.

    • Wow. Great looking form, and i personally feel a big difference between the 2. The modified version is much more attractive to me. Really interesting how the awareness of “benefits” versus “features” can turn things around. Hmmm. Now how to apply this principle to real life… 🙂

    • I agree with Jonelle, the difference between the two is definitely apparent. The great part is that the changes are subtle! A change in language in a few words makes a load of difference! Thanks for sharing!

  • Jessica Boschen

    I have a question about lead magnets: I have four separate lead magnets on my web site (and I would like to have more). In order to ensure that users confirm the double opt-in, they don’t get the link for the lead magnet until the first follow-up. However, this requires me to have four separate lists, one for each freebie. All the lists reflect the same audience, so really they could all be one list.
    Is there a better way to manage having multiple lead magnets and ensure that users confirm the double opt-in? I use Leadpages as well, although I know I’m not using their service to it’s full potential.

    • Yes, there is actually. LeadPages has a feature that is designed specifically for these situations. It’s called “Lead Magnet Delivery.”

      Basically you specify which lead magnet you want to deliver with each form.

      You can read about it here:

      • Jessica Boschen

        I started with the Lead Magnet Delivery, but it didn’t ensure the user confirmed their subscription (double opt-in) before it gave the user the lead magnet. I had too many people grab the freebie and not confirm their email. It was either turn off the double opt-in or go the route of having different lists.

        • Hmm… yeah, that’s a problem. It makes sense because they’re delivering for you and they don’t if the person confirmed or not. In that case, I’d probably go with separate lists.

          What service are you using?

          • Jessica Boschen


            Now, the concept of writing follow-ups for each list . .. can I duplicate them, like copy / paste some of the content into each follow-up series?

            I asked Aweber about automatically signing people up for a central list when they sign up for a lead magnet list, but they recommended not doing that as it had the potential of “subscribers not receiving the correct messages.”, which I interpret to mean that they wouldn’t receive the lead magnet.

          • I use Aweber too and everyday I’m finding that they’re not moving as fast as their competitors. I’m not sure that you’re going to be able to replicate autoresponders from one list into a separate list.

            Let me dig in a little more to see what I find, but the fact that you use Aweber is definitely not going to make things easier.

          • Jessica Boschen

            Thanks! When I signed up, I thought it was one of the better companies. Now, I’m finding that there’s things I want to do, but can’t.

          • I’m going to move, I decided a little while ago, for the same reason.

            Going back to the issue at hand, maybe there is a way to set something up with AW Pro Tools:

            It says that you can automatically move people to a different list when an autoresponder sequence is over. Maybe you can set separate lists, have the sequence and then move them to the main list.

          • Jessica Boschen

            Thanks for the leg work. I’m still too new and figuring it all out to use the pro features, although I did check them out last week.

            What are you moving to, out of curiosity?

          • Same here. Been using AWeber for a long while, but as of late, they have been dropping the ball. Especially with their email template designer. It’s just not as clean as the other providers.

          • Yeah, they’re been slowly redesigning the site but the editor feels like you’re stock in the 90’s!

  • I’m in the process of starting email newsletters for my site and this lesson was very good. Looking forward to applying all this!