How To Use Incentives To Increase Subscriptions

Hi, my name is Soo and I want to share with you how I managed to get 9% of the visitors from a single traffic source to subscribe to my site via RSS and email. I hope this case study will show some of you that offering incentives to your readers can really help convert them into subscribers.

It all started when my site,, got a link from a fairly large gear site From the get go, the traffic had a very low bounce rate and a high average time on site. What pleased me even more was that on the first day 17.05% of the readers coming from were subscribing to my site (the orange line represents subscriber conversions in the chart below). In a little over a week, my Feedburner stats jumped up almost 100 subscribers, which is the biggest jump in a few months. How did I managed to get these numbers?


First let me explain how I tracked how many people subscribed to my site. I set up a goal in Google Analytics for when a visitor clicks the RSS subscribe link, and another goal for when a visitor clicks the email subscribe link. Each link forwards immediately to their respective pages after the goal data is collected. While a click through doesn’t always guarantee an actual subscription, it does work as a surprisingly accurate indicator for actual subscriptions. Below is a screen shot of my feed stats before and after receiving traffic from


The way I was able to convert so many visitors to subscribers was by giving them something that, to my knowledge, no other site offers in return for subscribing. All subscribers are allowed access to a models section on my website via a link embedded in the RSS feed and email (much like’s babe section). Because my website caters to an entirely male audience, it’s a great fit. And while it is possible for people to unsubscribe after gaining access to the models section of the site, the majority of subscribers do stick around. Below is a screen shot of the landing page explaining the benefits of subscribing to


I have seen other sites give away free eBooks to subscribers. While I’m sure this method does work for certain sites, I think for a site like mine, a different incentive can be much more effective. The important thing here is to offer something unique.

To give you an idea of the difference this incentive made, here is a screen shot of my visitors and goal conversion rate for January and February 2009. As you can see, there was a nice traffic spike back on January 6th, 2009, but the conversion rate was still a dismal 0.43%. The models section was implemented in the beginning of February and the next traffic spike on February 15, 2009 had a much higher conversion rate of 5.43%. Ever since then, getting links from other sites have resulted in big increases in my feed stats.


Again, what this shows is that adding incentives for subscribers can give you a big boost in subscriptions. I’d like to conclude this post by encouraging you to try offering some sort of incentive to your subscribers. Even if it’s something small, it’s better than nothing.

Soo-Young Lee is the babe magnet over at, an online men’s magazine. All subscribers get free access to the models section.

29 thoughts on “How To Use Incentives To Increase Subscriptions”

  1. Benjamin Cip says:

    What a great idea! I had thought about doing this before, but I’ll definitely take action as soon as possible, but with something totally different from what you offer of course 😉

    Benjamin Cip’s last blog post: Help me get my own Facebook Page URL by Asswass from

  2. Cam Birch says:

    Very interesting idea. I have signed up to sites before to get the “free” gift. Most of those sites still send me e-mails or similar, yet the majority of the e-mails have since been directed to arrive in my junk mail folder.

    Maybe I’m unique but I am curious if these are legit subscribers that keep coming back or are these one timers that affect your count but are otherwise non-participating.

    Cam Birch’s last blog post: The Biggest Pain You Will Ever Sit On

    1. I wonder this as well. I would think that most subscribers would unsubscribe eventually.

      Not John Chow’s last blog post: Not John Chow Joins Adgitize

      1. Cam Birch says:

        I guess as always quality content is the only real way to do anything with a lasting impact.

        Cam Birch’s last blog post: The Biggest Pain You Will Ever Sit On

      2. for some, I dont unsubscribe but just click on the little spam button on my inbox…this just diverts mail to that folder and I never see it again…its easier for my lazy butt to go this route.

        [email protected]’s last blog post: Stocks Down Two Days in a Row

  3. So, incentive is one of the best method to increase rss/e-mail subscriber and website visitor…

    thx for the inspiring article…

    Reffers Media’s last blog post: ImToo Audio Maker (Portable)

  4. Your links aren’t working. They go to 404 error pages on John’s blog.

    Gold Coins Blog’s last blog post: Price Increases On US Mint Gold Coins

  5. I’ve learned that giving away free stuff definitely brings in more subscribers. The bigger the freebie is, the better.

    TYCP Entertainment Magazine’s last blog post: Courtney Van Dusen Interview

  6. Pete says:

    Are the subscribers you get due to extra incentive good quality subscribers? I know, hard to quantify, but still a good question nevertheless, I think. I can see many folks signing up simply to access your model section, and since people’s attention span is short on the web nowadays, I wonder how many you can actually convert to become regular visitors — which is the bigger goal than higher feed subscription rates. But of course, conversion into a regular visitor could be started with a RSS subscription, so good job with that … just realize it’s not the end-game though!

    Pete’s last blog post: Cannone da 149/40

  7. This is really interesting, I never thought of incentive before, you just spark a few of my light bulbs in my head… thanks for sharing your case study !

    The Bad Blogger’s last blog post: What In The World Could Possibly Allow An Internet Multi-Millionaire To Step Away From His Business And Purse His Olympic Dream !

  8. So I guess I need to have a hidden babe section on my techie blog… *evil grin*

    Michael Aulia’s last blog post: Tweeting with DestroyTwitter

  9. When I created a free eBook for RSS subscribes on my main blog, my RSS subscribers went up way more quickly than before.

    In fact I’ve been thinking about giving something new away again to see if I can boost that even more.

  10. Greg Ellison says:

    I do give out couple of ebooks on my website but I don’t get a lot of conversions. I might want to try out some more ideas to give to my visitors. Greg Ellison

    Greg Ellison’s last blog post: People fighting online

  11. I love how you incorporated graphs into this post, this not only amazes me, but backs up your point so perfectly.

    My incentive would be to get a free Ebook or something. It’s still being worked on of course, but that sounds like something that can work if I play my cards right.

    Alex |’s last blog post: When Blog Expansions Backfire: The Risks to Know

  12. Tom Duong says:

    Make your incentive irresistible and they will sign up for your RSS feed. This is exactly what Yaro Starak is doing on his blog as well.

    Tom Duong’s last blog post: 5 Powerful Copywriting Rules to Increase Your Conversion Rates

  13. superb, I have been signing up with such sites, after my brother got a t-shirt from one such site ….

  14. Brad says:

    Nice article! I appreciate you sharing your secret weapon with us.

    I was wondering – how did you set up your site to remember who is a subscriber or not? I noticed once a person subscribes, he can just click on the Models tab on the nav bar and go to the private section.

    I’m assuming this is via cookies, but do you mind explaining for those of us who are a bit tech-challenged?


    1. Soo says:

      That’s a great question. When I was thinking about how to code the models section, I had a few options: cookies, session variables, and just a secret link. I decided to go with session variables so once a person clicked the subscriber only models section, he would continue to have access to the section until he closes his browser. People can block cookies, which is the reason why I decided not to do cookies.

      I also was thinking of storing member IP’s in a database, but then that would encourage people to unsubscribe after gaining access. With session variables, the user has to continue using the link at the bottom of the RSS or email feed to gain access to the section.

      If anyone has any other technical questions, feel free to comment here or email me at info [AAATTT]

      1. Brad says:

        Ah…thanks Soo. You’re very cool to be so helpful.

  15. Freebies are great for attracting people, the trick is to make them stay at your blog after the freebies are given away

  16. EarningStep says:

    this is great , i will read this post one more time tomorrow

    EarningStep’s last blog post: The easiest way to increase alexa rank of your new blog

  17. That is a clever idea,, and different… now what would I give special access to? Hmm

    Online Marketing’s last blog post: Make Money Online By Getting Fit First

  18. Debo Hobo says:

    That was quite useful. Now i have to think of something unique to give away. I’ve been stuck on 99-100 readers for nearly six months now.

    Debo Hobo’s last blog post: Wordless Wednesday- Lucky is as Lucky Does

  19. What do you use to get the link to show up only in the feed?

    Also you should note that with your method you’ll manage to get a lot of your RSS subscribers to actually visit the site rather than just read the feed.

    Craziest Gadgets’s last blog post: Pac-Man Coffee Table

    1. Soo says:

      I just added a link to my RSS file. I don’t use WordPress, but I have seen other blogs do the same thing in WordPress.

  20. Earningstep says:

    john , how can i be your quest blogger and write a review at your blog .

  21. Interesting, it is amazing what you can get by being experimental. I am thinking about some e-books for free.

    It has been a while since I have been on this blog, I got John Chow by using google.

    Well John I will be a regular commentator just because you have plenty of incentive for comments.

    [email protected]’s last blog post: 18 Best Rugs, Carpet Tile and Caperts

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