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, ManHelper.com, got a link from a fairly large gear site CoolMaterial.com. 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 CoolMaterial.com 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?

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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 CoolMaterial.com.

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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 IGN.com’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 ManHelper.com.

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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.

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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 ManHelper.com, an online men’s magazine. All subscribers get free access to the models section.