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How I Bumped My RSS Conversion Rate from 16% To 25%

This guest post is by Gab Goldenberg, of The Beginner’s Guide To Usability Testing.

Want to find out how to boost RSS subscriber conversion? I did, but I hardly found any information about it online!

Besides having an obvious call to action above the fold and getting to [social news site]‘s front page, the blogosphere doesn’t much discuss how to convert more readers to subscribers.

I’d been meaning to test my RSS subscription page for a while, and finally got around to it. Here’s what the old page looked like:

The newsletter top

The newsletter bottom

The RSS subscription page was way too busy!

Notice the loads of links on the page? There’s the sidebar navigation, the breadcrumbs, the main navigation…

Additionally, the benefits copy is above the calls to action, which pushes them below the fold.

The conversion rate theory and the execution

My hypothesis was that by eliminating the distractions I would increase conversions. In other words, I’d eliminate the links on the page and move the benefits below the calls-to-action.

The reasoning for moving the benefits copy was that if someone clicked to view the subscriptions page, they were probably already pretty convinced and should be shown the conversion form and button immediately.

People who were still hesitant once they got to the page would be able to scroll down and read the benefits copy. That’s also why I moved the reassurance text (“You can unsubscribe with a single click, anytime”) below the form.

Finally, I did one more thing, which wasn’t originally in the plan, but which my limited HTML/CSS/Photoshop skills forced: I added testimonials into the left-hand sidebar. I’d initially planned to get rid of the sidebar, but that broke the page’s alignment and looked bad.

(Since my site is powered by WordPress, I used this Google Website Optimizer-Wordpress workaround to be able to use GWO. That’s because I never had a successful experience using GWO with WordPress, partly because GWO isn’t designed for sites that use a content management system, because I have a custom theme, and because many of the plugins are bad quality.)

Here’s what the page looked like after I edited it:

The new signup page

And here are the results:

That’s right, the variation outperformed the original by 56.3%—I added nine points of conversion to my overall conversion rate!

Methodology

I want to mention how conversions were measured. The limits of Google Website Optimizer (GWO) forced me to only measure one goal, so I chose the email subscription instead of a click on the orange button.

What that means is that I don’t know the difference these changes made on conversions for people clicking on the RSS button. Or should I say, this test didn’t reveal the difference these changes made…

Initially, my goal was to measure results comprehensively. After a fair bit of struggling, I followed the instructions on GWO’s help site and altered their code and mine so that both email subscriptions and RSS button clicks would be counted.

I launched the test and was happy until I discovered that something was causing the pages to load very slowly. I’m talking about 30 seconds for a page with the main functionality and 60+ seconds for full load.

Despite that, it seems some people did wait (or didn’t have this problem?) and early results of the test looked like this:

Notice the 11/11 conversion rate for the variation? That’s right, a 100% conversion rate for the variation! And why not? If visitors clicked my sidebar link to go to the subscriptions page (i.e. this was highly motivated traffic), and they saw a simple page without distractions, and with a very easy conversion process, doesn’t it make sense that they’d then convert?

Sure, it’s probably just a lucky streak and with more traffic we would have likely seen the conversion rate drop to 90% or such, but the point is that the no-distractions page still kicks butt—and takes names.

Unfortunately, no matter what I tried, I couldn’t solve the load time problem, though. So I started a new test, only measuring a single goal: email subs. And that’s where the data above comes from.

Another very interesting finding is that, contrary to the common situation of email subs being more numerous than RSS subs, it seems my techie audience prefers RSS. If about 30% are converting by email, and the no-distractions page gets say 90-100% conversion rate, then potentially 60-70% of my visitors prefer RSS subscriptions.

Of course, I’ll need to test some more to find out!

Want to help other bloggers and email marketers increase RSS conversions? Share your own experiences with RSS conversions below!

This guest post is by Gab Goldenberg, author of the advanced SEO book and The Beginner’s Guide To Usability Testing.
If you liked this post, get Gab’s posts by email or RSS -free- plus enjoy the subscriber only downloads!

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Comments

  1. Drewry says:

    for quite a long time, I’ve always wondered how to naturally boost RSS subscribers. I always assumed that you had to submit your RSS feed to RSS directories using “RSS submission software” every other day or every week. this is a great post that you put out about increasing RSS conversion rate :-)

    • Gab says:

      Yeah, I wouldn’t count on that getting you very far – when was the last time you used one of those directories to find a feed? ;)

  2. Mike says:

    Great to know some of these tips!

  3. Brad Dalton says:

    Why not simply use a RSS link like Problogger rather than an entire page?

    • Drewry says:

      you might have a point there, Brad!

      • Gab says:

        It’s something I should try as well, truth be told, though this is easier to measure. Unfortunately, GWO is not at all made for a CMS like WordPress so testing sitewide elements is impossible.

        • Gab says:

          Also, I should say that I used to have that and had click tracking on it (before I was on Feedburner) but somehow the numbers didn’t add up… I think because of robots, scrapers etc.

  4. Robby G says:

    I never benefited much from RSS to be honest. It seems like the statistics are just too inconsistent. Or maybe that’s just my experience.

  5. Trung Nguyen says:

    Great tips, Gab. This is what I am looking for. Thanks so much.

  6. Steven Waugh says:

    Great tips!! I’ll follow these tips to enhance my RSS conversation rate. Thanks buddy for sharing important post. :)

  7. Caleb says:

    my techie audience prefers RSS

    This adds more to my suspicions that mostly the industry savvy internet users are the ones using rss because no matter how explicitly I explain it to “regular” ppl they just don’t understand or see the need for rss?!

    A better way is to not even mention the term RSS at all and to just word it as though they’re signing up for updates ;)