How can small blogs generate organic email leads?

A few weeks ago, I read a great post on How to get your first 100 email subscribers by Bryan Harris for Noah Kagan’s blog. The author placed leadboxes around his blog and shared where he was able to get the most email signups for his email newsletter.

We were curious and decided to conduct a similar experiment for the last month (5/5-5/26). In fact, we straight up copied some of his ideas. In particular, what we wanted to know was whether these lead generation ideas would help us even though we have a small blog.  We get between 1000-6000 blog visitors a month.  Here are our results:

1) Byline leadbox

We replicated this idea directly from Bryan.  For every post, we wrote a “byline” telling people to “Get updates of new posts here.”

When someone clicks the byline a leadbox pops up.

Bryan talks about a 0.6% conversion rate with this lead capture method on his blog, but it’s unclear to me whether this is a conversion percentage based on total impressions of the byline link or of the popup.  Regardless, for us, we had a 0% conversion rate – no one signed up!

That said, the click-through-rate on the byline link was quite low at 0.09%.   So, split testing this method would not be worthwhile for us.

Results: 0% conversion rate

2) Post-footer leadbox

We’ve also placed a leadbox below each blog post encouraging people to sign up for our email newsletter.

The results on this leadbox were fairly poor.  In May, seven people subscribed to our newsletter via this box.  There were across 4183 non-unique impressions of this footer box in May.  This method of lead generation probably isn’t worth optimizing, because even if we 10x-ed our results, the conversion rate would still be low.

Results: 0.2% conversion rate

3) Sidebar leadbox

We also placed a leadbox on the upper right side of our blog.

The byline and footer leadboxes were fairly hidden, so to be honest, I didn’t expect them to do very well.  But, I did expect this sidebar lead generation box to perform a lot better.  However, we saw just 1 conversion!  The results were even worse than the footer leadbox.

Bryan uses a sidebar leadbox that scrolls as a reader is reading a post and achieved an 0.8% conversion rate on his blog.  If we were to modify this sidebar leadbox, we would likely try a similar strategy with a auto-scrolling box.  I speculate that perhaps our blog visitors are not interested in signing up to read more posts until they’ve actually read one first, so an auto-scrolling box might help with conversions.

Results: 0.02% conversion rate

4) Header leadbox

We also placed a leadbox at the top of our blog.  This header leadbox, however, did/does not show up at the top of specific blog posts.  It only shows up on our blog synopsis page.

Because of the ideal placement (you cannot possibly miss this!), I’d expected this leadbox to do quite well.  However, this leadbox received 0 signups!

Like the sidebar widget, perhaps, if this header appeared after someone read one of our posts, then it might perform better. A future experiment might be to show this header leadbox on specific blog posts and scroll as a reader reads a post.

Results: 0% conversion

5) Timed pop-up leadbox

Lastly, we implemented the SumoMe leadbox for our blog.  This leadbox pops up in the middle of the blog after a certain amount of time.  It shows up on any of our blog pages.  Compared to all the other leadboxes we’ve tried, this popup performed the best.


Bryan was able to get a 5%+ conversion rate on his blog.  Although our conversion rate was not nearly as high, these results are definitely at a good point to start tweaking.  In less than one month, we were able to get 19 new email signups from this one tactic.

Results: 0.7% conversion rate

Although a total of 27 new leads across all five tactics is not a lot, if we leave them up for the next 2 months, we’ll be able to hit 100 new subscribers from organic traffic for just a couple of hours of work that it took to place these leadboxes on our site.  With some tweaking of the leadboxes, we might be able to get some multiple on email signups as well.  And obviously if we can grow our blog, that will lead to a multiple in signups as well.

I was initially skeptical that a small blog like ours could get a significant number of leads from these different tactics.  And while a larger blog could achieve so many more leads for the same amount of work, the results haven’t been bad for us.  A lot of B2B companies value email signups at $5-$30 per lead, and we’re no different.  For a small blog like ours, we now see that a couple hours of work leads to recurring $100-1000 in new value per month.  Trying these leadbox tactics has been worthwhile, and I would recommend giving some of these ideas a whirl on your own blog for your own email marketing program.

What leadboxes do you use on your site?

P.S. I’m writing a book on email marketing for data-driven marketers.  It’s basically a Moneyball for email marketing.  If you want a free copy when it comes out, sign up here:

  1. Sam says:

    Thanks for the tips Elizabeth. Just put on SumoMe yesterday on our blog so we’re still to see if it’ll bring in anything. What I’ll say though after several months reading about tactics that work or AppSumo/Buffer is that they, well, seem to work just for those guys :D Which either means they have traffic enough to always have some return with their tactics or our visitors are very stingy with their emails. Your pick.

    Ps: That header leadbox is looking awesome

    • Elizabeth Yin says:

      Thanks for reading, Sam!

      Yeah, I think part of it is just plugging away at content marketing as a strategy. For us, we’re still relatively new to finding our voice in content marketing, and I think it takes time. We’ll see how this goes for us.

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