November 3, 2023

CTA copy strategies: From Sign Up to Subscribe.

👋 Hello newsletter enthusiasts,

Calls-to-Action, or CTAs, are powerful little nudges you see all over the internet. They could be buttons saying "Learn more", "Buy now", or in our case, encouraging you to sign up for a newsletter.

CTAs have one main job: to get you to do something. They guide you, the user, to take a specific action.

Let’s zoom in on one type of CTA — the one that invites users to sign up for a newsletter. Whether your newsletter uses CTAs in the email itself, or if it’s designed to keep readers in the inbox without clicking away, this analysis will give you some helpful takeaways and maybe even inspire your newsletter's landing page.

We're focusing on “newsletter-first” companies, ones that put newsletters front and center, like media companies where newsletters play a big role in sharing content.

For this analysis, we looked at newsletters with all sorts of subscriber counts, from around 9,000 to over 17 million. Altogether, that's 37 million+ subscribers across about 30 newsletters.

We’ll be focusing specifically on the copy for newsletter sign-up CTAs.

☕️ 🫖 Grab a warm drink, and let’s get started:

📝 Do you copy?

The wording on your button plays a significant role.

Some approaches lean towards simplicity, using straightforward terms like "Subscribe".

Others prefer to use action-driven phrases like "Join our community", creating a sense of belonging for readers.

In the world of newsletters, "Subscribe", "Join", and "Sign Up" are quite common. Our analysis found that "Subscribe" and "Sign Up" were most frequently used.

Interestingly, we also observed the use of the word "Try" in some CTAs, offering an inviting, no-risk approach. Generally, CTAs were concise and impactful, using just a handful of words.

The Newsletter Newsletter

Keep in mind, most people don’t start their day planning to sign up for new content. They're looking for valuable experiences or helpful information.

This is your opportunity to highlight what you offer that aligns with their needs.

So, how do you craft compelling CTAs?

🖱️ Crafting your CTA: A glimpse at real-world examples

Here are some ideas for you to get your creative juices going. Let’s dive into examples from an array of newsletters in our analysis:

Clarity is key

Example from The New York Times, The Morning // The Newsletter Newsletter

The Morning opts for a clear and concise CTA: “Sign Up.”

It’s direct and to the point, leaving no ambiguity about what action the reader is expected to take. This approach reduces cognitive load — the mental effort needed to process information — and speeds up the decision-making process.

Using actionable verbs

Example from Alpha Signal AI // The Newsletter Newsletter

Alpha Signal AI utilizes an action-driven phrase: “GET MY SUMMARY.”

This CTA not only suggests the action to be taken but also personalizes it, creating a sense of ownership for the user. It’s about my summary, implying a personalized benefit.

Emphasizing value

Example from Morning Brew // The Newsletter Newsletter

Morning Brew offers another angle with “Become smarter in just 5 minutes.”

Here, the CTA “Subscribe” is coupled with a value proposition. It tells users exactly what they’ll gain — intelligence — and sets an expectation of how quickly they’ll achieve it — in 5 minutes. This tactic can be particularly effective as it transcends the action and speaks directly to the benefits the subscriber will receive.

Conveying exclusivity

Example from 1440 // The Newsletter Newsletter

1440 taps into a sense of belonging with its CTA: “Join Free.”

By using the word “Join”, the message subtly conveys a sense of exclusivity, suggesting a community that the reader can become a part of. This can be a compelling draw for individuals seeking curated content.

Inviting exploration

Example from The GIST // The Newsletter Newsletter

The GIST crafts its CTA with an inviting tone: "TRY IT!"

This phrase feels more like a gentle invitation to explore, making the reader feel like they are being invited to sample something new without any immediate obligation.

Each of these examples highlights a unique approach, demonstrating that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The key is understanding your audience and conveying what you offer with clarity, excitement or value. Sometimes, it’s the subtle nuances in phrasing that can transform a tentative reader into an eager subscriber.

Multivariate testing: A journey of continuous improvement

How do you know if your CTA hits the mark? The key is to test it out.

Regularly experimenting with different phrases, tones and placements can provide valuable insights into your audience's preferences, optimizing the effectiveness of your CTAs.

🖱️ Fine-tuning your approach: Consider audience size and type

The effectiveness of a CTA can also depend on your audience and how many subscribers you have.

For smaller, niche newsletters, like those with a few hundred or thousand subscribers, a CTA that suggests exclusivity or community might be effective (“Join us,” “Be part of something special”).

For massive, multi-million subscriber newsletters, clarity and efficiency may be paramount as these newsletters appeal to a broader audience, making simplicity a necessity to cater to everyone.

Every newsletter is unique. This doesn’t mean a newsletter with a smaller subscriber base shouldn’t make their CTA super simple, or that a newsletter with a large subscriber base can’t emphasize joining a community.

Crafting the perfect CTA is part art, part science, and a whole lot of understanding your readers.

It’s about recognizing that the same words hitting different ears can sound worlds apart. Whether you're nurturing a small community of passionate followers or broadcasting to a stadium-sized audience, your CTAs should reflect not just what you want to say, but also who you're speaking to.

🎁 Wrapping up

Examples of CTAs // The Newsletter Newsletter

Crafting Calls-to-Action (CTAs) is much like designing a welcome sign for your guests. It’s your opportunity to extend a warm greeting, inviting potential subscribers to step into your world with enthusiasm and interest. The art is in striking the right chord – making your invitation welcoming and interesting.

From simple instructions to community-centric calls, and from broad audience newsletters to specialized communications, each CTA is your chance to create an awesome welcome sign.

By understanding your audience, experimenting with different phrases and refining your approach, you can create CTAs that not only resonate but also inspire action.

Key takeaways

  • Emphasize clarity: Clear and straightforward CTAs, like "Sign Up," can quickly guide the reader to action.
  • Employ actionable verbs: Using words like "Get" imparts a sense of ownership and immediate action.
  • Showcase value: Highlighting benefits, such as "Become smarter in just 5 minutes," can be compelling.
  • Sense of belonging: CTAs that suggest exclusivity or community, like "Join Free", can draw people in.
  • Extend a friendly invitation: Inviting phrases such as "Try It" create a welcoming atmosphere, encouraging readers to explore without any obligation.
  • Test and refine: Regular testing helps you understand what works and ways to improve your CTAs.
  • Tailor to your audience: Consider the size and nature of your audience when crafting your CTAs.

🐾 As always, thank you for reading, stay pawsome.

Want us to deep dive on a newsletter? Or maybe feature your newsletter in an upcoming newsletter? Email us.

🐶 Pawsitive vibes

💌 Thanks for joining the pack of newsletter enthusiasts! Keep on reading, writing and sharing your newsletters with the world.

Also want to shoutout folks that have been sharing their feedback with us. Thank you!

🎉 Have a great week!

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