Category Archives: Website Usability

Are you verifying email subscribers?

Are You Really Verifying Your Email Subscribers Correctly?

But first a little story!

( Click here if you want to quickly jump to the how-to steps)

There once was a king who had the best email id in the world but he was not happy. He was getting tons of welcome emails from websites that he never even visited—let alone sign up for. 

The king's email problem

He had no idea how to tackle this menace so he sent for the wise wizard from the mountains. The wiz, always eager to rock his wisdom, was there in a jiffy. He picked up his guitar (they never had those in the days of old but the wizard was a wiz, you know, and could summon anything from the future). And thus he sang:

The Wizard's email verification song

The king was excited that at last, he understood the root of the problem and was now empowered to do something about it. Armed with the knowledge of the wizard’s deep wisdom, the king decided to put his foot down and take down all websites that do not have an email “verification loop”. Following the announcement of his decision, there was mayhem and everyone scrambled to implement the all-important verification loop as prescribed by the oh-so-wise wizard.

The wise email wizard has your back

As the implementation deadline approached, most websites were in compliance. The unfortunate few that could not honor the deadline were quickly taken down but were soon up and running after getting their email verification loops right.

The king was very happy. Order had been restored and there was no confusion. A big feast was organized where everyone made merry and danced through the night. And then my alarm rang and after a couple of snoozes, I got out of bed still hungover from the king’s party in my dream.

Can we fix email verification?

While sipping my morning tea, how I wished that this dream would come true. I had been at the receiving end of such unsolicited emails for the last few years and often yearned for a solution. That day I got out of bed and decided to write this post that could at least spread awareness about this issue, and hopefully get some action going.

Verified Email Subscriptions

I get welcome emails from websites that I’ve never subscribed to! That’s because some folks provide my email id to sign up on those websites. When they are presented with the form that asks for their email address, they simply type in what they think sounds like a good option and voila, I get signed up in their place! These fledgling netizens don’t realize they need to sign up and own an email account with an email service provider first, which they can then use to set up accounts on other websites.

Don’t push me to press the unsubscribe button!

The situation gets worse when there is no email verification in place.

I keep getting reminders and newsletters till I actually unsubscribe (provided there’s an option for that). And there are times when all communication from these sites is from a do-not-reply address. So, there’s no way to unsubscribe or reach out to let them know that I didn’t create an account. Those are the times when the quick “mark as spam” button comes in handy.

WTF? Unsubscribe!

Ouch! If you’re a business owner, you’ll quickly understand that this is not the best way to build an email subscription list.

Why should businesses verify email subscriptions?

More often than not, business websites have incomplete email verification for website subscribers when they sign up. This post is about how you, as a website owner can get your email verification loops right, so that you’re sure that every person who signs up is a valid subscriber. This is because 3 persons could be involved:

  1. You (or your company)
  2. The actual subscriber
  3. The owner of the email id who never filled in your subscription form!

Happy email subscribers

When email subscriptions are verified here’s what happens:

  1. The company wins valid opt-ins—real, interested visitors who are at the consideration stage of the marketing funnel.
  2. Subscribers get confirmation and peace of mind that they have been validated on your website.
  3. Invalid emails with typos or actual ones owned by folks who never signed up don’t get validated. That’s a sigh of relief for such email owners who will never be troubled again.

Valid opted-in subscribers love getting mail!

So, everyone wins!

Email verification loops – what’s the right way?

So, how can webmasters ensure that email verification is handled correctly? It sure isn’t rocket science. Here are the simple steps to follow:

Step 1 – Welcome Mailer

When someone subscribes or signs up on your website, send them an automated welcome mailer with a unique verification link.

Welcome email

Include all possible actions to verify your subscriber’s email address—typically a prominent action button AND a clickable and copy-able verification URL like this example below:

Verification email example

Step 2 – Guess what comes next…

Careful! This is where most webmasters get it wrong!

Login form for email verification

Yes, the mandatory login screen! This is the most important step to secure valid subscribers and opt-ins while filtering out typos and erroneously-entered emails. If you get this right, you have it all!

And that’s it. Email verification sorted in 2 steps!

As the saying goes, “two birds with one stone” You not only get verified subscribers but opted-in ones as well. Getting only interested sign-ups means that you are building a subscription list of leads that you can pitch your products or services to.

Valid opt-ins for your email list

That’s all folks!

I’ve shared what I know. Did I miss something? I invite you to let everyone know in the comments.

Why Thank You Pages

5 Reasons Why You Need a Thank You Page After a Form

While working on a landing page, I saw that the main call-to-action – a form, did not show a “thank you” response page when the form was submitted. It simply displayed a message, which I almost missed at the bottom of the form that read, “Thanks, we will get back to you soon”. Slips like this can impact your bottom line because this not only frustrates visitors but can also deprive you of the much needed conversion data to optimize your ad campaigns.

Consider the following five reasons why “thank you” response pages make horse sense on your website:

1. Mapping Responses: A “thank you” page helps in response-mapping in your own databases. It’s also helpful to quickly see if it’s the “next” page in navigation, in Google Analytics and other website tracking software, to pinpoint how much action is being taken by visitors on your landing page.

2. Setting Goals: You can easily set goals in Google Analytics and other web tracking software with a “thank you” response page.

3. SEO: If there’s no “thank you” page after a form, then action taken by visitors will not show as a “next page” response in Google Analytics and will show an “exit” instead, if visitors leave the web site after submitting the form. That’s important for SEO as “next page” responses show visitor engagement and increase the time spent on your site, and that’s reason enough to believe that these are factored-in in Google ranking algorithms.

4. Mapping Conversions: A thank you page is required to see conversions if you choose to configure your conversion script on “page load” when you are running a Google Ads campaign (previously known as Google Adwords). You need to place the Adwords “event” conversion script on the page that comes next, after visitors take expected action. With this script configuration option, Google Ads can only map a conversion when a user clicks on an ad, lands on the landing page, takes action and lands on the “thank you” response page. When the conversion script is activated on the response page, the loop is completed and it shows up as a conversion in the Google Ads console.

Now it’s important to note that there’s another option to configure the script using an “on click” option, which let’s you track conversions when visitors click on the “submit” button on your forms. But the former (on page load) option is preferred because of the following reasons:

  1. If the submit button or form-functionality is erratic, the form data might not even get submitted but the event script will still be fired.
  2. “On click” conversion event scripts could fire even if a visitor clicks without filling in the form, thus registering a conversion that never happened.
  3. Thank-you page loads are better pointers to conversions because at least there’s a confirmation for the event when a visitor goes through the form and lands on the thank-you page after clicking on the submit button. This can also be validated in Google Analytics by configuring a goal using your thank-you page as the final page and a preceding landing page visit as a mandatory qualifier.

Mapping conversions is very important to optimize and increase your Google Ads’ campaign quality score especially when you are running your campaign on CPA (cost per acquisition) bids. The more the conversions from the clicks in your campaign, the higher goes the quality score and lower go your costs per conversion. It’s a win-win all around – your campaign, your leads, your money.

5. Engagement: “Thank you” pages are an element of expected usability that help visitors understand that their action has been registered. Most importantly, from a conversion perspective, they can be used to take visitors to logical next steps and can also help in cross-selling and up-selling. This helps in furthering engagement on the website that in turn triggers the 3rd point above – SEO, and helps your website get stronger in SERPs.

Cons? More pros? I invite you to discuss in comments.