Start building your subscriber list today using this guide and some free tools.

Set Up an Email Opt-in Form on Your Website

How to add an email newsletter opt in formIf you don’t yet have an email capture box (aka email opt-in form) on your website and building a list of email subscribers it’s easily one of the biggest and easiest improvements you can make to your business.

When a visitor to your site agrees to give you their email address they are giving you permission to contact them in the future. This is why it’s called an opt-in box, people are opting in for more information from you, they are saying they want to stay up to date with your content.

It’s essential to use an email list management tool or app to handle the collection of customer emails, the sending of automatic thank you emails, to manage different lists and to send out emails to your subscribers. Most email list tools also provide analytic data, statistics and other handy things like the ability to send emails to different segments of lists.

By the end of this marketing tutorial you will have an email opt-in form installed on your website ready to collect the details of your visitors and start building your subscriber list, this tutorial will give you all the information you need.

In this guide we will cover;

  • Getting an email list management tool.
  • Creating a list (subscriber database).
  • Creating an opt in form.
  • Installing the opt in form on your site.

OK… Lets get cracking.

It’s Time To Set up an Opt-in Form

1. Get an Email List Management Tool

There are several email list management providers available, the most popular tools appear to be Aweber, Infusion Soft, Constant Contact, Office Autopilot and Mail Chimp.

Set up an email opt-in form on your website with Mailchimp We will be using Mail Chimp for this tutorial as it has a nice, clean and easy interface to use, and they provide a free starter package that allows for 2,000 subscribers, with the sending of up to 12,000 emails per month.

This will be fine for most users just starting out and you can easily upgrade to their (very reasonable) paid plans in future as your subscriber list grows.

So click this link and head on over to Mail, then click the ‘sign up free’ button.

You’ll need to provide your email address, choose a username and password and then confirm the account when they send you an email.

After activating your account by confirming your email address you will be able to log in.

Once logged in to Mail Chimp for the first time you will be asked to fill in some details about your business, such as your address. You have to provide this information to comply with anti spam laws.

You may then be asked to provide extra security information to protect your account, standard stuff – name of pet, best friend in school etc. But you can skip this step and provide it at a later date.

2. Create a List

Now that we are into the dashboard area the first task is to create a list. This list is where the email addresses of our subscribers will be stored.

Click the button that says ‘Create a List’ or select ‘Lists’ from the menu.

Create your email list in the mailchimp dashboard

Click the button on the next page, top right that says ‘Create a list’ then click ‘Create a list’ again. You will then need to name your list (such as ‘mywebsite newsletter’) and fill in the rest of the form.

set up your email subscriber list

Once you have completed the form you will be taken to a list overview page (see below), click the button in the blue box that says ‘Sign Up Forms’.

Email list created, now create an opt in form

Now we are ready to design an opt in form.

3. Create An Opt In Form

One of the great features in Mail Chimp (besides being free of course) is the easy to use form builders, you can use the templates they provide or customize them to your requirements.

Here we are going to create a form for your website, select ‘Embed a form’.

Now to set up the email opt in form

The next page is where you can customize the email opt in form.

customize your email opt in form

Here you can select from a range of basic forms, choose to ask for first name and email address or ask for more information if you like.

When you are happy with the form you can copy the code from the box below your form and paste that on your website.

4. Embedding The Opt In Form On Your Site

Depending on how your website is built or where you would like to put your opt in box, you have two options available:

Option A: Embed the HTML form by pasting the code somewhere on your site.

Option B: If your site is built on WordPress, you can use a Plugin.

4.a. HTML Copy and Paste

copy and paste the email opt-in form code

If you want to embed the email opt-in form somewhere on your website, like your sidebar or in a page for example, select the embed code to copy and then paste where you want it in your website HTML.

If you are using WordPress as a content management system then you can use option b.

4.b. WordPress Plugins

For those with a site built with the WordPress CMS there are a range of Plugins available that will work with Mail Chimp, they range from free and basic (but usable) to paid versions with a lot of snazzy features. For this tutorial though we will be keeping things free, so we will be using the MailChimp Widget plugin by James Lafferty.

Api Keys

After installing the plugin in WordPress a red bar will appear at the top of the screen asking you to configure the plugin.

You will need your  API key to make the plugin communicate with Mail Chimp, this can be found in your Mail Chimp dashboard by clicking on your account name (1) and then ‘Account settings’ (2) then ‘Extras’ (3)  click ‘API Keys’ (4).

Get API keys for opt-in plugins

Next, click the blue ‘Add an API Key’ button, the following page will give you a long API code which will look similar to 0g9p297612e43f9hjedc00zte383fd4d1-uj7 .

Head back to your WordPress plugin and enter that key.

Once you have entered the API key into the MailChimp plugin settings, you will be able to go to your widget menu in WordPress and add the opt in form to your sidebar (or other widget areas).

adding mailchimp widget to wordpress

You may customize certain things from the widget such as which fields to ask for and the call to action (title). When you are happy with the settings, hit save and go to your website.

You now have an email capture form in your sidebar.

opt in form in wordpress sidebar

So, now you have set up an email opt in form on your website (Yay! ) but this is just the start. From here you can experiment with customization, make the form look pretty with extra code or alternative plugins and of course you should now start to plan out what you will email to your new subscribers.

That’s how to set up an email opt-in form, I will be covering how to use Mail Chimp to send out emails to lists in another tutorial coming soon. If you enjoyed this guide and want to be the first to know when new ones are published, then why not subscribe to the Digital Marketing HQ newsletter? Enter your email address below to join.


  • Karen Hoyt January 2, 2014 at 1:34 am

    I googled for help and you came up. Thanks for the interesting article about the new features. I’m trying to work the basic mailchimp with Lafferty’s widget.
    I have the sign up on the upper right sidebar and it works I think. I’ve got about 1,000 subscribers.
    I also get emails daily on my WP site that a new subscriber signed up, but they do NOT migrate to my mailchimp account. I paid someone to move them over on a CVS file to mailchimp. She’s not available any longer.
    Tonight, I added another email sign up with mailchimp to my links section. I really like having it on the top in a widget.
    Thank you!
    Karen Hoyt

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