For the past year at BiggerPockets, we have been testing ways to drive up our free membership sign up conversion rate. BiggerPockets is an online resource for real estate investors, with education and tools designed to help people seeking financial freedom through real estate investing.
I run the conversion-rate optimization program at BiggerPockets, which has been focusing on driving free membership signups for the past 9 months. In that time, we’ve been able to increase our free signup conversion rate by 81%.
If you take all of the successful tests we’ve run and group them into themes, seven core categories emerged. Below, I’m sharing these seven types of acquisition tests we’ve run at BiggerPockets, with real experiment examples and data, so you can start leveraging these with your own experimentation team.
1. Social Proof
The power of community cannot be overstated for every website. Most simply put: When people see that other people like them are doing something, they begin to perceive that action as more valuable (it must be if everyone else is doing it!). You can put this concept into action on your website by finding ways to communicate to your users what their peers are doing on your website.
At BiggerPockets, we’ve had success with this concept in a number of places. Most notably, we used it on our homepage to to drive an increase in our sign up conversion rate:
Hypothesis: If users see that other members of the Biggerpockets community are signing up, they will see more value in signing up. This will result in more users filling out the signup form.
What we tested: Added text to our sign up form that said “X,XXX” people have joined BiggerPockets this week
Results: +6% increase in sign up conversion
As a final note I will add: We have found that this concept works well on our free sign-up flows but is less likely to work on conversion for higher dollar items (E.g. our $390 BiggerPockets Pro membership). It’s important to consider your different audience cohorts in experimentation and how motivations may be different.
2. Call to Action: Lower User’s Commitment
When a user lands on your website, asking them to make a $400 purchase within 5 minutes is like proposing to somebody on the first date. Asking them to take one tiny step towards using your website is much more palatable. I recommend analyzing all of your registration calls-to-action (CTAs) to ensure you are not overstating the commitment a user is making by clicking on that button.
For example: On the BiggerPockets bookstore, we have a page which lists every book we sell (essentially a product-listing page for those familiar with retail). For a long while, our CTAs on this page said “Buy Now.” However, by clicking on the button the user was not actually making a purchase. Instead, they were linked to a page which gave the user more details about the book they were considering purchasing. We tested changing this CTA from “Buy Now” to simply “Book Details” to reflect the true commitment the user was making by clicking the link.
Hypothesis: If we change the bookstore CTA from “Buy Now” to “Book Details”, users feel like they are making less of a commitment when they click the CTA and be more likely to explore what the book is about.
What we tested: Changed bookstore CTAs from “Buy Now” to “Book Details”
Results: +11% visits to book detail pages and +4% bookstore purchases
Key Learning: Matching your CTA to the lowest-level commitment the user needs to make is key in getting them to the next step in the funnel. For this experiment, changing the CTA to “Book Details” was an easier pitch that asking them to commit to purchasing the book before reading the book details.
3. Add Calls to Action
Sometimes getting more sign ups is simply a matter of letting people know that there is something to sign up for. This works well for websites that have a lot of content which is freely available before a user signs up.
BiggerPocket’s forums are a place where landlords can post questions and are very content heavy, so we experimented with adding a sticky bar to the page that asks users to sign up. This led to a 10% increase in sign ups with this relatively small addition.
Hypothesis: If we make signing up easier by adding a prompt on our forums to “join the community”; then users will find it easy to sign up and become more likely to do so.
What we tested: On Forums, we added a simple sign up bar that said “Join the Community”
Results: +10% signup conversion rate with 99% significance and no increase in bounce rate
4. Condense Mobile Pages
Optimizing your site for mobile users is often as simple as adjusting spacing or page styling to ensure that your most important call to action is directly above the fold. We noticed that our mobile signup conversion rate was about 20% lower than our desktop rate, despite the experiences being very similar from a content perspective.
We hypothesized that users were having a hard time completing the form because the submit button was so far below the fold. We tested getting rid of any content and spacing that wasn’t necessary on the page, and drove a 16% increase in conversion rate.
Hypothesis: If we reduce spacing and content to get the submit button above the fold, users will see how short the form is and become more likely to sign up.
What we tested: A series of spacing tweaks which moved our mobile form submit button above the fold
Results: +16% mobile conversion with >99% significance
5. Ask Users about Themselves
One of the keys to getting users to sign up for a free membership is to convince them that it’s valuable. If your website doesn’t do that, it’s not going to get very many sign ups.
The simplest way to communicate to a customer why something is valuable is to say something along the lines of “You will get rich on our free website.” However, pretty much every website since 1999 has said something along those lines, with a small percentage actually delivering on that claim.
At BiggerPockets, we attempted to communicate our value by initiating our users’ journey with questions about their real estate journey. Our hypothesis was that users would intuit that we are asking them questions because we plan to use that information to personalize their user experience. In other words, we are showing them that we will deliver value by asking them questions about their real estate investing motives.
Through a series of tests, we moved from asking users for their email, name and password on the homepage to asking them about what type of real estate investor they are. Then, we ask them a series of questions about where they are located, what they are trying to get better at and when they’re looking to purchase their next real estate deal. We learn all this about our users before we ever ask them to create a password or give us their name.
Hypothesis: If users see that we are asking questions about them; they will intuit that they are getting a more personalized experience, and will be more likely to signup
What we tested: Adding an onboarding question to the signup form
Results: +8.2% increase in signup conversion rate
Note: We kept email at the front end but are hoping to test moving it to the back of our onboarding process as well.
6. Make it Easy
The average session duration for somebody who visits our homepage is about 10 seconds. According to one study, you can assume a user will read only 18% of the words you add to a page. This means that if we want to get somebody to signup, we need to make signing up as frictionless as humanly possible.
A good framework for making your sign-up process easier is to ask the question: “How many steps does the user need to take to complete our sign-up process?” Once you have that, audit it to find ways you can eliminate any step that is not absolutely necessary.
The single largest signup test we’ve ever run on our website fell into this category. A simple “sign up with Google” integration allowed us to take our sign-up process from six steps all the way down to three steps. Key to this was the fact that we no longer needed to send users an email verification (if they have a valid gmail account, then there is no reason we need to verify that it’s real). At the time of test launch, this is what our steps to sign-up looked like for each variation:
Hypothesis: If we allow users to signup in one click using a google integration, they will become more likely to join our site.
What we tested: Google log-in integration
- Control: 1. Fill in form fields > 2. Click submit > 3. open email > 4. find email we sent > 5. click through validation email > 6. Complete sign up
- Challenger: 1. Click Google Sign in > 2. confirm google sign in > 3. complete sign up
Results: +24 conversion rate increase
7. Tell Users the Value Directly
Sometimes you need to stop overthinking it and just tell users what they get when they sign up.
Our best example of this is a test we ran on our webinar registration page. We added a text snippet below the registration button that said “Can’t make this time? Register any way and we’ll send you the recording!” In other words, there was a part of the webinar value (the recording) which we weren’t previously communicating to users. So, we added text to the page which tells them about that value. It’s not glamorous. It’s not brilliant. But it worked.
Hypothesis: If users know they are able to get the webinar recording, they will see more value in registering for the webinar, and be more likely to register.
What we tested: Added a callout letting users know they will be able to get the webinar recording in their email if they are unable to attend.
Results: +17% webinar registration rate and +16% webinar attendance rate
Other ways websites employ this concept is to give away eBooks, PDFs, or discounts just for signing up. Then they make it very clear and easy to see the value the user gets in signin up.
If you are interested in learning more about BiggerPockets you can find us on our website or check out our podcast (“BiggerPockets Real Estate” wherever you find your podcasts).
And if you’re ready to get started with experimentation? Reach out to us today.