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Short of having customers spend money on your product or service, gaining access to their inboxes is one of the most important things you can do. Building a solid email list of leads is the best way to grow your business online. Of course, the question becomes, "How do I get people to sign up?"

Judging by what most websites do, you might assume merely putting up a sign-up box for "news and updates" is all you have to do. Unfortunately, that is probably the worst option if you want people to actually sign up for your email list.

I have been testing email sign-up forms for several years on my site and my clients' sites and have narrowed down the top five ways to get more people to sign up for your email list.

Robots vs. Humans

If yours is a big company, make sure you put a human face to your email sign-up. And by that I mean literally publish a picture of the person who will be sending out the email. Doing so assures recipients that an actual human being is sending out the email.

(If you are an author, a freelancer, or some other one-person show, using your picture is probably not necessary.)

I run a small company, but the email sign-up looked like it was coming from my company (even though I write every word). I added my picture to the sign-up, and my subscriptions went up 30% or so.

Nobody wants another corporate newsletter. They want to hear real stuff from a real human being, so assure them that is what you will be sending.

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Tim Grahl helps authors sell a lot of books. He is the owner of Out:think. You can get more of his advice by signing up for his newsletter at www.outthinkgroup.com.