One of the most significant struggles for society publishers continues to be retaining current subscribers and attracting new ones. Over the course of the past decade, scholarly journal publishers have become accustomed to stagnant subscription growth or even year-over-year declines. While there are a variety of marketing and sales strategies a publisher can implement to mitigate this trend, we want to focus on one specific strategy in this blog: enhancing journal website conversions.
For journal publishers, the website is one of the first lines of communication between the journal and a potential subscriber. As we noted in a previous blog about journal UX design, a well-designed website can improve overall readership and repeat users. In order to turn website traffic, visits and page views into paid subscriptions, publishers need a robust and calculated conversion strategy.
It’s no secret that professionals within the journal publishing community where many hats. It can often be difficult for societies, associations and non-profit publishers to focus their energies on planning and executing marketing strategies and growing the journal’s subscription base when producing and distributing the publication is the first priority. Additionally, digital marketing and web optimization is a fast-moving, ever-changing field and many journal publishers may not have the proper expertise or experience to implement digital tactics effectively. At Allen Press, our publishing and marketing teams work with journal publishers to plan, strategize and implement multi-channel marketing tactics designed to grow subscriptions.
Detailed below are tactics that have worked well for the publishing clients we represent. These steps can be implemented by many journal publishers to ensure that the website is optimized to convert web visitors to paid subscribers.
One of the most important (and obvious) places you can improve conversions is through a simple audit of the website’s menu navigation and home page.
Think about what your journal website looks like. Does it have a clear subscribe button or menu tab? Or do users have to scroll, click and search desperately to find subscription information?
New visitors to your journal website should be able to easily find more information on how they can subscribe to the journal. If users must click through several pages, the chances that they will subscribe or take any sort of action decreases dramatically.
While auditing your journal website, you also want to make sure you have strong calls-to-action throughout the site. This includes on the home page, list of issues, table of content and article pages. Wherever the user goes on the site, subscription information should be easy to find and access.
Digital House Ads
Speaking of optimizing navigation, digital house ads are a valuable visual mechanism to help convert website visitors to paid subscribers. Most journal websites allow you to place advertisements throughout the site either in the form of a top banner, sidebar tile/tower or bottom banner. The artwork and creative assets of your digital house ad should be eye-catching with a strong call-to-action. Since many websites allow you to rotate advertisements within each ad location, try creating multiple versions of the advertisement to test which one works best. This sort of A/B testing will allow you to collect valuable data on what your audience reacts to and what doesn’t work.
We’ve all seen the sites that place too much information on just a few pages, forcing the user to scroll down quite a way to find what they’re looking for. Designing your journal webpage this way not only makes it harder for the user to find the information they need but makes the page less likely to be discovered organically through search engines.
So what is a landing page?
A landing page is a web page or section of a website that is accessed by clicking a link from another website, advertisement, email or social media post. Each landing page typically focuses on a specific topic and can be used with web forms as a resource to generate leads.
Social media is an excellent and easy-to-use medium for utilizing landing pages. Regularly posting about subscriptions with compelling graphics, copy, a clear call-to-action and a dedicated landing page will lead to more click-throughs and conversions than simply linking to your journal’s home page or about section. The landing page should contain all pertinent subscription information, similar graphics as the social media post and a web form where users can purchase a subscription or request additional information. By including an opt-in checkbox, this user information can be used to further market and promote the journal.
Hosting journal content online allows publishers to offer content samples, free trials and metered access. Free trials provide users online journal content for a short period of time, typically 30, 60 or 90 days, in exchange for some basic personal information and an email address. This lead generation tactic allows individuals to learn more about the aim and scope of a journal, type of content published and make an informed buying decision after the trial’s end date.
For publishers, it allows you to better understand the audience and grow your database of leads. Assuming the user opts-in to further marketing communications, a free trial will allow you to follow up with individuals during the free trial period as well as after it has lapsed.
For free trial campaigns, our marketing team typically schedules an email 2-3 days before a free trial expires letting the individual know that their access will end soon and directing them to subscribe online. In the email body, it’s important to always make sure that the call-to-action (subscribe button) is easily detectable and stands out from the email body text. When users click the button, it should take them to the journal’s subscription landing page where they can learn more about pricing and begin the payment process.
While email marketing technology has certainly automated the email communication process and made it easier for publishers to market their journals at scale, email blasts can often be impersonal and easy to disregard. Sometimes an old-fashioned personal email is the most effective way to grab attention and initiate a conversation. This message should focus on the value of the journal, top or noteworthy articles and drive leads to take action or request more information.
Emailing every lead in your database probably won’t be effective or a good use of time. However, by identifying a simple lead scoring methodology, publishers can prioritize who they contact and optimize their efforts. A lead score may differ by publisher as each journal has a unique audience, goals and lead generation strategy. In general, prioritizing leads that have subscribed to the journal in the past, used a free trial heavily, recently downloaded a pay-per-view article or routinely open marketing emails or eTOC alerts will enhance conversion efforts and generate more positive results.
An Online Publishing Platform That Fits Your Needs
Growing subscriptions is a facet of journal publishing that many publishers struggle with. It takes a strong sales and marketing plan, proactive communication with your target audience and constantly optimizing your strategy and tactics. Subscription marketing is not a “set it and forget it” approach.
In today’s digital age, journal publishers’ online publishing platform should provide the functionality, features and technical advancements necessary to support the marketing tactics needed to maintain and grow subscriptions.
Allen Press recently partnered with Silverchair to bring society journal publishers the leading online publishing platform. With the ability to deliver a responsive web interface and user-specific content recommendations the platform facilitates a robust subscription lead generation strategy and the tactics required to convert visitors to paid subscribers.
Want to learn more about our partnership with Silverchair and our newest online publishing platform? Click here!