Lesson 1: The 2% Rule

Written by Noah Kagan at www.OkDork.com

Looking for the previous lesson? Lesson 0

Today, I’m alone in New York. I wish you were here to keep me company.

It got me thinking a lot about this email and how to share a story about how to understand the value of working with what you have.

Since I’m lonely, I thought about all the ways I could make a friend right now:

1- OkCupid

2- Craigslist’s Missed Connections

3- Stand on the street with a sign

4- Ask people randomly if they’ll be my friend


Reach out to people I ALREADY know to be my friend.

Oh Noah, You are so silly. That’s obvious….

Is it?

You all have traffic to your sites but you spend way too much time worrying about new traffic vs optimizing what you already have.

Let’s focus on optimizing your current traffic for email conversions.

I call this the 2% rule. You should be getting at least 2% of your traffic to join your mailing list.

2%. Why does it matter?

Knowing this rule for email signups should give you a better understanding of how you’re performing (or not).

100 visitors a day = 2 new email sign ups a day

5,000 visitors a day = 100 new email sign ups a day

At AppSumo, when we started, we were doing promotions for 6 months without ever asking for an email address.

For instance, we just kept going out and building brand new relationships with our customers, over and over. Luckily, my good friend Hiten bitch-slapped me in the face and said to start collecting emails.

Let’s do the same for your website, now!

Lesson 1 Activity: Optimizing Your Site for Email Collection

You already have a site with some traffic (even if it’s small), let’s make sure you are optimizing for the emails of the people already wanting to hear more from you.

As long as you have traffic you can always apply the 2% Rule. No excuses.

I’m going to show you SumoMe — the same tools we’ve used at AppSumo to grow to 750,000 sumo-lings. It’s free and will help you get at least 2%, but you’re free to try other plugins that do the same thing.

If you already have SumoMe, we’ll show you a quick and easy way to optimize it.

Let’s set you up so you are getting at least 2% email conversion rate. That means for every 100 new visitors you should get at least 2 email subscribers.

  1. Install List Builder by SumoMe.com. It takes a minute. I’ll wait, I’m not going anywhere.
  2. (If you already have SumoMe installed skip to step 2 below.)

  3. Now Optimize It:

  4. a) Search for your own domain on BuzzSumo.com to find your most shared most posts. (No connection to AppSumo, except they’re awesome too)

    b) Take your #1 popular post and make that your Heading in the “Design” section of List Builder (i.e. “15 Awesome Tools You’ve Never Heard Of”)

    c) In “Behavior” under “Success Redirect URL” add your the URL for your most popular post. Add that same URL to “Exclude Pages” to keep the pop-up from showing on the success page. Here’s how it should look:

    The Result:

  5. Post your site as a comment here on Email1k.com.

Now you should be getting at least 2%+ of your traffic subscribing to your email list.



P.S. On Monday, Brian Dean will show how to create content that drives new traffic for your email optimized site.

P.P.S. If you’re not part of the 4,000+ Email1K VIP Facebook group click here to join.

415 thoughts on “Lesson 1: The 2% Rule

  1. Jarred

    Okay I have a question. We don’t currently have access to the headers to our website. Our 3rd party admin for that area won’t give it to us, and they have been pretty inefficient in us getting anything done that we want to. Is there another way to go about this without SumoMe?

    Eventually we are planning to redesign our site when we get the funds, but that’s some months away.

  2. ville viinikka

    Thanks for the epic tips. Question : do you usually find general pitch of your content( mine is :”receive FREE diabetes tips n tricks” ) loose against using a well performing article (“why doas diabetes cause excessive thirst”) in pop ups?


  3. Josh

    BuzzSumo shows that I don’t have enough Facebook shares and data points for any post to be “popular.”

    How else can I determine whether the headline of a particular post is good enough to be on the opt-in box?

    1. Tom Southern

      Hi Josh,

      Check which post has the most comments. Or you can check your Google analytics and see which post/page is getting most visitors. Also, check bounce rates – these will also show you popularity levels by how much time visitors spend reading post/page.

  4. Rui

    Hello Noah,

    Love your content but never had the oportunity to eat real “tacos”. Here in Portugal we don’t see them too much!

    What can we do if there are no results for our site on BuzzSumo?

  5. Glen Craig

    You should totally ask random strangers in NY to be friend! Guaranteed to work, especially in the subway. (sarcasm)

    Just set up my email. Looking forward to see if this works better than the popup I had in place prior. Here’s my site (feel free to sign up):


  6. JoshFrets

    My most-shared post was something I already had a 10 day email course for in Mailchimp, so I didn’t do the redirect. But it was way easy to direct those signups into that sequence.

    This app is much better looking and easier to use than the pop-up I spent $40 a few months ago, and it works the way it’s supposed to.


  7. Michael Max

    What a brilliant idea!

    I *hate* the business as usual ” sign up for our groovy email list” pitch. Boring as hell, completely unremarkable. But I was doing it anyway. Thanks to the digital sumo I’ve adopted this new approach.

    Now my email collection-bot not only has lost its lameness, but it also directs people right to some .

    Time to go out an have a taco now.

  8. Michael Max

    Opps I totally screwed up that “a href=” link.

    It should have said ‘content that I think is damn juicy and they shoulda oughta be reading.
    Hope ya’ll get the idea.

    Wait, maybe it is a stroke of brilliance to have a link that says “time to go out for a taco now.” It’s worked for some folks

  9. Ysmay

    I’m already using LeadBoxes from LeadPages, which is working quite well. Since it’s not broken, I don’t want to fix it. That being said, I would be interested in getting the SumoMe box to trigger on specific pages where LeadBoxes doesn’t. Is there a way to do that?

    1. Molly R

      I had this problem when I had so little traffic it was hard to tell. Instead of looking at your daily stats – I found it more useful to look at my google analytics to see how many visitors I had over 30 days and then see how many new subscribers I got during that time. Turned out it was about a little below 3%, but it looked bad when it was so little “per day”.

      My recommendation is to use Twitter to drive more traffic to your blog and maybe even see if you can SEO optimize some of them to rank for a long-tail SEO search. For example, if you google search “optimizepress google analytics” – I’m second right after the YouTube video. Drives me about 2-3 visitors a day on its own with no work.

      Best of luck!

  10. Gary Neal Hansen

    I have been getting slightly more than 2% thanks to your cool tools — but when I post the urls to my most shared post as described in the instructions it seems to disable all SumoMe popups! Can you help me out?

    (I was testing on an incognito Chrome window, by the way.)

    1. Gary Neal Hansen

      Okay, after fussing around a bit the optimization seems to be working on Listbuilder.
      I tried to do the same optimization on Scrollbox, but when I tested it on an incognito Chrome window, it stalled out. I entered an email but clicking the button just stopped the process cold. I’ve gone back to my previous Scrollbox settings but would love to be able to optimize it!

  11. Jason Anthony

    Currently hitting between 1 and 1.5% looking forward to getting this to 2% and beyond http://acquiringman.com. Just an fyi – if your site is like mine, my most popular post (http://acquiringman.com/10-qualities-of-a-real-woman/) is also the page that receives the most traffic – so setting the pop up to that page would hinder conversions (as they’d already be on that page). So I chose another, more recent post, a decent amount of shares. *Would be great if we could run/test multiple pop ups on different pages with List Builder.

  12. Matthew Wayne Selznick

    I’ve installed List Builder at http://www.mattselznick.com. It’s replaced my former Simple Modal form; which didn’t work on smaller mobile devices.

    My CTA is for my 22,000 word sampler of my fiction and non-fiction, rather than for my most popular post.

    By the way, I’ll be first in line to pay to remove that horrible SumoMe branding link at the bottom of the page. I was disappointed that my $10.00 didn’t clear all of that stuff away.

    PS: I checked out everyone’s sites from the comments before my own! For those of you who have the popover set to trigger immediately, I suggest backing it off a little — it’s disconcerting to be faced with a CTA before one even knows what the site is about! 🙂

  13. Shenz

    My website: Mommylift.com

    It’s about motherhood, fitness, and everything in between.

    Interestingly enough, my most shared post is my post about my first trimester pregnancy as a crossfit mom. I just wrote a blog post on second trimester and share it on twitter + facebook page, we’ll see how many shares that one will get.

    1. Shenz

      P.S. SumoMe is awesome!! The heat map and the content analytics are my faves. I click on those almost everyday (yeah, it’s an addiction). My most clicked area is the “search” function, which leaves me wondering what are my audience looking for in my website? =/

  14. Kalle

    This is the blog connected to our service that shows you recipes you can make with the ingredients you already have at home.
    At the blog we share cooking tips and other food related content.

    The most popular post is not really something I would highlight in the pop up, so I picked a post that I think most people will find really useful: 12 ingredients that last longer than you think
    And I wrote the follwoing text: “Don’t miss out on smart tips like this. Subscribe now!” Any better ideas on how to write this to optimize conversion?

  15. Diedre Braverman

    Customized the SumoMe listbuilder tool exactly as you suggested, Noah, in your lonely-boy email from NY. I only tonight discovered the “CLOSE” button on the SumoMe tools. LOL. I’ve had them hanging there open on my website since I installed them. I thought it was a little weird but… I thought, hey, it’s worth it…. SO MUCH better to close it. LOL!

  16. John

    I haven’t posted anything yet, but I’m going to start soon. I have shared some good content but that content wasn’t written by me, nor did I curate it so that I could get any email subscribers. Even though I haven’t get any subscribers yet, I have gotten some twitter followers. Except most of those followers are marketers, authors and a few followers that spam me about buying twitter followers, which I am not interested on buying any. I’m still going to try to make at least some of those followers into customers or at least take advantage of their expertise and maybe we can work together on something or they can give me some expert advice for free. After all, a lot of them like the content that I’ve shared with them. I could also use those followers to retweet the content, or sales events that I’m going to create, so it’s all good.

  17. Miranda Palmer

    Super surprised at what the most shared blog post was! I actually chose the second most shared post- they were almost equal… the first one was “Therapists: How NOT to start blogging.” I can’t imagine someone opting in for that one lol!

  18. jos

    Well, another little step towards…greatnest 😉
    Ok , picked the post the app suggested and will assess results as I have another that I feel may work better.
    Fully agree it is wiser to work with what we already have and being able to convert before moving forward.my site yuvalia.com

  19. Andrew Galasetti

    Lyved – Life and living it! http://www.lyved.com/

    Thanks, Noah and the team. Interesting and clever idea!

    I just switched over to SumoMe’s List Builder after using a paid newsletter popup plugin for a few months. I was disappointed with it but I’m already feeling positive about SumoMe. It seems much more advanced than the paid plugin!

    BuzzSumo lists a different article as my site’s most popular than what I know gets the most traffic. That’s because BuzzSumo doesn’t count Stumbleupon, a huge traffic driver for my content. But I still went with the top post according to BuzzSumo. I can always try another post later.

    One thing I did do differently is the redirect. I require double opt-in and have had MANY people not checking their inbox to confirm their subscriptions. Success messages and step-by-step instructions in the subscribe copy wasn’t working. So, a simple fix was to redirect subscribers to an in-between page that instructs them to check their inbox and press the confirm button in the confirmation email. Then I have a link on that in-between instruction page that brings subscribers to the popular article once they completed the step. So far, it seems to be working great!

    Also, I’m still going to tweak my copy over time. You have to keep experimenting.

    Thanks again!


  20. Kamila Gornia

    Okay, this is awesome.

    1. http://www.sensualappealblog.com – I used a recently written blog by a contributor as I’ve seen it’s been getting plenty of shares on its own so I figured I’d use that one since every other most shared post was a recipe… not enticing enough for an opt-in, I think.

    2. http://www.kamilagornia.com – used my #3 popular cause the other 2 are not ones I necessarily want to highlight right now. Surprisingly it’s the first post I ever did and the post I’m reworking as a webinar in a week. The post I used is one that’s gotten a lot more verbal positive feedback as well as shares.

  21. Josh L

    First release of the site. Still a lot of work to do. The SumoMe tools are awesome – now I just need some more focused traffic. “As long as you have traffic you can always apply the 2% Rule. No excuses.” I have to get over that premise of having traffic. Thanks for the content, Noah!

  22. Josh Weiss

    I have been following and using AppSumo for a while now and I am looking forward to this course to rely boost the effectiveness of what we are doing. so far it looks promising.

  23. Michael G

    Can anyone recommend some other tool other than BuzzSumo to find out the top sharers of a piece of content.

    The problem we have is that Buzzsumo only shows sharers on Twitter and we are not that active on this platform and don’t have much following or engagement

  24. Matt Cartagena

    Hey all – a little late here but my site is howtowriteabusinessplan.com

    Currently debating whether to change domain name or not since the name currently suggests something not fully aligned with the brand. Any thoughts? Content and focus of blog is on startup accelerator programs.

  25. Bob Metcalfe

    Ok Noah and company, you seriously have wowed me again. It’s amazing how simple these effective strategies are. I thought I was using the Appsumo suite properly before, but as I can see it’s clearly not the case.

    You guys have defined “value add”. Thanks and I can’t wait to keep rocking through the lessons.


  26. Matteo

    Great content, really.

    But there is a problem for me. I have a news blog and all posts are fresh, so I can’t take my most visited post because it surely has outdated contents for my audience.

    1. Jason

      Hey Shaun,

      I’m not removing mine. There’s no harm in having multiple channels. I’m like you – I hope it works and won’t alienate people. I wish there was a way to know who has already been there often or who is already part of the list. We’ll see how many emails I get from people who regularly show up, though more than 3/4 of my traffic these days is new.


  27. Denis

    So, a bit rough, but made it -> understated.co (Italian language)

    I have to say that the idea of using buzzsumo was simple and genious!

  28. Mark

    I’m a little hesitant to put the “in-your-face” List Builder popup on my site so I put on Scroll Box instead. If it doesn’t convert well then I may go ahead with List Builder.

  29. Nir

    Hey there! thanks for this lesson,
    How can I make SumoMe work with RTL language?

    this is the website: My Blog

    I have configured the Scroll Box to RTL language if you want to check this..



  30. PJ

    ….why does it always seem like I have a “special case” when trying to do something by the rules??? 🙂

    This seems a little counter-intuitive to me. My most popular post is HUGELY popular compared to the other pages on the site. Most never encounter the other pages. If I put this on my home page, it may never get seen. There’s nothing on the most popular page right now to capture email–and the instructions are to exclude it!
    I’ll try it this way first for a few days. Nothing to lose except a few thousand eyeballs on my page.
    gulp again.


    1. email1k Post author

      PJ: Try making a PDF of your most popular post as a cheatsheet, key takeaways or some other benefit. Then you can offer than on all the pages — including your most popular.

  31. Peter

    I was using popup to collect emails, as a magnet I used my ebook- Just wonder if the most popular article in popup will do the job.

    For how long are the default cookies set up? After how long will visitor see the popup again?


  32. Enio Tavares

    The email signup form works like a charm. My only problem is that I’m just starting out with few posts, none of them popular, and NO FOLLOWERS at all. Although, I will be focusing and working on the content that is a whole new beast.

    1. email1k Post author

      It’s pretty long–find a way to make it shorter and more convincing. In Lesson 5 you’ll get more tips on how to write the copy for your pop-up.

  33. Laura


    This idea is brilliant and so simple! I love it.

    We’re actually using at http://superblogger.es/ another plugin called WP Subscribe that doesn’t allow us to redirect user to a URL nor exclude URL, but I’m trying this strategy anyway. The plugin is quite now, I’ll try to contact the development team to suggest this functionality.


  34. Ben Rosenfeld

    I choose the post based on “Baw Post Views” most viewed because the buzz sumo sharing analytics had only 12 shares total on my site so it didn’t seem as reliable.

    The most popular post is a book quote article, although my website is about comedy. (I just happen to read a lot of books and share the quotes I find most interesting…) Should I have made the signup something to do with the main topic of the site that’s popular?

    Top 10 Most Viewed:
    “48 Laws of Power” Quotes (180424)
    “Good to Great” Quotes (50981)
    Posting all my material (37661)
    Home Page (35060)
    “The 50th Law” Quotes (1 of 2) (29757)
    “The Fighter’s Mind” Quotes (24283)
    “Process: An Improviser’s Journey” Quotes (20049)
    Performance Critique #1: Jan 9 (19610)
    Contact (19561)
    “The Creative Habit” Quotes (19556)

  35. Hazel Longuet


    I love the lessons – really helping me. I’ve been tardy in building my mailing list despite working like a demon to build my social media following. Slap on hand to me! I’m totally excited to see the results after applying the lessons.

    Oh and congratulations on sumome it’s fabulous.

  36. Chris

    Like it. Added your stuff to my site today:

    Website, Design, Branding help for people interested in starting something on the side or full time, with a preference to hack, win, shortcut and get those fast quick releases of accomplishment dopamine endorphin thingies!

  37. Rodica

    This is brilliant. I love SumoMe. I also have installed the image share and heat map from the plugin. Gives you so much insight into how far down the page users get. The analytics for the list builder is really nice as well. Have to say has the best functions compared to any other app I used before.

  38. Anna


    I’ve installed WordPress plugin SumoMe only for the blog. Though my site isn’t in English, everything seems to work OK.

  39. Amanda

    My website is Sofiaencinas.com. Sofia is a designer who specialized in upcycled clothing design, producing less waste/wear and tear on the planet. I only have a few people on my email list, but I’m not exactly sure what I should be emailing them…

  40. Tiffany Dawn

    Going through the Email1K course now & learning/optimizing so much! I had written myself a note to figure out which post would be best to use as the Success Redirect URL, then the first lesson solved that issue for me. Thanks so much for the great info.

    My blog is to encourage Christians to dream big, learn how to follow through on their goals and use them to glorify Christ.

  41. Heather

    The most popular page is the Paris Events Calendar (the most popular blog post is about the Charlie Hebdo killings in January…Can’t really have a pop-up about that).

  42. sam

    I realized that my site is still a pure (pure, pure…) echo (echo, echo…) chamber (chamber, chamber…)! The only valid shares I could find via BuzzSumo or anywhere else, were mine. I doubt that 2% more of me will help. So I’m going to contact a couple of my subscribers and ask them what they tend to share from other websites.

  43. Rich

    I am trying this as it is. I bet that my initial sign up text and the call to action on the success page can be tweaked for a higher response. Elijah Morley

    Thanks Noah and the team…

  44. Elrond Burrell

    I’ve added sumome listbuilder to http://elrondburrell.com/ customised to integrate with my mailchimp list. I used my second most popular post title though as I would rather this title is what people see. I might change this to the most popular post later to see if it make a difference.

  45. JB

    I added the SumoMe app set to our page and it has been awesome! I watched the webinar last week and created a new home page that has only two options, give us your email or read the blog…just like okdork.
    That alone helped us go from 8-10 emails per day to 17-20…26 the highest since then.
    Thanks Noah!

  46. Leo Eisner

    Lesson 1 complete. Note, you need to update the lesson as AppSumo plugins for WP have updated and so the exclude page took me an extra minute to figure out where it is. It’s on the Display Rules tab instead of behavior tab.
    My most popular current post is Wearables the rage but are they medical devices? So, I changed slightly to Wearables the rage – Are they medical devices? and since a multi part series I pointed to the most current part of the series and also excluded all the parts of the series.
    Cheers and thx for this great idea.

  47. Darnell

    Ya, day 1 and day 2 down! Loving this process guys I’ll be sending you some of my subscribers soon! 🙂

    Check me out at darnellbarkman.com


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