Why your newsletter needs reviews and how to ask for them

Reviews? For a free newsletter? Yes, here's why and how.

How much do reviews really matter for newsletters?

A lot of newsletters have started including star ratings and testimonials even for free opt in pages.

It makes logical sense. As the newsletter bubble expands with hot air, readers want to know why they should subscribe to yours.

But I wanted to know if there was data about this trend. Are people just copying each other? Is there evidence being shared?

Here’s what I dug up.

Online course creators (who have a lot of overlap with newsletter operators) credit reviews in particular as a key revenue driver.

> Justin Welsh, famous for hounding people for reviews, wrote about the measurable gain they’ve had for his landing page conversion.

> Kieran Drew, dentist turned writer, also touts the ‘undeniable’ impact of reviews in his $500k/year course business.

Consumer researchers continue to publish studies showing that positive reviews make businesses more money.

> A recent study out of Northwestern said that “displaying reviews can increase conversion by 270%.”

> The Vanderbilt Business School studied a decade of car sales and compared them to their ratings and reviews, finding that “text reviews do help to drive product demand.”

I’ve experienced this revenue increase myself when selling digital products before and after reviews, and as a result, I’m a believer. I make it a point to ask for reviews a lot more often because I know I will make more money if I do.

I can’t find much published about the impact of reviews on a FREE newsletter signup but there’s lots of clear evidence that they increase purchases. That evidence makes reviews a lever worth trying if you want more reader-funded support this year.

📣 Want to grow your paid readership? Join us for our Scaling Paid Subs mind meld. Next session is Monday, June 3 at 1pm Pacific/4pm Eastern and it’s free. RSVP here.

How to ask for reader reviews

Step 1: Create a review form

Your review form should ask a question that gets your reader speaking to the value you bring into their life.

I’m a big fan of the testimonial tool Senja for capturing and displaying reviews. Full disclosure they are a sponsor of my other newsletter and this is an affiliate link but I really do love their platform and I use it daily to capture reviews for all my projects.

I recommend using one meaty question. Something like these:

  • What makes my newsletter different from others you subscribe to?

  • Why did you decide to become a paying subscriber?

  • What do you love most about (newsletter name)?

Senja also put together this super useful list of testimonial questions. You’ll also want to collect full name and photo if possible. Photos make reviews more believable. Make it optional but good to ask.

👀 Examples: My review form for my other newsletter. I also love Tarzan Kay’s form.

Step 2: Ask your paid subscribers or most avid fans

To start, I would just email your biggest fans or earliest subscribers and ask them to fill out the form.

If your publication is more established, you can integrate this ask into your systems like right after someone becomes a subscriber by asking them to share a review about why they upgraded.

Or you could plug the review form in the footer of your newsletter which will bring in a low volume but passive stream of reviews year round.

👀 Example: Newly minted author Austin Church does a thoughtful job asking for reviews. It’s probably not necessary to be that long or detailed about it but there’s likely some language in his note to get you started on yours!

Step 3: Collect public shout outs for your work

One of my favorite ways to use Senja is to import social media shout outs and highlight them alongside reviews.

Try this out on their free plan by searching for your handle on Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit or Instagram, copying down the URLs for each post, then importing those into Senja.

Imported testimonials in the backend of my Senja account

Anytime I see a mention, I bookmark it and import it for use later. That’s what makes the Wall of Love so easy to create.

👀 Example: The Why We Buy newsletter landing page features mostly tweets and LinkedIn posts as “reviews” and it makes it look like lots of people are talking about it!

Our takeaway

Reviews are not just a nice to have. They can measurably impact how many paying subscribers you gain.

Start by asking a few of your biggest fans and collect star ratings if you can. The Vanderbilt study pointed out the stars and text combo helps people make quicker judgements.

Next week, we’ll talk about where to put these reviews!

—Lex (@betonlex)

👀 Keeping eyes on…the best newsletter landing pages

Newsletter opt in pages are getting a lot more sophisticated in 2024.

We’re seeing quite a lot of selling on newsletter landing pages including conversion copy, previews of issues, benefits lists and of course, reviews.

Dan Oshinsky of Inbox Collective did a great round up of 19 newsletter pages so you can quickly scan through what you might include.

(By the way, your newsletter tool will often not make this easy but should you want to try this, you can build a separate webpage and embed their form into it. Cardd.co is a great option for that if you don’t have a website.)