Ancestry brings together science and self-discovery to help everyone, everywhere, discover the genealogical story of how they came to be. Founded in 1983 as a publishing house of genealogy records and family history magazines, it has grown into the largest source for personal genealogical research with over 16 billion historical records and the technology to test and analyze an individual’s DNA.



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As the company that was built on the idea of self-discovery and the uniqueness of each individual, it makes sense that Ancestry wanted to make a shift from one-size-fits-all engagement campaigns to 1-to-1 messages that build relationship and trust.


Ancestry’s primary business model is based on subscription; historically, to engage prospects, they offered everyone a free trial followed by a discounted subscription.

The free access promotion worked well for prospects who were already familiar with Ancestry, like those who had purchased a DNA test or had previously registered.  For those who were less familiar with the product, such as non-member leads which came through Facebook ads, this strategy wasn’t as effective. These less-qualified prospects hadn’t used the service and didn’t fully understand the value of the product just yet.

To have a more successful campaign, Ancestry knew they had to become more targeted. Not only that, they needed to consider the different types of prospects, the sources they were coming from, and the content and offers that would match the mindset of each group.

Campaign Features

To engage prospects and showcase the value proposition of its products, Ancestry used a Surname widget that allowed people to determine the meaning of their last name, the number of historical records associated with the surname in Ancestry’s databases, and other related facts.

Email was selected as the new personalized program’s launchpad.  Leveraging Selligent’s query and reporting tools, Ancestry analyzed historical performance data and discovered that there was a high correlation between email activity and subscription conversion.

Next, Ancestry used Selligent’s powerful targeting and personalization tools to identify the right segments, personalize the subject line with the user’s last name, and pre-populate registration forms to reduce friction and increase completion.


The surname widget and personalized emails turned out to be much more effective than the broad-based free trial campaign for Ancestry’s less engaged prospects. The interactive tool with pre-filled forms attracted new users and made it easy for a wider population to begin learning about themselves – and ultimately subscribe to Ancestry.


Ancestry’s surname widget emails outperformed every control tool, increasing its conversion rate by 28%. Open rates were up over 10%, and click rates were 3.5 higher.

Case Passport

  • Industry: Genealogy services
  • Services: Family history, DNA testing
  • Country: US

Key Insights

  • 28% increase in subscriber conversion
  • 10% increase in open rates
  • 3.5x lift in click rates