You need to build your email list if you want to grow your blog. Don’t be the person that keeps making excuses for why they aren’t focusing on building their list. The truth is that email is far more effective at reaching your raving fans than any other tool.
In this detailed guide, you will find a step-by-step blueprint for rapid subscriber growth. You will learn what setup work to do, which tactics to use, and what you need to test to build your email list.
- Make it insanely easy for people to sign up to your email list
Whichever tactics you use to build your list, you need to make things extremely simple. If you turn the process of signing up to your list into a long-winded process, people won’t subscribe.
- Make your “opt-in bribe” highly relevant
However, you decide to entice people to subscribe to your email list, you need to keep your offer hyper-relevant to your target audience.
Consider their motivations, their desires, and what they want to learn from you for example.
Preparation work to make setup simple
Before we dive into getting setup, there is some prep work that needs to be done even before you start diving into your mailing list provider.
This will make things far easier for you later on.
1 – Identify what you want to achieve
It’s not enough to just build your list, you need to know what you want to accomplish at the end of it. Your end goal should guide the decisions you make and how to prioritize the tactics you implement. For example, if you just want to use your list to build a community and get more people to check out your new posts – that’s great.
Or you may want to set up a sales funnel to help you sell products on autopilot while you send out the odd broadcasts to share awesome content with your subscribers. Being clear about what you want to achieve will help you achieve it.
2 – Put together an opt-in bribe for your subscribers
When you give your readers an incentive, they will be more likely to sign up to your list. Perceived value is the key here – the higher the perceived value is the more likely people will be to subscribe. So the question is what do you create for an opt-in bribe?
Well, you don’t have to worry about creating a long-winded eBook (unless you want to). Creating a one page PDF checklist or list of tools can often be even more effective because people love things that make their life easier.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Resource list
- Video course
If you offer a product/service, you could also try offering a discount or a free trial. This could be a great option to use. Also, consider how you will deliver the opt-in a bribe to your subscribers, I recommend hosting it on Google Docs because it is reliable and doesn’t impact the load times of my server.
Consider creating an unannounced bonus to grow your email list
Creating a single opt-in bribe is great, but if you give your subscribers something they weren’t expecting, you will really make them feel valued. You don’t have to do this, but it can have an incredible impact on subscriber loyalty.
3 – Prepare content for your emails
There will be some content that you will need to get ready for when you set up your email provider later on. This usually includes:
- Welcome email – makes this as engaging as possible and let your subscribers know what to expect. If you’ve got an opt-in bribe for them, you can include it here.
- Autoresponder sequence – consider your goals here; this can be a great opportunity to grow your passive income, but avoid the hard sell approach. Nobody likes to sign up for an email list only to be battered with promotional emails.
Email provider setup – getting it right
You need to get your email provider setup right to ensure you’re list building efforts get off to a great start. Let’s take a look at what you need to do.
4 – Choose an email provider
If you’re relying on something like Feedburner to deliver your emails you need to drop it and switch over to a serious email provider.
AWeber, MailChimp and GetResponse is also a solid option that is both very popular.
Mailerlite offers a fully featured free plan for up to 1,000 subscribers and Drip offers a free plan for up to 100 subscribers. Mailerlite is great for simplicity and Drip is best if you need advanced automation.
5 – Create your list
Now you’ve chosen an email provider, you need to set up your email list. It’s straight forward in all platforms and each email provider has documentation to help you.
For example, in MailChimp you would head to ‘Lists’ and click the ‘Create List’ button in the top right corner. Active Campaign has a ‘Create a List’ button the account overview – I quite like the step-by-step setup process they have, which makes setup straight forward.
6 – Setup your email address and sender name
Each email provider will require this to be set up, but I wanted to mention it here because how you setup these settings is important.
Sender email address – I’ve seen a a lot of people and brands send emails using a ‘no-reply’ email address, this can make engaging with your subscribers very difficult. Use an email address where replies are monitored, it will give you a great opportunity to engage your loyal subscribers and get feedback.
Use a recognizable sender name – If your subscribers don’t recognize who is sending the email, they might not open it. Use something that is easy to recognize, this may be your name or your brand name – whatever people are more likely to recognize. For example, I use “Adam @ Blogging Wizard.”
7 – Add your welcome email and autoresponder content
It’s time to get your welcome email loaded in with your autoresponder content. With most email marketing tools, a welcome email will be part of your autoresponder, but if you are using MailChimp, you could customize the ‘Final welcome email’ which is what subscribers are sent straight after they sign up. You can add this by going to Lists > Sign up forms > General forms > Click the drop-down and select ‘Final welcome email’.
I wanted to mention MailChimp specifically because the welcome email setup is different from most providers. Now it’s time to add your autoresponder content but be careful about the time frame in which you schedule these to go out – nobody likes to be bombarded too often.
Optimize your blog to grow your list
Your blog is one of the most powerful assets you will have to build your email list. I’ll show you how to optimize it below:
8 – Create a custom thank you page
Creating a custom thank you page is an important step to take because it is a perfect opportunity to ensure that your subscribers get instructions on what to do next.
There are several keys components here:
- Let’s people know they have to confirm their email to get access.
- Step by step process – makes this really simple.
- Includes images so people know what to expect.
- Mentions what to do if people can’t find the confirmation email.
- Minimal distractions.
- My free resources can’t be accessed from this page – otherwise, there would be no incentive for subscribers to confirm their email address.
Once your custom thanks you page you will need to add the URL to your email provider so that subscribers are directed to the page rather than being sent an email. Ultimately, this works better than just sending a thank you email because there’s no chance of it hitting anyone’s spam folder.
9 – Create a custom confirmation page
Your confirmation page is where your subscribers will be sent after they have clicked the link in your confirmation email. There are a few reasons why it’s good to set up your confirmation page:
- It lets subscribers know the process is complete.
- You can allow subscribers to download your opt-in bribe; this makes sure they will get what you promised.
- The page can be used to set up goal tracking in Google Analytics (more on that in a moment).
You will be able to set your custom confirmation page URL in your email provider.
10 – Create a dedicated page to promote your newsletter
There are plenty of occasions where having a dedicated landing page for your newsletter will be useful. This should be a simple page with minimal distractions that focuses on the core benefits of what people will get out of signing up to your email list.
So for example, if you’re going to be educating your subscribers, think about what your training will help your subscribers achieve. Numbers work great here.
This page uses a 2 step opt-in process which has been proven to increase conversions. A button is displayed instead of a regular opt-in form, when you click on the button a popover is displayed instead. The idea behind this is that people see a button before a form and are therefore more likely to complete an action they have already started.
11 – Remove unnecessary distractions from your blog
You need to look at your blog critically and ask yourself – what really needs to be there? Think about your goals and then consider how each element you have on your blog contributes to that goal.
For example, you might want to consider removing the following:
- Twitter and Facebook widgets – these are an easy way to send people away from your site and email is far more effective at reaching people than social. I display basic follow buttons in my footer so I can keep the focus on email subscribers.
- Adverts – if you rely on these keep them but if you’re only getting a few cents/click consider removing them.
- Blog directory links – these are usually a requirement for getting into blog directories, but if they aren’t sending you much traffic you should consider removing them.
- Badges – you should only use badges if they convey social proof. They should help you appear more credible. So if you’re displaying a badge that anyone can use, it’s time to remove it.
Keep your blog as focused as possible and with a few different calls to action as possible.
The more options you give someone (e.g. click an ad, click a social link, click another ad, click a button), the more chance they will take no action at all.
12– Add a subscribe tick box to your blog comments
This list-building the tactic is much underutilized but since blog commenters are involved, it can yield high conversions. There are plugins on the market that allow you to place a tick box below your comments, giving the option for commenters to subscribe to your list.
There are a few options you can use here if you’re a WordPress user:
- AWeber Web Form Plugin– this is a free plugin but it’s limited to supporting AWeber customers.
- MC4WP – again, this is a free plugin but it’s limited to MailChimp.
13 – Set up a thank you page for blog commenters to build your list
If you’re using the native commenting system in WordPress, you can install a plugin like Comment Redirect that will redirect first-time commenters to the page of your choice.
You can use this page to thank your reader for commenting and invite them to join your email list. Although you may want to use a plugin like Thrive Comments instead – it’s a premium plugin and does replace WordPress native comments, but it’s designed to encourage engagement which can be great for social proof (more comments is better).
14 – Add opt-in forms to key locations on your blog
You need to make it easy for people to subscribe to your email list. Adding opt-in forms to key locations on your blog is an important step that will help you here. These locations are generally where people have come to expect there to be an opt-in form, so when someone wants to subscribe to your newsletter, it’s usually these places that they first look at.
There are more opt-in form types you can use:
- · Popover (yep, people hate them but they work)
- · Slide-in
- · Header notification bar
- · Footer notification bar
- · Shortcode placement
15 – Add in-line opt-in forms to key pages
There are key pages on your blog that you can optimize to get more subscribers. Pages like your about page, start page or resources pages are great opportunities to grow your email list.
All you need is to add an opt-in form within your content. This can be done by embedding a form from your email provider or you can use one of the plugins listed above which supports shortcode placement.
16 – Use your 404 pages to build your email list
When someone visits your blog and sees a page that doesn’t work, they will see a 404 page.
Most 404 pages include a message that lets the reader know something isn’t working right and usually some further information. You can use this as an opportunity to build your list. I haven’t found any other platforms that make it this easy to do this so an alternative would be to hire a developer to set this up for you.
17 – Display tailored opt-in forms for particular topics
Relevance is an important part of building your email list. The more relevant that your opt-in forms and opt-in bribes are, the better your conversions will be. The key here is to display an offer that is hyper-relevant to the topic that someone is reading on your site or provides the next logical step after the content they have read.
This is very easy when using a tool like Thrive Leads which allows category, page-level targeting and a lot more. An alternative would be to use a plugin like Dynamic widget, which would allow you to create different sidebar areas and choose which categories/posts they are displayed on.
18– Add social proof to your opt-in forms
Trust can be an important factor for your readers when deciding whether to subscribe or not. Adding a testimonial or displaying an ‘as featured on’ logo in your opt-in form can be a great way of building trust.
19 – Create targeted landing pages for your opt-in bribes
Having opt-in bribes or free stuff your readers can download is great but you need a dedicated landing page for each one that you’re giving away. Landing pages are great because they generally get VERY high conversions. Having a single page with a single goal really does work.
You can then drive traffic to these landing pages using calls to action on your blog paid traffic or even using your author bio in guest posts.
Below are 2 main tools that that you use in your business to create landing pages:
- · LeadPages – This is a platform designed to help you create landing pages fast, it takes care of the hosting and integrates with WordPress while allowing you to download HTML to use with other systems.
- · Thrive Architect – This is a WordPress plugin that allows you to create custom page/post layouts. It comes with plenty of landing pages templates and integrates with most popular email providers.
23 – Add targeted notification bars to your content
You’ve probably seen these. A slim call to action stretching across the top (or the bottom) of the browser. These are sometimes called notification bars, or ribbons. And you can add them easily with opt-in form plugins like Thrive Leads. This provides an easy way to get traffic to your landing pages.
This also works well because you can target specific pages to make sure your calls to action are hyper-relevant. You can also split test them to boost your conversions further.
19 – The incredible ‘content upgrade’ technique
The idea behind a content upgrade is that you offer your readers a post-specific bonus that is completely tailored to your blog post. This works best when used with a 2 step opt-in process, where a link is clicked and then a popover is displayed on the page.
Ideas to create your own content upgrade
There are plenty of types of content you can use here:
- Checklist based on your post.
- PDF version of your post.
- List of relevant resources/tools.
- 2 part blog post (2nd part downloadable after opt-in).
There are plenty more things you could do here, but the great thing is that you have a valuable opportunity to spend slightly longer on your blog posts and repurpose them into another content type or create something 100% exclusive.
If you don’t have a content upgrade ready, you could offer your readers the option to get the next post in a series which follows on from the one they are reading
Tools to help you setup content upgrades
Needless to say, content upgrades can be tricky to offer unless you have the right tools to help you. When you have the right tools you generally avoid the technical headache that would be involved in setting something like this up with your email provider.
You can use the LeadBoxes feature from LeadPages to handle the clickable popover and also deliver the content upgrade via email in the past. It’s easy to use and you don’t have to use WordPress.
20 – Give away products to build your list
Giving away products is a great way to build your email list. The problem is that securing a big ticket product which people would love to win can be a challenge and there are hoops to jump through. I’m not saying you should put up something crazy. Think about the products in your niche that people desperately want to get their hands-on and look at putting some budget aside.
Before trying this, you should consider whether this will be worthwhile for you – a tactic like this makes most sense when your email list is monetized.
21 – Use a quiz with a twist
There are some great tools that, offer the ability to run quizzes and build an email list, such as Thrive Quiz Builder but the opt-in form is usually presented after the quiz has been completed.
Which is a good thing because you’ll likely get higher conversions when the opt-in form is presented at the end of the quiz.
22 – Launch your own product
Many bloggers and entrepreneurs will tell you that the moment when they launch their own product is the moment when their list skyrockets. You will always get the best results when you create something that solves a core problem that your audience is facing.Creating an information product is the most straight forward way to get started and there are plenty of platforms that can help you sell information products online. For example:
22 – Re-purpose your content upgrades as Slideshare presentations
You can make those content upgrades go further by re-purposing them into Slide Share Presentation and linking back to your original blog post.
Slideshare is a great way to tap into a new group of targeted readers and because the traffic you get will be highly targeted and already value what you have to say, they will be more likely to opt-in to download your content upgrade.
23 – Guest post to build your email list
Contributing to popular blogs within your niche is a great way to increase your authority and become visible. It can be a good way to get traffic if you contribute to the right sites.
The problem is that most people miss a trick when they start guest blogging. Instead of just linking to your home page, try linking to a relevant landing page within your author bio. Conversion rates are generally high because anyone clicking on your link wants more information from you.
24– Get more eye-balls on your landing pages with paid traffic
Paid traffic is one of the most sustainable ways to scale up your email list. I recommend that you have a way of monetizing your list in order for you to recoup the money spent on advertisements or turn it into a decent profit. There are plenty of platforms you can use for paid traffic which include:
- Google AdWords
- Bing Ads
25 – Host a webinar to build your list
Most webinars are horrible pitch fests that offer no value. Don’t do that. Run a webinar that offers value and you will gain valuable email subscribers that will respect you more. These work well because they are time-sensitive so people are compelled to sign up because they don’t want to miss out on some valuable information.
In the past, you used to pay insane monthly subscriptions to services like GoToWebinar but thankfully you won’t have to do that anymore. This is all down to Google Hangout allows you to stream to unlimited participants. You will need another tool to help you integrate with your autoresponder and give you the regular webinar features, but they are far cheaper.
26 – Use Lead Generation Cards to grow your list with Twitter
One of the things that can sometimes stop people signing up is having to fill in their details when they sign up to your list. Using Twitter’s Lead Generation Cards, you will give the ability for people to sign up to your list with a single click.
You can attach these Twitter Cards to any of your Tweets, but the only downside is that you have to send your tweet from with the Twitter ads admin. You don’t have to spend money on ads, these are completely free and you can gain more visibility by pinning a tweet with your Twitter Card to your profile page.
27 – Use YouTube videos to build your list
If you’re into video, you can use YouTube to build your list. There are a few ways to do this, for example, Noah Kagan uses a link to a landing page in his video descriptions. The landing page is tailored specifically for people coming from YouTube. One of the best ways to get more email subscribers is to optimize your opt-in forms and landing pages.
You can also use your analytics to find which content types are performing best and which promotional channels are referring to the most subscribers. You can leverage this information to grow your list.
28 – Split test your opt-in forms
You need to split test your opt-in forms in order to figure out exactly what combination of design, copy and offer work best for your audience. Before you start split testing you should consider what you think could improve conversions and then test it out.
Often minor tweaks can result in decent conversion increases; I’ve found that just changing one the elements of the design like a button color can yield significant results. Ultimately it comes down to what you are offering your readers and how that offer is framed, the more relevant and the higher the perceived value the better.
29 – Split test your landing pages
We’ve talked a lot about landing pages. They work well because they are hyper-focused and generally speaking, most traffic generation methods result in highly targeted visitors.
They will convert well if the design, copy and offer is up to scratch but you can always optimize them further. Similar to what I mentioned for optimizing your opt-in forms, you will need to come up with an initial hypothesis of what you think could improve conversions.
Remember that best practice will give you a head start but different audiences can react in various ways to the exact same thing.
29 – Identify which traffic sources are delivering the most subscribers
In order to grow your email list (or improve your marketing in general) is to find what works and do more of it. A great way of doing this is finding which of your traffic sources are delivering the highest conversion rates.
How to do this: click on ‘acquisition’ and then click ‘channels’.
You will then be able to select your conversion goal on the right-hand side:
When you look at your referrals, you can find out exactly which sites are sending you traffic.
So, if you’ve written a guest post for a particular site and notice an influx of conversions, it’s safe to say that it’s worth contributing there again.
Similarly, you can identify which blogs aren’t sending you any traffic or subscribers – it’s a a good thing to know because you should always look to prioritize your efforts.