It’s frustrating isn’t it?
You log in every single day hoping the number on your email dashboard is going to be miraculously higher.
But it’s grown by a measly one or two at most. And that’s not even consistent! On most days, the number is the same.
You can feel your enthusiasm starting to fizzle out.
Of course you love every single one of your subscribers.
But you sure wish you could celebrate a higher number don’t you?
8 out of ten bloggers I touched base with through a recent survey had a list size of less than 100. More than half of that number had less than 50 subscribers.
If you fall into this category, you’re not alone.
We all start from scratch. The key is not to grow fast for the sake of adding numbers to your list.
But rather to attract the right people on to your list and cultivate a relationship with them.
In this post, I take a step-by-step approach of how to grow your email list from scratch.
I’ve broken the post down into the following categories. So skip ahead to whichever section you need most right now.
- Prepare to own a list
- Optimize your blog for list building
- Grow your list by having a ‘sticky’ blog
- Promote your email list
This is a 3500 word guide. If you need a checklist that walks you through the key points of this list building blueprint, download it below. In it I also include 10 additional list building tools and plugins.
Prepare to own a list
#1 Decide – Why do you want an email list?
Everyone says you need to have one.
But why start one when you don’t know what to do with it?
The faster you’re able to identify what you want from your list, the easier it will be for you to achieve that.Why start an email list when you don't know what to do with it?Click To Tweet
Have a look at three examples below. And how the content creation plan for each of these scenarios differs.
1.Wellness blog promoting essential oils
Purpose of email list:
To raise awareness of essential oils –> build trust that this is a viable wellness option –>disprove objections
–> promote affiliate essential oil products or own essential oil products
2. Personal development blog for twenty-somethings
Purpose of email list:
To bring attention to the importance of debt free living –> To create desire for a structured life
–>coaching or budgeting course
3.Blog on how to start a VA business for stay at home moms
Purpose of email list:
To raise awareness on why this is a viable strategy for stay at home mums –> to create desire for earning a side-income while staying home –> course on starting a VA business
Notice the difference between different blogs?
Your email list has to support your business goals.
Yes, you ultimately want to make money and promote your products and services.
But the path to get there will vary according to your niche and the purpose of your list.
#2 Put your opt-in freebie together
An opt-in freebie (a.k.a) lead magnet is a valuable piece of content you give to your list in exchange for their email address.
Your opt-in can either make or break your email list.
Your opt-in needs to be relevant to the categories of your blog. Here’s a simple framework to help you kickstart your lead magnet.Your lead magnet has to be relevant to the 'change' your blog promises your readersClick To Tweet
1. What change does your blog promise your readers? E.g. To become a freelance writer and secure high paying writing jobs
2. What sub-categories support that change and help them achieve it?
E.g. A. How to market your services B. how to network with writing agencies
3. What specific steps within each category should they take?
E.g. One step to take for category (A) above would be to – Learn how to write a good pitch
4 . What lead magnet will help them with implementing this step?
E.g. Lead magnet idea: 10 critical components your writer’s pitch has to include
Once you have some ideas for a lead magnet. Run it through the quick checklist that you can get at this post.
If you’re looking for an in-depth read of how to use this opt-in checklist, check out my eBook.
#3 Pick an email service provider
Pick an email service provider that’s right for you.
Choose one that your blog and business can grow in to.
My personal choice is Convertkit because it’s simple to use and yet has several advanced features like subscriber segments and tags.
Another value for money option is Getresponse.
It may be hard knowing exactly what you would need in future. But some planning can save you tonnes of time in switching from a provider that’s slowing you and your business down.
#4 Get a name@yourdomain email address
According to a recent Gmail DMARC Policy, even if you use an email service provider such as Convertkit , Getresponse or Mailchimp….
….the from address (a.k.a sender’s email address) should not be from a @gmail.com, @aol.com, @yahoo.com.
Emails from these sender email addresses will go to spam.
You can easily get a personalised email through Googleapps and they even walk you through the set-up over phone.
#5 Set-up your welcome email
A welcome email is one that subscribers receive immediately after signing up for your opt-in freebie.
Welcome emails have one of the highest open rates compared to other emails.
You have a captive and engaged audience that is interested in you and your brand. Don’t squander this opportunity to impress them.
A welcome email should have a few critical elements
- Who you are
- Why you are the best person to help them with this
- What they can expect from you
- When they can expect to hear from you
- Testimonials or featured in publications
- Sweeten the email by providing a quick tip or take-away
- Open a discussion with a post-script (P.S.) asking them to get in touch with you
#6 Prepare your welcome series autoresponder content
I’m a huge proponent of having a welcome series as opposed to a single welcome email.
A welcome series consist of a few emails that are sent out in a certain time interval to new subscribers. It’s similar to an induction where you build trust with your new subscribers.
Here’s what you can include in a welcome series:
- Links to your top archived blog posts
- Your brand story and business beliefs
- Offer an unexpected freebie
#7 Create a ‘Thank you’ page
Here are some elements you can include in your thank you page:
- A clear message on what they should do next
- Tweet or Facebook links to share your email list (see #16 and #19 below)
- A request to share your site/freebie
- Links to your best content
#8 Set-up goal tracking using Google Analytics (GA)
It’s easy if you have Google Analytics set-up from day 1.
The free plugin I use, Google Analytics Dashboard for WP automatically adds the tracking code to all the pages on my site.
Go to Google analytics and sign up for a free account.
For most of you this is how the flow
Opt-in >> Thank you page (clicks confirmation button) >> Confirmation page (to deliver your lead magnet)
Step 1: Log in to you GA account and click on Admin in the top navigation bar
Step 2: Then click on ‘Goals’ in the right hand column
Step 3: Then click on ‘new goal’
Step 4: Click on ‘goal description’ and enter something like email confirmation or email sign-up an then click ‘destination’
Step 5: Enter your goal details
Under goal details, click the drop down and pick ‘begins with’. Enter the forward slash url for the page the subscriber lands on (minus your domain name)
Optimize your blog for list building
#9 Have opt-in forms at the right locations
Make it extremely easy for people to sign-up for your email list.
Your readers have grown accustomed to seeing so many different opt-in forms that they’ve become ‘blind’ to it.
So it’s important to make your opt-in boxes visible and prominently displayed in a number of locations.
Here are some ideas:
She also adds social proof (which we’ll discuss below) by subtly telling the reader to be a part of a group of 13,000 strong bloggers and business owners.
If you say ‘Yes’, then you continue by entering your email address which is consistent to the “commitment” you made a second ago.
Here’s an example of this pop-up I use on my site. When they click ‘Yes’, they are shown a specific lead magnet on productivity tools and hacks.
You can easily create a choice pop-up with Pop-up ally pro.
#10 Create a Content upgrade
A content upgrade is an extra piece of information that you offer to your readers.
Think of it as a mini-lead magnet. This is usually related to the post that they have just read.
Here are some ideas for content upgrades:
- Cheat sheets
- Swipe files
- Tools list
- Mini email course
You could even offer a pdf download of your blog post if you think it would be something they would want to refer back to.
I’m offering a checklist that walks you through this blueprint as a content upgrade for this post.
#11 Create a Subscribe page
This is a dedicated page to promote your email list.
A subscribe page should have:
- A strong headline that states the benefits your list offers
- What they can expect to receive in return for their email address. If it’s a digital report or guide, a mock-up or image of it should be placed
- If your newsletter is filled will tips and strategies, consider having a a sample or 2 of the emails that you actually send out
Here’s a snapshot from my subscribe page
I place the landing page at the top navigation bar so that its easily visible.
Another example of a subscribe page is from Copyblogger.
#12 Create a Landing page for your opt-in freebie
Now that you’ve created your opt-in freebie, you need to create a landing page to promote it.
A landing page is a distraction free page with a single goal.
The goal in this instance is to get your reader to sign-up for your opt-in.
Here are some quick pointers on what your landing page should have:
This is similar to writing a blog post headline.
- Subhead – describes the benefit of the offer
- Bullet points
- Button copy – words used on the button should be action oriented
I’m personally on Convertkit which allows access to 4 landing page templates.
If you’re looking for an extensive range of landing page template tool that is also affordable, Thrive Themes Landing pages is the way to go. It gives you more than 100 optimized landing page templates to choose from and is a flat one time fee of $59 for a single license.
#13 Add social proof to your opt-in forms
Social proof adds to your credibility and can take many forms.
Here are some:
- ‘As seen in’ logos
- product or service testimonials
- Number of social media followers
- Number of subscribers
Social proof digs into the ‘herd mentality’. “If they are doing it, I better do it.”
#14 Use your 404 page to build your email list
Ever got emails like this from readers?
It’s frustrating to land on a 404 page isn’t it?
How about turning that into an experience for your readers and using it as an opportunity to build your list?
I used the 404page – your smart custom 404 error page that allows you to change a wordpress page into a custom 404 page.
Here’s a screenshot of my 404 page. I give away an exclusive guide only available to my subscribers. But I also give them the opportunity to subscribe to my list as well.
#15 Remove the noise from your blog
Remove categories from your sidebar for new blogs
If your blog is new and you don’t have a lot of posts, don’t add categories to your sidebar. When a user clicks-through, it doesn’t reflect well when there are only 1 or 2 posts in each category
If ads are a big part of your monetization plan, you can leave them there. But if they are only earning you a couple of cents a month, it’s wise to remove them.
Remove unnecessary widgets
Avoid adding unnecessary widgets like Facebook and Pinterest widgets that make the reader click away from your blog.
An email subscriber is more valuable than a social media follower. So keep readers on your blog longer.An email subscriber is more valuable than a social media follower. Click To Tweet
Give them less options
Don’t clutter your sidebar with several opt-ins, banners and affiliate products.
When you give readers too many options, they take none.
Pick 2-3 of your most valuable offers, affiliate products or opt-ins for your side bar.When you give readers too many options on your blog, they take none.Click To Tweet
#16 Make sharing your posts ridiculously easy
The more you get your posts in front of people, the easier it will be for new readers to subscribe.
Add Share buttons
Use a plugin like* Social Warfare that gives you the option of placing share buttons at the top and bottom of each post. It also lets you share the correct image sizes for each social media platform without any weird cropping.
This is how it looks here.
Add Click to Tweets
Click to tweets are quotes or punchy sentences within each post.
If you use Social Warfare, you can easily create Click to tweet boxes within your posts like I’ve done here:Get subscribers to proclaim their love by adding a click to tweet in emailsClick To Tweet
You can also do so by downloading the free Click to tweet plugin
Include opt-in forms at the end of each post
Promote your email list
#17 Get your subscribers to proclaim their love
Include a ‘click to tweet’ within one of your emails.
Nudge them to give you a shout out if they’re loving your emails. You’d be surprised at how many of them do and it also gives you feedback on your content.
It also lets more people know about your email list.
Have a look at some examples below:
#18 Use Twitter lead generation cards to promote your lead magnet
You can promote your list and lead magnet through lead generation cards without paying a single cent.
This gives people the opportunity to sign-up right there on twitter rather than go to a different landing page.
Here’s how you set-it up.
Click your profile on Twitter > Then click Ads
Ads > Click on Creatives > Click on Cards
Choose lead generation card. You need to make a graphic that’s at least 800 px by 200 px (4:1 ratio)
This is how mine looks like for an email course.
You can choose the call to action (CTA) you want:
- ‘Get the ebook’
- ‘Get the free download’
- ‘Join the list’
- ‘Get the first lesson’
When someone clicks on it, their email addresses get loaded to a CSV file. You can then transfer the email addresses into your email service client.
If you have a direct integration, like mine does for Convertkit, they get stored automatically.
#19 Use Twitter lead generation cards to promote your email list
You can create a graphic to promote your email list as well.
See how Kevin Duncan of Be a better blogger does it here.
#20 Promote your email list on Pinterest
Make a separate vertical pin for your email list and connect it to your subscribe page (see #11 from above)
If you offer exclusive guides, add images of those on your vertical pin. If you have testimonials of subscribers who have enjoyed being on your list, add those as well.
See how Dustin Stout does it here:
I do something similar with this vertical pin here. I also do the same for Twitter.
#21 Promote your opt-in freebie using Pinterest
Make vertical pins for each of your lead magnets and direct them to their respective landing pages.
Here are 2 examples of pins that lead directly to a landing page and not a blog post.
#22 Promote your opt-in freebie on live streaming
If you’re using Periscope and want to drop a link where people can sign up for a particular resource you mentioned, create a page with yourdomain/periscope or yourdomain/blab.
Put an opt-in form there.
This way, when you’re live, its easy to convey a short link that people can remember.
#23 Replace social media profile link
Don’t add your home page URL in your social media profile. Add a link to your landing page or subscribe page like I’ve done here.
#24 Share your opt-in freebie on social media
Don’t just share your articles and posts on social media.
Make separate images for your lead magnets and share those as well. Here’s an example of a Twitter graphic I used to promote my lead magnet.
#25 Grow your list by having a “sticky” blog
You must be wondering what a sticky blog is?
A sticky blog is one which readers have a hard time leaving. Sticky blogs have lower bounce rates because they’re able to keep the readers on the site for a longer period.
The longer your readers are on your site, the higher the chances of them signing up for a content upgrade or lead magnet.
This is a free plugin that recommends a post for you at the bottom of the page. This is how it looks.
Add Related posts
I use Related posts by Zemanta which adds images of related posts right at the end of the post. This is also used by Abby from Just a girl and her blog.
Another plugin you can use is Contextual Related Posts.
This is how it looks on my blogging friend Raelyn’s site.
Add a sticky sidebar widget
How do you make use of the whitespace in a sidebar after a reader scrolls down a certain portion of the page?
You can do this by adding a sticky widget such as the Q2W3 Sticky widget that follows along the length of the page with the reader.
#26 Add an opt-in form on your About Page
If you check your Google Analytics, you’ll come to see that your About Page is one of the most visited pages on your site.
Take advantage of this and have an opt-in form on this page.
#27 Add an opt-in form on your Resources Page
We naturally tend to gravitate towards resources/tools pages because we have a curiosity to know the tools others’ use.
So its a good idea to have an opt-in form here as well.
#28 Guest post
If you’ve read my previous posts, you would know I’m a big fan of guest posting.
If you guest post for the right sites, you can get traffic and a considerable number of subscribers.
Here are a few key points to remember to make full use of your guest posting opportunity:
1. Link to a tailored landing page in your author bio. You can call out the audience for familiarity like I’ve done here for a guest post on Smart Blogger.
2. Resist the urge to add multiple links within your author bio…
…such as to your social media pages and blog page EVEN IF your host offers you the opportunity to do so.
When you add too many links, readers don’t necessarily click over to your landing page. Too many choices and they take none as well.
Keep to at most two links
3. Offer a content upgrade that is relevant to the post you have just written as far as possible
4. Reply to all comments on your guest post
Related Post: Mary Fernandez has a giant index of guest blogging sites split into categories to easily reference sites looking for guest posts.
#29 Republish your old posts
Wish you could get more mileage from your old blog posts?
How about republishing them on sites that allow you to do so?
Some of these sites are:
- Huffington Post
- Elephant Journal
- Thought Catalogue
- Scary Mommy
- The Good Men Project
You have to tweak your headlines, tone, as well as word count to match with the guidelines of these sites.
But if you do, you expose your old posts to a new and wider audience.
Build your list with confidence
List building takes time and lots of trial and error.
This post is in no way exhaustive of the number of ways you can grow your list.
I’ve not included giveaways and prizes because of the quality and retention of subscribers that come in through a giveaway. I’ve also not (yet) included paid traffic which is a very good option for beginners.
These are techniques that I have tried and am familiar with. I’ll be sure to update with a part 2 for new techniques that I try.
If you’d like the step-by-step checklist, click to download the resource below.