Do you need to start an email list? Is list building really that important?
Yes and no.
Great answer I know, but hear me out.
I have a friend that has a successful website on dirt bikes. His website makes money from Amazon Associates and display advertising because his website gets so much traffic he’s able to be an Ad Thrive partner (you need to be over 100,000 pagviews for Ad Thrive).
His blog is hands off and makes thousands of dollars every month. He has no email list for his website.
So why does everyone say you need a list?
It’s how you turn a blog or YouTube channel into a business.
Plain and simple.
Having a mailing list of people who have given you permission to contact them through email has all sorts of unique advantages:
- Email subscribers are typically your most engaged subscribers.
- You can drive traffic to new blog posts and videos you create.
- It’s easier to sell products as you’re building a relationship with people.
- You can leverage affiliate marketing to make a substantial income.
- Emails can be automated if you like, making it a hands off promotion and revenue stream long term.
So it simply depends on the website. If you want to skip on the email marketing aspect of making a website that’s fine. Not every blog or website makes sense for email marketing.
But for most websites it’s one of the most profitable things you can learn how to do long term.
How to build an email list for free?
You can get started for free. I suggest Mailer Lite. They have a 100% free plan and their paid plans are affordable.
You’ll obviously need to pay once your list building efforts work and you have a growing email list. But if you’re wanting to start an email list for free go with Mailer Lite.
EMAIL MARKETING CAMPAIGNS EXPLAINED
You have an email list and people signing up…uhhhh now what?
In general, you want to create a 4-7 day auto-responder series for anyone who signs up to your list so you can provide value, be really helpful and build a solid relationship with people who subscribe. I would aim for 7 days, 1 email a day on auto pilot.
After the initial 4-7 day email series, I would then setup a longer 3 month or more long email series that subscribers get on auto-pilot twice a week or so.
This is obvious a lot of work, but the goal is to turn your email list into a revenue stream which you can do through careful testing an monitoring of the performance of your emails and making changes as needed.
The email sign-up process
Simply emulate the sign-up process that professionals use. First, go through the sign-up process for someone else’s list who has a popular blog and email list. What do you notice?
1 – The opt-in form has some call to action. Free course, free ebook, 20% discount code, SOMETHING.
2 -You submit your email to get the email bait.
3 – Then you’re directed to another page that tells you to check your email. This is the “thank you” page.
4 – You check your email and confirm your email.
5 – When you click the link to confirm, you’re then sent to a page that verifies you’ve signed up.
6 – You then receive the give-away via email. Sometimes you get the give-a-way up sign up without confirming your email.
Up-Sell Pro Tip
When someone sign up to your list and you redirect them to that “thank you for signing up – check your email” page, why not have a product up-sell? Something like an ebook or a coupon code or something?
Email Marketing Customization
Just like creating an about page and contact page, you’re going to have to create a few basic pages as part of your on-boarding process for your email marketing efforts.
Check your email
First off, that page telling you to “check your email” can either be a custom page you make in WordPress OR it can be a page from your mailing list management company. The way it works is that when you’re logged into your list management service account you have the option to make your list:
- Double opt-in
- Single opt-in
Double means the person needs to confirm their email again after submitting it the first time to actually be on your list. Single means they submit their email once and that’s it. You want double opt-in because:
- List size DOES NOT MATTER.
- List quality and responsiveness matters.
- You want people who actually want to be on your list.
- The bigger your list the more money it costs. So keep it to people who want to be on it.
Once you’ve select double opt-in you must set a confirmation page. You can either make one yourself and plug in the URL when logged into your list management account or you can use a confirmation page from your list management company. Does not matter which one you decide to do. I usually just use the list management companies page.
Thank you page
Once someone confirms their email, you have the option to direct that confirmation link to either a custom “thank you” page you make in WordPress or to a page from your list management company. Obviously, the thank you page is a wonderful opportunity for another call to action:
- Link to your Facebook, Twitter account or YouTube page.
- Promote any products or services you offer (probably the best – particularly if you offer a discount!)
- Offer a surprise bonus or discount on something.
- Link to your most popular content.
- Set expectations for your list.
- Say thanks for subscribing.
This is the end of the process so direct people to do something.
Delivering the free bonus
The bonus is delivered automatically in an autoresponder you set up in your service provider. So no worries about doing it manually.
You can set a follow up autoreponder (a second email after they confirm) with a link to a page where they can download the ebook, audio or video.
You can also instead set it to send the ebook or materials directly IN THAT EMAIL with no link to any page. It depends on how you wish to deliver your bonus. I like to send it in the email and use the thank you page to offer a surprise product or a discount.
You could also have a download link to the bonus on the thank-you page they were sent to when they confirmed if you like, but it’s best to send a second email with a link to a different page to get access to your bonus.
It’s easier to manage as you will have a “thank you” page, and you will also have a page for your bonus. It’s also easier because it directs people better.
Side note: Make sure to set your bonus page to “no-index” so search engines don’t index and rank your bonus page. You only want people to access this page who sign up for your list 😎
In this follow-up email that contains a link or the actual bonus itself, it’s important to do more than just say “thanks here’s your stuff”. Just like how you did on the thank-you page in that you set expectations, do the same with this second email because it’s the first genuine email anyone receives from you:
- Remind people that you will be sending more emails in the future.
- Talk about what the emails contain and how they will benefit the subscriber if they stay on the list.
- The frequency of the emails. If it’s twice a week, let them know.
- Give them an opportunity to unsubscribe.
Yes, unsubscribe. People use emails they don’t check frequently for email lists. They also set up separate emails ONLY for lists. Additionally, people sometimes only subscribe to get the free bonus and that’s it.
People are free to do what they want, but these leads suck and you don’t want to pay for them to be on your list. You want them to unsubscribe because you want to truly focus on having a responsive list. That means when you send an email to your list, the majority open it.
The third email
This is THE most important email you send. After they confirm, after they get your bonus, after they read your follow-up. This is the first real content driven email from you.
Like dating, this is your chance to make a solid impression. Your bonus should have wowed them, now it’s time to make them feel glad they stuck around and signed up. You do this by setting out to make the greatest most helpful and amazing email ever written. That should be your mindset for this email. Do your best work. Make it actionable and exclusive. You could even send a second product, for free.
Your best work + the unexpected = fan for life
Wait, how the heck do I design an email opt-in form?
Glad you asked! All service providers provide an email opt-in form design editor.
What’s working now are two ways:
A lead page for an email optin form where the user can directly input their information OR a light box.
A light box is a box that pops up when you click a button. Sort of like a pop-up, well a pop-up is a light box too – BUT this sort of light box is only triggered when a person hit’s a subscribe button.
So instead of having two fields where a user can input their name and email, you instead have a single button. When the click the button, a light box pops up that allows the end user to input their email address.
Which is best? If you’re going to make a dedicated subscribe page, then having email subscribe form works. If you’re going to have a subscribe button in your sidebar or at the bottom of the page, then a light box works best.
Where To Put Email Opt-in Forms
Having a single button in the whole footer area is one of the best spots:
The bottom of blog posts work too as well as having a lead page where you drive traffic to after they click a button. Let’s get into it a bit more.
In order for people to sign-up for your mailing list you need to provide a way for them to sign-up.
1) Post/page bottom
Surprisingly, the bottom of a post or page – the area after the content but before the footer (or comments if it’s a blog post) works extremely well. It’s an appropriate place for an email opt-in because it directs a visitor to do something next after reading.
Sidenote: This spot also works well for advertising. Particularly the leaderboard size for the same reasons.
2) In the Footer
3) About Page
This is a fairly obvious, but often overlooked page for mailing list forms. If someone is reading your about page they’re interested enough to learn what the purpose of your website is.
1) Always make your about page about your website and what it’s unique selling point is (no one cares about you until after they have some sort of relationship established with you). Include information about you, but only what is relevant like your credentials and why you founded the site in the first place.
2) Put the opt-in forms in the content itself.
4) Top of the Sidebar
This is the classic website real estate spot for mailing list forms. If you’re running an email list, visitors expect at the very least to have some sort of subscription option located in the top of the side bar. If you move it down in the sidebar, this does affect conversion because it looks like a secondary feature.
Another classic spot. This will typically be your highest converting area. Have a large rectangular email form centered on the page that is situated below your logo and navigation bar, but above the rest of the site. Also make sure it’s centered. It look unprofessional and strange if it’s off to the left or right.
Pop-ups work, but now are generally frowned upon by Google as it provides a poor user experience. If you want to use popups fair enough, I would read this article to optimize your your pop up form.
Generally though, I would stay away from pop-ups particularly if your goal to to rank specific blog posts for specific keywords.
7) Dedicated Signup Landing Page
Also consider creating a dedicated landing page that exists only to get people to subscribe. It’s highly effective and positions your email list as more valuable than simply getting something lame like “updates.”
Email Marketing Strategies
Autoresponders are emails you write that are automatically sent to people who sign-up for your email list. It’s a best practice to take the time to set up an autoreponder series. How long the series is totally up to you. Ideally it’s best to make a 6 month to 1 year autoresponder series where by each and every week (or twice or three times a week) your list gets an email from you.
These email should be related to your websites content. They should always provide value, and they should not be too long or too short. It’s fine to send a massive high quality email, but people are also OK with a quality 500 word email. Span out your massive emails as to keep your lists attention.
In addition to setting up automated autoresponders you do have the option to send out a broadcast email to your list. Broadcasts are simply emails you want to send right now this moment. It might be a good idea to only set your autoresponders on select days and leave one day a week only for broadcasts. You don’t want to be emailing people multiple times a day. It’s annoying and they will unsubscribe.
Now for specific strategies:
The Internet marketers strategy
Content -Content -> Promotion -> Content -> Content -> Promotion
This is an extremely old school stereotypical strategy for email lists. You provide high quality content with not strings attached, no expectations and then perhaps once or twice a month you send out a promotion for a product or service where you get a percentage of the sale. People hate being sold to, so you need to really develop some clever copywriting skills as to not come off like a salesman.
If you can figure this one out and do it properly without annoying your list, you can create a fairly profitable and predictable sales funnel. To the point where you can determine how much each sign-up is worth. Once have this information, the sky’s the limit.
If you determine that for every sign-up brings you bring in $7 USD, you can then take that information and go to Facebook ads or Google and promote a landing page for your free give-away and list. You can then bid on keywords and pay for clicks.
If your landing page converts at 30% and you’re paying 100$ for every 100 clicks, that’s 30 sign-ups for 100$. If each sign-up is worth 7$ as in this example you’re spending 100$ to make 210$ (30 X 7). A nice profit that can scale.
The guru name dropping strategy
Promotion -> Promotion -> Promotion -> Promotion
Some list owners hit up their list with promotion after promotion. Most do it wrong as they constantly send out lame short emails with the sole intention of promoting a product:
“Hey guys! My friend Mike Richard Stevens release the most powerful game changing product that will blow your mind into another dimension. It’s called Thunder Shock Email List Control Mastery Power 90″. Guys YOU NEED this product if you want to compete with the pros”.
Note: I made this up. Any references to real people are coincidental.
To do this right each email needs to be of very high quality. What exactly does that mean? Eben Pagan has numerous products and lists. Almost every email he sends is a link to a high quality video series for a product he owns or is a lengthy 30 minute+ interview he did with a guru with the purpose of building awareness and sales for the product.
It’s product after product BUT it’s helpful and valuable.
To do this right it takes time, money, and connections all of which you won’t have when starting out.
The NON Marketers Strategy
Content -> Content -> Content -> Content -> Content
Yep, just use your mailing list to provide value, build relationships, be helpful, and to drive traffic back to your website.
Content -> Content -> Content -> Content -> Content (but with ads!)
Some build their business strictly around their email list. They focus on making enormous lists of thousands and thousands of subscribers and from this they are able to advertise in their emails as well as tie in any related products and services. They treat their list like a private blog and business.
However, the focus is on building these lists into proper business and this is done by using high quality content. Examples:
HungryGirl.com – This website started simply as a small two or three page website with a focus on building the email list.
HerMoney.com – Another email list based business providing personal finance advice for women.
TheMogulMom.com – Business advice for women who are also moms.
Email subscribers over any other type will ALWAYS be your most engaged. This makes them simply the best type of subscriber to have. So treat them right.
Cool, but what do I write when I send emails?
The best emails are personable! Don’t get hung up with trying to be Mr Cool Guy or Mr Professional.
Really. I sent out as a test email with the title: “Why you Hate Vegans But Should Become One(ish).”
Another one that worked really well was called “women lose their power in their 30’s, men in their 40’s” – it was dating related obviously.
Side note – Open rate means the percentage of people who opened your email. You should be able to get 20% if you’re doing a good job. Higher if you’re really building an engaged audience that loves you.
33% is good and I don’t want to imply that I’m super talented or anything, but I do “get” what goes into a good email. My email open rates are usually round 20% which is good, but not great. I’m still learning myself and that’s the whole point.
You got to be in it to win it. Your first emails, Facebook ads and landing pages are going to need tweaking. You’ll get better at it as you do it.
Here is the basic structure of what has worked for me that should help you start an email list:
1 – The Subject Line
“Clearer and more specific subject lines convert better.” – Bob Kemper
This is the sentence people will see in their email. It needs to be compelling. It needs to make people want to click and read. Feel free to throw in an emoji occasionally as an attention grabber if you’re looking for ways to boost open rates.
But if you can get a really compelling subject line, you’ve won.
Write like you’re writing to your brother or sister (or a friend). Avoid marketing language, be clear and concise and avoid cutesy language too. What works for blog posts WILL NOT WORK for your emails by the way.
While a title like “27 reasons why YOU should never have a job” is a fantastic title for a blog post – they fall flat when it comes to email.
Why? Because they’re generic.
People want personable, particularly people who have subscribed to you and want to hear from you. Instead, take a template and adjust it with your own words.
Also, take the time and write out 5 – 10 variations.
Why? Because it forces you to think. The first 4 are easy, the last 4 are harder to come up with and will be much more creative.
2 – Story telling
I got this from a book called POP! by Sam Horn. An excellent read and it works.
If someone asks you what you do for work, how do you answer? Tell them, hey I’m David and I build websites, make products and do SEO.
A much better response would be to make your answer WAY more relatable. “You know when you search for an answer to a question like ‘what’s the difference between a 2 stroke engine and a 4 stroke engine’ I make websites that rank on Google to answer questions like that.
This is a good conversation starter too because then people always ask interesting follow up questions.
Which is my next point, your emails are conversation. People subscribed because they want to hear from you, a cool interesting person who can solve their problems – NOT a faceless company, unless we’re talking about Game of Thrones 🙂
Tell stories and be relateable. Use language that makes your point clear and specific by SHOWING, not telling people like I did in my “what do you do for work” example.
How To Write Emails People Want To Read.
So we covered the basic outline for how to write emails, now let’s put it all together.
Write a compelling headline. We covered this.
Story telling – Lead off with a good opener, use a story or a real life experience. Relate your topic to your life in some way and tie it into the content of the email.
Write the body of the email like you would a blog post using casual language. Avoid fluff, jargon and unclear words. How long should it be? As long as it needs to be!
At the end of the email have a call to action. Ask a question, ask your subscribers for a reply.
Include a PS that tells readers what to expect and look out for.
If it’s a promotional email, include the “ask” a few times in the email. Somewhere at the start and again at the end. Use the PS to drive home the benefits of your offer. This bottom sentence is just as critical as the title and it’s where you should have your final call to action when you start an email list.
HOW TO BUILD AN EMAIL LIST FROM SCRATCH
Well that’s all fine and dandy, but how do I actually get traffic and get people on my list?My suggestion is to first focus on your website. Get your design done, get your core content up, get to a point where your website idea is getting at least a 100 visitors a day.
Then you’re ready.
Now, this is not to say you should just ONLY wait for search traffic.
You need to be aggressive with building your email list. Some helpful ideas to get you thinking creatively:
Create an account that is related to your website. In the bio link to your landing page for your email list. Next, you’ll need to grow your Instagram following. This is difficult obviously, but the main strategies to follow are to emulate other accounts that are successful in your niche. Emulate how they created their bio.
Next, look to see what sort of content is working for them and duplicate it yourself. You can also repost pictures and create videos as needed. Also, like pictures and comment A LOT.
Lastly, for tags, you’re going to want to find relevant tags for your industry BUT, with a new account you’ll want to go after tags that are NOT popular. Why? Because you’re new account and no one will find you if you use big tags.
Simple, join relevant groups. Help people. Link to your landing page BUT don’t tell them it’s your website. Just say something like “this helped me, maybe it can help you” – FB groups are cautious about links to other websites so just use common sense. You can apply this technique to forums and Reddit as well.
I’m not going to proverbially hold your hand. My point is that I want you to think of ways beyond just “build it and they will come” because you can totally build up an email list to 500 subscribers in a very short time.
Last thing you need to know is that you can and should scrub your email list. What email scrubbing is the act of simply deleting emails that are unresponsive. Say you have a list of 1000 people but 200 of those emails have not opened anything from you in the last 3 months.
These sorts of emails are proverbially dead weight. Costing you money but not actually opening and engaging with your emails. Scrubbing is a quick and easy process to delete such emails in bulk.
You should scrub your email list once every 6 months in order to save costs and to keep a targeted list that is interested and responsive to your emails.
List Building Made Easy Conclusion
Learn by doing. Like making YouTube videos or learning how to leverage Pintrest or SEO you get better at email marketing by doing it, so stop procrastinating – sit down and applying yourself.