Email List Building For Bloggers, YouTubers and Content Creators
Want to get 500 subscribers on your email list this month?
Want to learn how to send emails people actually want to read?
Want to create emails that actually convert?
Then read on! But first…
When should you start an email list? My advice is to start your email list after you’ve finished building out your blog or website AND you’re getting a hundred+ visitors a day. This is not that high of a bar to achieve. The only reason I have this stipulation is because I want you to finish your site first so you actually have traffic.
You could start right from the start. Mail Chimp has a free plan that anyone can use, but right now Convert Kit is the market leader for one main reasons:
They have an easy to use built in funnel system. You can track with ease. when people open emails and buy specific products so you don’t market to them again and again.
They also provide higher converting forms for your website than Mail Chimp.
However, before you get Convert Kit. Focus on content and traffic a bit first. Get to 100+ visitors a day.
If you’re not getting organic traffic after a few months it’s a sign that your content is deficient in some way. Your site should be growing, in fact if you’ve been publishing content regularly each week you should see a “J” curve in growth.
When you should start an email list check list:
1) Your website is getting at least 100 visitors a day. Many webmasters will disagree with me on this, but until your website has traffic you’re not going to get any email sign-ups. So why pay for a service you’re not going to use?
2) You have consistent, regular growth month to month – meaning you have your unique selling point, people like it, and your website is growing.
3) Your website for the most part is finished. This is crucial because publishing content, making videos and building the foundation of your website takes a lot of work. Focus on this first, then when you’re site is done and you’re simply publishing a new content, then you’re ready to start promoting your website and getting traffic from different sources.
4) You have some idea what you wish to accomplish with an email. Just like with starting a website in that you need to plan, the same goes with a mailing list. What exactly is your strategy? To simply email updates and keep in touch? No problem, or is it to build out a sales funnel? You need to decide and plan out what email you’re going to write.
5) You have subscribed to multiple email lists before. If you have never been on the other end of an email list, go to your favorite blogger and other sorts of websites and join their list. Pay attention to what you like and don’t like about the process of signing up and the content of the emails.
6) You have a free giveaway for your email list or some type of incentive to join. The common strategy is some type of information product, but you could make your list into a course or email series or a service.
What should the free give-a-way be?
You just need to put in the work to connect the dots between what your visitors want and what you can give them.
I know, you’re thinking maybe an ebook right? That’s what everyone does! Great BUT don’t give away an ebook…
1) That is of low quality and comes off like is was only made to be a free giveaway.
You want every interaction people have with you to be of high quality. Low quality erodes trust extremely fast. Low quality makes people not take you seriously. Low quality shows that you lack the qualities to be successful and that you’re lazy. I’m not going to name names, but some well known marketers a pretty dang lazy.
2) That is on a boring and generic topic that has already been done countless times.
Why put the hours in to create something similar to something someone else has already published? Come up with a new angle. This again takes work and time but it’s worth it.
3) Titles also matter.
Come up with a title that is pithy, original, and descriptive. Look at books on Amazon or in your local bookstore to come up with ideas for how to name your giveaway. Naming things is actually incredibly difficult and is more art then science BUT necessary none the less.
4) You have the authority to write the ebook.
Meaning you know what you’re talking about from actual experience or research. You’re not just writing what you think or simply learned from other people. Authority also means you’re a trusted source for this information.
So if you release a free ebook for your website entitled “MASSIVE TRAFFIC SECRETS” …
1) That’s a fairly unoriginal title.
2) It’s only appealing to men.
3) Your website better have massive traffic, otherwise if it’s apparent your site is a low traffic website you’ll look like a clown.
4) This is a topic that is done excessively (that and making money).
Your give-away does not have to be an Ebook
By the nature of the Internet, your give-away needs to be information based. But there are other forms to deliver it other than an Ebook:
- A video series.
- A private, password only part of your website.
- A collection of interviews.
- A 1 on 1 15 minute coaching call.
Well when is my site “finished” so I know it’s time to start an email list?
What I mean when I say finished is let’s pretend you’ve started a travel blog, you should have 20 pieces of content as a rough estimate. So you should have a few massive pieces of content covering a few competitive topics in great depth – like a 3,000-5,000 word articles. Then you should have a bunch of smaller pieces of content that answers questions in your topic.
You’re getting 100+ visitors a day from various sources. Social media, organic, direct etc. You’re ready to start building an email list! This is not to say you’re stopping content production, I just mean you have a growing site on your hands!
Do you need an email list?
I have a website on eye care that gets traffic from Google and makes money from display advertising. I have a good internet buddy who has a website on playing the electric guitar as well as dirt bikes. His websites make money from display advertising, Amazon affiliate commissions and ebook sales. Those sites are designed to be passive, hands off sites that once complete require minimal maintenance because they go after how-to and question based keywords.
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:
- It allows you to build deeper relationships and trust with people.
- It allows you to collect market research data by figuring out what your audience actually wants.
- You can then use this data to figure out how to better serve the needs and wants of people who visit your website.
- You can give people on your list product updates and discounts as a way to drive more sales.
- It gives you direct access to your audience in a way that social media and even your website does not.
- You can set up an autoresponder series for new subscribers and weave in the occasional affiliate link; building a sales funnel that runs on autopilot (after you spend hundreds of hours writing each and every autoresponder and testing to see what works).
- You have the option to make an email list into a product itself. You can do this by way of a subscription model or a one time fee. The “Empire Building Kit” is an example of a one time fee strategy.
- You can take your audience with you and direct them to new websites or projects you’re working on.
- Email subscribers are THE best type of subscriber because they are the most engaged type of subscriber.
While information sites can be designed to stand on their own and generate anywhere from $300 USD a month to upwards of $3000 USD a month, to get to that next level of income where you’re making 20k a month from a single site will require an email list.
Because you make a lot of money from a single site by selling products and services – both your own as well as an affiliate of other products will require an email list. Particularly if you’re selling something over 100$.
See this quick case study I did on Steve Scott of DevelopGoodHabits.com
So, with that said, if you watched the videos above you should kind of know if building an email list is important for your particular website or not. If you’re building say, a niche website on BASE jumping for example, you could perhaps skip the email list if you’re happy with it being totally passive website that makes ad revenue.
How to build an email list for free?
Like web hosting, this is just an expense you can’t get away from. There are services that offer a free account where you can try out the service with limited features, but for a full on email list provider you’re just going to have to accept that it’s going to cost you.
This is why I said you should build out your site first and be getting a bit of traffic.
Email Marketing Software? What are the best email list service providers?
There are a few options I suggest. Mail Chimp, Convert Kit, Send in Blue. As for specific email marketing software, it’s best to go with an email service provider as they will manage deliverability of your emails which is critical. You want your emails to end up in the inbox, not the spam box or “promotion” box if you’re users are using GMAIL.
Mail Chimp offers a free plan of up to 2,000 subscribers with a limit on how many emails you can send out per month. Most newbies start with this because it’s free, but Mail Chimp is a solid choice as it allows you to try out their service and learn how to write and send emails to a big list. There are also numerous plugins for WordPress that work well with Mail Chimp like Mail Chimp for WordPress.
Sounds perfect! So why would anyone have an issue with Mail Chimp?
Mail Chimp allows affiliate links but not affiliate marketing if you use their service (you can read more about their terms here). As this is vague, they can disable your account at any time if they think you’re violating their service.
What do they specifically mean as far as I can tell? Mail Chimp is designed to keep in contact with your subscribers who are interested in your business. Promoting your products and products as an affiliate as it relates to your business is fine if it’s done in a natural and organic way. What they don’t want is say you have a big list and your friend is doing a launch, you then send a bunch of emails promoting your friends product with bonuses etc as an affiliate.
I could be totally wrong mind you, but it’s one of the reasons people pass on Mail Chimp. Otherwise, they’re a fantastic service.
With the free account you get 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 email sends. That means for a list of 2,000 subscribers you can send 2 -3 emails a week max (unless you pay)
Sign up for Mail Chimp
Convert Kit was made for bloggers building expert business.
You get 1000 subscribers and unlimited email sends for 29$.
Convert Kit is designed for you to create a product funnel so having unlimited emails is really important. Not to say Mail Chimp is not funnel focused or anything, but this is what Convert Kit was designed for. To convert subscribers into customers.
Mail Chimp is great, but if you build out a proper email sequence of 4-6 emails per week you’ll easily hit that email send limit before your list ever reaches 2,000 subscribers.
Sign up For Convert Kit
Send in Blue
Only pay when you actually send an email. Send In Blue aims to be the low cost alternative to Convert Kit and Mail Chimp. If you grow a large list and plan on emailing your list perhaps bi-weekly then go with Send in Blue as they will be far cheaper than Mail Chimp or Convert Kit. Also, they do have a free plan BUT it’s capped at 300 emails per day. Which means your list can not exceed 300 people unlike Mail Chimps forever free plan.
Go with Mail Chimp if you want a free plan that will eventually grow into a large list that you send updates to with the occasion product weaved in. Make sure to check any affiliate links you put in your email are not considered banned by Mail Chimps terms of service.
Go with Convert Kit if you want to build a product funnel.
Go with Send in Blue if you plan on emailing casually once a week, once every two weeks.
EMAIL MARKETING CAMPAIGNS EXPLAINED
You have an email list and people signing up…uhhhh now what?
The sign-up process
First, go through the sign-up process for someone else’s list. What do you notice?
The opt-in form has some call to action. Free course, free ebook, 20% discount code, SOMETHING.
You submit your email to get the email bait.
Then you’re directed to another page that tells you to check your email.
You check your email and confirm your email.
When you click the link to confirm, you’re then sent to a “thank you” page.
You then receive the give-away via email.
Pro-tip: You can make the thank you page an “act now, get a discount on your ebook or product” page. This way, you’ll make a bit of money per subscriber.
The parts you need to customize
This is the standard process for signing up for an mailing list. Let’s go over the what and the why.
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.
Thank you page
- 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.
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.
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.
Alright! So where exactly do I put the forms and subscribe options on my website?
The bottom section of your website, the footer area is one of the best spots. But the button has to take up the whole footer area. 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.
HIGH CONVERTING PLACES TO ADD AN EMAIL OPT-IN FORM
In order for people to sign-up for your mailing list you need to provide a way for them to sign-up.
This is obvious, what is not so obvious is where you should put the opt-in forms.
Before we even talk about forms, I should mention that I’ve had success with using simply an image of an ebook in the sidebar on some of my websites. No description, no nothing. Just a professionally designed image of an ebook.
Visitors would click on the book which would then forward them to a page describing the ebook in great detail. Why it was written. Why you want it. Why you need it. Who it’s for. Who it’s not for. At the very bottom would be an option to submit your email and receive the ebook while simultaneously subscribing to the mailing list.
What you’re doing is just pre-selling then closing. It’s akin to dating. You need to take your visitors out to dinner first before you ask them to commit 🙂
It works well, but you always need to test as your audience will vary in regards to how technical they are and how best to convert them. The images I use:
This thin style image works best because the contents look substantial while at the same time not coming off as too intimidating as it looks like a quick and easy read. Use this image for an ebook that is of less depth than a full fledged book. Use it also because it works 🙂
This is the more traditional style for selling ebooks online. It looks like a book. Test this image and the thin image as well as a proper opt-in form to see what works best. I always find the thin ebook image works best, but your audience might be different. Also use this image to design your ebook if your making an information product.
(For a quick 4 minute video on how to design a cover – go here you can also use this website called 3d Pack to create an ebook too.
Let’s talk about where to place your opt-in forms.
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 itself
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) Have multiple in-content forms. Not off to the side, but in the content. So open with a greeting explaining what the site is for example. Then provide an email opt-in form. Then talk about the website more for a bit and any media attention you have received. Then provide an opt-in form at the bottom (so you would have two opt-in forms altogether on your about page).
4) In the sidebar – very top
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.
5) Leaderboard – above the content, below the navigation bar & logo
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.
Autoresponder strategies for when you start your email list
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.
The NON Marketers Advertising Business Strategy (Email Blogging)
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.
DailyWorth.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 content emails?
The best emails are personable! Don’t get hung up with trying to be Mr Cool Guy or Mr Professional.
Really. My highest converting email to date was for a blog post entitled: 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 good, beyond that if you’re great.
I’M NOT SAYING I’M GREAT, but I do “get” what goes into a good email. My email open rates are usually between 18% -21% which is good, 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.
Putting it all together – 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.
Start an Email list Conclusion:
Well I hope this guide was helpful. If I could leave you with one last point it would be this:
YOU LEARN BY DOING.
You get better at email marketing by doing it, so stop procrastinating – sit down and applying yourself.
Did I miss anything in this guide? What ideas did you find most helpful? What struggles have you had with building out an email list?
Let me know in the comments below. Thanks!