How To Grow Your Email List As a Newbie Blogger (+ Free Canva Templates)

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Ever wonder how other bloggers and small business owners grow their email list? Demystifying the email list mystery in this blog post, one step at a time | The Side Blogger #email-list #EmailList #Newsletter #Email #Blogging #Blogger #Email-Marketing #Marketing #Small-Business #Growth #Online-Business

We all hear it or read it on other, popular blogs about how important it is to grow your email list. But why?

Let me tell you what happened not too long ago.

A few days ago, I realized that someone was creating Pin graphics that have nothing to do with The Side Blogger, yet was linking these graphics to this blog. I promptly proceeded to report the Pins and the user. In less than 24 hours, this person’s account was deleted along with the Pins.

Why do I tell you this story?

As much as I LOVED Pinterest’s prompt attention to my needs in resolving this issue, I also realized how easy it was to get your Pinterest account suspended or deleted.

A few months ago my Facebook account was suspended for a couple of days while I had to go through the painstaking procedure of proving my identity before the account was restored.

These things happen all the time. Social media is great and useful for growing your blog and business. But the truth is that you have no ownership over your followers or your content. They can be gone in a moment without so much as a notice.

And that is exactly why it is so important to invest time and money in building and cultivating an email list.

Problem is, when you’re just starting out, it’s hard getting people to trust you with their precious real estate in their inbox.

Take this blog for example. When I first started this blog, there were DAYS when I didn’t get a single email sign-up.

And now? I have at least 2/3 people sign up for my email list every single day! It’s not that bad considering I’m only a side-blogger and spend no more than a few hours each week actively growing/promoting this blog.

But this shift didn’t come about until about a couple of months ago. That’s when things started to change. Not just email sign-ups, but my traffic increased as well. Instead of a couple of hundred page views per week, I started having a couple of thousand. Every single day now, without exception, I have people sign up for my email list. And the only platform I utilize to actively promote this blog — Pinterest — now gets tens of new followers every day.

Makes you wonder, right? What happened? What changed?

So, I sat on it for a few days, and I’m pretty sure I know now precisely what caused this shift. And today, in this blog post, I’ll share with you exactly what I did that impacted the change in traffic and email signups on this blog, and hopefully, if you emulate my methods, you’ll be able to see the same results.

First of all, a disclaimer: There’s more than one way to grow a blog. What I describe in this post is just one of these many ways. Also, I’m not going to teach you how to get thousands of email subscribers in just a few days. Maybe that’s how it is for some bloggers; I wouldn’t know. That’s not how it has been for me. I had to try and test different methods which took time, and only then, not long ago, things started to result in ways I anticipated. And I suspect much of it has to do with how much work I put into this blog (again, I only blog on the side).

Because I had a limited number of hours, I needed to pick and choose which promotional methods I was going to implement for growth.

Whether you are a side-blogger or a full-time blogger, I’m sure my methods will be of use to you. You can always build on top of what I teach you, scale, and grow!

That said, let’s now jump in!

Why You Should Actively Grow Your Email List

An email list is your biggest asset. A social media platform is like a house of cards. Don’t worry too much about them. You need them, yes, to promote and to grow. But remember that they can go away any time. A business can close. You may get locked out of your account or get hacked. This isn’t just me being paranoid, guys! These things have happened before, and I suspect they will continue to happen.

So yes, take your social media following with a pinch of salt.

The real effort should go into growing and cultivating your email list because it’s a list of people who have willingly given you access to their precious inbox. A percentage of these people religiously open your emails every single time you send them something, because they love what you share with them, and they feel a connection and a sense of loyalty to you.

When the time comes, and you’re ready to grow your blog, sell your services, or promote your new book, or a new product, your subscribers are the ones who will stick by you and make that first investment.

So yes, you need to grow your list, AND you need to respect and take care of those on your list. By willing to be a part of your email list, your subscribers have shown tremendous trust in you, so it only makes sense for you to live up to it as well as you can.

How to Grow Your Email List

There are five main factors that I believe contributed to the growth of my email list:

  1. Sincerity toward my readers
  2. The right blog post topics
  3. The right opt-in freebie/incentive
  4. Drive traffic through Pinterest
  5. The right email service provider

Let’s tackle each at a time, shall we?

Sincerity toward Readers

You’d think this is obvious, right? And yet, I see too many folks writing sub-par, super mediocre, totally unhelpful content for a topic that sounds interesting at first glance. The title promises instantaneous glory, but the actual content hardly has anything helpful other than common sense stuff.

Remember, your readers aren’t dumb. Do not insult them by writing mediocre and obvious things. Maybe you’re afraid that if you give too much, your readers won’t buy that eBook from you, or they won’t sign up for your eCourse. Or some such nonsense.

Here’s a truth bomb if you will. When you start putting money before service to your audience, you’ll also start losing the said audience.

Money is important. To be able to provide top-notch value, you need to take care of yourself first. And you need money to do that. I get it, guys! I need money too. In fact, I started this blog so I could make money.

However, disregarding the intellect and/or feelings of your audience isn’t the way to making the big bucks. Trust me on this! The pursuit of money doesn’t bring you success, the pursuit of success brings you the money. And the way to success as a blogger is through your service to your readers.

Respect your readers, and serve first and foremost. And then observe the most curious thing happen when you do that. You’ll see that people will start gravitating towards you (and your blog). They will start paying for those courses and eBooks. Even if they have access to all the content for free on your blog, they’ll still prefer to buy as opposed to having to track down individual blog posts.

But to get there, you have to first give without reservation. As a newbie blogger, your goal should be to create meaningful content, and give, and teach. Give everything. Teach everything. Be as generous as possible.

And that is the most important thing you need to drive traffic to your new blog. And when the traffic comes, email signups usually go up as well.

Choosing the Right Blog Post Topics

Alright, so you’ve got the sincerity part down pat. Now let’s look at some logistics, shall we?

I’ve found that often, the topics I think will be of help to readers aren’t as popular with my readers. Instead, some other topics, often those I think are too obvious or too easy, are!

The lesson I’ve learned over the last few months is this: common sense isn’t all that helpful when it comes to blogging. You think you know your ideal audience profile, but you don’t! So, you need a healthy balance when it comes to topics.

I’m not saying to not write posts you think your audience should know about. Do write them! Because sometimes your audience may not know that they need something. But eventually they’ll realize that they do, and so having written the post will mean your readers will have access to it when they’re ready for it.

But in the meantime, you need to give them what they need even if you think it’s too easy or too obvious.

For example, I wrote a post not long ago about blog post formatting techniques. I was skeptical at first. “I mean, doesn’t everyone know these stuff?” — is what my naive self assumed. I didn’t take it into account that there are some really busy folks out there who’re trying to learn the blogging ropes from scratch. Some things that I find “obvious” may not seem so at all to some of my newbie blogger-readers.

Also, it may be tempting to create blog posts that make you look smart. Topics that may be too difficult or complex requiring sound knowledge and expertise. I get it, guys. You want to look the part. You want to prove to your audience that you’re an authority in your field. That’s all nice and dandy, but remember also be sensitive to your readers’ needs and not be so self-absorbed that all you can think about is looking cool.

And now, if you’re wondering how to come up with some of these popular topic ideas, I have good news! I just wrote a blog post about ways to finding topics that are GUARANTEED to be popular with your ideal readers, with the use of two FREE tools! Give this post a read guys, it will change the way you blog.

No, really! I want you to make a mental note and read that blog post after you’ve finished reading this one. Even if you have already read that, I want you to read it again! That’s how important it is to be able to write about the right topics.

The Right Email Opt-in Freebies

I have a few opt-in freebies on this blog. One of them, the very first one that I offered, is the most unpopular. No wonder I wasn’t getting any email subscribers!

It wasn’t until I started to offer a detailed workbook for those who’re planning to start a blog that I finally started to get some momentum.

And then finally, when I started offering a free media kit template made with Canva as one of my opt-in incentives, is when things really took off (daily sign-ups!)

Unfortunately, I still have no clue exactly how to tell which opt-in freebies will be popular with readers. I have a solid formula for finding popular blog topics, but not popular opt-in freebies. I assume it’ll require some trial an error to figure out what works.

That said, typically it seems that most bloggers, myself included, offer at one point or another, some kind of checklist(s) and workbook(s) of some sort. No matter what your niche is, you can probably find something you can make a checklist or workbook out of, that readers would be interested in.

Something else that I’ve found to be useful as opt-in freebies are templates! Take my media kit template for example. It’s the most popular opt-in freebie on The Side-Blogger to date!

Anyhow, here’s the thing. To make your life simple, I have made a Canva template for checklists and workbooks. It’s yours to use freely to create your own checklists and workbooks! All you have to do is sign up for my newsletter below, and the templates are yours!

(See what I did here?)

Pro-tip: You should aim to offer multiple email opt-in freebies. For me, what seems to have worked is to offer opt-in incentives that relate to a particular blog post, and then have an opt-in form within the relevant blog post. For example, I have a blog post about how and why bloggers should create media kits, and I offer my media kit template only within that blog post. I have created a separate opt-in form for this freebie alone with ConvertKit (more on ConvertKit below) and this form is shown only to readers when they’re on that post.

Drive Traffic through Pinterest

Being a side-blogger means I have limited time and resources. I knew I couldn’t jump around. I had to prioritize blogging itself, of course, and then I figured if I had to choose just one platform for all my networking and promotion, it should be Pinterest!

The decision was made because of a couple of my favorite bloggers who swear by Pinterest. Also, I’ve never been big on social media. Now, search engines are a different story; that I do understand (I’m an SEO aside from being a web designer and developer). And while Pinterest is not Google, it was still easier for me to wrap my brain around the concept.

So, I boldly decided to go all-in with Pinterest. And I must say, so far it’s paid off!

Every single day I share two of my own blog posts on Pinterest. I share a link (and Pin) of a post I want to promote on all of my own relevant boards, as well as on all relevant group boards I’m part of.

I try to be very strategic about which blog posts I share. I make sure that at least 4/5 days out of 7 I share a blog post that has an opt-in freebie offer along with it. (<– this is important if you want to grow your list!)

And of course, as par for the course, I do all the necessary things which make Pinteresting successful, such as:

  • I’ve converted my personal Pinterest account into a business account.
  • I’ve made sure my pins are all rich pins.
  • I create anywhere from 3-6 high-quality Pins per post.
  • I make sure all my Pins have a keyword-rich description.
  • I pin regularly (again, twice a day, every single day).
  • I not only share my own pins but also pins by other bloggers I like and follow.
  • I’ve made sure that my Pinterest account name and bio are descriptive and have relevant keywords.
  • I’ve also made sure that I have enough boards with keyword-rich descriptions for each.
  • Last but not least, I’ve joined several, high-quality group boards. That’s an important step if you want to get your Pins in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

7 Steps to Creating Beautiful Pinterest Graphics with Canva
How to Triple Your Monthly Pinterest Engagement in 30 Days

The Right Email Service Provider

A.k.a. ConvertKit.

So, guys, I’m an affiliate of ConvertKit, which is nice and cool and hopefully will someday make me some money.

However, there’s a reason why I chose ConvertKit [affiliate] and have stuck with it for as long as I have. I’ve used MailChimp, MailerLite, AWeber, and Active Campaign before, either for myself or for clients, but it wasn’t until I started using ConvertKit that I finally realized what a great email service provider can do for your business.

Let me touch upon a few important factors here:

First, as I’ve been saying, I only blog on the side. Having efficiency is a MUST when it comes to anything blogging related that I do. Absolutely NONE of the other email marketing platforms that I’ve used up until switching to ConvertKit has offered me this amount of efficiency.

For example, creating multiple forms for different opt-in freebies is not only easy, but it can be set up so quickly that it’s no joke! I need to be able to do things fast, and ConvertKit has made that possible for me. I can guarantee that setting up the same automation rules with any of the other email platforms would have taken me a few times longer than they do with ConvertKit.

And yes, to be perfectly honest, that is pretty much the SOLE reason why I’ve stuck with this email marketing platform. ConvertKit [affiliate] makes my job easy and makes me more efficient. 

I know some of the other platforms offer free packages up until you reach a certain number of subscribers, which can be very tempting for newbie bloggers. Whereas with ConvertKit, after your trial period (one month) ends, you have to switch to their paid package which starts at $29 per month even if you have zero email subscribers.

But my suggestion to all of you newbie bloggers is this: if you’re going to invest in your blog, make this investment a priority. Like, seriously! Before you go buying blogging eBooks, or affiliate marketing courses, or any other course that you think may be of benefit to your future blogging endeavors, invest in ConvertKit first. It will transform the way you do email marketing!

OK, have I convinced you yet? If not, shoot me an email and I shall attempt to convince you again!

Yes, that’s how important this is. And no, while I’d love to make thousands of dollars with ConvertKit’s affiliate program, I am NOT stressing this issue right here and right now because of that! I’m stressing upon this issue because I KNOW my own email list would be struggling right now and wouldn’t see the growth that it’s seeing today, had it not been for ConvertKit.

So yes, again, if you’re going to invest in one thing regarding your blog, make THIS a priority. Sign up with ConvertKit [affiliate] TODAY! And like I said, the first month with ConvertKit is free, so do take advantage of it.

How Should You Lay Out Opt-in Freebies/Forms for Maximum Impact

As far as the important bits are concerned, the criteria listed above are what you need to focus on if you want to grow your email list. However, that’s not enough. You need to pay attention to a few logistics if you want to grow your list. Allow me to briefly touch upon some of these technicalities:

Have Multiple, Blog Post Specific Opt-in Freebie Offers/Content Upgrades

As I mentioned before, opt-in freebies are a hit or miss. You can’t know for sure what would work unless you’ve tried a few different things. It would be to your benefit if you had multiple opt-in freebies to offer to your readers.

Here’s what you should do. Every time you write a blog post, ask yourself if you can create a content upgrade. Perhaps a checklist that can help your readers along with the blog post, or a workbook. These two are the most common types of content upgrades (and the easiest to make). Then, of course, there are eBooks, email courses, quizzes, webinars, etc., but they’re a lot more work and you should take your time creating them and do one hell of a job at those.

Do keep in mind not to overdo it. You don’t need to offer a content upgrade with every single blog post. Try to aim for creating a meaningful, and useful content upgrade only if you think it will actually be of help to your readers. This way, you help when the help is most needed, without overwhelming your readers or yourself.

Here’s how you offer post specific content upgrades:

Create a New Form in ConvertKit for the Specific Content Upgrade

Or using whichever email platform you’ve signed up for. The method will be different based on different platforms. In some, you may need to create a whole different list, in others, like in ConvertKit [affiliate], all you need to do is create a new form and add a welcome sequence to that form with your content upgrade.

I would suggest that you have the form both embedded inside your blog post, as well as a pop-up within that blog post page only. I tend to do that, and I often have more signups via the popup than the embedded form. But, for maximum conversion, you should have both.

It’s really easy to add both a popup and an embedded form (with ConvertKit) if you’re using WordPress (which you should if you’re anywhere near a serious blogger). Just grab the script for the specific form, and add it to your Post Editor (while in the text editor mode). ConvertKit also offers shortcodes for WordPress users that you can use instead of the scripts. You’ll need to install their plugin for WordPress, and voila. Add a form with a shortcode — it’s that simple.

Have One Main Freebie Opt-in on All Posts

What if a reader stumbles upon a blog post that doesn’t have a content upgrade? However, what if your reader loves the blog post and wants in on your newsletter? Just because you do not have a content upgrade, doesn’t mean you can’t have a newsletter opt-in form.

In fact, all your blog posts should have an email list opt-in form. For those posts without a specific content upgrade, I use a generic opt-in form.

You should, however, have some freebie offer in exchange for your readers’ email addresses. If not a specific content upgrade, create a more generic freebie that any of your readers can benefit from.

Personally, I have created a library of freebies and I give all my subscribers access to this library. It’s really just a page that has most of my freebies. I didn’t do any extra work except for creating a new page and listing most of the freebies there. Whenever someone signs up for my email list, I have a welcome sequence through ConvertKit that sends subscribers a link to that page.

It’s a fairly popular method of giving all your subscribers easy access to all or most of your freebies.

Have a Popup to Your Generic Opt-in Form from Your Home Page

The homepage of your blog is always a really popular page. It’s the most common landing page after all, so it only makes sense that you should have an opt-in popup on your homepage.

Popups tend to do really well, so I suggest that to all my readers. I also suggest that you set it to be shown after a few seconds as opposed to having it pop up right away. In ConvertKit, you can easily set a timer for this, or even have an exit-intent pop-up.

Personally, I prefer a delayed pop-up, say about 5-7 seconds after one lands on your homepage.

A Few Other Places to Have an Opt-in Form

Aside from an opt-in form in posts pages and the main homepage, here are a few other places where you should have an opt-in form:

  1. Create a new page and embed your generic opt-in form or any other opt-in form to which you want people to sign up. Link this opt-in page in your main navigation bar.
  2. Create an opt-in widget on your sidebar, if you have one.
  3. If you have widgets in your footer, you can add an opt-in form there as well.
  4. You should use ConvertKit’s landing page option to create a couple of landing pages to your main/generic opt-in, or any other opt-in you’re trying to drive traffic to. Use links to these landing pages on social media. You can create Pins specifically for these landing pages and share on Pinterest.

That’s it, guys. Hopefully, this blog post gives you some idea as to what your next move should be in order to gain more email subscribers. Remember, your email subscribers are your most loyal followers. Be diligent when growing this list, and treat your list well.

Any other tips on how to grow your email list? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Ever wonder how other bloggers and small business owners grow their email list? Demystifying the email list mystery in this blog post, one step at a time | The Side Blogger #EmailList #Newsletter #Email #Blogging #Blogger #EmailMarketing #Marketing #mailinglist #newslettersignup #newslettersubscriber #subscriber

Ever wonder how other bloggers and small business owners grow their email list? Demystifying the email list mystery in this blog post, one step at a time | The Side Blogger #EmailList #Newsletter #Email #Blogging #Blogger #EmailMarketing #Marketing #mailinglist #newslettersignup #newslettersubscriber #subscriber

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Maliha created The Side-Blogger as an experiment to see if turning a blog into a profitable business is a possibility for moonlighting side bloggers. Learn more here, and connect with Maliha on Medium.
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