You’ve likely heard it a million times by now.
YOU NEED TO START GROWING YOUR EMAIL LIST
Now, why do people say that?
Well, in today’s post that’s exactly what I’ll be talking about along with how to start growing your email list when you’ve just started blogging, some strategies to implement that have worked for me and are likely to work for you too.
Well then, let’s get started!
But before that, you may be asking yourself, why should you listen to me?
Well, that’s because as of writing this blog post, it’s been exactly 10 months since the inception of The Side Blogger, and I’m happy to announce that I’ve finally crossed the 1K-subscriber mark!
Is that good or bad?
If I have to guess, I’d say, well, it’s definitely not bad 🙂 Especially for a side-blogger like myself 😉
I don’t have a whole lot of data, to be honest with you. I’ve searched Google but while I’ve found some very useful data, none of them was about what a good subscriber count is for a blogger working no more than 10-15 hours per week on blogging/promoting/list-building, etc. Somebody in Quora mentioned getting a couple of hundred subscribers in the first year of blogging is a pretty good number. Others flaunt that they’ve built a list of thousands of subscribers in just 30 days…
Pat Flynn has a free email course about getting 100 subscribers in three days, which is essentially about asking family and friends to subscribe to the list as long as they’re genuinely interested in your content.
Great strategy, however, personally, I know of no one in my family or friend-circle who might be interested in my blogging endeavors. But moreover, I’m one of those people who like to keep business separate from private life. There’s no way I was going to reach out to friends/family members/acquaintances.
So, I only had my blog visitors that I could count on, hoping that they’d like what I share on the blog, and will willingly give me their email addresses.
And for that, I had to come up with some strategies.
With that said, let’s now dive into my personal methods for growing an email list.
Why Should You Start Growing an Email List
Many newbie bloggers ask this question. There was a time when I asked this myself.
“After all, I’m not really selling anything… why should I waste time and money on an email list?”
Here’s what I’ve realized over time: we’re all selling something!
That’s right, pretty much all bloggers sell something. An idea, a product, a service — to name a few.
Let’s tackle these three (idea, product, service) and see how an email list can help in selling them.
First, an idea.
Let’s say you haven’t thought about monetizing your blog quite yet. But I bet you have a message for your audience. Why else would you start a blog anyway? So, you start storming up word after word on your keyboard, hit publish, and then… crickets.
That happens to many a fine blogger, and you know what happens afterward? They stop blogging. Human beings are conditioned to trade. It’s in our DNA. When we invest — whether that’s money, or time, or affection — we want something back in return. Blogging is the same way. You won’t be able to blog for long if you’re the only one reading your awesome posts.
So, you start to find out everything you can about driving traffic to your blog, and eventually, you start getting readers.
So far so good, yeah?
Now imagine if you had an email opt-in form on your blog.
Let’s say, Jenny stumbles upon your awesome blog, and then she decides that she wants to read more. There are many ways to get content in front of Jenny. Maybe she’ll follow your feed on sites like Bloglovin’ or Feedly, or she’ll follow you on social media. But at the end of the day, Jenny is bombarded with a TON of feeds and maybe she decides to check out your new post, or maybe she doesn’t. You can’t really control any of that.
But here’s the thing.
We all check our emails right? We’re also rather careful regarding who we give access to our inbox. It’s easy to add a feed to Feedly or Bloglovin’, or click a “follow” button on social media, but we only give our email addresses to a select few whose work we most certainly wish to follow.
And once you have access to your readers’ inbox, you can directly send a notification about your new content every time you publish a new blog post. And chances are, your readers will be several times more likely to open the email, read it, and click on your links rather than if they were to come across a new post from you on their feed.
Bottom line is: people sign up for your email list when they’re sold on your message or the idea you’re pitching. It’s a sign of their faith in you, and also, the validation you seek for continuing on with your blog. And it is also the best possible way to serve your dedicated readers who’ve willingly given you access to this precious piece of real estate that is their email inbox.
Second, a product.
You may not have a product to sell from the beginning, but eventually, you will. If you’re even a little bit serious about blogging, you will most definitely have a product in the future.
Now, that product may be something you’ve made yourself, or it’s a product that somebody else has created, and now you’re helping them promote the said product (affiliate marketing, anyone?)
Just like an idea, it is also much more likely that your email subscribers will buy from you because, by the act that they’ve given you their email address, they’ve shown you that they’ve put their trust in you. They’re already sold on the idea part. And now you’ll have to convince them to buy the product from you as well.
And it’s much easier to do that when you’ve already been successful at selling an idea to them.
An email list also gives you the advantage of taking your product right in front of them.
Finally, a service.
Much like selling a product, selling a service to your email subscribers is also a whole lot easier because they’re already in your list; you’ve bought them off until they unsubscribe.
And some will.
That’s OK; don’t take it too personally. It’s not your job to make everyone happy. Those who resonate with you and your message will stick around, and those are the email subscribers you want in your list.
When to Start Collecting Emails as a New Blogger
Here’s what a lot of bloggers think and do:
When you’re new and nobody knows you, you can imagine how much they’d trust you. Right, they won’t!
So, before you start collecting emails, you need to convince them you’re worth that real estate in their inbox. You need to sell your idea, so to speak.
As a blogger, you can utilize your blogging platform to sell your ideas. So, what do you do? You start blogging away, and vaguely think you’ll start that email list at some point…
That makes sense, yeah?
NO, IT DOESN’T! It’s all WRONG!!!
But, can you tell me what’s wrong with that thinking?
You see, no two people are the same.
Some people will need to read 10 blog posts from you before they’re sold on your idea. Some others will need to read 20, and yet some others will only need to read one paragraph.
Let’s say you create great content in your niche. But not everyone who stumbles on your blog will have the same level of interest in the topic(s) you’re writing about. But what if someone comes to your blog who has a need for your content? It may be much easier to convince them to sign up for your email list than others. Maybe that first blog post is sufficient for them to want to hear more from you.
But by not giving them a way to show their interest in your content, you’re actually doing them a disservice. You’re preventing them from getting more of your amazing content that they have an actual need for! They were your ideal reader(s), and yet, they had to leave your blog without a way for them to have easier access to your content.
Do not make that mistake! You should have a way for the interest parties to give you their email addresses as soon as they land on your blog, from day-1.
In fact, some bloggers (myself included) would argue that you need to start getting emails even BEFORE you set up your blog.
What am I talking about? Well, let’s say you have a consistent presence on social media, or you write on Medium, or you’ve guest posted or are planning to guest post. But you have no blog of your own. Yet. You can still collect emails since you have an audience, even if a small one. All you need to do is set up a landing page (something you can do with any of the mainstream email marketing platforms out there) and link this page on your blog posts, social media bios, bylines, etc.
But, we’re getting a little too ahead of ourselves here. Chances are, if you’re a brand new blogger, you probably won’t have a lot of content outside of your blog. So, for the sake of brevity (and to avoid overwhelm), let’s say we’re going to start collecting emails after you’ve set up your blog, BUT from as soon as you’ve made your blog public.
Well, as far as the email collection part is concerned, you have to sign up for an email marketing platform, and then add a form on your blog that’s linked to the email marketing platform, so that when people provide their email addresses, it goes straight into some list on said platform.
Personally, I do that with an email marketing platform called ConvertKit [affiliate]. I LOVE this platform — it’s built specifically with bloggers in mind, so they really make the job EASY for fellow bloggers. You can learn more about setting up ConvertKit to start collecting emails from TODAY in this easy to follow, ConvertKit tutorial that I wrote specifically for new bloggers.
Do keep in mind that I recommend ConvertKit only to fellow bloggers. If you have a business that needs a more complex system such as superior trackings, upselling services, sales integration, surveys, and more, then ConvertKit is NOT for you. If that is the case, then I suggest you look at a more powerful platform. One such platform that I’ve had a chance to test out is Constant Contact [affiliate]. It’s a really powerful platform with a lot more bells and whistles than ConvertKit.
Unless you’re dead broke, I suggest you stay away from free email services. They don’t make life easy for sure. However, if you must start with a free service, that’s still better than not starting an email list in the first place. But keep in mind that as soon as you have the means, you should switch to a paid email marketing platform.
How to Get More Email Subscribers?
So, you’re convinced that you need to start collecting emails as soon as your blog is live.
And yes, some of your ideal audience will sign up. But that’s hardly enough. You do not want one or two subscribers. You want more! The faster you grow your email list, the sooner you’ll be making the kind of money you want to make from your blog.
Allow me to take a short break from the usual broadcast and shed light on a very important topic.
I know a lot of people are repulsed by the very mention of money. But please!
Who exactly are you kidding?
Let’s say our primary goal is to help others. Great! So, in order to help, we sign up for a blog hosting company, we buy a domain, we sign up for an email marketing platform, and we spend hours every single week writing blog posts, promoting them on social media, etc.
Sounds ridiculous to me.
We need money if we want to provide value. So, by shying away from the hard facts, you’re only making your life difficult.
AND, you’re also being disrespectful to those who blog FOR the money, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If someone has a skill or knowledge of something very specific, and they want to monetize it by showing others how to use that skill or knowledge to improve their quality of life, it’s a perfectly respectable thing. I meant, if you had to teach for free, our teachers in schools and colleges and universities would starve.
Maybe you’re not that person, but trust me, I’ve come across those who think blogging is either done as a hobby or as a way to help people unconditionally.
The world isn’t that simple. And let’s just agree once and for all that bloggers need money no matter their motivation for blogging. Whether your primary motivation for blogging is to help others or make money for yourself so you can pay rent and bills or even buy a fancy purse from Chanel, it’s nobody’s business.
Alright, back to regular broadcast now!
In order to get the most email sign-ups, the best and time-tested practice is to offer something in return for your readers’ valuable email addresses.
They’re called opt-in freebies or lead magnets, or content upgrades. No matter the term used, they’re all essentially the same thing: Piece of content that’s full of value and actionable steps that you know will be helpful to your ideal audience.
The key to getting more email subscribers, as I’ve found, are the following:
- Blogging about topics that people actually want to read.
- Offering freebies or content upgrades that are full of value.
- Offering actionable freebies or content upgrades (helps readers take action right away).
- Increasing blog traffic.
Blogging About Topics that People Actually Want to Read About
This really starts with your blog niche.
Depending on your niche, a good subscriber count may look different for you. Some niches are more popular than others. For example, a blog in the health and fitness industry is more popular than a blog about scrapbooking. Even within a popular niche, you can narrow down your niche even further. For example, you may choose a broad niche like healthy living, but you may also choose something like a healthy vegan lifestyle, or healthy paleo lifestyle.
I won’t be discussing the pros and cons of choosing a broader niche vs. a narrower niche, that a topic for another day.
But I’ll say this, there are advantage and disadvantage in narrowing down your niche. It all depends on what kind of blogger you are, what your earning goals and, and how much time and resources you can invest in your blog.
Either way, the trick to getting more email subscribers lay in coming up with topics your ideal audience want to know about. No matter which niche you pick, you have an audience, however big or small. Your goal is to figure out what this audience wants to learn about.
There are plenty of ways in which you can figure this out.
Some of my favorite methods are:
- Spy on your competitor and find out what they’re blogging about and which of their blog posts are trending and being shared the most. I suggest you read my blog post on how to come up with winning blog post ideas. I’ve discussed in detail how to spy on your competitors in this post.
- Ask your readers. If you’re active on social media, you can use a poll to collect post ideas, or if you have even a short list, you can ask your subscribers for input.
- Observe audience behavior. You can join Facebook groups within your niche and try and get a feel for what most people need help with, and then generate ideas surrounding those topics.
My favorite by far is tip#1 above — spying on your competitors. Pick your competitors carefully. Pick someone who’s already successful, not someone who’s playing in the same field as you. Another newbie blogger won’t have much to offer you in terms of wisdom or strategies. Big-name bloggers in your niche — they’re the ones to look out for. These are bloggers who’ve already succeeded so they have been doing something right! Follow them, study them, try and figure out the success behind their blogs. See which of their posts are the most popular, and then try and create something that’s even BETTER than what they’ve done.
I strongly suggest you read the post I’ve linked above for more on this.
Offering Freebies and Content Upgrades that are Value Packed and Actionable
Most people are likely to opt-in if they have something immediate to gain upon subscribing to your list, as opposed to subscribing to a generic opt-in form that doesn’t offer any value.
I suggest creating multiple freebies or lead magnets, typically of these two types: content upgrades and general freebies.
A feature of a content upgrade (as opposed to generic opt-in freebies or lead magnets) is that it is offered along with a piece of content that’s already on your blog — such as a blog post — within that blog post. For example, Maybe you have a blog post on the benefits of a ketogenic diet. A content upgrade is a piece of content closely related to the topic of the post, for example, 10 ketogenic breakfast ideas, that you offer within your blog post.
This content upgrade isn’t offered anywhere else in your blog, but only within that blog post. It’s an “upgrade” of the content you’ve already provided in your blog post that you know for sure will enhance the reader’s experience.
So, for the example above, if a reader is reading your post on the benefits of a ketogenic diet, chances are that they’re interested in the topic, and are perhaps not entirely sure how to go about following through this diet. By giving them a list of 10 keto breakfast ideas you’ll be helping them take action right away! And these readers are likely to sign up for your newsletter in exchange for this list.
A general freebie isn’t tied to a specific blog post, but still on topic. For example, if your blog is about health and fitness, then your general freebie should be something related to health and fitness.
An opt-in form to your general freebie should appear on multiple places inside your blog. Typically you’ll have this in places where most people can see it. Some popular spots include: your blog’s front page, towards the top (if the front page isn’t a blog page), in the sidebar, in a top bar, in the footer, etc. Creating a separate page for this can also be a good idea. For example, I have a page called “Freebies” where there’s an opt-in form for my general email list. I use a library of freebies as an incentive for signing up to this form. This is not attached to any particular blog post topic, but a collection of valuable free content that most of my ideal readers are likely to benefit from.
Another good idea is to include this general opt-in form (with your general opt-in freebie) inside blog posts that do not have a content upgrade. This way, interested readers can still sign up for your list if they want to without having to leave the post-page they’re reading.
Whether you’re offering a general freebie or a content upgrade, the idea is to give your readers something they need.
You see, in the example above, the list [of 10 ketogenic breakfast ideas] is both valuable and actionable. Your freebies MUST be value-packed if you want to entice your readers into subscribing to your list, however, it is possible that they’re not always actionable.
Personally, I’ve found that you increase your chances of getting more email subscribers when a freebie is both value-packed as well as actionable. But sometimes, if you have a freebie that’s super valuable while not necessarily something you can take action to right away, can also work. For example, at one point, Nathan Barry — owner of ConvertKit [affiliate] — was offering a chapter from his book “Authority” as an opt-in freebie for joining his newsletter, and while it wasn’t something that I could put into action right away, it was so full of awesomeness that I couldn’t possibly pass up the opportunity to get my hands on it.
Some tips on creating freebies and content upgrades:
Often new bloggers ask me what kind of freebie or content upgrade they should create.
The answer to that really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish, your niche, and the best possible way to provide value to your audience based on the content and your audience’s needs.
Here are some ideas:
- a checklist of actionable items.
- some kind of workbook that takes your readers from point A to point B, whether in accomplishing a task or forming an idea.
(I have a step-by-step tutorial for how to create fillable checklists and workbooks that you can use as lead-magnets in this blog post. Alternatively, I have lead magnet templates made with Canva for sale on the Blog Shop, if you’d rather just customize a template than create them from scratch!)
- an email course (best if you want to give your audience time and space to take an action between each step)
- video content showing your audience how something is done.
- eBook (or audiobook, or both). Be careful about this because eBooks tend to be longer than a checklist or a workbook. It’s a lot of work on your part for free. Consider giving away only a chapter, as part of a sales strategy for your book, or something in those lines. Remember, your freebie need not be long or huge. It simply needs to be of value to your readers, and often a small checklist of actionable items can be more appealing to your readers than a long eBook.
- printables and templates (For example, I have a blog post about how to design media kits for bloggers, and I use a media kit Canva template as a content upgrade. It remains one of my most popular content upgrade by far. I know of another blogger who blogs about sewing and uses free downloadable patterns as content upgrades.)
- access to a private content library (I have a library of freebies that I give access to all my email subscribers. It’s really just a password protected page that has links to some of my most popular freebies, all in one place).
It may be tempting to create a content upgrade for all of your blog posts (I know I had a phase like that), but remember, too much of something isn’t necessarily good. Do not force it. Give as much value as you can within your blog post eliminating unnecessary content upgrades.
Instead, create one or two content upgrades every month or every other month, and make sure they are AWESOME! A sense of rarity can actually increase your email subscription as opposed to bombarding your readers with content upgrades on every single blog post.
It is also a good idea to often revisit your older blog posts and see if some of your popular blog posts can use a revamp along with a content upgrade. Offering a content upgrade along with a popular blog post will increase email subscriptions.
For reference, here are some of my blog posts with content upgrades:
- Why and How should a Smart Blogger Create a Stunning Media Kit
- Start Your Blog with This Massive 52-Point Blog Launch Checklist
- How to Be a Pinterest Boss and Drive Massive Traffic to Your Blog
Increasing Blog Traffic
This is kind of a common-sense thing. The more eyeballs you have on your blog, the better the chances of people signing up. For example, let’s say that 2% of your daily readers sign up for your email list. Translation: if you have a hundred visitors, 2 of them convert, but if you have 1000, 20 of them convert.
So, naturally, increasing your blog traffic will also increase your email list.
Here’s something for comparison. The first graph (below) shows TSB visitor stats between June 2018 and February 2019, and the second graph shows email subscription stats between the same time period. See the correlation?
As for actually growing your blog traffic, here are some useful tips:
- My advice to all newbie bloggers is to use Pinterest to drive traffic to blog posts. Read my blog post on growing blog traffic FAST with Pinterest for tips and strategies.
- Whether you’re driving traffic with Pinterest, or SEO for Google and other search engines, or via some social media platform(s), one of the keys is to create content that people actually want to learn more about. Scroll up for more advice on this specific topic.
- Write killer titles for your blog posts. No matter where you’re promoting your content, the first thing most people see is the post title. You hook people with that. Here are some actionable tips for writing GREAT blog post titles: How to Write Epic Blog Post Titles that are Irresistibly Clickable
- Of course, just getting people to click on the title is not enough. If you want people to stay on your site, and actually read the post and then sign up for your email list, you need to convince them that you’re worth it. And you do that by writing amazeballs posts full of value. Work on improving your writing quality, and do not hold back! Give as much value as you possibly can. I know I have a tendency to write miniature novels for blog posts. Truth be told, I don’t know whether it’s good or bad. But I’d rather give it all than hold it back. Depending on your niche, your posts may be shorter or longer, but the idea is to convince your readers that there’s value in it for them to stay in the loop.
Three Additional Tips for Building an Email List
Aside from the tips above, here are three additional things you need to do to build an engaging email list of people who actually like what your blog about, and are willing to take action, whether that’s clicking on a post link or buying a course or a product.
Nurture Your List
Just getting people to sign up for your newsletter isn’t enough. You need to make sure you’re in touch with them. Make sure that these subscribers aren’t forgotten. Don’t just send an email only when you want them to buy something from you. Regularly stay in touch and provide value. Do not spam!
You see, your email subscribers are your biggest fans. So you need to show them that you care too, that you’re a fan of your subscribers yourself!
Let them know when you have a new post up (if you post several times a week, it may be useful to send them an update once or twice a week.)
When you create new content upgrade, send it to your list without having them opt-in AGAIN!
Whenever you create content outside of blog posts that you think may be of value to your readers, let them know. (For example, if you have a podcast or if you host workshops, keep your subscribers in the look by letting them know.)
Make sure your subscribers feel valued. If a subscriber reaches out to you personally with a comment or a question, make sure to respond to them in a way that’s personal and addresses their specific issues.
Make It Easy For Readers to Subscribe
I’ve touched on it above. To elaborate, you need to make sure that your readers do not have to “look for” a way to sign up. Scatter opt-in forms throughout your blog. Some good places are:
– the sidebar of your blog
– a top bar
– the footer
– a separate page that’s linked on your navigation menu
– Towards the top of your home-page
– blog post footers
– within blog posts
– a popup (a popup for general freebies when people are in the home-page, and also content upgrade specific popups inside respective post pages)
Create An Overall Pleasant Experience for Readers
You need to create stellar content to convince people that it’s worth for them to give you access into their inbox. However, if your blog itself looks crappy and is not user-friendly, then you’ll be lessening your chances of growing a list.
It’s always best to start your blog on a self-hosted WordPress platform (I suggest SiteGround for hosting [affiliate]). This gives you creative freedom when it comes to the designing of your blog.
Well, this should give you a good head-start in building an email list for your blog. Like I said in the beginning, the best time to start a list is NOW! And if “now” happens to be day-1 of your blogging, congrats, you’re right on time. And if “now” happens to be day-245, congrats, this is time!
As always, I very much welcome questions and comments. Leave ’em below and I’ll do my best to answer whatever question you have 🙂