The Ultimate Guide to List Building for Bloggers. Have you been struggling with list building?
Having a hard time growing your email list? Well, the saying is true, the money IS in the list.
Don’t worry, this comprehensive guide will show you everything you need to succeed at building your list.
The Ultimate Guide to List Building for Bloggers
Growing your list has so many benefits including:
- Sharing a message with your audience
- Building a bond and creating a loyal readership
- Making money with your blog
- Driving traffic to a piece of content or a cause
- And, more!
Here’s what you’ll learn in our guide…
- Why You Need A List
- Autoresponder Providers Compared
- Different Ways To Send Email – Autoresponders, Broadcast, Blog Broadcast
- 3 Ways To Get Subscribers From Your Blog
- Building Your List With Social Media
- Building Your List With eBooks and Kindle Books
- Using Affiliates To Grow Your List
- Expand Your Reach By Leveraging Your Existing Subscribers
- Grow Your List Faster With An Ethical Bribe
- Test Your Opt-in Forms For Better Conversions
In this guide to email marketing, we will cover the basics that you should know. To learn more in-depth training on how to grow and monetize your list, enroll in the Email Marketing course:
Why You Need A List
Let’s talk about list building, or more specifically why you need to build a list in the first place.
It doesn’t matter what form your online presence takes – be it blogging, creating video content, running an online store or growing a social media presence – any online business can benefit from having a list and focusing on growing your subscriber base.
What makes email lists so special?
It gives you a chance to talk directly to your audience. You don’t have to wait for them to come to your blog or login in to Instagram to see your content, your message, and your offers. Instead you get to go to them … their email inbox to be more specific.
While blog posts, videos, and social media posts lend themselves to talking to your entire audience at once, with email… even when you’re writing an email to a larger list, allows you to talk to each reader individually.
While your blog posts for example are written to a whole segment of your audience, you can sound more personal and personable with your list.
Most importantly though, email marketing converts better than any other form of marketing and it’s the main reason why all your other marketing efforts should focus on growing and expanding your list.
In other words, the list allows you to make a living from your online business. And it’s also a safety net. Let me explain.
Things happen. Facebook decides to close down your account, your website may get hacked and a lot of the content lost, search engines may one day decide they no longer love you and stop sending you free traffic.
Murphy’s Law holds true, even on the web…. Anything that can go wrong will eventually go wrong. But if you’ve focused on building a list, you always have a way to recover.
Plus you have a chance to get to know your readers better. You can build a relationship with them through the daily or weekly emails you send to them (as well as their replies).
You start to build trust with your audience. Why is that important?
Because once you have earned that trust, they will gladly take you up on the offers you sent them via email. And provided you treat your list well and share great stuff, it’s sustainable. You can make offers for things they want and need over and over again.
Auto-Responder Providers Compared
If you have an online business or blog, you need an email list. And for that you need an autoresponder service.
This is a company that stores your readers email address and other pertinent information and allows you to send emails to your list. These can be weekly newsletter, frequent update emails, solo offers, or a series of autoresponder messages.
Let’s look at a couple of different autoresponder providers and compare them. I hope this information will help you make an educated decision when it comes time to sign up.
All options we’re discussing here are subscription services – meaning you’ll pay them a monthly fee for their service, similar to your hosting fees. There is a second option – a self-hosted autoresponder, which I do not recommend you, try.
There are all sorts of technical and legal hot waters you can get yourself into by hosting your own autoresponder service.
Leave that to the guys that know what they are doing and sign up for a reputable Autoresponder provider. Here’s a short list and comparison of a few of my favorites.
Aweber has been in the business of list building and providing autoresponder services for ages. They have a great reputation and work hard to ensure their emails are delivered to your reader’s inboxes.
Over the years they’ve expanded and added a lot of features for list segmentation, testing and tracking, and list building templates. They offer a free trial if you want to check them out.
One of the big disadvantages of Aweber is that they charge you for duplicates (same people subscribed to multiple lists of yours) and unsubscribes unless you go in and manually delete them. Since pricing depends on your list size, this can quickly add up.
Mail chimp has long been the autoresponder darling of bloggers. It’s easy to use, has a lot of functionality and some beautiful templates to make your newsletters and emails look just as pretty as your blog.
Like Aweber, you are charged for duplicate entries and unlike Aweber it is hard to segment your list and track to see what’s working. If all you’re worried about is one main list for your blog, Mail chimp is a great option for you.
If you want a little more functionality and data, and you want to be able to set up multiple opt-in forms then this may not be the right choice for you.
ConvertKit (my favorite!)
ConvertKit is the best email service provider, as it offers the best of both worlds. It’s easy to use and has very pretty options like mail chimp, but with all the bells and whistles of Aweber.
And since it was developed by a professional blogger who was sure to include everything he’d want in an autoresponder service, this might work even better for you.
The only downside here is that the company is fairly new and still small. Let’s hope they make it and stick around for decades to come.
Different Ways To Send Email – Autoresponders, Broadcast, Blog Broadcast
When it comes to email marketing, there are 3 basic ways to send email to your subscribers. They are a/r or autoresponder messages, broadcast emails, and blog broadcast messages.
Most popular autoresponder services allow you to set up and use all three with your lists. Let’s take a look at each of these email types in turn as well as when and how you may want to use them.
Let’s start with a/r emails. These are emails to go out to your readers in the order they signed up.
It’s a little hard to grasp at first, but it’s a very efficient way to email your list. Often the very first email you send to your subscribers is an autoresponder email.
I’m talking about the welcome email your readers receive in their inbox as soon as they sign up.
You usually thank them for subscribing in this message and if you offered a freebie for signing up, you deliver it in this email as well.
The autoresponder function allows you to schedule more emails to go out to your readers on a regular basis.
The big benefit of using this type of email is that you write them once, get them scheduled and you know that every single person that signs up for your list will see every one of these emails. This is perfect for evergreen content and offers.
Broadcast emails, on the other hand, are more like the emails you send through your personal account. You send them today and whoever is on your list today will get the email. Someone signing up tomorrow or next week never sees this email.
It works very much like your Gmail account. The big difference is that you email hundreds or thousands of people at the same time.
This type of email is great if you send out a weekly or monthly newsletter and any content or offer that’s time sensitive.
Blog Broadcast Emails
The last option is a blog broadcast. This is a pretty cool feature and an easy way to automate some of your email marketing if you’re a blogger.
The autoresponder service generates and sends out an email as you blog. You can set it up to send out an email each time you publish a new blog post, or create an email every so often (once a week for example).
Ideally, you want to use all three types of emails on a regular basis. Mix and match them to get your email messages out in an effective way. Having options gives you leverage and it allows you to make the most from every email message you write.
3 Ways To Get Email Subscribers From Your Blog
Are you using your blog to build your list? If not, it’s something you want to move to the top of your list of priorities. It’s one of the most effective and most profitable things you can do for your online business.
There’s a reason you keep hearing “the money is in the list”. Here are three different things you can do to get subscribers from your blog.
Related: How to make money blogging
Opt-in Form In Your Sidebar
The first thing most of us will do is add an opt-in form to our blog that will show on every single page.
For most of us, that means posting a form in the sidebar. While this may not be the most efficient way to get subscribers, it’s a great place to start.
Get it up there. It’s something you only have to do once and it will work.
If you’re ready to build your list faster, consider testing different locations, different headlines, different images, and different opt-in offers until you find one that converts well for you.
Pop Up Forms
Love them, or hate them… they work and they work well. If you’re worried about annoying your loyal blog readers, set it up to only show up once every few weeks.
As with any other opt-in form, it helps to switch things up and see if you can get a better conversion rate with different copy or offers.
No matter how you personally feel about pop up opt-in forms, give them a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how well they work and how fast your lists start to grow once you start using them.
Customized Opt-in Forms At The End Of Your Blog Posts
Last but not least let’s talk about a slightly more advanced technique. This particular strategy for growing your list involves a little more work and it’s not something you want to do every time, but it can be incredibly effective.
The idea is to have a blog post and then a related opt-in offer at the end. Let’s say you’re blogging about parenting and just wrote a blog post about different ways to motivate your child to use the potty. One of them is the use of a potty chart.
At the end of the post, you have an option offer where readers can sign up for more parenting tips from you and as a thanks for signing up they get a printable potty training chart.
In other words, either the copy of the opt-in form or the opt-in freebie is catered specifically to the content of the blog post.
Yes, this is a little more work and not something you will want to do for every single post. Instead, reserve this for your highest-traffic posts.
Building Your List With Social Media
Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, Pinterest etc. are a great place to find your target audience and get in touch with them.
Often we focus on building engagement with readers there and then work on getting them back to our blog.
Social media sites however are also a great place to build your list. And with that it’s easy to get back in touch with them even when your favorite social media site changes its algorithm and your audience suddenly no longer sees all your posts.
The benefits of focusing on building your list first on social media don’t stop there. Growing your list and getting them on there first, then allows you to direct your readers wherever you want them to go.
Got a blog post that could use some comments, interaction and social media love?
Email a link to your blog post. Got a pin that could use an extra boost, send your readers there and encourage them to repin. Got a Facebook post that’s on the verge of going viral? Email your list about it and ask them to like, comment and share.
Now let’s talk about how you can go about growing your list from your social media activity.
The first thing you want to do is set up a dedicated opt-in page. It’s a simple page on your blog or website that’s set up with the sole purpose of convincing readers to sign up for your list.
If you want to get fancy, you could even set up a different opt-in page for each social media page and customize your content to those audiences.
But let’s keep it simple for now and create just the one page you’ll use everywhere.
Next log into your social media profiles and either add or replace your regular website url with the new opt-in page url.
That along will start to send a nice little stream of social media traffic to this page and grow your list. As readers check out your profile, the idea is that they click through to learn more about you and your blog and end up on your list.
Last but not least, make it a habit to regularly invite your social media followers to sign up for your list. Try various different approaches.
One week, you may highlight a particular benefit of being a list subscriber. The next, you may give them a glimpse at an email that will go out the following day, inviting them to sign up so they don’t miss it.
Or offer them an exclusive coupon or offer that will go out to newsletter subscribers only.
Try a few different types of posts until you find what works well on each social media platform.
Building Your List With eBooks and Kindle Books
Let’s talk about a fun and creative way to grow your list that’s terribly underused. Do you sell or give away eBooks? They can be PDF documents or any other format you use.
How about Kindle books? Have you thought about writing and selling eBooks on Amazon? It doesn’t really matter how or where you sell your electronic books, they are a perfect medium for growing your list.
This strategy works particularly well if you’re selling at least some of your books to audiences outside of your own circle of influence. With Amazon Kindle that happens naturally as others discover your books and Amazon cranks up its marketing machine and recommends your book to readers with interest in similar books.
But it also happens when affiliates promote your other eBooks, or readers find them in popular marketplaces like Clickbank and JVZoo or via social media and search engines. Take advantage of any instance where your ebook (be it paid or free) reaches further than your blog or website.
Here’s how you do it. Think of the topic of your book. Is there something else your readers would be interested in?
Even better, try to come up with complementary content that would make a good printable. For example, if you have a Kindle cookbook, offer printable versions of the recipes.
If you have written a how-to book, create a printable checklist or workbook that readers can use as they work through the book.
The idea is to entice the majority of your readers to click through, sign up for your list and download the printable. For that to happen, be sure to mention the offer for the extra content several times throughout your book.
For fiction books, you can go a few different routes depending on your genre and your book. Do you have a short story or novella written that gives further insight into one of your main characters?
Maybe it’s a prequel, or a little side-story that didn’t make it into the main book. Offer that as a free download for subscribers.
If your fiction world involves a large, sprawling family, make a pretty family tree graphic and offer it as a printable download.
If you’ve created a whole new world or a new vocabulary, create a printable map or a small dictionary of terms for your readers to get them on your list.
Get creative and come up with something fun or useful that will make them want to sign up. If nothing else, be sure to set up an opt-in page where readers can sign up to be notified of future book releases.
Using Affiliate Marketing To Grow Your List
Let’s talk about growing your list with cookies. No I’m not talking about bribing your readers with cookies and milk. Instead we’re talking about digital cookies and your affiliates will do the list building for you. This requires two things.
You need to have a paid product and an affiliate program set up for that product. Once you have those things in place, you’re ready to use your affiliates to build your list.
I’m going to assume that you have your product and affiliate program in place and also have at least a few affiliates lined up to help you promote this and grow your list.
The list we are growing is a free list, unlike the customer list your affiliates already help you build.
Take a look at your product, or even your products. Then come up with a topic for a short report that’s related to the topic of your product. Ideally this will be something that’s one step before you get to your product. Let’s run through a couple of examples, to give you a better idea of what I’m talking about here.
- You have a product about setting up a blog using WordPress. Your short report could be about registering a domain and setting up WordPress friendly hosting.
- You have a product about getting more traffic from Pinterest. Your short report could be about getting started with Pinterest, or how to read Pinterest Analytics Data.
- You have a product about Eating Paleo. Your short report could be about the dangers of consuming wheat and sugar.
- You have a product about paying off consumer debt. Your short report could be about budgeting your money.
You get the idea. Your free short report will focus on a topic or a piece of information your target audience needs before they need what you have to offer in your paid product.
And chances are you already covered a lot of this stuff on your blog or website.
Write the short report, grab some PLR and edit it, or compile a few of your blog posts into a report. Within that report you also want to promote your paid product.
Your next step is to set up an opt-in page where readers sign up with their email address and get the free report. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated, but you need that page for this to work. Once you have it up and it’s working, add a link to it in your affiliate area.
Email your affiliates and let them know what you’ve set up.
Share their affiliate link for this free report page with them and explain that while they won’t get anything for the free signups, they will get a “cookie” and as soon as one of those subscribers buys your product, they get their affiliate commission.
Expand Your Reach By Leveraging Your Existing Subscribers
It’s all about the list and much of your daily and weekly efforts when you’re working online are spent on growing that list. There are all sorts of different ways to do this, but today I want to share something quick and easy with you that works very well. And that’s to leverage your existing subscribers and get them to build your list for you.
Yes, you read that right. We’re going to have our current subscribers recommend us to their circle of influence and expand our reach exponentially. The best part is that it’s easy and something you can do regularly.
The most important thing for this to work is that you have to have a good relationship with your readers. Make sure you serve them well and treat them right.
Provide the content they are looking for and the content and tools they need (those aren’t always the same) and help your readers reach their goals. This builds trust and it won’t take you long before your readers turn into raving fans.
That’s when it’s time to start leveraging who they know. No matter what niche you’re in and who your target market is, chances are good that your readers and subscribers know others who are interested in the same topics.
And since everyone uses email and social media these days, it’s easy for them to spread the word for you. All you have to do is ask. I’m serious… that’s all it takes.
In your emails, occasionally encourage your readers to either share this email with others who may benefit from it, or ask them to send potential subscribers to your blog or opt-in page to sign up.
If you’re encouraging your readers to forward your email to someone else who may be interested in the content, make sure you also mention in the email how new readers can subscribe.
That’s not a bad thing to have in there anyway, because people will occasionally forward your messages even without prompting.
By asking them to share though, you’ll get much better results. Try a few different approaches. The “forward this email” one we already talked about is one option.
Another is to simply ask them to recommend you to their friends and have them send prospects to your opt-in page.
Last but not least, put part of your last email, a tip, or any other helpful advice into a Facebook post along with a link to your opt-in page.
Share the post with your readers and ask them to comment, like and most important share with their followers and friends. Do this periodically and your list will grow exponentially.
Grow Your List Faster With An Ethical Bribe
The money is in the list and that means the faster you can grow your list, the faster you’ll grow your income.
But also your reach, your audience, and of course, the traffic to your blog for example. In other words, growing a list is important and growing it faster will help you get your blog and your business of the ground faster as well.
One of the best things you can do to grow your list faster is to offer them an “ethical bribe”. I’m sure you’ve seen these.
They are often short reports, printables, spreadsheets or videos that website owners and bloggers offer for free when you sign up. You see them all the time and for good reason. They work like a charm.
And they are very easy to use. You need to decide what you want to give your readers in exchange for their email, put that in your opt-in page and mention it in your opt-in form on your site, and last but not least deliver it to your subscribers. Let’s look at each of these three steps in a little more detail.
Create Your Ethical Bribe
Start by thinking about what your potential subscribers might want. Your most popular blog posts may give you some great ideas, as will an email questions you frequently receive. Pick a topic and then decide how you want to deliver the freebie.
Short reports are popular as are printable pdfs, but videos and audios are other options. If you have an online store, you could even offer an exclusive signup coupon.
Decide on your ethical bribe and then create it. Write it, turn it into a pdf, record a video and upload it. Do whatever you need to do to create your opt-in freebie and have it ready to go.
Advertise It On Your Opt-in Form and Page
Next, write some enticing copy that will get your visitors attention. You should tweak all your opt-in forms on your website along with any dedicated opt-in pages you have to reflect this new freebie. Take a look at what your competition is doing and how they are presenting their freebie.
Come up with a good headline and a good call to action. Visuals also help. If you are offering a free report or a printable for example, get a graphic for it that you can add to your newsletter signup boxes for example. Entice your readers to sign up for the freebie.
Upload and Deliver Your Bribe
Last but not least it’s time to deliver the freebie. Upload it to your web server and then write or edit the welcome email that goes out to any new subscriber to include a link to the ethical bribe – whatever you decided to make it.
That’s it, give this a try and see if you don’t’ start to grow your list faster.
Test Your Opt-in Forms For Better Conversions
We’ve talked about creating an ethical bribe to grow our lists faster in a previous post. Now let’s take it a step further and build that list even faster by improving conversions.
When it comes to list building, there are two ways to grow your list faster. You can get more traffic to your site or you can improve your opt-in form.
Getting more traffic is a lot of work. It’s much easier to test, tweak, and improve your opt-in conversion. And as an added bonus when you work on getting more traffic, your list will grow twice as fast.
Any good autoresponder service will make it easy to test different opt-in forms on your blog.
Dig around your dashboard, or talk to support to find out the technical how to. It’s different for each provider, but usually pretty straight forward.
With that knowledge under your belt, you’re ready to start testing. The idea is simply to make small changes in your opt-in form and then see what converts better. This is usually done via an A/B test. Here’s how that works.
You start with your current opt-in form. Then you make a copy of it and you change one little thing – let’s say you try a new headline so instead of “Sign Up For My Newsletter” you could try “Get My Best Tips and Ideas In Your Inbox” for example.
The testing software will then start rotating these two versions of the opt-in form and keep track of how many signups you get for each. After a while you’ll be able to tell which one converts better. Keep that one and test something else. Keep going indefinitely or until you can’t find any other ways to make your opt-in form convert any better.
Here are some things you may want to test on your opt-in form:
- How much information you ask for (first name and email, vs. just email for example)
- Headline and call to action copy
- Signup Button
- Size of your opt-in form
- Placement of your form (where it is on your website)
- Opt-in freebie offer (or ethical bribe)
- Include a note that you don’t spam
- Include a note that it’s easy to unsubscribe
This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but enough to get you started. Start testing anything you can think of and make it a game.
See if you can beat your last version. If you’re brave and feeling adventurous, you could even test a completely different offer (new look, new freebie, new tone of voice) and see if your readers respond better to that.
Ultimate List Building & Email Marketing Guide For Bloggers – Final Thoughts
Testing doesn’t take a lot of time, but if you can improve your opt-in rate from 10% to 20%, that means you’re getting 10 extra subscribers for every 100 people you get to your website. That’s a pretty big deal.
Hopefully, you found this list building guide helpful. To learn more about email marketing, including how to make money with your list, enroll in HerPaperRoute’s Email Marketing Course.