An email list is an important asset for any business, regardless of whether it is a traditional business with a physical location or an online business like a blog or ecommerce website.
Your email list will allow you to communicate with your most loyal followers and keep your brand in front of them on a regular basis. Through your email list, you can get exposure for sales and limited-time offers, launch new products and services, drive traffic back to your website, and provide subscribers with content and information that they want, which builds more loyalty.
Although most entrepreneurs and business owners recognize the value of an email list, actually getting people to subscribe and growing the list is often challenging. Most of us already get far too many emails everyday, and we’re not that eager to sign up for more email lists unless we have a specific reason.
As a result, many website and business owners find that it’s more challenging than expected to build an email list. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some specific ways to can encourage more people to subscribe to your list.
1. Make It Easy to Subscribe
Over the years, many studies have show that email optin rates are going to be highest when you require very little information in order for people to subscribe. Asking for too much information is going to kill your optin rates.
To get the best optin rates, only ask people for their email address. Some business owners and marketers prefer to also ask for the subscriber’s first name, which allows emails to be personalized. However, even just asking for a first name will slightly decrease optin rates compared to only asking for an email address.
Don’t ask for additional information like mailing address, phone number, or any other personal information, unless it is vital to your purpose for the email list. Make it easy and quick for people to subscribe and they will be far more likely to do so.
2. Prioritize Your Email List
How important is your email list to your business? If you use (or plan to use) your email list as the primary method of making sales or landing new clients, growing your email list should be at the top of your priorities.
If growing your email list is a priority, that means that it should be a major factor in the design and layout of your website. This means that you should be dedicating the most important visual real estate on your site to growing your list.
For example, when you visit the homepage of Backlinko, the first thing you’ll see is an email optin form. Backlinko’s founder, Brian Dean, obviously places a high priority on growing his email list because he’s dedicating this valuable real estate on the homepage to an email optin form.
But prioritizing your email list is more than simply putting an optin form on your homepage. The process will involve a general approach to growing your business through the email list. Generating optins is only the beginning of the process, so you’ll need to set up an automated sequence of emails to be sent to new subscribers.
3. Give Your Newsletter a Name
What do you think of when someone asks you to subscribe to a newsletter? Chances are, it probably sounds kind of boring. Most people don’t want to subscribe and get more emails that won’t interest them.
You may be able to make the concept of an email newsletter far more appealing to would-be subscribers by giving it a name and making it sound less like a boring newsletter.
At Do You Even Blog, Pete McPherson asks visitors to “join the tribe” instead of asking them to sign up for an email newsletter.
If you click on Pete’s “join the tribe” button, you’ll be led to a landing page that aims to convince readers why they should subscribe (like exclusive content just for subscribers).
4. Make the Offer Irresistible
Why will visitors subscribe to your email list?
Don’t count on people signing up just because they don’t want to miss out on your emails or new content. Give them a reason to subscribe, and make it as irresistible as possible.
The most common way to do this is through a lead magnet, which is a freebie that is offered to encourage people to subscribe.
There are all kinds of different ways you can do this, and many different types of freebies that you can offer. You may think that your offer needs to be something that takes a lot of time or money to create, but that’s not really the case. In fact, sometimes simple offers are much more appealing.
For example, you could write and offer an entire ebook for free as a lead magnet, but most people don’t have the time or interest to read a long ebook. You may get much better conversions with something simple like a case study or checklist that takes only a short time to create.
These simple offers are often easy for subscribers to implement right away, which makes them more useful and more desirable. So rather than spending months to write an entire ebook on the subject of weight loss, why not spend just a few hours to write a much shorter report “3 Simple Exercises That Will Help You to Lose 5 Pounds This Week.” It promises quick results, seems like it would be easy to implement, and would be very enticing to the right visitor.
It’s also important to keep your lead magnet as closely related to your products and services as possible. You could offer a chance to win a prize like an Amazon gift card or an iPad. Those types of prizes will appeal to a wide range of people and you may get a lot of subscribers, but most of them probably won’t be interested in your content. But if your lead magnet is highly-relevant to the products and services that you sell, people who are interested in the lead magnet may also be interested in the products and services that you offer.
For example, Loaded Landscapes is a photography blog that sells downloadable products like Lightroom presets, which help photographers with editing their photos. The lead magnet offered by Loaded Landscapes is a collection of 5 Lightroom presets, which is a smaller version of a product that they sell on their site. The lead magnet appeals to their target audience and people who subscribe to their list are also very likely to be interested in the products that they sell.
5. Make Your Optin Forms Highly Visible
One of the easiest, and most effective ways, to increase email optin rates is simply to make the optin forms and offers more visible. Don’t assume that people who would be interested in subscribing will make the effort to find your optin forms and join your list. Instead, place it right in front of them so they can’t miss it.
There are several different ways you can do this, including the use of:
- full-screen welcome mats
- sticky header bars
- after-post optin forms
- in-content optin forms
Designer Chris Spooner uses a popup to get maximum visibility for his lead magnet, a free bundle of design resources.
Chris also has an email optin form at the top of the sidebar and another one at the end of each blog post. He’s obviously prioritizing his email list and he’s making sure that visitors see his lead magnet to maximize signups.
Although popups and full-screen welcome mats are usually the most effective, there’s no doubt that they can also be a bit intrusive to visitors. You’ll have to determine if increasing the optin rate is worth potentially annoying some of your visitors.
If you decide not to use a popup or welcome mat, a sticky header bar can be another way to get high visibility while being slightly less annoying to visitors.
Keep in mind that people who are reading your content are very likely to be interested in the content that you share with your email list, so you’ll want to make your lead magnet visible within your post content as well.
You can add optin forms throughout your content and/or at the footer of your pages and posts. The footer may sound like a low-quality placement since it will be well below the fold and visitors may have to scroll down a long way to see it, but the end of your pages/posts can actually be a great place to promote your email list and lead magnet. People who have read the entire way through one of your blog posts will be very interested in what you have to say, so this can be a great place to get more subscribers.
6. Create a Strong Brand
Think about the email lists that you subscribe to. I’m sure you subscribe to some email lists because you are a big fan of the brand. Maybe it’s a store that you like to shop at, or a website that you visit frequently, or your favorite restaurant.
My inbox fills up every day and I try to avoid joining new email lists unless I have a strong reason, but I rarely unsubscribe from lists of my favorite brands because I don’t want to miss out on something important in the future. Even if they send a lot of emails, I typically stay on the list because I know I’m going to be interested in something in the future.
The key takeaway here is that you want to develop loyal followers that care about your brand and want to get your emails.
This isn’t something that can be done or implemented overnight. Creating a strong brand takes a lot of time and effort, but the long-term results can be significant. Obviously, growing an email list is only one of the benefits of effective branding, but it’s important to recognize how people’s perception of your business or website will impact their likelihood of subscribing to your email list or staying subscribed.
7. Offer Subscriber-Only Benefits
One way to encourage website visitors to subscribe to your email list is to mention any special perks or benefits that are only available to your subscribers. This can be anything from content that is not published publically on your website, to exclusive sales and promos that aren’t available to the public, to special discounts on products and services from other companies who want to reach your subscribers.
It’s human nature to not want to miss out. If your website visitors feel like they will be missing out if they don’t subscribe to your list, you’re likely to get more subscribers.
These special perks can also be really helpful for keeping subscribers. If they don’t want to miss out on exclusive content or special promotions, they won’t unsubscribe.
8. Maximize the Impact of Your Highest-Traffic Pages/Posts
Most websites and blogs have a few pages that account for the majority of traffic to the entire site. You may have some pages that rank well for a Google search, and those pages can produce a nice ongoing flow of traffic each day.
Make sure that you are fully utilizing these high-traffic pages on your site. They get the most visibility, so they are the most important for attracting new email subscribers.
What can you co with these high-traffic pages? Be sure that there are optin forms that are highly visible within the content of the page and/or create and offer content upgrades.
9. Offer Content Upgrades
A content upgrade is essentially a lead magnet that is created based on the specific content of a page or blog post. While a lot of blogs use lead magnets to increase subscribers, most will use the same lead magnet on every page/post.
A content upgrade takes the content of a page and goes one step further. If someone is interested in the content of the blog post, they’ll probably be very interested in the content upgrade, which means you can get a very high conversion rate if it’s done right.
For example, OptinMonster has a blog post on the topic of creating the perfect optin form. That post includes a content upgrade, which is a checklist that you can download and use when you’re creating your own optin forms. Anyone who is interested in the blog post is very likely to be interested in this PDF checklist (see it here).
10. Use Social Proof
Social proof can help to demonstrate your authority and make people realize that they should be following you. There are a few different ways to do it, but two of the most common approaches are:
- An “as seen in” section that showcases or lists media or websites that have featured you.
- Testimonials from real people
Many websites will showcase the logos of websites, magazines, or other media/publications that have featured them, quoted them, or even linked to them. You can see an example below from Young and the Invested.
Establishing credibility can be extremely effective for getting new visitors to trust you, and for growing an email list.
Likewise, testimonials from customers, email subscribers, and website visitors is another way of showing that your site is worthy of the visitor’s attention.
11. Leverage Other People’s Influence
If you want to get more email subscribers, you’ll need to get exposure to more people. Things like highly-visible optin forms and enticing lead magnets can certainly increase your conversion rate, but if your site has low traffic, you’ll need to get more traffic in order to really grow your list.
One of the best ways to increase traffic is to leverage other people’s influence and audience. You can do this a few different ways, including:
- Publishing guest posts on other blogs
- Getting other people to share your content through their social profiles
- Getting others to link to your content
A lot of blogs accept guest post submissions, and this can be one of the quickest ways to get yourself and your lead magnet in front of more people. In the author bio that goes along with your guest post, instead of simply linking to your homepage, mention your lead magnet and link back to a landing page on your site where visitors can enter their email address to get access to the lead magnet.
And there are several different ways that you can get other people to share your content through social media or to link back to you from their site. One of the easiest ways is to interview people and publish the interview on your blog. Most people who are interviewed will at least share the link with their social followers, and some will even link back to it.
Aside from an individual interview that features only one person, you can ask the same question to many different people through an expert roundup. After the roundup is published, email everyone who participated and ask them to share the link with their social followers.
Even with your regular blog posts there is an easy way to leverage other people’s audiences. It’s a good idea to link out to a few other blogs in each post, and after your post is published, send an email to the people you linked to and let them know that they’ve been mentioned or featured in your post. Some of them will share the link through their social profiles, and it’s an easy way to get exposure to some new visitors.
12. Locked Content
Locked content or gated content is content that will only be visible to visitors who have joined your email list. If you use OptinMonster to grow your email list, setting this up is easy.
In most cases, you’ll want to leave some or the majority of the page visible to everyone, but then you’ll lock a certain part of the content so it can be seen only by subscribers. This is a great way to encourage visitors to subscribe and you can grow your list quickly.
Webinars can be useful for growing an email list, in addition to selling products or services. You can set up a free webinar, and when your website visitors register for the webinar, they’ll be added to your email list.
Not only will webinars help you to land more email subscribers, but they’re also extremely useful for developing a stronger connection with your followers. A webinar can be a lot more personal than simply reading text from a website, so it’s a great way to build trust and help visitors to feel like they know you.
14. Giveaways, Contests, and Sweepstakes
Services and apps like Contest Domination make it very easy to use a contest, giveaway, or sweepstakes to grow your email list. People love the chance to win something for free, and you can require people to subscribe in order to enter the contest.
These contests can also be effective because of the viral nature. You can set up the rules to give extra contest entries to people who share a link to the contest through their social profiles, which can significantly increase the exposure and grow your list even more.
Earlier on in this article, I mentioned that any incentive (in this case, the prize) should be relevant to the audience that you are targeting. If you want to target web designers, don’t run a contest to win $100 in cash, or else you’ll attract a lot of people who won’t fit into your target audience.
Instead, offer a free app or some resource that is relevant specifically to web designers. This way you’ll avoid building a list full of people who don’t really care about your emails after the contest is over.
15. Run Ads
When it comes to generating traffic, most of the attention usually goes to free methods like SEO or social media. But advertising and paying for traffic can be extremely effective if you know the value of the average subscriber. Facebook ads are popular and allow you to target just the right audience to grow your list. If you know the value of a subscriber, you’ll know how much you can spend to generate each subscriber.
Putting It Into Action
We’ve looked at 15 different ways to grow your email list in this article. Don’t let all of the different possibilities become overwhelming… You don’t need to implement everything at once.
Pick something that seems like a good starting point for you and start to implement things one-at-a-time. The very first point, make it easy to subscribe, is a great place to start.
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