*This post contains affiliate links.
How to Start an Email List
When I started blogging I knew it was important to start an email list. At first I had no idea how I will actually use it, or even what I will email to them, but everyone was telling me to build a list, so I tried. And I assume you’re trying this too right? And I bet you may be a little overwhelmed?
I know I was! I initially thought why couldn’t I just email everyone out of my Gmail account? What’s all this fancy talk about an email marketing client and paying for a service to send emails on my behalf. Crazy! I’ll never be big enough to need something like that.
I wish I took it more seriously. If I followed the steps below from day one, and didn’t have to learn all of this, my list would easily be double what it is today.
Please don’t feel discouraged. I know this is a lot to learn. And your time is limited, so I’m going to make this as easy as possible for you.
This blog post contains 3 HIGHLY VALUABLE videos to help you start your email list today.
- A video that will show you how to create a optin or freebie in Canva
- . A video that will show you how to grow your email list with optins created in PowerPoint
- . A step by step video that will show you how to add a signup form to your blog to start your email list
I will show you exactly what I did in the post below, so you are setup with all the right tools and knowledge from the beginning of your blogging journey.
I had so many failed attempts at building an email list. My freebies were terrible, although I thought they were stellar! No one signed up to my list. Even though my traffic grew, my email list was only at 36 subscribers after two months. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to build my blog into a business at that rate.
But I didn’t give up. I tried different optins (a gift you give your reader in exchange for their email – I go into examples of optins later in this post) and placements. I had all kinds of different popups. The bar at the top of the window, a little popup on the side of the screen, and even an entire welcome mat popup. All of them proved not to be effective. Not because they are bad methods of growing your list, they are great actually, but my lead magnet was terrible.
In this post I want to walk you through my journey of growing my list from 0 to 6,597 subscribers in one year.
I will cover everything I’ve learned about how to start an email list for your blog.
- The Importance of building and email list, even if you’re just starting out.
- What exactly and email list is.
- Why you need a list for your blog.
- What to send to your subscribers once they sign up.
- When do you send emails? And how often?
- How do to send emails and how to offer an optin (video included below!)
- How to grow your email list.
- Examples of amazing optin ideas that convert and a recap of all of my failures.
My Journey of Failures and Success
Here is a quick month by month journey of my email list growth.
My Blog Launch
January – I launch StartaMomBlog.com with my first optin as an offer to feature my readers on my site. If they signed up to my list I promised to place a link back to their blog from my site with a short paragraph and picture of them. This worked well and grew my list to 100. I had to cut it off because I wanted the post to have no more than 100 bloggers on it.
I remember telling myself that I can ‘launch’ my site when my list reached 100 – that was my personal little litmus test. And by launch I only mean that I publish the five pillar posts (like this one and this one) I had lined up and start to promote my blog on social media. It was technically live since mid December with just a landing page to collect emails.
My Failed Optins
February – I tried multiple different optins. I had a subscriber box that asked people to just follow me. Why would they do that? Why would they just follow me out of the blue if they barely know anything about me? I think the only people who signed up for that were my parents who wanted to see what this blogging this was.
Secondly, I had a list of 25 blog post ideas. Now it’s a great post and optin, but it’s so common. You can do a quick Google search and find hundreds of posts that offer blog post ideas without having to sacrifice your email address. So good post, terrible optin.
Lastly I offered free stock images as my optin. I really thought people would love it. But as my ideal audience are moms who are just starting blogs stock images were not the first thing on their mind. It wasn’t solving a problem for my reader. It’s not why they came to my site. So even though it’s a great optin for sites that are about stock images, it failed on mine, because my audience is not looking for that solution.
The Perfect Optin – Success!
Finally, I found the perfect optin. I was keeping a Google spreadsheet of all the Facebook groups I joined and their promotional days. This allowed me to get traffic to my blog and ensure that I didn’t miss any promo days. Because with a toddler and newborn baby I was missing a lot. So I needed a system. I offered access to the promotional Facebook sheet I put together and it went crazy!
Now this was solving a problem that my readers had. They wanted to get traffic to their new blogs, and I gave them a solution. This optin grew my list to over 1,000 in a month. I was delighted! I finally found something that worked.
March – Since February’s big jump in my list I’ve continuously tested new optin ideas. By adding specific optins to each of my popular posts I’ve been able to grow my list to over 6,500 subscribers.
My rule of thumb is that all of my top 10 posts need to have a specific optin to drive subscribers to my email list.
What’s the Importance of Building an Email List?
Initially building an email list is hard work. It feels like it’s taking forever. But trust me, it is worth it. Why? Because half of my sales come from my email list. Being able to reach my readers directly in their inbox is a huge privilege! You’re given access to come into their world, instead of them just seeing you on social media or on your blog. You’re IN their inbox! That’s a big deal. They’ve already said a small ‘yes’ to you.
In the dating world you can think of it as their telephone number. Now it’s your time to give them a call (send them an email) and see if they’ll go on a date with you (buy your product). But first, you have to woo them – more on that later.
At least half of my sales come from my email list, that means that if I’ve earned the following amounts in each month in the graph below, the total comes to $27,617. Half of that is $13,808. That definitely makes investing the time and effort in an email list so worth it!
What Exactly is an Email List?
In short, it’s the people who liked your site enough to sign up and give you their email address (the key to their inbox). When you receive an email from your readers treat it like gold. I try my best to get back to my readers as soon as I can. Although I am limited on the amount of time I can spend on my computer, as I mostly blog when my little ones sleep. So most of my replies are a few hours delayed.
In your mail list are your future customers, your future friends, and potentially future blogging partners. It’s pure gold. You have to treat it well, because like any friendship it can go cold. Think of your email list as a relationship. If you never email them, or just call sporadically, or just reach out to them when you have something to sell – it’ll be a pretty one-sided and selfish relationship.
You need to treat your email list like a good friend. Check in on them weekly, send them amazing advice and tips, help them, educate them, send them gifts. Then when you ask for a favor (or sell your product) they will already have a relationship with you and help you out much more willingly! To make a million, you need to help a million.
What Do You Send to Your Email List?
I get this question from my readers a lot. “What do I send to my list?” And it’s a great question! What do you send to these complete strangers who signed up on your blog? Let’s go back to the example above. It’s a new friendship, this person likes your post enough to give you their email address, but they need to get to know you better now. So how do you do that? Woo them. Help them. Be a friend.
When you see your list as one person and write directly to them, then you won’t come across as forced or fake.
Examples of emails you can send to your readers
- A welcome series
- An email course
- Upsells after a purchase
- Your newest blog post
- Weekly tip
- Weekly roundup
- Survey or just a personal email with a few questions
A Welcome Series
If you are just starting out and you don’t know your market too well yet, then do a welcome series.
- Send a welcome email telling them a bit about yourself and asking them to share who they are. Make this a two-way conversation. Especially when you are just starting out, you need to get your readers to reply to your emails so you can understand them better.
- In the second email continue the conversation. Send them a helpful tip or amazing advice.
- In the third email, share one of your best posts, and ask them what they think about it.
- In the fourth email focus completely on them. Ask them what they are struggling with, ask how you can help. The responses to this email will help guide the direction of your blog and give you future blog post and product ideas!
- In a welcome series you can have 3-6 emails that help to build a relationship with your reader. There is not set number of emails, as long as you keep adding value to your reader, you’re good.
A welcome series is there to build a relationship with your reader. It gives you the ability to get to know them. Their responses will become future blog posts and product ideas. Keep a log of their comments and concerns so you can start to paint a picture of your true reader.
A Product or Affiliate Funnel
You can also funnel your subscribers into a product you sell. Or if you don’t have a product already, funnel them into a product you’re an affiliate for. Here is a rough overview of the two funnels I have setup for my email list.
New Bloggers Funnel
- I funnel new moms who are interested in starting a blog into my “Interested” funnel. I send them multiple emails explaining the basics of blogging and why it’s so amazing. I keep the conversation two-sided and ask them questions about themselves in each email. Only after five helpful emails do I finally promote my product, the Blog by Number course for moms.
- Convertkit, my email marketing provider, makes setting up these funnels super easy! They even have prefilled prompts to help you write your own awesome emails! And as you can see, these emails are sent out automatically when someone signs up to an optin that is connect with a funnel.
- Once this is set up, you can generate sales while you sleep!
Again, as a bonus to the students in my Blog by Number course, you get a free template to create your first optin!
Established Bloggers Funnel
- Secondly, I funnel those moms who are already bloggers but want to monetize their blog better into my “Blogger” funnel.
- I love this funnel! It starts with a quick overview of what the reader can expect in the first email.
- Then the series gives the reader three amazing affiliate marketing tips for their blog. Advice they can implement easily to see results quickly.
- I then send two emails dispelling any fears they have regarding affiliate marketing.
- And then finally, I woo them into my amazing two solutions – products that have skyrocketed my own affiliate (passive) income on my blog.
- My last email asks my reader what is holding them back, the responses to this email gives me great insight on what I need to improve to convert future readers! Again, the emails I receive from my readers are pure gold, they tell you exactly what you need to do to increase your conversions.
Again, as a bonus to the students in my Blog by Number course, you get a free template to create your first optin!
When Do You Start Emailing Your List?
Even if you only have five people on your email list, reach out to them! Send them a quick welcome email. Ask them how they found your site. Ask them how you can help. Even if you get one response, you’ll start to build a relationship with that one person.
In my early days when my list was tiny, I just used my Gmail account to send emails to my list. I still had under 100 subscribers and for a few weeks just did all of my communication through Gmail. Remember to BCC the email addresses when you send an email to a large list (this hides the emails from everyone on the list). You don’t want everyone’s email to be visible.
How Often Do You Email Your Mail List?
Like any relationship, you need to keep in contact. If you never call or text your friend, and only text her when you desperately need someone to watch the kids, she may be unexpectedly ‘busy’. But if you have a great relationship with her, you go out for coffee once in a while, you chat with her weekly, you send her funny articles and helpful recipes – she will clear her schedule when you need help. The same goes for your email list.
Like I said before, treat your list like a good friend. Even though there are thousands of people on my email list, I know many of them very well. We’ve had multiple emails back and forth. I know their issues, I know where they blog and what they struggle with, precisely because I’ve treated them as a friend. And many of them have not just bought my course, but every single product I create or recommend. They are truly my besties!
So how often do you talk to your friend? Weekly at least right? That’s what I do. I send a broadcast email to a large segment of my list once a week when I have a new post. And even if I don’t have a new post (because the little ones keep me busy and I just couldn’t get to it that week) then I send my list an awesome tip exclusive to them. Many times these tips eventually turn into a full-fledged post on my blog.
Like this email that received a huge amount of replies from my readers. This email turned into a post on my blog so I could share it with those not yet on my list too.
On rare occasions, I will email my list more than once a week. I do that when I have a time sensitive piece of advice I want to share with them, or if I’m running a promotion – like my Black Friday Bundle that skyrocketed my November income and utterly shocked me!
There is no perfect cadence for emailing your list. But stay consistent. If you want to email them twice a week, or twice a month – that’s great. Don’t get overwhelmed in the details, zoom out and see your email list as a group of friends. You want to build those relationships and keep the connection warm.
How Do You Email Your List and How to Add Optin Forms in your Posts
I’ve covered how I emailed my list when it was still tiny. But how do I do it now? Now that I have thousands of subscribers – how do I keep my relationship warm with all of my readers?
So if we do the rough math, how many emails do I send per month?
If I email my list weekly, that is four emails a month to 6,000+ people = 24,000 emails
Half of my list is also in a sequence (the funnel emails I showed above that are sent automatically to my readers). So this comes to about 3,000 readers in funnels each month and there are roughly 9 emails in each funnel, so 3,000 subscribers times 9 emails = 27,000 emails
So overall, I send 24,000 + 27,000 = 51,000 emails each month. That is insane! There is no way you can do that out of Gmail. So I use Convertkit to manage all of this for me. It is well worth the monthly fee I spend to generate auto sales and keep my relationship strong with my readers.
In the video below I cover how I create optins or printables in PowerPoint or Canva. I also go step by step how I upload the PDF to my blog, connect it to Convertkit and add the sign up form to my blog post.
These optin forms along with popups have helped me build my email list over the last year.
How to create a lead magnet or optin using PowerPoint
How to create an optin using Canva
How to add a signup form to your blog post using Convertkit
Why Do I Use Convertkit?
I initially started to email my list when it was still tiny, and I just used my Gmail account. Then I switched over to MailChimp for a while until my list grew to 2,000. After that I finally made the beautiful switch to Convertkit.
It’s pricey paying for an email marketing provider but so worth it! I would never be able to send thousands of emails for free from my Gmail account. And like I showed before, my email list is worth at least $13,000+ just this year alone. So that more than covers any expense of paying for an email marketing provider.
Sign Up Forms and Funnels
Convertkit allows me to add an unlimited number of specific sign up forms to each of my blog posts. Each form can also feed into a tailored email sequence funnel like I showed above. These funnels help drive sales to my products even when I’m not working on my blog. They help build relationships with my readers. They’re awesome!
Autoresponders are your invisible sales force. It does all the selling for you as you run around the house chasing after your kids. Your emails are being sent and going out.
Yes, email marketing is pricey. But imagine hiring a team of sales people to go out and sell your product. That would be thousands a month. And essentially, that is what an email autoresponder does for you.
If it’s highly segmented and personalized, the autoresponder emails will convert your readers into customers on autopilot.
As busy moms we need all the automation we can get. And this one is pure gold.
Segmentation and Triggers
Convertkit also allows me to segment my list so I can tailor specific messages to only a set of subscribers. This increases my conversions, open rates and click-through rates and decreases my unsubscriber rate.
I can also segment my readers and see who is highly engaged and send them a coupon or gift. And I can delete my cold subscribers from my list to remove people who no longer read my emails. The goal is not to have a huge list, but to have a super engaged list of subscribers.
Triggers is also an awesome feature of Convertkit. When someone click on a specific link in one of my emails, it can move that person to a new email funnel or add a new tag to them. This allows me to be more personal in my emails with my readers.
Additionally, Convertkit does not ‘double count’ my readers when they optin to multiple forms on my blog. This saves me lots of money by not inflating my list size incorrectly.
Dealing with Cold Subscribers in Convertkit
If you have cold subscribers on your list and you want to trim it (because it costs money to keep people on your list) you need to run a re-engagement campaign. See this post by Convertkit: How to Prune Cold Subscribers from your List
Worried about unsubscribers? Here is an answer directly from the source. “ConvertKit has a cold subscribers feature that tracks who hasn’t opened an email, in the last 90 days. Every 90 days or so, we recommend sending an email to this filter. Something like, “Do you still want to be on this list? Click here if you do!” If the subscriber clicks, they are removed from the cold subscriber filter, and then you can delete all subscribers from that filter. Additionally, they won’t become a part of unsubscribes, they’ll be fully deleted. This is great news for you, because it makes your open rates better, as it’s a smaller number being divided!”
Because I’m not just here to sell products but to actually help you with your blog, I want to be completely honest. Lately I have had a few issues with Convertkit. When my readers try to reply to the emails I send through Convertkit their replies never come though and is labeled as spam. It’s due to spammers sneaking into Convertkit’s system. Here is a reply from Convertkit:
“Basically what happened is that there were some spammers on the list who were sending spam to their list containing links to not so clean websites. We do our best our best to weed out spammers when they sign up through ConvertKit, which is why we manually approve all websites and need to do all plan upgrades manually too. We value high deliverability even if it takes an extra manual process to make sure it gets there.
Unfortunately, spammers are sneaky and horrible people who are getting smarter every time. So in this case they found a way to trick us and got on our list. Because they were sending spammy links, and we change out links to a ConvertKit link to track clicks and make our automations work, they infected our domains.
It was hard to find who were causing this, that’s why it took so long to find the root of the problem. We’re taking short-term measures to solve this as soon as possible as well as long term ones to make sure it will never happen again.”
Convertkit’s customer service has been in contact with me daily since this issue came up. They have made huge progress in resolving it and have credited my account for the inconvenience. Due to their quick responses, super helpful customer service, amazing product and true care for their customers, I will not be switching email providers.
Spammers and hackers can infiltrate any online business so I’m having a little patience and forgiveness when things don’t run super smoothly. And I’m hoping that one day when I mess up others will have patience with me too.
Optin and Lead Magnet Ideas to Grow Your Email List
Optins, also known as freebies or lead magnets, act as little gifts in exchange for the reader to subscribe to your email list. It attracts your ideal customer (if the optin is tailored to a product funnel) and grows your email list quickly.
Below is a list of different types of optin you can tailor to your niche and give to your reader in exchange for their email address.
- List of tips
- How to video
- Short ebook
- Spreadsheets – like my Automation IFTTT Recipe or Big Picture Vision Board
- Cheat sheet
- Free stock images
- Calendar – Step by Step Blogging Calendar
- Weekly Planner
- Prompts – 130 Blog Post Headlines
Here are a few of the optins I have on my blog and links to each post where you can download them.
How To Grow Your Email List
Phew, we’ve covered a lot in this post so far. So now that you know exactly what I do to grow my email list and exactly how I do it. What other ways are there to grow your list of subscribers? You now know how important it is!
- Optins (shown in this post)
- Sharing a landing page to your optin on social media – definitely ask your social media followers to sign up to your list too. This way they can get exclusive tips from you that you do not post on social media – things you keep special for your subscribers!
- Popups (I use SumoMe and Convertkit)
- Run a giveaway
- Create landing pages and send traffic to them – see the examples below.
- Add a Call to Action in the banner of your Facebook blog page or group
- Use Pinterest to promote your freebie – see this pin here
- Promote your freebie on Facebook promo days
- Do a Facebook Live
- Write a guest post and direct people back to your landing page
- Add an optin on your About Me page
This post mostly focused on optins within blog posts to grow your email list. But another fantastic way you can use optins is to offer them on a landing page. A page dedicated to one purpose, either collecting and email address or selling a product. Landing pages work great at converting subscribers. You can see my Facebook Group Promo List landing page here and my Blog by Number Course landing page here. Also remember, when you guest post, always direct people back to a page to gather emails, rather than just to your home page. Subscribers are more valuable than page views.
Why Build an Email List if No One Reads Your Emails
But wait, are you worried that people don’t read emails anymore?
Sure, there are challenges with reaching your readers through any medium that you use. Facebook limits your reach when you post, Pinterest doesn’t show your pin in the smart feed, and your emails end up in the Promotions tab and your reader never opens them. There are always challenges with reaching your future customers.
But this is nothing new. Imagine you have a brick and mortar store. How many people drive by your store without noticing it? Or if you run an advertisement in a magazine, how many people will flip through without glancing twice at your product?
Don’t let the challenges of building an online business stop you.
My blog’s Facebook page is tiny but I still get some sales from it. My email list is under 10,000 and I know not every single person on that list opens my emails. But still I am able to generate a very generous income from it.
Focus on the positives. Even the biggest bloggers have open rates of under 30% and click-through rates of 2-5% from their email lists.
Lost? Confused? Too much info all at once?
I know this is a lot. Blogging has a steep learning curve. But trust me, if you put in the time, solve a problem and build relationships, you can make this work too! There are thousands of people who are making an income by working online, here is a quick list of 53 income reports from bloggers. So please don’t get discouraged. At a super high level, here is what I do to generate money with my blog. I’ve created a visual for you because we learn easier through charts and graphs than through black and white text. Pin it so you can refer back to it later too!