But trust me, many have done it — grow an audience by way of building an email list even before launching their blog or putting out any content, that is.
So, the question is, can you? Well, it is not impossible.
Whether or not you can do it depends on a bunch of factors, and in today’s post, that’s exactly what I’m going to talk about, and then share with you some tips and tricks for doing it yourself, if you’re up for it.
Psst… ConvertKit is running their annual Grow Your Audience challenge this year too, with a grand prize of 10K and a bunch of other prizes for creators. The challenge runs until January 31. Click here to participate now!
The General Idea of a Landing Page
Every year during the month of January, ConvertKit — my favorite email marketing platform — hosts a “Grow Your Audience” challenge. The rules are simple. You have to create a landing page on ConvertKit and get email list subscribers through that landing page. Based on how many subscribers you have (for that landing page only) by the end of January, you could be entered to win some pretty amazing prizes. Those who gain over 100 subscribers are qualified to win their grand prize — a whopping 10-grand!
I didn’t always have much faith in landing pages. I used to wonder, why would people give their email address to someone they don’t know or have no content to measure how useful or authentic they are?
Boy was I wrong. Back in 2020, I participated in ConvertKit’s challenge and I didn’t even make use of the whole month, instead, I haphazardly did some mellow promo (on Pinterest) for my landing page during the last week or so. BUT! I ended up collecting 99 subscribers with just one landing page, in just a week! Who would have thought?! I’ll give you all the details but first, just in case you’re wondering what a landing page is…
As I said, I started a little later, so instead of the whole month, I only promoted my landing page for about a week. And during this time, I managed to get 99 subscribers. It would be an understatement to say that I was surprised. I was kind of, well, in awe. I never knew I could get 99 subscribers from a freakin’ landing page so fast!
So now, let me give you the deets:
- I promoted my landing page solely on Pinterest, for only about a week. But I have a pretty engaged Pinterest account, so that helped.
- Do keep in mind that most Pinterest visitors are not my regular readers. Pinterest is a search engine after all, so people who signed up through that landing page, safe to assume at least most of them are first-timers and had no knowledge of who I was and whether or not what I had to offer would be any good.
- I used a free online course as my opt-in freebie that I had already created even before the challenge started. It’s the free 10-day blogging boot camp. I didn’t want to have to create something new from scratch, so I made a landing page for an existing offer that I thought people would want.
You can check out my landing page here. As you can see, nothing fancy.
So, given the above information, the fact that I gained 99 new subscribers through that landing page alone with only Pinterest shares is pretty awe-inspiring. Compare this to the fact that when I first started blogging, I had less than 250 subscribers in the first 6 months or so!
Lesson learned? If you have an offer that people want, they’ll take a chance in you and subscribe to your email list even if they’ve never heard of you before.
Here’s the thing. 99 subscribers are a lot for a brand new blogger. Imagine getting 99 subscribers even before launching your blog. That’d be a HUGE boost to your blog’s performance once you do launch. For example, when you publish a new post and send an email out to your list, you know that at least a portion of that list will definitely open your email and read your post.
Even if only 25 of those 99 people opened your email and clicked on your post link, that is still something a lot of newbie bloggers can’t say they have.
I know I didn’t when I first launched this blog!
OK, now, before I go on, I want to summarize what the rest of the blog post is going to be about.
In short, in the rest of this post, you’ll learn how to use landing pages to build an email list and therefore, build an audience for your blog, even before launching your blog.
Pre-Requisites for Building an Audience Before Launching Your Blog
So, I’ve just said that you could use landing pages to build an audience before launching your blog. But, like all good things, this too comes with some conditions, and you can only leverage this tactic if the conditions are met.
Condition 1: You must have a very good idea of who your audience is, what their pain points are, and how you can help them achieve something they want.
Condition 2: This relates to condition # 1. Once you know what your audience wants and how you can help them achieve what they want, you have to create a solution and offer it as an opt-in freebie — also known as a lead magnet. Essentially, this freebie acts like an incentive. “Sign up for my email list and I’ll give you this freebie which will help you achieve X Y and Z!” — Something like that.
Condition 3: This is the easy part. You need a landing page, duh! And you need a way to collect the email addresses of those who sign up for your email list, and you must be able to automate the whole process where once someone signs up for your list, they’ll automatically receive your free offer.
Condition 4: You have to be present on a platform (such as Pinterest or a social media network) where you’ll be able to share and promote your landing page. After all, people need to see your landing page first before they sign up!
An alternative to (or in addition to) Condition 4: You can use word of mouth. Share your landing page with your friends and family and neighbors (if you believe they’ll benefit from your freebie… don’t spam them unnecessarily) and ask them to share your landing page with someone they know and believe will benefit from your offer.
You with me so far?
OK, so, now that we know the conditions, let’s tackle each of these more in-depth.
Know Your Audience
Before I had my blog, I wondered how anyone ever knew what their audience wanted. The gurus and “pros” would say something like – listen to your ideal audience… I mean, what does it even mean? I’m an introvert and a private person almost to a fault. I hate going out or socializing with people outside of my inner circle, which is comprised of like… 3 people. How does someone like me “listen” to their audience? But wait, before I do the whole listening part, where is this so-called ideal audience in the first place???
You see, I have an audience now. They tell me what they need. But when I first started blogging, before I had an email list, this thing called “ideal audience” was a complete mystery to me.
But well, eventually I figured it out, as is the case so often. So, I’ll cut through the fluff and tell you exactly what you need to do to understand this ideal audience of yours, especially at the beginning stage when you’re having trouble even defining who your ideal audience is.
There are a few different methods that I personally like.
Your competitors’ audience is your ideal audience
1. Find out who else is blogging in the same niche as yours. They’re your competitors. Use certain topics or keywords and search for them on Google to see what comes up. Click through these links and find out who these people are and what they’re blogging about. You can do the same on Ubersuggest to find blogs that are in the same niche as yours.
2. Spend as long as you need to go over these blogs and make a shortlist of the blogs that most align with your own vision of what you want your blog to be like.
3. Once you’ve created a shortlist, go back to Ubersuggest, and this time, type the URL of the blogs, one at a time, and look at the top-performing posts on these blogs.
Doing the above should give you a good idea of the kind of things your own audience will likely want from you.
Utilize Facebook groups to identify patterns
Another good place to have a better understanding of your audience is on Facebook groups.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Facebook, but there were times when I did get an idea or two from those groups.
Ideally, I’d say, just ask people what their biggest obstacles are when it comes to a certain topic. Stay away from promoting though. Most Facebook groups — the high-quality ones at least — do not like it when you run polls and such. So stay away from those.
Also, just spending some time and observing what kind of conversations are happening in these groups should give you a good idea of what people need help with the most.
Quora is the most underrated publishing platform there is
I don’t know why we don’t have a bigger conversation about this amazing platform.
I get so many ideas from Quora!
If you’re a blogger or want to start a blog, get on Quora today if you’re not there already. And then type a topic related to your niche and see what kinds of questions people are asking. Try to find a pattern. Are there some questions that people are asking more often than others? Take note of these topics. Those are your audience’s pain points that you could help solve, or at least, provide some help or guidance on.
Create Your Free Offer
Now that you know what your ideal audience wants, it’s time to brainstorm and decide what to create as your opt-in freebie.
Now, if you’ve been researching your competitors’ blogs, you may have seen some pretty extravagant offers, like, a chapter from a complete eBook for free, or an entire online course for free.
You’re a newbie, so of course, you don’t have anything extravagant like an eBook. And I don’t advise you to create something so time-consuming before you have your own audience. I want you to create something that won’t take you more than a day. Two days at most. Keep it short and simple.
Now, if you’re a veteran blogger and you have something you created before, then feel free to use that. Like I did. I used my 10-day blogging boot camp for the audience building challenge, and it worked!
But if you’re a newbie reading this, then yeah, keep things as simple as possible.
Here’s the thing. The length of your eBook or email course has nothing to do with whether or not people will subscribe to your email list. It’s about whether or not you have something your audience wants, regardless of the number of pages or emails. You may offer a short checklist that your readers really want, and get a thousand subscribers. You may also offer a whole damn eBook as your freebie, but if it’s not what people want, then well, that’s an eBook gone to waste, along with your time and resources.
If you need some ideas for freebies, I have a blog post that might be useful to you. Check out my 10 Freebie Ideas to Explode Your Email List post. I’m sure you’ll find something of use in that list.
Set Up Your Landing Page and Automation
For this part, you’ll need to first sign up for an email marketing platform.
And my recommendation? ConvertKit.
There are plenty of reasons for my recommendation, but most importantly, out of all the platforms that I’ve tried, and I’ve tried a few, I’ve found ConvertKit to be the easiest.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not the only good platform, but I believe it is one of the bests for us bloggers. You see, some of the other platforms out there are really good for certain uses. But as far as blogging goes, the folks who made Convertkit get it. They get us! They know what we need, so they designed a platform that is perfect for us bloggers. As bloggers, we need to create a lot of different kinds of opt-in freebies, segment a list based on the audience’s interests. With some of the other platforms, this process is, for a lack of better words, A PAIN IN THE REAR END.
But not with ConvertKit.
In the rest of this section, let me show you how to create your landing page!
First, you need to create an account with ConvertKit. ConvertKit now has a free plan where you can create a landing page, set up your automation, and start building your list.
Now, here are the steps to creating your first landing page:
1. Once you’ve signed up with ConvertKit, log in and go to “Landing Pages and Forms” in the main navigation menu. On the next page, click on “Create New”, and then on the next page, click the “Landing Page” option to start building your landing page.
2. Now you’ll be presented with a bunch of templates for your first landing page. You must choose from one of these templates. Most of these are high-quality template designs, and for our purpose, one of these should do. In fact, the landing page I did for the ConvertKit challenge is made with one of these templates.
3. Once you’ve chosen your template, it’s time to customize it. For reference, I’m choosing the Cypress template for this tutorial.
4. Once you’re in the template editor, change the images and texts to add your own content. For the text option, keep things brief but to the point. Pay attention to your copy. Make sure it is brief yet persuasive. Don’t rush this process. Spend some time to come up with something really good.
But at the same time, try not to overthink and paralyze yourself in the process. Do the best you can and then start sharing your landing page. You can always come back to it later and tweak things. I’m always tweaking my copy and imagery on everything. It’s not the end of the world, so, while you should do your best, know that you can and you will come back to it later and make adjustments and improvements as necessary.
5. If the form doesn’t have a name field (the Cypress template, for example, only has an email field and not a name field), then I recommend you add it. I like to make my emails as personal as possible, and when you have a name field, it’s super easy to add someone’s first name to all of your emails with ConvertKit’s personalized shortcodes. For example, to add someone’s first name in an outgoing email, all you have to do is add the following:
and the text above will be replaced with the subscriber’s first name.
But for this to work, you must have the subscriber input their first name. They can’t do that unless there’s a field for it.
So, add it.
– It’s super easy. Just click on the “+” sign under the “email” field, and that will add a new field.
– Now you need to make sure ConverKit knows that this is the first name of the subscriber. To do that, click on the newly created field, and then edit this new field option on the right, as shown in the image below. Choose “Custom Field” under “Save As”, Choose “First Name” under “Custom Field”, Type “First Name” under “Custom Field Label”. Then make sure to check the “Required” option so that subscribers are forced to fill out their first name before they can subscribe.
6. Make sure to change the image and edit the copy on the landing page.
To edit copy, simply click on the text area, delete the default text, and then add your own copy.
To edit the image, click on the image. This will open up the image editing tools on the right. replace the existing image with one of yours, relevant and eye-catching. A lot of research has gone into the selection of images, and the winner seems to the image of a person, preferably facing the opt-in area.
7. Now you need to make sure that all new subscribers get the freebie that you’re offering. To do that, click the “Settings” option from the white banner above the landing page editor. A popup window will open. Choose the “Incentive” tab from the options (see image below). Under this tab, where it says “After confirming redirect to:” you can either choose a URL (edit the default URL to whichever URL you want your new subscribers to go to) or click on the “Download” button to upload a file.
Typically, if you’re creating some type of checklist or mini-guide or some other downloadable file, you’ll use the “Download” option. URLs are useful if you’re linking a file that is hosted in an external location such as Google Drive or Dropbox and you want to share the file link. Or perhaps you want to redirect the subscribers to a video, and then you can share the video link here too. Choose the right option for your unique freebie.
When you’re done, make sure to save the landing page with all your changes and edits by clicking the “Save & Publish” button.
8. Double-check to make sure that your landing page looks as it should. Click on the “Preview” button on the top (inside the white band) to see what your final landing page looks like.
9. Now you’re ready to share your landing page. Click on “Share” on the top (inside the white band), and a drop-down will pop open with the shareable link. Click on “Click to copy” to copy the unique link to your landing page, and then share away!
Share Your Landing Page and Start Building Your Email List
Maybe you already have a Facebook page where you can share your landing page. Maybe you have an Instagram account with a few hundred or a few thousand followers, where you can share your landing page and hope some of those followers will sign up.
Or perhaps you know some people personally who you know will be interested in what you have to offer.
No, I’m not talking about your Grandma who has no interest in what you do but will sign up for anything and everything for you. Aww! Your grandma’s so sweet… but at the end of the day, whether you have her on your list or not won’t make a difference. Unless of course, she is someone who really is, genuinely, someone who can be counted as one of your ideal audiences.
What you need is for your ideal audience — someone who needs what you have to offer — to be a part of your email list. So, if you know someone like that in person, great! Share your landing page with them and ask them to sign up!
But here’s my favorite (and recommended) method:
Share your landing page on Pinterest.
Here’s the thing. Pinterest will prove to be monumental when it comes to driving traffic to your blog. Now, many of you may not have a blog yet, but that’s just perfect! Use this opportunity to create a Pinterest account and start building it up. Pinterest is more of a search engine than a social media network. If you do things right, trust me, you’ll thank yourself later.
Now, if you do not have a Pinterest account yet, I recommend you read this post to set it up the right way. IT’S IMPORTANT THAT YOU SET UP YOUR PINTEREST ACCOUNT THE RIGHT WAY. If you have a Pinterest account already, go over the post anyway and make sure you have everything set up as it should be.
The post I shared above also has some things like how to set up boards and Pins and such which should be useful to you if you’re new to Pinterest.
Now, as for sharing your landing page on Pinterest, here’s what I suggest.
- First of all, I want you to create at least five relevant group boards to your niche and opt-in freebie. This is not your total number of boards. In total, I suggest you have at least 15-20 boards relevant to your blog niche, and more as your blog grows. The five boards that I mentioned should be directly relevant to your lead-magnet.
- Properly name your boards so that it’s clear to any visitor what the board is about.
- Write clear descriptions of your boards. Describe in a few sentences what the board is and what the visitors can expect from these boards. For the board category, choose something relevant, and if you can’t find a relevant category, choose “other”.
- Fill out these boards with relevant content. Find Pins that are relevant to your board/your lead magnet, and make sure each of your boards has at least 50 or so Pins in them.
- Now create Pins for your landing page. I recommend that you create and save one unique Pin for your landing page every other day for at least 30 days. That’s 15 total unique pins for your landing page. You can design these Pin graphics in batches if you want, or design one every other day, it’s up to you. But what’s important is that you save one unique Pin for your landing page every other day for about 30 days, and pin it to all relevant boards (there should be at least five relevant boards if you’ve followed my directions so far.)
- Make sure to write a brief and clear description of what the Pin is about, which is essentially what your landing page freebie is about.
- Write a good title for the Pin.
- Add some relevant hashtags in the description as well. You don’t need a hundred hashtags. Use the most relevant hashtags only, and about 5 or 6 of them should be good enough.
If you haven’t launched your blog already, take this opportunity to grow your Pinterest account by regularly pinning high-quality content. Also, take this chance to grow an email list with your landing page. They’re both (an engaged Pinterest account and an engaged email list) crucial to your blogging success.
Additional methods for sharing your landing page:
My favorite is obviously Pinterest, but if you’re ambitious, here are some other ways to spread the word:
- Share your landing page within relevant Facebook groups. Be careful though, most Facebook groups won’t allow you to just promote your landing page. Some groups won’t allow it at all. Period. Others are a bit lax, but still, most of them will have some restrictions. Maybe you can only share on particular days within a particular thread, or something similar. Don’t break group rules!
- Share your landing page URL in your social media bio/about sections.
- Share with people you know personally, but only if you think they’re genuinely into what you’re offering. If you feel comfortable enough, ask them to share your landing page with people they know and think will benefit from your freebie.
- If you’re on Medium or Quora, share the landing page URL in your bio on those platforms as well (if it’s relevant).
Tips for Maximizing Your List Growth with Landing Pages
Here’s one last tip for you.
Create more than one landing page for the same freebie. Don’t go overboard now; just one additional, or two at most should be fine if you have time.
Pick a different template for each, change the image, change up your copy, and then share all the landing pages on Pinterest, one each day, with a unique Pin graphic.
For example, let’s say you made three landing pages for your free offer (again, with different templates, images, and copy). Let’s name them Landing Pages A, B, and C. Each of these landing pages will have a unique link (URL).
On day 1, share Landing Page A across all relevant boards.
On day 2, do the same for Landing Page B.
On day 3, do this for Landing Page C.
And then on day 4, do this for Landing Page A again.
Do this with a unique Pin graphic each time with a unique Pin description.
This method can prove to be potent and multiply your email list subscription. Because you see, different people react differently to different words and images and layouts. So, by having more than one landing page for the same freebie, you’re opening up your landing page appeal to a broader audience, resulting in more signups.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Landing Pages
How can I build an email list if I do not have a blog yet?
You can build an email list even if you do not have a blog. The things you'll need are 1) an email marketing software that can collect email addresses 2) a lead magnet, also known as an opt-in freebie, to attract subscribers, and 3) a landing page to promote your lead magnet and collect email addresses.
Where can I share my landing page if I do not have a blog or an audience already?
My favorite platform of choice is Pinterest. Even if you're brand new, it is a lot easier to warm this platform up compared to social media networks like Facebook or Instagram. But if you already have a decent following on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram, then feel free to share your landing page on those platforms. Word of mouth is also useful if you know people who may be interested in your lead magnet.
Is it necessary to start growing an email list even before I've launched my blog?
It's not necessary, but it definitely helps and gives your brand new blog a growth boost if you already have an email list, however small or big, at the time you launch your blog.
How much does it cost to start building an email list?
To start off, nothing. There are some email marketing platforms - including my favorite and recommended platform ConvertKit - that come with a free plan to start off.
So, now you should have a pretty good idea for how to start building an email list, and thus a future audience for your still unpublished blog.
If you want to learn more about list building techniques, or, if you have a blog already but aren’t seeing a whole lot of results when it comes to building and growing your email list, then I have a free email course for you that will teach you how to get started with building your list. Consider signing up. It’s FREE!
Alright, that wraps it up! Questions and/or comments about building an email list even before launching your blog? Feel free to share in the comments section below.
Also remember, ConvertKit is running their annual Grow Your Audience challenge this year too, with a grand prize of 10K and a bunch of other prizes for creators. The challenge runs until January 31. Click here to participate now!