I mean, where would I be today if it weren’t for my email list?
My blog pays my rent and bills, and the money comes from selling products to my subscribers; the bulk of it anyway.
So, if you’re a beginner blogger (or an old-timer blogger who just hasn’t yet started building an email list) then this guide is for you. In this post, I’ll outline everything I have learned from building an engaged, thriving, and growing email list with the following stats:
- Over 9K engaged subscribers in just 3.5 years.
- More than 35% average email open rate.
- Over 4.5% average click rate.
These are pretty dang good numbers if I say so myself. So now, without further ado, let’s get to the meat of this blog post: How to build an email list as a blogger.
Want to know how I gain over 1K subscribers every 3-4 months? Then check out this completely free, 5-day, email crash course.
Sign up below to start the course today! (You’ll also be signing up for my regular newsletters, FYI.)
In this post:
What is an Email List?
An email list is a list of emails of people who’re interested in your content and/or products. These people have willingly given you their email addresses so that you may reach them whenever you want via email.
An email list can contain additional data too, such as names, locations, phone numbers, etc., depending on what the blogger or marketer is collecting.
What are the benefits of building an email list as a blogger?
An email list can do wonders for you as a blogger. I’ve already mentioned how you can make money from your email list. But there’s more to it than just making money.
For example, when I publish a new blog post, I always send a newsletter to my subscribers, notifying them of the new piece of content. Pretty much instantly, I get a huge boost in my blog traffic. My subscribers click on the link, they come to my blog, then they read and interact with my content. This sends search engines a positive signal.
Also, people don’t sign up for an email list for nothing. Ideally, a growing email list is a sign that people are resonating with your content. With time, your email list subscribers can help you determine the type of content they want from you, and this will help you create content that is actually useful for your readers.
And when you create this useful content, you can even monetize them (eBooks, online courses, etc.) and sell them to your email list subscribers. Since your subscribers have already shown interest in your content, they’re more likely to open their wallets for you than, say, a random person on social media.
A Step-by-Step Guide on Building and Growing an Email List
So, you’ve decided that now’s a great time to start building an email list. My sincerest hope is that you’ve made this decision even before you launched your blog. But worry not, because it’s never too late to start. The sooner you do the better, but there’s no better time than now!
Of course, the first step is always to decide what your blog is about, a.k.a., your blog niche.
Next, you’ll need to buy a domain and hosting, and set up your blog with WordPress. There are other blogging platforms, but if you’re serious about blogging as a business owner, then I do not recommend anything other than a self-hosted WordPress blog.
I recommend getting your domain name from NameCheap and setting up your self-hosted WordPress blog with SiteGround hosting. If you need help with those, check out my guide to starting and setting up a blog.
Assuming you’ve taken care of all that, here are the steps to building an email list:
1. Sign up for an email marketing service
First thing first: Sign up for an email marketing service.
An email marketing service helps you collect email addresses (and additional information that you choose to collect.) This is imperative because the right email marketing platform can make your life a lot easier down the road.
Most email marketing platforms have some common features, but we all have our preferences based on the platform’s user interface, user experience, and specific features that a user may want or like.
For me, I have met all my email marketing needs with ConvertKit.
5 Reasons I love ConvertKit
- ConvertKit is super easy to use. It is as though the creators have designed it for the complete newbies! But even as someone who’s fairly tech-savvy, I love the simplicity of the platform.
- ConvertKit’s tags, visual automation, and rules are helpful in targeting a specific audience for specific marketing tactics.
- ConvertKit is simple yet powerful. The platform has the capacity to grow with you as your marketing needs evolve over time. Once you’re with ConvertKit, you won’t have any need to switch platforms.
- ConvertKit’s advanced features like snippets and conditional content within an email can make email marketing efforts even more seamless (and automated!)
- ConvertKit comes loaded with a lot of beautiful form and landing page templates. This means that you can have multiple ways to promote your newsletter; sometimes even without a website.
If you’re a beginner blogger, you won’t have any need to use ConvertKit’s more advanced features. But still, you can sleep better knowing that if you need them, they’re available whenever you’re ready!
I do all of my email marketing using ConvertKit, and I highly recommend it to anybody looking for a user-friendly, beginner-friendly, yet powerful, and feature-rich email marketing platform.
Also, here’s my step-by-step guide to using the ConvertKit email marketing platform. Check out this post to learn exactly how I use ConvertKit to build my own email list.
2. Create value-packed content
Think back on the times you signed up for someone’s email list. You probably liked what they were creating, and you wanted to stay in the loop.
People want to sign up for email lists because there’s value in it for them. And the best way to prove your value as a blogger to a potential subscriber is by giving away a lot of value for free.
You can do that with your blog posts.
Basically, write super-valuable, info-packed, well-organized blog posts that are easy to consume/read, but also help readers by solving a problem or answering specific questions for them.
One of the things I like to do is research the topic before I start writing even if I think I know a lot about that topic. My goal is to look at the top 5-8 articles on Google on any specific topic, research the heck out of them, and then write a blog post that has more value than any of those other blog posts.
I also spend quite a bit of time refining my formatting and structure so that eventually Google will start to rank my content at the top of their SERP (Search Engine Result Page).
Here’s a guide to writing the perfect blog post.
3. Incentivize email subscriptions with freebies
Now that you’ve proven how awesome your content is, next, you want to add further incentives for your potential subscribers. These are called freebies. Basically, if someone was on the edge about subscribing to your email list, a freebie will give them the final push they need to subscribe to your email list.
There are three different types of opt-in freebies:
- A content upgrade
- A standalone freebie
- A hybrid of the two above
A content upgrade is something you offer alongside an existing piece of content, such as a blog post.
For example, I have a blog post where I share how to design a media kit as a blogger. As part of that blog post, I also offer a freebie: A media kit template made with Canva. Anyone who subscribes to my email list using a specific opt-in form within that blog post shall receive the media kit Canva template for free.
Do note that this opt-in freebie is offered only from within that specific blog post and the freebie itself is like an extension to the blog post topic itself, making it the perfect content upgrade.
Another example is a blog launch checklist I offer my readers. This checklist is a perfect content upgrade to the blog post on the same topic.
These types of freebies that are attached to a specific blog post are known as content upgrades. For bloggers, most of our freebies are, in fact, content upgrades, and they offer more ways to get email list subscribers through different types of opt-in incentives.
Examples of content upgrades:
- A checklist or workbook that compliments a blog post.
- A template of something that compliments a blog post.
- A case study that proves the point of a blog post or adds more insight into a process.
A standalone freebie is one that, as the name suggests, stands on its own without needing a supporting piece of content.
An example would be the free email course I offer on starting a blog. This course needs no supporting content, and I often promote it just by itself! In fact, while content upgrades are usually accessed via a blog post, a standalone freebie may have its own landing page, or may even be on the front page of the blog, as I do.
Examples of standalone freebies:
- A free course
- A mini-guide/eBook
- A webinar
- A quiz
A hybrid freebie can be used both as a standalone freebie or as a content upgrade.
For example, I mentioned the free course on starting a blog that I use as a standalone freebie. But I also often use that same opt-in incentive inside a blog post on the same topic: How to start a blog.
What type of freebies should you use to grow your email list?
Not everyone who comes to your blog will want the same thing. That is why it is imperative that you create more than one type of freebies.
Since I launched my blog, I have created well over a dozen different types of freebies. While I cannot expect all my readers to be interested in all of these, having many options means that some of them will be attracted to at least one (or a few) freebies which will lead them to subscribe to my email list.
If you’re a brand new blogger or just starting to build an email list, I’d recommend that you aim to create at least one freebie every month or every other month for the next 12-18 months.
How to use freebies to grow your email list:
- First, create a standalone freebie or a content upgrade. For brevity, let us assume that we’re offering a content upgrade.
- Second, write an amazing blog post. The content upgrade will be attached to this blog post. So, make sure that the blog post is packed with information and tons of value for the readers. Typically, a reader will only subscribe to an email list when they’re convinced of the quality and added value.
- Third, on the email marketing platform (for example: ConvertKit) set up a form—a popup or an embedded form or both—and then set it up so that subscribers get access to their freebie automatically, as soon as they sign up for the freebie. If you need help with ConvertKit, I have a guide right here.
4. Place embedded and pop-up forms strategically
There are a few different places I like to place my email opt-in forms. The more you expose your readers to some type of call to action, the more likely they are to actually take action.
However, be mindful of not bombarding your readers with email subscription forms left and right. If you annoy them, your readers are more likely to leave you than want to stay with you.
Balance is the key.
Best places to put email subscription forms on a website or blog:
- The hero section of the front page (this is the above-the-fold section of your website’s homepage.)
- A link to a signup page in the main navigation
- At the end of every blog post
- Somewhere in the middle of a blog post
- A popup (only on some pages; don’t overdo this.)
- The sidebar
- The footer
You don’t need to add a signup form in all of the above; these are just some of the places you may consider adding a form.
That said, I highly recommend two places among the ones I mentioned above: The hero section of the homepage, and somewhere in every single blog post that you publish.
How I use pop-up and embedded forms on my blog:
Everyone has their own way of doing things, but if you’re a complete beginner and need some inspiration, here’s how I use most of my signup forms at the time of writing this post:
- I have a link to a signup form on my hero section (for a standalone freebie.)
- I have a link to a signup form on my main navigation for all of my content upgrades in the same place (I call it the “library of freebies” and this library is a standalone opt-in incentive.)
- On blog posts for which I have a content upgrade, I use an embedded form somewhere inside the blog post, at the end of the blog post, as well as a popup form.
- On blog posts that do not have a content upgrade, I use a general-purpose opt-in form (typically the library of freebies or some other hybrid incentive.) I do not use a popup form on these types of posts; only a single, embedded form at the end of the blog post.
5. Use a series of onboarding emails
Let’s say that someone has signed up for your email list. Now what?
I like to use a couple of follow-up emails when someone signs up for my newsletter.
For example, let’s say that someone signs up using one of my usual signup forms that give them access to the library of freebies. The first email they receive upon subscribing has the access link to that library. I would then follow that up with an email introducing myself, what I do, what my subscribers can expect, etc. This gives my subscribers a look at who I am so they may feel more connected to me. I mean, introductions are necessary for any lasting relationship, wouldn’t you agree?
Depending on which freebie a subscriber has signed up for, I may use more than one onboarding email (a series of emails, also known as a sequence.)
For example, here’s what happens when someone lands on my blog post on how to sell Canva templates.
- There’s a content upgrade inside the blog post: A free webinar on the same topic.
- When someone signs up to receive the free webinar, they receive an email with a link to the webinar video.
- The next day, they receive another email where I share some more details about my blog, The Side Blogger, about who I am and why I created the blog, what I write in the blog, how I monetize the blog, etc. Basically, I introduce them to me and my blog so they know what to expect going forward.
- I also share access to my library of freebies in the second email, giving them even more value than what they had initially signed up for.
- A couple of days after that, I send them an invitation to sign up for my online course — Side Income with Canva Templates — which has a lot more information, tips, and tricks on selling Canva templates to create a side income stream than what I’ve shared on the blog post or the webinar combined.
It’s only a three-email sequence, but it’s pretty mighty!
This email sequence does a couple of things: It starts off by giving my new subscribers something valuable for free (the webinar they signed up for,) it introduces the subscriber to me and what I do, and it then wows my subscribers by giving them a lot more freebies, and then it proceeds to sell something on the last email.
And, thankfully, some of these folks then sign up for my online course 🙂
But even if they don’t buy something from me right away, they may down the road. And even if that doesn’t happen, they may still decide to stay on the email list, and that alone can be pretty useful too because chances are that they’ll continue to read my blog, improving my blog traffic and engagement stats.
As for the onboarding emails, you can easily automate them with most email marketing software. ConvertKit, for example, makes email sequences and automation real simple to set up. Again, if you need help with ConvertKit, I have a beginner-friendly ConvertKit tutorial right here.
6. Drive traffic to your content
So far we have discussed creating amazeballs content for your blog, signing up for email marketing software, creating freebies and opt-in forms, automating onboarding emails, etc. But none of that matters if people don’t come to your blog!
I recommend driving traffic in a couple of ways:
First, make sure to optimize your blog posts for search engines (SEO), and second, use Pinterest.
These are my primary traffic driving sources and I highly recommend you use them too. SEO is great because ultimately, organic traffic from search engines can bring more traffic than any social media ever could. But SEO is a long game. It can take time for search engines to start ranking your content.
But what should you do in the meantime? Should you just wait?
Use Pinterest! I was getting a hundred or so daily hits on my blog from Pinterest within a few months of blogging. And that was sufficient to start growing my email list. Pinterest is also much easier to manage than, say, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram where you need to create unique content to be able to gain traction.
With Pinterest, all you have to do is create Pin graphics (easy to do with Canva!) and add them to your Pinterest account. Here’s a guide to using Pinterest if you need some help.
7. Send weekly emails
Here’s the thing. If someone subscribes to your email list, it means they want to hear from you. So, make sure they do.
But here too, balance is the key.
For example, I do not advise that you email your subscribers every single day (special open carts, sales, and discount periods are exceptions where you may need to send your subscribers daily reminders.) Too many emails too often can be annoying for most people and lead to more unsubscribes.
Ideally, weekly emails are great. They’re manageable for you as well as your subscribers. You may send one or two emails, but I won’t recommend sending more than three emails per week. Once a week is fine. Once biweekly is OK, but any less than that and you risk people forgetting who you are. And what do you think happens when people forget you? They think your email is spam, so they either mark it as such (you do NOT want that!) or they unsubscribe.
So, weekly (one or two per week) emails are great! Try to stick to that.
What to send your subscribers
Often I come across new bloggers who think they have to write unique content for every single newsletter.
Well, that’s simply not true.
For example, all I ever do is send weekly new post updates. Basically, I publish a new blog post every week, so I send an email to my subscribers with a brief introduction to what that week’s blog post is, and then add a link to that post.
And that’s all I do.
Aside from, of course, when I’m trying to sell something. Then I will send more frequent emails for the duration of the sales period and create unique sales copy.
But on any regular week when I’m not selling anything, I simply update my subscribers on new blog posts about once a week on average, and that is all I do.
There are bloggers, writers, and creators, however, who create unique content for their subscribers. If that’s you, great! I’m not saying you cannot create unique content, but that unless you want to, you do not have to.
8. Sell to your subscribers
Guys, do not ever be afraid or ashamed of selling to your subscribers.
We’re all doing business, yea? Email lists aren’t free or cheap. Heck, running a blog takes money! Depending on how many subscribers you have, you can expect to spend a few bucks to many hundreds and even thousands every month on your email marketing software. So naturally, you have to make money!
Feel free to sell. And as long as you’re selling something that actually helps your audience, there is absolutely no shame in selling.
As for me, I do product promos every three to four months. On top of my evergreen sales funnel for my online course — Side Income with Canva Templates — which I sell year-round with an automated email sequence/sales funnel, I also now sell a blog writing workshop, as well as seasonal sales on my Canva templates.
If you’re a brand new blogger, you may not have a product of your own to sell from the get-go, or enough subscribers to make much of a dent in the wallet. But even so, you can always get into the habit of selling every couple of months, even if you’re promoting someone else’s product. (Affiliate marketing, anyone?)
You’ll lose some subscribers, but that’s OK
Whenever you try to sell something, you might find that many subscribers will unsubscribe. Typically, some subscribers will always unsubscribe when you send an email, even just a regular newsletter with new content updates. But even more subscribers will unsubscribe when you promote a paid product. And that’s normal.
Here’s what I’ve found from my personal experience; the more people unsubscribe, the more money I make!
Of course, there’s no direct correlation. But the truth is that people don’t buy unless you urge them to buy from you. Some people need constant urging and nudging via emails. So, naturally, a ton of people end up unsubscribing. But a lot others will also end up purchasing from you.
To give you an example, during my online course launch over a week, I sent an email almost every day. While I made some sales every day of the week, I made the most sales on the last day. I made almost the exact amount in the last day alone as the combined sales amount over the previous six days.
And throughout the duration of the launch, I made over 5K, but I lost almost a hundred or so subscribers, give or take a few. And I dare say, losing those hundred subscribers in exchange for making over $5,000 in a single week was totally worth it!
9. Purge your cold subscribers
There are always some folks who sign up for your email list and yet never open a single email.
You see, when a lot of people do not open your emails, it sends email clients a negative signal. They think your emails are spam, so they start landing on spam or junk folders even for subscribers who actually want to open your emails.
To avoid that, I highly recommend that you regularly delete your cold subscribers every few months (I purge every four to six months, FYI.)
Aaannd, these are the basic building blocks of growing an email list with your blog. Believe it or not, this is pretty much the exact structure I’ve been following to date since I first launched this blog in June 2018. Keep at it and I’m sure you’ll also see results, just like I did. And do… even now!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you build an email list without a website?
You can leverage landing pages to build an email list. You don't need a website to create landing pages. Many email marketing platforms such as ConvertKit and others come equipped with landing page templates that you can use. You can also use social media platforms and landing pages to gain an audience of subscribers.
What is the fastest way to build an email list?
People subscribe to email lists when they find value in the content. So, to build an email list fast, create value. You can create value in the form of blog posts or other types of content, based on what your niche is. The more value you give, the more people will want to be in your list.
Can I create an email list for free?
Ideally, you'll sign up for an email marketing platform to build your email list, and these platforms charge you a monthly fee. Many of these platforms offer a free version with basic, limited features. However, soon you'll want to upgrade and start paying.
This guide should give you enough to get started and build that email list. If you want to know how to gain 1K+ subscribers every 3-4 months, then sign up for my free 5-day list-building email course below.
Aside from that, if you have questions or comments, share them below!
Want to know how I gain over 1K subscribers every 3-4 months? Then check out this completely free, 5-day, email crash course.
Sign up below to start the course today! (You’ll also be signing up for my regular newsletters, FYI.)