How to Start Growing an Email List Before Launching Your Blog

17 min read

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How to build an email list even before you've launched your blog.

Sounds impossible?

But trust me, many have done it–grow an audience by way of building an email list before even launching their blog or putting out any content, that is.

So, the question is, can you? Well…

Maybe.

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.

Content

The General Idea of a Landing Page

Let me start with a challenge I partook in last month (as of writing this post).

During January, ConvertKit — my favorite email marketing platform — hosted a landing page challenge. The rules were simple. You had to create a landing page on ConvertKit and get email list subscribers through that landing page. Based on how many subscribers you had (for that landing page only) by the end of January, you could be entered to win some pretty amazing prizes.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but until now I’ve never had much faith in landing pages. After all, I always thought, why would people give their email address to someone they don’t know or have no content to measure up how useful or authentic they are?

Boy was I wrong. I didn’t even make use of the whole month, and instead, I haphazardly did some mellow promo (on Pinterest) for my landing page during the last two weeks or so, but BOOM! 99 subscribers! Who would have thought! I’ll give you all the details but first, just in case you’re wondering what a landing page is…

A landing page is a stand-alone page where you drive traffic for a specific purpose — to have this traffic take action and convert. The sole purpose of a landing page is to get a visitor to take a specific action. This specific action may be to have a visitor sign up for your email list, to buy a product from you, to click through to another piece of content that you want the visitor to check out, etc.

As I said, I started a little later, so instead of the whole month, I only promoted my landing page for about 2 weeks. And during these two weeks, 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 in two weeks!

So now, let me give you the deets:

  1. I promoted my landing page solely on Pinterest, for only about 2 weeks or so. But I have a pretty engaged Pinterest account with over 600K monthly viewers as of writing this post, so that helped.
  2. 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.
  3. My offer itself was in a very saturated niche and from an outsider’s point of view, there was absolutely nothing special about what I was offering (a free 10-day email course on how to start a blog — the whole damn internet is full of similar offers.)

You can check out my landing page here.

The landing page I created for ConvertKit landing page challenge.
The landing page I created for ConvertKit landing page challenge.

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, a whole bunch of them will take a chance on you and subscribe to your email list. 

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 is connected 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 what you want!” — Something like that.

Condition 3: This is the easy part. You need a landing page, duh! And you need a way to collect 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 must 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!

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 mixing 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???

Damn…

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 I usually do. 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 XYZ (insert niche in place of XYZ). 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 there!

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 kind 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 any such things. And I don’t advise you to create something so time-consuming even 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 reading this post and like me, you didn’t try landing pages before, but you know that there’s something amazing that you can offer to your audience, then sure, go for it! I mean, I created a 10-day email course for my opt-in freebie for that landing page challenge. But I knew what I was talking about, I’ve been blogging for a while now after all. So yeah, feel free to be extravagant if that’s the case for you too.

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 this useful.

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 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 audience interest and whatnot. 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. You cannot send broadcasts (as in newsletters). You’ll need to sign up for a paid plan for that. However, if you’re on a budget and you want to wait until you’ve actually launched your blog to sign up for a paid plan, the free plan should be good enough for what we’re doing right now, as in, creating a landing page and start growing that email 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.

Start building your very first landing page on ConvertKit.

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 landing page challenge is made with one of these templates (I mean, duh, that was the condition for the challenge!)

Choose the template that best fits your needs and aesthetics.

3. Once you’ve chosen your template, it’s time to customize it. For reference, I’m choosing the Cypress template for this tutorial.

There are plenty of templates to choose from, for this tutorial, I'm choosing the Cypress template.

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. Since people do not have a reference to measure your quality against, as is the case when you’re collecting email addresses inside your blog posts, for example, your limited copy inside the landing page has to be pretty freakin’ persuasive. Don’t rush this process. Spend some time to come up with something really good.

But at the same time, try not to paralyze yourself. Do the best you can and then start sharing! 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 just some ConvertKit specific shortcodes. For example, to add someone’s first name in an outgoing email, all you have to do is add the following:

{{subscriber.first_name}}

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.

Add a new field for the subscriber's first name, if there isn't one already in the template.

– 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.

Make sure to set the newly created field to be the First Name field.

6. Make sure your new subscribers receive an email that asks them to confirm their subscription. Some people like to automatically confirm this, but I recommend double opt-in. To me, it is proof of the blogger’s integrity. It’s my personal opinion, but well, that’s how I do it, and that is what I recommend.

In Convertkit, the default is double opt-in, so technically, you do not need to do anything. If you want to check, click next to the mail icon, and make sure that the “Send incentive email” option is checked.

By default, ConvertKit has double opt-in set up.

7. Now you need to make sure that all new subscribers get the freebie that you’re offering. To do that, click the mail icon (the same one as shown above). And then 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.

Make sure to save the landing page when you're done with your changes and edits.

8. Make sure that your landing page looks as it should. Click on “Preview” 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!

Click on "Share" to grab the shareable link to the landing page.

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 do have a Pinterest account already, go over the post anyway and make sure you have everything set up as they 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 5 relevant group boards to your opt-in freebie if you do not already have at least 5. This is not your total number of boards. In total, I suggest you have at least 20 or so boards relevant to your blog niche, and more as your blog grows. But this number should be relevant to your opt-in freebie specifically.
  • 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 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 opt-in freebie, and make sure each of your board 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 5 relevant boards if you’ve followed my directions so far.)
  • Make sure to write a thorough 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 space in the description to describe what your freebie is as clearly and thoroughly as possible. Use the most relevant hashtags only, and about 5 or 6 of them should be good enough.

Think of these 30 days as a way to build momentum with your Pinterest account. It’s a way to prove to Pinterest that you’re a trusted authority figure in your niche. You should do that by saving high-quality Pins every single day. Find the best content out there in your niche, and make sure to save a few every day. What’s important here is consistency. It’s better to save 10 Pins every day rather than save 100 in one day and then not pin at all for a week.

If you’re too busy to pin manually every day, use TailWind – a Pin scheduler app. TailWind offers 100 free Pins just for signing up with them. You can use that to schedule your Pins for the landing page if you want.

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, such as, 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 think they’re genuinely into what you’re offering.
  • If you’re on Medium or Quora, share the landing page URL in your bio on those platforms as well (if it’s relevant).

Additional 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, use slightly different copy, and then share all of them 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 1, 2, and 3. Each of these landing pages will have a unique link (URL).

On day 1, share Landing Page 1 across all relevant boards.

On day 2, do the same for Landing Page 2.

On day 3, do this for Landing Page 3.

And then on day 4, do this for Landing Page 1 again.

And repeat.

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.


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 result 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. Did I say that it’s FREE?

Alright, that wraps it up! Questions about building an email list even before launching your blog? Feel free to ask in the comments! I’ll do my best to get back to you ASAP!

How to start an email list and build an audience even before you've launched your blog.


2 thoughts on “How to Start Growing an Email List Before Launching Your Blog”
  1. This is really useful even for me who does not use Convertkit. I am just about to try to work out landing pages and this has urged me on to persevere and try to get it all to work.

    1. Thanks, Christine. ConvertKit is not a factor here, of course. You can use any email marketing platform and any landing page. I always use ConvertKit as an example for everything email marketing related because 1) that’s what I use, and 2) it’s what I love! I’m glad you found this post helpful 🙂

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