The Beginner’s Guide to Email List Building

email subscriber checklist

Want to learn how to build an email list? Then you’re in the right place.

This comprehensive step-by-step guide to list building will get you started, even if you don’t have a website yet.

You’re about to learn the fundamental strategies for attracting website visitors, converting them into email subscribers, and monetizing your new audience.

This guide is split up into 12 parts. At the top of each page you’ll see a table of contents like this to help you easily navigate:

List Building 101: Table of Contents
  • Part 1: The Beginner’s Guide To Email List Building
  • Chapter 1: Setting Up WP Website In 15 Minutes (Bluehost)
  • Chapter 2: Signing up for an Email Service Provider (Aweber)
  • Chapter 3: Setting up opt in forms on your site (appsumo, thriveleads, leadpages)
  • Chapter 4: Researching, writing and promoting your first blog post. (SEO best practices)

Let’s start at the very beginning…

What Is Email List Building?

3 steps to creating email subscribersBuilding an email list is about 1) capturing the email address of your website visitors… so you can 2) build trust, familiarity and a relationship with them over time which… 3) converts many of them into paying customers and raving fans.

To a beginner this can seem like a complicated technical process. In fact, there’s only three essential things you need to start building your own list. I will go into step-by-step detail about how to set everything up later in this guide.

The 3 Technical Essentials:

small colorful gears

  1. A website that attracts visitors.
  2. An email service provider or ESP. (This is somebody who hosts your email list and allows you to send out mass emails to them.)
  3. Forms on your website that converts your visitors into subscribers.

Once you have these 3 technical essentials set up, there’s a few other creative skills you’ll need to master to successfully grow your mailing list.

One of these skills is publishing useful content your target audience is looking for. People are not going to randomly come to your website just because it exists. They will only visit your website when your content helps them solve a problem or find some valuable information they are looking for. For example, why are you reading this article right now? Because I’m helping you solve your problem of building an email list!

Then you need to persuade your website visitors into giving you their email address. This is harder than it seems. If you just ask people to “sign up for my newsletter!”,  very few will. There’s a whole art in offering your visitors a irresistible “bribe” in exchange for their email, and presenting it to them in the right way, at the right time.

If you are confused about this stuff, you are not alone, and I’m here to help.

Why Do You Need To Build An Email List?
(7 Scientifically Proven Reasons)

Not building an email list is the #1 biggest mistake many online business owners and bloggers make.

First, watch this quick 5 minute video where I explain the 3 most powerful reasons you need to start growing your list today. You’ll also get to meet me. 🙂

As you may guess, email list building takes a little more work than just slapping a buy button or phone number on a website. So why should you do it?

Reason #1: 96% of your visitors aren’t ready to buy…yet

Imagine if a complete stranger walked up to you on the street and asked you to marry them. You would be pretty shocked, wouldn’t you? After all, you don’t know this person at all. They may be crazy. (In fact, they probably are!)  Yet here’s a surprising fact…

Most businesses and entrepreneurs make this exact same mistake. They propose marriage before getting a phone number! They try to make the sale the first time someone visits their website. And if someone doesn’t buy on that very first visit, they assume that person was not really interested in buying anyway.

That’s a terrible strategy! Here’s two proven reasons why:

rakuten marketing study graph on online conversion
Graph from the Rakuten Study. The # of visits need for an online purchase is slowly increasing.
  1.  The average customer now needs to visit a brand’s website 9.5 times before making a purchase. (According to a study by Rakuten Marketing.) Today’s shoppers are less likely to make impulse buys, especially with more complicated or expensive products.
  2. And about 96% of visitors that come to your website are not ready to buy yet. (But they may be willing to provide contact information in exchange for valuable content.) This is according to marketing software giant Hubspot.

Therefore, if you’re asking someone to fork over their hard-earned cash the first time they see you, most people will say no, and you waste most of your website traffic!

But isn’t email marketing dead?

In the world of digital marketing, people love to chase the newest opportunity so they can have an edge over their competition. Just take a look at how much interest has exploded in the past few years over the latest big marketing trends: social media and Facebook marketing.

email, social media and facebook marketing trends
(Data and graph courtesy Google Trends.)

Since email has been around since almost the beginning of the internet, some people may believe it’s less effective now. Especially compared to the new options like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.

Well I have good news for you! (And bad news for all the self-proclaimed “social media experts” out there.) The latest data and research shows email is more effective than ever…

Reason #2: Email is 3 times better than social media marketing.

cat social mediaEmail conversion rates are three times higher than social media, according to a study by eMarketer1. It’s not difficult to figure out why: on Facebook and Twitter you’re competing with family photos and funny cat pictures. There’s so much distraction.

Even the founder of one of the most popular social media marketing websites said:

michael stelzner“Email is the most important channel for you to cultivate.”

– Michael Stelzner, Social Media Examiner


Reason #3: Your email list is an asset that you control and own.

Constant changes to the social media platform’s algorithms means sometimes only a small fraction of your followers see your posts nowadays. This means some else controls your access to your audience. How crazy is that?!

As a bonus, an email list raises the value of your website and business if you ever plan to sell it. Each email subscriber you have is worth a certain amount of dollars.

Reason #4: Email is the most profitable marketing channel.

direct marketing association email marketing roi by channel
Data courtesy the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).

Email marketing has a 4300% return on investment, according to the Direct Marketing Association2. This means when the average business owner spends $1 on email, they earn about $43 back.

One reason for this is: almost everybody has an email address. Nearly 85% of internet users use email, compared to only 62% who use social networking sites.3 And 91% of all US consumers use e-mail daily, reported a different study from ExactTarget.

Reason #6: Email is the best way to drive repeat visitors and blog commenters.

If you are trying to build an audience, tribe or following online, the most effective way to do this is through email. Even if you have an amazing website, 95% of people will never return to your website on their own. With an email newsletter, you’re building a real audience that you can send back to your website again and again… whenever you publish a new blog post, video, podcast episode or launch a product.

neil patel“Why should you collect emails? Take the Quick Sprout blog, for example. Emails make up 13.91% of my overall traffic; they drive 41% of my comments; and email subscribers are 3.9 times more likely to share the content via the social web.”

– Neil Patel, marketing expert

Reason #7: Email marketing is the easiest way to boost your profits through repeat customers or clients.

Most online business owners spend 80% of their time and money chasing new customers. Yet research has shown it’s far easier to sell to past customers the second, third or fourth time. Adobe found that a customer who has bought from you 2 times before, is 9x more likely to convert or buy again than a first time shopper.

repeat customers graphic
This means 1 repeat customer is worth the same as 9 new visitors.

And guess what? Email allows you to easily stay in touch with past customers and get them to purchase from you again and again.

An Overview Of Your List Building Machine

Before we dive in and get you started building your very own email list, let’s take a step back and get a high-level overview of our strategy. The friendly graphic below breaks down what we’ll be doing.

This is the exact same strategy many very successful online business owners are using right now in 2016 to build huge audiences, grow their business day-by-day, and make money online:

list building overview graphic

Let’s break down each part separately:

1. Your Traffic Sources

“Traffic” is the word digital marketers use to describe website visitors.

When an online business owner says they want to “grow their traffic,” they mean they want to attract more people and eyeballs to their website. Why do you need traffic? It’s simple — without people coming to your website, there’s nobody to subscribe to your mailing list!

Since this is a guide for beginners, I will focus only on methods of traffic generation that don’t require you to spend money on advertising.

How can you get free traffic? By publishing useful content. This means content that either solves a problem for your target audience or provides valuable information or entertainment. This is often called “content marketing” and it includes:

  • Blogging
  • Traffic from Google, Yahoo and Bing (SEO)
  • Youtube Videos
  • Podcasting
  • Forum Participation
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • And more…

Warning: There’s no such thing as a free lunch!

Publishing content online that people want to read or watch doesn’t require money, but you will need to spend a lot of your time and effort to do it right so you actually get results.

It’s not easy, but I will share with you everything I know about how to make your content magnetic to your target audience so you can grow your audience more quickly.

2. Your Platform

This is your website and your home base online. It’s the place you convert visitors into email subscribers. The first 3 parts of this guide will show you exactly how to set up your platform correctly, so it becomes the machine that grows your email list day and night, even while you sleep! (And I know that sounds like an infomercial, but it’s true.)

The software we will use to set up your website and blog is called WordPress. I’ll explain why WordPress is the best option on the next page. For now you just need to know that it is free and pretty easy to set up even if you have no technical skills. My step-by-step tutorial on the next page will have your basic website up and running in 20 minutes or less.

3. Your Email List

Next you’ll need to sign up for an email service provider (ESP). This is a company that hosts or stores your email list on their server and allows you to send mass emails to them. I’ll show you how to get started with one so you have somewhere to put your subscribers.

Finally, you’ll need to place forms on your website so your visitors can sign up to your email list. I’ll show you where the most effective places are to put these forms and how to persuade people to sign up. I’ll also show you a couple of software plugins that make this step incredibly easy.

If you’re starting to feel a bit overwhelmed, don’t worry! That’s totally normal. Just make sure to follow this guide completely and just take it one step at a time.

I hope you’re also starting to feel excited! On the very next page we’ll begin setting up your basic website and blog.

Click Here To Continue

(If you already have a website you can skip this step and being setting up your email list here.)




List Building Using Your Existing Website

View email list as the center of your business, not your website.

  • Homepage – main goal should be lead gen, not a summary. Not a collection of little bits of everything you do. Upside down home page.
  • Popups – annoying but they work extremely effectively.

List Building Using Blogging

Content marketing is best option for beginners and business startups. Why?

  • 1. You don’t need a product to start. Can build an audience first, then ask them what they want to buy, then sell that. (And can promote affiliate products in the beginning.)
  • Paid traffic can be expensive and difficult to make work in the beginning. Need a fine-tuned website and funnel to avoid losing money. (Later on great way to scale your business.)
  • Now is the golden age of content marketing. There are many different channels available, you can pick the one you enjoy most. Blogging, Youtube, Podcasting. (explain all these)
  • No matter what you use, always want to be directing people back to your website, where they will sign up for your email newsletter.

How to make blog posts that actually attract visitors.

  • You must have amazing content.
  • 1. pick a keyword related to your niche
  • 2. take a look at what everyone else has written. Analyze their headlines (list, ultimate guide, how to, etc.) Analyze their opening. How do they grab attention? With a story, a confusing or shocking statement (James Clear). What questions do they answer for the reader and in what order?
  1. Long in depth posts about a single topic are now much better than lots of little posts. (Aim for 2000-3000 words and having the BEST most useful resource on the topic or answer to question on the internet.) — Demonstrate skyscraper technique with 0 links.
  2. Backwards engineer competitors with ahrefs.
  3. Google now is looking more at user metrics, less at links, though links still matter.
  4. The higher CTR, better google position. Study headline copywriting.
  5. The longer people stay on the page, better your ranking.
  6. Use outreach to get links.

List Building Using Facebook

  1. Advertise a landing page (most direct). How to pay? By selling product/service. Not recommended for beginners.
  2. Promote blog content with sign up forms. (see popup terms)
  3. Promote content, set a pixel, then advertise to people who saw that content. (digitalmarketer)
  4. Set up signup button on FB profile. (Quicksprout tutorial.)

List Building Using Youtube

Similar to blogging, but instead you make a video.

Pick a question to answer for your target prospects. Or pick a very specific topic to help people about.

Headline and thumbnail attract clicks.

Needs to be engaging. Google tracks this.

Need a CTA at the end or throughout your video sending people to a landing page on your website.

Advanced marketing optimization techniques

  • Segmentation
    • Based on categories
    • Individual posts get content upgrades
  • Split Testing
    • Plugins that let you split test your forms.
    • Big mistake is testing small things like button colors or font sizes.
    • Test different offers…or headlines…or 1 step vs 2 step.

3 Advanced Methods To Grow Your List Quickly

Accelerated List Building Using Other People’s Audiences (Advanced)

  • guest posting
  • Having an offer/funnel that converts is the ultimate leverage. You can build your email list while making money.
  • webinar (selling product)
  • product launch
  • paid advertising
  • viral giveaways (SPI post)
  • How to do it?
    • put email forms in all the right places.
      • Dedicated landing pages (1 goal)
      • sidebar is easily ignored, but sticky sidebar CTA is good (see quicksprout)
      • on blog homepage (usually most visited page on your site)
        • treat it as an opt in page.
        • feature box.
      • popups (typically triple conversions)
        • impossible to ignore call to action
      • underneath blog post -> what to do next
      • content upgrade (checklist) on most popular posts (80/20)
      • sticky on bottom right
    • Don’t offer a 5 course meal, offer an ice cream cone. (GOOD, more metaphors. Makes content more memorable and concrete.)
      • Most people have the weakest call to action. “Sign up for updates”
      • You need to give away something valuable in exchange for their email address.
      • Something small that provides instant gratification, fixing one of their biggest problems or satisfying a desire quickly and easily.
      • Conversion multipliers: curiosity, threat avoidance,
      • Social proof
        • 8000 people already signed up
        • Testimonial from a recognized expert (Backlinko
      • Types
        • Ebook
        • Cheat sheet
        • Tools list
        • Email series
        • Video
        • Private blog content
      • Examples
        • Authority Nutrition “5 Foods To Eat Before Bed”
  • Examples
  • Frequently asked questions
  • to build a list, you only need 2 things: traffic + conversion (won’t cover traffic in this guide, but recommend blogging if free)
    • Setting up your traffic “Net.”
    • Traffic -> website -> sign up.
    • There’s only 2 ways to grow an email list. #1 is get more traffic. #2 is increase your conversion rate of website visitors to subscribers.
  • What to offer (lead magnet)
    • instant solution to painful problem, instant desirable result
    • 2 step
    • social proof
    • copywriting for title of lead magnet
  • Have you ever read an interesting article on a blog, then signed up for their email newsletter?
  • Or have you ever been shopping online and entered your email to receive a free coupon?
  • Or have you ever searched for a service online (plumber, lawyer, real estate agent, etc.) and filled out a form on their website for a free consultation or quote?
  1. eMarketer, Email Marketing Benchmarks: Key Data, Trends, and Metrics, February 2013.