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9 World-class Bloggers Share Their #1 Email List Building Tip

This is a guest post from Nate Desmond of SumoMe, plus half a dozen contributors you’ll encounter throughout the article.

Too many blogs are plagued by hit-and-run visitors.  These are people who come, read your article, and then melt back into the ether of the internet.

As much as we love to see spikes in our website visitor analytics, post views are actually useless.  Unless those visitors do something – buy your course, follow you on Twitter, join your email list – even a large traffic spike will leave you back in the same place a few days later.

So how can you transform one-time visitors into lifelong readers?

Simple: convince them to join your email list.

Next time you publish a new post, you won’t start over from zero – your new email subscribers will be glad to read your latest writing. Think of it as a great vicious cycle. More emails = more traffic = more sharing = more emails.

But how do you build your email list?

1sean_dsouzaI wondered the same thing, so I asked major bloggers for their advice.  Here’s what they said:

#1. Partner with other bloggers

“Strategic alliances help grow the email list. The clients already know and trust the partner and hence the trust is transferred to us as well.”

- Sean Dsouza writes at Psychotactics

Partnerships with other bloggers can help both blogs reach new audiences and build their reach.  When selecting potential alliances, look for two factors:

1. Size: While bigger blogs offer bigger rewards, they also are less likely to be interested.

2. Audience: The more similar your audiences are, the more benefit both blogs will see.

Keeping these criteria in mind, build a list of 10-20 blogs you’d potentially like to partner with.

1problogger

Here’s an example guest post on ProBlogger

Once you’ve selected a these potentials, decide what type of content you’d like to use:

  • Webinar
  • Guest post
  • Ebook
  • Podcast
  • Email
  • Physical events

Armed with these ideas, you’re ready to reach out to the bloggers you brainstormed earlier.  Particularly when you’re new and don’t know people, this step will often be discouraging as probably only one in 10 bloggers will express any interest.

Instead of becoming frustrated, expect initial failure, and use the results to steadily improve your emails.  As you start gaining momentum after your first partnership, landing the second and third will be easier.

#2. Prominently ask people to subscribe – then provide amazing value2neville_medhora

“A big-ass banner across the top of my blog helped a lot.  I also used CrazyEgg.com to make sure people were clicking on it.  I went through a couple of revisions based on the CrazyEgg stats.

At first I was afraid of asking for people’s emails because I thought it would annoy them.  Then I realized getting my posts via email were people’s favorite way of hearing from me!

Once someone joins my email list, I use Aweber to automatically send a series of epically valuable emails over the next couple of weeks.  This helps transform a new subscriber into a hardcore, engaged fan.”

- Neville Medhora writes at Neville’s Financial Blog

Rather than just sticking a form randomly on your site and hoping for the best, take the time to test the best placement, wording, and coloring like Neville did.

You should test many elements of your form:

  • Headline
  • Button text
  • Forms required (name and email or just email?)
  • Color
  • Incentive

The signup incentive is a particularly potent piece of your form.  Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Ebooks
  • Recordings
  • Cheatsheets
  • Videos
  • Email series

2nevilles_email_list

One of the incentives Neville uses to build his email list

Optimizing form locations and incentives will help you get many times more email subscribers than you do right now.  Just remember, getting email signups is only the very beginning of a strong reader relationship.

This reader trusts you enough to share their email address – now it’s your turn to prove you’re worthy of it.  Work to consistently overdeliver on expectations, and you’ll soon have a thriving email following!

#3. Use a non-annoying popover

“When I first started my latest blog, I just slapped a basic subscription form somewhere on my sidebar.  Barely anyone noticed it, and even fewer subscribed.3nate_desmond

Then I tried SumoMe’s List Builder plugin.  Literally overnight, I saw a 10x increase in subscriber conversion, and my list has continued growing steadily ever since.

I actually liked it so much that I now work for the company!”

- Nate Desmond writes at NateDesmond.com and SumoMe

Building an email list is one of the fastest ways to compound your blog’s growth, so you’ll want to start optimizing your email forms as soon as you get the first trickle of traffic.

3sumome_popover

This is the email popover I use on my blog

For me, SumoMe popovers have been the most successful effort thus far.  They’re pretty simple to setup (took me less than 5 minutes), but you should watch for a couple things:

  1. Timing – Mine loads after about 1 second, but you should experiment to see what works best for your website.
  2. Color – Make sure your form is colored similarly to your website – context matters.
  3. Wording – This is critical.  Brainstorm 25 ideas for headlines and test the three best.

Forms in your sidebar, footer, or even header can be out of your reader’s line-of-sight, so non-annoying popovers can be a highly effective way to get your reader’s attention.

4sean_work#4. Produce exceptional content

“Producing exceptional content that our readers can use to improve their craft.”

- Sean Work writes at KISSmetrics

Ultimately, the success of your blog relies on the quality of your writing.  A strong email list can help speed your growth, but everything ultimately relies on your posts and emails providing stunning content that solves real problems for your readers.

Quality content attracts potential readers to your website and inspires current subscribers to stick around and engage.

4infographic

This is part of an infographic KISSmetrics uses to engage

Here are a few things you can do to make your writing amazing:

Write articles that you would want to read and share with your friends, and you’ll probably be off to a strong start.

#5. Use Post-Specific Bonus Content

“Giveaway a bonus within your content that requires the readers email address.

Think of it like Facebook advertising.

My click-through-rate (ctr) on the newsfeed ads is 2.5% while my sidebar Facebook ads on a great day do .5% ctr.

That’s a 500% increase in clicks.

5noah_kaganPeople are engaged in the middle of the site, NOT on the fringes.

Think of this with email collection within your blog.

Make a benefit and give the reader a link / button to get a cheat-sheet or bonus document related to the content the person is reading.

Then ask them for an email to get that content.

If you are really lazy just do it for the top 3 posts you get traffic on.

I have seen this nearly increase my daily email growth by 30%!”

- Noah Kagan runs SumoMe and writes at Okdork

Advertising platforms like Facebook are working tirelessly to try to better understand visitor intent.  The more they can tailor advertisements to what a person actually wants; the more customers they will see.

You have a major advantage over advertisers though – since your visitor is reading a specific post, you already know that they have at least some interest in the post’s topic.

Based on this knowledge, you can create a targeted call-to-action offering exclusive content that builds on your post.

5email_incentive

This email bonus is from one of Noah’s recent posts

So what exactly can you offer?

  • Google spreadsheets with exact formulas
  • PDF “cheatsheets” with a quick review of your post
  • Video materials adding on to your post
  • Exact emails and scripts you’ve used in your case studies
  • Ebooks closely related to the post topic
  • “Inside tips” like the list of top giveaway sites in the above example

Whatever you choose, giveaway incredible value and you’ll not only get email subscribers – you’ll get lifelong readers!

#6. Use multiple signup forms

“The number one strategy that helped me grow my list was placing multiple sign up forms on high traffic pages on my site and offering a high value giveaway in return.

Today I have forms in my popup, in my sidebar, at the bottom of every post and on a slide in.”6steve_chou

- Steve Chou writes at MyWifeQuitHerJob.com

Different readers will be ready to subscribe at different times.  If you have a subscription form ready when they want to subscribe, your email list will grow quickly.

You should test email signup forms in all these locations:

6sidebar_form

Steve’s got a great sidebar form on his site

Over time, you’ll probably find two or three forms are dramatically more effective than the others.  At that point, you can remove the low performers and focus on optimizing the forms that do work to make them even better.

This is a principle that actually applies in all areas of blog growth – cut the strategies that don’t work and double-down on the areas that are showing results.

#7. Provide deep research that solves problems

“There has to be a steady stream of high quality content that actually solves the visitor’s problem.

There’s a lot of research that goes into the articles we publish, because too many of the marketing articles out there skate by passing opinion off as fact without any kind of qualification. The problem with that is that it creates a culture of “marketers” who blindly follow opinion without being willing to test that on their own.

By including the deep research, and really digging to find those “aha” moment, we try to create a “can’t miss” experience.7tommy_walker

The feeling is that if you don’t sign up for email, you might miss something valuable that increases your revenue. Nobody wants to miss out on revenue, especially if learning how to get more of it will be sent to your inbox for free.”

- Tommy Walker is the editor of ConversionXL

Most blogs today fall into one of two main categories: “churn and burn” websites that just publish frequent, basic posts and long-form websites that publish detailed, researched posts.  Both types of content can build popular blogs, but in today’s competitive blogosphere you’ll generally go farther and faster with long-form content.

How can you do this?

It’s actually not nearly as complicated as you might think.

First, litter your posts with fun, memorable stories.  Some authors actually go so far as keeping a “commonplace book” filled with stories waiting to be used.  Others simply write from memory.  Either way, adding examples and stories to your posts will make them easier to read and more helpful.

Second, use lots of statistics in your posts (and also in your headlines!).  Lots of posts can tell you that colorful images are more popular on Pinterest, but that’s not nearly as useful as knowing that colorful images get 300% more shares.

7case_studies

One of many specific case studies shared on ConversionXL

As you write your blog posts and emails, look for opportunities to share unique, actionable information that will make your readers think “ah ha!”… and hopefully subscribe to your email list.

#8. Place a giant lead magnet on your blog homepage

“For the last six months or so we’ve been displaying a “lead magnet” on our blog homepage that offers four ecommerce case studies that 8mark_macdonalddrip out via autoresponder. After subscribers get the content they’re added to our main blog list.

Note: we aren’t currently using this on the blog as we plan to deploy it somewhere else soon.”

- Mark Macdonald writes at Shopify

What’s the most visited page on your website?

You guessed it… your homepage!

Unfortunately, your default homepage is also probably the least engaging page on your entire website.  You’ve probably got a random array of your most recent posts, maybe a few images, and some sort of a sidebar.

Adding a major email form with a high-value incentive can help you transform confused visitors into engaged readers.

8homepage_subscription

Shopify’s homepage subscription box

By filling most of the above-the-fold space on the blog homepage, this email box is almost as effective as a popover at drawing attention.  The images and growth graph both make the form visually engaging, and who wouldn’t want to get 4 free case studies?

Unless you have a coding background, this could seem difficult to build.  Never fear! You can simply use this plugin to make something very similar on your own website.

#9. Persistently continue writing – growth compounds9penelope_trunk

“The number one thing that helped me grow my email list was persistence. I have been writing a blog for ten years, and working really hard and teaching myself to write posts that people love. When you write good content, the email list is easy.”

- Penelope Trunk writes at PenelopeTrunk.com and Quistic

Here’s the fun thing about growing your blog: moving from 3,000 to 4,000 subscribers will be just about as hard as getting your first 100 subscribers.  Growth compounds.

One of the most important keys to blogging is actually quite simple: keep writing and keep improving.

I always love Babe Ruth’s quote: “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

Generally, growth will be very slow for the first month or two; then it will start to accelerate for the next few months, and you’ll start to feel like you’re on fire after about seven months.

9publish_button

Practice clicking this button frequently

Unfortunately, the vast majority of writers quit before they reach the tipping point.  If you just keep steadily writing, your email list will grow faster and faster.

What single thing has been most effective in building your email list?

Nate Desmond works at SumoMe helping fellow bloggers build their email lists, increase social shares, and build thriving blog communities though a suite of growth tools.

 

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Comments

  1. Hi Nate,

    Great list of tips. I like #5 Use Post-Specific Bonus Content. Thank to Noah Kagan. He is a great marketer and like his website appsumo. He generates s huge list of email subscribers fast in very short span of time. It’s great and his tip for email list building is fabulous.

    Thank you Nate for sharing this with us…. ;)

  2. Lauralynn says:

    Some really great stuff in here. Thanks Nate! I really liked #6!

    • Nate Desmond says:

      Thanks Lauralynn! Multiple signup forms do boost signups significantly – for me the most successful have been the popover (as mentioned above) and the homepage form.

  3. Noah is right on the money, incentives really do skyrocket conversion rates. All you need to do is check out some of his posts that he gives away products – hundreds of comments/engagements :)

    • Nate Desmond says:

      Yeah, I think the other part of that is the way that he engages with his readers – people want a conversation, not just a broadcast. (btw, big fan of Gleam.io :) )

  4. Prateek says:

    Building Email list is great way to build the audience but if you are working on micro-niche websites which do need search engine traffic much then email list wouldn’t help much..

    • Nate Desmond says:

      Prateek, it depends somewhat on your goal. For micro sites just making money off ads, email lists would be useless, but for micro sites making money from products, email lists help boost conversions.

      Of course for blogging, email lists provide an amazing opportunity to build a strong reader community.

  5. Priya Ranjan says:

    Hey, Good to see all bloggers coming on one platform and sharing their views. take away for me are:

    1. Build the list through email, Facebook, Twitter etc..
    2. Engage them on those platforms, apart from your blog
    3. Let them know that they actually came to read the blog, but you’ve lot of value added stuff to offer
    4. Let them also know, there is merit in remaining in contact and following you

    Great stuff. Thanks!

    • Nate Desmond says:

      Thanks Priya, I particularly like your fourth point – people come to our blogs for an initial article; we need to convince them to stick around.

  6. crystal touchton says:

    This was great, but I’m pretty disappointed that there was only one woman out of the 9 when I know there are so many talented female bloggers out there that could have added value.

  7. Ovais Mirza says:

    I believe the first point that we need to build up strong relationship with other bloggers is the most effective one for building email list for email marketing…Although we can use few software as well for collecting email database..

  8. Ramsay says:

    Thanks for this. It’s great to know the exact tips and the tools you used. I like # 3 the best but I think I can put all into use pretty quickly.

    Also like the comments from other commenters here–thanks

  9. Kellye Crane says:

    This post is well timed for me – I’m re-vamping my sidebars and signup forms this week, so thanks for the tips! One big thing I’m struggling with is how to position the ability to subscribe to blog posts via RSS email delivery, vs.signing up for the email list (to receive newsletters, promos etc.). What are the leading schools of thought on this?

    I feel silly asking, but there doesn’t seem to be an established best practice at this point, as far as I can tell. The Content Marketing Institute has two checkboxes on their signup forms to address this, but I’m wondering if there are other approaches? Some of my readers will want both (emailed posts and the newsletters), but many more would probably only want the newsletter. How can I make it clear what they’re signing up for, while making it easy and not over-explaining? Thanks!

  10. Naomi says:

    Great tips, I am on the road to practicing number 9 -writing regularly, hoping persistence pays off!

  11. Linda says:

    Thanks fur the tips. Very helpful as I build my blog.

  12. Fantastic tips! So good, I almost don’t want to share them. There’s a few new ones I’ll be implementing as soon as I emerge from the early valley of despair referenced in #9. You’re in good company, Naomi!

  13. great tips it is very good tips in wordpress

  14. Roland Zongo says:

    Really needed this one,i am struggling hard to convert my traffic into bubmitting to my email list.Thanks a lot for the article.

  15. formgeflecht says:

    Hey everyone,
    Thanks for this tips for wordpress.

  16. Great tips! I’m a true believer that email is NOT dead. I have also found that offer a free PDF download, training course or video is a great way to entice people to subscribe. Thanks again!

  17. Gabrielle says:

    Thank you for tips.

  18. I really like Noah’s suggestion. I’ve never tried to offer something post related in exchange for an email, but thing it is a fantastic idea and will certainly give it a shot.

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