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List Building Tips: How To Increase Your Conversions By Over 700%

List Building Tips - Increase Subscribers And Conversions

I’ve been there.

Everyone tells you that you need to build an email list.

Then you sign up with an email marketing platform, add some opt-in forms and wait.

After a while, you question whether the pitiful number of sign-ups even makes it worth bothering.

But, you can make this work.

You can take that trickle of sign ups and turn it into something worthwhile and I’ll show you how.

Just one of the tips that I’m going to show you could result in increasing your conversion rates by over 700%.

List Building Tips Download PDF

Important note: you need to click the link in the confirmation email to gain access to all of my other exclusive content. That includes various PDF’s and templates to help you blog smarter.

The harsh truth about why people aren’t signing up to your list

It’s not because list building doesn’t work.

It’s does.

If you’re struggling to build your list, there are a few reasons why.

  1. It’s not easy for your readers to subscribe – Don’t make them work for it.
  2. It’s not clear what you want them to do – Too many distractions will hurt your conversions.
  3. Your offer isn’t compelling enough – Unless you’re Moz or Mashable, the offer of ‘email updates’ probably won’t work too well.

When you make it easy for your readers, make it clear what you want them to do and put together a compelling offer that is hyper relevant to your readers – that’s when the magic happens.

Is your blog’s design causing friction with your audience?

You need to look at your blog and ask yourself some hard questions.

Put yourself in the shoes of your reader and ask yourself “would I really subscribe?”

Use attention grabbing colours in your opt-in forms

Start off by identifying colours that aren’t in your design, but would still match your existing branding and incorporate them into your opt-in forms.

Most list building tools (like these WordPress plugins) offer split testing features that will allow you to test various colours.

De-clutter your sidebar

Look at your sidebar and ask yourself which elements actually have a purpose.

For example, things like recent post widgets are necessary but things like links to blog directories aren’t.

The same goes for social media widgets like Twitter and Facebook widgets.

If you have them, remove them.

Think about it – sure, it’s easier to get someone to like a Facebook page than subscribe to an email list, but when Facebook reach is set to hit 0, that like may not amount to much anyway.

Leverage social proof and trust

When someone finds out that others are doing something, this creates positive influence.

People assume that the behaviour of others is the correct behaviour and are compelled to take the same action.

There are various types of social proof, but as bloggers we can leverage it by doing the following:

  • Display a testimonial from an industry expert which says awesome stuff about you and/or your blog.
  • Display the number of email subscribers you have.
  • Display the amount of visitors your blog gets.
  • Show which popular sites in your industry have mentioned you.
  • Show the combined number of people that follow you.

Be careful of negative social proof

I’ve talked about this before, but it warrants another mention.

If you want to leverage social proof, you need to show some good numbers.

If you don’t have the numbers to show, don’t show them – they would only count against you in most cases.

5 Simple list building tips that work

#1 – Offer your subscribers a bribe

People are protective over their email address – I’m the same and I’m sure that you are too.

That’s why you need to go beyond just displaying a single opt-in form a real incentive.

The best way to do this is to create an exclusive piece of content that isn’t available unless a reader subscribes.

That being said, you could still repurpose some of your content into different content types.

Here are some ideas on what you could offer your subscribers:

  • Case study
  • White paper
  • List of tools
  • List of resources
  • Checklist
  • Template
  • Exclusive video
  • Presentation
  • Email course
  • Video course
  • PDF report
  • Exclusive interviews
  • Audio transcripts

The important thing is to keep your bribe hyper relevant to your target audience.

It’s also worth noting that the time it takes you to create the bribe doesn’t always equate to more subscribers.

It’s all about the problem that your content solves.

#2 – Add opt-in forms to key pages

Some of the highest converting opt-in forms on my site are embedded within content on key pages.

It’s worth considering adding opt-in forms within the content on your own key pages.

This could include:

  • About page
  • Resource page
  • Start page

How to do this yourself

There are plenty of tools that can help you here.

Mailing list providers like MailChimp or GetResponse allow you to create opt-in forms that can be added to your pages (no matter which CMS you use).

If you’re a WordPress user, list building plugins like Hybrid Connect or OptinMonster can be a good solution as they both allow for shortcode placement of opt-in forms which will give some added flexibility.

Try a 404 error page that gets more subscribers

Also, if you’re a LeadPages customer you can setup a 404 error page which is geared to collect opt-ins.

If not then you may need to hire a developer to hire you, the cost can vary but you can usually find one via a site like Odesk.com or Elance.com.

This can be a great opportunity to get more subscribers, here’s an example:

Use Your 404 Error Page To Build Your List

#3 – Offer something exclusive with each post that requires a sign up

A while back I started publishing the occasional blog post that had something exclusive attached which required entering an email address for the reader to access the content.

The conversion rates for this type of thing are crazy.

And I’m not the only one that’s been experiencing incredible results with this.

Brian Dean recently shared a case study where he tries a similar approach and the result is an increase in conversions of over 700%+.

Brian refers to this approach as the ‘Content Upgrade’ – quite a catchy name and describes this perfectly.

That’s just what it is, by subscribing you’re upgrading in some way.

And you don’t always have to create something exclusive either.

You could just provide a PDF version of the post – that can work incredibly well too.

How to do this yourself

Start off by creating an exclusive PDF of your blog post, or something that is 100% exclusive but hyper relevant to the blog post in question.

I used a feature within LeadPages called LeadBoxes which allows you to use a 2 step opt-in process.

You are given a link that when clicked will present the user with a popover, which looks something like this:

LeadBox Popover

You can just add this to some text in your blog post; I created an image in the style of a button and added it to the top of the post.

By creating this myself I was able to style the button exactly how I wanted and make it as large as required.

Blog Post Promotion Checklist [Free Download]

I then added the button to the blog post at two locations:

  • Just below the introduction
  • Just at the end of the post

While LeadPages offers a lot of other cool stuff (e.g. landing page creation), it’s a monthly/yearly paid tool.

A great alternative would be to use a WordPress plugin called OptinLinks (Click here to learn more).

This is a much more cost effective option; OptinLinks starts at around $37 and offers a few features that are really unique.

One of the problems I’ve always had is getting subscribers to click the confirmation link, that’s definitely the downside to LeadPages.

OptinLinks has an incredible way of handling this.

After an email address is entered, it will present a ‘waiting for confirmation’ notification and it will only redirect to the download after the confirmation link is clicked.

#4 – Add opt-in forms to key locations on your blog

In order to make it easy for your readers to subscribe to your list, you need to add opt-in forms to key locations on your site.

Below are some typical opt-in form types:

  • Sidebar
  • After blog posts
  • Footer
  • Slide-in
  • Feature box
  • Popover
  • Header notification
  • Home page

Use your own judgement and don’t negatively impact user experience

There are times when certain combinations of opt-in forms can destroy your user experience.

For example, I’ve seen a sidebar opt-in form that is fixed as users scroll down the page, with a fixed opt-in form in the footer which is then accompanied by a floating social share bar.

From a user experience, I hated it and I won’t read any posts on that blog or any others that do the same.

Not because the content isn’t good, but because it’s so painful to actually read it.

That’s not a position that you want to put your readers in.

So, if you have an element that is fixed to scroll down the page as a user scrolls – one is enough.

Popovers work – sometimes

I’ve known some marketers to cite popovers as not effecting user experience based on bounce rate figures.

But, the reality is that you need to test it for yourself and see how it performs.

It’s worth considering the fact that over 75% of your blogs visitors probably won’t return so it’s worth testing it.

Although, if at first it doesn’t perform, consider repositioning your bribe or tweaking the copy.

Tools to help you

I’ve written about list building plugins and platforms in the past, but there are some in particular that stand out as being VERY useful here:

  • OptinMonster ($) – A lightweight WordPress plugin best known for its ability to display high converting opt-in forms. Various other opt-in types supported along with shortcode placement.
  • Hybrid Connect ($) – You will get access to more features (when compared to OptinMonster) with this WordPress plugin but its more resource intensive. The level of customization is incredible.
  • Optin Architect ($) – A cloud based system that provides a fantastic set of analytics and the ability to add popovers, sidebar opt-ins and other opt-in form types to any website. Supports all major CMS.
  • Hellobar (free) – Add a header notification bar to your site for free. Supports WordPress and HTML. You can also use this to drive traffic to landing pages and there is page level targeting.

#5 – Contribute to authoritative blogs in your niche

One of the best ways to expand your audience is to write for the top blogs in your niche.

The benefits include:

  • Traffic
  • Visibility
  • Authority
  • Building your list

You may have to work your way up to the top tier blogs, but the payoff will be worth it.

So, where does this fit into building your list?

For starters, the traffic that gets referred from high quality posts you write for other sites usually converts much higher than other traffic.

The real magic happens when you create a dedicated landing page for your bribe and link to it in your author bio.

Here’s an example from my post for Boost Blog Traffic:

Build Your List By Contributing To Other Blogs

This author bio then referred readers to this landing page:

List Building With Landing Pages

This page was created using LeadPages in around 5 minutes and converted at around 50%.

Since then I have improved the copy so I will continue to test this layout.

I prefer LeadPages for this type of work because it’s so fast to use and I could use them to host all of my landing pages if I wanted.

That being said, if you’re using WordPress there are a lot of plugins available to help you here. Check out this post for more.

You need to seriously think about the blogs that you contribute to

This strategy relies on the ability for the site you write for to refer traffic through your author bio link.

Some sites tend to not work so well for this, for example if they display a bunch of related posts widgets before your author bio.

There are various metrics you could look at when you decide which sites to write for, for example:

  • Number of social shares
  • Number of mailing list subscribers
  • Number of average comments

The metric I’d recommend you focus on is the number of comments – this is the biggest sign of an active and engaged community.

Look out for spam comments; the approval of large numbers of spam comments (e.g. anchor text in the name field or body of the comment) is a huge red flag.

Now it’s time for your pitch

Find out who the editor of the blog is and pitch them an idea for an awesome article.

Here are some things to remember:

  • Always give your best stuff.
  • Avoid using template emails and make it clear that you’re writing the email especially for them.
  • Be succinct and to the point – these are busy people!
  • Don’t be generic
  • Be sure that you understand the type of content the blog publishes
  • Include a link to blog posts you’ve written – only include your best stuff!
  • Developing a relationship with the editor first can work very well.

Tools to help you along the way

At a bare minimum, all you really need to get the job done is an email account and Google.

Tools like Inkybee and BuzzStream will definitely make the process of finding blogs and contacting them a lot easier – especially if you are looking to scale up.

Always be testing

Small changes can have a large impact on your conversion rates.

Everything from the colour of your form, the button colour, button text and headline for example.

This is why testing is so important.

The niche you operate in and even your specific target audience can have a large bearing on what works and what doesn’t.

Best practices can only get you so far – it’s up to testing to enable you to take things to the next level.

Understand your target audience, create a hypothesis, test that hypothesis and you will find out what works (as well as what doesn’t).

Over to you

Just following one of these tips will have a profound impact on your list building efforts.

You could see that potential 700%+ increase in conversions.

Also, as a bonus for you, I’ve put together a PDF version of this post for you to download.

See what I did there? ;)

You can click the button below and enter your email address.

The PDF will then be sent to you automatically.

When you confirm your email address you’ll get access to all of my other exclusive PDF’s and templates.

List Building Tips Download PDF

About Adam Connell

Adam is the founder of Blogging Wizard. Previously Operations Manager for a UK based marketing agency, Adam now helps others to become more successful online. Get more from Adam on Google+.

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  • http://www.mycontentgoddess.com Nokthula Madondo

    Hi Adam, very useful post and it so happens that’s my next step, so it’s timing is perfect. Could you advise me on the perfect spot to put the opt in form (top of the page or sidebar) in your opinion?

    Secondly, what (packaging) do you use to display your bribe? I have seen bloggers use some cool designs that look like book covers. Is this a paid option or is there also a free one?

    Lastly, you mention giving free pdfs with each blog post (does the content in those pdfs focus on highlights or take aways or is it the whole post?) a good idea would be to provide a checklist subscribers can print out. I love stuff you can print out (as I still keep a lever arch file) .

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Hi Nokthula, really glad this post came at the right time!

      Unfortunately there’s no right answer here, everyone’s audience is different and even two blogs in the same niche could get different results when tested.

      What I’d suggest is to start off with a sidebar opt-in and try adding one to the top of your page to see how conversions are affected.

      When it comes to conversions, best practice can only get us so far – the rest is up to testing.

      I know some bloggers get professional designers to design their bribes and for some, the extra investment pays off.

      For PDF downloads, I started off creating them in Word and just exporting as a PDF. You can get covers designed on a budget if you find a good designer on Fiverr (can be quite challenging to do though).

      More recently I’ve switched to using Microsoft Powerpoint just because it’s easier to format and get creative (on the downside you can’t have a clickable contents page).

      I have used Powerpoint to create a template which allows me to roll out new bribes fairly quick but if I had more time on my hands I’d definitely make up something unique.

      One option you could try is using an image editing tool like Canva.com to create PDF’s (I think you can make links clickable etc) and there are pre-loaded layouts to help you.

      Do you have any ideas on what your bribe might be?

      As for offering free PDF’s, this entirely depends on the post.

      I change this up every so often, here are some ways to do this:

      * Offer a PDF version of the post
      * Offer a 2nd part to the blog post (e.g. 5 blogging tips in the post followed by 15 more blogging tips in the PDF – I like to include the first 5 too so they’re all together)

      Like you say, highlights and takeaways are definitely another option which I might try at some point.

      The checklist is something I did in a recent post too which worked very well.

      Here’s a link to that post: http://www.bloggingwizard.com/blog-post-promotion-checklist/

      Also, the checklist can be downloaded in the VIP resource center.

      I did just get the checklist redesigned but haven’t had chance to upload it. If you want me to send it to you directly, just drop me an email (adam[at]bloggingwizard.com).

      Thanks!
      Adam

      • http://www.mycontentgoddess.com Nokthula Madondo

        Adam, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to respond to my question. You have provided great insight. Thank you very much for that. First of all, I had no clue the amount of creativity you can achieve with PowerPoint.

        My niche is authority through content and I am planning to do a white paper on the topic of authority. Through my research, I picked up that a lot of people still think that to be an authority in your field, you need to have white hair and a walking stick. So the white paper will dispel this myth plus give a guideline on how to build your authority.

        As luck would have it, I received a ton of free ebook templates from Hubspot that I can use.

        I plan to print out this post so I will mail you my request for a pdf.

        Ps, the Authority Review also caught my eye. It is up my alley and would appreciate all posts and pdfs thereof.

        Thanks again for your help!

        • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

          Hi Nokthula,

          My pleasure – there’s definitely a lot more that can be done with PowerPoint than the usual. And you mentioned Hubspot – they’re the people who taught me that.

          Sounds like a great niche and I’d love to check out the white paper once it’s completed!

          Did you mean the review of Authority Spy?

          All the best,
          Adam

          • http://www.mycontentgoddess.com Nokthula Madondo

            Hi Adam

            I will share it definitely. Yes, I meant Spy.

            Thanks I received the docs.

            Regards

            Nokthula

          • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

            Hi Nokthula,

            Great stuff!

            Will drop you the Authority Spy link in an email.

            All the best,
            Adam

  • http://www.donnamerrilltribe.com/ Donna Merrill

    Hi Adam,
    What a timely post for me! I’m currently testing and testing to increase my conversion rates. You have given such great information on this post that I can apply and I thank you. I’m mostly testing my lead pages. I don’t want them too long like the old days, but want to get them quick and to the point. This has brought to light many new ideas.
    I also subscribed to your VIP Resource Center where there is a lot of value. I like the way you set this up. It was easy peasy! Now, I have lots of information at hand by doing this.

    As one who is constantly testing, this is of great value to me and I thank you.

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Hi Donna,

      Great to hear that the timing with this was spot on for you!

      Sounds like you’re spot on with making them quick and to the point.

      For my landing pages, the shorter and more succinct ones with a clear offer usually perform best. It’s definitely worth testing.

      Really glad you’re liking the VIP Resource Center – the feedback means a lot and I’m sure the information will come in useful for you! :)

      My pleasure – thanks for an awesome comment!

  • http://sksmith.wordpress.com Sherman Smith

    Hey Adam,

    This is another good one! My email list is pretty low at the moment and this is definitely a valuable post for me. Now the only thing I need to do is to apply it! I really like the 2 step lead pages process and the OptinLinks plugin… is that a one time payment of $37 or is that monthly? Right now I have magic box and I’m not getting the optin conversions I want, so it’s time for a change! Thanks for sharing and I hope you have a great weekend!

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Hey Sherman,

      Great to hear!

      OptinLinks is a one time payment of $37 right now, but that’s a special price and will go up to $97 one off payment soon.

      Definitely sounds like time for a change, it’s always worth testing new things!

      My pleasure, have a great weekend too!

      Adam

  • http://www.shadeofinfo.com/blog/ Andrew M. Warner

    Hey Adam, This is a great post. I just went to check my stats and I saw that I had a majority of people ending up on a 404 Page not found page and I’m thinking to myself, look at the opportunity that I’m missing here. Putting an optin option on that page makes perfect sense and I should really invest time on doing that.

    Regarding the bribe and offering them something useful, I think it depends on who you decide to make your perfect avatar and what they may be interested in. Makes no sense offering a money making report when your audience is all about traffic, for example. So people need to figure that out before they make an effective bribe, and I’m speaking for myself here as well.

    Anyway great post.

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Hey Andrew, thanks my friend.

      You’ve definitely got a great opportunity to capture some extra email addresses there!

      I’m with you on the bribe – everything we do as writers and bloggers should focus around our perfect avatar. Especially our opt-in bribes.

      I’m glad you mentioned that, I need to put a post together about developing audience personas.

      Thanks again!