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36 Smart Ways To Grow Your Email List 2x Faster

How To Build An Email List 2x Faster

You need to build your email list if you want to grow your blog.

Don’t be the person that keeps making excuses for why they aren’t focusing on building their list.

I learned that lesson the hard way but you don’t have to.

The truth is that email is far more effective at reaching your raving fans than any other tool.

That includes social media.

The challenge has always been figuring out exactly what to do in order to grow your email list faster. We all want more subscribers don’t we?

In this detailed guide you will find a step-by-step blueprint for rapid subscriber growth. You will learn what setup work to do, which tactics to use and what you need to test to build your email list.

Are you ready to get serious about building your email list?

The surprisingly simple 2 point formula to drive your list building efforts

Before we dive into the meat of this hugely insane post we need to cover a few important things.

These will drive your efforts moving forward:

1. Make it insanely easy for people to sign up to your email list

Whichever tactics you use to build your list, you need to make things extremely simple. If you turn the process of signing up to your list into a long winded process, people won’t subscribe.

2. Make your “opt-in bribe” highly relevant

However you decide to entice people to subscribe to your email list, you need to keep your offer hyper relevant to your target audience.

Consider their motivations, their desires and what they want to learn from you for example.

Post contents:

Click on the links below to navigate to the relevant section.

Preparation work to make setup simple

Before we dive into getting setup, there is some prep work that needs to be done even before you start diving into your mailing list provider.

This will make things far easier for you later on.

#1 – Identify what you want to achieve

It’s not enough to just build your list, you need to know what you want to accomplish at the end of it.

Your end goal should guide the decisions you make and how you prioritize the tactics you implement.

For example, if you just want to use your list to build a community and get more people to check out your new posts – that’s great.

Or you may want to setup a sales funnel to help you sell products on auto pilot while you send out the odd broadcasts to share awesome content with your subscribers.

Being clear on what you want to achieve will help you achieve it.

#2 – Put together an opt-in bribe for your subscribers

When you give your readers an incentive, they will be more likely to sign up to your list.

Perceived value is the key here – the higher the perceived value is the more likely people will be to subscribe.

So the question is what do you create for an opt-in bribe?

Well, you don’t have to worry about creating a long winded eBook (unless you want to).

Creating a one page PDF checklist or list of tools can often be even more effective because people love things that make their life easier.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Checklist
  • Template
  • Cheat sheet
  • Resource list
  • Workbook
  • E-course
  • Video course
  • EBook/guide/report

If you offer a product/service, you could also try offering a discount or a free trial. This could be a great option to use.

Also consider how you will deliver the opt-in bribe to your subscribers, I host mine on Google Docs because it is reliable and doesn’t impact the load times of my server.

While this does make some things more straight forward, it’s not so mobile friendly so I’ll be changing this soon.

Using an online file storage system like Amazon S3 is a good alternative, particularly because they have a free usage tier. There are limits though and it is only available for one year.

I use LeadPages to power a lot of my landing pages, but it also has the option to send your opt-in bribes directly to your email list subscribers.

Consider creating an unannounced bonus to grow your email list

Creating a single opt-in bribe is great, but if you give your subscribers something they weren’t expecting, you will really make them feel valued.

You don’t have to do this, but it can have an incredible impact on subscriber loyalty.

#3 – Prepare content for your emails

There will be some content that you will need to get ready for when you setup your email provider later on.

This usually includes:

  • Welcome email – make this as engaging as possible and let your subscribers know what to expect. If you’ve got an opt-in bribe for them, you can include it here.
  • Auto responder sequence – consider your goals here; this can be a great opportunity to grow your passive income, but avoid the hard sell approach. Nobody likes to sign up to an email list only to be battered with promotional emails.

Email provider setup – getting it right

You need to get your email provider setup right to ensure you’re list building efforts get off to a great start. Let’s take a look at what you need to do.

#4 – Choose an email provider

If you’re relying on something like Feedburner to deliver your emails you need to drop it and switch over to a serious email provider.

Right now I use MailChimp, they do have a free version but it comes with limitations like no auto responder but it can be great to start off with.

AWeber and GetResponse are also solid options that are both very popular; I published a detailed comparison a while back. Read it here.

ActiveCampaign is another option that seems to be gaining popularity; they have very powerful marketing automation functionality. There’s a free account available which is limited to 2,500 subscribers with a 10,000 email sending limit each month.

#5 – Create your list

Now you’ve chosen an email provider, you need to setup your email list.

It’s straight forward in all platforms and each email provider has documentation to help you.

For example, in MailChimp you would head to ‘Lists’ and click the ‘Create List’ button in the top right corner.

Active Campaign has a ‘Create a List’ button the account overview – I quite like the step-by-step setup process they have, which makes setup straight forward.

#6 – Setup your email address and sender name

Each email provider will require this to be setup, but I wanted to mention it here because how you setup these settings is important.

Sender email address – I’ve seen a lot of people and brands send emails using a ‘no reply’ email address, this can make engaging with your subscribers very difficult.

Use an email address where replies are monitored, it will give you a great opportunity to engage your loyal subscribers and get feedback.

Use a recognizable sender name – If your subscribers don’t recognize who is sending the email, they might not open it. Use something that is easy to recognize, this may be your name or your brand name – whatever people are more likely to recognize.

#7 – Add your welcome email and auto responder content

It’s time to get your welcome email loaded in with your auto responder content.

With most email providers a welcome email will be part of your auto responder, but if you are using MailChimp, you could customize the ‘Final welcome email’ which is what subscribers are sent straight after they sign up.

You can add this by going to Lists > Sign up forms > General forms > Click the drop down and select ‘Final welcome email’.

I wanted to mention MailChimp specifically because the welcome email setup is different to most providers.

Now it’s time to add your auto responder content but be careful about the time frame in which you schedule these to go out – nobody likes to be bombarded too often.

Optimize your blog to grow your list

Your blog is one of the most powerful assets you will have to build your email list. I’ll show you how to optimize it below:

#8 – Create a custom thank you page

Creating a custom thank you page is an important step to take because it is a perfect opportunity to ensure that your subscribers get instructions on what to do next.

Here’s how my thank you page looks at the moment:

Blogging Wizard Thank You Page For Email Subscribers

There are several key components here:

  • Let’s people know they have to confirm their email to get access.
  • Step by step process – makes this really simple.
  • Includes images so people know what to expect.
  • Mentions what to do if people can’t find the confirmation email.
  • Minimal distractions.
  • My free resources can’t be accessed from this page – otherwise there would be no incentive for subscribers to confirm their email address.

Once your custom thank you page you will need to add the URL to your email provider so that subscribers are directed to the page rather than being sent an email.

List building tools (which I’ll talk about later on) will also require that you add a thank you page URL.

Ultimately, this works better than just sending a thank you email because there’s no chance of it hitting anyone’s spam folder.

#9 – Create a custom confirmation page

Your confirmation page is where your subscribers will be sent after they have clicked the link in your confirmation email.

There are a few reasons why it’s good to setup your confirmation page:

  • It lets subscribers know the process is complete.
  • You can allow subscribers to download your opt-in bribe; this makes sure they will get what you promised.
  • The page can be used to setup goal tracking in Google Analytics (more on that in a moment).

You will be able to set your custom confirmation page URL in your email provider.

Here’s an example of what this could look like:

Blogging Wizard Subscriber Confirmation Page

It’s very basic and to the point, the continue button takes subscribers to a special page which has access to all of my free downloads (I’m adding to them all the time).

I’ll be looking to update this confirmation page in the near future, there’s potential to use encourage subscribers to follow you via social media. I’ve seen some great examples recently incorporating Google+ widgets etc.

#10 – Setup goal tracking in Google Analytics

We’ll be talking about monitoring your progress and optimizing later on, if you want to be able to do this, you need to get goal tracking setup.

All you need to get started is to have Google Analytics setup, along with your thank you page URL and confirmation page URL.

It’s a straight forward process, but I have a tutorial you can use to guide you through the setup process; check out the tutorial.

#11 – Create a dedicated page to promote your newsletter

There are plenty of occasions where having a dedicated landing page for your newsletter will be useful.

This should be a simple page with minimal distractions that focuses on the core benefits of what people will get out of signing up to your email list.

So for example, if you’re going to be educating your subscribers, think about what your training will help your subscribers achieve. Numbers work great here.

Here’s an example of one of my old landing pages:

Blogging Wizard Newsletter Landing Page

You can check out the page here but I’ll be split testing the copy and the layout so it may look different to the image.

This page uses a 2 step opt-in process which has been proven to increase conversions.

A button is displayed instead of a regular opt-in form, when you click on the button a popover is displayed instead.

The idea behind this is that people see a button before a form and are therefore more likely to complete an action they have already started.

Here’s what the popover looks like:

2 Step Opt-In Form For Landing Pages

How to do this yourself

I created the page above using LeadPages; it’s a paid tool (starts from $37/month) that makes landing pages super quick to create. It hosts them for you, integrates well with WordPress and you get access to the HTML code to use outside of WordPress.

The one limitation of LeadPages is its ability to customize templates, there are lots of templates but when you want something that’s easier to customize and you use WordPress, Thrive Leads is a great option (read my review here).

I’ve included some alternatives in this post about landing page plugins for WordPress.

Or if you want to keep it basic, you could stick with your blogs original design – if you do this, it’s worth removing the sidebar to make sure there aren’t too many distractions.

It’s a good idea to get a tool to create landing pages easily, I have dedicated landing pages for most of the free downloads I offer to subscribers. And you may want to do a similar thing!

#12 – Remove unnecessary distractions from your blog

You need to look at your blog critically and ask yourself – what really needs to be there?

Think about your goals and then consider how each element you have on your blog contributes to that goal.

For example, you might want to consider removing the following:

  • Twitter and Facebook widgets – these are an easy way to send people away from your site and email is far more effective at reaching people than social. I display basic follow buttons in my footer so I can keep the focus on email subscribers.
  • Adverts – if you rely on these keep them but if you’re only getting a few cents/click consider removing them.
  • Blog directory links – these are usually a requirement for getting into blog directories, but if they aren’t sending you much traffic you should consider removing them.
  • Badges – you should only use badges if they convey social proof. They should help you appear more credible. So if you’re displaying a badge that anyone can use, it’s time to remove it.

Keep your blog as focused as possible and with as few different calls to action as possible.

The more options you give someone (e.g. click an ad, click a social link, click another ad, click a button), the more chance they will take no action at all.

#13 – Add your newsletter page to your navigation menu

Earlier I mentioned about creating a dedicated page to promote your email newsletter.

Make it easy for your readers to get to this page by adding it to your menu, like this:

Menu Subscribe Link

I particularly like how Brian Dean has done this on

Backlinko Example

Brian has worded his link to appeal directly to his target audience and what they want to learn about.

#14 – Add a subscribe tick box to your blog comments

This list building tactic is very under utilized but since blog commenters are involved, it can yield high conversions.

There are plugins on the market that allow you to place a tick box below your comments, giving the option for commenters to subscribe to your list.

There are a few options you can use here if you’re a WordPress user:

  • AWeber Web Form Plugin – this is a free plugin but it’s limited to supporting AWeber customers.
  • WP-Leads – again, this is a free plugin but it’s limited to MailChimp and hasn’t been updated in 2 years which makes using it risky.

#15 – Setup a thank you page for blog commenters to build your list

If you’re using the native commenting system in WordPress, you can install a plugin like Comment Redirect that will redirect first time commenters to the page of your choice.

You can use this page to thank your reader for commenting and invite them to join your email list.

#16 – Optimize your home page to grow your email list

Your home page is a huge opportunity to grow your list – are you taking advantage of it?

I recently launched an updated version of Blogging Wizard which included a new home page that looks like this:

Optimized Home Page

And I’m seeing plenty more people using this as a primary list building tactic.

This page is currently setup as a welcome gate so after you skip the page, you will see the regular blog layout. I’m also running a split test with a wildly different layout.

I’ve used LeadPages to create my new home page and it took around 10 minutes to build. It took longer for me to decide on a graphic to use on the page.

LeadPages does start at $37/month, its worth it if you can justify spending the money. But, a more affordable option would be a WordPress plugin like Thrive Landing Pages.

An alternative approach would be to add a ‘Feature Box’ style opt-in like Brian Dean has:

Home Page With Feature Box

Brian uses the Thesis theme which has some good options for using these Feature Boxes. Derek Halpern uses the same platform to great effect.

In fact, one of the Thesis Themes templates is based on Derek Halpern’s blog;

If you don’t want to change your theme, an alternative would be to use the Feature Box plugin by Plugmatter (I’ve arranged for a special 20% discount, if you purchase through my link and use code: BLOGWIZ20).

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

You need to make it easy for people to subscribe to your email list.

Adding opt-in forms to key locations on your blog is an important step that will help you here.

These locations are generally where people have come to expect there to be an opt-in form, so when someone wants to subscribe to your newsletter, it’s usually these places that they first look.

  • Sidebar
  • After post

There are more opt-in form types you can use:

  • Popover (yep, people hate them but they work)
  • Slide-in
  • Feature box
  • Header notification bar
  • Footer notification bar
  • Shortcode placement

There are plenty of plugins on the market that will help you to do this, I did put together a post about WordPress list building plugins which you can find here but I’ll summarize the main plugins and which opt-in types they support below.

List building plugins and which opt-in locations are supported

I’ve put together a list of plugins which I have had a positive experience with in terms of functionality, support and results.

Below you can see which features are supported:

Thrive Leads ($) Optin Forms (Free) Plugmatter Feature Box ($) SumoMe (Free)
Sidebar Yes Yes
After post Yes Yes Yes
Popover Yes Yes  Yes
Slide-in Yes Yes  Yes
Feature box Yes
 Yes Yes
Shortcode Yes Yes Yes


Thrive Leads offers the most functionality and is easiest when it comes to displaying targeted opt-in forms across categories/posts/pages. SumoMe covers a lot of the main opt-in form types and it’s free so it’s a great option to get started with.

What if you don’t use WordPress?

SumoMe is perfect here as it supports any HTML based sites. There is a pro version that unlocks extra features and removes branding though.

OptinMonster is a powerful option here. I’ve mentioned it in the WordPress plugins above and that’s how OptinMonster started out. It’s now a fully fledged cloud app that supports both HTML and WordPress. It provides a great overview for all of your list building efforts and makes it easy to deploy split tests with a few clicks. Pricing starts at $9/month.

#18 – Add in-line opt-in forms to key pages

There are key pages on your blog that you can optimize to get more subscribers.

Pages like your about page, start page or resources pages are great opportunities to grow your email list.

For example, Pat Flynn switched to adding an opt-in form within his about page, rather than his sidebar and this boosted conversions on that page by 446%. Crazy right?

You can do this too.

All you need is to add an opt-in form within your content. This can be done by embedding a form from your email provider or you can use one of the plugins listed above which support shortcode placement.

#19 – Use your 404 page to build your email list

When someone visits your blog and sees a page that doesn’t work, they will see a 404 page.

Most 404 pages include a message that lets the reader know something isn’t working right and usually some further information.

You can use this as an opportunity to build your list.

For example, I use LeadPages to do this for me. It allows me to generate a page that can be used as a 404 error page. It looks like this:

404 Error Page For List Building

I haven’t found any other platforms that make it this easy to do this so an alternative would be to hire a developer to set this up for you. You can find a good developer using a site like oDesk.

#20 – Display tailored opt-in forms for particular topics

Relevance is an important part of building your email list.

The more relevant that your opt-in forms and opt-in bribes are, the better your conversions will be.

The key here is to display an offer that is hyper relevant to the topic that someone is reading on your site or provides the next logical step after the content they have read.

This is very easy when using a tool like Thrive Leads which allows category, page level targeting and a lot more.

An alternative would be to use a plugin like Dynamic Widgets which would allow you to create different sidebar areas and choose which categories/posts they are displayed on.

#21 – Add social proof to your opt-in forms

Trust can be an important factor for your readers when deciding whether to subscribe or not.

Adding a testimonial or displaying an ‘as featured on’ logo in your opt-in form can be a great way of building trust.

A great example of this is how Jeff Goins displays a comment from Seth Godin which really speaks volumes about the content that Jeff publishes.

Social Proof And Opt-In Forms

#22 – Create targeted landing pages for your opt-in bribes

Having opt-in bribes or free stuff your readers can download is great but you need a dedicated landing page for each one that you’re giving away.

Landing pages are great because they generally get VERY high conversions. Having a single page with a single goal really does work.

You can then drive traffic to these landing pages using calls to action on your blog, paid traffic or even using your author bio in guest posts.

Tools to help you create high converting landing pages

I’ve yet to find a free solution for creating landing pages that is worth using. Most of the ones I’ve tried come with limited templates or it takes so long to make landing pages that look good that I may as well have paid for another tool.

Below are 3 tools that I use in my business to create landing pages:

  • LeadPages – This is a platform designed to help you create landing pages fast, it takes care of the hosting and integrates with WordPress while allowing you to download HTML to use with other systems. Price starts from $37/month. I use this for most of my landing pages.
  • OptimizePress – This is a WordPress plugin that comes with a theme version and membership plugin. It’s a bit more resource intensive but it’s easier to customize pages than in LeadPages. Price starts at $97.
  • Thrive Landing Pages – This is an add-on that comes bundled with the Thrive Content Builder plugin. It’s a good alternative to OptimizePress because it’s less resource intensive while still being very customizable. Price starts at $67.

I also covered some other alternatives in this post.

A resource to help you improve conversions

Using the tools I’ve listed above, creating your own landing pages is so easy but there is still a learning curve involved and more to learn if you want to increase conversions.

There’s a tonne of information on the web that can help you improve conversions but there’s one in particular that is worth going through.

Check out The Landing Page Course from the great folks at Unbounce, you’ll get a step by step look at copywriting, design principals, psychology, testing and more tips to help you craft high converting landing pages. And it’s free.

#23 – Add targeted notification bars to your content using Hellobar

Earlier I mentioned Hellobar being a great option to add opt-in forms to your blog.

You can also use Hellobar to display targeted calls to action above your blog posts instead of opt-in forms.

This provides an easy way to get traffic to your landing pages.

This also works well because you can target specific pages to make sure your calls to action are hyper relevant.

You can also split test with a few clicks.

Hellobar Setup

On-going list building tactics

In this section I’ll cover specific tactics that you will want to use on a case by case basis. These can work great for getting a quick boost in subscribers.

In fact, some of these tactics can often perform far better than all of your other list building efforts. This stuff is incredible.

#24 – The incredible ‘content upgrade’ technique

The idea behind a content upgrade is that you offer your readers a post specific bonus that is completely tailored to your blog post.

This will work better than most other techniques you have tried, Brian Dean increased his conversions by 785% by doing what I’m about to show you.

This works best when used with a 2 step opt-in process, where a link is clicked and then a popover is displayed on the page.

I use this on a number of posts, so you may see something like this (similar to what you see at the top of this post):

Content Upgrade ExampleWhen you click on the link, you’ll see this:

Content Upgrade Popover

Ideas to create your own content upgrade

There are plenty of types of content you can use here:

  • Checklist based on your post.
  • PDF version of your post.
  • List of relevant resources/tools.
  • 2 part blog post (2nd part downloadable after opt-in).

There are plenty more things you could do here, but the great thing is that you have a valuable opportunity to spend slightly longer on your blog posts and repurpose them into another content type or create something 100% exclusive.

If you don’t have a content upgrade ready, you could offer your readers the option to get the next post in a series which follows on from the one they are reading (H/T to Brian Dean for this idea).

Tools to help you setup content upgrades

Needless to say, content upgrades can be tricky to offer unless you have the right tools to help you.

When you have the right tools you generally avoid the technical headache that would be involved in setting something like this up with your email provider.

I’ve used the LeadBoxes feature from LeadPages to handle the clickable popover and also to deliver the content upgrade via email in the past. It’s easy to use and you don’t have to use WordPress.

Since first writing this post, I’ve migrated to Thrive Leads for this.

#25 – Give away products to build your list

Giving away products is a great way to build your email list.

The problem is that securing a big ticket product which people would love to win can be a challenge and there are hoops to jump through.

This is what Noah Kagan and the AppSumo team did differently. Instead of waiting, they put up the cost of a prize that they knew people would LOVE to win.

A good example was the giveaway where they put up a life time subscription to Buffer’s Awesome plan:

List Building Giveaways

I’m not saying you should put up something crazy like a $6,000 value prize. Think about the products in your niche that people desperately want to get their hands on and look at putting some budget aside.

Before trying this, you should consider whether this will be worthwhile for you – a tactic like this makes most sense when your email list is monetized.

Noah and his team built their own platform for this and it costs $198. Sure it may look a bit pricey but it works out more cost effective in the long run than similar tools that have a monthly payment attached.

#26 – Use a quiz with a twist

Peep Laja from ConversionXL found that by turning a simple opt-in form into a free quiz which required users to opt-in; he was able to increase conversions by around 1,900%.

Use Quizzes To Grow Your Email List

The above screenshot is a newer version of the opt-in form so it’s possible that conversions have been increased even more.

Getting this to work for you all hinges on understanding your audience and using the quiz to answer the biggest questions your audience has.

How to do this yourself

Replicating this yourself could be a bit tricky; I haven’t found a tool that makes this easy yet. Most online quiz tools focus on encouraging social shares rather than building an email list.

The alternative would hire a developer on a site like oDesk and get something built.

#27 – Launch your own product

Many bloggers and entrepreneurs will tell you that the moment when they launch their own product is the moment when their list skyrockets.

You will always get the best results when you create something that solves a core problem that your audience is facing.

Creating an information product is the most straight forward way to get started and there are plenty of platforms that can help you sell information products online. For example:

The majority of these platforms will give you the option to build your list and Gumroad users can use Zapier to integrate with various email providers.

External list building tactics

#28 – Re-purpose your content upgrades as Slideshare presentations

Earlier I mentioned the “content upgrade” technique which has proven to get incredible results.

You can make those content upgrades go further by re-purposing them into Slideshare presentations and linking back to your original blog post.

Slideshare is a great way to tap into a new group of targeted readers and because the traffic you get will be highly targeted and already value what you have to say, they will be more likely to opt-in to download your content upgrade.

#29 – Guest post to build your email list

Contributing to popular blogs within your niche is a great way to increase your authority and become visible.

It can be a good way to get traffic if you contribute to the right sites.

The problem is that most people miss a trick when they start guest blogging.

Instead of just linking to your home page, try linking to a relevant landing page within your author bio. Conversion rates are generally high because anyone clicking on your link wants more information from you.

For a more detailed breakdown of this tactic, check out this post.

#30 – Get more eye-balls on your landing pages with paid traffic

Paid traffic is one of the most sustainable ways to scale up your email list.

I recommend that you have a way of monetizing your list in order for you to recoup the money spent on advertisements or turn it into a decent profit.

There are plenty of platforms you can use for paid traffic which include:

  • Google AdWords
  • Bing Ads
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • +Post ads on Google+
  • Linkedin

#31 – Host a webinar to build your list

Most webinars are horrible pitch fests that offer no value.

Don’t do that.

Run a webinar that offers value and you will gain valuable email subscribers that will respect you more.

These work well because they are time sensitive so people are compelled to sign up because they don’t want to miss out on some valuable information.

Getting started with your own webinar

In the past you used to pay insane monthly subscriptions to services like GoToWebinar but thankfully you won’t have to do that anymore.

This is all down to Google+ Hangouts on Air which allow you to stream to unlimited participants.

You will need another tool to help you integrate with your auto responder and give you the regular webinar features, but they are far cheaper.

Mary Jaksch discusses exactly how to do this in her post on Pat Flynn’s blog.

#32 – Use Lead Generation Cards to grow your list with Twitter

One of the things that can sometimes stop people signing up is having to fill in their details when they sign up to your list.

Using Twitter’s Lead Generation Cards, you will give the ability for people to sign up to your list with a single click.

A Lead Generation Card looks something like this:

Twitter Lead Generation Cards

You can attach these Twitter Cards to any of your Tweets, but the only downside is that you have to send your tweet from with the Twitter Ads admin area.

You don’t have to spend money on ads, these are completely free and you can gain more visibility by pinning a tweet with your Twitter Card to your profile page.

If you’re a MailChimp user, there is a great tutorial on how to integrate the two platforms together.

#33 – Use YouTube videos to build your list

If you’re into video, you can use YouTube to build your list.

There are a few ways to do this, for example Noah Kagan uses a link to a landing page in his video descriptions. The landing page is tailored specifically for people coming from YouTube:

YouTube Noah Kagan ExampleOr you can embed links to your landing pages directly within your video like Derek Halpern of Social Triggers does here:

YouTube Website Annotations

If you’re wondering how to add links to external sites, read this tutorial which explains the process in more detail.

Monitor and optimize to grow your list faster

One of the best ways to get more email subscribers is to optimize your opt-in forms and landing pages.

You can also use your analytics to find which content types are performing best and which promotional channels are referring the most subscribers. You can leverage this information to grow your list.

#34 – Split test your opt-in forms

You need to split test your opt-in forms in order to figure out exactly what combination of design, copy and offer works best for your audience.

Right now I’m using the Thrive Leads to display opt-in forms and split test various tweaks.

Before you start split testing you should consider what you think could improve conversions and then test it out.

Starting off with a hypothesis is the best way to go.

What should you test?

Often minor tweaks can result in decent conversion increases; I’ve found that just changing one element of the design like a button colour can yield significant results.

Ultimately it comes down to what you are offering your readers and how that offer is framed, the more relevant and the higher the perceived value the better.

#35 – Split test your landing pages

We’ve talked a lot about landing pages. They work well because they are hyper focused and generally speaking most traffic generation methods result in highly targeted visitors.

They will convert well if the design, copy and offer is up to scratch but you can always optimize them further.

Similar to what I mentioned for optimizing your opt-in forms, you will need to come up with an initial hypothesis of what you think could improve conversions.

Even if it’s something like:

“I think if we change _____ then conversions will increase because ______”

Test it and see how it works.

Remember that best practice will give you a head start but different audiences can react in various ways to the exact same thing.

How to split test your landing pages

I use LeadPages for the majority of my landing pages, it has split testing built in which allows you to setup a split test in a few clicks. The split testing feature requires a pro account which starts at $67/month.

To me, this is worthwhile because LeadPages doesn’t limit the number of monthly visitors, I can create landing pages fast and there’s the LeadBox feature for content upgrades which I mentioned earlier.

There are alternatives though.

A free option would be using the Content Experiments feature with Google Analytics. While it is free, it’s more time consuming to setup.

You could also use a tool called Optimizely, pricing starts from $19/month for 2,000 monthly visitors. You can import your pages and tweak them right from within the platform.

#36 – Identify which traffic sources are delivering the most subscribers

In order to grow your email list (or improve your marketing in general) is to find what works and do more of it.

A great way of doing this is finding which of your traffic sources are delivering the highest conversion rates.

For example, I find that visitors coming from relevant sites in my niche convert better than search engine traffic or even social media traffic.

That’s just me; it could be radically different for you.

So, how do you find this out?

Earlier in this post I talked about setting up goal tracking in Google Analytics – this will allow you to identify which traffic sources convert the best.

How to do this: click on ‘acquisition’ and then click ‘channels’.

Google Analytics ScreenshotYou will then be able to select your conversion goal on the right hand side:

Google Analytics Screenshot 2When you look at your referrals, you can find out exactly which sites are sending you traffic.

So, if you’ve written a guest post for a particular site and notice an influx of conversions, it’s safe to say that it’s worth contributing there again.

Similarly you can identify which blog’s aren’t sending you any traffic or subscribers – it’s a good thing to know because you should always look to prioritize your efforts.

Your step-by-step list building checklist

This is a monster post, there’s lots of tactics for you to implement and you can get started right away.

As a special bonus, I’ve created a content upgrade for this post, so click on the box below and download your step-by-step list building checklist.

You can save it and print it to use on a daily basis – this will make it easy to keep track of your progress & highlight which other tactics you could be using to build your list.

PS – When you confirm your email address, I’ll give you access to all of my ebooks, checklists and templates. You’ll also get updates when I release new exclusive stuff.

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About Adam Connell

Adam used to run a team of marketers. Now he shares what he’s learned about growing blogs and businesses here on Blogging Wizard. He’s a fan of Firefly and Chinese takeaways. Click here to join the Blogging Wizard newsletter; you’ll get our best content & 15+ guides to grow your online presence faster.

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  • Wow Adam, amazingly thorough post!

    1 and 12 do it for me. Make your form easy to see and trim the fat.

    1 is simple but few obey the rule. My opt in form is above the fold, to the right. Tough to miss. If I crave subscribers they need to see me. Simple.

    Remove all other non essential widgets to boost your subscriber count. This is where 12 comes in. I post travel images, my eBooks my 1 affiliate opp and my opt in form to my sidebar.

    I want my readers to do a few things; soak up my brand, check out and buy my eBooks, and of course, sign up for updates.

    Keep options low. Like, feel free to send folks in a few directions but think about your strategy in detail. Do you need the widgets/ads? What’s the purpose?

    If you have eBooks and many social shares do you need social media icons? You’ve gained trust, you have social proof and you’re establishing your authority. No need to clutter your sidebar as it just shrinks your list, or at best, stunts its growth.

    Blogging from Paradise is my brand, so the few elements in my side bar reflect this. No extras needed, just my opt in form, gobs of travel images, my eBooks – #3 went live yesterday, waiting to put on my blog 😉 – and an affiliate opp.

    Thanks Adam, smashing post 🙂

    Tweeting soon.


    • Thanks Ryan!

      #1 and #12 are both super important. So straight forward but they’re easy to miss with all the other stuff we’re doing.

      Definitely, I still like to keep social icons available but adding them to the sidebar takes the focus away from what we want the focus to be on.

      Congrats on your recent ebook releases, my friend. You’re firing these out at a rate of knots – great work!

      My pleasure – thanks for commenting and sharing!


  • FrancesCaballo

    You have outdone yourself, Adam. This is such a comprehensive post and and a wonderful guide that I can now use. Thank you! (For some reason my image is next to my comment while I write it but then it disappears. Sorry about that!)

    • My pleasure, Frances. Let me know how you get on and feel free to drop me an email if you have any questions 🙂

  • Hey Adam,

    Awesome post.

    First, I like how you have the thank you page and how it’s laid out. Something I’ll have to try out.

    Subsequently, I like the confirmation page you use as well. I’ll have to play around with my theme and find a way to get rid of the header and footer and just have it like how you have it … and just the legal information at the bottom. Possibly some social media icons

    It looks much cleaner than what I’m currently doing.

    I know you’ve been using Lead Pages for your lead gens you have on your site and I’ve started doing that as well. I use OptinLinks however and it seems to work nicely, I’ll have to get more familiar with it though. But that’s a good alternative to LeadPages.

    I know I mentioned to you before about creating a dedicated home page, but I’ve been seeing what Brian Dean’s been doing and I like that feature box. Obviously this is something I’ll have to test out and see.

    Question, do your Popups work well on mobile? I stopped doing popups for a while because people were having great difficulty closing it down on their mobile devices. And when I tried myself, it wouldn’t close at all. Is it working well for you?

    For that 404 page thing, I’m looking for that as well. May have to hire a developer but it’s a great idea and it’s another great way to get subscribers.

    Have another question for you. For the content upgrade, is it ok to have a post that’s a list post and then for the upgrade say “Click here to get 5 additional tips not mentioned?” Do you think people would go for that or would they feel “cheated” and think that you should have included it in the post in the first place?

    Anyway, sorry for the lengthy comment and the questions. This was too good of a post though.

    Hope you have an awesome week.

    – Andrew

    • Hey Andrew,

      Thanks buddy!

      You could get away with having some navigation, I think the main thing is to get rid of the sidebar on the page but ensure that the column width isn’t too big.

      Completely agree, OptinLinks is a good alternative. Never expected that sort of functionality to be included into a plugin for sure!

      Going down the Feature Box route is a good way to go but like you say it’s worth testing out.

      They display ok, but OptinMonster just released an additional module which seems like an opt-in specifically geared to display better on mobile. Haven’t tested it yet though.

      Popovers in general are one to put some serious thought into. I’m going to try a slide-in for a while to see how it works. There’s no doubt that popovers do get results though. Also OptinMonster popovers are easier to close than they once were.

      Let me know how you get on with the 404 page, looking forward to seeing what you do there!

      Yeah, additional tips are a great way to do the content upgrade. Kim Roach called this the “2 part blog post”, seemed to convert really well. There’s a possibility that people could think that way, it depends on your audience. But ultimately we cannot give everything away for free.

      No worries, my friend. It’s a great comment.

      You too!

  • Hi Adam.

    That’s another fine list that you have delivered. I did wonder where you had “disappeared” to, and now I know.

    I did set up a Mailchimp account some time ago, and that’s as far as I got. I may consider trying to build a list when I start blogging more. I’m working on some ideas, so watch this space.

    • Hi Nathan,


      Yep, I was hiding away working on this. Took longer than expected but it’s turned out great.

      It’s well worth starting right now. I waited to build my list too and missed out on a lot of opt-ins.

      Even if you’re not blogging much right now, it’s still worth it. Even if you don’t create an opt-in bribe and just offer free updates/your best organizational tips.

  • Hey Adam,

    This is EPIC. Well done!

    I’ll have to come back when I have more time to give it its proper due, but I had to comment and give you a kudos. Great job, buddy!

    – Kevin

  • Phew Adam, this is some list. An awesome effort. You’ve definitely given us loads of great tips worth trying. Thanks for including Selz in the list of tools for launching your digital product. Selz includes free apps that integrate with MailChimp, AWeber and Campaign Monitor to make it easy to build your customer email list. And there is no monthly charge, you can even use it completely free if your giving away a free product.

    • Thanks Geoff! My pleasure, Selz seemed like such a great fit. The ability to integrate so easily with email providers is great. And especially with no monthly charge.

      Any plans to integrate with more email providers? Also do you have plans to allow users to run an affiliate program through the platform?

      • Thanks Adam, we want Selz to make it simple for bloggers and creators to sell online. We do have plans for integrating with more email providers, and to have an affiliate program through the platform. I’d be interested to hear who you think are the most important email providers to integrate with? and to hear suggestions for other integrations people would be like to Selz us do.

        • Awesome to hear, Geoff. I’ll get a list together and fire them over in an email!

  • This is practically everything a guy would need to build a good list. Great work Adam.

    KingSumo is definitely effective, even I got sucked in to signing up with that giveaway tactic! 😀

    I also LOVE pop ups, it’s highly effective for almost all niches.

    BTW, I definitely have to look at LeadPages now. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Thanks Dennis!

      I was too, entering the Buffer giveaway was how I found out about the plugin. The potential is huge.

      My pleasure, LeadPages makes landing pages and content upgrades so easy. I wish it was more customizable but I guess we can’t have it all!

  • Adam,

    As always, this post goes above and beyond. I so appreciate all the time and research you put into these; I always find them SUPER helpful and informative! I particularly am interested in the idea of integrating Twitter Cards and YouTube ads into my strategy… someday. To be honest, I’m going through a bit of email marketing burnout at the moment– but you’d better believe I’ll be revisiting this post when I get my mojo back! =)

    I’ll make sure to share.


    • Hey Brittany,

      Great to see you here! Thanks for the kind words 🙂

      I know exactly what you mean. I’m sure this will be useful when you get weaving on email marketing.

      Let me know how you get on and if you have any questions, feel free to fire me an email!

      Thanks for sharing too!

      Talk soon,

  • Adam,
    You have done some great work. Some of the points I have already integrated. But there are many things I should now do after reading your article.

  • Hey Adam,

    You never cease to amaze me with your content. You are always going above and beyond for all of that visit your blog. This is why I had to include you in a previous post of giving hommage to all of those that have been influential to me and are top notch when it comes to blogging and home business.

    You have named some great tools, and now I feel like a kid in a candy store LOL… But I will have to check out a couple of tools. I keep hear about LeadPages so I may look into this one as well as OptimizePress. Do you still use OptinLinks? How is that going if you still are?

    Thanks for sharing and I hope you’re having a great week!

    • Hey Sherman,

      Thanks for the kind words and also thanks again for including me in your blog post – much appreciated!

      I know exactly what you mean, I’m exactly the same when I find some new tools.

      I’m not using OptinLinks right now because I’ve got access to LeadPages, I tested OptinLinks out a while back and it does provide a great alternative to the LeadBoxes feature within LeadPages.

      OptimizePress is well worth a look too, so is Thrive Content Builder since they recently added their Landing Pages feature.

      Here’s what I’ve found:

      * LeadPages – go for this if you want to roll out pages quick and want to have pages hosted for you. The LeadBoxes feature is awesome too. It also handles delivery of digital assets (e.g. PDF’s etc). Downside is that it’s not very customizable, so for example, I wanted to add an image to a particular template, but I couldn’t. There are ways around this though.
      * OptimizePress – go for this if you want really slick looking pages that are easy to customize. It’s also great for membership sites and there’s a theme version you can use too.
      * Thrive Content Builder – go for this if you want a plugin that’s a good alternative to OptimizePress although you get less elements to add to pages and less landing page templates, this is more light weight. There are more templates planned for this though.

      My pleasure, hope you’re having a great week too!

  • Megan Kellar

    Awesome post, sooo much useful information and love the links to more posts and potential products I can use.

    I thought I’d spend 15 minutes reading some blogs and ended up spending an hour going through all the links from this one and reviewing the products!

    My minds exploded with more plans that I will have to implement when I start up my own blog!

    Thanks for the great information!

    • Thanks Megan! Really great to hear that you’ve found this helpful and already have plans you can implement.

      Let me know how you get on and feel free to drop me an email if you have any questions a long the way!

  • Chatty

    Hi Adam

    Awesome piece of information. I was actually finding a free email service for automation email and I think that ActiveCampaign is a good one. Thank you very much for recommending!

    Keep up the good work

    • Thanks Chatty!

      Let me know how you get on with ActiveCampaign!


  • Always something new to learn here, Adam! Just started a newsletter and needed to learn more about growing my email list. Now I’ve got a checklist and this wonderful post. Extraordinary!

    • That’s awesome to hear, Sherrey. Glad my posts are helping you and feel free to drop me an email if you have any questions.

  • John Balogieni

    Great post! We’ve been using Exit Monitor to do exit popovers for email capture…surprised you didn’t mention that here.

    • Thanks John.

      There are a few reasons I didn’t mention Exit Monitor, the main reason is the cost. For what it does, it’s expensive and there are plugins that do virtually the same thing at a fraction of the cost.

      The pricing seems a bit weird, for $99/month you don’t get app integrations. Back when I tested it, it wasn’t even possible to use HTML forms so the bottom 2 plans were effectively useless. Email addresses have to be exported manually which is very tedious to do on a regular basis.

      PicReel seems to have a better offering in terms of features and price.


    Hi Adam,

    This is a very huge list building techniques one can ever talk of.

    I enjoyed reading this and i have to bookmark it for later reading.

    Thank you for releasing this. I hope to make use of some of these to build blog blog email list.

    I will share this article on twitter.


    Oloyede Jamiu

    • Thanks Oloyede – glad you’ve found this helpful 🙂

      I appreciate you spreading the word!

      Have a great week.


  • Geniece Brown

    Hi Adam,
    This is a list to pin for future use to refer back to. #19 is genius: ‘Using the 404 error page to place a sign up form.’ I’m totally using this! I think adding guest posting (at least once per month) and paid traffic to my marketing will give me an additional boost as well. This is an extremely value added list building guide. Thanks!!

    • Hi Geniece,

      Great to hear that you’ve found this useful!

      I’m with you on #19 – I see so many awesome 404 error pages, most are entertaining but there’s such a good list building opportunity here.

      I agree, some guest posting and paid traffic will have a good impact for you.

      With guest posting, it all comes down to selecting the right blog. Comments/shares are a good indicator for how engaged the audience is.

      Let me know how you get on!

  • Wow Adam, this is quite the guide.

    As a new blogger, make that new serious blogger, this guide will be a lifesaver for me. One of my struggles at the moment is trying to convert visitors to subscribers, and there are a number of tips here that will help me with that challenge.

    Looking forward to giving some of these a go…

    • Thanks Craig, good to hear you’ve got some ideas of how to take things forward using tips in this post.

      Let me know how things go!

  • Ian Ryan

    Just came across your blog . Awesome stuff. Your content is incredible. Keep up the good work.

  • Very detailed and easy to follow guide! I’ve shared it with my audience… Keep up the great work

  • Matthew

    This piece of content is truly fantastic. Unfortunately, as much as I wish it WASN’T true my ideal clients (I own an seo consultancy) aren’t very likely subscribing and joining email lists related to Internet marketing. I wish it was the case. I have asked dozens on SEO guys and ALL of them get 90% of their business from referrals and prospecting and none of them from a list they built and nutured. I do have a lot of clients I think this would be excellent for. I created a HUGE guide to dominating SEO and I made a note to include this post on my next update. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Matthew, I appreciate the feedback!

      I can definitely relate to that. SEO/marketing services are far easier to sell based on personal referrals, but then again I think everything is easier to sell that way.

      Don’t count out list building too quickly – a lot of potential customers may not be ready for services yet, but they might be at some point down the road.

      I do agree that the # of clients via email marketing is pretty slim overall & this definitely takes time if you’re wanting service clients.

      Thanks for including my post – much appreciated.

  • BrentCarnduff

    Hey Adam, really amazing article! Does your list receive blog articles or newsletters, or both? What do you recommend for most businesses?

    • Hey Brent, thanks!

      It’s mostly blog articles at the moment but I occasionally send out exclusive content.

      This is either in the form of a straight forward email or a downloadable PDF.

      The downloadable PDF’s are typically added when I add a post that has a content upgrade. All subscribers get access to a page which contains all the exclusive content so it’s easy to access. There are over 15 guides, checklists & templates right now.

      I think it’s good for any business to offer content that is exclusive for subscribers if possible. But it depends on the business as to what form they may take.

      For a blog, you could do one of (or a combination of these):
      > Short tips – one email with the objective of teaching readers one thing.
      > Long-form content – this could take the form of an email, or a detailed PDF.
      > Curated – some of the most helpful newsletters I read are simply a curated list of helpful content that’s relevant to me.
      > Personal updates – I think Pat Flynn from SPI does this wonderfully. Every so often he sends an email sharing what he’s been up to, what posts/podcasts he’s published recently etc.


  • Robert Mavrin

    I found web site which provide search over 150 million email addresses from web.
    What you think about quality of those emails for marketing?

    • My advice would be to avoid at all costs. You could end up in breach of the CAN-SPAM act if specific measures aren’t taken (you’d need to ask a lawyer about that since I’m not a legal professional).

      But the simple answer is – build an email list of subscribers who want to hear what you have to say. That means they need to subscribe to your list.

  • These are some useful ideas. I already do a few of them, but there several I need to work on. Thanks for posting this.

  • Adam I must say you compile the best list building guide from A to Z. It’s quite easy to follow the instructions from Preparation content to monitoring and optimizing, I am planning to set popups on my blog pages and offering some very attractive ebooks and templates this is really a handy guide for me to follow step by step and setup all the required things in a skillful way…..

    • Thanks Hammad! Glad you’ve found this guide helpful 🙂