Contrary to popular belief, email marketing is not dead.
In fact if you want to maximize your business’ profit, there’s one thing you need to know: email marketing has a return on investment (ROI) that beats any alternative—by a lot.
Research shows that 99% of consumers check their emails every single day.
Between personal email addresses, work accounts, computers, and mobile devices, some consumers check their inboxes even up to 20 times per day.
More than 80% of retailers say email marketing is the driving force behind their acquisition and customer retention strategies.
From a marketing perspective, sending emails is an extremely cost-effective strategy as well. On average, the ROI yields $38 for every dollar spent, which is the highest among other strategies.
But your email campaigns won’t work unless you have lots of subscribers.
That’s why you need to learn how to build your email list.
It’s one of the best ways to get people excited about and engaged with your brand. You’ll use this list to stay in contact with your customers on a regular basis.
Ultimately, your email subscriber list will help you increase engagement, generate leads, and drive conversions.
Here’s the thing though.
List building can be quite puzzling for both Internet marketing newbies and veterans.
Marketers agree. A whopping 63% say generating leads is their top challenge.
Fortunately, if you follow the tips I’ve outlined in this post, you’ll have a much easier time building your email list.
Let’s dive in.
1. Pick your platform
Before you proceed with anything else, you need to choose email software you’d like to use.
This will depend on many factors based on the wants and needs of your company, but you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. Constant Contact is a great starting point for beginners:
But it’s not the only option. Check out similar email marketing platforms such as:
- Campaign Monitor
For the most part, they all will have similar features and benefits. It all depends on your preferences for the interface, pricing, and other factors.
Compare at least a few of these choices before deciding. One thing for sure: you’ll need software to help you with this task.
Email marketing platforms will make your life much easier. That’s because what you’re trying to accomplish here is much different from sending a mass email to your friends and family.
Sending promotional content to your subscribers directly from your personal email account isn’t a viable option if you want to take things seriously.
Plus, you’d spend way more time than you needed to if you did this manually. We both know how much you value your time, so take advantage of any available time-saving marketing tools.
2. Give people a reason to subscribe
Your company might be great, but not everyone knows that. This is especially true if you have a startup company.
Plus, people get enough emails throughout the day. Do you really think they want to receive more?
In fact, the average person who works in an office receives 121 emails each day.
Furthermore, 49% of consumers report they receive too many marketing emails from businesses.
It’s important you recognize these statistics. That’s because website visitors and customers won’t subscribe to your email list unless you give them some type of incentive.
You’ll need to provide them with some offer or value that improves their lives or experience with your brand.
Monetary benefits and discounts are some of the best ways to entice prospective subscribers.
For example, let’s say you’ve got an ecommerce store. You can have a pop-up or promotion on your homepage offering a discount off a purchase when a customer signs up to receive emails.
I don’t want to call anyone out, so I won’t use their name. But here’s an example of something I recently saw on an ecommerce website:
Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t completely off the mark. But look at this pop-up, and tell me if it excites you.
Telling subscribers they will be the first to know about a new product release, promotion, or story may not be enough to get them to opt in.
Instead, take a look at this example from Bed Bath & Beyond:
Compare this to our previous example. It’s much more enticing.
That’s because Bed Bath & Beyond is offering value people can actually use. People can get excited about a 20% off discount.
They may sign up just to receive that initial discount, but if you establish a good relationship with them, they could turn into subscribers for life. We’ll discuss that in greater detail as we continue.
3. Discover your lead magnet opportunities
It doesn’t matter what list-building strategy you’re using. It doesn’t matter which audience you’re targeting.
All list-building roads lead to your lead magnet.
Nobody will give you their email address without receiving an attractive offer in return.
With that said, the first step is to pick out incentives your target audience would want.
Put these steps into action to determine what that is.
Step #1: What does your audience want?
Think about the ultimate result. If you double-down on their biggest pain point, this won’t be difficult to come up with.
Step #2: What is your overarching solution to helping them get what they want?
Think about the big picture.
For example, if you’re a business coach, your ultimate goal may be to get your clients to bring in more sales and greater profits.
Step #3: What are the small steps required to deliver that ultimate solution?
In keeping with the example above, the small steps can be:
- build an email list
- have a content marketing plan
- launch a product
- set up evergreen sales funnels
- hire a virtual assistant
Your best free content lies in these small steps.
It will help you create an offer your audience wants. It will also ensure you give away something that will give them an immediate win.
This is super important for lead magnets.
You want subscribers to consume the content, implement it, and achieve a positive result.
Now that you have an idea of what your audience will benefit from, it’s time to create something concrete.
4. Create free incentives to attract your ideal audience
I’ll cut to the chase.
Four strategies work exceptionally well.
Strategy #1: Pick out your top performing posts and create content upgrades.
Content upgrades are quickly becoming the gold standard for list building.
Brian Dean boosted his conversions by 785% using content upgrades.
Here is how to do that:
- Go through your analytics.
- Select the blog posts that have gotten the most traffic and engagement.
- Create an incentive specific to that piece of content.
Let’s say you write a post “How to Write Blog Posts That Rank on Google’s First Page.”
You can create an “SEO checklist” as a content upgrade and place it within your blog post.
Here’s an example:
The chances of someone signing up to receive this upgrade? Sky high.
It adds to the value of your post as it gives readers a valuable resource to implement what you just discussed.
Strategy #2: Create a brand-specific lead magnet
This is an incentive that stands on its own.
It’s not tied to any piece of content, and it should have a mass appeal.
I don’t mean that it must be geared towards everyone on the Internet. But people in your target market should be attracted by your brand-specific free offer.
Here are some examples:
- an email course
- a challenge
- a resource library
- an ultimate guide
- a Facebook group or other online community
- a content series, e.g., a video series or a blog post series
- a toolkit
Strategy #3: Create a lead magnet that prepares your customer for a purchase
Most people talk about the first two strategies. But many leave out the most important one.
You must have a lead magnet that is connected to your premium offers.
This applies to a physical product, a service, or an informational product.
This type of a lead magnet is often (not always) smaller and quick to consume. This way, you give subscribers an appetite for your paid product.
For physical products and software, it’s easy to come up with an incentive. You can give away a coupon code, a free trial, etc.
Like Curology does:
Here’s a good rule of thumb for info-products and services:
- your free content can give away the “Why” and the “What”
- your paid content can be geared towards the “How”
Let’s look at an example from Jeff Walker.
He offers a premium program that helps entrepreneurs launch a product.
It’s called Product Launch Formula.
His free incentive is a “Launch workshop,” which is directly tied to his paid product.
And that’s what I mean by preparing your customer for a purchase.
This is a smart way to build a warm list of potential buyers.
Strategy #4: Create a promotional lead magnet
The last technique is to run a promotion.
This is where you use a giveaway to accelerate your list building.
When you implement this well, it works wonders. But I’ll admit: it isn’t my favorite strategy.
For one, it isn’t evergreen.
This isn’t something you can set and forget.
You run your promotion for a particular period. During that time, you have to market your giveaway aggressively and manage it closely.
After your promotion has run its course, that’s it. It has no use to you anymore.
Here’s my advice:
- run giveaways sparingly;
- make sure you can execute them well because promotions can easily flop;
- give away something that closely aligns with your premium offers.
Which of these four strategies should you focus on?
All of them.
The days of one lead magnet are gone.
Of course, you don’t have to create all of them at once. That takes time.
But aim to have each of these types of incentives in your arsenal.
5. Design your website to convert
You’ve come up with your lead magnet ideas, and you’ve created them.
It’s time to ensure your website visitors have every opportunity to grab these free resources.
This is not about designing your site from scratch or spending big bucks on web design.
You simply want to ensure that your web traffic is directed to your incentives.
A few tweaks will do the trick.
Here are my recommendations.
1. Place your brand-specific lead magnet above the fold of your website
Above the fold is the upper half of a website page.
It’s that section that a web visitor sees without having to scroll down.
The premise is simple.
You have a few seconds to grab your visitors’ attention. If your primary goal is to collect leads, the first thing users should see is an opportunity to sign up to your email list.
Here’s an example from Blogging Wizard:
Here’s another example:
2. Create high-converting landing pages for your lead magnets
Every standalone lead magnet needs a landing page. (This rule doesn’t apply to content upgrades.)
If you decide to run list-building ads, you’ll need this asset. If you want to direct your social media traffic to your lead magnet, it will also come in handy.
Let’s talk about the anatomy of a solid landing page. It needs to have:
- a primary headline
- a secondary headline or subheading
- a descriptive statement
- benefits in bullet points
- an image of your lead magnet
- minimal form fields (two fields maximum)
- a call to action
- social proof (if you have it)
- a snippet about you and an image (optional)
I know. Most landing pages don’t include all these elements.
That’s why they don’t work.
I recommend including everything listed above, but if you have to choose, the first seven will do the job.
3. Every time you run a promotion, feature it above the fold
When you decide to run list-building promos, you need to capitalize on that prime real estate.
As I referenced earlier, giveaways require lots of marketing. The more exposure you can get, the more successful you will be.
Just replace whatever is above your fold at the moment with something related to your promotion.
Like in this example:
6. Keep creating high-value content on a consistent basis
If you create lead magnets your audience wants and optimize your site for conversions, you’re achieving two things.
First, you have a foundation to scale your list building efforts.
Second, you are capitalizing on the traffic you’re already receiving.
That combination alone will make a difference. But let’s see how you can ramp it up.
There are three types of content I recommend.
1. High-value blog posts with content upgrades
In the second step, we talked about the importance of blog posts with content upgrades.
However, you were working with existing content.
You have to keep publishing valuable posts on a weekly basis. If you can create a content upgrade for each article, definitely do that.
What’s the ideal publishing frequency?
That depends on your niche and your audience.
I’ll tell you one thing.
You don’t need to post daily. Consistency is what matters.
One post a week is enough to see results with your list building.
You may have noticed webinars are in vogue these days.
And with good reason.
It’s a fresh way to deliver value to your audience.
It’s especially powerful for list building because it’s gated content. People have to sign up to your email list to attend.
Here’s the thing though.
Webinars are a strategy into itself. It takes preparation, the right tools, and robust marketing to make it a success.
But it’s worth it.
Webinars typically run about 60 minutes. It means you’ll need lots of content to work with.
The great news?
This content is typically evergreen and can be repurposed into blog posts or social media posts.
3. Social media content
There’s no better source of free traffic than your social media profiles.
I recommend focusing on one main platform where your audience hangs out.
Post consistently. Build an engaged community. And direct that social traffic to your main site.
7. Add a sidebar to your homepage
You need to come up with ways to promote your email list without spoiling the user experience.
After all, you still want visitors to consume your content.
That’s why a sidebar on your homepage is the perfect place to include an email opt-in form. As you may have noticed, I use this strategy on the QuickSprout blog.
It’s simple yet effective.
Visitors can navigate through my website and read my blog without being annoyed by giant bells and whistles trying to get them to subscribe to my email list.
The size, placement, and location of the opt-in button on my sidebar are subtle, yet clear and legible.
In addition to placing a sidebar to your homepage, you can place it on other pages of your website as well.
This will increase your chances of getting more subscribers.
First of all, not everyone will navigate directly to your homepage. If someone lands on another page through an organic search, you still want them to see your sidebar.
Furthermore, since the sidebar is subtle, it’s possible a website visitor could overlook it on your homepage. As long as it’s out of the way and doesn’t obstruct their navigation experience, it won’t be annoying if you place it on multiple pages.
8. Create a separate landing page
Another way to get more email subscribers is by building a dedicated landing page for opt-ins.
This definitely won’t annoy your website visitors since they won’t see the page unless they navigate to it.
Plus, having a separate landing page will make it easier for you to promote your email list through other marketing channels. For example, if you’re promoting your email content to followers on social media, you can provide a link to this page rather than your homepage.
Look at how Moz accomplishes this strategy with its dedicated opt-in landing page:
I really like the way MOZ pitches its email list.
Rather than just asking customers to subscribe to its newsletters, it differentiates itself from the competition.
Website visitors know exactly what they’ll be getting if they sign up to receive this content. There won’t be any surprises.
Moz will deliver them the top ten articles about online marketing and SEO on a semi-monthly basis.
The visitor also knows that their inbox won’t get flooded with too much promotional content if they subscribe.
9. Allow visitors to create an account before making a purchase
You can also get more email subscribers by making it easy for visitors to provide you with their information while they’re completing another action on the site.
The idea here is that you want to limit the number of steps for any given process.
For example, let’s say a customer wants to create an account on your website. If they provide you with their email address at that time, they shouldn’t have to do it again to sign up for emails.
I recommend combining the account creation strategy with your email opt-in method when customers are making a purchase.
Look at this example from Lululemon:
As you can see, the brand gives its website visitors an option to create an account before starting the checkout process.
By creating an account, they also sign up for emails.
That said, you don’t want to force people into your email list. The customer can easily uncheck the box if they don’t want to subscribe.
We’ll talk more about these checkboxes during the checkout process in greater detail shortly.
10. Trigger pop-ups when visitors display intent to exit
As I said before, you don’t want to overwhelm your website visitors with pop-ups.
If someone lands on your page and a pop-up takes over the screen within the first few seconds, it’ll annoy the visitor. You don’t want this to happen.
But timing is everything.
You can set a pop-up to appear when a website visitor displays an exit intent. OptinMonster provides this technology and uses the strategy on its own website:
Interestingly enough, I was on the website reading more about its exit-intent technology.
There was a hyperlink within the content that said “9 unique exit intent popups,” which I highlighted above for you to see. I thought it was interesting and relevant, so I clicked to open it in a new tab.
That’s when the popup came.
The exit-intent technology recognized I opened a link in a new tab, which means I was probably going to leave the current page to read it.
OptinMonster used this popup as an opportunity to collect email addresses.
To those of you interested in implementing this strategy, I’d recommend checking out this software. It’s refreshing when brands practice what they preach, and the technology worked as advertised when I was browsing on this site.
11. Pin a sticky bar to all your pages
Sticky bars are similar to sidebars, discussed earlier.
Sidebars are located on the side of your pages, just as the name implies. But sticky bars get placed at the top of the page.
As users scroll, the sticky bar remains in place.
You can use services such as Unbouce to build sticky bars for your website.
As website visitors scroll and navigate, they’ll always see the option to sign up for your emails.
Users won’t perceive it as annoying because the sticky bar isn’t intrusive and won’t disrupt their experience as they browse through your site.
12. Place your subscribe boxes at the bottom of your content
Again, we don’t want your opt-in requests to take over your website. Your website visitors need to be able to read through your content without being interrupted.
That’s why placing the subscribe boxes at the bottom of your pages is a viable strategy.
There are several benefits to this method.
First of all, it doesn’t impede the user browsing experience. But it also gives your website visitors a chance to consume your content.
If they’ve never been on your site before, why would they want to sign up to receive emails from you within the first few seconds of their visit?
But after they have a chance to navigate and scroll to the bottom of your page, they’ll be more familiar with you and your service or product. This is your chance to tell them you have an email list.
Check out how ProBlogger uses this tactic on its website:
As you can see, the subscribe boxes are at the very bottom of the page.
This is another example of how the information included tells prospective subscribers exactly what they’ll be receiving if they sign up for emails. It’s a weekly newsletter that provides advice, tips, and tutorials on blogging.
Consider moving the placement of your current opt-in boxes to the bottom of your pages.
13. Create an opt-in checkbox during the checkout process
Earlier I talked about how you can collect email addresses by giving customers the option to create an account before they make a purchase.
That said, you don’t want to force people to create an account just to buy something. If you have a long and complicated checkout process, it will hurt your conversion rates.
That’s why you need to understand and implement my shopping cart abandonment prevention tactics.
Even if a customer doesn’t create an account, they’ll still need to provide you with their email address to get a receipt, order confirmation, and shipping information.
Add a simple checkbox to this process that gives the consumer an option to sign up for your email list.
Here’s an example of how Walmart uses this strategy:
Walmart has a guest checkout option. If people don’t have an account, they can make a purchase without creating one.
As you can see, an email address is still a requirement to complete the purchase.
They added a simple checkbox below the email field so their customers can subscribe.
Similar to the example we saw earlier, if someone doesn’t want to opt in, all they need to do is uncheck the box.
14. Add a slider box
Slider boxes are similar to pop-up windows, but they are less intrusive.
Rather than popping up and taking over the screen, they simply slide into view to draw the visitor’s attention, remaining in the corner of the screen.
Here’s an example of how BuildFire uses sliders on its website:
This slider is specifically designed to collect email addresses.
Notice how big the slider is on the page. It probably takes up maybe 20% of the screen, at most. Visitors can still scroll and navigate without a problem.
If the visitor doesn’t want to subscribe, they can easily close the slider box without getting annoyed or frustrated.
15. Thoughtfully place a subscribe box at the beginning of your homepage
If collecting email addresses is one of your primary marketing strategies right now, you may not want to bury the opt-in buttons at the bottom of your page or on a separate landing page.
You can still promote your email list at the beginning of your homepage.
Just make sure it’s done tastefully. Let’s look at how ConversionXL uses this strategy on its website:
The company felt getting subscribers was important enough to put the invitation to subscribe at the beginning of its homepage. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But notice that it doesn’t take over the entire page.
The pages does both: displays other content and collects email addresses.
If you want to apply this strategy to your website, make sure you consider the layout to help you design a homepage that converts.
16. Encourage your subscribers to invite their friends and family
To get the most out of your subscriber list, have your subscribers work for you.
Make it as easy as possible for them to forward your content to their friends and family.
Even if you’ve got a great newsletter or promotion, it’s unlikely that most people will do this out of the kindness of their hearts. You’ll have to continue with the strategy of giving them an incentive or added value to encourage an action.
You should offer a discount to your subscribers for getting their friends or family members to join your email list as well.
Research shows that 28% of people would be more likely to make referrals if they received a reward for doing so.
The idea here is to create a snowball effect.
You want each new subscriber to get more people to join. As I said earlier, you can’t rely on people signing up only from your website. Encouraging sharing will help you get more subscribers.
17. Funnel existing traffic to high-performing landing pages
Like I promised, we won’t be reinventing the wheel here.
Brian Dean calls this the Landing Page Funnel (LPF) Technique. It requires two things you should already have:
- a landing page designed to convert leads.
Don’t worry, you don’t need tens of thousands of visitors a day or a landing page that converts at 50%.
Here’s how this works.
First, identify the landing pages that convert the best on your website.
Then, direct traffic you already receive to these pages.
Easy stuff, right?
Most people want more traffic. Some even take the necessary steps to get these much-coveted website visitors.
But they miss out on the golden opportunity to convert that attention into leads.
Once you have the two elements, it’s not difficult to do.
All you have to do is link extensively to these high-converting landing pages.
Place a link at the top of your website’s pyramid (in the main navigation menu):
You can also put a link in the comment section of posts as I do on Neilpatel.com:
Or place links to landing pages for your top resources in your sidebar:
My point here is this: you may not need more traffic or opt-in offers to increase the number of your subscribers.
Track where your current web visitors spend the most time and ensure they have easy access to a high-converting landing page.
It’s as simple as adding a few links.
But what if none of your current landing pages convert well?
A basic email grab form is not enough.
You need to have all the persuasive elements on your landing page.
Here is how to improve your landing pages:
- reduce the number of form fields. One form field is excellent, two is enough, and three is too many.
- add social proof elements. Got an endorsement from a big name? Show it off. Have 15 000 subscribers? Let people know. Got one raving testimonial from a reader? Feature it.
- have a strong value proposition. I’ll demonstrate with an example from SmartBlogger.
They’ve had this same lead magnet for ages.
And I bet it converts like crazy.
It’s a valuable resource for writing headlines.
They don’t ask people to
download these headline formulas.
Instead, they lead with a compelling value proposition:
write viral blog posts quicker.
18. Create content upgrades
I am a big fan of content upgrades.
You can uplevel your content by adding bonuses unique to each piece of content.
Let’s say you write an ultimate guide on promoting a blog post. You can create a quick cheat sheet for blog post promotion.
You just have to extract the key points from your already-written blog post and create your bonus content.
I recommend keeping it short, snappy, and easily consumable.
Lead magnets, including content upgrades, should be something that subscribers can consume and implement quickly.
This way, there’s a sense of instant gratification, and your perceived value goes up.
It’s exactly what you want.
I’ll admit. This is the most time-consuming tactic on this list.
After all, you have to create a unique bonus for each post.
There are some clever ways around that, and I’ll share them with you.
1. Create multi-purpose content upgrades.
In other words, create a bonus that can be used for several blog posts.
This is easy to do if you’re blogging about the same topics.
2. Use the content you already have.
Let’s say you write a blog post entitled “27 Ways to Generate More Leads Using LinkedIn.”
You can feature 21 of these strategies in your blog post and provide the rest as a bonus.
3. Have a formula for creating your upgrades.
You don’t need to have every type of bonus under the sun to see results from this tactic.
Have a podcast? Stick with giving out transcripts.
Create only long-form and comprehensive content? Stick with PDF versions of your posts.
Decide what type of content upgrade you want to give to your readers, and go all in on it.
The process will become formulaic and efficient when you do it this way.
Whether you use these time-saving strategies or not, content upgrades are still worth the time you put into them.
Depending on what the actual upgrade is, it may take you an hour maximum.
Don’t neglect to prominently feature your content upgrades. Don’t bury them in the middle or at the bottom of your posts.
Instead, make readers aware of this bonus from the beginning.
What are some examples of content upgrades?
- PDF version of a post
- cheat sheet
- additional strategies
- list of resources or tools
- printables and templates
- video or audio recording
- a challenge
The list goes on, but these give you enough food for thought.
If you’re serious about increasing your email list, here’s my challenge to you.
Step #1: Go through your website analytics, and pinpoint five blog posts with the most traffic.
Step #2: Create one content upgrade for each blog post. Spend less than an hour on each one.
Put these steps into action, and you’ll see a difference.
19. Create a vault of subscriber-exclusive content
Traditional opt-in offers don’t work anymore.
I’m talking about bulky reports and e-books.
Even if people sign up for these resources, they typically put off reading them.
The result? They never consume the information, yet alone implement it.
Think about the last time you downloaded an e-book. You tell yourself you’ll read it later and never get around to it.
I bet it happens all the time. I know it does for me.
Is there an easy solution?
Put all your free resources in one place so subscribers can have easy access to them.
Here’s an example from Blogging Wizard:
When you click the “exclusive content” link, it takes you to a high-converting landing page with 15+ resources.
These resources are found on a password-protected page.
When you sign up, you get the password, and that’s it.
You’ve got a lifetime access to a vault of valuable resources.
Blogging Wizard married this strategy with the content upgrade.
Within blog posts, they feature their collection of subscriber-exclusive resources as a content upgrade.
Now, that’s smart.
Here’s another example from Melyssa Griffin:
Again, you don’t have to start from scratch.
I’ll give you the step-by-step play.
Gather all the free resources you’ve created in the past. It could be ultimate guides, checklists, webinars, cheat sheets, etc.
Here’s a list of what Blogging Wizard has in its vault so you can get an idea:
Create a specific website page to host these resources. I recommend using the Essential Grid WordPress Plugin to display your content in a customizable grid.
In WordPress, set the visibility of your page as “password protected,” choose your password, and publish your page.
Create a landing page for your exclusive content, and funnel traffic to that page.
You’ll instantly have an opt-in offer that will keep converting leads.
You won’t have to create a new offer every few months when the one you have feeds you.
Be sure you keep adding fresh content to your vault, and you’ll be good to go.
20. One piece of the right content
Even on a brand new blog, you can get hundreds of subscribers with one post if you have the right content and a few other things (which I’ll show you later).
The guys at Groove were able to get over 5,000 subscribers from their first post in just a few weeks:
Those results aren’t typical, but they show you what one great post can do.
But I’m not just going to tell you to create a great post. I’ll take you through the whole process.
First, pick your topic (an appropriate one): Something that content marketers don’t mention very often is that different types of content have different purposes.
A full content marketing strategy will do all those things.
But here, we’re concerned with one thing and one thing only:
Getting subscribers (leads).
Certain types of posts will establish you as a thought leader or help you establish your brand, e.g., writing about controversial topics.
Sometimes they also produce subscribers, but it’s typically not their main purpose.
Other content is more sales oriented, e.g., case studies. And while these might produce some very high quality leads, they usually won’t produce as many as most other types of content will.
So, what we want to focus on are types of content that will help you gain as many subscribers as possible with your post.
- In-depth list posts – I have found these to be one of the best types of posts when it comes to getting email subscribers and traffic.
- “Definitive” guides – Incredibly in-depth and useful guides that attract a lot of traffic and subscribers.
- Interesting, unique research and analysis – In some niches, audiences are hungry for unique analysis.
I highly suggest that you focus on the first two here because doing interesting, yet high quality, research and analysis is difficult. It’s also much less consistent than the other two.
To find ideas for these posts, you have a few different options.
Option 1 – Look at commonly asked questions on forums: Definitive guides are great because they cover every single aspect of one particular topic.
They are also best written about topics that are commonly misunderstood.
One way to reverse-engineer the best guides is to visit forums in your niche.
For example, say you wrote an SEO blog. You’d probably go to the SEO section of the Warrior Forum.
Then, you’d look through the first few hundred threads:
What you’ll notice is that there are a few questions that keep coming up over and over again in slightly different forms.
In the picture above, it’s clear that people want to learn how to create more backlinks.
Here’s a good title for your guide:
The definitive guide to building high quality backlinks
If you look in the Quick Sprout sidebar, you’ll see that I created a resource for this very topic in the past:
That doesn’t mean you couldn’t create your own in-depth guide.
As long as it’s really high quality, people will appreciate it. Some just need to hear things in different ways, so even if your guide isn’t the first one on the topic, it can still be useful.
Option 2 – Look at top posts on Reddit: Unlike forums’ posts, Reddit posts are voted on. You can see the most appreciated content in each subreddit (category).
If you’ve never used Reddit before, read my definitive guide (what a coincidence!) on Reddit marketing. It’ll walk you through all the basics.
Once you’ve done that, you will know what subreddits are and how to find a relevant one.
Then, sort it by “top” to see the most upvoted posts:
That picture is from the social media subreddit.
People upvote for two reasons:
- to appreciate a submitted resource
- to agree with something
I put a box around a top thread “A guide for the new Social Media manager?”
In this case, it’s someone looking for help. More importantly, there are at least 13 other people (it has an overall score of +14 on the left) who want to know this information.
Now you have a great topic idea:
The complete guide to social media for the new social media manager
Alternatively, you might see a link to a really good post that someone else created.
Then, create a better one, or create a guide on a closely related topic.
Option 3 – Look at your competitors: Another way to find content that produces email subscribers is to look at your competitors.
Just search for “top (your niche) bloggers”, and you’ll find a ton.
Go through their blogs, and look at their sidebars.
You’ll often see that they highlight 2-3 pieces of content:
The higher up on the sidebar it is, the more likely that it’s performed really well on the blog.
Again, you can create a better version of it or create a guide on a similar topic.
Brian Dean (Backlinko) isn’t the best competitor to look at because he spends a ton of time on every piece of content. It’s going to be hard to make things better.
However, you could still create related resources. He has a high converting guide to ranking any keyword. You could create:
- The definitive guide to ranking any local keyword
- How to rank any longtail keyword
You’ll often find some competitors that produce good, but not great, content.
So when you find a good guide, you can create one on the same topic, but make it way better:
For example, that Instagram ads article above got thousands of shares and several comments, which are okay indicators of the number of subscribers it attracted.
It wouldn’t be too difficult to create a “Complete guide to Instagram ads.”
Do you have one solid idea for a guide now?
Great, let’s move on…
Second, write your content (make it great): Some of you reading this are already pretty good writers.
If you don’t think you are, you can learn. Here are some great resources on writing better:
- 12 Content-Writing Secrets of Professional Writers
- How to Double Your Writing Speed Without Lowering Its Quality
- The 8 Underused Components of Compelling Content That Readers Love
Remember when I said that this was a simple guide? It is, but this step in particular takes some experience and effort to execute well.
To truly create a top-quality definitive guide, expect to spend at least 10 hours.
It may take you well over 20 or 30 hours, depending on the topic you choose.
Don’t get discouraged because this is one of the most important steps in this process. The better you make your content, the more you will get out of it.
If you go all out and create an absolutely epic piece of content, you might be able to get hundreds, or even thousands, of subscribers over time from this single piece of content.
So, don’t worry about how much money you’ve spent or how much time it’s taken to write this in-depth post. Just focus on creating the best piece of content possible
21. Four sources of traffic to start with
If you don’t promote your post, not many people will see it. Remember, you need to get about 1,000-2,000 visitors to your post.
This can be done in multiple ways within a fairly short period of time.
The tactics in this section are tough to scale, but they are great if you’re just getting started.
Feel free to try any or all of them, and you can combine them all if you want to maximize your traffic (and email subscribers).
Source #1 – Forums: Almost every niche has at least one active forum with your target readers.
Since you can easily add content to a forum, it’s a good opportunity to drive traffic back to your site.
Just Google “top (niche) forums,” and pick the 1-3 best ones:
It’s really important that you avoid being seen as a spammer when linking to your post.
First, become an active member of the community. Make at least a few dozen helpful posts.
When you finally do post your link, make sure to give it context.
Explain that you noticed that a lot of the members of the forum were having trouble with a particular problem, and you wanted to solve it.
Alternatively, you can also format the entire post for the forum and just leave a link alongside it. You won’t get as many clicks, but some forums are very strict about how you can post your link.
Source #2 – Individual email outreach: If you take a random group of 100 readers in your niche, you’ll get that 5-10% conversion rate we were talking about.
But if you emailed the most interested ones, you could double or triple that rate easily.
The good news is that it’s easy to find these readers because they are the most likely to share or comment on posts.
First, enter the main topic of your post into Buzzsumo’s top content tool:
Then, click on “view sharers” on any recent relevant article, which will bring up a list of people who shared that article on Twitter, for example:
Find these people on Twitter.
Look for a website address in their description, where you might find an email address to contact them.
Alternatively, click on the post itself before viewing the shares, and look at the comment section.
For example, here are a few comments from one of my posts on Quick Sprout:
You could click on the names to go to those readers’ sites, and then contact them.
You can either use their “contact” form or sign up to their email list to get their email addresses. The second option is better, but it’s not always possible:
When you do email them, use a message like this:
Subject: Hi (Name), I thought you’d like this…
I noticed that you commented on (author’s name) post about (post topic) a little while back.
It was a great post, and it actually led me to creating a related post about (topic).
It’s very in-depth and features (something that is interesting like a secret tactic).
If you get a minute, check it out. I think you’d enjoy it.
Here’s the link: (URL)
Source #3 – Reddit and other aggregators: Reddit is a great source of ideas. But even more valuable is the fact that most of its communities are capable of sending hundreds of visitors to any good post.
If you find 2-3 fairly large subreddits and your content is upvoted a decent number of times, you can get more than 100 subscribers just from this.
Again, read my guide to using Reddit for marketing properly if you want to be successful.
The key part of a successful post is to genuinely try to add to the community. Add a detailed summary along with the link in the post:
In some subreddits, you are required to paste your entire post.
Source #4 – Guest-posting: Finally, if you’re not a huge fan of promotion, you can get your first subscribers using guest-posting.
Instead of posting your content on your site, you’re going to post it on a leading site in your niche. I’ve written many times about guest-posting successfully; here is a very thorough strategy.
With guest-posting, you leverage the natural traffic that other sites already have to convert those readers into your subscribers.
Ideally, you want to post a link to your content upgrade offer somewhere near the end of the post in the author bio:
That link should point to a landing page on your domain that offers the content upgrade.
There are a few things to note here.
First, not all blogs will allow you to post links to landing pages. Clarify this ahead of time.
But they’re getting free content, and it makes sense that you should get something out of it as well (and not just “exposure”).
Secondly, since you’re limited with where and how you can post the content upgrade, your conversion rate will go down.
If a blog is popular enough, you may still end up with more subscribers, but just be aware of that.
22. Keep adding subscribers
So you’ve finally reached your first 100, 1,000, 10,000, or maybe even 100,000 email subscribers.
It’s time to kick back, put your feet up, and relax, right? Wrong.
Growing your email list needs to be a constant priority. The sky is the limit here. There is no downside to adding more subscribers.
Depending on the platform you selected earlier, you may get charged more, monthly or annually, based on the number of people added to your list.
But the costs are marginal and worth it because of the high ROI of email marketing campaigns.
Now, you just need to use your email strategy to increase conversions and drive sales through offering great content.
There’s no dancing around this fact: email list building is central to the success of an online business.
Make it a priority.
There is no wrong way to get email subscribers.
But some methods are better than others.
The best one for you is the one that works.
When it comes to increasing the number of your subscribers, you aren’t short on options.
Follow the strategies I’ve laid out in this post. If you implement them, you’ll start seeing an increase in your email list sign-ups almost immediately.