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How To Grow Your Email List From Scratch

By vivian on April 14, 2017

9 Proven Steps To Grow Massive Email List From Scratch

How To Grow Your Email List

We’ve been talking a lot on the blog about email marketing lately, and today is no exception.

We’ve mentioned how important it is to have a healthy email list, but we haven’t yet shared with you a breakdown of our favorite tips and tricks! So here we go: our fastest, easiest, and most effective tips on how to grow your email list.

Learning how to build an email list from scratch sounds daunting, but I promise it’s just the opposite. It’s one of the most important things when it comes to a successful email marketing campaign.

An insider tip to take a bit off your workload: we use Aweber to manage all aspects of our email marketing campaigns. It’s a great program for organizing, scheduling, and categorizing your subscriber list, without you having to do a thing!

Step 1: Creating Your Site

You journey begins with a single step and that step is creating a beautiful website. But don’t stress too much. If you’re keen to get your business running and that traffic flowing, then think simple — WordPress.

How To Grow Your Email List
WordPress is really easy to learn your way around, and because it’s so popular, you’re always an easy Google search away when it comes to troubleshooting.

Okay, so you’ve chosen your site. But before we move on, let’s talk opt-in forms. These are foundational for when you grow your email list.

Opt-in Forms

First, you want to have an opt-in form above the ‘fold’. This means that users will see the form without having to scroll down, so it should be at somewhere really noticeable, like the header, would be perfect.

A minimal approach would be to have between three and five opt-in forms on the site, but if you really want to see those results fast, then I would definitely recommend seven forms. Why seven?

The Rule of Seven might be something you hear when people talk about learning. It’s been shown that it takes seven repetitions of something for it to really stick in your memory. And this rule applies just as well to marketing!

How To Grow Your Email List

If you’re able to make your users notice something, like your opt-in forms — seven times, then they’re more likely to take notice and take action.

You might be thinking, “Seven opt-in forms?! How can I fit all of them in?

Of course, you don’t want to overcrowd your site and overwhelm your reader, so I’m going to share where we display ours:

How To Grow Your Email List
  1. The header. (This is our ‘above the fold’ form)
  2. Our navigation menu.
  3. Below each blog post.
  4. The footer of the webpage.
  5. The sidebar.
  6. As popup, when users visit the site.
  7. Our resources page.

Step 2: Figuring Out Opt-In Incentives

The great thing about opt-in incentives is that they’re win-win! You’re able to grow your email list, and your readers get something great in return.

So what could you use as your key incentives? The most effective incentives we’ve found are:

  • Worksheets.
  • Cheat sheets.
  • Spreadsheets.
  • Printables.
  • Email course or challenge.
  • Video training.
  • Tutorials.
  • Webinars.
  • E-books.
  • A resource library with access to multiple worksheets or e-books.

These key incentives tend to be pretty popular across the board, so you can’t go wrong!

One of my key tips on how to build an email list from scratch, is to offer your initial audience as much as you can. With the incentive of gaining access to normally paid content for free, you’re also able to give your audience a sneak peek into all the great content your site and emails offer.

And, once you’ve got a healthy email list going, you’re able to track which content generates the most incentive and subscribers. We also use Aweber to figure out which incentives to promote the most.

Step 3: Catering Your Newsletter To Audience

We discovered one of the best ways to grow email lists and that is your newsletters.

Once your newsletters are ready to go, they’re going to be doing a lot of the grunt work. Newsletters deliver value to your customers on an ongoing basis, so trust me on this one: an excellent newsletter is going to bring excellent results!

So what are the things you could offer in your newsletter? We explore this even more in our email campaign guide, but we found that we get much more results when we make sure to include other information that is useful to our readers, and not just sales material.

Our rule of thumb is to curate our content specifically to our audiences, as this brings us the most results. So with a niche-specific newsletter, we’re ensuring that our readers always know we’re thinking of them before anything else.

Aweber manages our newsletters for us, so we’re able to sit back stress-free knowing our content will go out to you twice a week. If you’d like to see the kind of content we provide in our newsletters, be sure to sign up here! (If you click through, check out how we keep an opt-in form both above and below the fold).

Also, read our post here to uncover the secrets to getting more views for your email newsletter. 

Step 4: Run A Contest

A fantastic way you can grow your email list is by running contests. These are fun and engaging ways to help readers build a relationship with your business. I’d definitely recommend it. Here are some of the contests that you can run:

Trivia Contest

How To Grow Your Email List

This should be related to your product or industry, which also helps ensure your future subscribers are interested in your content.

Content Submission Contest

How To Grow Your Email List

By having a photo or a piece of writing published on your site, your readers become a contributor to their community and feel a sense of value in recognition of the content they’ve created.

User Voting


By conducting a voting poll or something similar, your readers will see that they’re able to make a real difference.

There are lots more great ideas on how to build an email list using contests out there, but remember, the key is always to ask your users to leave their emails in turn for participating!

Step 5: Engage With Social Media

Studies have shown that social media and email marketing integration can be one of the best ways to build an email list, and it’s true!

How To Grow Your Email List

We’ve tried and tested it for you. We found that combining social media, like Google+ with our email campaigns has led to really improved results. I can’t wait to share my top strategies with you here:

Sharing Buttons

This one is easy: add social media buttons to your email! These would be perfect beside your call-to-action. We keep ours in a prominent position, where our readers will notice straight away. This helps us extend our visibility, making our content shareable to a wider audience outside of our subscriber list (and hopefully turn them into subscribers!).

Make Use Of Social Media Insights

This one uses a little bit of really simple data collection. First, we figure out which subscribers have mentioned SEOPressor on social media, and from there we can begin targeting our emails.

How To Grow Your Email List

With this, we’re able to follow up with an ‘audience tuned’ email based on the information they make public.

A Call-To-Action (CTA)

By now you know how much we love our call-to action, so it’s not going to be any surprise to you that I’m about to say: Got Facebook? Get your call to action button!

How To Grow Your Email List
Facebook makes it so simple for business page owners with the call to action feature, and it’s a fantastic way to grow your email list.

Make sure to put it somewhere on the page or maybe even a pinned post. We give a one-liner about the benefits of signing up to our newsletter. This way, we can make sure our social media followers turn into real subscribers!

Step 6: Mobile Integration

In this day and age, with so many people glued to their phones, it’s important we make sure all our content is optimized for mobile especially when it’s been noted that up to 16% of all emails are read on the mobile phone!

This is the checklist we use on SEOPressor to make sure our website is mobile-friendly:

  • Template testing. We try our email templates across a few devices to make sure all display correctly.
  • Checking for wiggle room. We make sure we space out our call-to-action and social media buttons so that they’re easy to click for those on touchscreens.
  • Offering different versions. We use both plain text and HTML versions to ensure our emails are always viewable.
  • Including ALT text in the images. We do this as a backup in case our images don’t display, our readers and search engines at least get an idea of the content.
  • Optimising links. We always make sure if we’re optimizing our email, then we will also optimize the content of our links, including landing pages or forms.

Step 7: Analysing Results

Now it’s time to analyze the results! For some in-depth tips on this, why not check out our post on the 13 essential factors to success with email metrics.

These are the three main points I check against:

  • How many people opened our email, but didn’t convert or click through?
  • Of the people who did convert, how many came from social media, and which platform? And how many opened our last email campaign?
  • Which lead brought the most results – email or social media?

We’re so close! Who knew it was this simple to build an email list from scratch? My final steps are going to work great for bumping a good email list up to a great one.

Step 8: Endorsed Traffic

Endorsed traffic is all about credibility. If you can get your business credible right from the start, things are going to be a whole lot easier!

The key is finding a way to engage with the big names in your industry. By endorsing your work and company, the credibility of these businesses transfer to yours. Now, don’t think you have to find the biggest and best. What we’ve done in the past is find a business with a great reputation, similar client base, and lots of traffic.

I’ve found, personally, that these are the top two most effective methods:

  • Reputable businesses sharing your content with their clients – By sharing your content, they’re backing and putting value on your work. And this is great as it helps drive their client base to you, and increases your site traffic. By sharing your content, they’re backing and putting value on your work. And this is great as it helps drive their client base to you, and increases your site traffic.
  • Guest blogging at a website for the target business’ site – By guest blogging a great post for an A-list site, their subscribers can turn into your subscribers. Just make sure that the sites always give proper credit to their guest authors.

Step 9: Consider apps

How To Grow Your Email List
Aweber has been great with helping us answer the important questions about our email data analytics.

We use Aweber to manage so much of our email marketing campaigns – from scheduling to organizing, to building our email lists.

If you work across many platforms like we do, Aweber is fantastic for connecting them up, and sending follow-up emails to users. Aweber also offers a great variety of email templates, meaning that you won’t have to spend the time (or money) on design, and can focus 100% on creating meaningful content.

Best of all, you begin with a free 30-day trial to see if Aweber’s the right app for you!

Along the way, I’ve also found that SumoMe has some great apps out there to help you grow your email list.

When choosing the right app, we always make sure to look out for the one that emphasizes traffic, because remember: with traffic comes subscribers, and with subscribers come traffic.

A Few Email Don’ts

Don’t worry if you don’t see the results you want immediately, email marketing takes time. Take it from me. If you follow these steps you absolutely will see your email list grow.

What can happen is your recipients may feel alienated. We all know what it’s like to receive an email newsletter we didn’t sign up for. Despite the fact that your content may be just what they’re looking for, the fact that the email was unsolicited can be a big turn off.

This also leads to the next danger, which is that your email could be marked as spam and be blacklisted. Now, this is something we try hard to avoid, as it really impacts the deliverability rate. Sometimes it means starting from scratch with a whole new address, and nobody wants that.

In SEOPressor, we’re inbound marketing-focused, and attract leads and users with thoughtful and helpful site content, instead of potentially unwelcome ads and unsolicited emails.

Final Checklist

Before I wrap up, I just want to do a quick run through on the best tips we have at SEOPressor to build an email list. But I’ll keep it simple-dot-points.

  • An easy-to-find subscribe box.
    We keep ours above the fold, as we want it to be one of the first things our readers see, and A/B test the placement to find out where it works best.
  • Partnership.
    Sometimes we partner with other companies to increase our email list, if the company is in a related but non-competitive space. For instance, we have a great collaboration with LSIGraph. This is a win-win, as their traffic is driven to our site, and ours to theirs.
  • An optimized unsubscribe process.
    Instead of only an unsubscribe option, we’ve found that Aweber is a great tool to allow our readers to decide to receive less frequent emails, or only receive major announcements or topics they’re interested in.
  • Eye on the target!
    We focus a lot on targeting when we build an email list, using the data Aweber collects to segment lists based on our subscribers’ interests, behaviors, and demographics.

So there you have it! The most simple and best ways to build an email list from scratch!

Did we leave any tips out that you’ve used? Is there a step you’d like us to explore more? Do let me know in the comments below!

Related Links:

[Free Infographic]
Strategic Guide For Best Times To Send Emails

    Take your email marketing campaign to the next level today!
  • Identify your customers' pattern to increase engagement
  • Turn your existing customers into loyal customers
  • Send them the right message at the right time

Updated: 16 April 2024


About Vivian

Vivian is an anthropologist lost in the world of digital marketing. She has an interest in learning about the science of marketing and the creativity that businesses use to transform themselves into purple cows.

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