What You Need to Know About Building Your Email List

Email message

Everybody talks about the importance of a list. It’s true that an email list is your most valuable business asset. No one can take it away from you, and that you can use that list in just about whatever (legal and ethical) way you want to.

But how do you grow your list, especially if you’re just getting started? The first thing you need to do is do a little setup so you manage your list well. If you don’t have a few important pieces in place, you’re not going to be able to grow and nurture your list to get the results you want.

Set Up Your System to Grow

You may be thinking, how hard is it to manage a list of emails. Maybe if you’ve only got 20 people on your list you can do it all manually.

But I don’t think that’s where you want to stop. Think 20,000. Or more. How are you going to keep track of them all?

1. Automated Email System

The first thing you need is some kind of automated email system. What this will do for you is:

Manage your list, automatically subscribing and unsubscribing people
Allow you to write and schedule your emails in advance
Track open rates, click through rates and other metrics

There are many automated systems out there.

Some of the most common ones are Mail Chimp, AWeber, GetResponse, ConstantContact and SendLane.

MailChimp is free, but doesn’t allow affiliate marketing and many other forms of sales. The other four all offer different plans based on the number of people on your list.


Price Per Month Up to How Many Contacts?
AWeber $19 500
GetResponse $15 1,000
ConstantContact $20 500
SendLane $9 500


Some plans offer 30 or 60 day free trials, and the price goes up as your list grows. These are all popular, so you won’t go wrong with any of them. Choose one and get your account set up.

2. Enticing Offer (aka bribe) to Get People to Give You Their Email Address

Most people won’t just give you their email address because you ask for it. You’ll need to offer them something in return.

Typically, people offer a free ebook, report, video, checklist, access to certain area of a website or other type of information product. The important thing is to offer something that will solve a problem or answer a question for your potential subscriber.

The key is don’t make your free offer too long. Ideally you want something that a person can read in 10-15 minutes and get some value out of. For example, this little fifteen page report. All you need is an attractive cover and catchy headline.

Free report sample


But what if you don’t own an information product you can offer? Not to worry.

You have two options.

The first is to simply buy some Private Label Rights (PLR). PLR are usually ebooks that you can sell or give away, as if you’ve written them. All you need to do is add your name to the cover.

If you go with PLR, I don’t recommend just putting your name on it without changing it. If you’ve bought the PLR, that means someone else has, too. The last thing you want to do is send your new subscribers the same report they’ve already received.

You also want to read the PLR carefully, to make sure it is accurate, well-written, and provides actionable content. My suggestion is to read it and rewrite it. Add your own opinions, some additional information, or a resource list.

Your second option is to use a website like Fiverr.com and find someone to write your ebook for you. You’ll be able to find someone to write a 20-page report or book for a reasonable price.

In any case, you want to provide value to your subscribers. This is just about the first thing they’ll receive from you. So make it good! You want them to love what you’ve provided and to want to stay on your list.

And how will your subscribers receive this free report or ebook? Your email automation system should be able to handle this for you, once you get it set up.

For either option, you can find a cover designer on Fiverr.com to help you create something eye-catching and attractive.

3. Opt in form

The third thing you need in place is your opt in form (sometimes called a squeeze page). This is the place someone actually gives you their email address.

Simple and clean is best. You don’t want to confuse the person with extra information. If you’re just getting started, don’t add a lot of bullets.

Just write a headline to grab their attention, and offer your solution to their problem (found in your free report).

If you look over to the top right of this page, you’ll see my opt in form. I simply offer a free report. All I ask for is an email address.

I could have gotten a little more creative with the call to action button. My thinking was I wanted people to know they were subscribing to a list. But you jazz it up with phrases like “Give It To Me” or “Send Me My Free Copy Now.”

If you want more examples of op tin forms, check out this post with 30 examples, and detailed critiques.

Studies have shown that the more information you ask for in your opt in form, the less likely people are to submit the form.

There’s a debate over what to ask for. Some say just get the email address. Others say it’s worth it to try to get a first name so you can personalize your emails. It is true, that seeing my name in the subject line gets my attention and I’m more likely to open that email.

However, I’ve gone for the minimalist approach, and only collect the email address. At this point it’s more important to me to grow my list. As my list grows, I may consider asking for the first name so I can use some personalization. But that’s for later.

Once your opt in form has been created, think about where you will publish it. One popular placement is on the upper right hand side of your website. That’s proven to be the highest converting spot.

Another good place is on the About page on your website. Surprisingly, this tends to be a highly-trafficked page on most websites. So make sure those visitors have a chance to opt in to your list!

You also might want to consider popups. Even if you think they’re annoying, they are actually effective. The fact we see them on so many websites means they are working for many marketers.

Now that you have all those pieces in place, do one more absolutely positively critical thing.

Set up a new gmail account for yourself (use a fake name). Then using that email, subscribe to your list using your opt in form. Make sure everything works the way you want it to before you start trying to drive traffic to that opt in form. This is the time to catch mistakes.

Let’s say it’s all good and your alter ego has received the free report and is subscribed to your list. The next thing you need to know is how to get real people to sign up.

Growth in graph

Ways to Grow Your List

There are free and paid methods. If you’ve got lots of time and aren’t concerned with building a list fast, then free is the way to go. If you have a little cash to invest and want to see quicker results, then think about the paid strategies.

Free Methods

I’ve found five reliable free methods for attracting people to your list:

Guest Posting

Find some of the most popular bloggers in your niche. Read their blogs and comment on some of their posts. Your comments should add value to the conversation. “Great post” won’t cut it. “I liked the third point you made, because ….” Or “Another tool for tracking website conversion is …..”

Once you’ve made a few comments on that blogger’s posts, you’ve started a relationship with them. Contact them and offer to write a guest post for their blog on a topic you are sure will interest their readers. Most bloggers welcome having someone else write a post for them.

If they use your post, you can include a link to your opt in page in the author bio section.

Article Directories

You can write short articles (400-800 words) and publish them for free on syndication sites. You can find a list of 50 article directories here. Don’t feel you have to work with all of them. Pick one or two you like and build up a library of articles you’ve written.

And don’t even think about submitting the same article to multiple sites. They’re all very sensitive about publishing duplicate content, and they will punish you for it.

Each of these allows you to write an author bio, and of course, you’ll include the link to your opt in page.

The beauty of this method is that those links are out there forever. Not too long ago, I received notice that someone liked an article I wrote five years ago. Those articles are still working to send me traffic.

Minions conversing


Forums used to work better, but they still have a place. At the very least, they can tell you want questions and problems your potential customers struggle with.

And like article directories, your links stay out there forever. The downside is the time you need to invest.

Most forums won’t allow you to add a link in your signature until you’ve been a member for a certain time period and made several posts.

Once you’ve gotten past that, you’ll need to post often and regularly. Ten comments a day, start a new thread every day is what you’re looking at.

And as always, your comments need to add value. The idea is to contribute something of value to the conversation. Don’t go there just to scatter your link around.

If you need to, do some quick Googling to come up with some substantial answer to the person’s question.

Ten comments a day doesn’t sound like much. But if you’re committed to giving substantial answers that establish you as some kind of authority, you can see it could take three hours or more.

To find forums in your niche, just Google “my niche” + forums and see what you get. Before investing much time in a forum, look at the most popular threads to see how active the forum is. Don’t bother with ones that don’t have much activity. Also, get a sense for the tone of the forum. I’ve found a few that are downright mean. That’s not where I want to be spending my time or finding subscribers.

Social Media

Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google +, LinkedIn all can help drive traffic to your opt in page.

The trick is knowing how.

All the platforms require you to do two things:

Produce quality, relevant posts, and
Post on a regular schedule.

For guidelines on how often to post, see this handy guide.

To keep your sanity and track of what you’re doing, you’ll want a few tools to help you out. Buffer, Hootsuite and DrumUp all can help you schedule and manage posts.


YouTube is kind of like social media, but deserves its own category. Many people have been able to drive massive traffic by making short (10-15 minute) highly informative and engaging videos.

Why? Because after Google, YouTube is the most widely used search engine. Don’t you go to YouTube when you have a question? I know I do.

Don’t want to go on camera? You don’t have to. You can create a power point presentation and narrate it. Or you can use a free tool like Screen-cast-o-matic to show your screen and record your comments. This works great for demonstrations.

Credit card payment

Paid Methods

The disadvantage of paid methods is that you have to shell out some cash to use them. The advantage is that they work much faster than the free methods.

Solo ads

The way solo ads work is you find someone with a big list and pay them to send an email to a portion of their list. This email would promote your free offer, and if they click on the link in the email, they end up on your opt in page.

The downside is that most of the solo ad sellers are selling ads to other, so the people on their lists may be on multiple lists already. They won’t be so hungry to read what you have to offer.

You also have to be very careful. Sellers have been known to sell fake traffic.

This also only works for the big niches like weight loss, personal development or internet marketing.

Paid ads

Paid ads are another way to speed up your list building. The downside, of course, is the expense. Facebook, Google and Bing are all options. The key is in the targeting and the keywords.

Once your list is growing, keep one more thing in mind. It’s a lot easier to keep someone on your list than to attract them in the first place. So write awesome emails with killer headlines, so they open your emails. If you provide easy to consume value, they’ll start looking forward to receiving mail from you and will become a loyal customer.

Article Syndication (otherwise known as Content Distribution)

Article syndication paid version of article directories. Many of the benefits are the same.

There is one huge difference. In article directories, your content just sits there, hoping someone will find it.

The paid article syndication networks will do the hard work of promoting your content for you.

Most of them operate on a cost per click basis.

Some of the most popular are:



Simple Reach

You can find a look at the pros and cons of 10 widely-used contentment distribution platforms here.

Which of these list building strategies have you tried? Know about any others? Tell us about them in the comments!