Zero readers, zero fans, zero subscribers, zero dollars.
Starting from zero can be daunting for a lot of people.
I was there only a few months ago. I started my blog on July 7.
At that time, I made growing my email list my #1 focus. Period.
In the 5 months since the launch of my blog I’ve grow my list from zero to 1,634 subscribers –
…and my web traffic to 24,478 visitors –
Today, I’m going to show you how to do exactly the same.
This 6,000 word case study will walk you step-by-step….click-by-click…through every tactic I used to grow my list.
I’ll also reveal the simple post-conversion funnel I use to drive social engagement and instantly connect with my subscribers.
Let’s jump in!
What You Will Learn
- Why I made email my #1 focus
- The exact strategies I used to grow my list from zero to 1,634 subscribers
- The average conversion rate for each strategy
- How to optimize your post-conversion funnel
- Two proven traffic acquisition strategies
Why Growing Your Email List Should Be Your #1 Focus
- It’s a sustainable way to drive traffic to your blog.
- It’s something people opt-in to. These people actually want to hear from you.
- You can leverage the list to gain customer insights and source new content ideas
- Your reach is not at the discretion of some computer algorithm (screw you EdgeRank)
- YOU OWN THE LIST
Email remains the best digital channel for ROI.
Top 12 Strategies For Getting More Email Subscribers
Since this post is 6,000 words, I’ve included a table of contents for your quick reference below…
#1: Sidebar Widget
#2: Get Sticky
#3: List Builder
#4: Content Upgrades
#6: Lead Magnet
#7: In-Post Opt-Ins
#8: Smart Bar
#9: Feature Box
#10: Yo’ Tweeps
#12: Main Navigation
#1: Sidebar Widget
First, I added an opt-in widget to the sidebar of my blog.
I used the Mailchimp List Subscribe Form plugin.
Note: I removed the widget after 90 days because I tested and found something else converted much better. More on that later.
Here’s how to do it:
If you’re using Mailchimp and have a WordPress website, adding an opt-in widget to your sidebar is very easy.
First, log into your WordPress website and navigate over to the “plugins” tab and select “add new” –
Next, enter “Mailchimp” into the search bar.
Then, install and activate the plugin.
Once the plugin has been installed you can navigate to the “settings” tab and select “Mailchimp Setup” –
Here, you’ll be able to:
- Customize the widget’s header/ sub-header text
- Add/ remove form fields
- Edit the CTA text
- Customize colors and border
- Edit the CSS and make the opt-in box look exactly how you want
In order to make it as easy as possible for people to subscribe I chose to only ask readers for their email address. No first or last name.
Now, you’ve got your opt-in widget just how you want it, it’s time to add it to your sidebar.
Click the “appearance” tab and select “widgets”.
Grab the “Mailchimp” you customized and drag it over to the sidebar you want to add it to.
For most people this will typically be the primary sidebar, unless you want to have it show only in specific pages.
Your opt-in widget is installed and you’re ready to start collecting emails.
#2 Make Your Widget Sticky
Since my goal is to grow my email list I chose not to include links to my social media accounts, or any other properties that would not directly help convert readers into subscribers.
But, there was a problem…
Most of my posts are over 5,000 words in length. Since my sidebar only had an email widget, when readers would scroll down my page there was nothing but white space.
I wanted to make it easy for readers to opt-in at all times.
So, I made my email form “sticky“, meaning that as people scrolled down the page the email widget would scroll with them.
I use the Q2W3 Fixed Widget plugin to make my opt-in forms sticky.
Once you have the plugin installed and activated, head over to the “widgets” section of your wordpress website and open the sidebar widget that is housing your opt-in form –
Check the “fixed widget” checkbox and hit save.
Now, your opt-in form will scroll down the page as people are reading your content. This increased my sidebar opt-in rate from 0.7% to 1.1%. This equated to an extra 37 subscribers the following month.
Note: If you include multiple widgets in your sidebar, place the widget you want to make sticky at the bottom. You can only have one widget scroll with the page.
#3: List Builder
The List Builder app was designed by Noah Kagan and the team over at Sumome. It’s a lightbox popup that can be customized to show up after a certain amount of time has passed, prompting the user to join your list.
AppSumo recently released an entire suite of free tools you can use to grow your email list.
I’m currently using 4 of their apps to build my list.
Here’s how to do it –
Head over to the SumoMe website. If you have a WordPress website simply download the plugin zip file.
If you use another CMS, copy the HTML code and add it to the <head> section of your website. They’ll walk you through the entire setup process.
Next, head back over to the plugins section of your WordPress website and upload the SumoMe zip file.
Activate the plugin.
Now, when you visit your website you’ll see the SumoMe crown displaying to the side of the screen. Click the icon and register your SumoMe account.
Next, enter the SumoMe store –
Here, you’ll see all the different apps you can install on your site.
Click the “List Building” icon –
Now it’s time to customize your List Builder popup.
As you can see, I’ve managed to collect 638 email addresses with this popup in 3 months…
…with some pretty healthy conversion rates –
First, select the “design” tab –
This is where you’ll be able to customize your popup message, button text and colors.
Bonus Tip: I’ve experimented a lot with the messaging I use on this popup. From my testing, I’ve found that popups offering readers an immediate “reward” such as an eBook have far higher conversion rates.
Some of you probably already saw my popup
Finally, customize the “success” message. This is what the user will see once they submit their email address.
Bonus Tip: Instead of providing a link to download the eBook from the success popup, prompt users to confirm their email address in order to get the eBook. This is critical for increasing the number of double opt-ins and will help maintain an engaged list.
The messaging fields also allow you to embed some HTML. Use this to convert subscribers into social media fans and build additional channel to engage your audience.
Next, click on the “behavior” tab. This section is critical. You’ll be able to customize when your popup displays, the frequency of popups, whether it shows on mobile, desktop or both, as well as the ability to exclude certain pages from displaying the popup.
Bonus Tip: I’ve tested the timing of my popup extensively and have seen the highest number of conversions when I have it set so the popup displays after 10 seconds. Be sure to test this for yourself.
You can also enable List Builder’s “Smart” mode which will set the popup to display only when people are about to leave the page.
Finally, connect the List Builder to your email service provider. The app integrates with pretty much every major ESP you can think of –
I know there are a lot of critics out there that oppose the use of popups because they are intrusive and hurt user experience.
Set your frequency to only show to your audience once a day.
At the end of the day, the truth is..
#4: Content Upgrades (Leads)
My #1 highest converting strategy for growing my email list has the use of content upgrades.
I now use a paid SumoMe app for this called “Leads”.
Note: If you don’t have the budget to invest in tools right now, keep reading because I’ll show you a hack method I used to build content upgrades for free with Launch Rock
I first heard about content upgrades when I stumbled across this post by Brian Dean over at Backlinko where he demonstrated how he used upgrades to increase conversions 785% in one day.
Bryan Harris over at VideoFruit also put together a great post.
The reality is, free reports and video courses don’t convert nearly as good as they used to.
1. Everyone does it
2. They are often not specific to the content the user is reading
Enter content upgrades….
This is where you provide your readers with a post-specific resource that provides instant value.
Here is an example provided by Brian Dean on his epic Google Ranking Factors post.
And, here is an example of a simple content upgrade I use on this content promotion post –
A post-specific upgrade with a clear call-to-action.
When a reader clicks the button they are prompted to enter their email address in order to get the post PDF and bonus strategy –
The beauty is that content upgrades don’t have to be super time consuming to setup. In fact, the majority of my content upgrades are simple PDF versions of the post that take me 1 minute to create in Leads.
PDFs have a high perceived value, especially when your posts are long. Readers can download or print off the post and read at their leisure.
Here’s how to set it up –
First, you’ll need to purchase the “Leads” app within the SumoMe app store.
Next, click the Leads icon.
I’ve managed to collect almost 300 email addresses in 90 days using the “Leads” app –
Once you have Leads installed you’ll see the icon display in the SumoMe badge –
Click the icon.
Next, hit “Add Button” –
You will see a draft button. Click the red draft section to configure your content uprade –
Give the content upgrade a name and fill out the button text –
Next, you’ll see a range of content upgrade options, including custom URLs, email only opt-ins (no bonus) and checklists. For this example, we’ll use the generic PDF –
Add a logo..
…and then copy the content of your post from the text editor in WordPress –
Note: It is important that you copy your post from the text editor with raw HTML elements displayed. If you copy and paste from the visual editor the upgrade won’t work.
Finally, paste your post into the text field and hit “continue”.
Click the published button to customize the button design and popup messaging –
But, I’ve also been experimenting with using it to leverage content written on my blog (and guest posts) to scale my list building strategies.
Buzzbundle allows me to squeeze additional emails out of both new and old content.
My blog content…
About two weeks after I publish a new post on my blog I’ll open up Buzzbundle and create a new “keyword group” –
Since you only want to extract mentions of the post YOU wrote, enter the URL of the post into the “Website (optional)” field.
Now, head back over to the “Streams” tab and you’ll be able to see all the people mentioning your blog post across facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Forums and Blogs –
Note: If you have a lot of online mentions it can take a few minutes for the streams to fully populate.
In just a few short minutes you could have a list of hundreds, maybe thousands of people to engage.
Buzzbundle gives you the ability to engage across multiple social media channels and blogs from a single interface.
You’ll need to quickly create your user profiles to do this.
Get more subscribers…
Now it’s time to leverage your content and milk it for every subscribers it’s worth.
I do this by leveraging the assets I created for my content upgrades.
In this example, I reached out to people that shared my content promotion blog post and offered them my eBook –
….and directed them back to this landing page I put together quickly in LaunchRock (for free) –
Crafty, I know 😉
This strategy works well because you are offering something of “higher-perceived value” to people that have already shown they like your content –
These people are much more likely to give you there email address over people you engaging with cold outreach.
My Guest Posts…
I use a similar engagement strategy for guest posts.
For example, I recently wrote a guest post on Digital Marketer. The post got a got a lot of comments and social engagement in the weeks following the post –
I wanted to convert as many of those people into my own subscribers.
Since I only covered 3 content promotion strategies in that post, I reached out to a bunch of people offering them my free content promotion eBook covering 17 content promotion strategies –
Once again, these people already liked the content and would be more likely to respond to my outreach attempts.
Similar to my content promotion post, I created a new keyword group in Buzzbundle and set the “Website (optional)” field to the URL of the guest post on Digital Marketer –
Then, I reached out to all the people that had shared my guest post across facebook…
… and Google Plus –
…and Twitter –
Note: This strategy is best implemented a few weeks or months after you have launched and promoted your post. Spend 15 minutes a day over the course of a week reaching out to engaged readers across facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and other blogs (in the comments section if you get featured) –
Be sure to sprinkle in some curated content between days so your Twitter account doesn’t look spammy.
#6: Lead Magnet
My lead magnet is a prime example of how you can leverage existing content to grow your email list –
I used PowerPoint to create a branded PDF of my content promotion post. Plus, I added a bonus strategy demonstrating how I used a single forum to drive 4,608 visits to my blog –
The lead magnet took me about 2 hours together by the time I formatted the content, added the bonus strategy and branded it.
Then, I used this short video tutorial from Pat Flynn to buil a free eBook cover –
Once I had my eBook content and graphic created I used launch rock to create this landing page to capture emails –
I’ve managed to collect 354 email addresses in 3 months…
…at a conversion rate over 40%.
I used a text widget…
…and some basic HTML to add the lead magnet to my sidebar.
I also added some Google Analytics event tracking to the form to track how many people were clicking through to my landing page, and where they were coming from.
Here is the code –
<img src=”WordPress image URL” /><br/><br/>
<strong><a href=”landing page URL” onClick=”_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘Ebook’, ‘Download’, ‘Sidebar’]);”>Download my free ebook</a></strong> and get instant access to 17 insanely actionable content promotion strategies.
You don’t need to pay thousands of dollars or spend hundreds of hours developing a lead magnet.
I leveraged existing content to collect 354 emails in 90 days.
Note: You can also house your lead magnet on your site by creating a page and using a simple Mailchimp embed form. I’ll show you how to embed Mailchimp forms and track signups in the sections below.
Additional Note: You’ll notice that I have now dropped the Mailchimp opt-in form from my sidebar. A couple reasons for this. First, when I ran a site speed check with pingdom I noticed that the Mailchimp plugin was chewing up a lot of resources. Second, I wanted to direct all the focus to my lead magnet.
#7: In-Post Opt-In Forms
I wanted to increase the amount of touch points between my readers and my list-building assets.
So, last week I started adding opt-in forms like this one within my posts –
I strategically place at least two opt-in forms within each post. One form about one-third of the way into the post, the other form about two-thirds of the way into the post.
The logic here:
- If someone reads one-third of my post (usually 1,500-2,000 words) they are likely enjoying my content and might be willing to subscribe to get more
- Two opt-in forms spread across 5-6,000 words is non-intrusive so I (hopefully) won’t piss people off
I also customize to header-text to be post-specific.
I’m no developer, so the design of my opt-in forms is pretty basic. That’s ok, I’ll test better designs in the future. For now, I’m just trying to validate this as a solid list building strategy.
Get something live quickly and inexpensively
You can create these opt-in forms quickly and easily using the Mailchimp embed form functionality. If you use another email service provider such as Aweber, the process will be very similar.
Here’s how to set it up –
Log into your Mailchimp account and navigate over to your list and select “Signup forms” from the dropdown –
Next, select “General forms” –
Make sure “Signup form” is chosen from the “Forms and response emails” drop-down menu and confirm you’re on the “Build it tab” –
On the “add a field” tab to the right of the signup form, click the “Text” option to add a text field to the form –
Under the “field settings” tab on the right, name the field and create a merge tag in the field tag box.
Check the “Hidden” box to keep the field from appearing on the form your readers see –
Now, click the “Signup forms” link at the top of the page and select “Embedded forms”.
Select the form type and customize the header text to make it post-specific –
Copy the embed form code –
Paste the embed code into where you want it to show up in your post. Make sure you are embedding the code in the “Text” editor –
Now, your signup form will be displaying within the post.
Tracking in-post signups…
You can use the hidden SIGNUP field to track which specific posts people are opting into your email list. This will tell you which type of content converts best.
Just add this single line of code before the </div> tag that closes the code for your submit or subscribe button:
<input type=”hidden” name=”SIGNUP” id=”SIGNUP” value=”List Building” />
Make sure that the name and id match the name you gave the merge tag for the hidden field in your list.
Your code should looking something like this:
<div><input id=”mc-embedded-subscribe” type=”submit” name=”subscribe” value=”Let’s Do This!” /><input type=”hidden” name=”SIGNUP” id=”SIGNUP” value=”List Building” /></div>
Note: Change the “value” field to indicate which page you placed the embed form on.
Now, you’ll be able to see what posts are producing the most opt-ins. You’ll be able to see this data in the “Signup Source” field in Mailchimp –
#8: Smart Bar
The Smart Bar is another handy SumoMe app that places a header bar on your website that you can use to capture emails –
I’ve managed to collect 192 email addresses with the Smart Bar –
Like the other SumoMe apps, the Smart is extremely easy to setup.
Head over to the Sumo Store and install the Smart Bar app –
The customization settings are similar to the other SumoMe apps.
Smart Bar allows you to configure your header bar for email collection…
CTAs that links to another landing page –
And, a tool to promote you Twitter and facebook channels –
You can easily set the “Bar Mode” in the “Design” section of the app –
In the “Behavior” section I choose to always show the header at the top of the page. This makes the bar stick to the top of the page as the reader scrolls.
Again, multiple opt-in touch points at all times.
Tip: Take advantage of the “Success” message. Post-conversion is the perfect time to ask your subscribers to follow you on social media or check out another page on your site.
Conversion Rate: 0.58%. I plan on experimenting with a CTA that links through to a more targeted squeeze page.
#9: Feature Box
The Plugmatter Feature Box is another plugin that I’ve recently added to my list building arsenal.
Here is what it looks like on my home page –
Currently running a split test
The plugin allows you to place a prominent email subscription box below the header, but before the content. Prime real estate to quickly capture the attention of your readers and turn them into email subscribers.
Some great Feature Box features –
- Easily customize templates and themes
- Ability to assign different Feature Box‘s to different pages and post types
- Ability to serve different feature boxes to returning visitors, or turn the off altogether
- Upload your own custom HTML/CSS
- Easily customize Feature Box messaging –
And, CTAs –
- Easy to split-test and analyze different Feature Box designs –
It also integrates with most major email service providers such as Mailchimp, Aweber, Constant Contact, iContact, Get Response, Infusionsoft and more.
And, allows you to see which of your subscribers signed up via the Feature Box by simply filling out a dropdown text field within the plugin settings –
This is what it looks like in Mailchimp –
The Feature Box can be added to your site without writing a single line of code. Just upload the plugin and configure the settings.
Here is a comprehensive guide that will walk you through all the features, and show you how to set everything up quickly
#10: Ask Your Tweeps
You don’t get anything unless you ask
Once a week I’ll shoot out a tweet promoting one of my eBooks.
I try to make the Tweet stand out as much as possible with a stat-based message and supporting image –
The tweet will direct people back to one of the squeeze pages I created in Launch Rock.
If it gets retweeted and hits a few new viewers you can quickly get some new subscribers.
They might might even share the love
I’ve managed to get 13 new subscribers in the last 30 days with just 6 tweets, similar to the one shown above.
And, I only have 1,300 followers.
#11: Facebook Website Custom Audiences
Since starting my blog 5 months ago, I’ve only launched one paid ad campaign to grow my email list.
A facebook website custom audience (WCA).
For those unfamiliar, WCAs allow you to create facebook ads that retarget users who visited your website (or specific pages on your website) within a specified time period.
Because WCAs are extremely targeted, they typically have higher CTRs and lower CPCs.
Last month I launched a WCA to promote my eBook to everyone that read one of my content promotion posts –
The results –
- Spent: $21.12
- Reach: 1,836
- Clicks to website: 134
- CTR: 7.3%
- Av. CPC: $0.16
- Emails collected: 42
- Conversion rate: 31.3%
- Cost-per-subscriber: $0.53
Some of you may have seen this ad
I have my website custom audience set to only in include people that have visited specific pages on my site within the last 60 days. This enables me to re-engage a newer audience every couple of months.
Not only will this help maintain healthy conversion rates, but I won’t piss people off by hitting them with an ad every time they log into facebook. Keep ad frequency in mind when you’re setting up your campaigns.
Here’s how to set up a simple WCA –
There are two ways you can set up your WCA.
- Directly within facebook’s ad manager
- Power editor
For the purpose of this post I’ll show you how to set it up within the facebook ads manager.
Note: I highly recommend testing out facebook’s Power Editor tool.
1. Open your facebook account and and click “Ads Manager” –
2. Click “Audiences” in the left hand column.
3. Click on the green “Create Audience” button in the top-right of the screen. In the popup, click on the option title, “Website Traffic” –
4. Agree to Facebook’s terms and conditions and then press “Create Audience” –
5. Add an Audience Name. This can just be something like My Website Visitors. Finally, click on the bullet point that says People visiting specific pages and select Domain from the first column drop-down. Add your domain name here. This will track visitors across your whole domain. If you want to target specific pages within your site then you can type the full URL instead of just the domain.
6. Copy and paste the Remarketing pixel code into the <head> of your website. If you use WordPress, this will be usually in the header.php file.
You can get there by navigating to appearance>>editor and then selecting header.php from the right-hand column.
Now you remarketing code is installed across your website, you’ll start to see the size of your custom audience grow as people visit the pages you set in the targeting section when creating your audience.
Here is what my custom audience looks like –
As you can see, I have 6,400 people that I can serve my facebook ads to. These are all people that have already shown an interest in my content and are much more likely to click through my ad and download my free eBook.
To use your custom audience, simply select it from the custom audiences field when you are configuring your ad targeting –
#12: Main Navigation Call-Outs
The header bar is one of the most clicked areas of my site. I found this out using the free “Heat Maps” app from SumoMe.
In an effort to capitalize on this click traffic, I decided to promote my eBooks in the main navigation area –
Each link the sub-menu directs users through to one of my lead gen pages.
To create this in WordPress, head over to appearance >> menus –
Select the “Links” tab and enter your landing page URL and link text –
Drag your custom links underneath the main navigation menu.
Ok, by now you’ve got a pretty solid platform in place to start growing your email list.
There’s just one piece missing from the puzzle…
In order to collect email addresses you need to get people on your site.
One of my favorite traffic acquisition strategies was inspired by Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique.
There are 3 basic steps to this approach:
Step 1: Find proven content
Step 2: Make it better
Step 3: Promote it like your blog depends on it
Why does this approach work so well?
Because you’re finding proven content – that people have already linked to and shared – and making it better.
In fact, I used this exact technique to write a blog post that generated 10,199 visits in 30 days (without spending a penny).
You should also check out this monster post that covers 16 content promotion strategies I used to help drive almost 25,000 people to my site.
And, grab this eBook. It reveals the strategy I used to pull 4,608 visits from a single forum!
Try putting together a couple of expert roundups to tap into the large audiences of influencers in your industry.
You’re generating traffic to your website…
And, you’re capturing email addresses.
At this point, many people will kick their feet up and call it a day.
These people are leaving a lot on the table.
Think about it this way. After you read an epic piece of content and subscribe to an email list, you probably want more.
At the exact moment your reader is interacting with you, they are most excited and ready to engage with you.
The phase of optimizing your post-conversion funnel is to set your objectives.
What do you want people to do?
For robbierichards.com I have a few objectives –
1. Get people to double opt-in
2. Get more social media followers
3. Get my readers to share my content
4. Start building a relationship with my readers
I configured my post-conversion funnel to meet all of these objectives.
The best part, I was able to kickstart the funnel without spending a cent.
Let’s take a look at how I leveraged Mailchimp to set this up.
Opt-in Confirmation Email…
Navigate to the “Lists” tab and select “signup forms” from the dropdown.
Select the “general forms” option.
Now, select the “opt-in confirmation email” from the “forms and response emails” dropdown –
This is where you can brand and customize the messaging your subscribers see in confirmation email they receive after subscribing to your list –
Notice how I ask people to confirm their email subscription in order to get the free eBook? This helps increase the double opt-in conversion rate.
Confirmation “Thank You” Page…
This is the page people see once they have confirmed their email subscription –
As promised, they get the eBook…and a quick prompt to share it on Twitter and facebook.
Right after someone enters their email to join your list is the perfect time to ask them to share your content.
They liked your content enough to give you their email address, so they’ll likely be open to sharing it!
Ask and you shall receive
The welcome email…
Finally, subscribers will receive a welcome email that looks like this –
The goal of this email is to quickly form a connection with my readers.
I offer to provide help with solving a problem…
And, crowdsource content ideas.
This way, I’m able to answer questions and give my readers the content they’re looking for.
I’ve set a goal to reach 10,000 email subscribers by the end of July.
Every strategy I implement between now and then will be geared towards reaching that goal.
I’ll be sharing a comprehensive quant-based marketing spreadsheet with my readers next month that will outline exactly how I am going to reach 10,000 subscribers in the next 6 months.
Here’s a little taste –
- Homepage welcome gate like this
- Dedicated landing pages for high-profile guest posts
- Post-specific WCAs
- YouTube channel with in-stream opt-ins (LeadPlayer and annotations)
- Feature Box testing
- Optimize About Me page for opt-ins
- KingSumo giveaway
A two-prong approach:
- Increase traffic
- Increase conversion rate
That’s A Wrap
There you go.
I just guided you step-by-step through the 12 tactics I used to grow my email list from zero to 1,634 subscribers in 5 months.
What’s your goal?
Leave a comment below and let me know how many subscribers you want to get in the next 30 days….
My goal is 700.
If you liked this post, please share it on social media or subscribe to my list below…