The #1 rule for running a successful online business is that you should be constantly be building your email list. It is the one asset that can truly help you grow your business.
As an analogy, your email list is comparable to your business prospects. The more people you have on your list, the better your chances of winning new businesses. Second, the higher the quality of your email list, the better qualified leads you will find yourself with.
There’s always a possibility that you’ll lose your search engine rankings or website traffic, but you will always hold onto your email list.
When you have an email list, you can always make money by selling products and services to your subscribers.
But what if you don’t have a list?
That’s why I decided to write this post: a collection of the best strategies on the web for growing an email list.
Create Great Pre-Opt-In Content
Content marketing helps you increase your conversion rate and generate more leads and email subscribers.
According to a report by the Aberdeen Group, websites that adopt content marketing have conversion rates that are six times higher.
The pre-opt-in content that you create allows you to engage further your audience and showcase the value that you can offer them. Later on, people will think that your opt-in content is as good or even better, and, as a result, more people will decide to opt in.
Here’s the type of pre-opt–in content you can create for your business:
Companies that create and publish 15 blog posts per month generate around 1200 leads per month, according to Hubspot.
The cost per lead is usually much lower for people that use blog posts and, within 5 months, it drops by 80%.
These are a unique combination of beautiful design, writing, research and use of big data. The reason you should be using Infographics is that they help you establish yourself as an expert in the field and as a credible source.
That way, you increase your value in the eyes of your audience. They also tend to remember you better. Additionally, infographics help you increase the amount of social shares and backlinks that you generate, which results in an increase in traffic.
Did you know that landing pages with videos convert 80% better? Even if you use them in your blog posts, they will increase user engagement with your site and the amount of time people spend with your brand.
By using video, Backlinko created a special social squeeze page that converted 21.7% of visitors into email subscribers.
He created two awesome sequence videos on a topic that his audience was really passionate about – How to Rank For Any Keyword.
Then, he placed the first video on the landing page and offered the second one to people who agreed to opt in.
Since people were already interested in the topic and had invested time in watching the first video, a huge percentage of these visitors decided to opt in and learn more about the topic.
Develop Opt-In Content Such As:
Most of the time, people won’t give you their email address if you don’t offer any value in return. You’ll need to offer them something in return, a bribe that makes it worth the effort.
We call these things opt-in content, or lead magnets:
This could be anything from ebooks, whitepapers, checklists, reports, etc. Anything that is in a downloadable pdf format and that you can easily send to people who decide to opt in.
Bryan Clark has managed to generate 100,000+ email subscribers in under one year with a simple ebook he offers to his audience.
To create a great ebook that will convert well, you’ll need to offer something that’s relevant to your audience and that teaches them something that they need to know.
Increase your conversion rate by presenting your audience with a book that has specific, tangible and measurable results.
Bad example: “How to lose weight”
Good example: “How to lose 20 pounds”
Best: “How to lose 20 pounds in 7 days without dieting”
There are many reasons why you should be using Webinars for lead generation. People that sign up usually have a stronger desire to solve a particular problem and/or become your customer.
This means that, by using webinars, you’ll get more qualified subscribers to whom it will be easier to sell in the future.
Webinars are also a great opportunity to partner with other companies and reach out to their audience.
The good thing about webinars is that you frequently don’t even need to create the content. You can invite guest speakers and ask them to create their own presentations.
KISSmetrics has been using webinars very effectively as a lead generation strategy. They claim that they have a 10% conversion rate and are continuously running tests to improve on those results.
Case studies are one of the best content forms you can use to offer value. Case studies offer a double advantage, not only do they let visitors learn about good business practices and successful experiments, they also cement your brand’s name as one that likes to share their successes with the public.
These are really great, because they are the easiest kind of content for the visitor to consume. They would need to spend much more time reading a book or watching a webinar, so it will be easier to convert them with a spreadsheet.
A great example of a spreadsheet offer is the 12-week Advanced Workout Routine by ShockingFit.
It contains a list of all the exercises you need to do each day, as well as the number of sets and repetitions. You will see different exercises on each sheet, depending on the week number.
Your Blog & Website
Your blog and website are your number one lead generation tool. Together, they are the hub of all your marketing efforts.
To maximize your results and generate as many email subscribers as possible, you should do the following:
Use the top of your pages
Your homepage is probably the most visited page on your website.
So, that is where you should put in some extra effort aimed at converting traffic into email subscribers.
The secret to generating tons of email subscribers is your value proposition. What will people get if they subscribe to your list?
The famous blog Okdork uses its homepage solely for that purpose.
No fluff, no distractions.
The focus is mainly on the value proposition: “get access to 85% of my best business hacks.”
The page displays exactly what you are going to get when you sign up, while also using social proof (email list of 700,000+ email subscribers) and humor (where to find best tacos in the world).
The other option is to include a subscribe box on your blog page in the above–the–fold area.
Crazy Egg’s blog uses their main page very effectively by including two main call-to-actions: to try their heatmap tool, and to subscribe to their blog.
Include an opt-in box on your blog’s sidebar
This is the most obvious place for a subscribe box. People expect to see it and, if they don’t, they may be left feeling confused.
Social Trigger considers this is one of the 7 highest converting places to add a sign-up form.
Be sure to use contrasting colors for your sidebar so your visitors’ attention will be naturally drawn to it.
This is the top bar that you always see on blogs and websites.
Its stickiness allows you to convert visitors even when they have scrolled down the page and read your articles.
You can use it to point to an opt-in offer such as a free ebook, webinar, demo or trial.
Include a yellow box inside a blog post
When Backlinko first implemented a yellow box inside his posts, he managed to increase the conversion rate for a single post from .54% to 4.82%.
That’s a 785% increase in conversions, just from implementing a yellow box.
By implementing the yellow box inside the blog post itself, he managed to offer additional value to his readers in exchange for their email addresses.
He calls this the content upgrade, which usually takes the form of an actionable checklist with some free bonuses inside.
When a visitor clicks on the download link, a leadbox appears, asking for their email in order to receive the checklist.
The reason why these checklists convert so well is that each one is created specially for the blog post.
They include only the actionable information, without all details and fluff.
Use a call-to-action offer below your blog post
Hubspot has been using CTAs below their blog posts very effectively for years to generate massive leads for its business.
Usually, at the end of each blog post, they present you with an offer to download a free ebook related to the topic of the article.
Use a scroll box on a blog post
Buffer has reported that their slide-up bar is one of most effective strategies they use to generate more email subscribers.
This is a box that appears in the bottom right corner when visitors scroll 60% down the page. If someone decides to close the scroll box, a cookie is set as a reminder to not know it in the next 30 days.
According to their stats, this box accounts for 36.7% of their sign–ups.
Conversely, you can also use an embedded form as an opt-in option in your blog posts. The key to making a successful embed form is to place it near text where the opt-in offer naturally complements the text, and not force it like we do with this following ad (give us a break).
Use an exit intent popup
Exit-intent popus are your last chance to convert your visitors before they leave your website.
This smart technology tracks the cursor, so it knows when you’re about to click the back button, close or switch tabs. This is when it presents you with an attractive offer presented in a pop-up overlay.
According to Converse Scientist, 10 to 15% of lost visitors can be saved with exit intent popups.
When done well, you can expect them to convert really well. Converse Scientist reports an opt-in rate of 9.7% for some offers.
To maximize your success, be sure to:
- Always present relevant offers based on the content the customer is currently viewing. Don’t send your generic ebook to everyone. Instead, implement page–level targeting with customized offers.
- Focus on your value proposition: What will the visitor get or learn if they sign up? Be specific.
- Make it easy to convert by asking only for an email address.
Use your About page
When people visit your About page, you know they are really interested in you.
They want to know more about who created this awesome website and why.
It is safe to assume that people who visit your About page are more interested in your company than those who don’t.
So, that’s why your About page is a great opportunity to convert visitors into email subscribers, just by placing an opt-in form there.
After you have explained what you’re all about, be sure to include a box like this with a strong call-to-action.
Use a subscribe page
Backlinko has created a special newsletter sign-up page that he claims converts at 10%.
He has a link to it in his main menu which helps him get tons of traffic to the page.
He presents an attractive offer with a clear value proposition – learn how to get 25,000 unique visitors per month.
The good thing about these types of pages is that they can be easily promoted everywhere on the web:
- on your social media profiles
- in email sign-ups
- in presentations
This helps you maximize the leads you can generate from all your sources of communication.
Landing pages that run contests collect 700% more email subscribers than landing pages that don’t.
So, if you want to increase your conversion rates, you should definitely be running a contest.
Here are some great tips for running a successful contest:
- The way you label your promotion makes a huge difference. In one experiment, the word “giveaway” received 27% more conversions than the word “sweepstake,” and 50% more than “promotion.”
- Place your promotional bar in the bottom right corner. It tends to convert 125% better.
- Experiment with your call-to-action button.
- Place images on your offer.
- Place your brand name in the offer.
Things you can offer to your audience are as follow:
- Cash prize – “Enter to win $500”
- Product prizes – “Win a car”
- Free membership/access – “Enter to win one year free membership”
Back in the days, the main purpose of writing a guest post was to build links back to your site.
SEO experts exploited this practice to the point that Google had to put a stop to this madness in January 2014.
Besides link-building, guest blogging can be used for very effective lead generation.
Here’s how you can use this strategy to grow your email list:
Include a call-to-action to an opt-in offer in your bio
Conversion optimization expert Peter Sandeen found guest blogging to be one of the most effective ways to generate email subscribers.
On average, he gets 170+ new subscribers for each guest post he writes.
And this is how he does it.
In the bio of each post, he includes relevant opt-in offers.
To do this correctly, make sure you offer something that is relevant and of value to the audience you’re writing for.
One of the fastest ways to grow your email list is to partner with other companies and expand your reach to their audiences.
Here’s how to leverage partnerships to grow your list:
Create an affiliate program for partners to promote your opt-in offers & products
This is one of the fastest ways to grow your email list, while also generating new customers.
When you get an affiliate, they will be willing to promote your offers to their list in exchange of a percentage of the sale being made afterwards.
The good thing is that, in this case, you only pay for results – you only pay your affiliates when you get a subscriber and/or a paying customer.
If you’re selling an information product, you should consider running a JV launch. In the last one that I participated in, Eben Pagan managed to get over 11,000 new subscribers.
These are people he can sell to over and over again.
If you’re running a SaaS business, you can use affiliate marketing very effectively, as well.
InfusionSoft is a great example here.
The hardest part about affiliate marketing is convincing people to become your partners.
Jeff Walker made a great video on how to build JV partnerships that allow you to grow your business.
You should also create an affiliate marketing page on your website to convert as many of your loyal visitors as possible into affiliate partners.
The last thing you should consider is how much you’re going to pay affiliates. The more, the better.
This also depends on your business model and your profit margin.
For information products, you can afford to pay 50% of the revenue. Some marketers even offer 100% because, later on, they keep the customer and are able to upsell him other products.
For SaaS businesses, you can offer a small percentage per month (20-30%) or one full month.
For example: InfusionSoft offers affiliates $1,000 each time they help them sign up a new customer.
Create a co-marketing offer with a partner
Co-marketing is when two companies work together to develop and promote a piece of content. Then, they share the results of that promotion.
In other words, you can partner with companies that have a similar audience to yours and use your combined efforts to generate more leads.
When you develop an offer, such as an ebook, report, webinar, etc., you can promote it to both your email lists and social media followers.
That way, later on, you can split the leads. This is very similar to an affiliate partnership, but here, you are not required to share your revenue.
Get interviewed on podcasts
Writing a blog post or creating a video takes hours to develop.
However, guest starring on someone else’s podcast is a great way to reach a new audience, build your credibility and grow your email list without much hustle.
Why so? Because all you have to do is answer the questions you’re being asked.
That way, you’re letting the host do all the hard work.
So, here’s how to execute this strategy:
- Go to iTunes and YouTube and search for potential shows using your main keywords (growing an email list, conversion optimization, etc.).
- Review the content of relevant podcasts.
- Make a list of shows that are a good fit for you.
- Reach out to them and tell them what you like about their show.
- Suggest yourself as a guest speaker and explain why you’re a good fit and what you can offer to the audience. Show credibility by sharing content you have created before, any publicity or previous guest roles.
- Once you agree to be interviewed, develop a special opt-in offer for that audience.
- Offer your host an affiliate commission if you make a sale.
So, how do you leverage your current email database to generate even more subscribers?
Make your content sharable
Your goal is to get your current email subscribers to share your content so you can reach out a new audience and generate even more leads.
Deliverability plays a huge role in email marketing.
People need to be eager to receive, open and click through the links in your emails. This is the only way they will be able to check out your content and share it with others if they like it.
To do this effectively:
- Always send your newsletter from the same email hosted on your domain (don’t use gmail or any other services).
- Use intriguing, value–offering subject lines to force subscribers to open your emails.
- Clearly state your value offering in your email and have a clear call-to-action (“check out our latest blog post on the topic of X”).
- Avoid fluff and get to the point. People don’t have all day to read emails.
- Include two links to your content – one at the beginning and one at the end of the message.
- Know when your audience is most likely to read their emails, and deliver it at that time.
When your audience visits your content (blog post, video, etc.), make sure to:
- Deliver and over–deliver on your promise (always create content that is valuable to them).
- Include social sharing buttons to encourage shareability.
Using these strategies, I’ve seen blog posts generate from hundreds to thousands of social shares and leads.
For example, ask people to share original offer with three people to get it – this is one of the best strategies to grow your email list really fast.
Harry’s has used it to generate 100,000 email addresses in just one week.
Here’s what you need to do:
Develop an opt-in offer. In the case of Harry’s, it was simply “be the first to know” and asking for an email address.
Just after people sign up, redirect them to another page where they have the chance of winning a bonus if they share the initial offer with their friends.
Be sure to offer some them something even more valuable if they do so.
Provide them with unique sharable links and click-to-share social media buttons to make it easier for them.
Search traffic is one of the highest converting types of traffic on the web, mostly because it is highly connected to the user’s intent.
People are looking for answers and solutions on Google, and if you offer them a real solution, they are likely convert.
Here’s how to leverage search results to grow your email list:
Optimize your landing pages for organic search
The more traffic you drive to your landing page, the more email subscribers you’ll generate.
Optimizing your landing pages for organic search will allow you to generate a lot of relevant free traffic.
By landing page, I don’t mean just a squeeze page, but any page that collects leads for you – your blog posts, homepage, About page, etc.
To optimize your landing page for search engines, you need to:
- Optimize for the right keywords, so be sure to do your research.
- Write title tags and meta descriptions that not only include your keywords, but also stimulate clicks.
- Include your keyword in your URL, heading and subheading tags.
- Create a content-rich page with tons of value.
- Optimize your images and your page for speed.
- Build backlinks from relevant pages to increase rankings.
Promote your opt-in offers with AdWords
Optimizing for organic search takes a lot of time. While you wait, you might want to try to generate some traffic to your landing page with Adwords.
That way, you can test and see how well some keywords are converting, and see which landing pages perform best.
YouTube is one of the most popular websites in the world, and the second largest search engine after Google.
It is a great way to get additional exposure for your brand and increase engagement with your audience.
But it can also be used to generate email subscribers for your business. Here’s how:
Use clickable annotations with free downloads
Project Life Mastery does this very effectively. In each video, you will see a clickable annotation like this one pointing to an opt-in offer on their website.
To be able to link to your website from your videos, you need:
- A verified YouTube channel
- An account in good status
- To add your site in Search Console
Then, you will be able to add a clickable annotation by going to Video manager -> Creator Studio > Video Manager.
On the video that you’d like to add an annotation to, click the down arrow next to the Edit button and then Annotations.
Be sure to “Enable your account for external annotation links.”
Click on Add annotation and submit your link.
Put a link to an opt-in offer in the video description
This is another thing Project Life Mastery is doing with their YouTube videos. At the top of their description, they include a link to a special offer for their free Life Mastery Toolkit.
Tell people in the video to click on your description or annotation and opt-in
The last thing you can do to generate more email subscribers from your videos is to tell them to opt in. Within the first few minutes of your video, once you’ve got their attention, tell them to click and get their bonus. Be sure to explain what they will learn/get by doing so.
There is one primary way to do this:
Pin the cover image of your free download
Your goal is to intrigue people with your image so they will want to go to your website and take advantage of your offer.
This could be anything from:
- Coupon codes
- Video series
- Online trainings
- Google Hangouts
Include a great pin caption as a way to drive more action.
Be sure to organize your boards so as to make it easy for your followers to spot the desired offer.
Melanie suggests having at least 5-6 boards with no more than 10 pins per board.
Over 80% of B2B social leads come from LinkedIn. In comparison, Twitter generates 12.73% of leads, and Facebook – 6.73%.
That’s why it’s extremely important to employ a successful strategy and utilize this platform for your own good.
Publish links to downloadable content on your Page or personal profile
Each day, post at least one update by sharing valuable content with your audience. This could be anything from a blog post, free ebook, video or anything else that’s useful to your audience.
Publish links to downloadable content on LinkedIn groups
Additionally, you can publish links to your content on relevant group pages in your niche. Don’t overdo it, and be sure to add value to these groups. Engage regularly with them by contributing, answering and asking questions.
Use LinkedIn publish posts with call-to-action images at the end
Did you know that you can use Linkedin to publish a blog post on the platform itself? This feature is called LinkedIn Publisher and, until recently, it wasn’t available to everyone.
This is even better because, when you publish a post on LinkedIn, it appears as a notification to all your followers, which means it results in a higher engagement rate than just sharing an update.
What’s even cooler is that you can include call-to-actions inside and at the end of blog posts to drive traffic to an opt-in offer.
Rachiel Folster has used this strategy to successfully get 200 conversions from a single article, which is pretty good considering that she had only about 1,000 connections at that time.
Promote your offers with LinkedIn ads
With sponsored updates on LinkedIn, HubSpot acquires 400% more leads compared to lead generation efforts on other platforms.
Besides sponsor updates, you can also create standard LinkedIn ads that appear on the right side of the page.
For both types of ads, you can target by location, company categories, company names, job title, school and field of study.
Facebook is the biggest social network of all and, as such, it allows you to reach out to audiences with all types of interests and desires.
Everything you share and promote on the platform should engage people and bring them to your site, where you can convert them into email subscribers.
Here’s how to do that:
Publish links on your Facebook page
Promote your content a few times per day when your audience is the most active.
Optimize all content that you share for lead generation, including your blog posts, infographics, videos, etc.
Choose an attractive main image for the post.
Write your headline and copy in a way that encourages people to click on it. Focus on the benefits that people will get by clicking.
Use your cover photo to promote offers
If you have an exclusive offer for an ebook, or an online event such as a webinar, hangout, etc. create a special cover photo for that.
Be sure to include a link to the downloadable content on your site so people can take advantage of your offer.
Upload images with a download link in the description
Similarly, you can also publish images of your offers on your Facebook page.
Be sure to include a link in the description so people can download the offer.
The good thing about images is that they are organized in galleries, and people occasionally check them. That way, they can always find old offers and take advantage of them.
Post in Facebook groups
Promote your content in relevant Facebook groups, but don’t overdo it. Be sure to contribute in other ways, as well – by answering and asking questions, sharing links to other useful resources, etc.
Promote your offers with Facebook ads
Facebook ads are a great way to generate leads for your business.
They are cost effective, well-targeted and result in a good ROI.
Be sure to set up conversion tracking so you’re able to calculate how many email subscribers each ad is generating and so you can optimize your campaigns.
To do that simply, go to Ads Manager -> Conversion Tracking and click on Create Pixel.
Create ad variants and test their performance.
I recommend testing at least three pictures, headlines and copies. Sponsor your updates, as well, to test their performance.
Focus on the benefits that the user is going to get, not the features. Nobody cares about 101 gym exercises. People want to build muscles or lose weight.
You can target your Facebook ads based on:
You can also set up a custom audience of people based on their email addresses.
Twitter is extremely popular among influencers and businesspeople. This is the place where you can engage people whose opinion really matters and expand your audience.
Here’s how to generate email subscribers with Twitter:
Share updates with sign–up offers
Promote your opt-in offers on Twitter, as well as all other content, such as blog posts, videos, etc.
Be sure to include hashtags to further expand your reach and highlight the topic of your tweet.
Additionally, you can also try promoted tweets to generate extra email subscribers for your business.
Google+ is a social network that’s integrated with Google Search and, as such, it provides a lot of opportunities for generating email subscribers.
Share updates with sign up offers
Just like on Facebook and Twitter, share all your content on Google+ as well.
There are some extra benefits to Google+. Your updates will show up in Google search results, as well as to your followers when they search for something relevant.
Share on communities
Share your content to relevant communities and be sure to include hashtags. Remember to check out categories when you publish something so people that are interested can find it.
Very few people realize this, but you can actually use your Kindle books to generate email subscribers.
Ask people to opt-in in the book
Noah Kagan generated 125 new subscribers in two weeks from his Amazon book just by asking them to sign up.
He simply placed this small call-to-action at the end of this book:
Include links from your book to opt-in bonuses
To expand on this strategy, you can include links to special opt-in bonuses within the content of your book.
Jeff Walker used this strategy very effectively in his book Launch.
He created a special accompanying membership site for this book.
Inside, you will see links to special super-valuable interviews with people who have launched information products before, as well as a bonus training on how to grow your email list.
All of this in exchange for a simple email address.
I have taken the time to list all the best methods I know of to grow and build an email list. However, I can’t tell you which one will work best for your business. You will need to figure that out by picking a few techniques and testing them yourself.
How do you currently generate email subscribers for your business? What have you been missing in your strategy? What are you willing to test out? Let me know in the comments below.
Originally published in 2015. Updated to account for latest research.