You know you need a mailing list. And you probably know there are a LOT of different list-building techniques available. So how do you decide on which list-building techniques will work best for you, building your list and monetizing your blog more effectively?
The truth is that trying to build your mailing list before you have really evaluated your best options is incredibly frustrating and counter-productive. You may have discovered that you can install pop-up subscription boxes on your blog, only to discover that no one really signs up and they all complain about the pop-ups. Maybe you tried to drum up subscribers on social media, only to hear crickets. Or maybe you read about how some people can have a free resource library on their blog so you made one, but no one seems to care about it.
If any of this sounds familiar, you’re totally normal. Even so, you can’t let those frustrations stand in your way of your blog dreams. You might be tempted to give up, but don’t. Some ways work better than others! There are ways you can utilize different list-building methods to work FOR you, instead of against you.
Quick Links to Information in this Post
Real-Life List-Building Methods
Let’s look at six real-life bloggers and their methods of list building.
Blogger #1 is a lifestyle and business blogger. She uses a “welcome mat” opt-in on her welcome page, 3-5 opt-in forms in multiple places on her blog (sidebar, popup, in blog posts, etc.), and creates a lot of freebies putting them in a resource library. Her list is 200,000 subscribers. She’s been blogging for about five years now.
Blogger #2 is a personal finance blogger. She uses lots of freebies, such as email courses, email challenges, and printables, Her mailing list is 100,000 subscribers. She’s been blogging for about four years.
Blogger #3 is a DIY blogger. She uses opt-in freebies like free e-books and printables to build her mailing list. Her mailing list is 70,000 subscribers. She’s been blogging for about for four years.
Blogger #4 is a home blogger. She uses opt-in freebies like free challenges and free organizers to build her mailing list. Her mailing list is 6,500 subscribers. She’s been blogging for two years.
Blogger #5 is a mom blogger. She uses freebies like printables and organizers to grow her mailing list. Her mailing list is 4000 subscribers and she’s been blogging for under two years.
Blogger #6 is a home entertainment and party blogger. She uses pop-ups to grow her mailing list. Her mailing list is 3000 subscribers. She’s been blogging for 8 years.
General List-Building Trends
If you’ve been blogging for 2 years or more and have not build a mailing list of at least 5,000 subscribers in size, then you’re really missing a huge opportunity. Go back over my list of list-building techniques, and then really pay attention to the end of this video on how to evaluate what can work best for you.
If you’ve been blogging for about 1 year and have not built up a mailing list of at least 2000, you’re also missing out. You need to make some changes to really capture your audience.
And even if you’ve only been blogging for a little while but have NO mailing list, you are definitely missing out. You can get subscribers even on a brand new blog. You can get them before you even start your blog if you want!
And as far as income goes, most bloggers who earn a full-time income have been blogging for at least two years. I am unusual in that I earned a full-time income before my first blog anniversary, but that is NOT typical. Don’t expect to earn a full-time income before the two-year mark. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be earning a part-time income before that point.
So Which List-Building Method Will Work Best For You?
Let’s go over all of the important factors to consider when deciding which list-building techniques will work for you and your blog.
Do You Enjoy It?
The first two big things to consider are your personality and your passion, and if you’ll enjoy using a particular technique. If you don’t like social media, you probably shouldn’t try to find new subscribers there. If you don’t like programming (or don’t even know how), don’t try to build a web tool to get your subscribers. And if you don’t like a lot of clutter on your web site, don’t use pop-ups and hello bars to get subscribers.
Don’t try a list-building technique just because you hear it works for others if it’s just not going to fit with you and your skills. If it doesn’t fit your personality or your passion, it probably won’t work for you anyway and you’ll just get frustrated.
Do You Have the Time for It?
Another factor to consider is how much TIME a given list-building technique will take. If you’re short on time, avoid time-consuming techniques like email challenges, mini-courses, or long e-books. These can take a lot of time to write and administer.
Do You Have Competition For It?
How much competition is out for what you’re considering as a way to build your list? For example, email challenges can be great, but are there already a lot of email challenges out there on the topic you want to do? If so, it’ll be a bit harder to stand out and get folks to sign up for it. Pop-up subscription boxes also suffers from competition — when nearly every blog has a pop-up, many readers learn to close those pop-ups without even reading them, making them far less effective than they could be.
Does it Fit Your Blog Niche?
Some list-building techniques are better for certain blogs! For example, an offer of a free report or white paper is going to be much more appealing to readers of a business blog than a lifestyle blog. And a printable planner will be more appealing to readers of lifestyle blogs than it would be to readers of a craft blog. Most all blogs readers will enjoy access to a resource library, provided that library is full of things that are targeted toward them.
Does Your Traffic Support It?
Blogs with low traffic are just not going to benefit as much from low-key list-building techniques. For example, I don’t think hello bars typically work well on low-traffic blogs because they just don’t have enough people passing through on a regular basis.
Pros and Cons of Each Type of List-Building Technique
Let’s go through the TYPES of list-building techniques one-by-one and I’ll give you a things I think you should consider for each one as you’re evaluating them.
Pop-Ups, Hello Bars, & Welcome Mats
Generally speaking, if you have traffic that is less than 50,000 pageviews per month, I don’t recommend these. They are annoying to most readers and may chase away those early visitors. I’ve heard of them working on big sites with a lot of traffic, but honestly, nearly anything works when you have a lot of traffic. Just sayin’. If you really want to try this, try just ONE of these — one pop-up, one hello bar, or one welcome mat. This will reduce the pop-up explosion that can happen on some blogs as soon as you visit them.
Partnering Up with Other Blogs and Influencers
This can be really powerful, but usually you need something to offer another blogger or influencer to get them willing to work with you. And partnering up with another smaller blogger probably won’t work all that well. I’d recommend you try this only if both you and the other person have mailing lists of at least 1000 already.
Exclusive Content (Newsletters, Giveaways, and Contests)
I think newsletters are wonderful and you should be sending them out as as soon as you have your first subscriber. But newsletters as an enticement to subscribing to your newsletter in the first place? Those are a hard sell. Everyone has a newsletter these days, and all of us have too much email to read. Your super fans will be interested, and you’ll likely get some signups, but not as much as you could with something more enticing.
I always thought giveaways and contests could be super popular, but you really need a sizable amount of traffic (or a good way to promote them) to get them to work well for list building. But if you have a way of reaching people who are beyond your blog, this is worth a try. These can take some time to setup and administer, however, so keep that in mind.
Freebies (Downloadables, Challenges, and Courses)
Offering something of value and giving it away for free is a perennial winner when it comes to list building. It works regardless of how much traffic you have, though of course, the more traffic, the more signups. You can offer free printables, patterns, worksheets, information products (like mini e-books), email challenges, email courses—this list is almost endless. Some freebies will take a lot more time than others, however, so you’ll need to choose one that works best for you.
Signup Links in Unusual Places
By this, I mean putting a list signup on your 404 “Page Not Found” page, on a social media bio, in your signature, and so on. These can work, but it will be a trickle, not a deluge. So no reason not to do it, just don’t expect it to generate a crazy amount of signups, especially if you have low traffic or few followers. These are usually quite easy to do and take little time to setup.
I hope you’ll take some time to think about all the things we’ve talked about today. If you’ve already started building your list, think about how these methods can bolster the efforts you’ve already undertaken. If you haven’t yet started your mailing list, take some time to think about what you’d like to try first, focusing on those that will work best for you and your blog.
List-Building Case Study
Okay, so now that you’ve learned how to evaluate list-building techniques, let’s look at what this process looks like in action through a short case study.
Kara is a new blogger, she started just four months ago. She began her blog with list-building in mind, creating a well-stocked resource library filled with things she thought her reader would enjoy. And it worked! She managed to get nearly 1000 of her readers to signup and stay on her mailing list during that time. And now she’s earning REAL money — $2000/month — from her blog.
Pretty amazing story, right? I think so too!
Okay, so let’s do a quick review. We talked about the ways different bloggers build their lists. Then we discussed the various factors that go into deciding whether or not a list-building technique will work for you personally. And finally I told you what I think of the various list-building techniques. It’s a lot of info, so be sure to review your notes and try to take action right away.