Start an Email List for Your Blog in 5 Easy Steps (Updated for 2021)

How to Start an Email List for Your Blog in 5 Easy Steps (Updated for 2021)

How to start an email list for a blog

As a new blogger who wants to monetize your blog, starting an email list for your blog is going to be the best decision you’ll ever make.

I neglected to start an email list when I started my first blog back in 2004. As a result, I didn’t make any money my first year blogging – even though I was publishing blog posts like a maniac! (You can read more about my blogging journey here.)

By far, my biggest mistake as a blogger was not building an email list sooner.

Fast forward to 2021, and I now make a six-figure income in large part due to my email list.

Skeptical about why you need to build an email list? Let me explain why it’s so important to start an email list for your blog.

Why you need to start an email list

Inbox gif

You can turn a drive-by blog visitor into a lifelong fan

Blog visitors come and go, like a revolving door. Don’t believe me? Look at your Google Analytics and check your bounce rate*. It’s most likely in the 70%-90% range. That’s a lot of people who aren’t “sticking” on your blog.

*The bounce rate measures the number of visitors who visit one page on your blog and then leave.

To “stop the leak” and retain some of those visitors, you need to have a way to communicate with your readers again.

When you start collecting emails on your blog, you open a line of communication that you otherwise would not have had.

From here, the next goal is to convert that email subscriber into a fan of your blog. When you have a fan, you have someone more likely to buy something you create or recommend.

Email delivers the highest ROI (return-on-investment) than any other marketing channel and is 40x more effective at acquiring customers than social media (source). So, if you’re looking for a path out of the social media hamster wheel, email marketing is it!

You own your email list

You may have a big following on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc. But what would happen if there’s an algorithm change and your followers can’t see your content anymore?

This has happened with most social media sites, which now make you pay to get better reach. For example, a Facebook page update only has a 5.5% chance of even being seen by people who like your page (source).

Worse yet, your account could be suspended (rightly or not) with no way to get it back. But your email list? It’s all yours, baby.

You establish trust with your readers

The key ingredient to making money with your blog is trust. When you have it, you will make money. When you don’t, you won’t make a dime.

Many have tried (and failed, me included!) to skip starting an email list and try to sell directly via a blog post.

Big mistake.

If you want to market a product or service (even as an affiliate), that person needs to trust your recommendation.

When you email your readers value after value, you establish that trust, one email at a time.

Traffic comes and goes

Some days your blog traffic will be good. Other days, not so much. And what happens at midnight every night? The stats get reset to zero, and you have to start all over again.

Traffic comes and goes, but your email list is forever, son!

If you lose a social media account, a good ranking in Google, or even if your site is down, your email list ensures your blogging business stays healthy.

You can sell to your list again and again

A typical email sales funnel starts with capturing the lead, putting them through an email nurture sequence, then converting them into a paying customer.

In a more advanced funnel, this paying customer would then receive a post-purchase email sequence to make additional sales from your existing customers.

When your email marketing is done right, your email list can be a fully automated passive income stream!

Common objections to starting a list I hear all the time

I don’t have anything to sell

Why start a list when you don’t have anything to sell, you ask? Well, nobody has anything to sell when they’re a new blogger. In fact, you can be blogging for 3 years and still don’t have anything to sell. That’s okay.

You can still send your list product recommendations and earn a commission as an affiliate.

You can join an affiliate program like Amazon Associates, Shareasale, FlexOffers, and Awin and find products in your niche to promote.

People don’t read emails anymore

You’re interested in email marketing, but you might be asking yourself: do people still read emails?

The answer is it depends. The likelihood of your emails being opened depends on the value you provide your subscribers.

If you send them a boring weekly newsletter, they won’t. But if you consistently provide immense value, your subscribers will actually look forward to opening your emails.

I don’t know what to write my list

Nobody ever knows how to do anything until they do it. So rather than quitting before you ever get started, take the leap and give email marketing a try.

Writing to your email list is easier than writing for your blog because everyone on your list already likes you and wants to hear from you.

You don’t need to overthink what to write to your list. An email idea can be as simple as the first paragraph of your latest article with a link to the full blog post.

Seriously, your email list will become your blog’s best asset and will be your main source of income for years to come.

Ready to build your list? Here are the 5 simple steps to start an email list for free.

How to start an email list for a blog

Step 1. Sign up with ConvertKit

ConvertKit email marketing

The first thing you need to do is sign up with an email marketing provider who will collect the email addresses and send your emails.

I use and recommend starting your mailing list with ConvertKit. Let me tell you why.

  • ConvertKit is free

ConvertKit now has a free lifetime plan. It’s not a trial, and you don’t need to enter your credit card info. If you use this link to sign up, you can:

– Create unlimited forms to add to your blog

– Create unlimited landing pages to promote your email list

– Send emails to up to 1,000 subscribers

While the free version is fine to start, you’re going to want to upgrade to their $29 per month plan to unlock the ability to send automated email sequences.

  • You can hide your home address

US law says you need to put an address where you are reachable at the bottom of every email.

With ConvertKit, you can use their address, which meets the legal requirement of having a reachable address (source).

  • It’s newbie friendly

ConvertKit was built by a blogger and is perfect for content marketers (also known as bloggers!). There’s no coding knowledge or design expertise needed, as they’ve got pre-made opt-in form and landing page templates ready to go.

Here’s a video showing you how to open a free account and set up your first form and landing page.

Step 2. Add an opt-in form on your blog

Once you’re signed up, it’s time to build your first email signup form and add it to your blog.

Follow these steps to set up your first form.

  • Create a form

In ConvertKit, go to Landing Pages & Forms > Create New > Form > Inline

  • Design your form

Choose a template, make your changes and save the form.

  • Install the ConvertKit plugin

Back on WordPress, go to Plugins > Add new and search for the ConvertKit for WordPress plugin. Then, install and activate the plugin.

  • Connect your account with the plugin

Next, you need to have the plugin be able to communicate with your ConvertKit account. Then, back in ConvertKit, copy your API key and API secret from your account info.

Then in WordPress, Go to Settings > ConvertKit, enter this info in the settings page, and hit Save.

  • Select the form you just created

After linking your account with the plugin, you can set the form you just created as the default form. Doing so will make this form appear at the bottom of every blog post.

Step 3: Create a freebie to give away (lead magnet)

Now that you have email signup forms on your blog, you’re all set, right? Wrong.

Nobody signs up for newsletters any more. Sadly, it took me a long time to figure this out.

When I got around to starting an email list, my first attempt was a simple opt-in form that said: “Subscribe for updates.”

How did it go?

I collected a grand total of zero emails during my first year of blogging.

What I learned is that nobody wants to give up their email unless they’re getting something valuable in return.

It’s a fair exchange. You give them a freebie, and they let you into their personal inbox.

Here are some examples of freebies (also called lead magnets) you can give away:

  • Ebook
  • Digital course
  • PDF report
  • Checklist
  • Template

You can create many of these lead magnets using Canva.

Create a lead magnet in Canva

One of the simplest to create is a cheat sheet. For example, say you have an article on the top 10 ways to XYZ. For your freebie, just list the 10 steps, add a title at the top, and save the file as a PDF.

Need some more ideas for lead magnets in your niche? Google some blogs in your space and see what others are doing. If it works for them, it can work for you.

Step 4: Deliver your lead magnet and start growing your list

Now that you have your lead magnet, you need to deliver it to subscribers.

Here’s how to set this up.

  • Back in ConvertKit, open up the form you created earlier.
  • Click on the Mail icon. Make sure “Send incentive email” is checked.
  • Click on Download and upload your freebie.
  • Click Edit Email Contents to make changes to the incentive email.
ConvertKit lead magnet delivery

Now, when readers enter their email address, they’ll be sent your freebie and be confirmed as subscribers to your email list.

Step 5: Use a list-building plugin to start building your list

If you want to grow your email list, you’re going to need something more than a boring opt-in form in your sidebar.

What we need are full customization of the opt-in form and their locations.

To grow your list fast, it helps to use a lead generation plugin like ConvertPro or Thrive Leads.

Here’s why I recommend using a list-building plugin to grow your list:

  • Templates

You can set up beautifully designed opt-in forms on your blog without needing to be a web designer. Just choose a template, change the text and colors, and you’re done.

  • Opt-in form types

In addition to sidebar, footer, and in-content forms, you can also add exit intent or timed pop-ups, welcome mats, top bar (ribbon), and slide-in forms.

  • A/B testing

If you don’t test your forms, designs, and offers – you won’t know what works and what doesn’t. The best list-building plugins have built-in A/B testing to help you build high-converting forms.

  • Reporting

List building plugins give you a look at what’s working and what isn’t. In addition to showing you how each form converts, they show you what pages on your blog are getting the most subscribers.

What do you write to your email list?

I get it. You want to build an email list, but you don’t know what to write your list. So here are a few suggestions for your email newsletter:

Blog post updates

Getting a visit to your blog is great, especially if you rely on display ads like Google Adsense.

When you email your subscribers about the latest updates on your blog, you get extra page impressions and more ad money in your pocket.

Product recommendations

Regardless of your blog niche, there are tools and resources that you can promote to your list. Give your honest feedback and explain how this product has helped you.

Ask questions

One of the best things you can do with your email list is to keep your subscribers engaged. An engaged list means they’re opening and replying to your emails.

Email opens and replies help show email providers (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) that your emails are not spam, which is vital to making sure your emails end up being delivered to the inbox.

If you’re struggling with coming up with ideas on what to write your list, I invite you to look at what Six-Figure List Toolkit has to offer.

With Six-Figure List Toolkit, you’ll never wonder what to write your list ever again.

Email sales templates

Here’s what’s included:

  • 52 done-for you email templates to power your email list for an entire year!
  • 15 high-converting sales emails to never write a sales letter from scratch ever again!
  • complete email sequences such as: The trust funnel (4 emails), quick-close (4 emails), and cold subscribers sequences (3 emails)

Thanks for reading. If this post has helped you start an email list, please leave a comment below and save this post on Pinterest!

Until next time,
Edwin, DoSixFigures.com

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  About > me

Edwin is the professional blogger and side hustle expert behind Do Six Figures. With 20+ years of experience building profitable websites and making money online under his belt, Edwin is now obsessed with helping people find their perfect side hustle and make serious money online.

47 thoughts on “How to Start an Email List for Your Blog in 5 Easy Steps (Updated for 2021)”

  1. Thanks for the motivation! Getting email subscribers has been on my todo list for ages but keeps getting pushed into the too hard basket. I’ve added an opt in form but haven’t got around to creating a lead magnet so no subscribers yet. I didn’t know about list building plugins but they sound great.

  2. Excellent article and thank you so much for including detailed pictures of the process. This is so helpful, especially when you have never done this before! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I have heard great things about convertkit and now with this awesome information I will know exactly how to set up an email list, which I had really been struggling with. Also good to know I don’t need to send a newsletter each week.

  4. I’m just under 3 months into blogging and STILL haven’t set up my email list. I know I need to, and I keep putting it off…I’m glad to know I’m not alone, and at the same time, this post has given me the motivation I need to get it done!

  5. Email marketing is definitely a good form of communication. I use it for both my blog and business . I offer a freebie for my blog and a discount for my business.

  6. I’ve been blogging for a few months now and have been hearing about the importance of starting an email list. Honestly, it’s a bit intimidating! But this post breaks the process down into smaller, attainable steps and makes it all very manageable. Thank you so much for posting this amazing guide!

  7. Hi there! I currently use Mailchimp, and also recently signed up for the free Convert Kit. I halted my efforts though when I realized I can’t send automations unless I pay. I don’t have the budget quite yet… is there a way that you would go about sending subscribers welcome emails and such? How do you organize that type of thing, and would it be a pain? My list is still small, so transferring now would be easier than later. I just don’t want to regret it.

      1. I still haven’t gotten around email marketing just yet, as I don’t have much content on my blog yet, but it’s definitely one of my blogging resolutions for 2021!

  8. This article came at the perfect time. I’ve got the most basic email subscribers opt in and list. I was looking at the best way to up my game as I didn’t get on with the Mailchimp plugin. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

  9. Great tips, I am definitely going to look into it! I’m using Mailchimp at the moment but I feel I’m not getting out as much as I would like… Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  10. Lots of great info here! I started an email list 6 months ago. I got 4 subscribers and have never sent an email out. Your post has inspired me to put my focus on improving my list. I’ve already created 3 different lead magnets! Now on to adding them to my site! Thank you for the inspiration!

    1. This is fantastic to hear, Lisa! This is why I do what I do.

      Just keep taking things one day at a time and growing every day. You’ll be amazed at how far you go if you just keep on truckin’!

  11. I really loved this! I found myself watching that video ’til the end even though I have no interest in Convert kit (Mailerlite user here!)… Lol

    Great Post. I think I really need to get cracking on building out my email list!

  12. I’ve literally never thought of starting an e-mail list, and don’t usually associate that with blogging but you’re absolutely right about the importance of traffic.

    I do have a question about sending e-mails — I’ve always been curious about how spam mail is classified. Is there a chance of e-mails being sent to spam if you keep sending them out? If so, is there a way to prevent this?

    Thanks!

    1. Hello Winnie,
      In the welcome email you can ask subscribers to add your email to their contacts. This will prevent your next email from being classified as spam by Gmail accounts.

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