Start an Email List (and Build Your Tribe) in 5 Simple Steps

Last updated on June 12, 2020  ∙ by Edwin Contreras16 comments
How to start an email list for a blog

I may earn a commission for purchases made through links in this post.

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 first started blogging. And 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 starting an email list sooner.

Let me explain why starting an email list with ConvertKit is a must for new bloggers.

Why you need to start an email list

Inbox gif
  • You can turn a blog visitor into a customer

Blog visitors come and go, like a revolving door.

But if you can capture their email address, 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 paying customer. After that? Convert them into a repeat customer.

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).

You can do all of this with the power of email marketing.

  • 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, who now favor showing paid ads. For example, a Facebook page update only has a 5.5% chance of even being seen by your audience (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 can establish trust

The key ingredient to making money online is trust.

When you have it, you will make money. When you don't have it? 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 are establishing 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 rely solely on traffic to make money directly from your blog, you're at the mercy of an ad network. They set the rates and they are your boss.

  • 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. The goal here being to turn that one-time customer into a repeat buyer.

You can turn your email list into a fully-automated passive revenue stream. This is the power of email marketing!

Common objections to starting a list I hear all the time

  • But... I don't have anything to sell

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.

Popular affiliate programs to join are Amazon Associates, Shareasale, FlexOffers, and Awin.

  • But... don't people hate email?

Yes, they sure do. Unless, of course, you provide immense value. Then, your subscribers will actually look forward to you helping them.

  • But... I don't know what to write

Nobody ever knows how to do anything until they do it. Writing to your email list is easier than writing for your blog, because everyone on your list already likes you.

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 blogs best asset and will be your main source of income for years to come.

Ready to get started? Here are the 5 simple steps to start an email list for a blog.

Let's do this!

Step 1. Sign up with ConvertKit

ConvertKit free email marketing software

The first thing you need to do is to sign up with a company who will store the email addresses for you and send your emails for you.

I use and recommend 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
- Create unlimited landing pages
- Send emails to up to 1,000 subscribers.

In the paid version, you get access to all features such as sending automated 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. 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

ConvertKit Opt-in form templates

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. 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. 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)

Create a lead magnet in Canva

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

Nobody signs up for newsletters anymore. 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 optin form that said "Subscribe for updates".

How did it go?

I collected a grand total of zero emails 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 files using Canva.

Sign up for a free account and create your freebie right on Canva.

One of the simplest to create is a cheatsheet. 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

ConvertKit lead magnet delivery

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.

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

Thrive Leads list building plugin for WordPress

If you want to grow your email list you're going to need something more than a boring optin form in your sidebar.

What we need is full customization of the optin form and their locations.

To start growing your list you need to use a lead generation program like Thrive Leads.

Here's why I recommend them:

  • Templates

You can set up beautifully designed optin 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-ins.

  • Two-step opt-ins

If you don't want to clutter your blog with forms, you can use the two-step optin. This way, you can turn a regular link into a lightbox pop-up form.

This two-step process is proven to increase conversion rates, since the person has already taken the first step.

  • Content locking

Thrive Leads also has "content locking". With this feature, all content below the optin form is obscured.

In order for the reader to continue reading your article, they need to enter their email address. What an ingenuous way of getting more email subscribers!

  • A/B testing

If you don't test your forms, designs and offers - you won't know what works and what doesn't. Thrive Leads has built-in A/B testing to run tests on your forms and determine which form converts best.

  • Reporting

List building plugins like Thrive Leads 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.

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

5 simple steps for starting an email list

Until next time,
Edwin, DoSixFigures.com