Beginner’s guide to starting an email list

If you’re like most people, you started blogging to share information and make money while at it. But to make money with your blog, you need to get visitors to your site. And how can you drive traffic to your blog to show off all that glorious new content? It’s all about starting an email list.

Yep, you’ve probably heard this from Internet marketers and fancy-shmancy peeps online pushing “sales funnels” and “opt-ins” and all those sexy content marketing and email marketing buzzwords. And, when it’s time to get serious about making a business out of your blog, you’ll need to get on the email list bandwagon!

Email List Bandwagon

Why is starting an email list so important?

Let me guess, you’re on a budget (join the club). If you’re just starting out in the blogosphere you probably don’t have the cash to spend on a bunch of pricey promotion. But you need to promote your blog content to get new readers, which will attract potential sponsors and make all kinds of good stuff happen as your blog readership grows.

Email is your best friend.

For just a few cents per message, you can send kick-ass email campaigns that drive people back to your blog. Plus, the ROI is remarkable — about $43 for every $1 spent. Wowza.

I can tell you need a little more convincing. Let’s break these numbers down so you can maths just how cheap this email game really is. For less than $10 a month, professional email marketing programs such as GoDaddy Email Marketing enable you to send emails to 500 people (for the starter plan). Let’s say you’re paying $10 a month for 500 email recipients to receive one newsletter a month. That’s just two cents per person! You can’t even print 500 decent full-color flyers for that amount of dough!

But that’s not even the best part of using a solid email marketing program. They make it stupid simple to send out your latest news to your VIPs. Most of them have easy-to-use templates that you can copy and paste your words of wisdom into, along with cool tools that make your emails sexy and reader friendly. Baked-in signup forms and unsubscribe handling free you up to focus on creating great email content. And they usually have analytical tools that let you know who is reading your goodies. All of the guesswork is handled for you. I love that.

Once you’ve got your handy new email marketing software all set up (or maybe even before), it’s time to start getting people to sign up.

How do you get people to join your email list?

OK, here’s how you do NOT get people on your list: buy them. That’s right — you can buy email lists. But don’t. Just don’t. It’s more than bad manners to solicit people who didn’t ask to receive your emails; it’s unethical. Plus, using anonymous lists could get you flagged as a spammer and barred from using most email marketing services. Ouch.

To put it mildly, sending random emails to people these days pisses them off. No one likes to be added to a list without their permission. It’s the fastest way to tick off potential readers and to get your address sent over to spamville.
 No Junk Mail

You want to create a list of people who actually agree to be on your list. The best way to get them to agree? Make it easy! Include a big, fat sign-up button on your blog. Most good email marketing programs also enable you to add a sign-up form to your Facebook page. Use all your social profiles to let your fans know that you’ve got an email list and they need to be on it.

Make it easy to subscribe to your emails by putting a sign-up button on your home page.

The next best way to get people to sign up? Give ’em a gift! Everybody likes gifts. In this case, said gift is called an opt-in incentive. For the Internet biz-challenged, that’s usually a freebie or discount you offer to convince people to join your email list. They request said freebie and by requesting it, they understand that they are going to receive emails from you.

Note: Some freebie gluttons are going to opt-in, get the freebie, and then unsubscribe. That’s OK, because if they don’t want your words of wisdom, they’re not the high-quality email subscribers you want. Let ’em go. At least they gave you some pageviews long enough to get the goods, right? Right!

Once they join, how do you keep them?

Aside from the people who get the freebie and bounce, some of the things you need to keep people on your list include (but are not limited to):

Eye-catching subject lines

Most people’s inboxes are more crowded than Wal-Mart on Black Friday. With all that competition for attention, your emails need to have subject lines that jump out and entice the viewer to click and view. In fact, boring subject lines could land your emails in the junk folder. Some email providers filter consistently unopened emails from the same sender to the spam box. Avoid that with these tips for writing super subject lines.

Content that matters to your fans

If your subscribers stop caring about what you’re writing, you’ve lost them. Like if they signed up to receive content about desserts, and you start sending them emails about chicken. That might feel like bait-and-switch territory.

Subscriber exclusives

Let your subscribers know you think they’re special by giving them exclusive freebies like ebooks, webinars, audio seminars or reports. What better way to keep loyal fans happy than to give them things that the common blog reader can’t get? People like to feel as though they are VIP, so treat them as such!

Don’t email them every day!

Nothing is more annoying than getting too many emails from one person. Personally, if I receive a daily email from anyone, I’ve been known to unsubscribe within less than a week. Emailing your subscribers more than once a week is probably too much. Instead, why not create one newsletter that gives a weekly recap of everything they might have missed? If you fear you are sending too many or too few emails, conduct a survey with your subscribers to get their input.

What’s next?

Starting an email list might take a little time and effort, but it’s totally worth it if you’re serious about blogging for the bacon. When you start to gain loyal fans who really want to receive your emails because your content adds value to their lives, well, that’s an exciting thing indeed. Later, you can use all those emails to send truth bombs, knowledge nuggets and, once in awhile, special offers that may make you some bank. Get schooled in what affiliate marketing is ri’chere!

Want to learn more about email marketing for small businesses? Here’s a free guide for ya!

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I hope this post has been helpful to you in coming up with your own strategy for building your blog fan email list. Did you find this helpful? Leave me a comment below and tell me your thoughts! I’d love to hear from you!

Originally published at Garage.