How to Grow an Email List: a 9 Point Master Guide - Wordable

How to Grow an Email List: a 9 Point Master Guide

Almost everyone considers growing an email list, some even attempt building one. But these half-hearted attempts almost always result in failure. The frail attempts result in a trickle of one or two sign ups every other day or so and there it ends.

What inspires people to build lists are stories of fellow marketers who got spectacular results with their own lists improving both bottomline and traffic.

An email list is a list of names and email addresses of individuals who (preferably) gave you explicit permission to email them with information regarding your business.

They can choose to unsubscribe any time they wish to.

Since they are interested in receiving information from you that makes them a highly targeted subset who would purchase, click through and listen to what you have to say.

In the United States, every dollar spent on email marketing nets $44 in return according to the DMA.

As such an email list is one of the best things for your business. Some call it their personal ATM. Others call it their traffic machine on demand.

You can generate demand for your product and sell and create as many products as you’d like. You can ask for feedback on your content and improve it.

In this post we will look at ways to grow your email list and grow it quickly. You will see real examples and case studies that will help you get hold of things better and replicate the steps for yourself.

1. Use Optin Popups

Optin popups are annoying and often require forced interaction even if the visitor just wants to close it.

tumblr p7h58u0N3a1vp76kuo1 1280

Image Source

But, if you can make peace with the annoyance, a world of good awaits you.

In two years Social Media Examiner’s email list grew by 375% to  190,000 members. The key reason for growth?

70% of the signups were due to the site’s pop up form.

Screen Shot 2019 04 11 at 8.59.45 PM

Image Source

You can head over there right now and see it in action. Asking emails in an intrusive way doesn’t make anyone sign up. You also need to supply them with a good enough reason.

SumoMe studied over 400 million pop-ups and found that: simply expecting people to join an email list without anything on offer doesn’t work.

A bribe like an eBook, pdf of the post, or course works fine but you can make it do even better. Here are a few tips.

Use content upgrades

In this section we will discuss what content upgrades are and how do they help.

A content upgrade is essentially a gated supplemental piece of content used to get highly targeted leads while boosting the value of the blog post it appears on.

Many people think that it’s a burden creating additional content upgrades since it also takes so long to create a blog post by itself.

However, you can ease the burden by NOT creating upgrades for every blog post. It’s not being lazy. The increments in list size are too miniscule to be achieved by creating content upgrades for each article you pen. You can analyze traffic to your site and just create upgrades for the highest traffic generating blog posts you have or pages you have.

Everyone approaches content upgrades as an additional extra that can be used to leverage signups. It need not be always like that.

Instead of generic pop-ups that spit out the same call to action on every page, make use of customized pop-ups instead.

Here’s an example of a generic popup that registered a conversion rate of 2.24% for WebProfits.


Image Source

Then here’s the popup that’s specific to the article shown below:


The popup


With the new popup conversion rate witnessed an improvement up to  3.58%.

Another example comes from Health Ambition, a site in the food and health niche. They witnessed a .4% improvement in conversions when they offered a free report in exchange for reader’s emails.

OptinMonster E280B9 Health Ambition

Image Source

They had some popular posts on the topic of juicing that averaged hundreds of visitors every month.

They decided to create a custom eBook on the topic and offer it to visitors landing on those posts. The opt-in rate jumped to 3.2%. That’s a splendid increase for a custom content upgrade.

Lightbox Health Ambition 1024x639

How do you find out which pages you should optimize?

If you’re using any analytics/traffic reporting tool on your site (if not, why not?) there will be a list of pages arranged in terms of highest traffic they get.

Here’s how to do that.

Go to

Select your web property from the top left corner.

Analytics selecting web property

Scroll down to the bottom of this page to get the pages report where you can see the top traffic generating pages for that particular web property.

pages report

You can also find this under Behavior > Site Content > All Pages:

Screen Shot 2019 04 13 at 2.55.21 PM

You can use those pages to test out customized pop-ups and immediately see an improvement in the number of leads you generate.

Don’t rest with that, though. Here’s something more you can do to get even more leads.

A/B test your message to convert more people into leads

A/B testing using the best A/B testing tools is the closest thing we have to magic. It let’s us test variations and put them against each other instead of doing the very hard work of coming up with great call to actions or UVPs at the first shot. It also allows us to try innovative or creative solutions, never resting on the gut feel or opinion that our first instinct was the best one.

Here’s another example from Web Profits where they tested the popup CTA for a pretty nice lift.

The original popup shown below converted at 2.21%.


The call to action is a bland: Subscribe Now. It doesn’t say anything about the offer.

And here’s a variation.


Image Source

The variant creates a sense of anticipation. This tiny wordplay was enough to give a statistically significant improvement in conversions.

By changing the text in the popup they registered a 16.77% improvement in conversions.

2. Skip the epic post and tell a story

Most marketers nowadays are focused on writing epic posts or ultimate guides. If you are unfamiliar with the term it just refer to a type of blog post that is long form content.

It’s no longer a silver bullet tactic when it comes to ranking or getting leads, simply because everyone and their cat is tapping out 3000 word posts now. Now everything is “The ultimate guide to X.” It used to be novel, but now it has become the norm.

Sure— it’s possible that data backed posts with actionable insights and research can pick up some traffic (particularly if you have a high domain authority and the content is truly good) and attract links over the long term but considering the competition, it’s a rough gamble with high costs of production.

There’s another tactic you can use, that if done correctly, can work even better.

It’s called storytelling.

And I’ve hard data to back my point.

Ali Meese and Co. used storytelling to generate 11.3 million pageviews for their client’s sites in 6 months.


The key to how they did this?

They figured the core narrative behind every product they wanted to sell and used those narratives to drive content decisions.

They came up with verticals or categories the stories should cover and this helped turn content ideas into actionable articles. I don’t know how of these 11 million pageviews translated to subscribers in their email list. But, I do have few examples that used storytelling to drive traffic and leads.

One of their clients is JotForm.

Among the categories in their blog like—advice, education and so on where they share tips and tricks related to their product is another called “Backstage” where they share their experiments, insights and simply content stemming from the heart.

One such blog post where the founder shared his story of going against his dreams to successfully found a startup went viral generating over 223 backlinks in additional to social media shares.

Best by links www jotform com blog on Ahrefs

The category “Backstage” has several such posts that leverage storytelling to share a larger picture with the readership and generate loyalty.

So much so, that here’s what the founder’s author bio says:

Achieving success is simpler than you think The JotForm Blog

I Done This is a productivity app. It allows users and whole teams to list tasks and mark them when complete. Completed tasks are called dones.

Usually when they hit a milestone they would email journalists about it, who would then write about it sending them a few dozen links.

Here’s what I am talking about.

When they had passed 200,000 dones, they emailed Courtney Boyd Myers at The Next Web telling her about the milestone and offering her a chance to write an exclusive feature about this. In the email, they included personal stories of customers—one of who completed his Ph.D thesis with the help of iDoneThis. Another who used the tool to propose to his girlfriend and so on.

Such features often resulted in a few hundred signups, traffic and few links.

After hitting 500,000 daily dones they decided to do something different in the way they approached marketing.

Having achieved a milestone they decided to write a behind the scenes kind of post on the history of iDoneThis. It performed really well despite them not using guest posting or other tactics to generate interest.

They simply wrote a behind-the-scenes feature on why they created iDoneThis, the idea, their humble and stupid beginnings, the team behind it, the changing vision and it’s ups and downs culminating in a one year growth story of their journey.

idonethis email content

It brought the highest traffic ever resulting in 1000 new signups. It also got them usual the press coverage.

The transparency clicked with users.

And that’s the best way to tell a story rather than outsourcing it to someone else who can wreck the life out of it.

3. Use webinars to grow your list

Webinars are one of the most common ways to grow your list.

Joseph Michael Nicoletti at Product Creation Live collected more email addresses in 3 days than he did the whole year when he ran webinars:


The essence of human communication is in sounds—not text or books. People like to listen to other people talking. They are not as difficult as reading and absorbing something. A video is much easier to process.

Webinars are inclusive too. They let people ask questions and glean feedback from what they ask.

The walls of text break down to usher in memorable experience instead through the use of interactive video.

Make sure you introduce the elements of urgency and scarcity and reserve the number of spots available and maximize the number of people signing up.

68% of millennial consumers say they would act upon something or purchase something within 24 hours if they experience the fear of missing out.

No one wants to lose an opportunity.

Demio nails it.

Screen Shot 2017 08 10 at 10.17.48 AM 800x436

Image Source

Webinars, when done correctly, are one of the best ways to find new and highly qualified leads and grow your email list size.

Scott Britton of LifeLonger (Now Troops.Ai)  earned over 10,000 USD from one webinar with the help of leads he generated from the webinar.

With the connection he forged it’s easier to generate hot leads that are easier to convert.

Compared to advertising or other forms of lead generation the cost is relatively very low.

scott britton chart generate sales webinar

We shouldn’t forget that he had a large list size of 16000 people to affect this revenue.

But you can achieve a similar success if you’re able to rope in an influencer- a person with a relatively large list and leverage his list to promote the webinar.

This can make a big difference in growing your email list. The influencer can promote it on their site and can get a lot of registrations, and if you find the right influencer, these registrations can be highly targeted and qualified leads.

Do a keyword research to find the influencers: Here’s how— search for the niche + influencer to get contacts of people you can email and ask to be on your webinar.

Here’s an example where I searched for the niche digital marketing + influencer.

digital marketing influencer Google Search

Going to just one of the results listed, you will be able to find dozens of influencers who you can contact.

You can also run a search via BuzzSumo if you have access to the tool. Just type in your keyword into the ‘influencers’ search:

Screen Shot 2019 04 13 at 3.05.01 PM

You will surely be able to find people who have a lot of authority and who you can bank on.

But, how do you convince influencers when you’re a nobody?

Two years ago, Thinkific was a no-name startup. In that space they grew their revenue by 2000%. Over half that growth could be directly attributed to webinars they did in partnership with influencers.


The first thing they did was cultivate their Instagram presence by posting content regularly and interacting with influencers who did the same.

They followed Instagram influencers with at least 10,000 followers with an audience that Thinkific wanted to target to.

They cultivated their favor by regularly interacting on the influencer’s feed— commenting and liking their posts—to get noticed and be on their radar.

Next, they also cultivated relationships with event speakers.


By attending their events and then hosting exclusive dinners for those speakers.

With the relationships they cultivated, it became easier for the influencers to say yes when team Thinkific came for the ask.

4. Use viral giveaways

At iDoneThis,  they ran a successful giveaway that relied on their subscriber base and using some partners.

email list giveaway

Image Source

Then came the prize.

email growth giveaway

The lucky subscriber would win a set of 10 cured meats from a company in the US. There was also an offer of books.

The demographic should want to remain subscribed even after the contest and not participate for the sake of participating and quickly unsubscribing.

In our case, we chose one set of cured meats because well, who doesn’t love cured meat?

The books were in line with the demographic including people who were big on productivity and wanted to get things done.

Here’s another example from SpringSled that that generated 138,790 users for SpringSled in less than a month.


They designed a prelander for their project management tool.


Upon subscribing users were redirected to a page that let them get the tool for free if they referred 5 more people.


The product should be something people want deeply and it should be backed up with a reason that makes them share it with friends. The upsell offer is what success hangs on and decides if anything would go viral.

This campaign below resulted in 10000 email sign ups for Harry’s a men’s grooming brand. The campaign was successful that they did this in less than a week.

prelaunch pg 2

They applied the same concept of having a prelander for their wares and promoting it with a viral bribe. Here are a few ideas on how to drive leads with referral incentives.

5. Offer Visitors an Ad-Free Pass for Email Signup

Consumers are looking for transparency and openness from the content publishers they visit. Multiple surveys have confirmed that visitors want to support sites they like, and are willing to sign up for email newsletters in exchange for an ad-free experience.

One of the most available options a media and content site has to offer is an ad-free pass. This has been shown to be particularly effective when offered directly to users visiting with an adblocker. Many media publishers have used Admiral’s Visitor Relationship Management (VRM) platform to engage adblock users specifically, and offer them an ad-free pass in exchange for email signup. Publishers can also open up the tool to all of their visitor segments to drive email, social signups, app downloads, and more.

Here’s an example of how  grows email signups quickly  in exchange for a temporary ad-free experience.

The value of email newsletters has always been strong, but is even more so today as privacy and ad targeting restrictions sweep the online industry. Email signups, first-party data, and zero-party data will be difference makers for site owners seeking to build sustainable, predictable revenues.

So, that’s how you grow your list quickly and attract large numbers to your subscriber base.

Here are a few additional tips to get the most ROI on email marketing.

Growing and Managing an Email List: 3 Tips

  1. Use previously validated content in email newsletters

The value that you are able to create with each piece of content is different. It extends beyond content that’s simply original or long form or good.

There’s no way for you to know how good a piece of content can be until you have tested the waters. Except there is.

Content that’s been already validated as having prime option to receive shares, likes and tweets is what gets the meter running.

Don’t reinvent the wheel but rather post and try something that others have had success with already. Write a post that hundreds read using this technique.

Find blog posts in your niche that generated a lot of attention in the past in terms of sheer traffic numbers, links and social share counts.

And then create something better. Brian Dean does this for his blog posts—On page SEO remains a popular topic that every blogger on the planet has touched on. But it was Brian who attempted at listing all 200 Google ranking factors under one roof. It generated positive and negative press in equal measure catapulating his blog into one of the best known SEO blogs in the world. And you can do the same for email newsletters.

Since you’re already working on something that has proved to be an attention magnet before you won’t fall too far away from the moon when aiming for popularity when you create much better content.

It’s bound to succeed. When you use this content in newsletters it has the potential of going viral with your subscribers sharing it with like-minded individuals.

2. Segment your email lists by buyer persona

It isn’t always enough that you get targeted subscribers using content upgrades. Behavior based segmentation is your answer to better targeting and higher ROI. You can segment people by behavior, by their interests, by location and by activity level.

By segmenting your list to send highly targeted emails to specific segments of your audience you ensure you create content that appeals to different personas.

For instance, you could give multiple options to subscribers when signing up which helps you gauge up their interests.

At Skillshare, they send their subscribers emails to enroll in courses based on the criteria specified by their subscribers when they signed up.

SkillShare Interests e1461801986171

Image Source

You can also segment subscribers based on their activity level.

The Proctor Gallagher Institute segments subscribers who opted in for free coaching but didn’t follow up on that even after two weeks. Most tools let you see how subscribers have frequently subscribers engaged with the emails you sent them.

Inactivity Email Proctor Gallagher

Image Source

The follow-up email reiterates the benefits of the coaching and the personalized help that would be provided should they decide to take up on the offer.

Recipients are more likely to click through if emails that are sent are tuned to their interests and the best way to do that is create multiple subscription types to achieve this.

Data from MailChimp’s research reveals that when email lists were segmented by location and job titles, open rates increased by 19% with 22% improvement in click through rates. Most email automation tools have a built-in option allowing you to segment subscribers by location.

Subscribers to your list are more likely to click through emails that cater to their specific interests

3. Give a new lease of life to old lists with fresh opt-in campaign

By creating an engaging re optin email that allows older contacts to re optin you have effectively turned it into a new list. According to Mailchimp 32% of your list consists of inactive subscribers. They don’t open or click through the links inside the mails you send. If a subscriber hasn’t been opening emails or clicking through the links inside for over two months you can consider sending them a fresh opt-in campaign. This email should go with a warning that those who don’t respond would be removed from the email list.

You are emailing engaged contacts and you get higher conversions and opens for the number of people who are present in the list.


The world is rife with quick fixes. Be it an antibiotic for a cold that gives you relief in an hour or ready-to-eat microwave meals that get assembled in under 5 minutes. There’s an instant solution to every problem. The same line of thinking extends when it comes to conversions and to getting more subscribers.

But, there are no quick fixes here.

You need to offer content upgrades that offer real value. You need to risk being a little annoying with popups. You need to get your hands dirty a/b testing different ideas to find out that fits.

Ultimately, the art of getting dedicated subscribers boils down to the hard work you’re willing to put in.

It’s important to never lose focus of the goal which is to generate as many leads as possible.

What do you think?

Do let us know in the comments below.

I saved 3 hours uploading this article from Google Docs to WordPress using Wordable. Try it out here.

Save time today by automating your publishing with Wordable

You do the hard work writing your content. Automate your Google Docs to WordPress publishing today.
Get Started Today
at only $29/year
30-day Satisfaction Guarantee