How to build an email list

20 tips to building an email list fast
19 min read

How to build an email list fast from scratch (Strategies that Work)


Despite the rise of chat apps and instant messenger email still retains around 3.9 billion users in 2019 and is set to grow to 4.3 billion  by 2023 (statista).


Email marketing has retained its well known high return on investment in any marketing efforts carried out by businesses all of the world.


With a staggering 120% ROI email is still one of the most utilised marketing methods in 2019.


If you’re not sure what to do in order to start building your own email list, don’t worry I’ve got you covered.


This article will show you the easiest ways to get started in building a list of engaged readers who will be chomping at the bit, waiting to see what you offer them next.


1 Marketing Tools and Foundational elements You need before you start


There are a number of free tools I recommend you acquire and setup before you start building your email list, it will make your job much easier to share your fresh content once up and running.


To ensure your email list growth starts off on the the right track you need to make sure you have content created first.


Without this much needed content, you will have nothing to promote to your audience and your audience will have no reason to subscribe other than your good word.


Write some helpful content to begin with


Once your content is created (3-5 helpful posts ideally) targeted to your ideal customers or readers, next is 5 steps to make sure you ready for building an email list :


– Create a blog


– Setup and manage your email list provider


– Publish and promote your content

(email, social media)


– Capture new subscribers


– Track performance


Don’t worry its not as overwhelming as it appears and the following will cover all your bases:


-A blog is all you need (website ideally but is not required to begin with)


You can start a blog for free. I have another helpful post detailing the steps on how to set this up here.



Email marketing software


There are many different options but these two I have found easiest to setup.




Packed with features that makes it easy to start autoresponder campaigns, building email lists, and even landing pages.


You will find this easy to use, and an added bonus is that their customer support is highly rated.


At time of writing they have a 30 day free trial followed by $15 per month up to 1,000 subscribers.


I personally rely on Getresponse because of the features they offer and its super easy to use.


If you want to start with a free option, Mail Chimp is the way to go.


Mail Chimp

Free to use up to 2,000 subscribers and just $9.99 per month thereafter up until 50,000 email subs.


It is one of the more affordable options available and their email templates have a lot of great features to make your job easier.


The interface they use makes it user friendly with a drag and drop style layout.


One downside I have experienced with Mail Chimp is their customer support.


It’s dreadfully robotic and the process to setup an auto-responder feels like the process has been unnecessarily overcomplicated.


Web Forms


Mail chimp and GetResponse have options that enable you generate web forms for your website and they track simple metrics such as opens and interactions.


This is perfectly fine for when you’re first building your email list. If however you want more analytical data for your web forms this is available also, but it will cost you.


Social Media Profiles

Creating profiles for the following networks will be the best start for sharing your content and engaging with users socially:


  • Pinterest
  • Facebook (page)
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • LinkedIn (page or personal)


Controlling how often you post on social media can be a great way to stay on top of this sometimes draining task.


Buffer is a great tool that is free to use up to 3 social media accounts and can schedule your social media posts to be posted for you instead of you having to log into your various social media accounts individually and at different times of the month.


It’s a big time saver and worth the investment when it comes time to scale and grow past 1,000 subscribers.




Performance tracking 


Google analytics is great for this, to connect it with your website you can follow a helpful guide here.


Buffer also has its own analytics for your social media management and GetResponse has you covered for your email marketing campaigns analytics.


After this initial setup it’s time to test for any flaws within your email opt-in work flow.


This is done by simply sending yourself your newsletter, test your opt-ins with another email address and ensure everything is working as it should.


Be diligent with this as something as simple as a button not working, an opt-in link not functioning, or un-readable text on different devices can really feel like an unnecessary set back especially if you find out weeks or months after the fact.


2 Content upgrades



Content Upgrades have shown to be incredibly effective and many internet marketers and businesses use them today.


An upgrade by definition is a piece of content that is just all around better, and can be tempting for readers especially if they are loving the topic you have written about.


Content upgrades can be as simple as a checklist, an infographic, or even another post that goes into more depth on the article on your website.


So the process is pretty simple:


1.write a blog post


2. Create a piece of content that explains the post in more detail



3. Offer readers the upgraded piece of content in exchange for their email address


3 In-email social sharing option


The email provider GetResponse has surveyed this topic and found that social sharing options within emails increase the Click Through Rate (CTR) by over 100% from 2% to 6% just by adding a simple sharing option within the email.


This increases you marketing efforts by making your emails reach more people on social media and increases the likelihood of generating more email subscribers to your list.


4 Host a Giveaway


The more people you can interact with the higher chance you have of generating more email subscribers.


Hosting a giveaway is a great opportunity for interaction with new readers.


Josh Earl an email marketing entrepreneur generated 60,000 email signups within a 10 day period of his giveaway alone.


What are the requirements of a successful giveaway then?


  • A prize your ideal customer would love
  • Bonus entries for referring friends
  • Free bonus for non winners (something you can offer for free)
  • Promoting your giveaway to your ideal audience (people who want the services you offer)


So the question remains, how do you filter out those people who fit into the category of your ideal customer from people who are just after the free stuff and then disappear forever?




You structure your giveaway to be something only your paying customers would value.


If you run a consulting business it could be a service you normally put a high price tag on.


If you own a software site it could be a free subscription for a year or even longer depending on how tempting you wish the giveaway to be.


Remember though the more tempting the offer the higher the rate of opt-ins from your potential audience, so make it worth signing up for.


As an example


This tactic filters out the quality of people who are opting in to your giveaway, if they don’t value the prize they won’t be interested. Period.


These giveaways are known to generate thousands of new email opt-ins and is a really great way to build your list fast.


5 Featured Opt-in incentives


Almost every website that has a high volume of traffic will have a variation of an email opt-in incentive.


Any of the following will work as an incentive for your visitors to opt-in:




-Free training

-Resource list

-Free software tool


-Video Course

-Cheat Sheet




The main difference between these incentives and the previous mentioned content upgrades is that these incentives are not tied to blog posts individually.



They can feature on areas of your website that get seen constantly and therefore will receive more eyes on them.


The most common areas of a website for these opt-in incentives to appear are:


– blog post footer


– lead capture top bar 


– about author section


– sidebar


This strategy has the benefit of a one time incentive creation, you don’t have to keep on re-creating incentives like you would with the content upgrade style of incentive. 


This is suitable for entrepreneurs who are time poor and wish to maximise their return on time spent creating free resources for their readers.


For example on my website I have a free 4-Step Affiliate marketing Blueprint on the sidebar of my blog, this is an example of an opt-in incentive.


This incentive is a great way to immediately increase your email opt-in rate for your websites readers for every page they visit whilst browsing your site.

6 LightBox Popup


LightBox popups have an added advantage over regular pop ups due to the way they grab hold of users attention.


They achieve this by darkening the background around the pop up bringing the eyes focus directly to the pop up and nothing else.


It works similarly to a movie theatre, before the movie begins the cinemas lights are dimmed and you are in darkness captivated by the movie screen shining bright in front of you.


Email providers such as Mail Chimp and Getresponse all have customizable options to ensure return visitors to your site are not bombarded with your popups every time.


Popups can be useful for new first time readers and increase your retention rate of those readers as well.


You can also customize pop ups to increase your conversion rates even higher by making them change if the reader has come from  a well known website connected with yours or major news sites that have linked to your website.


Examples of websites that have seen an increase in email subscribers as a result from Light Box include:


Social Media Examiner: who increased their email subscriber list by 60% per day simply by implementing an exit-intent pop up, used for when a reader hovers over the exit icon on the web browser.


Over the course of 12 months Social Media Examiner increased their subscriber base by 62,000 as a direct result of using 4 types of popups offered by their email provider OptinMonster.


Webmechanix is another case study that saw an increase in their email opt-ins by implementing a light box popup on their website, seeing a 13% increase in conversions in their first month.


They also recovered 1280 visitors with an exit-intent pop up that they would have otherwise lost.


Since nearly 70% of website visitors will leave without taking any action you have nothing to lose by trying to grab their attention once more with an exit-intent Light Box popup before they leave.

7 Leverage Social Proof


Social proof works extremely well for gaining your readers trust and goes a long way in building your brand recognition and legitimacy.


60% of people say they are more likely to make a purchase or sign up to a websites newsletter if they see some kind of review or testimonial from a real person.


This is great news for you, it means you can work on receiving testimonials straight away for your own website from friends and or family who people who know you well and are willing to take some time to give you a raving review for your product or service.


Social Proof works primarily off the numbers, the more you have across multiple social platforms the more beneficial it is for your website.


Working on serving each of these audiences well providing valuable information that benefits them will lead to future email list growth.


8 Refer a friend Bonus


A powerful way to increase your email list is to introduce a “refer a friend” bonus for you current email subscribers. Alternatively run a social media campaign advertising such a bonus is an option as well.


Almost everyone has a network of people they individually know who could benefit from the value you are providing them for being an email subscriber.


What better way to help spread the word than for your readers to recommend you to friends they know who would benefit to, in return for a discount or incentive for the service you provide them.


Ubereats, Hellofresh, Dropbox, Airbnb to name a few all utilise refer a friend to grow their user base and email list using this exact method.


Make the referral bonus an offer that is just too good to pass up, it could be a free service, a big discount or even specific discount off their own subscription, if you run a subscription based service or a consult service discount.


This method is powerful because it works by the age old tactic of word of mouth and still holds true on social networks today.


9 Partner with Influencers


Todays influencers (2019) charge anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands to endorse brands and products to their audiences.


Why shouldn’t they, having a highly engaged audience who consumes their content and recommendations makes them a worthy of the high price they can charge brands in exchange for endorsement deals.


Money isn’t the only form of payment you can use to work with influencers though, there are other strategies as well.


If you’re advertising budget is low there are ways to work with them that don’t involve large sums of cash to begin a partnership.


Fill a need for free

Influencers take many forms, and for some it might be running an authority website that is that same as your own.


They can get overwhelmed with promotion requests, people constantly asking more and more of their time, and resources they to have their limitations.


At a basic level, content creation can help influencers in a big way, guest blogging can fill that need for them.


Offer to post a piece of content for free on their website while they fill their time with hundreds of promotion requests and its a win win situation for both parties.


They have less content to produce for their website, you gain the exposure to their readers, in addition to building more recognition for your brand and opportunities to build your email list further.


10 Speed up your website


User experience commonly referred to as UX is important when considering how users interact and feel after visiting your website.


You want users to have a good experience while on your website otherwise they won’t hang around long enough for the opportunity to sign up to your email list.


Powerhouse sites such as Google and Amazon report that the quicker their pages load the higher their conversion rate is in terms of sales and how many users come to their respective websites.


Amazon went as far to say that for every 0.1 second decrease in page load time their conversion rate went up 1% which seems bizarre but when you think about your own browsing experience on other websites, it starts to make a little more sense.


40% of visitors will abandon a website if it takes any longer than 2 seconds to load, a metric that is more encouraging to get hose page load speeds down even further.


One of the simplest ways to speed up your site is to make sure your theme is optimised for speed and if it isn’t perhaps you could consider changing to a quicker one.


There are useful free tools to analyse your websites performance and load speed including:



11 Be Clear on your intention


When someone signs up to your email list it pays to be clear with them up front. Let them know how many emails they will receive and how often. 


Value is the machine that drives any marketing campaign, the fastest way to grow your email list is to make sure when you do get a new email subscriber, they stick around and don’t unsubscribe.


The key is to provide your email subscribers with high quality content that they can see value from.


It doesn’t matter if you’re giving them free tools, ebooks, or  blog posts its the quality of your offering that holds the most importance.


You want your subscribers to look forward to your emails, open them in anticipation and interact with them, comment on your posts, email you personally and share the content with their friends also.


12 Write Epic Posts  


Posts that are around 3,000 words or more and take considerably more effort by the writer generally do very well in the amount of shares it receives by your readers.


These types of posts do require more time to write and a degree of specialised knowledge, making them difficult to outsource to freelance writers unless they too specialise in the subject.


As an example of an “epic post” check out this “How to launch an online course and make $220,750 in 10 Days”


This is post detailing how Bryan Harris  made 220 grand launching his email marketing course.


Everything is deconstructed and provided to the reader, he talks about the process he undertook in building the list, launching the product and even uses a Content Upgrade including templates he actually used when launching his course.


A post like this is highly engaging content and most definitely share worthy.

13 Make Your Homepage an Opt-in Page


This works well if one of the main offerings of your business is content marketing, blogging, or information marketing .


Take advantage of the pages that receive on average a higher view count on your site then any other. About me pages and resource pages are among the most visited pages generally and should be optimised using an email opt-in.


Some examples of websites that have done this well:



















14 Social Media Leveraging for Email List Growth


Social proof isn’t the only means to engage users to trust your brand or website. Advertising on social media can yield results as well.


Considering the reach social media has today, these strategies to gather more email subscribers make logical sense to explore further.


Facebook offers business pages for businesses along with a Call To Action button beneath the header image. Instead of using the generic Shop Now button style. Consider using Sign up button instead sending visitors to an email sign up page listed on your website.



15 Add engagement features to your Youtube Channel


Create “end cards” and add them  to your Youtube channel videos that offer people the chance to subscribe to your Youtube channel with their email address.


Learn how to do this here.


Or watch this video on how to add an end card to your Youtube video:



You can see how these end cards appear in the image below, to the bottom right of the video screen.


Another way to encourage more email sign ups is to use text links below your video as captions that lead people to a landing page to retrieve their email.



16 Guest Blogging


There are many websites out there that have a similar audience to your own and publishing unique website content on their site is something they all need regularly.


When you get the opportunity to do this, make sure you include a call to action in your author byline and link back to your website to give new readers the opportunity to subscribe to your blog and or email newsletter.




17 Create a page that only promotes your email newsletter


Create yourself a page that solely focuses on the benefits of signing up to your email newsletter. Make sure it is simple in its design with nothing to distract your readers into doing something other than reading the benefits you have on offer.


Is it training that you are offering your subscribers? List the benefits, how often they will receive emails (once a week is a nice starting point) and make the sign up a 2 step opt-in process meaning they will need to confirm that they did in fact subscribe to your email newsletter within a email your provider sends them.





18 Add your newsletter page to your navigation menu


To make it easier for your visitors to navigate to your email newsletter sign up page you can add it as a navigation link to your menu like so:





19 Add in-line forms to key pages on your website


There are pages on your website that are visited more than any others and can be optimised to build your email list.


Pages such as Start here, About me, Resources page, Home Page are great to turn into opportunities to sign up to your email list.


Some Internet marketers have seen a huge increase in email subscribers for selected pages due to this very technique. 


Why not you too?


The process is very simple, just add an opt-in form within your content.


I used GetResponse to create the following in-content form:



Choose and customize a template, once your done just click save and publish Copy the code and paste it into your html of your word press post.


Copy the code and paste it into your html of your word press post.




Then your form will appear within your post like so:

20 Repurpose your content upgrades as slide share presentations


Content upgrades can sometimes take a little more time to put together so why not take full advantage of that work and repurpose them?


Slide share presentations are a great way to do this, you can easily create them on Linkedin and then link back to your content upgrade. This technique works so well because the people viewing your slideshare are highly targeted and are likely to become new subscribers to your website after visiting your website from Linkedin.


For a quick how to guide on creating a slideshare check out the video below






Expanding your audience by building your very own email list is still one of the best ROI you can make.


Starting this process is mostly an investment of your time with little cost, though the tools mentioned will make your life a lot easier they aren’t necessary if you need to keep your costs down.


If you only receive one takeaway from this article then it has served its purpose, but maybe consider the following:


“ Developing a habit of writing quality information for your ideal customer and reader consistently will be a great way to build and look after your email subscribers”


This has made a huge difference in retaining readers of this blog, and I hope it serves you well to.


If you have any questions on growing an email list for your individual businesses leave a question and I’ll do my best to answer them.


Share this post with your friends!


  1. Aria Len

    The thought of building an email list has always overwhelmed me, but I like the way you’ve broken the steps down into more digestible chunks.

    I’m just wondering, of all of the email marketing services like AWeber, which would you recommend first for someone who is completely new to building an email list?

    Also, do you find that Lightbox popups work better than a form in the sidebar? 

    1. Post

      Hi Aria,

      I recommend starting with GetResponse as its really easy to navigate. You can also use Mail Chimp which is a free option up to 1,000 subscribers. Both are great for beginners.

      Lightbox popups definitely see higher conversion rates, but theres no reason why you can’t use both, I have found they work best on exit popups when a user goes to close the tab of their browser.

  2. Stella

    This is a very detailed review which has answered many questions about email marketing that has been bothering my mind. I now understand very well that to gain many subscriber,there is need to write a quality content for easy understanding. I think I will prefer autoresponder because it look easy and non -robotic. I do come across this autoresponder and mail chimp on many website but I don’t know it is this cheap. I am just in a bit to venture into email marketing and this review will go along way in guiding my bearing.

  3. Rowan

    I was shocked to learn how much more I can do to add people to my email list. Especially how the formula for conversions depending on the speed of a page works. That is something I’m still trying to learn as I go with building my websites – How can I choose a good template that i know will be a fast one?

     I am also making my own email landing page, your article gave me more insight on how to put out a good one. I am using mailchimp, and like it a lot. What program do you use?

  4. Nate MC

    This is all great advice, especially creating giveaways. Hosting contests too is a good way, but a lot of people don’t want to put in the effort or hard work that it takes to do those things. But I think the refer a friend bonus is equally just as effective as doing giveaways. 

    And I like how you included using influencers to help build an email list. I think that is still one of the least talked about email list building strategies.

  5. shirian

    It’s amazing static that demonstrates email list retain around 3.9 billion users in 2019 and is growing up to 4.3 billion by 2023. At first,for me list building was appeared overwhelming task;but by reading your broken down informative post I am able to get dirty my hand and begin create my list as soon as possible.

    good to see that mail chimp provides free option up to 2000 subscribers. but I think pro-option also worth to invest for get much more subscriber as well.

    The only problem as you have mentioned above is it’s support system that somehow it could be make deal with. anyway, Thanks for the information that you have provided.


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