Why (and How) You Need to Start Building an Email List

Would you prefer 100,000 Twitter followers or 100,000 email subscribers?

Most people would probably say 100,000 Twitter followers, and they’d be wrong.

Your blog’s email list is potentially the most valuable number of anything that you track on your blog.

You might be wondering why, and in a world where social media plays such an important role in almost everything we do, from product recommendations to election results and everything in between, you would be right to question it…

More Control

Ever thought that your Facebook fans, your Twitter followers or your Instagram fans are yours?

You’d also be wrong (just like those people who would rather Twitter followers than email subscribers).

They aren’t yours, they are Facebook’s, or Twitter’s, or Instagram’s. You are just lucky enough to be allowed a page to build followers. Theoretically, they can take them all away from you, without reason, without warning, they would just be gone, if you break their guidelines in any way (and if you read them you would be worried too).

Your email subscribers however are yours, you own the right to email those addresses each time you write a new blog post, recommend a product or even sell your own products.

Let’s answer some questions about comparing social media and the power of email lists…

Image courtesy of Amara

Here are some questions about social media to consider:

  1. How many of your Facebook Page’s fans see your post?
  2. How long does your Tweet last before it’s lost in your follower’s feeds?
  3. How many times do your images get seen on Pinterest?

And here are some generalised answers:

  1. The average reach of an average Facebook post is now 2-3% of your fans. Now you might be an anomaly and get more than this (well done!) but this number has been declining for years.
  2. 18 minutes. That’s all it takes. The average lifespan of a Tweet before it’s never seen by anyone ever again is just 18 minutes. And in that time it’s likely that less than 2% of your followers will even see the Tweet.
  3. Over 5,000,000 images are added to Pinterest every day. That is what you are competing with every time you pin one of those beautiful images from your blog.

Social media is hard, right? So why do we invest so much time there rather than our email list?

Let’s look at couple questions around your email list:

  1. How many will open each of your emails?
  2. How many will actually click through the email?

And the answers:

  1. For bloggers, the average open rate (as in the number of people who will actively see the contents of the email) is around 30%. That is over 10 times more than a Facebook Post or Tweet. For example, if you had 10,000 email subscribers and 10,000 Facebook fans. If you sent an email at least 3,000 of them would see and read it, compared to only 200-300 people on Facebook.
  2. The average click-through rate for bloggers’ emails is 5%. This means not only will more people read the content of your email than will read the post on Facebook, at least 2.5 times as many people will click through and actively read your new blog post than even see your Facebook post.

Don’t get me wrong, social media is very important for blogging. It can drive a crazy amount of traffic to your blog – but if you can convert those visitors to become email subscribers you will see a much greater reward.

You own your email list, you don’t own your social followers.


More Traffic

You’ve already seen the benefits of an email list compared to your social media following. But there is a consistency to growing your email list that leads to always gaining more and more traffic to your blog.

Using the previous statistics that 5% of your email list will click on each email, if you send an email once a week with your blog post(s) for that week, you would expect to see additional visits (compared to not having an email list)…

Email List Size

Additional Visitors (each week)















So the more you grow your email list, the more your traffic will grow and this doesn’t even include the additional traffic gained from all their social shares of your blog posts.


More Engaged

This is perhaps the most important but also often forgotten aspect of growing an email list.

Quick questiondo you want to make more money from your blog?

We’ve asked bloggers this question, and have received a 100% ‘Yes’ response.

Do you want to know who is more likely to result in you making more money from your blog?

  1. A random new visitor to your blog?


  1. An email subscriber?

That’s right – an email subscriber is over TEN TIMES more likely to trust your product recommendations or buy a product you are actively selling when compared to a new visitor to your blog.

So if you want to make money (or more money) from your blog. You need to be actively building your email list.

There are hundreds of different techniques that can be used to grow your email list, and we could list them all here – but that can end in far too much choice leaving you unsure where to start.

So instead we’ll list the three easiest to set up tactics you can implement pretty quickly, and one advanced technique that requires more work but equally comes with a much higher reward.

Three Easy (and Super-Effective) Email List Growth Tactics

Pop Up Lightbox

Yes, you might find these pop-ups annoying but the truth is that they REALLY work! On average between 3 and 10 in every 100 people who see an email sign up lightbox fill it in and sign up.

Image courtesy of Sumo.

There are many tools out there that you can use for pop ups, one of the best (which operates a freemium model) is Sumo. Which allows you to completely customise the pop up with headline, copy, call to action, images etc. – whilst being super easy to use.

Image courtesy of Amara

The above pop up on the IBA Blog generates 7 subscribers for every 100 people who see it.

Top Tool – Sumo

Further Reading: Pop-ups Aren’t Dead: What We Learned Analysing 2 Billion Pop-up Examples

Landing Pages

Using dedicated landing pages to collect subscribers for your blog’s email list is a very smart move.

Creating landing pages can be incredibly effective, some landing pages can convert visitors to subscribers so well that over half of the visitors to that page become email subscribers.

Image courtesy of Unbounce.

Landing pages give you a central place to direct traffic, the chance to sell what your subscribers are going to get.

Top Tool – Thrive Content Builder

Further Reading: Use Landing Pages To Collect Email Subscribers Like Crazy


The chances are you are probably already running giveaways on your blog, they are a great way to give something back to your audience.

What you might be missing is that giveaways can be an incredibly effective method of driving email subscribers to your blog.

There are many tools, Gleam is a free, easy-to-use option to run the giveaway and has viral aspects like refer-a-friend which can help expand your audience too.

Image courtesy of Gleam

Team up with brands by asking if they would like to donate a product for the giveaway, most are happy to contribute something and you could end up with a great prize haul.

Top Tool: Gleam

Further Reading: How To Run A Successful Blog Giveaway

Content Upgrades: Supercharge Your Email List

The faster you grow your email list, the faster you will get more traffic, and make more money from blogging.

The Content Upgrade, a term coined by Brian Dean of Backlinko, essentially puts your lightbox pop-ups on supercharge and can increase the number of people who sign up by up to 5 times. So rather than getting 5 subscribers from every 100 visitors. You could get up to 25 additional subscribers from the same traffic!

Content upgrades are uniquely crafted lead magnets designed to be downloaded based on the post a visitor is reading, a hyper-relevant additional resource for the reader. For example, if you have a post about Scandinavian interior design, you could add a specific upgrade with 10 tips to perfecting your Scandinavian inspired living room.

You can see a good example of this, with the use of a checklist on The LuxPad’s Hygge article.

The article itself is a guide to Hygge and how to embrace the Danish concept, but you will see there is a pop up that shows up offering a download of The Ultimate Hygge Checklist – so you can easily digest what you need to do to embrace Hygge.

Image courtesy of Amara

This bonus engages with the reader as the chances are they like the topic they are reading – therefore by engaging them with a closely related extra bonus greatly increases the chances of them subscribing to your blog.

Top Tool: Sumo

Further Reading: How To Boost Conversions by 785% in One Day (The Content Upgrade)

So how is your email list looking?

If you haven’t started growing it yet – you need to start as soon as possible if a career as a professional blogger is what you are striving for.

If you have started but growth is slow, try out some content upgrades on your posts that get the most traffic and you will see dramatically improved results!

4 thoughts on “Why (and How) You Need to Start Building an Email List”

  1. Give me 100,000 email subscribers instead of 100,000 Twitter followers any time! You’re right, email subscribers are readers who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer.

    However, I’m not sure about pop-ups. It seems that Google is now penalising most intrusive pop-ups on mobile devices (except cookie notices, age control, login, etc). In desktop sites, they’re also penalising large pop-ups that cover most of the screen and “welcome mats” that force you to scroll down to see the content. In regards to timing, Google seems to dislike pop-ups that appear with no delay on page load, and the ones that appear while the user is still reading the article. Maybe exit-intent pop-ups are the solution to this?

    I’m not sure. I guess it’s just one small element of their mysterious magical algorithm. As you say, there’s also landing pages, givaways and content upgrades. Plenty of options to try and test.

    1. Thanks for your comment Juan!

      You’re absolutely correct about mobile – definitely something people need to be aware of when looking to start growing their email list!

      With mobile traffic seemingly ever increasing – being tactical about how you try to get the traffic converting to subscribers is key. Exit-intent is tricky on mobile as there no cursor to track – we have seen that Hello Bar type things on mobile aren’t as intrusive as pop-ups so might still be a viable tactic too.

  2. Thank you for this post! I’ve been thinking about starting email subscription, but have no idea where to start, what to include, or whether it would even be worth it. It seems like a lot of time, and I wasn’t sure where it would get me. But you’ve now convinced me that it might even be more worthwhile than any social media channel.

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