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How To Build a Large Email List from Scratch Using Content Marketing

Growing your email list is one of the best ways to increase your traffic, engagement, and conversion metrics.

Email potentially affords you exclusive access to a consumer, right in the place where they communicate with their friends, colleagues, and families.

That’s great access, and it’s understandable that email acquisition and lead generation is one of the most important aspects of digital marketing.

But how do you build a large email list from scratch? And is it possible to go from zero to hero email marketer?

We’ve assembled our best tips and tricks to show you how you can grow an email list by boosting your content marketing game. Read on to discover how you can enhance your email marketing list with fresh, quality leads.

Create Great, Sharable Content

This one’s a no brainer! If you pack your website full of great, entertaining, and valuable content, it will get shared! People will email it to their friends and share it on social media, which will grow your website traffic and your email list.

This is perhaps the easiest tip to conceptualize but perhaps one of the hardest to do well. It’s difficult, and time-consuming to create quality content, but the rewards are obvious.

Years ago marketers were encouraged to write lots of content. Today we know we are much better off writing less content that is great and focuses on the human visitor. A key to content marketing is to remember that people (and search engines) respond better to high-quality content that solves problems.

Just try to think about how you can add value to your content. Short, sharable videos, posted to Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter are a great way to get people interested in your brand. And once you have them on your site and they see the value you provide, they’re just a few steps from that magical subscribe button! This is the first step in learning how to build a large email list from scratch.

Here are two examples of Pinterest images that allow people to quickly share content to this social media network:

laptop displaying available products with post title overlay

If you’re not sure about what content to create, go back to basics. Think about your target market, who they are, what they struggle with, and how you help solve their problems. Then take this knowledge and craft written or video content to help answer their questions and solve their issues.

At the end of the day, people search the web to locate solutions to their everyday problems. When you provide quality content that solves those problems, you gain their trust and they will naturally want to convert.

Optimize Your Email Subscription Flow

This is very important. Minimize the number of clicks it takes for someone to subscribe to your email list. If it takes more than three clicks or takes more than 10 seconds, you have failed your visitor and you won’t convert them into an email subscriber.

Remember, humans are fickle creatures, and people are generally disinclined to give away their email address. Make sure that your subscription process doesn’t ask unnecessary questions or throw up too many different pages in between them and the confirmation email. You want to make subscribing as easy as possible.

Studies have shown this to be true: one found that a “radical webpage redesign” was able to boost subscription rates an unbelievable 173 percent.

The use of a click to open pop-up or exit intent pop-up in a non-intrusive way to prompt users to hand over their email as they digest your content or prepare to click away from your site.

Below is an example from one of our websites. You’ll notice the email subscription requires only two fields to be completed and there are no barriers to the human. The easier you make things, the faster you’ll grow an email list.

Exit Intent Popup Subscription Example

Add an Email Gate to Quality Content

If your content is getting clicks but your list isn’t getting emails added to it, maybe you need to make it more obvious. To push your email list a bit more aggressively, add a subscription gate to your content. This can be a hard or soft gate.

A hard subscription gate will require visitors to go through a short process before accessing your most valuable content. Once the website visitor provides their email address, they are routed to the desired content. This type of approach works great for eBooks, checklists, and downloads.

A soft subscription gate is just the opposite. It is simply a lightbox or nonmandatory subscription prompt over the content. With a soft subscription gate, you don’t force website visitors to subscribe in order to see the content. Instead, you gently push them to subscribe with a popover message and some slick copy.

Research has shown that these subscription popups, though perhaps slightly annoying, do not affect the bounce rate and have a positive effect on subscription numbers.

The key to successfully using gated content to grow your list is to use this tactic wisely. Offer value and don’t present a hurdle visitors need to jump through.

Add a Subscription Checkbox to Contact Inquiries

Chances are you have a contact page with an inquiry form already on your website or blog. A very quick and easy tactic is to add an optional checkbox to this inquiry form that allows visitors to opt into your email list. This is optional and available for those who are interested.

This process presents a subtle and easy method to grow your email list with people who are already interested in you and your offering.

Most WordPress form plugins have this functionality already built-in and they have lots of extensions that allow you to connect this form to your existing email marketing software.

blog post title graphic Email List Building is Scalable

You’d be surprised how just a few tweaks can make all the difference when accumulating emails. It seems that people are fine with giving out their email addresses, they just need to be reminded of the benefits.

If you haven’t chosen an email marketing automation platform yet, check out the full CRM comparison guide.

With these simple tweaks, you should be able to build a large email list without completely revamping your content marketing strategy. Good luck!

This article was originally written by Nick Rojas in February of 2015. It was updated in February of 2020 by the AccessAlly team.

Nathalie Lussier

I’m a writer, technologist, and regenerative farmer. I founded AccessAlly with my husband in one frantic weekend to solve my immediate course platform issues. Over a decade later the company has grown, and our product has evolved to serve millions of learners across the globe.

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