For many people, their email inbox is the wild west. Thousands of emails from hundreds of brands compete for their eyes.
In 2017, the average number of emails sent and received was a breathtaking 269 billion.
In 2018, that number hit 281 billion. By the year 2022, it's expected that more than 333 billion emails will be sent and received every day.
The result? Consumers are overwhelmed and overloaded by emails.
Here's the kicker: despite the rise in the number of emails sent, it remains one of the most efficient marketing channels in the online world.
Email marketing is cheaper and drives a higher ROI than just about any other channel, including PPC and social.
The question is: how can your blog leverage email list subscribers to drive traffic and avoid ending up in "unread" or, worse, the spam folder?
It starts with getting more subscribers, but not just any subscribers.
You want to attract the right people who are interested in what you have to say and are likely to engage with your content.
Here's exactly how to make email the winning piece of your overall content marketing strategy.
Read more: 43 email list building ideas for 2019
- Make opting-in easy
- Create tailored opt-ins for different audiences
- Leverage two-step opt-ins
- Use creative lead magnets
- Provide valuable content, not just more noise
- Add an email signup option on social
- Invite blog commenters to join your email list
- Use live chat to encourage email subscriptions
Make opting-in easy
When it comes to signing up for email blasts, the process should be smooth and nearly seamless. If you have to explain the process, it is likely too complex.
In 2000, Steve Krug published the first iteration of his book Don't Make Me Think. At its core, the book is about letting users accomplish tasks as directly as possible.
This quote, in particular, stands out:
Your objective should always be to eliminate instructions entirely by making everything self-explanatory, or as close to it as possible. When instructions are absolutely necessary, cut them back to a bare minimum.Steve Krug, Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
When you make tasks easier to complete, people are more likely to actually complete those tasks. If your goal is to drive more email sign-ups for your blog, this means you should:
- Reduce the number of form fields, only ask for the email and maybe their first name (unless your goal is to attract qualified leads, which we'll cover later)
- Reduce the number of clicks needed to subscribe
- Make sure your form works well on smaller screens
- Use simple language for the subscribe button, such as "Sign up now" or "Join the list" versus vague phrases like "Let's do this."
Also, make it easy for people to find your opt-in in forms by placing them in obvious locations, such as at the end of blog posts or in the sidebar of your blog.
Tools such as GetResponse or OptinMonster make it easy to build and add web forms, whether using WordPress or a common website builder.
For example, this is the email sign-up form in the middle of travel blog Adventure for Less, a site about travel hacking:
The form is easy to find and simple to fill out, which makes it more likely that someone will opt-in.
The key is to not overcomplicate it with too many questions or distractions.
What about pop-ups?
My advice? Tread carefully with pop ups.
Many blogs use pop-ups to encourage email sign-ups. While pop-ups can be incredibly effective, the pop-ups can also annoy readers.
Take care to ensure your pop-ups are unobtrusive, easy to dismiss and use action triggers.
For example, you might trigger a pop-up after the reader has clicked on a link or been on the page for a specific amount of time.
The best kind of pop-ups are based on exit intent. When someone gets close to leaving the page and their cursor goes to within 10-20% of the top of the screen, the pop-up is triggered.
My exit intent popup with a lead magnet accounts for about 90% of my email sign-ups:
You can also use exit intent technology to promote other offers on your blog. Here’s an example of an exit-intent pop-up on my website hosting page that triggers when someone goes to close the page:
Create tailored opt-ins for different audiences
Unless your brand offers only one super-specific product, there's a good chance you have more than one target audience, and they are likely interested in different types of content.
Instead of creating just one opt-in, build landing pages and CTAs for each of your target audiences.
For example, if you sell yarn, you might have an email list for knitters and crocheters. Or a digital marketing publication might have separate email lists for SEOs and social media marketers.
This strategy serves two purposes. To begin with, it allows you to send subscribers more personalized content, which can increase open and click-through rates.
Creating tailored opt-ins also makes it easier to segment email lists, which can result in nearly 60 percent more clicks and 14 percent increase in email opens, according to some studies.
Sending content on topics your audience is interested in has the added benefit of reducing unsubscribes, which is good for your overall email list health!
Leverage two-step opt-ins
Building a successful email list requires finding a fine balance between getting a lot of email subscribers and getting qualified subscribers, or leads who are legitimately interested in what you have to offer.
A two-step opt-in or double opt-in is an easy strategy to balance these two requirements.
Double opt-in is a strategy many blogs have implemented following the passage of GDPR, which impacts how digital information is stored and used in the European Union.
While double opt-ins are not a GDPR requirement, it can be a good first step.
In most cases, a two-step opt-in refers to requiring users to confirm their list subscription by clicking a link sent to their email.
However, you can get creative with this approach and ask for information to qualify leads.
Here's an example. Lendio, an online marketplace for small business loans, asks users the amount of loan they are looking for as well as their email address.
While this seems to go against the previous advice of keeping things simple, asking for this information serves an important purpose.
By using a two-step opt-in to ask for the loan amount, Lendio ensures subscribers are serious before reaching out.
Think about it this way: If you are trying to sell an old couch on Facebook or Craigslist, you want a lot of people to see your post, of course.
But you don't want 50 messages from people asking for information you included in the listing, such as if you deliver or if the price is firm. You want serious inquiries.
The two-step opt-in process helps attract qualified subscribers, instead of filling your list with people who are not particularly interested in your brand or likely to use your service.
Use creative lead magnets
A common strategy for email list building is to offer lead magnets, such as white papers or ebooks, to encourage email sign-ups.
While there is no question that using long-form content as a lead magnet can increase email sign-ups, there is a challenge.
Long-form content is time-consuming to create and often gets overlooked by users who are looking for quick tips or fast resolutions to their problems.
Instead, create strategic lead magnets that can be created in less time, such as checklists, email courses, or downloadable versions of blog posts so people can read them offline.
These take less time to create with a compelling funnel, but still offer plenty of value to your readers.
For example, Classy Career Girl, a blog and community designed to help women build a career they love, uses a cover letter checklist to drive email sign-ups.
Other creative lead magnet examples include templates, cheat sheets, stock photo downloads, coupon codes, and webinars.
Don’t have time to craft up an ebook or record a webinar but still want a way to capture leads?
Check out this example from Lyfe Accounting on their small business CPA services landing page:
Basically, those who land on their landing page and are interested in CPA services, will have the option to input their information to get a personalized quote from Lyfe Accounting.
This tends to work great rather than a contact form on one simple ‘contact us’ page, which often gets neglected.
Really, any piece of content that solves a problem can be a lead magnet. So, think beyond ebooks and create truly useful content.
Provide valuable content, not just more noise
The average office worker receives a total of 121 emails every day. Standing out when more than 100 other emails are vying for attention is hard, but it isn't impossible.
The key to standing out in a crowded email box is to provide value to subscribers. When you provide value, you build a reputation as a useful email list, not just another boring list.
And when people value the content you share, they are more likely to share it with friends, which can increase subscriber numbers even more.
This is particularly true for SaaS (service as a software) companies, who likely use email as their primary communication channel.
Provide valuable content by sending emails that serve a purpose, such as:
- Breaking industry news
- Welcome and activation emails
- Thank you emails after a purchase
- Well-written newsletters
- Event invites
For example, if you’re a VPN review site, you could feature snippets from your latest reviews in your monthly newsletter:
An occasional email to announce a new feature or product is fine, but be sure the majority of your emails benefit your subscribers, not just your brand.
Add an email signup option on social
No matter who your target audience is, there's a good chance they are on social media.
In fact, according to a recent survey, the average internet user spends between two and three hours per day on social media.
Which makes social media sites a fantastic source of email list subscribers.
People who follow your brand on social media have already expressed interest, which makes them more likely to be interested in subscribing to your email list.
As we covered before, qualified subscribers can be a lot more valuable, as they are more likely to engage with your content.
For example, Search Engine Journal uses a Facebook button to encourage social media followers to subscribe to their email list.
In addition to adding a button, you can encourage users to subscribe by leveraging a little bit of FOMO.
Post gated content that requires signing up for the email list, or teasers of new content only available to email subscribers.
Invite blog commenters to join your email list
Just like social media followers, people who comment on your blog posts have already expressed interest in your brand.
They enjoy your content and are willing to engage with you.
These are the type of people you want to invite to join your email list, where you can send them more of your amazing content!
The Thank Me Later plugin makes it easy to send commenters a thank you email and ask them to subscribe to your newsletter.
Yoast Comment Hacks, a WordPress tool created by the Yoast team, allows you to redirect commenters to a Thank You page, where you can ask them to subscribe to your email list.
Use live chat to encourage email subscriptions
Live chat is quickly moving from a nice-to-have feature to a must-have.
Installing live chatbots for customer service can help customers find the information they need immediately, while reducing the resources brands spend otherwise.
HouseCallPro, a SaaS company for home service companies, uses their live chat feature to answer questions about their software offerings, like scheduling plumbing visits.
The feature hovers in the right corner of the website and expands when users click to ask a question.
To increase email subscriptions, you can use an automated feature to ask users if they would like to join your email list.
Just make sure to ask after they have spoken with a representative and resolved their issue; users are more likely to subscribe once they understand the value your brand offers.
Email is the only channel of communication where you have full control, which is part of what makes it so valuable.
A social media site might change it's algorithms, you might lose ranking in Google, but if you follow the rules (and don't spam), you will always have direct access to your audience through email.
Keep in mind that every niche and every industry is a bit different. What works for a career site might not work for a SaaS business.
Use A/B testing on your email signup pages to find out what works. Features such as color, copy, and even the location of QR codes if used, can have an incredible impact on your subscriber rate.
How do you get your email opt-ins? Do you find these tips useful? Let me know in the comments below.