Tech Toucan

List Building for Bloggers and Authority Site Owners

Building your own list of email subscribers is a critical part of growing a successful and profitable content-based site.  

Just a few of the benefits of starting your own email newsletter:

  • You can send traffic to your site whenever you want – ideal for an extra “burst” of visitors when you publish a new article
  • You reduce your reliance on external sources of traffic, such as the search engines or social media, giving your website a more secure future
  • You can increase your monthly sales by sending new subscribers through an autoresponder series
  • Repeated contact means you get to build a relationship of trust and authority in the eyes of your subscribers
  • By retaining a fraction of your daily visitors, and sending them repeatedly back to your site over time, you can drive ever-higher volumes of traffic

Indeed, it is this act of building an email newsletter which can take many sites from a few hundred dollars a month up to several thousand in the space of just a few months.

Little wonder, then, that repeated surveys suggest that many blogger’s biggest regret is simply not starting an email newsletter sooner.

As a result, no matter what your current traffic or income lessons you would be wise to start building your subscriber list as soon as possible.

In this section of the course we’re going to venture into the wonderful world of email marketing. Some of what you’ll learn includes:

  • A complete step-by-step walkthrough (with pictures) of how to set up your first email newsletter
  • 9 highly effective types of optin form (and how to create them)
  • 8 response-boosting things to put on your subscription confirmation page
  • How to effortlessly create and upload fantastic-looking optin forms to your WordPress website
  • 10 different optin bonus ideas (plus how to decide what works best for your site)

By the end of this section you should feel confident about setting up your own email newsletter to promote your blog.

You’ll have all the knowledge and tools necessary to take your site traffic and revenue to the next level. 

What is Email Marketing?

Before we talk about how to start your own email newsletter, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page. After all, for the brand new blogger or affiliate marketer, how does email marketing even work?

Marketing your authority site or blog via email involves collecting together a list of subscribers.

Each of these people has opted in to receive your emails – that is to say that they personally entered their email address in a form on your website.

Additionally, subscribers can unsubscribe at any time, if they decide that your emails are no longer for them.

This list of subscribers can then be contacted on a regular basis, offering new articles, tools you’ve discovered, links to valuable content (whether on your site or not) and more.

The goal here is to offer value to your subscribers, so that they look forward to receiving your emails, and willingly click the various links you include.

The more engaged your subscribers are with your newsletter, the more traffic you’ll generate and – ultimately – the more money you’ll make.

The Email Marketing Process Overview

Email marketing sounds quite a simple idea; add a signup form to your website and then send out useful newsletters.

However, email marketing involves a whole host of different moving parts, each with their own complexities.

As a result, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the options and possibilities, and to therefore not get started at all.

Now you understand the basic concept of email marketing, it therefore makes sense to briefly walk through the process step-by-step, so you know exactly what to expect.

In brief, we can think of email marketing as a two-stage process – email collection and then newsletter sending.

Email Collection

The first stage of the process involves encouraging our standard visitors to become email subscribers.

To do this we’ll need a form into which they can enter their email address.

Often, as we’ll see later on, we’ll also offer some kind of free gift as an ethical bribe to join our email list.

When someone fills in our form (often called an “optin form”) their email address will then be added to a piece of software known as an “autoresponder”. This is the software that we use to store all our subscribers, and also to send out our newsletters to this subscriber list.

One additional point worth mentioning here is the subject of an “optin confirmation”.

Some bloggers and authority site owners choose to add an extra step to their subscription process. When someone submits their email address through a form they can either be added straight to your subscriber list – or we send them a confirmation email with a link in it. Only when the individual has clicked the link in that email are they added to our autoresponder.

It’s a topic we’ll return to a little later for a more detailed discussion, but for now we simply need to know there are two potential alternatives – with and without this extra confirmation email.

In brief, therefore, the process of someone becoming an email subscriber of yours will normally use one of the two following processes:

  • Optin form > Autoresponder Software > Thank You Page [subscribed]
  • Optin form > Autoresponder Software > Thank You Page > Confirmation Email > Confirmation Page [subscribed]

In the first example above the user submits their email address to our optin form. The person’s details are then added to our autoresponder, before they are automatically forwarded to a thank you page which lets them know that their subscription has been processed successfully.

The second model adds a confirmation email to the mix. Here the subscriber must open the email we send them, then click the link before being added.

Note that all of this happens automatically once set up. You won’t be manually adding people’s details to your autoresponder. Nor will you be sending out confirmation emails yourself. Our autoresponder deals with all of this on our behalf.  

Newsletter Sending

Once a subscriber has been added to our list they will continue to receive our emails until they click on the unsubscribe link which is included automatically at the bottom of every email we send.

Quite what you choose to send to your subscribers, and how often, varies from individual to individual – we’ll cover this in some depth a little later on.

Suffice it to say at this point that you write your newsletter, upload it to your autoresponder and decide when you’d like the email to be sent out.

At the selected time your autoresponder then sends out the email to your subscriber list.

Note that, thanks to the use of an autoresponder, we can therefore queue up emails in advance, and have them go out at the specific time and date of your choosing.

Rather like using Tailwind for our Pinterest marketing or Buffer for Twitter, our autoresponder therefore allows us to look active even when we’re not specifically at our computer.

Tools to Build Your Email Newsletter

As we have seen, there are two key elements in promoting your blog or authority site through email marketing, and both of these use quite specific tools.

Firstly, we’re going to need a tool to build our optin form(s) and secondly we’ll need an autoresponder to store and send our emails.

Let’s take a look at some of the more popular options to help you do just this…

Email Form Builder Tools

The design and creation of optin forms is a fiercely competitive marketplace, with a continual arms race underway.

Each month it seems that either a new tool has been launched, or an existing tool has added a new feature that promises to boost your optin rates.

Here are some of the more trusted options…


List building - OptinMonster logo



Having tested pretty much every optin form builder on the market, OptinMonster is my personal tool of choice, and is the service that I recommend you use.

OptinMonster is, quite simply, the most powerful and user-friendly solution I have personally tested (and I’ve tried a lot!).

Firstly, OptinMonster allows you to build a huge array of different types of optin forms (which we’ll discuss later on) and comes complete with vast selection of different pre-made templates. These allow you to very quickly create stunning optin forms for your blog with no graphic design skills.

OptinMonster Templates

I’m also a huge fan of the way in which OptinMonster makes split testing your forms simplicity itself; one of the best ways to get as many subscribers as possible is to create different forms, then test in different places on your site, to find out which combinations encourage the most people to subscribe.

Check out OptinMonster here.

Thrive Leads

Before OptinMonster the tool I used for my optin forms was Thrive Leads.

Still a popular option, I have to admit that I decided to move away for two distinct reasons.

Firstly, I personally find the forms that Thrive Leads create tremendously ugly. I just felt rather embarrassed having these forms on my site as I think they look very unprofessional.

Thrive Leads templates

Secondly, I found the software rather “buggy” on occasion. It seems to conflict with other plugins I use, which led to frustrations for me.

While Thrive Leads is still a popular option, and I encourage you to take a look at it as an option, I didn’t feel it was right for my purposes.

Instead, OptinMonster does everything that Thrive Leads does and more – plus their forms look a whole lot better.

Check out Thrive Leads here.


List Building - SumoMe logo



Possibly the most popular option among less experienced bloggers and affiliate marketers is the SumoMe plugin, which allows you to very easily add optin forms to your site.

One of the reasons that SumoMe has become so popular is because they offer a “free” tier to their software – as well as a paid premium option.

Sadly, I have found that the “free” version is severely limited in it’s abilities; you have so little control over the optin forms that this software generates that they basically all look the same.

You’ll therefore see the same old forms on hundreds of blogs – and of course the fact that they all look the same means they never really stand out to visitors.

In addition, the free plan does not allow for more advanced features such as split testing your forms for maximum impact. Oddly, if you do upgrade to the premium plan, where upon all the professional features become available to you, the cost is considerably more than either that of OptinMonster or Thrive Themes.

The final nail in the coffin for me, after some extensive testing on a few sites I own, is that this software runs very slowly, and the only way to speed up how quickly my site loaded was to eliminate their software and swap it out for the more streamlined OpinMonster or Thrive Leads.

Feature Box Pro

Optin Feature Box logo



In contrast to the optin email form builders discussed so far in this part of the course, Feature Box Pro is a far more “specialized” tool.

Unlike OptinMonster it won’t allow you to generate dozens of different optin forms – from popups to slide-ins – but instead aims to help you create just one type of optin form – a “feature box” or “hero header”.

A feature box sits at the top of your web page, typically below your header and navigation area, but above your blog post content. It is therefore very visible indeed when anyone lands on your website, but without being overwhelming or annoying like a popup can be.

The plugin comes with a small range of templates which can be modified for your own use, and if you only want to gather email subscribers with a feature box on your site then this can be a solid option. Like the other tools, it allows you to split test different designs to see which performs most strongly.

That said, of course, most bloggers and affiliate marketers would do well to test as many different forms as possible on their website to see which designs and locations perform most strongly.

Seeing as the other premium tools described such as OptinMonster allow you to build such forms quite easily on the whole I would recommend getting a more flexible tool – at least to start with.

In this way you’ll have all the necessary tools available at your disposal to carry out extensive testing and to grow your email list as fast as is humanly possible.

Autoresponder Software for Authority Sites & Bloggers

The second piece of software that you’re going to need to build your email list is an autoresponder or email marketing tool that stores your subscribers, allows people to unsubscribe as they see fit and to send out your email newsletters.

There are dozens of different email marketing tools currently on the market, and each blogger or authority site owner has their own personal preference.

A few of the factors to consider are the ease of use, the email deliverability rates and of course the cost. Generally speaking most autoresponder services charge in tiers by the number of subscribers that you have; as you gain more subscriber so you’ll move up into the next tier and see the monthly fee increase.

The good news here, is that as a relatively new blogger you’ll start off at a low tier, making such a tool a very small investment for you.

When you consider the upside of running your own email newsletter it quickly becomes clear just how good an investment like this really is.

Important Note: In most instances it is possible to move from one email marketing tool to another and to take your subscriber list with you. The process, however, isn’t always fun or easy.

My suggestion, especially if you are new to email marketing, would therefore be start off with the right tool to begin with. In this way, you can “grow into” a great tool, rather than going through the pain and inconvenience of trying to move everything over to a new tool some months down the line.

You have been warned!

With that said, let’s take a look at some of the more popular autoresponder tools on the market right now, to give you a better idea of which tool might be most suitable for your purposes…


List Building - Aweber logo



I have been a happy Aweber customer for over a decade, and still use them to run most of my email campaigns.

The user experience is excellent, and thanks to constant development, new features have been added recently to make setting up your first email newsletter very easy indeed.

With superior deliverability and ten years of stable, reliable service I am happy to trust Aweber with my thousands of hard-won email subscribers across multiple niches.

Check out Aweber here.


List Building - ConvertKit logo



Growing from almost nothing over the last few years, ConvertKit is designed specifically with bloggers in mind and aims to make setting up a newsletter and creating beautiful emails for your subscribers as easy as possible.

It’s a tool borne out of frustration at how complex some other email tools can be – especially for beginners.

I’ve slowly been field-testing ConvertKit for one of my newer authority sites and so far I really like what I’m seeing.

While ConvertKit haven’t been around anywhere near as long as Aweber (a concern in my mind) their ease of use definitely wins them points.

If I was to recommend an autoresponder to you right now I would suggest you take a look at both Aweber and ConvertKit and decide between them. Perhaps consider setting up a free trial with each, in order to see which tool you personally find easiest to work with.

Check out ConvertKit here.


List Building - Drip logo



Drip’s big selling point is their marketing automation.

Let’s assume for a moment that you’ve decided to sell an ebook on your website. Drip aims to help you send the right emails at the right times to convert as many of your subscribers into customers. Then, when someone purchases your ebook, they can automatically move into a new group that stops promoting your ebook, and instead perhaps recommends other products that you are an affiliate of.

All of this automation is set up in a very user-friendly and easily-understood manner.

Of course, all these fancy features do come at a cost.

This is far and away the most expensive of the options discussed here, and the feature-set is likely overkill for most small bloggers, affiliate marketers and authority site owners.

Instead, Drip arguably makes better option for heavier users – such as those with extensive ecommerce sites or a list of related products to push.


List Building - MailChimp logo



For many years Mailchimp has been a popular email marketing tool, due in a large part to the way that they offer free accounts for site owners with smaller subscriber lists.

Increasingly, however, I have seen bloggers and affiliate marketers move away from Mailchimp in recent years, and having tested out their tool myself I must admit that I too was less than impressed.

In my opinion MailChimp has possibly the worst user experience of any email marketing tool I have tried. It’s just too easy to get lost in their software, wondering what on earth you’re meant to be doing.

Attempting to set up a new email newsletter through MailChimp soon ended in frustration as I got fed up with going round in circles with no clear guidance as to what I was meant to be doing. This is in stark contrast to tools like Aweber and ConvertKit who make setting up your first email newsletter simplicity itself.

While I know that MailChimp is still popular – and therefore no doubt has it’s fans – if you want my opinion then I think you’d be better off to start elsewhere. Particularly when you’re starting out, what you need is a tool that combines power with ease-of-use.  

How to Create Optin Forms & Add Them to WordPress

List building tips from a professional blogger and content marketer. Find out about the most effective types of email optin forms to help you grow your email newsletter list.

In this section we’ll take a look at the different types of email optin forms that you might want to consider for your website.

We’ll also consider some things we can do to boost the number of people who actually join your list.

By the end of this section you should have a good understanding of the optin form options available to you, and you should feel confident in deciding which to add to your website.

Types of Email Optin Form

Digital marketers are a clever bunch.

Over the years they’ve developed all manner of ways to collect email subscribers, so there are more options than ever before out there.

What follows are some of the most popular options; any or all of which can be used on your website…

Content Upgrades

A content upgrade is one of the most effective – yet subtle – ways to grow your email subscriber list.

It involves the creation of a special free gift, which is specifically targeted to a topic on your blog. This gift is then offered on that specific article as a way to grow your email list.

Content Upgrade example

As an example, imagine that you have a particularly successful article about moving to Mexico, detailing the costs, how to get Internet access, where to live and so on. Its naturally attracting links, ranking well in the search engines and receives a good proportion of your total visitor numbers.

You could then consider how best to “extend” this content in the form of an ebook or a short report…

  • Perhaps you might put together a list of the best neighbourhoods to live in.
  • Maybe you provide a list of real estate agents in the area that you know can help readers find a place to live.
  • Perhaps you have a special report about visas, and how to stay in Mexico indefinitely.

The point here is the free gift that readers receive when they subscribe is an extension of the article that they’re reading.

It allows them to continue their search for information, by providing additional tips or pointers that aren’t in the main article.

As I’m sure you can imagine, such upgrades tend to be tremendously effective because they’re so closely targeted to the topic in hand.

That said, appreciate that the creation of content upgrades is more time-intensive than many other methods, simply because you’ll need to create a host of different upgrades over time for your most popular articles.

Personally speaking, I’m a huge fan of content upgrades. I think they’re relatively spam-free – because the freebie is so targeted – and they tend to be offered within the actual content itself, rather than popping up or in some other way harming the overall user experience.   

Welcome Mats

The welcome mat is one of the biggest and most “in your face” ways to grow your email list.

When someone arrives at your blog for the very first time the whole page scrolls down, revealing a giant full-page optin form that takes up the whole screen.

Welcome Mat example

If visitors aren’t interested they can just scroll down past the form to read the article they arrived for.

As I’m sure you can imagine, these babies tend to perform quite well simply on account of being so obvious. They’re also incredibly annoying for visitors because they’re so “full on” and in-your-face.

While some marketers proudly extol their virtues, this is one optin form that you’ll need to carefully consider before use thanks to the annoyance factor.  

Hero Headers / Feature Boxes

A slightly more subtle version of the welcome mat is a hero header.

It is still big and bold, but doesn’t take up the whole of the screen. Quite the opposite in fact – the optin form sits neatly between your page header and the main content.

Feature Box example

In this way it’s still highly visible, but doesn’t prevent visitors from reading your content below.


The trusty popup window is possibly the best-known email optin form of all. It’s also the most hated.

So why do marketers keep on using them? Sadly, it’s because they work.

Popup example

There is a way to mitigate some of the irritation that popups have caused in the recent past however…

These days popups have gotten ever smarter. They can be set to open up only under specific conditions. For example, you may want to open your popup only for people on desktop computers (so no annoyance to mobile visitors) and to display it just once every 30 days.

There are few things more likely to make me leave your site instantly than finding that every single article I click on has a popup window that needs to be closed. So. Annoying.

Popup signup forms are one of the most polarizing subscription forms of all; some people absolutely hate them and won’t have them anywhere near their site.

Others are willing to take the chance of annoying their visitors in exchange for growing their subscriber list that much quicker; only you can decide which option sits best with you.

Slide Ups / Ins

The sliding optin form can be thought of rather like the popup – it’s a stand-alone optin form that interrupts the reader and sits over the top of the main article content.

Slide In Optin Form example

The key difference here is that rather than popping up right in the middle of the screen, these subscription forms gently slide into the window from the side, or from the bottom.

They are, as a result, a rather more subtle option.

Personally, while I hate popups as a site visitor, I find slide ins rather less intrusive and am rather less offended by them.

They also often don’t block the text that I’m reading, but simply become noticeable due to their movement.

Landing Page

A landing page is a full page designed with one purpose, and one purpose only – to encourage visitors to sign up for your email list.

Such pages tend to work very well indeed because they have a single, solitary focus. The trick, of course, is getting people to your landing page in the first place.

Here there are a number of options…

Make It Your Homepage

The first option is to change your homepage.

So many of us bloggers use our homepage as a general dumping ground to display all our latest articles. This article list can, however, be moved further down the page – or removed entirely.

In its place, your homepage can become a focused landing page, designed to encourage as many people to join your email newsletter as possible (or worst case scenario click through to one of your carefully monetized articles).

In truth, the majority of links that we as bloggers get point to our homepage.

When people hear about you and your site, then search for you, it’s your homepage that they are most likely to land on. Your homepage therefore tends to receive a healthy volume of traffic.

Turning this into a carefully produced landing page can consequently be surprisingly effective.  

Link From Social Profiles

If you’re active on social media sites – like Twitter and Pinterest – then you’ll have a small “bio” area where you can describe who you are and what you do.

Increasingly, bloggers are turning these seemingly innocuous areas into lead magnets – by linking them specifically to their email landing page.

This can work very well when you’re active on social media, as your profile can receive a healthy number of views.

By describing the benefits of your free gift, then providing a live, clickable link to find out more, you can carefully function pre-qualified individuals through to your landing page and grow your optins.

Link From Guest Posts

Writing an article on another blogger’s site? If so, you don’t just have to link to your main homepage – you can even link to a landing page if it’s housed at a different URL.

I good option here can be to make your freebie act like a content upgrade, so that when readers have finished with your article they’ll find a highly relevant and related free gift offered at the end, that they can click over to and grab.

Link From Other Articles

You can link from other blog posts of yours to the landing page where natural.

If you’re offering 100 free knitting patterns as your optin bonus, and happen to write an article about how to knit Christmas jumpers, why not naturally include a link there, saying something like “If you’d like more knitting patterns then you can download 100 of my top patterns here” ?

Share on Social Media

If your optin freebie really is valuable, then why not share it on social media from time to time?

Tools like Tweet Jukebox allow you to set up messages that get recycled and repeated over time, without you needing to lift a finger. Try queueing up a message about your freebie to go out each week and watch your landing page traffic increase over time.

Header Stripe

A header stripe is a brightly colored strip that appears at the very top of your site.

Header ribbon example

These can be used in two different ways.

Some bloggers opt to include a signup box in the actual stripe itself, while others use it to direct first-time visitors to their landing page.

Sidebar Form

Possibly the best-known of all email optin forms is the sidebar form.

As the name suggests, this form sits neatly in the sidebar / navigation bar of your website. It is therefore one of the least obtrusive ways to gather email subscribers.

Sidebar optin form example

Sadly, it is also one of the least effective.

As it turns out, not only do most sidebars get ignored by the average visitor, but in today’s mobile-first world fewer people than ever before will see it.

The reason is quite simple: responsive WordPress themes tend to reorder your blog when someone views it on a mobile device. The main content is put at the top of the page, while your sidebar is moved to the bottom. It therefore receives fewer views and, as a result, fewer subscribers.

While a sidebar optin form is therefore certainly better than nothing, if this is the only optin form you’re using then you’re almost certainly missing out on a lot of email subscribers.

In-Content Form

An in-content form, as the same suggests, is a subscription form that is included directly within the content of your posts.

In content optin form example

As a result of this, you can feel confident that a fair number of your readers will notice the form, rather than ignoring it as can happen to sidebar forms.

Quite how many to include – and where to place them – is up to you.

Some bloggers include a single form at the end of their posts, while others include two or even three within the content of their articles.

How Many Optin Forms Should You Use?

You should hardly be surprised to learn that the more opportunities you give your visitors to join your mailing list, the more are likely to do so.

A single optin form is likely to be out-performed by two different forms and so on.

The question is really how much is “enough”.

Sadly, this is a question that only you can answer.

At one end of the scale some bloggers and authority site owners opt to be very subtle about their optin forms. Perhaps they use nothing but a few carefully-crafted content upgrades on key pieces of content, and leave the rest “form free”.

The aim here is to make their site as user-friendly as possible, while still gathering a reasonable number of subscribers.

At the other end of the scale some bloggers opt to go “all in” and have dozens of different optin forms spread across their website. It sure does look spammy, but then they get far more email subscribers as a result.

Only you can decide how far you’re willing to go in order to grow your subscriber list.

Personally, bearing in mind the way that Google rewards sites with a great visitor experience, I wouldn’t go “all in”. I believe that a site with fewer forms, which makes for a better user experience, is likely to perform better in the search engines and will also be easier to get links to.

Venture too far down the path of “spam” and you’ll find it ever harder to build solid links to your site. You’ll also find it harder to be taken seriously by your readers.

The best option is to start with one or two of the better-performing optin possibilities and measure your subscriber rate.

Then continue to experiment, modifying existing forms or adding new ones until you reach a “compromise” between visitor experience and email subscribers that you’re happy with.

The Use of Cookies

There’s little more frustrating for regular readers of a blog than to be hit with the same popups every time they arrive. Even worse, some site owners have theirs set up to fire on every page too.

Over time, the frustration grows and regular readers stop visiting.

I have experienced this first hand with a number of sites that I used to enjoy visiting, but now steer clear of because I’m so fed up with how difficult they make it to enjoy their content.

To maintain a healthy balance between user experience and email optin rates it therefore makes sense to limit the number of times that someone will see your optins. Fortunately, this is incredibly easy to do with today’s more modern form creators like Optin Monster.

You can simply select how often to show your forms, and on what devices. You might decide, for example, to display your popup on your desktop site, but turn it off for mobile visitors.

Furthermore, you might opt to set your cookies in such a way that your popup is only shown to each visitor once a week, or once a month, to avoid annoying your regulars.

7 Ways to Get More Email Subscribers

Grow your mailing list and get more email subscribers with these seven proven tips and strategies.

One of the most powerful ways to grow your email subscriber list is to split test your optin forms.

There are a huge range of experiments that can be carried out with most modern tools like Optin Monster, some of which have the potential to double your daily email subscribers or more.

Here are some of the things you should be testing if you’re serious…


First and foremost, consider what type(s) of optin form are likely to perform best for you.

You’ve already seen there are lots of ways to display your forms, so why not try out a few different options to see which ones bring you the best possible response?

I would suggest that you start with content upgrades or welcome mats for the very best results, but feel free to mix things up.

Most email form generators are able to create all these different types, so once you’ve chosen the best email form generator you really are only limited by your imagination.


Design covers a whole host of different possibilities. First of all there’s the general overall appearance. Fortunately, the better email option programs include a range of “templates” that you can modify – helping you to quickly change the design of your forms.

Of course, you dig into design experiments in a much more granular fashion. You could test, for example different versions of:

  • Fonts
  • Color schemes
  • Headline text
  • Button text
  • Button color
  • Body content
  • Images

…and this is just for starters.


Too many of us brainstorm an idea for what free gift we will give our subscribers in exchange for their email address, then just run with this idea.

What’s odd, of course, is that we have absolutely no idea how valuable our readers will think our freebie is.

Remember: the more valuable the perceived value of your freebie, the more likely readers are to offer up their email in exchange for it.

Another possible experiment is therefore to design two or more freebies, and to split test them to see which is more appealing for your readers.


If you’re using some kind of “intrusive” email capture method – such as a popup window – then when it appears can have a marked effect on your results.

In my experience, popups that appear the instant someone lands on your article tend to be far less effective than those that appear a short time later.

Having them load some 10-15 seconds after a visitor arrives seems to produce a much better result on many of my sites.  

One-Step Vs. Two-Step

Most of the better-known email capture forms are what could be called “one-step” – that is to say that they pop up, asking for your name and email address. You click the button and you’re all done, in one single step.

Some bloggers and authority site owners, however, have found that two-step forms can be even more effective.

With these, a reader needs to click on a button at first, and it’s this click which makes the actual form appear.

While this does sound counter-intuitive, a number of well-respected marketers have claimed that using a two-step form increased their results considerably.

Single Optin Vs Double Optin

When someone pops their email address into your form and clicks the “subscribe” button, one of two things can happen. Firstly, their details can simply be added straight to your email software, where they will start to receive your messages. These are known as “single optins” because they only had to request your emails once.

The other option is that they click the button and then receive a confirmation email with a link in it that they must click. Only when they click the link in this email are they added to your subscriber list. In other words, they need to confirm twice – hence the “double optin” terminology.

So what’s better?

The upside to single optins, as you can imagine, is that your email subscriber list grows considerably more quickly. There’s no waiting around for anyone to confirm their subscription (something that a huge number of people will forget to do) and so your list grows that much quicker.

Of course, the downside is that you could enter anyone’s email address into such a form, and they’d start getting newsletters. Single optin forms can therefore suffer from spam – and as a result most autoresponders dislike them.

With double optins these elements are turned on their head. Your email subscriber list grows much more slowly, thanks to all those people who forget to confirm their subscription, but the quality of subscriber normally goes up, while spam complaints go down. Autoresponders greatly prefer these.

Only you can make the decision about which option you’ll go for – though be aware that by default most email providers will expect you to use double optins to prevent them and you from potential spam complaints.  

Name or Not?

You’ve seen hundreds of them over the years – those little forms asking you for your email and email address – but is your name really that important?

If there’s one thing we can say with certainty, it’s that the harder we make it to become a subscriber, the less likely someone is to do so.

For example, imagine if your form asked for your reader’s cell phone number, age and address too. Do you think your response rates would drop? I think they would.

One further consideration when designing your optin forms is therefore whether you want to request a name as well as an email address. You might decide to split test this with your own audience, and find that asking just for an email actually significantly increases your subscriber numbers.

Equally, try sending out “personalized” emails using the names submitted to you – and then send some out without a name – and just see whether the version with names in has a noticeably higher response rate.

While only you can make this decision, I personally no longer request names on my forms – just email addresses.

In my own tests I’ve found a marked increase in subscribers as a result, and a faster-growing email list at the end.

10 Types of Free Bonus You Can Offer Subscribers

Having the right free gift to encourage readers to become subscribers can have a massive impact on your end result.

The key here is to consider your audience and try brainstorm a free gift that subscribers will receive has inherent value.

Here are some potential options that could make a worthy free gift:

Most Common Email Optin Bonuses

There are four kinds of proven free gifts that are used by the majority of bloggers and authority site owners…

Multi-Day Autoresponder Course

One of the more common free gifts offered is a series of text lessons or tutorials which are sent out by email over an extended period of time.

Just such an example might be a seven-part course on decluttering your home. Each day for their first week after subscribing members receive a new lesson letting them into some more secrets about minimizing and downsizing their possessions.

Such courses can be very appealing, as subscribers know they’ll get a short, sharp lesson each day. These snippets break down a potentially complex subject into a number of actionable steps, making the topic more easily digested.

From the perspective of the site owner such courses give you an opportunity to regularly contact a subscriber in the days or weeks after they sign up. This helps to build name recognition and a degree of trust by regularly sending out valuable content.

By the end of the course your subscribers should be reasonably familiar with who you are.

In this way when they receive your regular newsletter they should know exactly who you are – and should expect that the newsletter offers value. This is likely to lead to higher open rates, and more clicks on any links you include within your newsletter.   

Downloadable Ebook or Report

Probably the most popular free gift to offer subscribers is a free report or ebook in PDF format, designed to reveal important information on a certain topic.

Normally these reports are “short and sweet” and aim to reveal the “best bits” – some super-handy hints.

Rather than being long reads, therefore, your goal when writing such a report is to consider what topics would be particularly appealing for your audience.

What tricks or secrets could you share in a report that would be so tempting that a large proportion of your visitors gladly exchanged their email address for your report?

As an example, here on this website I used to offer a report called “Rapid Traffic Hacks” which aimed to show my readers five super-effective ways to grow your website traffic in a matter of days.

As you might expect from the topic of this website, such a report was well-received and I ended up benefitting from a daily influx of new email subscribers.

Creating such a report is relatively simple: just use your word processor choice such as Google Docs (my tool of choice) or Microsoft Word, then export it as a PDF.

Printables / Checklists

Growing in popularity in recent years has been the creation of “printables” or “checklists”.

Such freebies help visitors to boil down a complex subject into something much simpler and more easily-digested.

They take a series of points and boil them down to a simple and organised “formula”. Your subscribers can then use these as crib-sheets for accomplishing the goals of your website.

If you ran a recipe site, as an example, you could include printables for your most popular recipes, detailing the ingredients of your recipes and instructions.

Subscribers can easily print these out at home and use them at the grocery store or in the kitchen.

A website targeting expats moving to France might offer downloadable checklists, detailing all the various elements that need to be considered, and what paperwork they must complete, before their arrival.

Again, interested parties would find such a bonus very valuable, as they can easily see the whole list of tasks necessary, and then tick these off as they are accomplished.

Resource Lists

A resource list is essentially just a list of your top links, companies or products in a particular niche.

A garden blogger might make available a list of their top 25 places to buy cheap plants, for example.

A blog about learning web design might provide a list of 100+ free web design tutorials online.

A knitting blog might offer a cheat sheet showing 200+ places to download free knitting patterns from around the web, all neatly categorised for ease of use.  

The value here is that you have yourself gone out and found all these great resources that will be of interest to your audience, then you have carefully stuck them all together into one valuable document ready for exploration.

So consider what resources would benefit the readers of your website. What relevant sites, products or companies do you have saved in your bookmarks, for example?

More Unusual Email Optin Bonuses  

While the above options are without doubt the most popular optin bonuses seen on blogs and authority sites today, they are far from the only options. To set your mind running on what you can create as an “ethical bribe” to encourage more people to join your newsletter, consider the following more unique ideas…

Video Training Courses

Rather like our multi-day email autoresponder course, we could move from a purely text-based course to one comprising primarily of videos. Of course, producing good-quality video tutorials is rather more complicated than text-based lessons, but they do potentially offer a number of benefits.

Firstly, in many niches a video course will be seen as more valuable to subscribers. Don’t just tell me how to do amazing eye-shadow effects: create a video and show me first-hand.

Secondly, once you get people watching your videos then you feel more “real” to them. You’re not just a person sending emails to them – instead they can see you, hear your voice, watch your tonation and get to know your personality.

This, in turn, can create a stronger bond between subscriber and blogger, making for greater impact in the future when you send out additional emails.

Software Applications

Bonus gifts don’t necessarily have to be informational at all; they can just as easily be a tool that makes the lives of your subscribers easier. A blog about stock trading could offer a simple stock comparison tool, as an example.

Don’t assume that you must be a programmer to create an awesome tool that your website visitors would gladly subscribe to gain access to.

These days it is quite easy to find freelance coders who will knock up a simple app on a budget for you, if desirable.

Private Communities

If you’re an expert then your readers might appreciate personal access to you, and an opportunity to rub shoulders with other readers.

Often, it can be useful to join a niche-specific community to ask questions, stay motivated and so on.

Whether this is a forum run on your website or a private Facebook group, consider whether a private community would offer value to your email newsletter subscribers.


A complex process is often easier to understand when it is presented in the form of a flow chart.

A few paragraphs ago we mentioned outsourcing software applications to freelance programmers – but what steps should you follow to achieve this?

A flowchart of the design and outsourcing process might prove useful for some readers, allowing them to follow the exact steps from beginning to end, ensuring their project is successful.

Consider, therefore, if there are any complex processes in your vertical which could be turned into flow diagrams for easier comprehension.

Discount Codes

Lastly, some websites offer discount codes and promotions to their email subscribers.

While this is most typically employed by ecommerce stores, if you have a blog or authority site from which you also sell a product such as a premium ebook then you might want to offer a $10 off code for anyone who joins your list.

Free Samples

Giving away a free section of a premium product can also be an appealing option to encourage more email subscribers.

Imagine, for example, that you run a blog about off-grid living, and you also sell an extensive course on your website about setting up solar panels, wind turbines and more.

The course is expensive, and no doubt some visitors are wavering over whether or not the course is right for them.

In this instance many websites will offer the first chapter for free in exchange for an email address.

The visitors gets some free valuable free content, and an opportunity to assess your product, while you can now contact that lead on multiple occasions, encouraging them to buy your premium course.

How to Brainstorm Valuable Optin Bonus Ideas

There is a direct correlation between the perceived value of your optin gift and the number of people that will sign up for your email list.

The more valuable that visitors feel your freebie is, the more of them will happily exchange their email address for it.

A key step in promoting your blog or affiliate website with email marketing is therefore to brainstorm some truly valuable freebies you could create. Here are some questions to set your mind running:

  • Which of your blog posts are performing most strongly, and what bonus could you create around this popular topic?
  • What are the most common questions that you receive from your readers – either through your comments section or contact form?
  • What topics are always coming up on forums, in Facebook groups or on Reddit that you have a fantastic answer to?
  • What surprising secrets, resources or processes would your site visitors love to have revealed?
  • What are the things that beginners in your vertical regularly get wrong, or don’t understand properly?
  • How can you reduce the “learning curve” for your site visitors, and help them to achieve results faster?
  • What complex concept or process could you simplify into a single unified process, flow chart of checklist?
  • What is the biggest promise or benefit that you could offer in the form of a report, email course or other freebie?
  • What are your greatest achievements to date in your chosen niche – and what can you do to help your readers to replicate this success?
  • What lessons or resources do you wish you knew about when you first got started?
  • What free gifts are other websites in your niche offering to their own subscribers? Which of these seem to offer the most value, or have the most appeal to you?

Using the above questions as a starting point for your research you should very quickly be able to generate a list of potential ideas before selecting the one that seems to offer the greatest value for visitors.

As a final note, be aware that you don’t necessarily need to have only one free gift for subscribing.

An increasing number of bloggers and authority site owners actually create a number of free gifts. In this way you can therefore boast that subscribers will receive five different reports – rather than just one.

Additionally, if you have free gifts designed specifically to appeal the readers of your most successful articles, or addressing key points in the various categories of your blog, then you can promote your most “relevant” freebie depending on what visitors are reading.

If they’re in reading an article in your dog food category then they can be offered your “10 Secrets About Dog Food That Manufacturers Don’t Want You to Know” while if reading an article about basic dog training they will be offered your report entitled “How to Teach Your Dog Ten Commands This Weekend”.

As you can see, the more closely-aligned your free gift is to the topic that a reader is exploring the more appealing your bonus is likely to be.

Luckily, it is easy to set up such a system with a tool like OptinMonster, using different optin forms for different bonus gifts on different pages, categories or sections of your website.

The Importance of “Selling” Your Optin Gift

One of the most common mistakes I see other bloggers making is that they don’t “sell” their optin gift.

They create a boring-looking popup form that reveals virtually nothing about why someone would want their free gift – and then wonder why so few people are opting into their email list.

The best optin gift for your blog is so valuable that you almost feel that you should be selling it rather than giving it away.

This is a good sign that you’ve landed on a winning idea for your subscribers.

At the same time, however, you shouldn’t assume that your visitors will be quite as excited as you are. While busily surfing the web your visitors simply may not realize just how valuable the gift you’re offering really is.

To maximize your optins it is therefore critical to educate your site visitors – to show them why your bonus gift is so valuable.

Imagine that you decided that you were going to sell the course or ebook as a paid product, and use this approach to help you demonstrate the value that your optin bonus offers.

A few ideas to make your gift appear as valuable as possible include:

Have a cover made for your report so that visitors can visualize the product they’ll shortly be downloading.

Give your optin freebie an appealing, exciting title. Dispense with calling your report the “Tomato Gardening Guide” and instead call it “15 Tricks for Tastier Tomatoes and Larger Harvests – Every Time”. You get the idea – make the title so appealing and tempting that people will be desperate to subscribe just to see what secrets you reveal.

Use bullet points or descriptive text to explain the biggest benefits of your free gift. Lay out the most important ways in which readers will benefit from your guide. Aim to show the value offered in exchange for providing their email address.

If it is appropriate consider even using testimonials from current subscribers to show just how much they enjoyed your report.

In short, consider the techniques that other website owners use to sell a product, and apply these same strategies to your own free gift. Doing so will make it as appealing as possible, thus boosting optin rates.

Where to Put Optin Forms on Your Website

Let’s start with the bad news: I can’t tell you exactly where to put your optin forms on your website.

How come?

The reality is that every blog design is different, as is every niche.

What’s more, your opinions as a blogger or site owner will also likely have an impact on where you put your optin forms. As an example, more “aggressive” form placements send to perform better than subtler placements.

All the same – many bloggers and their readers loathe the idea of a great big popup window – whether it works or not.

What we can do however is talk about some proven “rules” for selecting what optin forms to use on your site and where to put them for maximum impact…

More Forms Are Better Than Fewer

If you’re serious about building a successful website to produce long term passive income for you and your family then building your email list should be your number one consideration.

The first lesson to appreciate is that the more opportunities you give visitors to subscribe to your email list, the more of them likely will.

Therefore skip the beginner mistake of having just one single optin form hidden away in some unnoticed part of your website; and instead consider adding multiple forms to your site.

Of course, only you can decide how many forms are too many but I would suggest that most pages of your site should have at least two or three different optin forms.

Done well, this doesn’t need to be overwhelming; using a range of designs it is easy enough to add an optin form in your blog header, one within your post and a popup or slide-in for first-time visitors with detracting too much from your content.

Aggressive Form Placements Work Well

Some areas of your website are far more visible than others, just as some types of optin form are more aggressive.

Consider, for example, the proportion of your visitors who see your blog header, versus how many get right to end of your articles.

If you ever track such a thing you’ll be astonished at how many of your readers stop reading before reaching the bottom of your post – no matter how well-written it is.

As you scroll down the page, so the number of readers falls off. For this reason, placing optin forms higher up the page tends to work best.

The same can be said of the forms themselves; those forms that cannot be ignored tend to result in the best response rates. Some of the top-performing email optin forms are:

  • Popups
  • Welcome Mats
  • Slide-Ins
  • Feature Boxes

If you’re willing to experiment with such aggressive types of forms then you’ll likely see your subscriber list growing much more quickly.

On the other hand, be aware that such aggressive forms can reduce the user experience of your site if you’re not careful.

You therefore need to decide carefully whether sacrificing your visitor experience slightly is enough to grow your email list more aggressively.

Content Upgrades Are Gold

When a relevant bonus is offered within your content – one that expands on and adds to the topic of the blog post – the results can be astonishing.

Fortunately, such a tactic doesn’t need to be overly aggressive; you can simply include one or two content upgrade boxes within your top blog posts and gain new subscribers every day.

Whether you opt for aggressive popups and welcome mats or not, implementing content upgrades is a very powerful strategy that anyone can use to rapidly grow their email list – without the risk of annoying their readers.

Sidebar Forms Tend to Perform Badly

We live in a world where mobile devices are gaining market share all the time. Personally, quite a few of my websites receive considerably more traffic from phones than they do with users on computers.

Here’s the thing though; when you blog is seen on a smaller device your whole theme can change.

The most common change that occurs in response blog themes is that the sidebar gets relocated to the bottom of the page. Above this sit your header and content, meaning that anyone visiting your website on their phone probably won’t see your sidebar.

While there are still an overwhelming number of bloggers lovingly pasting optin forms into their sidebar, for maximum results it’s not a strategy I’d recommend; at least not if you only plan to have a single optin form on each page of your site.

Try Not to Overwhelm Your Visitors

While aggressive list building strategies can work well, it’s also important to consider your users. Too many popups, animations and forms can just frustrate visitors – and send them away.

There are a few blogs that I used to read, that I no longer visit at all for this very reason. As soon as you click on an article you’re immediately slammed with so many different forms that it’s impossible to enjoy their content – so I unsubscribed and they lost a regular reader.

Your job as a site owner is to tweak and test your forms to find the perfect compromise between email signup rates and visitor experience.

Split Test a Variety of Optin Forms

Using a professional-grade tool like OptinMonster to build email subscription forms you’re able to create dozens of different types of form. The only way you’ll know for certain what works best for your unique blog theme, vertical and audience is by testing a range of different form styles.

This is one of the reasons why I recommend a more fully-featured tool like OptinMonster, which allows you to create everything from in-post forms, to popups, slide-ins, ribbons, content upgrades and more.

Using this single tool you can create almost any form possible, and then split test them against one another to see which forms bring you the very best results.

Experiment With Different Placements

Alongside testing out different types of forms you should also consider split testing the location of different forms – a simple exercise with OptinMonster.

For example, create an in-post subscription form, then split test having it at the top of your post or half way down. Over time you’ll be able to decide on the best arrangement of forms for your website based on science rather than on guesswork.

General Rules

If you’re just getting started with building your email list, of course, there are so many possible options it can be hard to know where to even start. I thought that it might therefore be useful to provide a “starting point” from which to begin your own experiments:

Aggressive Placements

If you want to go all-in and grow your email list as rapidly as possible then consider the following arrangement as a starting point:

  • Pop Up or Welcome Mat
  • Content Upgrades
  • In-Post Forms
Mid-Range Placements

If installing popups on your site is a step too far for your liking then consider eliminating them, and instead introduce a good-looking feature box that will sit at the top of your site, beneath your main header:

  • Feature Box
  • Content Upgrades
  • In-Post Forms
Passive Placements

Lastly, if you’re in a niche where aggressive list building is frowned upon you can still build your email list – just just subtler or more passive placements for your forms, such as:

  • Content Upgrades
  • A Post Footer Form
  • A Sidebar Form

Creating & Sending Email Newsletters

You’ve learned a huge amount so far in this section of the course.

In this section we’ll cover the all-important step of what to send to your subscriber list.

Autoresponders Vs Broadcasts

When it comes to writing emails to your optin subscribers you have two alternatives.

The first type of email you can create is an autoresponder series. This is a selection of emails designed to go out automatically on a schedule that you set, and is triggered whenever someone subscribes.

Perhaps they receive a welcome email as soon as they subscribe.

Then, every other day for the first few weeks they’re sent a selection of useful emails to integrate them into your community, teach them important lessons or point out resources that will be useful for them.

As every subscriber receives this series – whether they opt into your form today or in six months time – your autoresponder series normally comprises of “evergreen” content that won’t be outdated in a few weeks time.

When subscribers reach the end of your pre-written autoresponder series their email address moves to a separate list, which then receives your broadcast emails.

These broadcast emails – your regular newsletters – are sent out at a frequency you decide on and are more likely to include time-sensitive information.

You may include information about a new blog post that you just published, or information about a new product you’ve been testing out, a information on a short-term promotion you just found out about.

Note that you don’t necessarily need to send both types of emails.

If you don’t have the time or inclination then an autoresponder series isn’t absolutely necessary – though it can be a very useful strategy for boosting traffic and revenue.

In the next section we’ll take a closer look at autoresponders, and consider some ways in which such a concept might be of interest to you…

4 Reasons to Consider Writing an Autoresponder Series

An autoresponder can be thought of as a series of pre-written emails that get sent out to new subscribers on a set schedule.

An example might be that new subscribers of yours get eight carefully-written emails, one per week, over the first two months of their subscription. Thereafter they fall into the “regular subscriber” group, which receives standard emails whenever you mail them.

Autoresponders can have a number of potential benefits for bloggers and authority site owners:

Increased Brand Awareness

It’s a sad fact that many of us are subscribed to so many different email lists that we forget who each blogger is and how we got onto their list.

There’s no allegiance to them, and if we’re not careful they become more of an annoyance before long. Then you finally get fed up and unsubscribe.

The worst thing you can possibly be is “invisible” to your subscribers.

Instead you need to be remembered (in a good way), for your subscribers to see you as a real living human, and someone who has got their back. You want your subscribers to keep an eye out for your emails, and to open them eagerly, knowing that they’ll offer value.

An autoresponder can help you to achieve this.

If someone subscribes, then you don’t send out a regular email for a month, they may well have forgotten who you are by then. Unsubscribe.

But if in the period since subscribing they’ve received a series of carefully-written emails all building up value then your name will be familiar to them. They’ll be more likely to open future emails, and less likely to unsubscribe.

Heck, if you’ve done things well they may actually look forward to your emails – and open them as a priority when they arrive.  

Building Trust / Awareness

Just as regular initial contact with your subscribers can be helpful for educating them about who you are and the value that you offer, an autoresponder series can also build trust over time.

In that series of emails you can talk about yourself – your history, your experiences and so on.

You can become real to your readers – not just a business who cares only for themselves.

Including personal information – stories, anecdotes and experiences – can help you to build a relationship with your readers and encourages them to trust your opinions and suggestions. Once again, this helps to maintain open rates, but can also be beneficial for driving traffic back to your site.

After all, if your readers learn to trust you, aren’t they going to be more likely to click the link in that email?

Highlight Most Popular Content

You’ve probably got a few articles that you’re particularly proud of. You know the ones; perhaps they took you days of work to create because they’re just so full of useful information.

Maybe they’re shorter, but somehow hit a nerve with your readers, and have gotten thousands of social shares or comments as a result.

Your autoresponder series is a perfect place to highlight these most popular articles, drawing ever more new readers to them.

Not only do you benefit from additional traffic, but of course your readers also benefit from a continual stream of popular, high-performing content being sent their way.

Drive Additional Revenue

Lastly, of course, your autoresponder has the potential to rapidly grow your revenue.

By including product recommendations within your email autoresponder series you’ll be able to drive significantly more clicks to your affiliate partners – and see a noticeable increase in commissions as a result.

Pro Tip: Try deliberately subscribing to some email newsletters in your niche. Pay attention to what they do, and how they do it, noting what you’re particularly impressed by.

In this way you can very quickly gather a whole host of ideas for your own autoresponder series; one that helps to build a relationship with your subscribers very quickly while also producing measurable results for your business.

Types of Email Newsletters (aka What Will You Send?)

Broadly speaking there are two kinds of email newsletters that are sent by bloggers, authority site owners and affiliate marketers. These are:

“Focus Emails” – Designed with a single purpose in mind, such as letting subscribers know about a new blog post or a sale that you’re having.

“Magazine Emails” – An email which covers a range of topics, such as providing links to a number of blog posts you’ve published recently.

When starting an email newsletter it therefore makes sense to consider these two different types of newsletters, and whether you’ll use both formats or just one.

You might, for example, opt to send a monthly email to your subscribers as standard. This “magazine email” could include links to all the posts that you’ve published that month, industry-specific new and any articles from other bloggers that caught your attention.

Alongside this regular feature you might send out a “focus email” whenever a new article goes live on your site for a sudden influx of visitors.

Plain Text Versus HTML Emails

Most email service providers will allow you to send two different types of emails. First are the standard “traditional” plain text emails that you probably send to your family and friends.

The second option is an HTML email that looks far more professional and flashy. Many such messages look more like a web page or a flyer than they do a traditional email.

So which should you choose?

Here some factors to consider when deciding on plain text versus HTML emails…


There’s no denying that a fancy HTML email looks a lot more professional than an old-fashioned text email.

HTML email newsletters allow you to include your blog logo, photographs such as a picture of you and so on.

In other words HTML emails can be far better “branded” than a text-only email.

To this end there’s little doubt that an HTML newsletter greatly outdoes a text-only email.

Spam Scores

Have you ever wondered how emails from your friends land in your main email inbox, whilst emails from companies often end up in your spam or junk folder?

At least a part of this is down to the differences in email format.

In brief, an HTML email is far more likely to end up getting caught in the spam filters than a text-only email. The end result of this can be fewer people even seeing your emails, let alone opening them and clicking over to your website.

Over the years I’ve have been on hundreds of email lists from fellow bloggers and I have found that those sites sending HTML emails are far more likely to get missed by me, as Gmail and Outlook carefully filter these out and dump them in a folder I don’t look at.  

In general, therefore, a plain text email newsletter is likely to have considerably higher open rates than the flashier HTML equivalent.


Have you ever opened an HTML email only for it’s formatting to look all “weird”?

There’s a simple reason for this: HTML emails need to download each of the elements in turn, such as all the images that you insert into your email.

If someone has a slow Internet connection these images might not download in time.

For Outlook users, these images in emails are often blocked by default too, further rendering your beautiful HTML email oddly.

While such issues may only affect a fraction of your readers, it’s worth remembering that your HTML email newsletter will look odd to at least a fraction of your readers.

Only you can decide if that is worth the trade-off for the more professional-looking email other subscribers will receive.


Most email software provider, like Aweber, offer powerful tracking capabilities.

For example, you can see how many people opened your email and what proportion clicked a link. With some systems you can even tell which link they clicked on if there is more than one in your email.

Only HTML emails permit such tracking, however. With plain text emails you’re largely flying blind.

Such tracking has a huge number of benefits.

For one, it allows you to measure the impact of your email marketing campaign, ensuring that you’re getting the best results possible.

Secondly it’s a great way to identify the topics that are of greatest interest to your subscribers.

When you find that there are certain topics that always get more clicks than others you know that creating more content, and sending more emails, that cover this topic is likely to be well-received.

Appealing Links

We’re not starting an email newsletter as a public information service; we’re hoping to also benefit from all the work of writing emails to our list.

We want clicks from our emails – clicks back to our website, or to products that we’re an affiliate for.

HTML emails have a distinct benefit here, as they make it easy to create visually-appealing links just as one would find on a website. This can significantly increase the proportion of readers who actually click on the links that you’ve worked so hard to include there.

Links in text-only email just don’t compare very well – and often look far less appealing – which can result in fewer clicks.

Ease of Creation

Writing a text email couldn’t be simpler. We write such emails every day to our friends and family.

An HTML email, however, requires a little more effort.

We need to create what is in essence a small web page with our email content in it and send it out.

If you’re pressed for time, therefore, you may want to prioritize a text-only newsletter.

Fortunately if you like the idea of creating a funky HTML email it needn’t be as difficult as you might initially think. In reality, most decent modern email list services actually provide a range of templates that you can modify.

Rather like using Snappa to create your Pinterest images, therefore, you can quickly create eye-catching and professional-looking HTML emails by easily modifying an existing template.

In a few minutes we’ll look at exactly how to do just that…

How to Set Up an Autoresponder Series in Aweber

Setting up an autoresponder in most email clients is surprisingly easy.

In this section of the course I’ll show you how easy it is to set up an autoresponder series – such as you might use for an email course.

While I’ll be using Aweber – my tool of choice – once you know how to set an autoresponder in any software you’ll find the setup process pretty similar in different tools.

Start off by creating a brand new list, which our blog visitors will subscribe to.

From here we select the “Create a Campaign” button.

Aweber - creating an autoresponder campaign 1

This brings up a beautifully clear window allowing us to set up our autoresponder series.

You will notice in the screen capture below that we have a left-hand menu giving us the option to “Send a Message” or to “Wait”. In the main pane to the right we can see our autoresponder series.

All we need to do is drag from the left menu into the main pane. Here I’ve just dragged in  a “Send a Message” option from the left-hand menu, and you can see that it appears in our main window.

Clicking on the “edit” option for the message lets us write the message that we want going out to our subscribers.

Writing a message in Aweber

Paste in the content of your email, click save and move along.

Next we can drag in a “Wait” box from the left-hand menu.

Note that just as with our messages, we can click on the “edit” option at any time to decide how long Aweber should wait before completing the next step of our campaign.

And so we just layer these messages and wait times, deciding on the content of each message and how long to wait between sending messages until our autoresponder campaign is complete.

Once you’ve written the content of your autoresponder emails it takes a matter of moments to set up your first campaign. 

How to Create an HTML Email

Creating your first email newsletter doesn’t need to be complex.

Most email service providers like Aweber and ConvertKit offer a range of pre-made templates which you can easily modify, in order to create a polished final design with very little technical knowledge.

In this sectionl we’ll look at just how easy it is to create a great-looking HTML newsletter from scratch.

I’ll use Aweber, my preferred tool of choice, in this section. If you prefer to use an alternative mail provider, however, most offer similar tools.

Firstly, click on the big green “Create a Message” button in your account and then select the “Drag & Drop Email Builder” option from the dropdown menu. 

Creating an HTML email in Aweber 1

This will then open up the main window in which you’ll create your HTML email.

A good first step here is to click on the “Templates” button on the right of the window.

Creating an HTML email in Aweber 2

This will bring up a window containing hundreds of different pre-made templates. Note that many templates also come in a range of color schemes, so you can almost certainly find one that perfectly matches your site.

Simply select the template that you like the look of to load it in the main editing window.

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Once your chosen template is saved, you can then edit it as necessary.

Note the range of options in the left-hand menu.

Here you can drag in everything from headlines to images to social sharing buttons. Simply drop them into your newsletter and format them as you see fit.

Creating an HTML email in Aweber 4

Using this simple “drag and drop” HTML email builder you can very quickly put together a fantastic-looking email newsletter very quickly indeed – with no technical knowledge.

How to Build a Thankyou or Confirmation Page

The page that new subscribers are taken to moments after filling in your form is critical.

This is their very first glimpse “behind the scenes” of your site, and so can set the tone for your future relationship with them.

Your thankyou page is also a great opportunity to encourage further action: simply because that person has already made a “micro commitment” by entering their email address.

Right now, they’re a hot property.

They’ve had the time and the motivation to join your list, so this is a great opportunity to show them your very best stuff and encourage further action.

Generally speaking most bloggers will require two different pages that can be shown after a subscriber joins your list.

If you’re using a single optin form then of course you’ll want to send new subscribers to a page that confirms their subscription. If the free gift that you offered new subscribers is downloadable (an ebook, for example) then it’s tempting to place this download on the confirmation page.

Personally, however, I like to do things a little differently.

I have found that people are very keen on entering any old junk email address into subscription forms, in the hope that they will be taken straight to my download page after clicking the button.

Clearly, these fake email addresses are of no value, so I don’t like to reward such behaviour.

Instead, I prefer to offer the download on a second page. On the initial confirmation page I let new subscribers know that I’ll be emailing a download link to the address they just provided.

In this way, legitimate subscribers can go straight to their inbox and access the promised bonus, while anyone entering a junk email address will be sorely disappointed 😉

If, on the other hand, you opt to build a double optin list then you’ll certainly need two such pages.

The first page will be seen after filling in your form, and will remind them that they need to open the confirmation email you just sent and click the link it contains. After clicking on this link they’ll then be taken to our download page.

In other words, no matter whether you’re using single or double optin email you’ll probably be needing two different pages: a confirmation page and a download page.

But what should you be putting on these critical pages…?

Confirmation of Subscription

First and foremost on your confirmation page you’ll want to include a message that let’s your shiny new subscriber know that their subscription has been processed!

With so many unloved or broken websites out there we want to provide instant gratification that the form worked properly – and that their free bonus is currently winging it’s way in their direction.

This establishes trust instantly, and helps to reduce any concerns that your subscriber might have had about entering their email address in your form.

Action Steps

The second element you’ll want on your confirmation page are a list of any action steps that your new subscriber should take or be aware of.

For example, you’ll want to tell them to keep an eye out for an email from you that will tell them where to download their free bonus.

Alternatively, if your free gift is an email course, let them know when they can expect to receive the very first part, and how frequently you’ll be sending out future lessons.

The goal here is once again to build trust and establish a relationship, helping your new subscriber to do whatever is necessary to get the full benefit from their subscription.

Highlight Your Social Media Profiles

When someone has taken an action like joining your email newsletter then they may well consider taking other actions too.

Your confirmation and download pages can therefore be a fantastic opportunity to let your new subscriber know where you’re active on social media, and why they might want to connect with you there.

Highlight Your Top Posts

Which posts on your blog have been most successful with readers?

Which ones are likely to be most most help to new subscribers? Also – which ones earn you the most money?

Your confirmation or download page can be a great place to include links to these articles, driving further pageviews on your site while offering help to new subscribers who may otherwise be overwhelmed with the volume of content on your website.

Recommend Relevant Products

If you’ve chosen the niche of your site well then there are likely to be products that you have created, or that you are an affiliate for.

Providing information on these products with links to them can be a very effective way to grow the revenue of your site.

This is especially so if the product you are recommending is very closely-aligned to the bonus product that your new subscriber just signed up for.

As an example, if your free bonus is a report outlining your top five SEO hacks, then recommending a complete SEO course as a great way to further their knowledge would probably perform very well indeed.

Provide a Surprise!

Everyone loves a nice surprise, so why not help to build rapport with your subscribers by offering one on your download page?

If you have more than one free gift that you’ve created, for example, you could include all of these on one download page, allowing your subscriber to pick and choose from a far wider range of freebies than they realized they were getting!

The goal here is simply to build further rapport and to be seen as someone that can be trusted to exceed expectations.

Contact Form

An odd thing that I like to provide on my download or confirmation page is a contact form. Let me tell you why…

I know that when someone has taken the time to subscribe to my email list they’re a highly motivated and qualified individual – exactly the type of person I want coming back to my blog time and again. A great way to do this is to create content that meets their needs.

I therefore like to include a contact form giving new subscribers a chance to introduce themselves, to tell me about their level of experience and what topics they’d particularly like to see covered on my site.

You’ll be astonished at just how many subscribers fill this form in.

This gives you a great opportunity to help your subscribers in person by responding to their email – a really nice touch when your list isn’t too big.

Just as importantly, however, it gives you a constant supply of new content ideas for your site.

By adding the feedback I receive into a spreadsheet I can not only pick the topics that are most commonly requested, but I can even email those subscribers individually to let them know I’ve published the answer to their question.

This, of course, results in instant traffic to the article, as well as helping your email list to stand out from the crowd where most subscribers are passive recipients of emails rather than being actively involved in the development of your site.

A Download Link

Lastly, of course, on your download page you’ll want to include a download link for the free bonus that you promised to your new subscribers.

How to Setup Your Email List

Let’s be honest here for a moment: setting up your very first email newsletter can be technically-challenging.

There are just so many moving parts that you need to get right. Set your list up wrongly and you’ll have no end of problems.

In the hope of making setting up your email newsletter as easy as possible, therefore, to conclude our discussion on list building in this section I’ll walk you through the process of setting up your list from beginning to end.

All you need to do is follow along to fully understand every step in the process, then replicate them to get your email newsletter working in record time.

You’ll find that the steps are in a very particular order, to make the whole setup as efficient as possible. I recommend you implement each step in order rather than skipping ahead as you may find that doing this results in a later step not working properly.

As a final note I’ll be using my two recommended tools here to set up my mailing list – Aweber to manage my email subscribers and OptinMonster to create my form.

I’ll assume that you have subscriptions to both – if not you can sign up to Aweber here and OptinMonster here. Of course, if you decide to go for different software then the appearance of the screen as we go through will differ slightly, though the steps required should still remain roughly equivalent.

Ready? Let’s get going…

Upload Your Free Gift

I like to start setting up a new email list with the very last step – the free bonus that I’m offering. The only exception here is if your free bonus is an email course, in which I enter this at the very end.

For now, however, let’s assume that you have an ebook or report that you’ll be giving to new subscribers.

The first stage is therefore to make this available for download. Possibly the easiest option here is to upload the file to your WordPress media area. Just navigate to Media > Upload, then select the file from the computer and upload it.

How to build your mailing list - 1

Once uploaded, click on the file and make a careful note of it’s URL. This is the link that your subscribers will use to access their free report.

If there is a downside to this method it is that lots of subscribers accessing a large file stand the very real potential of using up bandwidth and slowing down your website.

For this reason, some bloggers like to upload their report to a different service, thus keeping their site loading quickly.

For smaller sites this is unlikely to be an issue, but if you get plenty of traffic I recommend uploading your report to Amazon’s AWS service – a very cost-effective file hosting service that I have found super-simple to use.

Create a Confirmation Page

With our free gift uploaded we can now create our confirmation page.

This is normally simply created as a static page of your blog; just make sure that it doesn’t automatically appear in any of your site menus.

Follow the tips given earlier on to create a memorable confirmation page, considering the various elements discussed in turn.

Publish the page and make a note of its URL as you’ll be needing it a little later on.

Create a Download Page

As the name suggests, this is where your subscribers will actually download their free gift.

As a result, this is the area to make use of the file URL you saved earlier.

Either paste this in as a text link, or if you want to be fancy consider making an attractive download button.

Alongside this, don’t forget what an important page your download page can be, so try to make the most of it.

Publish the page and make a note of its URL as you’ll be needing it a little later on.

Start a New Email List

With our free gift, confirmation and download pages complete we can now start the exciting job of setting up a new email list.

As a reminder I’m using Aweber in the following example, though most tools operate in a similar manner…

Start off by creating a new list for your website by clicking on the green “Create A List” button.

How to build your mailing list - 2

This then opens up a series of windows into which you can enter basic information such as the name of your new list and a description of what subscribers can expect.

How to build your mailing list - 3

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Create Your “Welcome” Email

The first email that your new subscribers receive should direct them straight to your download page.

No messing around here; we want our new subscribers to be able to access their free bonus as quickly and easily as possible.

Luckily, this is very easy to do.

In this example we’ll assume that you’re creating a double optin list, and we’ll modify the confirmation email that will be sent after signup.

When our new subscriber clicks the link in this email to confirm their subscription they’ll be taken straight to our download page to access their bonus.

While setting up your list you’ll next land on the “Confirmation Message” screen.

Select one of the pre-written confirmation emails from the dropdown menu, and if desirable click on the blue “edit” button to customize the email for your site.

How to build your mailing list - 5

Scroll down the page until you come to the “Success Page” area. This is where you paste in the URL of your download page. 

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Click on “Save Settings” and lets move along.

Connect Your Autoresponder & Subscriber Software

Next we need to connect your email software with your list building software – so that the two tools can communicate with one another.

The last thing we want is for a subscriber to carefully fill in our subscription form, only for the form not to know what to do with their details!

Start by navigating to your OptinMonster account, and select the “Add Site” option in the “Sites” menu.

How to build your mailing list - 7

Type in the name and URL of your blog or authority site.

Once saved, next navigate to the API section of OptinMonster and click on the green “Create New Key” button.

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Finally, go into your WordPress website where you have installed the OptinMonster plugin and paste this API code into the “API Credentials” section.

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Click save and lets move on to the next section.

Build an Optin Subscription Form

We’re pretty much all ready to go now! The final step – which is the most fun in my opinion – is to create one or more forms through which visitors can subscribe.

As a reminder, I’m using OptinMonster in this example, as it’s so easy to set up a great-looking new form from scratch.

Start off by selecting the type of optin form that you’d like to create from the wide range of options.

How to build your mailing list - 9

For this sake of this tutorial I’ve selected a popup, though you could create a slide-in, sidebar form or more.

Once you’ve select the type of optin form you want, the next step is to choose a base template from one of the dozens of fantastic pre-made alternatives…

OptinMonster Templates

Your chosen template will then load, ready for editing.

Note that the editing screen has a left-hand menu which allows you to modify every element of your form – everything from the color scheme to the font to the text content.

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The “Display Rules” is particularly handy, as it allows you to decide how often your form appears, on which devices, and how soon after arrival. This allows you to create attention-grabbing forms without being annoying.

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Lastly, we just need to connect it to our autoresponder software. In the “Integrations” menu select your email provider from the dropdown menu.

How to build your mailing list - 12

Test Everything

The last step in setting up your email list involves testing every aspect of it.

We don’t want someone adding their email address, only for it not to be added to our software.

We also don’t want someone subscribing but then not getting their download, or being taken to the wrong page.

The only way to be certain is to become a guinea pig.

Here I therefore like to choose one of my various email addresses and walk through the whole process…

Add your email address to your form and click the button.

  • Do you get taken to the right confirmation page?
  • How does the page look? Is it clear, welcoming and friendly?
  • Does it tell us what we need to do next?

I then click over to my email – has the confirmation message arrived?

  • Does the email look good; no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors?
  • Click the link – do you get taken to the download page?
  • How does the page look?
  • Can you download the product without issue?

If you’re able to tick off each of the above checks then you should be fully set up to start growing your email list. The only remaining question, of course, is what you’ll actually send them…

Bonus Step: If you have opted to create an autoresponder series for new subscribers then be sure to set this up correctly and test this too.

Hopefully by now you feel confident about the process of list building and email marketing. 

You understand the different types of email optin forms you can create, which ones get the best results, together with how to create these forms.

You know the different types of emails that you can send, how to design an HTML email and how to set up your autoresponder to work seamlessly with your form.

All you need to do now if to take action. Start putting some thought into the perfect free gift for your visitors, sign up for an autoresponder account and start growing your list.

Coming Up Next...

Now that you’re a pro when it comes to list building in the next section we’ll look at one more way to generate repeat traffic for your blog or affiliate site

Click over to the next lesson where we’ll discuss using Push Notifications to generate even more traffic, before we move onto the really exciting business of turning visitors into revenue…

Let’s go >>>

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