Growing and Grooming an Email List for More Income

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I recently made a decision to invest in growing my email list. The results? I went from 600 to 1500 subscribers in 60 days. My normal $300-$500 blogging income skyrocketed to $2,500 the month I did a product launch with this list (the launch happened over 8 days.)  Before I get into details of how this came about, let me give you some background on myself and my blog.

I consider myself a relatively new blogger even though my blog has been around for almost 3 years. It wasn’t until the last few months that a career change forced me to seriously consider my personal finance blog as a viable source of income. My blog started off as a fun place to opine and and tell readers (if I had any) about my day or provide cutesy budgeting tips. Once I was faced with the dilemma of extracting income from my hobby blog, I was stumped.

My Facebook posts weren’t getting much exposure, SEO was a very small amount of my web traffic and my in-person networking efforts had been slow to yield results. The few thousand people that did visit my website came and left without a trace. How on earth could I sell anything to anyone if no one was even listening?

Maybe the internet pundits were right: blogging is dead. If that was the truth, then I was essentially wasting my time and my blog income proved it.


I heard stories. I knew of people who were blogging and making money at it. Some of these people had been at it for some time and others were around my “blogging age” and yet others were “younger” in their blogging career.

If the blog was dead, then how were people supporting their families and leaving their traditional jobs to be successful online entrepreneurs?

My curiosity and desperation would soon get the best of me.

So, I did what any desperate blogger would do. I stalked, ahem…observed, as many successful online entrepreneurs to see what made the difference in their reach and income growth. I even checked out the ones that were newbies with smaller audiences like mine. The recurring theme was clear: a relentless focus on building an email list.

Was that it? Of course it wasn’t the sole factor as quality content and relatable themes would have to keep an audience engaged for the long run. At the end of the day, we must, above all, have a passion for helping people. But in order to reach anyone in blogland, getting them on an email list is a big part of marketing the solution you might have to their problems.

I had tried so many things, but I figured an intense focus on building my email list was worth a try. I’ll cover some of the tactics I used to nearly triple my email list in 60 days, but I want to first talk about the email marketing philosophy I adopted that was essential to disrupting my “hobby blog” mentality. This attitude shift caused me change the entire way that I approached my online business and the recent income boost proves it.

Being in the game without an email list wasn’t a total loss, it just exposed me to the brutal truth about online business: the internets are fickle, so you better have a back-up plan. Even better, be totally intentional with a laser-focused priority around building your email list. Algorithms change, traffic dips, platforms become passé, but email marketing is the lifeline that can keep your business afloat in the toughest times. Once this revelation clicked, I got to down to business. I began to rework posts, profiles and ads for one reason: to grow my email list.

If you are reading this, chances are you are no stranger to list building tactics, but again this is written from a newbie, so bear with me as I recite some things you may be familiar with or be reminded of. Either way, here are few things I changed:

More Opt-Ins

This might seem like a no-brainer, but I need to mention the obvious because that’s what often goes most overlooked. If you want more opt-ins to your list, you’ve got to increase the places on your website or any other web platform where people can actually opt-in.

Originally, I had only one sidebar opt-in and a pop up that worked sometimes. Now, I’m an opt-in beast. Not only do I have opt-in boxes on the sidebar and footer of my site, I’ve added opt-in boxes along with related content upgrades on my most popular posts. If a reader gets to the bottom of the post, the only natural conclusion you want them to reach is that they need to get more of your awesome content by signing up for your email list. I also have some posts that have “naked” or stripped down versions of opt-in boxes smack dab in the middle of the content. Here’s an example of a post that has performed well for traffic, income and opt-ins. You’ll notice the “naked” form in the middle and the “full” form at the bottom.

grow your list with more opt-ins

I also have a pop up with an awesome lead magnet set to trigger when a user tries to exit the site and a horizontal bar on some posts for additional opt-in prompting. If this weren’t enough, I’ve got a pretty disruptive Welcome Mat by SumoMe Pro on a separate page that is triggered once someone comes to the website from any traffic source.

grow your list with more opt-ins

On social media landing pages and profiles, I also replaced generic URLs with ones that take people to an opt-in offer.

grow your list with social media opt-ins

Publishing on Create an opt-in page in your preview page. Have an email signature? Swap out those generic URLs for ones with opt-in pages. The list of places you can place opt-in links goes on and on, but for every creative place you put an opt-in, it just means that your strategy for list growth is taking center stage.

More Tools

I bit the bullet and spent money on the tools that would cause my list to grow. I’ve always tried to keep my blog expenses on par with my income. However, my new email growth strategy demanded an upfront investment in tools that would grow my income. Isn’t that what business is about? I took the leap and invested in a more sales-friendly email service provider: ConvertKit plus a very complimentary solution that added a few bells and whistles designed for rapid email list growth: SumoMe Pro. SumoMe Pro contains a suite of email list growth solutions like the Welcome Mat I mentioned plus the Smart Bar, List Builder, Heat Map, and tons of other apps  I’m sure I’m neglecting to mention.

grow your list by upgrading your tools

Upgrading cost money, but it was money well-spent, as it would eventually result in a 400% increase in my blog income over 3 months.

More Traffic

I hadn’t focused on traffic growth under the guise of “I don’t care about the numbers.” However, we all know that without traffic, your list growth will painfully slow. I haven’t totally cracked the traffic code, but I did start to use automated tools like CoSchedule and BoardBooster to help with editorial scheduling and social media posting.  I already had in place to optimize my social media reach. SEO tactics are in the works, but so far social media has been driving most of my traffic, which in turns fuels my list growth.

More Tracking

Tracking what’s performing and what’s not is key. This is why I suggest you invest your time and money in tools with prominent reporting features. Both ConvertKit and SumoMe have list growth and conversion rates displayed in a conspicuous manner allowing you to see your daily and weekly goals being realized in real-time.

Our free tool List Goal is another way to easily track your email marketing results. It's a browser extension available for both Chrome and Firefox that lets you set and track your goals for list growth for many email lists and subscriber groups as you want, and monitor your list health to make sure everything is working as it should. It shows all of this automatically in a simple dashboard any time you open up a new web browser tab which, if you're like a lot of us, is several times per day.

Another good investment is learning to use and consistently implement tracking links like UTM tags or Bitly links. This will help you realize where your opt-ins are coming from. Once you find a sweet spot, scale it! So as you can see, it’s a good habit to capture and monitor analytics that will drive decisions around list growth.

More Testing

Once analytics are more conclusive, it’s time to make changes. If a lead magnet doesn’t convert well, swap it out for one that does. If your non-converting banner isn’t driving opt-ins or sales, swap it out for another one. A/B testing is the name of the game. Test everything you can from subject lines, to copy to images to placement and even font combinations. Find out what’s converting and act accordingly.

More Nurturing

These last two points are not so much about list growth as they are about what you do once your list actually grows. Nurturing leads might not be intuituitve for someone who is not familiar with sales cycles or the idea of a sales process. Once people opt-in, it’s important to stay in touch. Continue to provide value and plant seeds that will grow into interest and eventually into paying customers. I really appreciate that ConvertKit email sequence templates are already designed to help you cultivate leads and prime them to be loyal customers. Again, this is where sales-friendly tools come into play. Invest in them and you won’t be sorry.

More Selling

This seems to be a point of difficulty for online entrepreneurs. Many will have impressive numbers for their reach, but fail to convert those numbers into revenue. This was me for a long time. Don’t be me, however.

Begin to groom your list with a continual stream of educational resources, soft sale pitches, product launches and straightforward asks. For example, I was consistent with providing my subscribers tips on getting out of debt by budgeting and increasing their income. The trust and reliability I built over time translated into over $2,500 in my first product launch. Since then, I’ve had a steady stream of income from recommending affiliate products to my list. If your audience is groomed to expect that you’ll present them with quality solutions, they will likely stick around and eventually buy something. Omit this step, and all this list building is for naught.

The Takeaway

If you are an old pro at list building, you might not have found this article particularly stimulating or innovative. I mention a lot of things that you might already be familiar with or have even mastered. If you are a newbie to blogging or monetizing an online presence, you might think that all these list building tactics are genius and you’ll have to implement everything I mentioned right away. Either way, the takeaway is not the “how” of listing building, but rather the “why.” If you can maintain a renewed sense of passion, focus and intentionality around list building, then you can be certain that your list growth will follow no matter how new or old your are to online marketing.

Aja McClanahan

Aja McClanahan is a blogger and writer who covers topics on personal finance and entrepreneurship. She writes regularly for her own blog and other online publications.

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