email list

How to use your website as an email list building machine

7 min read
Raubi Marie Perilli

If the rules of sales are ABC — always be closing, the rules of websites are ABB — always be building. Your website needs to be designed and optimized to help you build your email list.

An email list is your brand’s most effective tool for connecting with your audience.

Unlike Facebook fans or Twitter followers, an email list belongs to you, the brand who built it. It is unaffected by algorithms or changes in posting policies. As trends and usability on the internet change, one thing will remain the same: Your email list will always be your direct link to your audience, allowing you share your content, promote your offerings, and keep in touch with your fans.

So, here are a few ways you can use your website to grow your email list and always be building.

Create an enticing opt-in

Growing your email list starts with giving your audience a reason to join. There are three main ways to entice your audience to give you their email address.

Newsletter subscription

A very simple and basic approach is just to ask. You can invite your audience to join your list and receive your newsletter. If you are offering amazing content, products or services, there is a chance your audience may sign up so they can receive your updates. But more than likely, you’ll need to offer more to get your readers to sign up.

Core offer

An effective way to encourage audiences to sign up for your email list is by giving away a core offer. The audience gives you their information in exchange for an irresistible offer that relates to your brand’s core products, services or beliefs. That might include one or more of the following free offers.

  • Webinar
  • Ebook or guide
  • First chapter of ebook or guide
  • Video
  • Audio recordings
  • Email series
  • Challenge
  • Access to exclusive community
  • Mini-Course or training
  • Worksheet or PDF
  • Fun downloadable (wallpaper, stock photo, game, etc.)
  • Entry in a contest
  • Members-only content
  • Coupons or discounts

Content upgrade

Unlike a core offer, a content upgrade is directly tied to one page or post on your website. On that page or post, you provide free content, and then you invite your audience to learn more or get more by opting in for your content upgrade.

Once you have an enticing offer for your audience, promote it on your site through opt-ins.

Add opt-ins throughout your site

Make sure it’s easy for your audience to opt-in to your offerings and join your list. Add opt-in opportunities around your site so viewers have a few options and chances to join your list.

On the About page: Even though an About page is one of the most viewed pages on many websites, it rarely gets the love it deserves. Don’t neglect this page. Fill it will valuable content that says who you are and why you are important to your audience, and then add an opt-in box so interested audiences can follow you to learn more.

Give your website’s About page the love it deserves with opt-ins.

In a feature box: One of the most noticeable changes in website design is the introduction of large feature opt-in boxes that appear at the top of a web page. Websites are using these boxes because they are a great way to catch immediate attention and draw audiences into opt-in offers.

In a hello bar: Unlike the feature box, which takes up a large amount of space on a web page, the hello bar is a thin strip that runs along the top or the bottom of a page.

At the top of the sidebar: Another above-the-fold option with prime visibility are opt-ins in the first section of the sidebar.

After a single post: If someone reads to the end of your post, you have their attention. So snag it by adding an opt-in offer after the post.

In the footer of your site: The footer might be the last piece of your website an audience sees before closing out of your website. Use it as one last chance to grab their attention and get their contact info.

You don’t need to use opt-ins in all of these locations as it can make your site look a little spammy. Test out a few locations and see what works best for you, your audience, and your content offerings. Then, do more of what works.

Try pop-ups (even if you don’t want to)

Most of us don’t like pop-ups — which are sometimes referred to as “lightboxes,” so we assume our audiences won’t like them either and leave them off our sites.

But statistics show that while the perceptions of pop-ups remain less than stellar, pop-ups are an incredibly effective way to grow your email list. An article, “Opt-in Pop-Ups: Are They Any Good?” on the Crazy Egg blog lists multiple cases where opt-in pop-ups dramatically increased conversion rates.

  • A food and craft blogger added a lightbox opt-in and got 1,375% more subscribers.
  • A photography blog went from getting 40 to 400 subscribers a day after adding a pop-up.
  • A recipe blog increased their opt-in rates by 10 times after adding pop-ups.
Email Newsletter Popups

So there is something to be said about the power of opt-ins. Adding a lightbox to your site might help you see an increase in your conversion rates. If you decide to give it a shot, use these tips to get the most out of your pop-up opt-ins.

  1. Choose the best, most relevant opt-in offer. Offer something that your audience will really want. You can’t annoy your audience if you are giving them something amazing for free.
  2. Use a professional, cohesive design. Don’t just add the first pop-up design you see. Use a custom design that matches the look, feel and level of professionalism of the rest of your website.
  3. Use an engaging, actionable title. Copy is important in pop-ups. Spend time crafting the perfect title that reveals the benefits of opting in and makes the offer irresistible.
  4. Get the timing right. Don’t annoy users with an immediate pop-up. According to a study by AppSumo, lightboxes that open after five seconds on a web page are the most effective.
  5. Add social proof. If you have a large following, let your audience know in your pop-up. Use language like, Join the other 5,000 subscribers…, Our 30K Facebook Fans Like Our Content..., or something similar.
  6. Don’t have too many fields. You need a field for the email address and maybe the user’s first name. But don’t add so many fields that signing up for your list feels like work.

Pop-ups might initially sound like a list-building tactic you want to avoid. But by using these strategies you may find yourself with a growing email list and different outlook on lightboxes.

Test, test, test to grow your email list

The last way to improve your site’s ability to grow your email list is to test, test, and test again. Regularly change up the elements of your opt-ins and offers to see what increases or decreases your conversion rates to fine tune your strategy and get the most subscribers possible.

Email list building is an important, if not the most important, task of your website.

So get to work and let me know how it goes. Shoot me a tweet @RaubiMarie to tell me what changes you made to your listing building tactics and what changes are coming your way as a result of your work.

Or if you need more advice on just getting started, check out this Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Email List.