How to Build an Email List From Scratch

This is the ultimate guide on how to create & build an email list from scratch for a blog. Have you been struggling with list building?

Having a hard time growing your email list? Well, the saying is true, the money IS in the list.

Don’t worry, this comprehensive guide will show you everything you need to succeed at building your list.

How to create an Email List

Growing your list has so many benefits including:

  • Sharing a message with your audience
  • Building a bond and creating a loyal readership
  • Making money with your blog
  • Driving traffic to a piece of content or a cause
  • And, more!

Why is an email list important?

Email lists give you the chance to talk directly to your audience. You don’t have to wait for them to come to your website or login into social media to see your content. Instead, you get to go directly to their email inbox.

While blog posts, social media posts, and videos can lend themselves to communicating with your entire audience at once, email, allows you to talk to each reader individually even with a large email list. Compared to blog posts an email can be a lot more personal as your subscribers are likely to know you a lot better than your average blog reader.

Most importantly though, email marketing converts better than any other form of marketing and it’s the main reason why all your other marketing efforts should focus on growing and expanding your list.

Put simply, having an email list allows you to make a living from your online business. And also provides a safety net to your business. Let me explain.

You own Your Email List

Things happen. One day Facebook might decide to close down your account, search engines can change their algorithms so you no longer get any traffic.

You can face a lot of hurdles running a blog or website, but if you have a mailing list this is something you can always fallback on.

Plus having an emal list is a good chance to get to know your audience better. You can start build a bond with your readers through the emails that you send to them (and you might even get some two way conversations going).

You start to build trust with your audience. Why is that important?

Once you’ve earned the trust of your audience, they are more likely to take you upon your email offers. As long as you treat your list well and share quality content with them, it’s likely to be very sustainable. You will be able to share knowledge and offers for things related to your niche as many times as you want.

How to Build an Email List From Scratch

Here’s what you’ll learn in our how-to build an email list guide…

  • Step 1 – Choose your email marketing provider
  • Step 2 – Create a Freebie
  • Step 3 – Create opt-in forms & Landing Pages
  • Step 4 – Get Traffic and Grow your Email List
  • Step 5 – Start sending emails (types of emails explained)
  • Step 6 – Optimize Opt-in Forms & Landing Pages For Better Conversions

Step 1 – Choose your email marketing provider

If you have an online business or blog, you need an email list. And for that, you need an email marketing service provider.

This is a company that stores your reader’s email address and other personal information and allows you to send emails to your list. These can be weekly newsletters, frequent update emails, solo offers, or a series of autoresponder messages.

Let’s look at a couple of different email providers and compare them. I hope this information will help you make an educated decision when it comes time to sign up.

All options we’re discussing here are subscription services – meaning you’ll pay them a monthly fee for their service, similar to your hosting fees. There is a second option – a self-hosted autoresponder, which I do not recommend you, try.

There are all sorts of technical and legal hot waters you can get yourself into by hosting your own autoresponder service.

Leave that to the guys that know what they are doing and sign up for a reputable Autoresponder email provider. Here’s a short list and comparison of a few of my favorites.

ConvertKit (my favorite!) – Most Comprehensive Service

ConvertKit is the best email service provider, as it offers the best of both worlds. It’s easy to use and has very pretty options, but also includes all the bells and whistles as well.

And since it was developed by a professional blogger who was sure to include everything he’d want in an autoresponder email service, this might work well for you.

The only downside here is that the company is fairly new and still small. Let’s hope they make it and stick around for decades to come.


Aweber has been in the business of list building and providing autoresponder services for years. They have a great reputation and work hard to ensure their emails are delivered to your reader’s inboxes.

Over the years they’ve expanded and added a lot of features for list segmentation, testing and tracking, and list building templates. They offer a free trial if you want to check them out.

One of the big disadvantages of Aweber is that they charge you for duplicates (same people subscribed to multiple lists of yours) and unsubscribes unless you go in and manually delete them. Since pricing depends on your list size, this can quickly add up.


Mail chimp has long been the autoresponder darling of bloggers. It’s easy to use, has a lot of functionality and some beautiful templates to make your newsletters and emails look just as pretty as your blog.

Like Aweber, you are charged for duplicate entries and unlike Aweber it is hard to segment your list and track to see what’s working. If all you’re worried about is one main list for your blog, Mail chimp is a great option for you.

If you want a little more functionality and data, and you want to be able to set up multiple opt-in forms then this may not be the right choice for you. They are also slightly against affiliate marketing so this is a big minus if you’re doing email affiliate marketing.

Step 2 – Create a Freebie

How to grow your email list

The money is in the list and that means the faster you can grow your list, the faster you’ll grow your income.

But also your reach, your audience, and of course, the traffic to your blog for example. In other words, growing a list is important and growing it faster will help you get your blog and your business of the ground faster as well.

One of the best things you can do to grow your list faster is to offer them an Opt-In Freebie. I’m sure you’ve seen these.

They are often a mini product that you create and give away to your email subscribers as a lead magnet. In order to grow your email list, you need to offer your readers something totally awesome they can’t say no to.

You need to decide what you want to give your readers in exchange for their email, put that on your opt-in page and mention it in your opt-in form on your site, and last but not least deliver it to your subscribers. Let’s look at each of these three steps in a little more detail.

Examples of Opt-in Freebies


Creating a free mini e-course or video tutorial is a great way to gain email subscribers. Teachable is a great tool to use when creating your free or paid courses. I personally love e-courses, I love learning from other people’s e-courses and I love creating my own.

Resource List

This can be a PDF file or printable image of helpful resources for your readers; You could add paid or free resources or both. This would also be a great time to use your affiliate links. You can create your image or PDF using Powerpoint, Canva or Photoshop.


If you have a handful of blog posts or content that all relate to the same thing turn it into a free mini e-book. You can create your e-book with canva or photoshop.

Check list/ Printable

Your subscribers can download and print these to use in their everyday life, it’s a great way to attract subscribers. You can create your checklists/printable through Canva, Photoshop, or Powerpoint. I use Canva, Photoshop, and PowerPoint to create my freebies.

A Giveaway

Who wouldn’t sign up for an awesome giveaway… am I right?!

For example you could giveaway an actual item that pertains to the niche of your blog to the winner; Or you could give away one of your courses or products that you would normally sell to your subscribers. Lots of companies big and small do giveaways to get more customers.

Free webinar

If you have lots of great information to share with your readers, set up a live webinar. A webinar would be a limited time offer which is great because you can market it as a get it now before you miss it deal. 

So basically how the webinar would work is you promote it on your blog and when your subscriber signs up you would then send them an email with more information about the webinar time, date etc..

Decide on your freebie and then create it. Write it, turn it into a pdf or record a video. Do whatever you need to do to create your opt-in freebie and have it ready to go.

Upload and Deliver Your Freebie

Last but not least it’s time to deliver the freebie. Upload it to your web server and then write or edit the welcome email that goes out to any new subscriber to include a link to the freebie – whatever you decided to make it.

Step 3 – Create Opt-in Forms & Landing Pages

Here are three different things you can do to get email subscribers from your blog.

Opt-in Form In Your Sidebar

The first thing most of us will do is add an opt-in form to our blog that will show on every single page.

For most of us, that means posting a form in the sidebar. While this may not be the most efficient way to get subscribers, it’s a great place to start.

Get it up there. It’s something you only have to do once and it will work.

If you’re ready to build your list faster, consider testing different locations, different headlines, different images, and different opt-in offers until you find one that converts well for you.

Pop Up Forms

Love them, or hate them… they work and they work well. If you’re worried about annoying your loyal blog readers, set it up to only show up once every few weeks.

As with any other opt-in form, it helps to switch things up and see if you can get a better conversion rate with different copy or offers.

No matter how you personally feel about pop up opt-in forms, give them a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how well they work and how fast your lists start to grow once you start using them.

Customized Opt-in Forms At The End Of Your Blog Posts

Last but not least let’s talk about a slightly more advanced technique. This particular strategy for growing your list involves a little more work and it’s not something you want to do every time, but it can be incredibly effective.

The idea is to have a blog post and then a related opt-in offer at the end. Let’s say you’re blogging about parenting and just wrote a blog post about different ways to motivate your child to use the potty. One of them is the use of a potty chart.

At the end of the post, you have an option offer where readers can sign up for more parenting tips from you and as a thanks for signing up they get a printable potty training chart.

In other words, either the copy of the opt-in form or the opt-in freebie is catered specifically to the content of the blog post.

Yes, this is a little more work and not something you will want to do for every single post. Instead, reserve this for your highest-traffic posts.

Don’t forget to write some enticing copy that will get your visitors attention. You should tweak all your opt-in forms on your website along with any dedicated opt-in pages you have to reflect this new freebie. Take a look at what your competition is doing and how they are presenting their freebie.

Come up with a good headline and a good call to action. Visuals also help. If you are offering a free report or a printable for example, get a graphic for it that you can add to your newsletter signup boxes for example. Entice your readers to sign up for the freebie.

Step 4 – Get Traffic and Grow your Email List

Building Your Email List With Social Media

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc. are a great place to find your target audience and get in touch with them.

Often we focus on building engagement with readers there and then work on getting them back to our blog.

Social media sites however are also a great place to build your list. And using an email list is a good way to get back in touch with your subscribers even when your favorite social media site changes its algorithm and your audience suddenly no longer sees all your posts.

The benefits of focusing on building your list on social media don’t stop there. Growing your list and getting them on subscribed to your list allows you to then direct your readers wherever you want them to go.

Now let’s talk about how you can go about growing your list from your social media activity.

The first thing you want to do is set up a dedicated opt-in page. It’s a simple page on your blog or website that’s set up with the sole purpose of convincing readers to sign up for your list.

If you want to get fancy, you could even set up a different opt-in page for each social media page and customize your content to those audiences.

But let’s keep it simple for now and create just the one page you’ll use everywhere.

Next log into your social media profiles and either add or replace your regular website url with the new opt-in page url.

That along will start to send a nice little stream of social media traffic to this page and grow your list. As readers check out your profile, the idea is that they click through to learn more about you and your blog and end up on your list.

Last but not least, make it a habit to regularly invite your social media followers to sign up for your list. Try various different approaches.

One week, you may highlight a particular benefit of being a list subscriber. The next, you may give them a glimpse at an email that will go out the following day, inviting them to sign up so they don’t miss it.

Or offer them an exclusive coupon or offer that will go out to newsletter subscribers only.

Try a few different types of posts until you find what works well on each social media platform.

How to build an email list for bloggers

Using Affiliate Marketing To Grow Your List

Let’s talk about growing your list with cookies. No I’m not talking about bribing your readers with cookies and milk. Instead we’re talking about digital cookies and your affiliates will do the list building for you. This requires two things.

You need to have a paid product and an affiliate program set up for that product. Once you have those things in place, you’re ready to use your affiliates to build your list.

I’m going to assume that you have your product and affiliate program in place and also have at least a few affiliates lined up to help you promote this and grow your list.

The list we are growing is a free list, unlike the customer list your affiliates already help you build.

Take a look at your product, or even your products. Then come up with a topic for a short report that’s related to the topic of your product. Ideally this will be something that’s one step before you get to your product. Let’s run through a couple of examples, to give you a better idea of what I’m talking about here.

  • You have a product about setting up a blog using WordPress. Your short report could be about registering a domain and setting up WordPress friendly hosting.
  • You have a product about getting more traffic from Pinterest. Your short report could be about getting started with Pinterest, or how to read Pinterest Analytics Data.
  • You have a product about Eating Paleo. Your short report could be about the dangers of consuming wheat and sugar.
  • You have a product about paying off consumer debt. Your short report could be about budgeting your money.

You get the idea. Your free short report will focus on a topic or a piece of information your target audience needs before they need what you have to offer in your paid product.

And chances are you already covered a lot of this stuff on your blog or website.

Write the short report, grab some PLR and edit it, or compile a few of your blog posts into a report. Within that report you also want to promote your paid product.

Your next step is to set up an opt-in page where readers sign up with their email address and get the free report. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated, but you need that page for this to work. Once you have it up and it’s working, add a link to it in your affiliate area.

Email your affiliates and let them know what you’ve set up.

Share their affiliate link for this free report page with them and explain that while they won’t get anything for the free signups, they will get a “cookie” and as soon as one of those subscribers buys your product, they get their affiliate commission.

Step 5 – Start Sending Emails (Types of Emails Explained)

When it comes to email marketing, there are basically 3 ways to send your subscribers emails. They are autoresponder messages (or a/r), broadcast emails, and blog broadcast messages.

Most of the popular email marketing providers allow you to set up and use all 3 email types with your lists. Let’s take a look at all 3 of these email types and when and where you might want to use them.

Autoresponder Emails

Autoresponder (a/r) emails go out to your readers in a certain order after they have signed up.

It can be a little hard to understand at first, but it is a really efficient way to email your list. Often an autoresponder email is the first email you send to your subscribers.

This is the welcome email your readers will receive when they first signup to your list. You usually thank your new subscriber in this message and if you gave away an opt-in freebie when they signed up, then you can share that with them in this email too.

The autoresponder function is a convenient way for you to send out emails on a regular automated schedule.

The big benefit of using autoresponder emails is that you write them once, get them scheduled and know every single person who signs up for your list will see the same email. This works well with evergreen content offerings as it’s sent at a consistent rate to everyone each month.

Broadcast Emails

Broadcast emails are like the emails you send through your personal email account. It’s only those people who are on your list today that will receive these messages, but if someone signs up next week or even tomorrow they won’t see them.

It works quite similarly to your Gmail account. There is one big difference though, as you’ll be sending emails to hundreds or thousands of people in one go.

Broadcast emails are great for sending out weekly or monthly newsletters and any kind of content or offers that are time sensitive.

Blog Broadcast Emails

Blog broadcast emails are a pretty useful feature if you’re a blogger, and a simpler way to automate some of your email marketing.

This autoresponder service can generate and send out an email as you’re blogging. It can be set up to send an email every time you publish a new blog post, or it can send an email less often (once a week/month for example).

It’s best to use all three types of emails on a regular basis. Try to mix and match your email message types to keep your subscribers engaged. Having different email options allows you to make the most from every email message you write.

For more email content ideas check out 9 Content Ideas for your Email List.

Step 6 – Optimize Opt-in Forms & Landing Pages For Better Conversions

We’ve talked about creating a freebie to grow our lists faster. Now let’s take it a step further and build that list even faster by improving conversions.

When it comes to list building, there are two ways to grow your list faster. You can get more traffic to your site or you can improve your opt-in form.

Getting more traffic is a lot of work. It’s much easier to test, tweak, and improve your opt-in conversion. And as an added bonus when you work on getting more traffic, your list will grow twice as fast.

Any good autoresponder service will make it easy to test different opt-in forms on your blog.

Dig around your dashboard, or talk to support to find out the technical how to. It’s different for each provider, but usually pretty straight forward.

With that knowledge under your belt, you’re ready to start testing. The idea is simply to make small changes in your opt-in form and then see what converts better. This is usually done via an A/B test. Here’s how that works.

You start with your current opt-in form. Then you make a copy of it and you change one little thing – let’s say you try a new headline so instead of “Sign Up For My Newsletter” you could try “Get My Best Tips and Ideas In Your Inbox” for example.

The testing software will then start rotating these two versions of the opt-in form and keep track of how many signups you get for each. After a while you’ll be able to tell which one converts better. Keep that one and test something else. Keep going indefinitely or until you can’t find any other ways to make your opt-in form convert any better.

Here are some things you may want to test on your opt-in form:

  • Color
  • Font
  • Size
  • How much information you ask for (first name and email, vs. just email for example)
  • Headline and call to action copy
  • Signup Button
  • Size of your opt-in form
  • Placement of your form (where it is on your website)
  • Opt-in freebie offer (or ethical bribe)
  • Graphics
  • Include a note that you don’t spam
  • Include a note that it’s easy to unsubscribe

This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but enough to get you started. Start testing anything you can think of and make it a game.

See if you can beat your last version. If you’re brave and feeling adventurous, you could even test a completely different offer (new look, new freebie, new tone of voice) and see if your readers respond better to that.

Final Thoughts

Testing doesn’t take a lot of time, but if you can improve your opt-in rate from 10% to 20%, that means you’re getting 10 extra subscribers for every 100 people you get to your website. That’s a pretty big deal.

Hopefully, you found this list building guide helpful. To learn more about email marketing, including how to make money with your list, enroll in HerPaperRoute’s Email Marketing Course.

email marketing course