You’ve probably heard the old saying “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” The online version of this saying would probably go something like this: “give a website owner a visitor and he’ll gain one-page view. Give a website owner a subscriber and he’ll have page views on every piece of content he creates.”

Okay, so it’s not nearly as poetic, but it is every bit as true. The bottom line is, if your site is going to experience sustained success, you need to work on gaining long-term followers. And email subscriptions are the best way to do this because they enable you to actively remind your fans that you exist and that you are still creating new and valuable content.

Here are seven of the most effective strategies for gaining email subscribers:

1. Use an Email Collector Form Throughout Your Website

One of the best ways to get people to sign up for your email list? Simply ask! If you include an easy-to-use “subscribe to our mailing list” field somewhere on your website, you will be surprised how many people are eager to stay updated on your new content. (As long as you are creating content worth reading, that is!)

Most effective websites place an email collector form in their footer, that way the form will be site-wide. Moreover, because most web users are used to seeing a collector form in the footer, you take advantage of the “social norm” of the internet, ensuring that even your new visitors will have a good idea of where they can find the email form if they want it.

In addition to placing an email collector in your footer, you may wish to highlight your mailing list in a couple other places throughout your website. (For example, under your latest blog article or even on the home page.) This is also fine, just make sure that this is executed in a way that doesn’t look overly redundant or low-quality.

2. Add an Opt in to Your Email Signature

“But wait,” you ask, “why would I add an opt-in for emails into my existing emails?” Isn’t that a bit redundant?” To understand this, it is first important to understand exactly what an email subscriber list is and how it differs from your regular email contacts.

Email subscriber lists are automated databases of people who have willingly opted-in to receiving promotional offers, newsletters, and other information from you. Reaching everyone on your list is quite easy, and can be done with a single click through programs such as Convert Kit. However, because of how powerful these lists are, their builders are very careful to avoid being associated with spam. And if you send mass emails to people who have not opted into a list, then you are almost inevitably going to get reported and then blacklisted. Once this happens, your emails will automatically find themselves in people’s spam folders rather than in their inboxes.

Remember, however, that sending a one-on-one email to a cold contact or a person who isn’t subscribed to your list is still okay. If that person is interested in the product, service, or content that you are offering, then they will be happy to see an opt-in section in your cold email where they can sign up to receive more information.

3. Promote Your List Through Your Social Media Profiles

Be sure to read this tip carefully: promote your list through your profiles, not your posts. Yes, sending out a Facebook status or a tweet asking people to sign up to your email subscriber list can work — we don’t recommend against it — but putting a link to sign up in your profile itself will be much more effective.

This is because the people view your social media profiles (or the social media fan pages for your blog) are precisely the people who are looking for more information. Allowing them to opt-in to personalize emails from you is sure to lead to a high conversion rate. Moreover, profiles stick around a lot longer than statuses and updates — if you wanted to promote your list through posts, you would need to post quite frequently.

4. Use a Popup Form

You’ve undoubtedly seen a few email subscriber list popup forms in your life — after all, the vast majority of successful blogs in today’s world use one. Newsflash: this isn’t a coincidence! Popup forms dramatically increase the number of email addresses that you are able to collect because they extend a direct offer from you to your visitors: “if you like the content you’re seeing here, why not stay updated on our latest posts?”

Of course, another thing you’ve undoubtedly seen are annoying popup ads — and you know first hand how quickly they destroy credibility. This is why designing a good email collector popup with an aesthetic and user-friendly design is so important.

Here’s the good news: creating a good looking popup doesn’t require amazing technical skills or expensive software. A number of cost-effective tools have now joined the market and are helping new bloggers just like you to grow their following and build email lists that propel them to success. If you happen to be using Convert Kit to manage your mailing lists, then you’re in luck: the software also includes an easy-to-use popup form builder that integrates directly with your mailing lists.

5. Experiment with Your Collectors

Your collector form and email popup are both constructed of many variables — ranging from the color scheme, to the text, to the location, to the number of fields, etc. And changing these variables around can have a dramatic impact on what percentage of your visitors actually decide to sign up. If you are willing to be meticulous about tracking conversion rates and changing minor details, you can work to methodically increase your subscriber list through smarter psychology. Here’s an example of what that might look like:

  • During your first week, you have a dark green popup form with the words “sign up for our mailing list to receive more information!” You receive 1000 total visitors, and 100 sign up for your mailing list.
  • On the second week, you change the dark green color to a lighter green, and leave everything else the same. (Remember that you can only change one variable at a time in any experiment, otherwise you won’t be able to identify what actually caused the change!) This week, you receive 1000 total visitors and 150 sign ups. Congratulations, your conversion rate increased, and you have reason to believe that the change to light green worked!
  • On the third week, you decide that perhaps your writing could be a bit more terse. You change “sign up for our mailing list to receive more information,” to “sign up for more info.” Over the course of the week, you get 1000 total visitors and just 125 sign ups. It appears that the old text was better.
  • On the fourth week, you go back to “sign up for our mailing list to receive more information” with a light green background, which gives you a baseline expectation of a 15% conversion rate. (After all, last time you had this setup, you got 150 sign ups out of 1000 visitors.) You’re happy with this rate, but for the sake of continued progress and experimentation, you add one more smaller line of text to your form: “we take your privacy seriously and never share your information with 3rd parties.” This week you get 1000 visitors and 175 subscribers.

Of course, your actual results will vary, but this should give you a good idea of how website experimentation works, and how it can help you grow your subscription base.

6. Comply with Standard Anti-Spam Policies

We briefly mentioned this topic earlier in the lesson, but it is so important that it bears repeating: breaking spam rules will get your email address (and possibly even your website) blacklisted, making it nearly impossible for you to continue marketing your blog through email! No matter what the situation may be, it is never a good idea to send out mass emails to people who haven’t subscribed to your list — and it is an even worse idea to share email addresses with a third party!

Last but not least, your emails should include an opt-out button for anyone who does not want to receive your newsletter or marketing message anymore. Most good mailing list platforms (including Convert Kit) automatically integrate such a button into every email that they send.

7. Provide Something Valuable In Exchange for an Opt-In

One of the best ways to get visitors to subscribe for your list is to give them a concrete incentive for subscribing. A common example of this that you have probably seen before is websites that offer an ebook or an online course in exchange for your email address. Online stores that sell products and/or services might also offer their visitors a discount in exchange for signing up. Whatever creative solutions you can come up with, try them out and see how they affect your conversion rates!

Don’t Let Your Subscribers Down!

Once you have built a base of subscribers, they are going to want to receive content from you on a regular basis. If not, you risk losing their interest. That’s why tomorrow’s lesson is going to provide you with the tools you need to pump out new content on a regular basis.