I don’t know about you, but when my workload slows down, I get itchy. And if you are in a service-based business, as I am, you might experience times when “there’s so much work, I can’t sleep” and times when “I am pretty sure I need to go look for a regular job now.”
I got tired of that cycle. I spent a lot of time and money learning what I could do about what seemed to be the inevitable cycle of a solopreneur service-based business.
A concept kept coming up: You need an active, engaged email list. You need to nurture them regularly and you need to continually grow the list.
“Great,” said I. And then I tried what my mentors were teaching and repeatedly failed. Ugh.
However, about a year ago, I started to get my email list building mojo on and want to share some of what I have learned so far.
What Not to Do if You’d Like to Grow Your Email List
Having a website that asks people to “sign up for weekly tips and advice” is probably not going to get you a lot of sign ups unless you are out and about working the heck out of people to get them excited about you and your “weekly tips and advice.” I know. I tried. I have spoken with many of my solopreneur friends and they have tried. Pretty much people who don’t know you and haven’t heard of you aren’t going to care about your generic promise to deliver mind-blowing tips to them.
(Sidenote: This revelation was delivered to me via an honest, rather successful online marketer. I am forever grateful for that truth talk.)
Step 1a: What to Do if You Already Have Had a Site for a Long Time
So what does one do if one is kind of unknown (like most of us are when we start out)? Well, if you happen to have a website that you’ve added content to over the years and you happen to have tracking software installed, like Google Analytics, take all of your historical data and figure out what pages and posts were visited the most. Do not count your home page, your pricing page, your services page, or your contact page in this evaluation.
Out of your most visited pages, which ones are ones that are really helpful? Like which ones are tutorials, tips, case studies, or anything that someone can learn from? Make note of those.
Step 1b: What to Do if Your Website is Brand New
If you are brand new, it will be harder to figure out a sweet spot, for sure. BUT you can kind of pick up ideas from what others are putting down. I suggest surveying the people in your niche that are way, way more successful than you. Survey their websites. Survey their social media. Look at what gets lots of likes, comments, shares. Make note of the content that resonates most with what you can talk about as well.
Now go write at least one blog post about the things you were attracted to the most and publish them on your site.
Step 2: Create Something for Free to Supplement Your Topic
Here’s the truth that is kind of a bummer and is also a really cool opportunity to stand out: Most people, no matter how much your helpful article helps them, won’t return to your site. They don’t have to. There are hundreds of thousands of choices the next time they need help. This means creating helpful posts is only the beginning.
Your next step is to figure out how to supplement your helpful posts with “content upgrades.” For instance, a popular post on my site is a very simple article, “How much does MailChimp cost?” I knew I was getting traffic to the post, but as could be predicted, no one engaged with me further than reading the post. And then one day a light bulb went off when I asked myself the question, “What is someone doing when they come to my site to read that article?” I realized that they probably are trying to figure out which email marketing software they are going to use. So what would be their next step after reading my article? Probably to go do more research about more email marketing software programs, right? So I thought, “Why don’t I shorten their research time?” And I made an email marketing cheat sheet for them that compared five of the top email marketing software providers.
So this is your next step: What would someone want to do/research/know after reading your helpful post? Make that for them so they can have that from you as well, for free. (Don’t freak out about this suggestion. Just got to Step 3 and see how this all ties in.)
Step 3: Embed Your Free Offer in Your Content to Grow Your Email List
Okay, so ideally the thing you created will be a PDF, a video that you can upload to YouTube as “unlisted,” or some other piece of content that you can deliver on demand, rather than leaving publicly available.
Here’s why, you’ll want to ask people to give you their email address and, in exchange, you’ll give them this awesome additional content.
You’ll put your offer to get the free content within your helpful article. Here’s an example from my site. This will show you an article that has a free content upgrade in it multiple times, presented in a hard-to-miss format, and this is what worked to finally grow my email list.
Step 4: Write More Content About Your Topic
If you’d like to get more traffic around your helpful topic, write more content. It’s really nice if you can write more content that would benefit from the same free opt-in offer because this will take down your workload as you grow your email list. If it can’t, create more free opt-in offers and embed them in the related posts. You want to stay tightly connected to the same topic and you want to post regularly.
Here’s an example of not tightly connected content:
- How much does MailChimp cost?
- Jigsy website builder review
- WordPress vs Squarespace vs Shopify
- Blogging with Asana
Here’s an example of tightly connected content:
- How much does MailChimp cost?
- How do MailChimp credits work?
- Which MailChimp account is right for me?
- MailChimp hero image tutorial
Step 5: Watch Your Stats, Stay Consistent, and Be Patient
This might be, perhaps, the most challenging part: Waiting for Google to determine if it likes what you are doing.
You’ll know it likes what you are doing when your visits steadily increase. So here’s the thing: You normally cannot write one post or two posts and get more traffic. This takes work. The past year, I saw a significant increase in free traffic when I blogged regularly about tightly connected content. How regularly? Every other day a new post went up on my site, and whenever possible, I included a free offer in the post.
Next, as you get more visits, do people opt into your freebies? If you get 3% of the visitors to that page to opt-in to your freebie, you are doing good. This means that if you get 100 visitors to the helpful post and you get 3 to opt into your freebie, you’re doing well. AND, typically, figuring out the freebies that people love in conjunction with your article, will take some experimentation. I’d give it 300 visits for an individual page before changing the free offer. So after 300 visits to a single page, you should have at least 9 people who have signed up. If not, try changing the wording that advertises the freebie. Once you have changed the wording, wait for another 300 visits to that page. After that, if you’re not getting at least 3% opting in, you’ll want to create a new freebie.
For me, this is what worked to grow my email list. I managed to double my email list with free traffic from Google in a pretty heavily saturated area. If I can do this, I know you can do it as well. Seriously, I totally was a slow learner with these concepts, but I didn’t give up and ended up getting the results I was hoping for. It took years to get it right for me, so be patient with yourself.