how to start an email list

How to Start an Email List from A to Z

Today I’m going to be showing you how to start an email list covering all the steps from A to Z. An email list is one of the three staples you need when running an online business in addition to a website and social media.

Your email list will be the most important tool as it connects you to your website traffic, building an engaged audience who consumes your content, refers you to others, and perhaps buys your products you’re offering (the end goal).

So what’s the best way to start an email list? How long does it take? What does it cost to start an email list?

These are some of the questions you’re seeking answers for that we will surely deliver below in this ultimate guide.

If you’re ready, let’s dive into the how to start an email list tutorial and when you’re done I ask one favor of you.

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Building an Email List from A to Z – Ask Nick Foy

Below you’re going to find a series of common questions related to starting an email list. We’ve literally outlined them from A to Z! Get started and leave us a comment below when finished if this resource was helpful.

A – What is an Email List?

An email list is simply a group of emails you’ve collected that people have willingly given to you. In other words, they’ve given you permission to email them. It is not ethical and perhaps illegal to add people to your email list without their permission.

B – Why Should I Start an Email List?

The best reason to start an email list is to connect deeper with your website visitors. When they first stop by your website, your readers are “cold traffic” and have no intentions of buying your products or using your services. But once you’ve gotten them onto your email list, you can connect with them and warm them up so eventually they trust you enough to buy your product or service. Plus it’s a way to keep people coming back reading your content. By sending weekly email updates of new blogs you’ve posted, you can get a steady stream of traffic coming to your blog.

C – How Do You Legally Collect Emails to Build Your List?

The best way to build an email list is through an email opt-in form. This form is a place someone can fill out their information, voluntarily giving you permission to email them. Your opt-in form should have a name field and email field for them to fill out so you can personalize your emails by saying their name in the intro or subject line.

D – How Do I Create an Opt-In Form?

Since most websites are run using WordPress, I’ll use it as an example. Within WordPress you have different plugins you can install to your website. One in particular is a contact form plugin which allows you to create custom forms to capture website reader’s information. If you have an email service provider to help you manage your email subscribers, then check to see if they also have a WordPress plugin you can install to easily place opt-in forms throughout your website. Most email service providers, like ConvertKit, allow you to build custom opt-in forms and then embed them into your web pages manually or via a plugin.

E – Where Do I Place Opt-In Forms to Collect Emails?

Your email opt-in form should be placed in popular locations throughout your website that get higher volumes of traffic. For example, your home page, sidebar, header area, and footer are common starting locations for email opt-in forms. You can also place them at the end of every blog post or create dedicated lead capture pages where the form is the only thing on the page (no other distractions).

F – What Happens Once I Collect Emails?

Once you’ve added email opt-in forms throughout your website your readers will find them and opt-in to your email list. When this happens, they are now considered email subscribers (meaning they have subscribed to your list). Ideally, you want to have an email service provider, like ConvertKit for example, to manage your email subscribers for you. Once you have email subscribers, the next step is to organize them and begin sending them emails most relevant to their needs. For example, if subscribers opted in to a form related to Pinterest on my website, I would group them together as “Need Help with Pinterest” and send them helpful tips regarding Pinterest. Overtime I can sell them a training course on Pinterest or recommend affiliate products after building trust with them.

G – How to Sign Up for an Email Service Provider?

One of the first steps to starting an email list is signing up with an email service provider. I personally use ConvertKit and recommend them to others as the #1 email service of choice. Due to their array of features I’ve been able to do a lot of important things with my email list to maximize opt-ins, email open rates, and sales conversions. To get started, visit via this link (affiliate link) and click the sign up button where you’ll be asked to fill out account information. Enter your payment information and you should be good to go. Look for a follow up email from the company welcoming you and giving some beginner instructions. Then login.

H – What’s the First Steps I Should Take with My New Email Service?

Once you’ve signed up for your email service, you’ll want to build your opt-in forms to begin capturing subscribers to your email list. You’ll also need to set up a newsletter sequence, which is a series of pre-written emails you’ll send to your email list once people subscribe. Your newsletter sequence is automated, saving you tons of time from manually emailing every new subscriber who joins your list!

I – How Do I Create an Email Newsletter to Send My List?

Inside ConvertKit’s dashboard, you’ll find a menu bar across the top of the screen. Look for the word “Sequences” as this will be the tab that opens up the newsletter page. Then locate the “Add New” button to start your first email newsletter. Watch this tutorial for more assistance.

J – How Many Emails Should My Newsletter Have?

There is no set amount of emails but I would recommend at least 20-30 emails. This may seem overwhelming at first so aim to write your first 5 or 10 emails, and then add more to the sequence later on when you get time! My email sequence for my golf niche website is 48 emails spanning almost 7 months.

K – How Frequent Should My Email List Get an Email From Me?

Email frequency is something you’ll have to test based on the industry you’re in. Some niches see better open rates when they send emails more frequently while other niches may benefit by sending emails less frequently. For example, a realtor may only need to send an email once per month updating their list of the market conditions and giving a few helpful tips to keep themselves top of mind. Their list of subscribers may not be ready to buy or sell a home for months so the realtor would become annoying if sending emails every single day. With my golf brand however, I try to send 3 emails per week to my list. Initially I sent one per day for the first few weeks and then started phasing them out to every other day and eventually one per week.

L – What If the Subscriber Completes My Newsletter Series and Never Buys?

If a subscriber still hasn’t purchased my product after 7 months of email marketing to them, then my product must not be right for them or of interest and that’s okay! Same goes for you. If you did your best to write a combination of helpful emails that share tips as well as sales emails that market services or products, then you should naturally get sales from your subscribers. Not everyone will buy. You’ll have to run data and see how many customers converted from your email list per 1000 subscribers.

M – What is a Good Open Rate for the Average Email List?

I would say 30% is a decent open rate for your email list. In other words if you sent 100 emails out to your 100 subscribers, you would expect about 30 of the 100 subscribers to actually open the email and read it. Open rates will vary by industry.

N – How Can I Increase My Email List’s Open Rates?

One of the easiest fixes to start with is testing different subject lines for your emails. When an email lands in someones inbox, the first thing they will do is read the subject line to determine if the email seems worthy email to open and spend time reading. Our brains use this method to quickly filter out spam since our inboxes have become so full of time wasting emails these days. You’ll also notice higher open rates at the beginning of your newsletter series and then they drop off over time as subscribers lose interest and move on to other exciting websites they’ve discovered (honest truth).

O – What Are Unsubscribers?

I also want to point out that not every subscriber who joins your email list will stay subscribed to your list. As mentioned above, they lose interest over time and move on. Some will stay subscribed but never open your emails while others will take the 2 seconds to click the unsubscribe link at the bottom of your email, removing themselves quietly from your list. Occasionally you’ll get rude emails asking to be removed and you’ll have to go in and manually delete a subscribe per their request (rare but can happen sometimes).

P – Should I Purge My Email List to Boost Open Rates?

I would recommend cleaning your email list every so often. This will remove subscribers who don’t open your emails anymore, saving you money and increasing your engagement statistics like open rates, click rates, etc. Every 6 months should be good enough time span between clean outs. ConvertKit has a cool feature where it tracks your subscriber’s activities and classifies them as “Cold Subscribers” if they haven’t opened your emails in a long time.

Q – How Do I Persuade Someone to Join My Email List?

You may be thinking “so I place email opt-in forms on my website but why would someone want to fill them out with their info to join my email list” and that’s a great question! The answer is your lead magnet..aka..your opt-in incentive you offer them in exchange for joining your email list.

R – What Are Example Email Lead Magnets / Opt-In Incentives?

Example lead magnets you could use to persuade someone to join your email list includes: free eBooks, free audio lessons, free video lessons, free email course, free worksheets, coupons, etc. There are lots of things you could offer your audience for FREE in exchange for opting in to your email list. Think about your audience and what their interests and needs are related to your industry. A fitness website for example, would offer a free workout plan someone could follow to build their core muscles.

S – Can I Have Multiple Email Lead Magnets?

Yes! Of course you can. It’s even recommended because certain lead magnets may appeal more to certain groups in your audience than others. I have close to 10 different email opt-in incentives offered on my golf website, from worksheets to sample practice routines to golf drills to coupons.

T – How Do I Deliver My Email Lead Magnet to a New Subscriber?

Once someone opts-in to your email list by filling out the form, the email service provider system is set up to recognize a successful opt-in and immediately start the next step which is sending them their free gift. There will be a setting in your email system where you tell it to send out a welcome email immediately after someone subscribes. Inside this welcome email you can include a downloadable file or link to a page on your website where the resource is being kept.

U – How Quickly Can My Email List Grow After Starting It

It will vary. If your website already has lots of traffic coming to it, then you should see decent results right away. Having traffic is just half of the equation though. Your opt-in incentive must be relevant to your audience and desired by your audience for them to want to opt-in to your email list. If your offer sucks, don’t expect your website traffic to subscribe to your email list.

V – How Can I Speed Up My Email List Growth?

The top of the funnel is traffic so I would start there. Later you can fine tune your opt-in offer by split testing different opt-ins to see which one gets higher conversion rates. But start with traffic because if you can grow your traffic while offering a relevant lead magnet, you should see a boost in opt-ins to your email list. To increase your website traffic, try a combination of the 3 search engines (Google, Pinterest, and YouTube). Create helpful content that people are searching these platforms for and rank your content so it shows up first, getting the majority of clicks!

W – How Much Will It Cost to Start an Email List?

Depending on which email service provider you choose, your email list can cost anywhere from FREE to several hundred dollars per month. Initially, you’ll pay a lower rate since it’s based on total number of email subscribers. As your email list grows over time, you’ll have to pay more per month based on the thresholds your service provider sets. With ConvertKit, you pay a low rate until you reach 1,000 subscribers. Then the next cost increase isn’t until 3,000 subscribers.

X – What is the Best FREE Email Service Provider?

If you decide to try building an email list with a free service first and then move to a paid service later that is totally fine. Get your feet wet and learn the ropes of building an email list before you throw money at it. In this case, I’d recommend MailChimp as a good starter service. This was the company I started with until I decided to get serious and use advanced tools to quickly grow my list and track analytics. That’s when I switched to ConvertKit and saw my list grow from 200 subscribers to over 3,000+

Y – When Should I Start My Email List?

Now! Don’t wait another day. Now is the best time to start your email list. If you don’t have a website yet or any traffic coming to it, don’t worry about that! You can also grow your email list without having a website! You can use social media, sending your followers to a lead capture page by using a software like Clickfunnels which is designed to help you grow your email list. You would set up a lead capture page in Clickfunnels as well as a thank you page they get redirected to after filling out the form and submitting it. Then drive traffic to the Clickfunnels lead capture page from social media, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.

Z – What Other Resources Do You Have to Help Me Start an Email List?

If you want more tips, video lessons, or training’s to help you start your email list from scratch, I’ll link to my top blog posts, YouTube videos, and a step by step course on ConvertKit I created over on Teachable for students to enroll in.

Congrats, you’ve made it through my A to Z guide to starting an email list for beginners. I hope the following questions and answers covered everything you could think of to get started with your email list.

If this ultimate guide on how to start an email list was helpful, please hit the share buttons at the bottom of the page! It will help spread this resource for others to find. And if you have a blog and link to this guide as a resource, let me know in the comments or via email and I’ll return the favor by finding a blog on your website to link to!

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