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7 Awesome Email List Building Strategies

Article updated on June 11, 2019.

email list building strategies

An email list is one the best marketing tools you have at your disposal. You can easily promote new content, products, or services, and quickly evaluate how well your message resonates. It enables you to engage with customers on a regular basis who have opted in to hear what you have to say.

However, before you can run a campaign, you need to align on email list building strategies to encourage people to subscribe. Even if you already have an email list, it’s always in your best interest to continually grow your email list. But how do you do that? Well, there’s hope!

There are a ton of email list building strategies out there, but we’ve condensed some here that will help you get started quickly, no matter what size website or business you manage.

1. Make it easy to sign up for your emails.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be surprisingly difficult to find a link to sign up for emails on some websites. Make sure to display your signup form prominently with a strong call-to-action (CTA). Don’t be afraid to feature it in more than one place.

Here are some high-converting areas to consider placing your email list building tool:

Navigation Bar: People often expect email signup and login buttons placed at the top of websites in the navigation bar or in the footer. Use that space for a button that urges visitors to subscribe. For example, the Centre for Social Innovation has their newsletter signup box in that location.


Feature Box: Utilize an above-the-fold (or scroll) spot on your homepage for a CTA to subscribe to your email communications. Health and fitness website mindbodygreen has an awesome example of a strong CTA in a feature box just below their homepage navigation.

feature box example email list building

Content Pages: Place an email sign-up module at the end of articles and blog posts. If visitors like your content enough to read to the end, they’re likely to subscribe as well. Sarah Morgan does an excellent job incorporating this at the bottom of her website pages to gently nudge readers to sign up for her email list.

content page subscriber example

Popup: Popups are a great way to get in front of your users and encourage them to subscribe. However, you want to make sure you’re reaching the right people at the right time. With AddThis List Building tools, you can display a popup based on specific behaviors, such as when a returning visitor lands on your site, after they’ve viewed a certain number of pages, or on exit intent (right before they’re about to leave your page). Companies like Xerox have been able to grow their email lists by 540% using these list building tools.

Here’s a great example that pops up on J. Crew’s site after a few seconds of scrolling:

popup example

2. Create content people want more of.

If a visitor likes what they see when they land on your site, they’ll be more likely to sign up for your newsletter. Makes sense, right? Since a piece of content shared on social media might be their entry point, you have to make sure that content is compelling enough to prompt them to subscribe.

You can even tease them by promising your next great piece delivered straight to their inbox (which saves them the time of hunting it down on their own) if they subscribe.

Valuable content is informative, entertaining, relatable, or some combination of all three. Lists and tips are highly scannable and shareable. A catchy headline and strong visuals like large images, video content, or infographics will also help to draw users in. Urgency and a sense of timeliness help many marketers draw users, especially around the holidays.

3. Raise your online profile.

Your brand is you, and you’re an expert in your field. Seek out opportunities to increase your visibility online by writing about and discussing topics related to your industry. Ways to get started include:

  • Become a guest blogger or contributor: Sites like the Huffington Post employ a great number of guest bloggers and contributors covering a large variety of topics. Make a list of sites that get a lot of traffic (you can use Alexa to browse top sites by category) and pitch a few story ideas to each. Not sure how to get started? Don’t underestimate the value of simply reaching out to your favorite bloggers.
  • Syndicate your content: If you’re creating valuable blog posts or articles, offer them to sites where they would be a good fit. Anyone can publish content to Medium, and you can also syndicate business-related blog posts on LinkedIn.
  • Be a guest on podcasts and video series: If you have some favorite podcasts, or you are a fan of a particular YouTube channel, consider pitching yourself as an expert in your field. Offer up some fun topics for discussion and share how your participation will benefit their audience.

Raising your digital profile can help drive targeted traffic to your site, and those who are already interested in you and your area of expertise will be more likely to subscribe than someone simply coming in through a Google search.

4. Offer something in return for a sign up.

New visitors generally need an incentive to leave an email address but returning visitors to your site are 10 times more likely to leave an email address. That said, to grab those new visitors, offer a freebie such as a discount or an insider’s guide to encourage people to subscribe.

Offering gated content – content you can only access after signing up – is a common strategy among marketers looking to generate qualified leads. A recent report on B2B lead generation showed that 80% of B2B content marketing assets are gated. Just remember, it’s key that you clearly communicate what you’re offering and why it’s valuable enough for someone to hand over their email address in exchange.

For gated content to work – and so the person who just signed up doesn’t immediately unsubscribe – it has to provide value and deliver on what you’re promising.

Death to the Stock Photo does an amazing job at this. When you sign up, they promise to deliver a free pack of stock photos once a month. A week after receiving your first pack they send you a bonus download, just because. This keeps users engaged and turns them into loyal customers quickly.

5. Promote your email newsletter on social media.

Most email marketing services like MailChimp offer Facebook integrations. You can create a form within the mail client, sync it up to Facebook, and it will create a tab on your Facebook page. People who like your page can subscribe on the spot, without having to visit your website.

Another way to promote your newsletter on social media is to share the most recent edition. Allowing users to see what they’ll be getting when they sign up helps create enthusiastic subscribers. Even the occasional tweet, post, or snap doesn’t hurt either.

6. Be transparent and set clear expectations.

When you’re asking your audience to subscribe to your email list, make sure you tell them what they’ll be getting and how often. The risks of not setting expectations correctly are a high unsubscribe rate or being reported as spam.

Remember, your brand is on the line.

7. Test and optimize.

When it comes to email marketing, testing is key (in addition to following a helpful email campaign checklist). It’s the only way to learn what works and what doesn’t. You can test copy, distribution channels, the placement of different signup links and widgets on your website, and the type of giveaways and gated content you offer.

Don’t be shy about asking your users or readers for feedback. When we want to make improvements to our homepage, we ask users for their opinions on the copy, layout, and design. Then, we incorporate that feedback into new designs to further conduct extensive testing and tweaking.

Most email marketing services offer analytics, which makes it easy to find out how your readers are responding to your A/B tests. Then, you can refine and optimize your strategy based on what you learn.

It’s easy to market to those who already know and like your brand, which is why email marketing is such a powerful tool. It gives you an opportunity to engage with your customers regularly and helps them stay “in the know,” a feeling they’ll reward you for by coming back to your site again and again.

Ready to start growing your email list? Check out our free AddThis List Building tools.


Using a popup, slider, or banner, you can easily capture email addresses on your website and feed them directly into your email service provider, including MailChimp, AWeber, and more.

Last modified:  June 11th, 2019