Guide to Getting Your First 500 Email Subscribers

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Guide to Getting Your First 500 Email Subscribers

Getting your first 500 subscribers is hard. I know it was for me. When I began blogging, I was getting between 3-5 blog subscribers per week for the first 4 months. It seemed that not matter how much I blogged, I couldn’t generate more than 20-30 subscribers per month. I had my email ‘optin’ form on the right-hand side of my blog, but had less than a 1% conversion rate on my blog traffic. Well, today, I want to save you from the mistakes I made and jump right into showing you what works. (Because I’ve spent hundreds of hours studying and designing things that don't work.)

Why 500 & not 1,000?

Because everybody does a ‘how to get your first 1,000 subscribers in x days’ post. And the truth is, most people give up and don’t reach 1,000 subscribers. 500 subscribers is a more realistic and achievable goal that, when reached, will motivate you to reach your first 1,000 subscribers and beyond. Let’s do this.

1. Finding an Email Marketing Service (That Rocks)

Before you can start gaining subscribers, you’ll need a place to capture & store them—an email marketing service. With countless email marketing services out there, it’s hard to know which one will best suit your needs, but the one I highly recommend  is Aweber. I’ve used Mailchimp, Aweber, Constant Contact, iContact, Get Response, and a ton of other ones, but after several years of testing, none of them have impressed me as much as Aweber. It’s deliverability (email getting to people’s inbox,) automation, user interface, and forms are better than anything I’ve used. Plus, it’s only $1 the first month. ;) So, before you go to step 2, make sure you have an email marketing account setup. Click here to setup with Aweber. Note: I do get a small affiliate commission if you join Aweber through the link above. It helps me continue posting great, free content & they are hands-down the best email marketing service I have ever used! :)

2. Determine Your Email List’s Purpose

Not to sound cliche, but this is the first thing I did wrong. When I first launched my blog, I had an email list for marketing, web design, photography, film, audio, and for my blog in general. Over the first 4 months, I only sent out 2 broadcasts to the 100ish subscribers I had accumulated and eventually ended up scraping everything but the general blog subscribers and the marketing. The problem was that having SO many lists overwhelmed me—big time. I didn’t email that much because I had a few subscribers on each list and I wanted to wait till I had hundreds on each list. By having so many lists for too many categories, I quickly burned myself out mentally—thinking I would have to keep up with each category of subscribers. So, before you create a list, determine the purpose of it. If you want to generate blog subscribers to email your latest blog posts to, then create ONE list for that. Don’t create different lists for each category on your blog. If you have a free eBook to give away, then create one list to gather subscribers who may become potential future customers. (Actually, I’m currently writing an ebook on Freelancing to give people an incentive for subscribing. That way, I’ll have a list of targeted people to sell my upcoming freelance courset! 8-) ) Which leads us to step 3…

3. Create a Free Offer

A free offer is anything you give someone for subscribing to your email list. Think of it as a trade. They give you their email and you give them something free in return. When creating a free offer, remember that it’s sole purpose is to provide value. If it’s not providing value, then they won’t be a very involved subscriber. (And chances are, they’ll just unsubscribe.) Take Hubspot, for example. They leverage the power of ‘free offers’ and generate more than 50,000 new email subscribers each month from it. Currently, I have several free offers: my Twitter Business Hacks ebook and my Blogging Essentials Checklist. The ebook took about 2 weeks to write, design, & format, and the Blogging Essentials Checklist only took 45 minutes to create. Each one of them generated several hundred of email subscribers in the first month and continue to do so on a daily basis. (Pretty neat!) If you don't have a free offer quite yet, don't worry. They're relatively easy to create and will pay off in the long-run. Here’s a list of ideas to get you started: [checklist]

  • Guides
  • eBooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Case Studies
  • Spreadsheets
  • Webinars
  • Lists (i.e. 12 Resources You Need for Blogging)

[/checklist] And those are just a few.. I have a client who gives away FULL online training courses for people who subscribe. But, in doing so, he generates about a million dollars per year for the paid membership program he sells to his course subscribers.

4. Sidebars, Footers, Abouts, and Popups

Every visitor to your site is a potential sale. That’s why it’s important to make it easy for them to get on your email list. You don’t want to overwhelm them and clutter your site with optin forms, but the top 4 areas I recommend having an optin form include: sidebars, post footers, about pages, and popups. Sidebars This is probably the most common spot to have an optin form. Through my blog and client’s blogs, I’ve found this to yield a relatively low conversion rate. Typically 1-2%. If you want to improve that, I highly recommend the free Wordpress plugin, ‘Q2W3 Fixed Widget.' It will allow your sidebar to ‘stick’ and hover on the screen as the user scrolls. I’ve done this for a long time and it normally boosts the conversion rate to 2-3%. Post Footers Typically, the only time someone will see an optin form at the footer of your post is if they’ve read the entire thing. This is a perfect time to give them the opportunity to join your email list. If you want to save tons of hours and money designing and coding your own footer optin form, I highly recommend Optin Skin. It allows you to easily create gorgeous pre-coded optin forms, it integrates with your email marketing service, and is worth every penny.

Click here to check it out. :)

About Page Your 'about page' will probably be one of your most-visited pages. Readers love to know more about who is providing them content. Having an optin form in the middle of your ‘about’ page and at the bottom is a must. Take it from Pat Flynn, who saw a 400% increase in optins just by adding a simple optin form on his ‘about’ page.

Popup Domination Example Lightbox Hover Example (Popup Domination)
After purchasing the Popup Domination Wordpress plugin (by Michael Dunlop,) I instantly saw a 600% increase in email subscribers on my blog and my clients’. I highly recommend it if you want to see more subscribers  immediately. Click here to check out Popup Domination.

5. Run a Facebook Campaign

Running a Facebook Ads will easily help you hit 500 subscribers within 30 days for a very small amount of money. Typically, I average $.20-$.40 per subscriber when I run ads for clients or myself. (Meaning, if I want to get 200 downloads on a new ebook, I’ll spend $40-$80 and hit it within a week.) Recommended: $.17 conversions with Facebook Custom Audiences Once you create a free offer, a landing page and a custom audience, you should be able to easily run some Facebook ads and generate some instant email subscribers. I just recently ran a campaign for a client’s ebook and we pulled 600 email subscribers in 30 days on only $5 per day in Facebook ads.

6. Promote on Social Media DAILY

Roughly 30% of my email subscribers currently come from social media. I promote my different free offers several time per day on Twitter (my main social marketing tool) and once per day on Facebook and Google+. In doing this, I generate subscribers within minutes of every post. The best way to do this is by pre-scheduling your social media content with a tool like Hootsuite or Sprout Social. (Hootsuite has a free version and is a bit cheaper, but the metrics on Sprout Social and scheduling capabilities are a much better.) [divider] Overall, the key to getting your first 500 or 1,000+ email subscribers is consistency. Be consistent in your blogging, social media & advertising, and you will get hit your subscribers goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a solid subscriber base! ;) Please comment what is working for you! I’d love to hear your success. 

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Josh Coffy

Josh is an entrepreneur at heart, dropping out of college to pursue his dream of owning his own business. Fast-forward five years later, and Josh’s unique ability to marry technology with creative marketing strategies has led to Flight Media’s steady and swift growth. Now one of the leading Inbound Marketing companies in Ohio, the U.S. and abroad, clients trust Flight Media’s expertise, agile approach, and transparency. You can find Josh at CrossFit, backpacking the West coast with his wife, Kelsey, or reading a personal development book from his ever-growing library.