Top 10 List Building Questions -Answered

"While obsessing about SEO, poring over Google Analytics, agonizing over what to write next... building an email list has become a casual "put the form over there" checkbox item and then forgotten.

Which is a shame. Your email subscribers are, in fact, your greatest fans and probably your most under-valued resource." -Phil Hollows, LBB

As a follow-up to Do You Dread Emailing Your List?, today we'll have an open Q&A on List Building - and answer your top questions on the topic.

You sent in great questions!

We'll look at the Top 10 List Building Questions which cover a variety of topics: where to place your opt-in box, best ways to get more subscribers, how to create an attractive opt-in box, which mailing list manager to use, what to send out to your list, etc...

Best Placement For Your Opt-In Form

Justin says: "Do you have any data or knowledge about where the best place to put your opt-in box at on your blog? For example as a pop-up, top sidebar, below each post... Which spot gets the highest opt-in rate?"

The absolute best place to have a subscription form is at the top of your sidebar, above the fold, clearly marked. It should be on every page.

If you have to scroll to find it, move it up.

If it blends in too well, make it stand out.

Other places where forms can be effective are above your logo or banner example, and also below every post as part of the footer of the content. To research positioning further,
check out this heatmap (right).

^ From List Building for Bloggers: Chapter 4, Section 1, Page 25

Lynn: I will add that your form placement will really depend on your theme, design and layout. You may want to perform a usability test, and also split-test different placements, as what works well on one site or blog may not perform the same on another. This is generally due to "eye pull" and whether your colors & images weight your page to the right or left.

It will also depend on your objective. If list-building is the main objective, you want that to stand out above anything else on the page. If you have a different call-to-action for that page, you don't want to distract the visitor from that objective.

Autoresponders vs Broadcasts

Grace says: "Is there a magic number of autoresponders you should set up for an email list. Is it better to reduce the number of auto responses and develop a habit of using broadcasts instead?"

At the very least you should have one autoresponse email set up, to welcome new subscribers to your list after they have joined. This email should welcome them to your list, and set their expectations. Let them know what they'll receive from you, when they'll hear from you, and tell them about any features/content they may be interested in as new subscribers (ie "the next best click" after reading your welcome message). <- Don't forget to include a call-to-action! πŸ˜‰ If your subscription form offered visitors an incentive, you'll want to deliver that incentive in the first follow-up message. You should follow-up with a second autoresponder message 3 days later to make sure they received it, ask them if they have any questions about it, and invite them to submit questions or feedback.

Broadcasts are useful for timely information, invitations to current events, special offers, etc. You can easily intermix them with your autoresponder series for a combination of evergreen content and time-sensitive content.

In the Autoresponders chapter of List Building For Bloggers (page 89), Phil suggests several things you might include in your autoresponder series:

  • Thank You message, Deliver incentive
  • Your most popular blog posts for them to browse
  • The outline of your ebook, then invite them to download/buy
  • A survey: How can you improve?
  • Tips article from your blog archives on a relevant topic
  • Archived videos or webcasts
  • Useful third party resources

"Autoresponders are a great way to repurpose archived content as long as it's still relevant (evergreen)." -Phil Hollows, LBB Page 90

What To Send Your Subscribers - Email Content Ideas

Christina says: "I struggle with what to share besides offers. I have a hard enough time getting content onto my blog in the first place so then I'm lost when it comes to emailing content."

First, I assume that you are sending your subscribers notification of new blog posts - correct? If not, that's a great place to start. You can set up a Blog Broadcast in Aweber using your feed, and it will automatically send an email each time you publish a new post - or on the schedule you request (weekly digest, for example).

Tip: Share resources that do not belong to you, or come from one of your own properties. This may be a competitors blog post, video or Facebook page that you enjoy - and think they would as well. It could be a funny video or great forum thread that you find. It might even be a magazine article you can link to online. ALL of the content YOU consume & enjoy may also be great to include in a friendly, resourceful email to your subscribers! πŸ˜‰

Also see:

Finding Your Voice: Improving Your Writing Style

Terry says: "When I write I don't want to sound like a used car salesman (no disrespect to that profession) and not like talking to my children. I see there is two extremes- and I want to try to be in the middle..."

Finding your voice is important. There are two things to consider: sounding real and personable (being yourself), and appealing to your target market. If you have a list of Harley Motorcycle enthusiasts, you don't want your writing voice to have a sweet housewife sound. If you're talking to league bowlers, you want to use their lingo. So 1) know your market and what they expect, and 2) be conversational.

What works best for me is to imagine that a close friend or peer phoned me and asked me about XYZ. Or that I phoned them to let them know about XYZ. Write like you talk, and more importantly: write the way you talk to people you know.

How to Get More Traffic and More Subscribers

Carol says: "Many of my friends and self are struggling getting people to opt in to our attractive free offers. Any suggestions on where to find our appropriate people - as facebook and twitter are not driving traffic?"

If you use social media to drive traffic and build your list, you'll need very focused profiles with a very focused following. The #1 mistake I see people making is having a general or personal profile, and trying to appeal to a general audience with a very specific audience. Your site should have a branded Twitter account, and a branded Facebook Page (which you create in addition to your personal profile).

Social media is an important piece of your marketing plan, so don't dismiss it. If what you're doing is not working, change what you're doing - don't stop doing.

In addition to the connections, searches and networking ON the social media sites... the new Google Social Search offers your target market "social proof" and personal recommendations. See this example:

Social mediums are only going to grow from this point forward, so revise and improve your plan now to stay relevant going forward. Of course, social media is just one piece to your online marketing plan...

Lain says: "I seem to have hit the limit of my personal circle -- what's the best way to expand beyond my circle of influence into the next level?"

Great question! Assuming you have not hit the limit of your market size, just your personal network, the next step is to leverage the personal circle of other marketers with reach & influence in your niche.

Ideas for Leveraging Your Competition include:

  • Guest Blog for them
  • Write an exclusive tip/article for their newsletter
  • Joint Venture with them
  • Create a case study or review of their product/service that they can share with their readers
  • Join their "network" (forum, blog comments, Facebook page, etc) and join the conversation there
  • Submit articles to magazines & publications that are popular with your market
  • Recruit them as your Affiliate

In addition to social media and networking, you should place a strong focus on Search Engine Optimization to funnel highly targeted traffic to your site & opt-in incentive. This is the best way to step outside of your own personal & extended reach, and get in front of the exact people that are searching for you (and what you offer) online every single day.

See: How To Optimize Your Site For Free Search Engine Traffic

Also read Keyword Strategy and download the two free reports in that post to help you create content that attracts your market and converts them into subscribers.

How To Create An Attractive Opt-In Form

Debbie says: "An easy/free way to design a good looking/better converting opt in box?"

Your mailing list manager should offer several options, including customization and split testing of design elements. I know that Aweber does. I just went in to my own Aweber account and created this basic form in under 5 minutes using one of their fill-in-the-blank templates:

Also see the Squeeze Page Design section towards the end (click on the link and scroll down) for more options including resources for both opt-in boxes and full squeeze pages.

Getting Over The Technical Hurdles

Debbie P. says: "The whole landing page, opt-in and autoresponder thing just misses me. Seems like a magical process. Where it all goes on my blog site, how works, etc., etc."

You're not alone. Fortunately you have two very good options. You can outsource the design and set-up to someone that does know these details. Or you can learn either hands-on or through a training course if you want to learn how to do it yourself.

If you use Aweber as your mailing list manager, they have helpful video tutorials for creating forms and placing them on your site. They also have free webinars and many other free video tutorials.

Michael Rasmussen also has a Free Video Course on creating mini-sites that is very detailed. Mini-site is another term often exchanged for Squeeze Page or Landing Page.

Success Secret To List Building

Dana says: "What's the #1 activity, above all else, that you must do to create a list?"

That's a loaded question. πŸ˜€ I looked at it again carefully before choosing my response, and after a bit of thought... this is my answer:

You must ASK people to subscribe.

It's as simple as that. Of course that requires having a mailing list manager, setting up your list, and putting an opt-in (subscription) form on your blog or website. All very easy to do. Once you have that in place, you simply have to invite your target market to subscribe to your list.

Another question I hear frequently, a slight variation of yours, is "what do I need to do to sustain my list - to keep them engaged and responsive?". My answer would be:

Stay in front of them.

The secret to success with list building & email marketing is to be consistent. Be consistent in both marketing your list, and communicating with your list. Letting a list grow cold from lack of contact is a real waste of a super valuable resource...

Which Mailing List Manager Should I Choose?

Diana says: "What are the differences between FeedBlitz and Feedburner? Are they similar? Are there advantages to one over the other?"

FeedBlitz is considered "a FeedBurner alternative". You can see comparisons here. The main difference is that Feedburner will ONLY send a notification of new blog posts to your subscribers. FeedBlitz allows you to send a broadcast or newsletter to your subscribers, in addition to post notifications. And FeedBurner is free, but FeedBlitz is not.

I would not recommend FeedBurner for email list management. They don't give you enough control, or customization options.

I do use FeedBurner to "burn my feed". This allows me to have RSS stats, and it also integrates with Aweber (my mailing list manager) to give me combined stats - and also to set up a Blog Broadcast for blog email notification.

It can be a real hassle to move a mailing list, so I recommend you choose your provider carefully upfront - or before you list grows too large, at least. Aweber is the industry leader in list management, offers top notch training and customer service to their clients, and has all the bells & whistles you might possibly need.

I like Phil Hollows so much that I actually compared my Aweber account to a FeedBlitz account πŸ™‚ but the pricing nowhere near comparative due to my list size - which only continues to grow. Aweber continues to be the best choice for me in both service and pricing...

Email Marketing Is More Important Than Ever!

While it's easy to put email marketing on the back burner for newer strategies such as mobile marketing, or social media marketing, email is even more important now than ever. With the majority of people "going mobile" via smart phones and other portable devices... you can now reach them via immediately, anytime and anywhere, right in their back pocket.

Content streams such as Facebook and Twitter updates move fast, and you either get in front of your market while they're scrolling through them - or your timing is off and your update never gets seen. An email on the other hand, will wait for them in their personal inbox and be right there waiting when they get ready to read it...

"Don't get me wrong here - I'm a huge fan of Social Media. I blog, tweet and all the rest of it. This isn't an email vs. social media battle.

It's this basic: Email is the perfect complement to your blog and other social media channels." -Phil Hollows, LBB

To close with personal examples, I made two purchases from my smart phone in the last week alone. One was a physical product recommended by someone I respect in their field, and I clicked through and ordered directly from Amazon mobile. The other was a book recommended by Jason Falls while he was speaking in Nashville. I was able to open my Kindle app and order it on the spot, and also have it delivered to my iPad - all from my back pocket.

This is where you want to reach your buying market: anywhere! πŸ˜‰

Save or Share these tips - Download in PDF Format here


With List Building For Bloggers, you can quickly and easily raise the value of your list with very little effort.

It is written in plain English. It is full of actionable, proven tips and techniques you can easily put in place, step by step. It isn't magic.

Most steps take no more than a few minutes to get working. But the rewards will last the lifetime of your blog. -Phil Hollows, LBB

* * * * *

About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...moreΒ»


  1. Carl Coddington says

    I always struggle whether to market as myself or my topic on Twitter. So I do both.

    I do have separate Twitter accounts depending on which products I'm selling. I have found though that more people buy when I use a name instead of a description.

    • It's important to be a "real person" OR a "recognized brand". Even Dell has a separate Twitter account for personal communication: @DellCares

      Definitely use your name, pen name or brand over "keywords" in your Twitter account.

  2. Peter Lawlor says

    I've been working on listbuilding for a few months now with mixed success. I believe the reason 1 listbuilding effort is succeeding and another continually fails has to do with website focus.

    The site that is focused to a distinct group of people is resulting in a wonderful list. The site that is broader in audience simply doesn't seem to build a list despite testing 5 different freebie incentive offers.

    In fact, the site that is building a great list receives a fraction of the traffic of the unsuccessful listbuilding site.

    This doesn't mean (for me) that broad sites are a waste of time (it earns decently with affiliate offers), it's just perhaps investing time and effort into a list isn't time well spent.

    This experience of mine tells me that if I wish to build a particular list, I should create an informative website that caters specifically to a distinct group of people and customize the incentive to that group.

    Just my two cents' worth. Lynn, your listbuilding series is fantastic. Thank you.

    • The more targeted, the higher the opt-in conversion - for sure. It also depends on the objective of the site, or the page the visitor lands on. An opt-in could be a distraction from another more appealing call-to-action, and you want to weight which is more important to the success of the site ... and to serving that market.

      I'd love to take a look sometime, just to see if anything stands out to me.

  3. Dennis Edell says

    What did you use to go post to PDF?

  4. James Foster says

    Well, email marketing has become more important then ever and hence there is a need for the perfect answer for all the questions in mind to have a chance to make the most out of it.

  5. That's a very good Q&A. I would just add that if you're serious about list building, you need to segment you customers as only 10% of your real customers will be responsible for more than 90% of your total income. So you better take care of this small portion. Thanks for the clarifications

  6. "...FeedBlitz and Feedburner? ... Are there advantages to one over the other?”
    According to the eBook you can import an existing list in FeedBlitz w/o making them resubscribe (page 42/43).

    • True. There are many differences between them, which is why I linked to the comparison. For me it still wasn't cost effective to switch from Aweber due to my list size (of combined lists)...

  7. I have a friend who has a product you would generally only buy once. Maybe twice, but the repeat business would be a low percentage of the original. I've been trying to convince her that it's still necessary to have a good mailing list because those people will tell others about the product, and it could raise the -re-sale/up-sale rate. Any advice for her?

    • Hi Gloria,

      Your friend may want two lists: customers (people who purchased) and prospects (people who are undecided about making the purchase). For the latter, do keyword research and determine if people are looking for information in this market. If they are, target those keyword phrases and answer their questions with a free report (opt-in incentive). Use an autoresponder series to close the sale.

      The customer list can be used to follow-up after the purchase, introduce them to your referral/affiliate program, invite them to submit feedback or answer a survey, recommend related products/services they will most likely need post-purchase.

  8. Very comprehensive article, thank you, Lynn. Reading it made me realize how unprepared and inexperienced i am. Which is... depressing, but still, i guess to acknowledge this represents the first step.

    • I have been struggling for months to get the hang of opt-in list and affiliate marketing. I have tried a lot of techniques. I like what your article suggest and hope it works for me. How long does it take to get results?

  9. I agree with you, but there's a limit on how many emails you can send to Your Subscribers. For example, i recently registered on a certain website that i had no idea it was selling something. In 5 minutes the mails started pouring in and i imagined myself in spam hell, slowly burning. Right now i'm getting up to 10 email every day, and i see no method of unsubscribing πŸ™

    • I agree with you, but that's an extreme case. That IS spam and you should report it. It's against best practices for a number of reasons - no explanation upfront, no means to unsubscribe, etc.

      I'm curious what enticed you to subscribe?

      • It was some investment program i found interesting (i don't want to give names), and now they keep sending offers like there's no tomorrow.

        I'm aware it's an extreme case, but it can still happen to anyone.

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