How To Grow Your Email List: The Step-by-Step Guide

If you’re serious about growing your budding blog into a full-time lifestyle business (and you should be), you know that one of the 3 most important things you gotta focus on — especially if you work full-time — is growing your email list.

You can write amazing articles and nail SEO, but if you don’t have a thriving email list, you’re missing out on sales, traffic, shares, testimonials, and referrals.

Trying to build a profitable blog in 2017 without growing your email list, would be like attempting to fly a kite just by blowing at it. It’s never gonna happen.

If you have no clue how to grow your list beyond a handful of subs per week, this guide is for you.

This framework will teach you everything you need to know about building a massive email list with eager subscribers that want to read and share your work.

Ready to build a monster email list? Then click here to get the free cheat sheet with 22 high-converting freebies that will explode your list.

Find your way around the guide with this nifty table of contents:

  1. Choosing The Right Email Capture Tools
  2. A Short Guide To Opt-in Boxes
  3. 6 Principles Of A Perfect Opt-in Box
  4. Finding The Highest-Converting Places On Your Site
  5. Creating Irresistible Offers
  6. Optimizing Your Most Visited Pages
  7. Leveraging Social Media
  8. Getting In Front Of A New Audience
  9. How To Make It All Work

1. Choosing The Right Email Capture Tools

Before you can start growing your list , you need two things:

  1. An email service provider
  2. An email capture tool

Sarah uses Convertkit to manage all her subscribers. It lets her manage a big list of contacts easily, A/B test headlines, and measure the success of her emails.


I love using Sumo to deliver freebies. It has 9 different kinds of opt-ins (all you’ll ever need), and they’re super easy to customize and design because it has a visual builder.

The dashboard is intuitive and clean, and I can quickly filter all of Sarah's opt-ins by type, which makes it easier to find a specific freebie if I need to.

sumo ex

Once you have a reliable email service and email capture tool in place, you can start creating opt-in boxes to deliver freebies (more on that on step 5).

Let’s look at which opt-in boxes are the best and where to put them:

2. A Short Guide To Opt-in Boxes

The best opt-in boxes and popups – that your email capture tool should absolutely have – are:

  • Bar. This is a bar on top of your site (above your menu). In Sumo, it’s called Smart Bar, but you may have also heard about Hello Bar. You can use it to collect emails or make announcements, like Alo does when they have a discount:


  • Lightbox pop-up. This is the most common pop-up you know, the one that appears in the middle of your screen. In Sumo, it’s simply called a popup. This is how Perfect Keto uses it:


  • Slide-in pop-up. This popup is a less-invasive form of the lightbox pop-up, it appears on either the right or left corner of your screen and stays there as you scroll down the article until you opt-in or close it. In Sumo, it’s called a Scroll Box. XY Planning Network uses this slide-in within their articles:

slide in

  • Click trigger. This is a link in your article that opens an opt-in box. It gives your readers the option to see the popup or not. That’s what Sarah prefers to use to deliver her freebies within articles:trigger
  • Exit-intent pop-up. This is a regular pop-up, except you configure it to appear when a visitor is about to leave your site. Using it increases signups from people that would otherwise forget about your site.
  • In-line form. This is a static opt-in form that can be embedded in your sidebar, within a post, after a post, in a page or in your footer. Bulletproof uses this bright in-line form in their posts:

in line

  • Welcome Mat. A welcome mat is a full-width Sumo form that slides down the whole screen. It’s like a temporary landing page.

welcome mat1

  • Interactive pop-ups. Some services include interactive popups like fortune wheels or quizzes. Sumo has a brand new Cart Casino popup that lets you play to win a prize.

Not all pop-ups and opt-ins will work with your audience. It’s important you test which ones convert the best in your niche and which ones don’t.

Every audience is different, so instead of copying what someone else is doing, test, refine, and find your own sweet spot.

Pop-ups and click triggers do well for Unsettle’s audience, but Welcome Mats not so much.

Check the conversion rate of a recent Welcome Mat (5.4%):

welcome mat2

Now compare it to this pop-up (23.5%):


Monitor what works and what doesn't so you can optimize your opt-ins around your visitors' preferences.

All the opt-ins you create should have six core characteristics:

3. 6 Principles Of A Perfect Opt-in Box

Before you head out to drop all sorts of popups on your site, know this:

Your opt-ins shouldn’t spam your audience. Ever.  

Nobody likes random, poorly designed, annoying popups that interrupt what we’re reading, so don’t do that to your visitors.

An effective opt-in box anywhere on your site should always be:

  • Valuable – It should give your readers something they truly want or need.
  • Relevant – The offer fits the articles and resources your reader is currently viewing, so it feels natural.
  • Clear – The copy of your opt-in is crystal clear about the benefits of your offer.
  • Timely – Have you ever clicked through a site that hits you with a pop-up 2 seconds in? Don’t be that website. If you’re using regular or slide-in pop-ups, configure them so they appear after your reader has spent a while reading through your site. You can make them show up 3-10 minutes later, or in terms of % of content read, like after a visitor has read 60% of an article.
  • Personable – Don’t write your opt-in offer like a robot, let your personality shine through.
  • Eye-catching – Make your opt-in stand out with bright colors that match your branding, an enticing image (if applicable), and a visible button that your readers can’t miss.

Make sure all your opt-in boxes and popups fit these 6 principles before making it live on your site.

Now let’s take a look at where to put these opt-ins boxes…

4. Finding The Highest Converting Places For Your Opt-in Forms

Placing pop-ups and opt-ins in strategic places around your site will significantly increase conversions.

These places will vary depending on what works specifically for you, but the highest converting spots on your blog tend to be:

  • Site-wide above your header. Hello Bar and Smart Bar were built specifically for this. A bar above your header will be the first thing a visitor sees, so it bumps your subscriber count if you put a form in it. Minimalist Baker uses a bar to promote their free ebook:


  • Header. The space right below your menu is the most visible spot on your site. Take advantage of it with a feature box plugin, a carousel, or an in-line form. Jeff Goins has a header above everything else on his homepage:


  • Sidebar. Depending on your niche and audience, your visitors may be blind to all sidebar content (because ads), but it still works for a lot of successful bloggers so it’s definitely worth testing. Look at how Nomadic Matt does it:


  • Within posts. You can add opt-ins within posts using an in-line form, a click trigger, a slide-in pop-up, a regular pop-up, or a Welcome Mat. Like this box 😉
  • After an article. Help your audience take action on what they just read with a relevant in-line form at the end of your posts. Look at the opt-in box I put at the end of Sarah's last article:

after blog post

  • Footer. Don’t underestimate your footer. Take advantage of this area with an in-line form. Derek Halpern has a compelling CTA to sign up to his newsletter on his footer:


Now that you have a better idea of which opt-ins boxes you can use and where to place them, it’s time to create the right offers for those boxes.

5. Creating Irresistible Offers

The only reason your visitors will ever pay attention to your pop-ups is if there’s something in it for them.

In psychology, one of the theories of motivation is the Incentive Theory, which states that “people are pulled toward behaviors that offer positive incentives and pushed away from behaviors associated with negative incentives”.

In economics, the fourth principle of economics says that people respond to incentives. Steven Landsburg, a professor of economics, goes so far as to say that “most of economics can be summarized in four words: “People respond to incentives.” The rest is commentary.

In other words, if you don’t give your visitors a compelling reason to give you their email address, your email list will never grow.

Your opt-ins are useless clutter on your blog if they don’t have the right incentives for your audience.

So how can you find the best offers for your readers?

There are 8 types of highly-effective freebies that can turn casual visitors into raving fans – and we’re going to break them down.

I’ll also tell you exactly where to put each incentive to optimize your conversion rate.

Unlike a mediocre pop-up asking people to subscribe, these free goodies are so valuable they’ll make visitors be like:

shut up and take my email address

Offer #1. A Content Upgrade

Content upgrades are article-specific bonus resources that boost the value of an article by making it more actionable or digestible. An effective upgrade complements the article so well it feels like a no-brainer to get it.

Content upgrades have to:

  • Be created individually for each article.
  • Make the article 2-3x more valuable.
  • Be offered at the right sections of your piece.

Need ideas? Offer these 7 types of content upgrades:

1.Checklist. A checklist is easy to put together and helps readers use the tips from the article later on. The checklist in this article helps people remember all the writing elements they need to incorporate before publishing an article:


2. A short summary of your article. If you’re writing a list article, a short summary of each point can help people remember them better afterward. Paleo Leap condensed their article in a handy PDF readers can print to remember all the diet guidelines.   ex content upgrade summary

3. A webinar replay. If you’ve hosted webinars or video classes in the past that complement and enhance your current article, offer the replay as a freebie. I offered Sarah's time management class on her article about growing your blog while working full time:


4. List of tools. A list of useful tools that help readers get closer to their goals. In the article about making money from your blog, Sarah offered a list of tools that help bloggers discover the product their audience truly wants. tools3

5. A workbook. A workbook is the perfect upgrade when your readers have to do mental exercises. In this article about discovering your unique skills, Sarah gave her audience a workbook they can use to go through the steps.

. workbook

6Templates. A template is a great upgrade for all things organization, DIY, and design. Abby offered her readers the cover template for her home binder:  ex content upgrade template

7. Swipe File. If you want to go the extra mile, offer a swipe file with a bundle of templates, worksheets, PDFs, and other documents that help people take action on what they just learned. On this article about productivity, Sarah offered her readers the SOPs and worksheets that she and her content manager (me) personally use to stay on top of everything on Unsettle.swipe file

Where To Place Your Content Upgrades to Get More Emails

You can put your content upgrades…

  • In a Welcome Mat that rolls down as soon as someone opens your article.
  • Inside your article 2-3 times as a click trigger pop-up to remind your readers the option exists.
  • At the end of each article in an in-line form so people can take action right away.

An amazing content upgrade checks off these boxes:

  • It’s inside an eye-catching box (for click triggers pop-ups).
  • Has an enticing headline.
  • It’s short and has a clear call-to-action (click here, download, grab, get, steal, etc).
  • Has a big and colorful submit button.

Another way to grow your email list aside from content upgrades is with…

Offer #2. A Free Email Course

A free email course helps your readers learn something new in an organized way, while giving you the opportunity to…

  • Find out what you can do to improve and create a premium course later on.
  • Start a monetization sequence.

Your free course should help solve one of your audience’s biggest pain points. Sarah created her free course on how to find the perfect biz idea because people kept telling her they were struggling to find a business idea they loved enough to pursue.

ex course

Where To Place Your Free Email Course on Your Site to Get More Emails

Email courses can be…

  • Directly on your main menu
  • In your about page
  • In a site-wide feature box
  • On your sidebar
  • In a popup that appears after a certain period of time

A free course that converts:

  • Solves a burning question
  • Relates to your audience’s problems in the copy
  • Has an eye-catching design

If your niche or blog doesn’t lend itself well to an email course, try challenging your audience.

Offer #3. A Free Challenge

Challenges are similar to courses but framed differently.

While courses teach people how to solve specific problems, challenges help them pick up a new skill, improve habits, or learn a lesson by doing things outside their comfort zone.

Instead of following a step-by-step guide, each day is a different challenge to complete.

Jen from Simple Green Smoothies runs the popular Simple 7 green smoothie challenge. Each day of the week, the challenge takers have to make a new green smoothie recipe.

ex free challenge

Wes Bos created the wildly popular #JavaScript30 challenge to help people learn to code with one tutorial a day for a month.

ex free challenge2

Where To Place Your Free Challenge on Your Site to Get More Emails

Challenges can be…

  • Directly on your main menu
  • In your about page
  • In your homepage
  • In a site-wide feature box above the fold
  • On your sidebar
  • In a popup that appears after a certain period of time
  • In a slide-in pop-up

A challenge that converts:

  • Seems achievable
  • Inspires your subscribers to make a positive change
  • Make people excited
  • Has an eye-catching design

Offer #4. A webinar

A webinar, training, or masterclass grows your list like gangbusters because it has cool features other freebies don’t:

  • Fans feel closer to you, especially if you show your face before the class begins.
  • People have the chance to ask questions (if it’s live).
  • People get the lessons explained to them in digestible bits.
  • Attendees usually get a bonus resource that helps them implement what they learned in the webinar (you should give a freebie at the end to make it extra awesome).

The main offer on Unsettle's homepage is a video class Sarah co-hosted with Tor Refsland on how to build a profitable blog when you work full time, because she knows her audience wants to learn how to be more productive and make money with their blog while they work.

webinar example 3

Lewis Howes’ freebie is a webinar on how to grow your biz with Instagram because it has become a platform that can drive massive traffic to your site, so it’s extremely relevant to his audience.

webinar example 4

Where To Place Your Webinars on Your Site to Get More Emails

Your exclusives webinars can be…

  • Above the fold on your homepage
  • In a site-wide feature box above your posts
  • In a Welcome Mat
  • At the end of each post
  • In a slide-in pop-up
  • In a light-box pop-up

Your webinar needs…

  • To solve a burning problem
  • To remove obstacles (ie. “even if you work full time”)
  • A contrasting button that catches people’s attention.
  • To be site-wide, so a reader can see it anywhere on your blog
  • An image that represents what you’re offering.
  • Your face. It’s ideal if your eyes are pointing towards the offer’s headline

Offer #5. A Crazy-Useful Freebie

Offer a freebie so unique and comprehensive that people would be willing to pay for it. Here are some kickass freebies that stand out from the pack:

1. A massive cheat sheet. Smart Blogger’s main and most popular freebie is the Headline Hacks cheat sheet that teaches you how to write incredible article headlines.

ex juicy report

2. A free eBook. Christina offers an ebook to her readers on how to get rid of bad hair days:

ex juicy reports

3. A handy bundle. Spoil your subscribers with not one, but a bundle of freebies. Dr. Axe gives away three goodies: An ebook about healing and metabolism, a recipe ebook, and a shopping guide.

ex juicy report 2

4. An audio training. If writing an eBook ain't your thing, try recording an audio lesson. Marie Forleo offers a free motivational audio training on how to get anything you want.

ex juicy report audio

5. One-of-a-kind resources. Tim Ferriss’ main freebie at the time is truly unique: An extensive compilation of letters written by Seneca that he and his team put together. The rarer your gift, the more valuable it’ll be for your readers.

ex juicy report 3

Where To Place Your Crazy-Useful Freebies on Your Site to Get More Emails

Your exclusives gift should be…

  • Above the fold on your homepage
  • In a site-wide feature box above your posts
  • In a Welcome Mat
  • At the end of each post
  • A slide-in pop-up

Your offer needs…

  • An irresistible headline
  • A contrasting button that catches people’s attention
  • To be site-wide, so a reader can see it anywhere on your blog.
  • An image that represents what you’re offering
  • Your face. It’s ideal if your eyes are pointing towards the offer’s headline

Offer #6. Exclusive subscriber-only access

Your email list is your VIP audience, so treat them like it. Instead of giving away a single freebie or creating a course, you can offer subscriber-only resources that make your subs feel extra special and trigger FOMO (fear a missing out) in visitors who aren’t yet on your list.

Technically, all freebies and gifts are subscriber-only, the only difference is that in this case you openly market the resources as “exclusive”, which makes people want to join the club.

  1.  Discounts. If you have a store, giving visitors a discount for subscribing is a surefire way to boost your email list. Margot from Shop Matina gives 10% off to her subscribers: ex exclusive content product

2. Access to a resource library. If you’ve created multiple resources or content upgrades, put them all together in a library and make it available to your subscribers only. Melyssa Griffin offers her subs exclusive access to her massive library of templates and resources for bloggers:

free library

3. Case studies. Put together a collection of case studies and give your subscribers access. Sumo readers can get growth studies for free straight to their inbox when they subscribe:

example exclusive content

4. Printables. Are you in the home organization, design, DIY, parenting, or natural health niche? Then you can offer a collection of printables for DIY projects, labels, decor, kids’ games, planners, gift tags, cards, and more. Tasha from Designer Trapped in a Lawyer’s Body offers an epic printables library:

ex exclusive resources printables

5. On-demand resources. Instead of a single freebie or a library, why not have resources on demand? That way your readers can pick exactly what they need and you can segment them more accurately in your email service provider (win-win). Amy Porterfield offers her readers 3 different cheat sheets depending on what they need to do with their website:

ex exclusive content cheat sheets

6. Advice. If you know your shit (and you should), offer your expertise to your subscribers, just like Noah Kagan does with his hottest business hacks:

WE button

Where To Place Your Exclusive Resources on Your Site to Get More Emails

Your exclusive resources can be…

  • In your menu
  • Above the fold on your homepage
  • In a site-wide feature box above your posts
  • In a Welcome Mat
  • At the end of each post
  • A slide-in pop-up
  • A lightbox pop-up

Your offer needs…

  • Make people feel special for joining your list
  • A contrasting button that catches people’s attention
  • To be site-wide, so a reader can see it anywhere on your blog
  • An image that represents what you’re offering (if applicable)

Offer #7. A weekly newsletter

A weekly newsletter is one of the best ways to provide massive value to your subscribers. It’s an original & fresh resource you create weekly exclusively for your readers, so it’s perceived as extra valuable.

Having a newsletter…

  • Positions you as an expert.
  • Improves trust between you and your audience.
  • Makes your readers want and expect your resources.
  • Keeps your name in your readers’ minds.
  • Encourages your audience to interact with you more often.

Paul Jarvis has grown a massive email list thanks to his popular Sunday Dispatches newsletter aimed at business owners, writers, and freelancers:    ex newsletter

Shane Parrish from Farnam Street created the uber-successful Brain Food newsletter, which helps people discover and develop mental tools to lead a better life:

ex newsletter1

A weekly newsletter can skyrocket your email list growth, but it’s the most time-intensive opt-in of all. If right now you don’t have the bandwidth to write a weekly newsletter jam-packed with content, stick to any of the 6 offers listed above.

Where To Place Your Newsletter Opt-in on Your Site to Get More Emails

Your newsletter opt-in box can be…

  • In your menu
  • In your homepage
  • At the end of each post
  • A slide-in pop-up
  • A lightbox-pop
  • In your sidebar

Your newsletter needs…

  • To make people curious and excited to receive your emails
  • To explain the benefits of joining

Offer #8. Giveaways

Running a giveaway is a fast and easy way to get engaged people on your list – if you do it the right way. A giveaway could end up being a  horrible waste of money if you choose the wrong prize or set the wrong rules.

Follow these guidelines:


  • Pick a prize your ideal client/reader is interested in. If you blog about natural skincare, give away a natural scrub, not an iPhone. The prize has to attract your target market, not random visitors who just want free stuff.
  • Partner up with companies. Instead of buying the prize with your own money, reach out to companies to collab on the giveaway. The goal is to get them to send the product to the winner for free in exchange for you promoting their brand. It’s a win-win. All you have to do is:
    •  Make a list of the companies you’d like to partner with. Aim for at least 10.
    •  Send them a quick email asking if they’re interested in running a giveaway with you.
    • If no companies respond (unlikely), pick an enticing but affordable prize.
  • Use KingSumo to run a giveaway on your WordPress site.
  • Make sure one of your entry rules is to subscribe to your email list.
  • Announce the winner on your social media channels so everyone knows who won. People expect transparency from you.


  • Give away a product everyone wants. If you give away an iPhone, you’ll get a ton of sign-ups, sure, but most of them won’t be interested in your resources and will probably unsubscribe when the giveaway is over. Only give away a product your ideal audience will love.
  • Disappear. People will expect to know who the winner is.

Alex is running a giveaway of an organic skincare oil in her natural skincare blog, That Butterfly Effect. The prize fits perfectly with her audience and one of the entries is to join her list. She has 209 new subscribers already:


Where To Place Your Giveaway on Your Site to Get More Emails

Your giveaway should be…

  • In either a blog post or a separate landing page
  • In your menu pointing to the temporary landing page
  • In your sidebar (as a link to the landing page)
  • A slide-in pop-up (that takes you to the landing page)

Your giveaway needs…

  • Hype. Make people excited to win
  • To be impressive. Mention the monetary equivalent of the products you’re giving away
  • An image that shows what you’re offering

Ok, those were a lot of gift ideas! Want to have them all at your fingertips?

Then click here to get the free cheat sheet with 22 high-converting freebies that will explode your email list.

If your brain is already buzzing with tons of freebie ideas, write them down and continue reading. We still need to optimize 3 of your pages:

6. Optimizing Your Most Visited Pages

Aside from optimizing your blog posts for conversions, you should also capture leads in your most visited pages.

Three of the most visited pages on any blog are:

  • The homepage
  • The about page
  • The “Start Here”  or “Join” page

If you optimize these for email capture, you’ll have an easier time growing your list. You only have to set your opt-ins once and they’ll work for you 24/7.

Page #1. Your Homepage

Your homepage is the face of your blog, so it’s crucial to have your most compelling offer here.

A high-converting homepage:

  • Offers a super valuable freebie. Your homepage should have the most useful freebie for your ideal audience.
  • Offers the freebie above the fold. Your offer, description, image, and button should all be above the fold (the portion of your site a reader sees without having to scroll down).
  • Is full-width. A full-width header is cleaner and catches your readers’ attention more easily.
  • Is single-focused. You should have just one offer or call to action above the fold to maximize the chances people opt-in. If you have too many options at once, people might not do anything. You can add more elements below the fold.

The only thing you see above the fold when you go to Unsettle is the webinar on building a profitable blog. That way I make it as easy as possible for people to sign up.

 Page #2. Your About page

Your about page is an overlooked spot to collect emails, when in fact it’s one of the top 5 pages visitors click on, and it has an impressive conversion rate of  5-10%. Take advantage of that.

Sarah teases her free course several times on her about page:

ex converting about page 2

Pro-tip: Use social proof to motivate people to join your list.

Darren Rowse from ProBlogger has a call-to-action at the end of his about page to get people on his list. He uses social proof (“300,000+ bloggers”) to get people excited about joining.

ex converting about page1

Page #3. A “Join” page

A join page is meant to do one thing only: collect emails. Instead of offering a specific freebie, this page invites your readers to join the team, movement, tribe, community or [insert favorite way to call your fans].

Unsettle's join page invites readers to become Unsettlers.

join page

Alternatively, you can have a “start here” page that explains what people can learn from your site, highlights your best content, and has a CTA at the end to join the community, just like Pat Flynn does it:

start here Alternative join

Now that you’ve optimized your articles and pages within your blog, it’s time to leverage your social media channels.

7. Leveraging Social Media

Even if your social media following is tiny, you can still use your profiles to boost your email list.

A big chunk of your follower base found you through social media and not search engines, so optimizing your profiles will help you get your resources in front of these followers that might not know about them.

After reading this guide, make sure all your social media profiles follow these good practices:

Good practices

  • Add a link + CTA to your bio: Add a CTA and a link to a high-converting post or page  in your profile’s bio. In Sarah's Pinterest bio, she points people to her free course:


  • Schedule regular promotions: Make promotions part of your social media schedule.  Schedule at least one post per day to each channel you have, and point to a resource or freebie at least 3 times/week, like a course or a newsletter. I use Edgar to schedule Unsettle's posts on Twitter and Facebook. You can also use Buffer or Hootsuite.


  • Tease your free gifts: Promote your freebies by sharing old content or screenshots of your resources. For example, if you have an audio training, share an excerpt on Facebook and link to where people can hear the rest. If you have a newsletter, show an old email so your followers now what they’re missing out on 🙂
  • Promote every new article + content upgrade:  Schedule an extra post every time you publish a new article, and make sure to mention the content upgrade if you included one.


  • Add share buttons in strategic places: Give people the chance to share your content upgrade or gift with their followers by adding share buttons in two places:
    •  In the confirmation page of your freebie. Encourage your subs to share the resource with a friend. Here’s how the confirmation page of Sarah's webinar looks like:

confirmation page

  • Within your downloadable freebie. Add a click-to-tweet link at the end of your freebie to give people the opportunity to share it when they’re done reading it.

Now let’s get specific. Here’s how you can make the most of each platform:


  1. Add a “Sign up” button to your Facebook page.
  2. Promote your gift in your cover page. That gives an extra incentive for people to hit that sign up button 🙂  For Unsettle’s page, I added a sign-up button at the top and the cover has an arrow that points to it:

sign up  3. Link to your page from your personal profile. Sarah's intro links to, the Unsettle FB page, and the Etsy How To FB page:

personal profile


  1. If you mention an influencer in your newsletter, article, or course, tweet about it and tag them. Twitter is the best way to get a hold of most influencers. If they see your tweet they might retweet it and give you a nice boost of subscribers.

su anne


  1. Be personal. Post organic pictures of you instead of text-heavy images or screenshots.  For example, if you’re promoting an ebook of hairstyles, share a pic of you styling your hair instead or a screengrab of the actual ebook. Instagram favors visually compelling images.
  2. Be clear in your caption. When posting a promotion, always write “Click the link in my bio” visibly in your caption. As you may know, Instagram doesn’t let you add clickable links to individual posts, so it’s important to be clear. Here’s how Youtuber Kayley Melissa promotes her new videos on Instagram:


3. Make the most of Instagram Stories. If you have over 10k followers, you will have the option to add links to your stories. Share a photo of your freebie, link to it, and write “Swipe up to get the [name of your freebie]”. If you don’t have 10k yet, you can still add stories and tell people to check out the link in your bio. This is how Thrive Magazine promotes their new recipes on their stories:

thrive mags


  1. Tease your freebie mock-ups. Unlike Instagram, Pinterest isn’t keen on human faces. The most repinned images are those focused on things instead of people, so create Pinterest images that show off a bunch of templates, your ebook, or cheat sheets.
  2. Add content upgrade mock-ups to your Pinterest images. When you create your next article’s Pinterest image, make sure to add a graphic to represent your content upgrade. Give people an extra incentive to click through the post. That’s exactly what Lix Hewett did with this article:


Ok, so now you know how to optimize your own blog and social media to make your email list numbers soar. But how can you convert people that don’t read your blog or follow you?

8. Getting In Front Of A New Audience

Triple or quadruple your email list growth by getting your offers and resources in front of bigger audiences.

How?  Follow these two strategies:

Strategy # 1: Create A Content Upgrade For Every Guest Post

Whenever you write a guest post for a large publication or a fellow blogger in your niche, leverage those readers through tailored content upgrades.

You should create a specific content upgrade with every guest post you publish and link to it in your bio instead of linking to your website.


Because those readers don’t really know you and don’t have much of an incentive to visit your blog, but if you point to a resource that perfectly complements what they just read, they will click through.

This gives you an opportunity to get their email address and show them what you’re all about.

This is the content upgrade Sarah created for her guest article on Smart Blogger on why ads are a terrible monetization strategy:


It’s a natural next step for readers because it helps them find something better than ads to monetize their blog.

Your content upgrades should always feel like they’re the next logical step. Speaking of which…

Ready to make your subscriber numbers go through the roof? Get the free [content upgrade]

Strategy #2: Reaching Out To Influential Newsletters

Get new people on your email list by getting featured on influential newsletters.

Curated newsletters are weekly emails that cover the “best of” of your niche that week. Getting one of your resources featured on these can give you a serious boost in traffic and sign ups.

Reaching out to the editors of these curated newsletters is easier than you  think:

Step 1: Write regular high-quality articles people want to read. This is the foundation you should always have. If you don’t publish the best content you can, your plan to get featured on popular newsletters is a non-starter. An active and interesting blog gives you credibility.

Step 2: Research the best newsletters on your niche. Type in Google searches like “[your topic] + curated newsletter”, “[your topic] + newsletter”, “best [your topic] newsletters”. Discover is a fantastic directory for finding popular newsletters on every topic. Don’t limit yourself to newsletters just in your niche, find overlapping topics and newsletters that curate a bit of everything. Make a list of the most popular ones in a spreadsheet.

Step 3: Subscribe and study the content. Subscribe to these newsletters to read the type of content they share. If they have archives published on their website, read through those instead to avoid saturating your inbox. For the newsletters you do sign up to, create a filter in your email to send them to a separate folder other than your inbox. The emails are usually weekly, so just study the email of 2-3 weeks.

Step 4: Create a great resource. After getting familiar with the content those newsletters like to share, pick a few key candidates, and create a resource you think can be a great addition to them.

Step 5. Find the email of the editor. You can find it in their Contact page or simply take the email address that sends you the newsletter.

Step 6. Pitch them your article. Don’t be pushy. Send a short and sweet email letting them know you recently published an article about [your topic] and you think it would be a good fit to [newsletter name]. Mention you like the resources they share and that you follow their newsletter.

Ready to apply to all these tips?

How To Make It All Work

To recap, here’s exactly what you have to do after reading this guide:

  1. Get a reliable email service provider if you don’t have one already. I recommend Convert Kit.
  2. Get a fantastic email capture tool. I recommend Sumo.
  3. Create content upgrades for the top 5-10 articles on your site according to Google Analytics.
  4. Start creating content upgrades for every article from now on.
  5. Create at least one site-wide offer (webinar replay, ebook, cheat sheet, library, etc) and place it throughout your site according to point #3.
  6. Optimize your homepage, about page, and join or start here page with an opt-in.
  7. Add a link to high-converting page and a CTA to all your social media profiles.
  8. Schedule regular promotions of your main free resource. I recommend Edgar. Buffer is free.
  9. Promote your future articles mentioning their content upgrades.
  10. Optimize Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram according to point #7.
  11. Plan your next guest post.
  12. Research popular to newsletters to pitch to.

Don’t forget to steal the free cheat sheet with 22 high-converting freebies that will explode your list.

Awesome Articles + Crazy Good Offers= Bursting Email List

It’s a simple formula.

The better your articles and free resources, the more people will want to hop on your list.

Now it’s time to craft them. All the effort you put into growing your email list will translate into sales, clients, traffic, and referrals in the long-term, which will support your lifestyle business and let you make the kind of difference you want while working on your terms. And isn’t that what you want most?


Brenda is Unsettle's content manager. When she isn't reading, learning, or writing about building successful lifestyle businesses, she's busy unsettling at her healthy eating blog Crave The Benefits.


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