This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.
Email lists can be a great way to connect with your audience, but I don’t want to panic about growing a massive one. If your content is good, you build a loyal following, and you offer something worth signing up for, your list will grow on its own.
If you get obsessed with growing your list for the sake of it, rather than actually providing value, you get real spammy real fast.
I’m not saying that email lists aren’t valuable – they can be – more that you should take all those bloggers that claim that email lists are the only thing worth spending time on with a pinch of salt. They’re grooming you so that you’ll buy their course.
How do email lists work?
You sign up to an email provider (I would start with free ConvertKit plan), build a little opt-in form and put it somewhere on your site.
Then you can send out emails to whoever signs up.
Bear in mind that in order to comply with GDPR, you can’t entice someone to sign up for a freebie and then send them unsolicited emails. They have to opt in. This is why my email list promises just a newsletter, and all I ever send are newsletters.
What’s the benefit in creating a large email list?
In theory, it’s a great way to directly contact your email list. Those on your list went to the trouble of signing up, so presumably they have a passing interest in your niche.
Therefore, they may be interested in other products you have to sell. It’s basically a warm-emailing strategy.
They’re a little bit like pop-ups – everybody hates them, but you always get a couple of bites. Is that really the way to build a loyal following? Annoy the hell out of 99% of the people that land on your site by giving them one crappy ebook in return for a lifetime of spam?
What nobody seems to remember is that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.
Using an email provider automatically increases that chance that your emails will go straight into your recipient’s spam folder.
I just use a Gmail address, and my open rate is 70%, so that spiel they give you about needing a firstname.lastname@example.org address isn’t really true. Sure, it seems more professional to some people, but I don’t have time for people that judge me by my email address. As long as it’s nothing weird, a Gmail address is fine.
Should you start an email list?
I wouldn’t recommend starting an email list until you have at least a little traffic. Not because I don’t think you’ll get signups, but because it’s a distraction from what you should be doing – creating content.
In the beginning, it can be hard. Traffic and morale are low. You could do without yet another metric to track.
It’s highly unlikely you’re going to become viral overnight and miss out on capturing loads of leads despite what a lot of gurus would have you believe. Wait until you’re 100% comfortable with WordPress and creating content before trying to add another string to your bow.
What you need to consider when starting to collect email addresses
The most important thing you need to think about is why you want these email addresses. Do you plan on creating a product and selling it to your audience? Do you think it’s a great way to increase your affiliate marketing earnings? Do you just think that you should?
I don’t think any of these reasons are good reasons to build an email list. It’s been done. People are wise to it, and sick of it.
Experts can wax lyrical about how email is the only real way you can connect with your audience, but I call bullshit. I don’t open 99% of the emails I signed up for, because I’m sick of being sold some crappy course, under the guise of another incredible webinar.
An email list isn’t a guarantee. If you want to sell stuff, sell through your website.
I don’t expect to convince you all of that, so let’s talk lead magnets for a minute.
A lead magnet is a great thing to have, if you do want to sell through your email list, and it NEEDS to be niche.
There’s more value in having an email list of 100 people, all of whom will buy your product, than having 10,000 people on your list but don’t open a single email.
Think about the product you want to sell, and design your lead magnet accordingly. It needs to be valuable to the exact same people that need your product.
If your freebie is an ebook on building Pinterest followers, and your product is a B2B cold emailing course, you’re not going the conversions you need, and the whole thing has probably been a waste of energy.
Why emails lists aren’t necessarily worth it
It can take a lot of effort to build a big mail list. You have either create some incredibly valuable freebie, or you have to do it organically, which can take a long time. What are you really getting out of it?
Would your time be better spent creating content? If your freebie is that good, couldn’t you just cut out the middle man and sell via the copy on the your website?
How (and why) I have an email list on one of my other sites
I have an email list as a means of building a community. That’s it. No other agenda. I don’t add affiliate links, and I don’t sell my book through it. I do have links to relevant blog posts, but I also share information about myself that’s of interest to my list.
This is why it’s so important to have a passing interest in your niche. I share articles about new plants being tissue cultured, a link to a cool new shop, or a video I liked.
We know how much Google values EAT, and my newsletters really help build this. Of course, Google can’t see what’s in my emails (at least, I don’t think it can), but it can see that I get people returning time and again to my site, and staying there awhile.
Email is a deeply personal medium for connecting with your audience. Don’t fuck that up by trying to flog them stuff they don’t need. Remember – SEO is based on creating value for your readers NOT about what they can do for you.
Final thoughts on whether or not email lists are worth it
If you’re building a big email list because you have dollar signs in your eyes, then beware. If you’re the least bit salesy, people are unlikely to open your emails, UNLESS you’ve got a really specific opt-in that only captures the perfect audience for what you’re selling.