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The Simple Formula For Growing a Massive Email List

Posted on 29 July 2015
The Simple Formula For Growing a Massive Email List

The simple formula for growing a massive email list
In analysing the websites and techniques of some of these awesome email list builders, a certain formula started to emerge. If I could boil down the process of building a massive email list to just the most basic parts, I think it would look like this:
Amazing blog content + crystal clear calls-to-action = massive email list

Can it really be that simple? I think so.

Basically, everything begins with content. People will find your site because of your amazing content. They will keep coming back for amazing content. Your amazing content will be the foundation of what you email to them, which will be the reason they stay subscribed (or not.) It all starts with amazing content.
Once you have the amazing content, the next step is to ask for emails. People who adore your content will be primed to receive that content as often as you can create it, delivered straight to their inbox. It's up to you to make sure they find your call-to-action (or, in this case, a call-to-subscribe). Make it obvious. Make it crystal clear.
With this in mind
5 key strategies on how to grow your subscription list
Examining some top blog posts shows that there are many different ways to go about growing your list and creating those crystal clear calls-to-action that drive subscribers. Here are a few of my favourite ideas.

1. Include a can't-miss call-to-action: Popups, slideups, menus, and popovers

It's rare to read an article on growing an email list without coming across a recommendation for installing a popup. The reason: It's sound advice, backed by good numbers.
Their are cases of sites installing a popup (or variation of a popup), followed by immediate boosts to email signups. Why the big boost? Well, popups are a can't-miss call-to-action. Literally. It doesn't get more can't-miss than a window appearing over the content you're trying to read. There are options for popups, as the strategy covers a wide variety of different implementations. I'm throwing all these under the umbrella of "popup."
There's the ubiquitous "popover" style, which displays a popup over a slightly grayed-out background. Here's an example from a marketing company.

There's the top-bar method that draws attention to the email signup form pinned to the top of every page. Here's an example.

And there's the email-on-scroll, which pops up once a user scrolls down a certain distance on a page.

2. Multiple CTAs: Give readers infinity+1 opportunities to subscribe

Seems like those who build lists best make email an unmistakeable part of their design and calls-to-action. You cannot escape the calls to signup.
There might be a signup in a pop-over, a signup at the top of a blog post, another one at the bottom. Basically, the design assumes that people will view the site differently and that in order to maximize the chances that a potential subscriber sees a signup form you'd best put sign up forms everywhere.
We've got several spots for CTAs here on the LeadPage website. They're currently set to send visitors to either the email database or the lead generation inquiry form.
If you think you end up going overboard with the email signup requests? Listen to your audience, who will likely let you know when you've crossed the line. You can also adhere to the old colloquialism, "You'll know it when you see it." Go with your gut.
Here are some top places to try placing an email signup form. We recommend a multiple opportunity to sign up. People see things at different times.

  • Top menu bar
  • Header of your site
  • In your byline
  • Sidebar
  • Inside the blog content
  • Footer of the content
  • Popup/pop-over
  • Your About us page
  • Contact us page


3. Got something valuable? Give it away

Your potential subscriberseven if they differ across demographics and industries and target audienceare still human. They'll like free stuff.
Attaching something valuable to your email signup form is a sure fire way to ignite interest. Basically, give something away for free, for the price of an email address (which we all know is worth way more than free to the site that gets it). Here are a few suggestions. Just make it IMPACTFUL CONTENT that you are giving away. Don't take this lightly.


  • Ebook
  • Cheat sheet
  • Email series
  • Video
  • Private blog content
  • Early access to new features

We suggest starting with two types of free offers. One top-of-the-funnel, educational piece of content like an ebook, and one middle-of-the-funnel offer to let someone speak with your sales team to get a demo or a quote or a free consultation or whatever works for your specific business. By having these two types of offers on your website, you can capture potential leads and convert customers that are in different stages of the buying process. I class this blog post as an education "top of the funnel" piece that you are reading.

4. Keep the subscription link handy

People can sign up to an email list in places other than an email capture form on my site. Depending on your email software, there is likely a landing page devoted to acquiring email signups. You can get the link and share it in a huge number of different places like email signatures, social media messages, and guest blog bios.

5. Test your messages: Start with social proof

Would you be more apt to join an email list if you knew 8,000 other people were already signed up? The concept of social proof says yes, which is why you see many sites advertise the size of their email list on their signup form. An example below.

Case studies: How the best sites gain signups

Now that you've seen the many different ways to grow an email list, I'd love to show you how some of the top sites implement these ideas. Here is what I found when browsing around some of my favourite sources of email inspiration.

James Clear 70,000 subscribers

The above screenshot is from an article on James Clear's site. Before you get to any words in the article itself, you've been hit with three CTAs for his newsletter. Clearly, email is a priority for him!

  • His homepage is an about section with a call to action to subscribe.
  • His main blog index includes a call to action at the top.
  • There is a call to action at the end of the article and one at the end of the comments (and another in the footer, to boot!).

One thing you won't notice when you're browsing on his site: social sharing buttons. He removes choice from the equation. To interact with his posts, the easiest decision is going to be email.

Help Scout 60,000 subscribers

Help Scout is one of the best at putting focus on an email signup at the home page of their blog. The image above is from the blog landing page. When you navigate deeper into the blog, the subscribe form moves to the sidebar. Also on the main page (and subsequent pages) is an ebook giveaway. The ebook is web-based so you can view the full thing in one click. At the end of the ebook is a call to action to sign up for email updates.

Andrew Chen

Andrew Chen was one of leaders in implementing the homepage-as-signup-form. His main page has an additional little trick. When you first land on there, the email form is highlighted automatically, and you can start typing your email address without needing to even click. You may also notice that Chen takes a different approach to social proof. He does not advertise the number of subscribers to his list but rather mentions recommendations from Wired magazine and 500 Start-ups.

Michael Hyatt 115,000 subscribers

One of Michael Hyatt's secrets to building an incredible list is with give-awaysand probably a good amount of split testing. His calls-to-action for downloading a free e-book are really excellent. Here's the one that appears at the bottom of his posts.

The text here is entirely focused on benefits to the reader. Who wouldn't want to get behind a guy who's looking out for your best interests like that? It's a great CTA

Which email growth method will you find yourself using?

We hope the above inspires you to make your site "sign-up" friendly. If you need help on how to make this happen, just let us know and we would be glad to discuss or email me on ian@digitaltactics.com.au

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