Building an email list is a hot topic among bloggers and small business owners. Just about every expert will tell you to build an email list, but most forget to cover common questions like what is an email list? why build an email list? how to build an email list in WordPress? etc. In this email marketing guide, we will cover every aspect of email newsletters and WordPress. This includes the very basics to advanced tricks, recommended services & plugins, secret tips to increase opt-in rates, and much more. we will cover in deatail the 7 major email marketing systems in detail with each addition of this post.
What is an Email List?
An email list consists of email addresses of users who have voluntarily signed up on your website to receive email updates in a newsletter or special announcement format. It allows you to stay in touch with your existing and potential customers on a regular basis (daily, weekly, monthly etc). You can send emails about exclusive news, product related announcements, or give special deals to your email newsletter subscribers.
Why Build an Email List?
On our websites, we have noticed that email outperforms social networks in the number of clicks. We have tested this repeatedly, and always got the same result. Emails got us 10 times more clicks than all social media combined.
Why email performed so well? The answer is simple: email is private and personal. If this is not a good enough reason to start building your email list, then we got plenty more.
- Guaranteed Reach – When you use Twitter or Facebook, your statuses are bound to be missed due to the very nature of twitter/fb updates. However, people tend to check their emails a lot more carefully than their timelines on social networks.
- Access and Ownership – You don’t own any data on Twitter or Facebook. At anytime, you can get your account suspended and lose all your followers. Or what if Twitter and FB goes away, not saying they will anytime soon, but email list is something that you can hold on to. Second, you are not limited to 140 characters. You set your limits yourself. You can integrate email newsletters within your WordPress blog a lot better than Facebook or Twitter (We will show you how later in this guide).
- Better Targeting – The best part about email newsletters is that you can target it locally (for folks in specific countries, cities, states). If you are launching a product in select locations, then email is the best way to reach your subscribers in that location.
- Increase Revenue – Bottom line is when you have guaranteed reach, better targeting, and attention of your users, then you are definitely going to increase revenue.
But what about social media? Isn’t email dead and social media is where everyone’s at?
If email was truly dead, then why does every social media website require you to have an email address before you sign up?
Email has been the most reliable form of electronic communication for the past two decades, and it hasn’t slowed down, Building an email list is a lot easier than building a following on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.
Facebook limits the reach of your pages to a small percentage of your followers. Similarly your tweets only appear for a limited time on a user’s timeline. On the other hand, when you send an email it reaches to all your subscribers and stays in their inbox until they take an action. We are not saying that you should abandon social networks. Social networking sites are great for building user engagement, but email will bring you more visitors, conversions, and sales.
Lastly, a social media site can disappear or become less popular (remember Myspace?). When they disappear, they will take your followers with them. On the other hand email is around since the dawn of the internet, and it is still the most popular way people communicate on the internet.
How to Get Started With Your Email List Building?
The first thing that you need is a reliable email service provider. These companies specialize in email delivery, and you need them to ensure that your email reaches the inbox of all your subscribers (instead of having your email marked as spam).
Even though, you can use WordPress to send emails, we strongly recommend against that (see why you should never use WordPress to send email newsletters).
These professional email service providers spend a lot of money and resources on their email delivery infrastructure to make sure that your email does not end up in your subscribers junk mail. All major companies like Facebook, Apple, eBay, etc use a third-party email marketing service from the list below.
In this article we will cover services for email marketing from the list below in depth but for now here is a short synopses.
- Constant Contact
- Get Response
- Google Feedburner
Which Email Marketing Service Should You Use?
There are tons of great email marketing providers out there. It’s a very competitive industry which means companies are always trying to keep their costs low while offering a lot of features. Below are just some of the providers that we have work with and highly recommend.
Aweber is one of the most popular email service provider among bloggers and internet marketers. It lets you send emails, manage subscribers, and offer great tracking. Aside from that, you can also send sequence of automatically delivered emails (autoresponder), automatically create emails from your newest blog posts, and target subscribers based on their action, location, etc with a single click.
With Aweber, you can easily split test email templates, headlines, headline color, text color, text of submit button, and much more. You can try Aweber for $1 for the first month.
MailChimp is another popular email marketing solution. It lets you send emails, manage subscribers, track emails, view analytics, setup autoresponders, create beautiful email templates, target subscribers, and split test your campaigns. MailChimp also lets you send emails to your users every time your blog gets updated. You can create groups to segment your list further.
The best part is that MailChimp lets you use their service for FREE with certain limitations (Upto 2000 subscribers and 12,000 emails / month). Signup for FREE.
Note: You do have to pay once you reach the limitations of your Free Account.
Some others that we have worked with include Campaign Monitor, GetResponse, Constant Contact, etc. They all offer similar functionality. You mainly have to compare prices and user interface.
3. Constant Contact
Constant Contact’s email marketing service is intuitive and easy to use for all skill levels, even though it lacks some features. This bulk email service breaks down its email campaign setup process into three easy steps: “Create the look, select your audience, then schedule and send.”
Constant Contact’s email marketing templates are professional, and the editor allows you to customize your designs, no matter your skill level. It would be nice to have additional email campaign reporting options and previewing abilities, and we are disappointed that there is an additional monthly charge for preparing and sending surveys. However, the service is relatively easy to use, and it lets you create and monitor effective email campaigns.
This service makes it very easy for you to set up an effective email marketing campaign without needing a degree in web design or marketing. The user interface is simple to navigate. Once you’re logged in, you see a set of tabs prominently displayed at the top of the screen that allow you to easily create an email campaign and access the results. Once you choose a tab, iContact’s setup wizard directs you through each step of the process.
Social media is becoming one of the more prevalent modes of marketing to the masses. iContact has embraced this growing trend by integrating features geared toward Twitter and Facebook users. These iContact tools allow you to publish messages to your wall, create newsletter sign-up forms and post tweets for each email you send as part of your marketing campaigns.
There is also an autoresponder feature in iContact that sends out automatic messages at predetermined times or when specific events happen. For example, if someone signs up for your newsletter, the autoresponder sends a short email to welcome that person. You can also set it up to send customers email coupons on their birthdays.
iContact is an excellent email marketing service that allows you to easily create and track a professional and effective email campaign, complete with surveys, autoresponders and more. In addition, there are plenty of help features to get your campaign off to a great start, and iContact tech support is available if you need it. With a complete lineup of tools, an easy-to-use interface and several innovative features, iContact is the best email marketing service available today.
5. Get Response
Your company’s marketing need not be guesswork. GetResponse not only helps you maintain your list of contacts and create professional-looking marketing campaigns, but it also gives you the information and tools you need to be more effective at reaching your audience. A little better personalization would have put this email marketing service in the upper tier.
The contacts section of GetResponse provides you with tools to add custom fields to your contact lists, copy contacts and conduct searches. If you have names or email addresses of people who do not want to receive your email campaigns or follow-ups, you can add them to the blacklist. This bars them from receiving unwanted messages. You can also create suppression lists, which enables you to keep some people in your contact pool from receiving a specific email from you.
This company’s help and support includes webinars, FAQs, PDF and video tutorials, learning center articles, and a glossary. The company also offers email and chat support. We were impressed with the chat feature. While some companies’ tech support keeps you waiting for minutes in between each question, GetResponse answered our questions quickly. While the live chat impressed us, we would have liked the option of 24/7 phone support for those deeper concerns that a sales and support chat team may not be able to handle.
GetResponse is a great email marketing service for improving the effectiveness of your email campaigns. With this bulk email service, you can create email marketing pieces quickly that include embedded video, links, social networking buttons and more. You can import contact lists in the blink of an eye, and you can search the database for names should you need them. With the addition of a few more automatic response features, this service would be hard to pass up.
6. Google Feedburner
FeedBurner launched in 2004 and was purchased by Google in 2007. FeedBurner is the most popular web feed management provider which enables users to quickly and easily create RSS feeds for their blogs, websites, and podcasts. Users can also track feed subscriptions, customize email subscription messages, get feed stat widgets to display on their blogs and websites, and more. Google AdSense integrates easily with FeedBurner so users can monetize their RSS feeds, too.
There are many benefits that you can get from using FeedBurner as your feed creation and management tool: Ease of Use: FeedBurner is free and extremely easy to create your blog’s feed using FeedBurner. Just follow a few simple steps, and you’re done. The FeedBurner dashboard is easy to navigate and Google offers a help center to answer any questions you might have. Promotion: The widgets and buttons that you can get from your FeedBurner dashboard to invite people to subscribe to your blog and show off the number of subscribers your blog already has are very handy and require no coding knowledge to add to your blog. Universal Code: FeedBurner burns feeds using what it refers to as its SmartFeed service, which makes feeds created with FeedBurner readable through any device a person uses to subscribe to that feed. Monetization: If you want to make money from your blog’s feed, then there is no easier way to monetize it than Google AdSense. Of course, you’re guaranteed to make money from it, but it is very easy to add AdSense ads to your FeedBurner-created feed.
The most common complaint about FeedBurner focuses on its unreliable analytics data. For example, users might see 1,000 subscribers one day and 100 subscribers the next day. While the FeedBurner stats seem like a goldmine of information where you can track subscriber trends, clickthroughs, breakdowns of feed readers and email services, and much more, that data changes so significantly and so frequently that many bloggers who rely on feed statistics are very dissatisfied with FeedBurner.
This wasn’t always the case with FeedBurner. In the early days before Google purchased FeedBurner, subscriber numbers were considered an essential indicator of a blogger’s level of success and popularity. Those subscriber numbers affected advertising rates and really meant something to bloggers and blog readers. Today, many bloggers still use FeedBurner to create and manage their blog feeds, but they’ve removed the widget that shows off how many subscribers their blogs have. Many are even looking for FeedBurner alternatives, and they’re willing to pay to use another tool if that tool provides accurate data. However, a new “perfect” tool has yet to debut, and there is no sign that Google plans to fix the broken FeedBurner stats anytime in the near future.
Bottom-line: Should You Use FeedBurner?
FeedBurner is used by large and small web publishers to make their content more accessible to a larger audience. Feeds also make it easy to syndicate your blog content on other websites or through other syndication providers.
FeedBurner is easy to use and offers some handy features. However, if you rely on accurate tracking data to help you make money or grow your blog’s audience and traffic, then you’re likely to be disappointed in the data that FeedBurner stats provide. On the other hand, if accurate data isn’t important to you, then FeedBurner is a great tool to create and manage your blog’s feed. The choice of whether or not you should use FeedBurner really depends on your blogging goals.
Mad Mimi is an email marketing service to keep your eye on. It frequently updates the look of its interface, integrating add-ons that no longer require an additional fee. Its brand of bulk email marketing provides design features that make it easy for you to create fashionable and professional emails. This service has a learning curve, though, as it isn’t quite as accessible or simple as its competitors.
Even if you don’t have design experience, you can create professional-looking emails with this email marketing service’s easy-to-use WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor. Instead of using formatted templates that can quickly become difficult to work with if you make even small design changes to them, Mad Mimi provides simplified design tools. This is good because there’s still enough structure with Mad Mimi to help you quickly create good-looking emails, but it doesn’t have so much structure that you can’t create what you envision.
You can insert social networking buttons into your emails. Mad Mimi has 39 social networking buttons to choose from, such as like, share, retweet and pin buttons. You can also add links to your emails. This bulk email service provides 21 add-on options, including webforms, Facebook signup and drip campaigns.
This email marketing service is missing a few features that should be standard at this point. The lack of A/B testing makes it difficult to gauge which subject line and campaign will work best for your intended audience.
Mad Mimi is a colorful and helpful email marketing service, but it’s not your best option if this is your first email marketing foray. The absence of a few features, notably A/B testing, hold it back in the rankings. However, the reporting features are impressive. In a few clicks, you can add social networking buttons, track who clicks on which links and more. Mad Mimi also provides excellent customer service. This email marketing service helps you create great-looking campaigns and better track your marketing efforts.
How to Grow Your Email List in WordPress?
Once you have signed up for an email service provider, the next step is to integrate email subscription forms through out your WordPress site.
The success of your email marketing depends on it.
To increase your email subscribers, you need to find the perfect spot on your site where subscription forms perform the best. here is the most used locations and there pro’s and con’s.
- Pop Up Modal
- Registration Forms
- Fixed Floating Footer or side Bar (Always Showing & Slide out)
- Shopping Cart Opt in
- In Post Page Content Widget Comments.
1 WordPress Popup also known as Ligthbox Popup
Lightbox popups are by far the highest converting signup forms you can place on your website.
We have successfully used lightbox popup and noticed a 600% increase in our subscribers without affecting the user experience or any decrease in pageviews.
The best part about OptinMonster is the exit-intent technology. This feature tracks user’s mouse behavior and only show them the popup at the precise moment they are about to leave. This has proven to be less intrusive and offers the best conversion.
2 Registration Forms Otp-in Contact Forms
While the title read contact forms, we are talking about any WordPress form in general so it includes: user signup forms, general contact form, request a quote form, submit a post form etc.
You can creatively add a checkbox in your form that says something like this “Yes I want to receive updates from sitename”. We have seen this technique used in numerous big brand websites where they will have two checkboxes where one says, I agree with the Terms of Service and the other says sign me up for the updates. Normally coding this would be impossible for beginners. But it has been made easy with our favorite WordPress form plugin: Gravity Forms.
With the Gravity Forms drag and drop interface, you can simply create as many forms you want, and use their MailChimp addon to have the opt-in option within your contact form. Note: This addon is available for their Business & Developer plan, so Personal Plan users don’t get this addon.
We believe this is a great way to stay in touch with your clients, if you are a designer or consultant. It can be used in anyway you want, so sky is really the limit.
3 Fixed Floating Footer or side Bar (Always Showing & Slide out)
You can easily add email signup forms to the floating bar to maximize the optin rate.
For those who don’t want to deal with following a tutorial and customizing HTML / CSS, then we have it built-in to OptinMonster.
Aside from getting pre-built designs that you can easily edit without writing any code, you also get full power of OptinMonster.
For example, if a user closes the bar, then you can choose to never show them the bar again for 30 days or any period that you desire. You can show different message on different categories, posts, or pages.
Footer bars convert a little bit less than popups, but they are still one of the better converting email signup forms on your site.
If you use OptinMonster vs another plugin, you will actually see the conversion data. While it’s fairly easy to create a footer bar (see tutorial above), it’s hard to collect data, run split tests, etc.
- Slide-ins or Slide-ups
Slide-ins are forms that slide from the bottom right corner of your screen with an email signup offer. Unlike static sidebar forms, these get user’s attention and are considered to be less annoying than popups.
Business owners feel more comfortable with this form when compared to popups. While it gets decent conversion rate, it is no match for a popup.
There are tons of plugins that allow you to create a slide-in form.
The three that we recommend are OptinMonster, Qualaroo, and Drip.
Qualaroo and Drip come with monthly subscription plans, while OptinMonster comes with an annual fee.
4 Generic Sidebar, After Post Forms and shopping Carts
(Widget / Side Bar In Site pages, In Post Opt & In Comments Opt In)
It’s become a common practice to put an email signup form in the sidebar and after the post.
These forms usually get the lowest conversion, but most folks don’t realize it because these forms come built-in with the themes.
Due to popular demand, we have added the forms to OptinMonster mainly to allow users to split-test their message along with seeing the actual results, so you can see how well the sidebar forms and after post forms convert when compared to the other form types.
Everyone who has a successful blog or an online presence will agree that building an email list is very important. Over the years, we’ve tried numerous techniques to get more email subscribers. After trying several WordPress lead-generation plugins, our founder Syed Balkhi partnered with Thomas Griffin and decided to create a perfect solution that delivers result. In this article, we will show you how we organically increased our email subscribers by 600% in less than a month by using OptinMonster.
Some of you would think that 600% growth probably meant that we weren’t getting many subscribers before. That’s not true. On a daily basis, we would get around 70 – 80 new subscribers from the sidebar form, contact forms, and other landing pages on the site. By making one single change on the site, we were able to increase our daily email signup rate to around 445 – 470 new subscribers per day. That’s a 600% growth with the same amount of traffic that were getting before.
So what changed? Well, we started using OptinMonster.
What is OptinMonster?
OptinMonster is a lead-generation plugin for WordPress that allows you to easily create and integrate highly effective optin forms on your website. It integrates with all major email service providers, and it comes with powerful features such as page-level targeting, A/B split testing, and exit-intent technology.
Using OptinMonster we were able to create a smart lightbox popup with exit-intent.
Wait, don’t all popup sucks? Yes, most popups suck because they’re not done right.
What is a Smart Lightbox Popup?
An average popup is usually opened on a separate window (normally when you visit a website or when you click on the screen). Those are freaking annoying as heck. Then there are the other lightbox popups that you probably see a lot of bloggers using. These are boxes that open within the same window usually right when you visit the website. These are not as bad, but they can definitely annoy some users. Then there is a smart lightbox popup.
Smart lightbox popup is a targeted message that opens on a specific page right when the user is about to leave.
How is that not annoying?
We ran a split test on ZD to see how lightbox popup effects our bounce rate and whether we get any user complaints.
The first thing we found was that the bounce rate on a page with an exit-intent lightbox was the exact same as the page with no lightbox. Second, we had absolutely zero user complaints. Last but not least the amount of new email subscribers we got with exit-intent lightbox were significant.
The key reason behind these phenomenal result is exit-intent. Why? Because the users who were going to leave your website will leave anyways. Using the exit-intent technology, we were able to convert abandoning visitors into subscribers.
OptinMonster’s exit-intent technology track user’s mouse gesture and velocity as they browse through your website. This allows the plugin to detect the precise moment the user is about to leave, and prompts them with a targeted campaign.
Unlike other annoying exit popups, it does not prevent the user from leaving. They can close the window like they normally would. But what this does is give you a new real estate, technically an extra pageview, to retain that visitor and potentially get them to subscribe.
Most visitors leave your website without subscribing even when they like the content. Why? Because they have a short attention span, and there is no clear call-to-action on most pages. Also because of the short attention span, they probably won’t ever return to your site.
Now if you make it easy for them to subscribe and give them a gentle reminder, then they’re much more likely to subscribe. If you offer them a free bonus, then that’s even better.
How to Use OptinMonster to Get Maximum Benefits
You’re probably thinking that it will be a complex setup. Well, it really isn’t. It took us less than 10 minutes to get this all setup. First thing you need to do is get OptinMonster. It is a commercial WordPress plugin with 3 different levels. The exit-intent technology that we mentioned above is in the Pro level plan. It does come with a 14-day money back guarantee, so you can use the product to see if it increases your email subscribers or not. If it doesn’t, then simply ask for a refund.
Once you get the plugin, install and activate it. The process is similar to any other plugin. The next thing you want to do is connect with your email marketing service such as Aweber, MailChimp etc. Although that process is fairly intuitive, there are documentations available. Below is how our configure screen looks:
On the setup screen, we made sure that we require double-optin to adhere with the MailChimp rules. We also made sure that our cookie duration is 30 days, so once the user closes it, they will not see it for another 30 days. Last but definitely the most important, we made sure that exit-intent is turned on. Yup that powerful technology takes only one checkbox to activate.
Next, we used the built-in “Case Study” theme that comes with OptinMonster. Select the them and click Open Design Customizer button.
The design customizer works exactly like the WordPress theme customizer. Use it to customize your optin. Below is a preview of how our optin looks:
Lastly, we enabled it to show only on single post pages on the site.
So this 10 minute setup resulted in close 3200 new subscribers this past week. See the stats below:
Note: Optins are not running site-wide. It is only on single posts.
We’re now working on creating targeted campaigns for specific pages, categories, and custom post types, so we can build a hyper-targeted email list.
Interacting with your Subscribers
Once you have started building your email list, it’s crucial that you engage with your subscribers.
You should make a habit of sending them regular updates, whether it’s weekly or monthly.
Not every email has to be promotional. You can send emails requesting feedback, giving helpful tips, etc.
We hope this email marketing 101 guide helped you build an email list in WordPress.
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