The Right Way of Starting An Email List From The Scratch

What is list building?

List building is the process of collecting visitors' email addresses on a website. The goal is creating constant contact with subscribers to increase conversions and sales.

Many businesses find a great benefit in building an email list to grow their audience, promote their services and sell their products. List building really works for brand building and turning leads into loyal customers that bring a life-time revenue.

For this goal, users are asked to fill out an opt-in form requests basic information. Optin forms generally ask no more than an email address and name information. However, depending on the business some opt-in forms may require additional information such as phone number, address, etc.

different email optin forms
Email opt-in forms can be designed to your taste

The more input required from the visitors, the less likely they will sign up to the email list. Unless it is not vital to execute our email marketing campaigns, we should require the minimum amount of input from people to subscribe to our list.

How does list building work?

Let's discuss the actual dynamics of building an email list.

Starts with a Lead Capture Form

Almost all list building campaigns start with a lead capture form. It is the form that website visitors put in their information to sign up on our list.

Lead capture forms need to be placed in strategical places to maximize our chances of having the most amount of subscribers.

Where to place lead capture forms?

Lead capture forms can be displayed on dedicated landing pages, squeeze pages, pop up windows, or sidebar. These forms are connected to an autoresponder service company's database to store captured information.

It is not enough placing lead captures on our website. We need to create an intensive for the people to signup our list.

Nowadays, people are so much sick of email spam. They will not share their emails with us without a good reason not to be a victim of an email marketing campaign.

Give People Good Reasons To Sign Up Your List

We should provide a very good reason for our audience not only to subscribe to our email list but also opening those emails, reading them and clicking the links in our content.

At all time, we simply should focus on providing so much value that is almost impossible to find somewhere else.

Attract people with an irresistible lead magnet

There may be many ideas about what type of incentive you would offer to the people. The most common freebie or lead magnet used as bait are e-books and video courses. Of course, your creativity becomes very important at this point to entice people to signup to your list.

email optin give aways
It is a great idea to offer valuable freebies to the people.

It is always best if you can create a valuable freebie to share with the people to join your list. If you don't like creating a freebie, you can outsource it to someone else. In any case, your freebie should be providing a ton of value.

Is email marketing profitable to do?

Email marketing is essential for many businesses. It can be very lucrative if you can implement the right marketing automation strategies.

In general, the perception of email marketing is blasting emails to make sales. It is a completely wrong mentality to be successful in this sphere.

The goal is driving our audience into a prescheduled autoresponder email series that acts as an autofunnel, and recalibrating our funnel by utilizing the user feedback.

People don't buy things from those they don't trust. Why would anyone buy something from you or from the company you endorse without knowing you at all.

People buy from people.

If you understand this simple fact, you open up the doors of massive success in the email marketing business.

Sending no commercial intent email newsletters to our audience to educate them, increase engagement, and build trust is very important.

You should regularly bribe your audience by giving away freebies, and cool stuff you come across.

Everyone loves cool stuff especially if it is free. Also, research shows if you make a favor to someone, it is very likely they make a favor back to you once you ask for it.

What are the best list building strategies?

Create amazing looking sign up forms

Email optins or signup forms are here for one goal. Capturing visitors' information. However, no one will leave their information to a form that looks like a crap. 

Optin forms that look professional will increase the perception of professionalizm. There is still a fine boundary we should pay attention when creating optin forms. We shouldn't compromise from the functionality for the name of having a good looking form.

Also, all optin forms needs to get user-tested. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what we think but how much the form converts.  

A/B split testing optin forms is a never ending process to find the highest converting ones.

If you are using wordpress OptinMonster is probably the best list building plugin you can use. 

Place a signup optin to your sites' footer

Footer section of a website is a very strategic place to place a signup optin. Because once a visitor consumes our content, and have a good opinion about us, chances are high they will subscribe to our list. 

Add Social Media Buttons To Your Email

Consider adding sharing buttons such as “Email to a Friend” and popular social media websites to your emails. Also, ask people to share your email with their friends if they find your content valuable. Remember, you need to encourage people to take the action you want. This is the way to grow your blog and boost your conversions.

all share buttons
Email template social sharing buttons.

Give people options with these social sharing buttons placed on your email template. Include at a minimum Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest and Google Plus buttons to maximize the reach of your content.

Make sure your emails have an “opt-in” link for those who receive your email via someone else.

Guest Post On Other People's Blogs

Guest posts are a great way to create immense exposure to a website. You can outreach to other blog owners in your niche for guest posting opportunities.

However, guest posting will require you spend a good amount of time to write emails and communicate with the people.

Use Pay Per Click & Display Advertising

It is unusual for a new website to start with a considerable amount of organic web traffic. Advertising is a good option to accelerate the list building process if you have a budget for it.

You can do PPC advertising both on Google Adwords and Bing. If you want more volume in a shorter period of time display advertising may be another good option. Google and Facebook are good platforms to take advantage of display advertising campaigns.

However, you need to be careful with the rules of advertising platforms. You may get banned once and forever if you do something against their advertising terms of services. Take your time to fully understand what is allowed to do and what is not.

Another important issue, you cannot use a landing page or squeeze page to advertise on the above-mentioned platforms. They will require you to provide a full website with content on it. You should have “contact us”, “privacy policy” and other important pages set before advertising. Else you will get banned from these networks right away.

Make social media helping you build your list

Share your content on your social media accounts right after you publish it. Ignite visibility of your content to skyrocket your conversions.

Build not only a list; build relationships

Build a genuine relationship with the people on your list. Don't spam your list and don't promote things you wouldn't buy or use.

If you want to promote a cool bicycle on Amazon, order and use it, then make images of you once you are riding it. People love genuine information and will ignore you if you try to fool them.

Which niches can benefit from email marketing?

There is no particular exception. Almost all niches can benefit from list building to some degree. Niches that are extremely uninteresting may be the ones email marketing wouldn't work well.

The other exception is time-sensitive niches. If the general interest for a niche is apparent to reduce overtime, that niche may not be a good idea to build a list.

What are the most common mistakes email marketers make?

The most common mistake email marketers make is trying to sell too early. Everyone hates that. I bet you also hate if someone constantly hammers your inbox with hard selling.

If you push people too hard at the beginning you will drive unsubscribing from your list.

Give some room to the people recently joining your list. Send valuable content, and maybe bonus offers other than the freebie you used. Until you establish a certain amount of trust avoid selling right away.

Tell people you are spending your time to provide them valuable content. To increase the quality of future content ask them to use your links and share your content with others.

If you give your audience a good reason they are most likely to take the action you want them to do.

As a general practice, send no more than one-third of your emails with a sales pitch. Mix it up, send a couple of sales emails then don't send anything sales related.

Also, professional email marketers drive traffic to their content, rather than linking to the affiliate product they want to promote.

How much traffic necessary before building an email list?

It is best if you can start building your list on the same day you launch your website. Many internet marketers are regret that they haven't started it earlier time in their careers.

organic traffic for list building
The best time to build a list is the same day launching a site.

A big majority of the site owners wait until their website gains authority before starting to build a list. However, perfectionism doesn't apply well to internet marketing.

Grow with your audience! Don't grow for your audience.

Lost opportunities are more valuable than our perceived idea about ourselves.

Is list building overrated?

List building is not overrated. It is the fundamental step to start any type of email marketing campaign. Marketers have had better results in the past years. However, it doesn't mean email marketing doesn't work today.

The only thing changed is the quality expectation of the people. Whatever worked 5 years ago may not be applicable today. You need to readjust your strategies to adapt yourself to the change.

Should you buy email lists?

Buying email lists is not only useless but also dangerous for you.

It is obvious people love shortcuts in nature. If you can buy a list in a day why to build it, right?

There are people and even companies sell email address databases. They filter the list for your desire and give it to you as “ready-to-go”.

For instance, you can specify your target demographics and location for your list to be. Tell them, you are interested in buying 10,000 people's email addresses who live in Southern California and have a bad credit score.

In less than an hour, you can import that list to your autoresponder you can start sending sales emails immediately.

Who would like to run wild advertising campaigns to encourage people to join our email list? Although this way of marketing appears tempting to start with, it may bring serious consequences for your business.

It is not a sustainable way for you to grow your business. I will explain it now.

Most countries around the world prohibit sending unsolicited emails without having people's consent. You need to collect email addresses through opt-in forms. This is kind of having the permission of the people to start sending emails to them.

Often purchased lists are scraped from other websites. It is a dirty way to gain contacts for email marketing.

Let people unsubscribe if they want to do so

Also, you need to include “opt-out” links on a visible place in your emails. If people cannot easily quit your email list, they will mark your emails as spam. Clearly tell in your emails that if they don't want to receive your emails anymore they can opt-out anytime by using the link you have provided.

Many autoresponder services include “opt-out link” as default so that you don't have to check every time before you send an email.

On the opt-in side of this arrangement, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a European data privacy law that came into force in May 2018, doubles down. And the email lists bought were obviously not legal.

The GDPR has updated many aspects of the use of customer data by an internet marketer across Europe on a website, in social media, and via email. You don't even have to operate in Europe to come within the scope of the act; if your clients live in Europe, the GDPR covers them.

Is there any better way to start sending emails without buying email lists?

Yes. there is a better way, and it's completely legal. It is called Solo Ads.

You pay someone to send emails to bring traffic to your capture page.

In fact, this is the fastest way to build an email. The list owner may charge you either for the number of emails, or the number of clicks your email generates.

This method will not work well if you try to point traffic to sell people rather than pointing traffic to your capture form to collect emails.

Here you can create an account with Udimi to take benefit of their easy to use but very effective Solo Ads platform.

Almost all reputable autoresponder companies require you collecting email addresses with an opt-in or a lead capture form. There is no other way around. This is the rule of the game, and better don't break the rules.

If your emails bounce, not delivered, not opened, marked as spam more than a certain percentage, you will find out that the autoresponder company you use will contact you.

Even sometimes they will contact you after you have been kicked out.

The reason behind, the illegitimate email address list of one customer can potentially poison the entire server. Deliverability is everything for the autoresponder companies.

Some autoresponder companies don't even allow you to build your list with a single opt-in. Single opt-in is when someone fills out your opt-in form. As a way of securing their deliverability and avoid spam, they will ask you building your list with a double opt-in. A single opt-in followed with an email conformation is called a double opt-in.

But let's assume you've not taken the email addresses you're looking to purchase from another page, but rather legally acquired. The company that sells your email list may claim the lists are “opt-in”.

Sounds great, right?

Not really, Email addresses belonging to that “opt-in” list have chosen to receive their emails, not yours.

Even if the list building method involves terms such as “Opt-in” the truth is that the user does not specifically have any previous relationship with you.

It is very likely once your email lands on their inboxes, the recipients will mark you as “spam.” Yeah, if they don't know or remember you they will do that.

Where can I buy e-mail lists?

If you make a simple Google search you will find many list providers that will sell email lists. I wouldn't like to endorse any names here since I don't believe it is a legit way of doing email marketing.

Purchasing email lists does not only harm your email deliverability and brand reputation. Needless to say, it will also jeopardize your email account.

Email service providers such as Yahoo, Gmail and Outlook do not want to be associated with accounts that are regularly flagged as spam by recipients. Providers of autoresponder services will shut down your account once they figure out you blast emails without people's consent.

How To Choose A High-Quality Autoresponder Company?

Once you decide to build your email list, the most important task is to find a reliable autoresponder company that you can work with.

There are many autoresponder companies on the market. Knowing what are your needs beforehand will give you a better chance to make an educated decision.

Let's talk about what are the qualities a good autoresponder service provides you.

Powerful email marketing features

The autoresponder service we want to work with should provide powerful email marketing features for us. Such as mobile-optimized templates, contact segmentation, and automatic welcome emails. Of course, this is not the entire list.

Nice looking email templates
User experience is important for email marketing too.

It is very important to create mobile-responsive emails. We want to make sure our emails can be displayed equally fine both from mobile phones or tablets.

Embedding Polls and Actionable Items

This feature is provided by only certain autoresponder companies. You can embed, polls, and other actionable items to engage your audience even better.

Advanced email marketing automation

Autoresponders are there to make our email marketing tasks easier. Ideally, we want our autoresponder to send an email on our previously scheduled plan. This is a bare minimum with no compromise.

However, there are email autoresponders can only send a broadcast.

Trigger email series

Trigger emails are sent according to user interaction with our emails.

email series triggered by user interaction
Trigger emails are sent according to the user's earlier behavior.

For instance, if someone opens “email day 1” but doesn't open “email day 2” autoresponder skip “email day 3” and send “email day 4”. This is an example only but I think you understand my point.

Customizable Templates

It is very desired to work with an autoresponder service that has a large selection of templates. Also, you also want to customize those templates according to your needs.

Integrations with other tools and services

Our autoresponders' ability to work with other tools and services is an important consideration. Clearly define in advance what tools you are using before picking an autoresponder company.

  • Thrive Themes
  • WordPress
  • Zapier
  • Shopify
  • Unbounce
  • Google Analytics
  • ClickFunnels
  • PipeDrive
  • Woocommerce
  • Outgrow
  • Poplar
  • Entranz
  • Textiful
  • JustCall
  • Salesforce Essentials
  • 123FormBuilder
  • AC video tracker
  • AccessAlly
  • OptimizePress
  • Twitter
  • Zendesk
  • AccountingSuite
  • ActiveMember360
  • ActiveWoo
  • Acuity Scheduling
  • AdMailr
  • AgencyAnalytics
  • Airtable
  • Akita
  • Amazon DynamoDB
  • Antavo
  • Appointlet
  • Asana
  • Aviary
  • Dropbox
  • Drupal
  • Evernote
  • Facebook
  • Joomla
  • Leadpages
  • OptinMonster
  • Thrive Leads

Unlimited Emails

Each autoresponder service dictates its own rules of services that you don't know before you buy a subscription. It is very common to advertise as email marketing $19 only, then bring many restrictions about the number of emails you can send per day or per month.

Most of us don't read these terms of services carefully until we have a problem with the service.

Contact List Import

You may want to import your email list from one autoresponder company to another. We would like to work with a company that is helpful with both import/export our email list without any issues.

List-Building Tools & Welcome Email

I always recommend starting with an autoresponder company that offers a free trial. If this is not possible try to work with one that accepts monthly payments.

Unfortunately, the majority of the email autoresponder companies either don't sell the monthly subscription or they make it so expensive for you to buy monthly.

Pop-Up Forms

The place you will display your sign up form depends on your strategy. For those who like to use pop-up forms, it would be a good idea to utilize pop up form adaptability of your autoresponder.

It seems very basic, right? You may be surprised if you see there are autoresponder companies that don't support collecting email opt-ins through pop-up.s

Subject Line A/B Testing

Split testing is a never-ending process for internet marketers. It is very necessary to test everything with our emails. The subject line, content, linking anchor text, etc. However, the ability to A/B test of our subject line is particularly important. Because it is directly related to our email open rate.

Dynamic Content

Dynamic content is the feature of displaying different content by considering users' previous interaction with our content.

It is quite an advanced feature. I don't think it would be necessary for those have a small list and just starting to email marketing.

Tracking & Reporting

email analytics
Essential information every email marketing campaign should track.

At a bare minimum, our autoresponder should be able to track the following:

Opening Rate (OR):

OR is the number of unique opens per sent emails.

Click-through Rate (CTR):

CTR is the ratio of the number of unique clicks per sent emails.

Bounce Rate:

It is the ratio of non-delivered emails to the sum of all broadcasted emails.


The number of complaints equal to the number of people who marked our email as spam.

Unsubscribe Rate:

It is the ratio of the number of people unsubscribed to the total number of emails sent.

If you require more detailed engagement analytics such as people who clicked “email day 5” and live in Los Angeles you may ask your autoresponder company if they can provide you with your plan.

We want to boost our email open and clickthrough rates as much as possible. The ability of “goal tracking” is another great feature provided by certain email autoresponder companies to optimize email campaigns.

Rich Image Library

As I have mentioned earlier, not all autoresponder companies provide a good amount of library to let you use templates and images. They either don't have it or ask you for an upgrade in your account to make more money out of you.