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Marketing Tips, WordPress

How to Build an Email List with WordPress

With all the hype around Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter you’d be forgiven for overlooking email marketing. 

Until now.

It’s actually quite important. If you’re interested in driving more traffic to your website or blog — you need to start building an email list.

You might think — but I can get in front of millions of people over social media, for free! Indeed social media has been such a key channel in the past to engage with your audience. However, Facebook pages reach has been limited substantially and you are forced to pay to extend your reach to potential customers. 

That’s why time and time again, the number one channel to engage with customers is email.

Research from Oberlo finds that email marketing comes out on top in comparison to social media, organic search, and paid search when it comes to customer acquisition and retention. So much so that 81% of small businesses rely on email as their primary customer acquisition channel, and 80% for retention (Emarsys, 2018).

No matter what niche you are, or whether you’ve monetized your website, building a list is the way to go. In this post, you’ll learn the skills to build an email list with WordPress. You don’t need any special tools or prior knowledge to get started. 

Email Marketing and List Building — A Brief Overview

Email marketing is nothing new but continues to be a powerful channel for marketers. Done well, you’ll get all sorts of benefits from regularly engaging with prospective and loyal customers. Study after study backs up why email marketing is an essential part of anyone running an online business.

  • Email has a Return of Investment of $40 for every $1 spent. That’s more than paid search and organic traffic combined! (Adobe).
  • 90% of emails reach their intended destination, but only 2% of a business’ Facebook followers see the particular company’s post in their news feed. (The Manifest)
  • You are 6x more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than you are from a Tweet. (Campaign Monitor).
  • When asked to opt-in to receive updates from a company, only 10% elected to do so through Facebook, while 90% chose to receive email newsletters. (Nielsen Norman Group).

These stats spell out huge opportunities for anyone looking to ramp up their marketing effort.

But how do you build a list of email subscribers? The best way to go about this is by providing easy ways to sign up with a compelling message that convinces people to sign up. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Now let’s get started. 

The Importance of Building a Quality Email List

Buying an email list is never a good idea. In most cases, you’ll get flagged as “spam”. Should the message reach anyone’s inbox, they will probably be ignored since and since these people didn’t sign up to your list. Most people aren’t interested in unsolicited emails from people they don’t know.

How are you going to collect email addresses legitimately? From potential leads rather than dormant contacts? 

You grow your list from the ground up. 

When you devise your lead generation campaign, you know that your subscribers signed up because they are interested in what you’re offering.

Now that’s cleared-up, let’s begin list building, the right way

How Do You Build an Email List from Nothing?

You can’t create an email list in WordPress if you don’t have a few other things in place. Here’s a brief overview of the resources you’ll be using:

  • A website, or blog – Whether it’s a landing page or your WordPress blog, you need a place to direct your list members.
  • A domain email address – Chances are, you have a personal email account already. Personal emails can work for list building, but it’s better to have a business or domain-based email for email marketing.
  • A marketing email service – Sign up for a dedicated email marketing platform. These powerful tools link up with your email to organize your email list and send emails from professional templates.
  • A form plugin – With an optin form plugin you can create beautiful, customizable opt-in forms and display them on your website.

Sign Up for an Email Marketing Service

To communicate with your visitors, you need an email marketing service. A good email marketing service should enable you to do the following things:

  • Provide an easy user interface to create highly engaging mail newsletters
  • Offer easy-to-use templates you can deliver stylish emails to your subscribers
  • Let you send bulk emails that are targeted and personalized, without a lot of work.
  • Make it easy for you to manage your contacts list, segment subscribers into groups, and track the performance of each email sent out.

A good email marketing services can provide everything you need to create a fully automated email marketing campaign. 

Many small business email marketing services are inexpensive when you get started since fees are often charged based on the size of your list.

screenshot of templates
OptinMonster Email Templates

If you don’t have a platform in mind already, take a look at these email marketing services, all offer free trials and plans ideal for smaller-sized lists. Once you’ve signed up to one, you’ll need an opt-in form plugin to put email sign-up forms on your web pages.

Mailchimp is a widely-adopted platform but isn’t right for everyone. Take your time in the beginning, and research the best Mailchimp alternatives that may actually be a better fit for your site. Be sure to look at time-saving integrations and subscriber limits in each plan.

Create an Offer They Can’t Refuse!

Now that you’ve provided the means to sign up, how do you entice people to do so? With something called a lead magnet! This is when you make subscribing so irresistible, people are compelled to sign up.

What does your target audience want? Chances are, you have resources they are interested in such as access to an ebook, locked content, a report, or your software. Some of the most successful ways to build an email list involve giving away resources for free.


Offer visitors something that gives real value. This can be a free trial, exclusive access to content, discounts, or any other freebies.

Once they’ve signed up, make sure you’re quick to deliver on your promises. Otherwise, you’ll experience how quick people are to hit ‘unsubscribe’.

They’ve Taken the Bait —Now Reel Them In!

You’ve got their attention with your offer, now you’ve got to provide a super-easy way for them to subscribe. This means adding an opt-in form, or several, to your website including below blog post content, in the sidebar, or as a pop-up notification.

WordPress plugins that make it easy to add opt-in forms on your WordPress powered website. Each optin-form can then connect to your email marketing software, which adds them to your email list. Here are the best op-in form plugins today. 

Make It Easy for People to Sign Up

Now that you have an offer people can’t refuse, you need to add email signup forms on your website. 

With your email marketing tool, you can create sign-up forms that you can easily customize to match your brand and then place them wherever you like on your website. People are already interested in the information that you are promoting, so it’s a logical place to attract potential subscribers. While they’re there, why not entice them to sign up to your mailing list? Here’s how

  • Incorporate a subscribe option to your existing forms

It’s common practice for marketers to try and collect emails on all forms that appear on a website. If your site features a registration form, a contact form, quote request or a booking facility, include an opt-in checkbox. This way, you have a good chance of collecting emails from interested parties.

  • Add a subscription bar

Most opt-in tools let you add a subscription bar to any page you like. A subscription bar is a simple yet effective opt-in. Comparably, this discreet bar won’t reel in huge subscribers. But, since there’s never a lead magnet, people who add their email are the most motivated subscribers. They just want more of your content.

  • Add a popup sign up form

If you don’t use a popup, you’re missing one of the best ways to collect email addresses.  Pop-ups can irritate people, but they work as sign up’s because people don’t need to find them. To avoid annoying your visitors, you can try triggering your popup after thirty seconds, instead of startling them as soon as they land on your website.

  • Add a signup button on your Facebook business page

This one’s quick. Now, people can sign up right from Facebook. Why not bring your social fans on board and add a newsletter signup form to your blog’s Facebook page. 

  • Create a landing page

Alternatively, you can create a landing page just for your lead magnet. Then link to this page from your social media and other channels like youtube etc. 

Cast Your Net Wide for Subscribers

So far, we’ve looked at how to persuade visitors to your website to sign up. It’s a good idea to reach further afield to build your list up.

Ask People to Join Your List

Start by asking your existing customers and clients if they would like to subscribe to your email list. Similarly, use all your social profiles to let your fans know that you’ve got an email list and they need to be on it. Let’s get started.

Target Offline Networking and Live Events to Gain Subscribers

Just because your email list is an online tool it doesn’t mean that you can only solicit email addresses online. 

  • If you have a retail location, you can collect emails when people visit or purchase from your store. 
  • If you run an offline class, attend a networking event, mention your list. Similarly, if you do any public speaking with an accompanied slide deck, include details on how to ‘sign up for more related content, on the final slide.
  • If you attend offline events like festivals, local markets, trade shows, meet-ups, or other events, you can also collect email addresses at those locations and add them to your database. Just like your offline email sign up, make sure you send a welcome email to confirm they’ve opted-in to your list.

A pro tip: If you collect emails with a pen and paper (but you’ve got an iPad), switch to ActiveCampaign. Their iPad Forms App works without the internet). It automatically syncs your new contacts to your email list, as soon as you get back online.

Gain Leads by Partnering with Others in Your Industry

The fastest way to collect email addresses is to piggyback on someone who already has an audience. Partnerships are great because they let you get access to a relevant audience. And with that access and a trusted recommendation, you get a fresh source of email subscribers. Here are a few ideas:

  • Be a guest on other people’s podcasts.
  • Guest posts for their blogs.
  • Teach in their virtual summits and online courses.

Now you’ve got a list of willing subscribers, you can start marketing to them by sending emails. Your email should link to the sign-up form for your list (your email marketing platform will provide this form). 

Buy Social Media Ads to Entice Your Target Demographic

Social media can send you a ton of traffic. But what do smart business owners do with that traffic? They turn it into an email list.

Facebook Ads offer an easy and effective way to find people that are most likely to be interested in your product or services – and grab their emails. Your add should include a lead magnet enticing people to click. They are then directed people to a landing page designed to collect email addresses. 

Email Your New Subscribers

Now that your email signup forms are in place, your list will soon start filling up! 

Once you have your leads on your list, it’s common practice to send them an introductory series of emails to get to know you. Eventually, your communication will be a mixture of product launches, sales offers, and any other content useful to your readership.

Use your email marketing tool to create your email, and send it to your list. 

Succeed at List Building 

For the best chance of listing building success, follow this formula. 

Offer a valuable incentive + simple subscribe opportunities = a large response and a big email list. 

To top it off, offer compelling content — if you have a great blog to share, or you create exciting content, send out links to your subscribers

There’s no time like the present to start email marketing… So, what are you waiting for? 

Do you run a newsletter or regularly send any other types of emails? We’d love to hear how you began building your list, and how you keep people subscribing.

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Isobel Weston avatar

Isobel Weston

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