19 OF THE BIGGEST REASONS WHY YOUR EMAIL LIST ISN'T GROWING (AND HOW TO FIX THEM)
Let’s be real. It is getting a lot harder to grow your email list.
But just think about it. Nearly every website you visit has an opt-in form. Everyone’s got something to offer. You’ve probably got a million unread emails in your inbox from bloggers you can’t even remember.
Your subscriber probably feels the exact same way.
If you’re struggling to grow your email list, it could be because you’re making one or more of these mistakes. Now you might think these mistakes are pretty obvious, but they could be doing more harm than you think.
The good news is, it won’t take you a lot of time to fix them.
Want a bit of extra help? Download this free guide with 38 more tips to help you grow your email list in no time at all.
UNDERSTAND THE PATHWAY OF YOUR READERS
Before we get into the actual tips, it’s first important to understand the way your readers interact with you on your website. By this, I mean whenever a reader interacts with your site, through landing pages, opt-in forms and so on.
The reason why this is important is because it shows the pathway of your readers. And if you can optimise the experience your readers have along the points of their pathway, that’s the key to growing a successful email list.
Now let’s get into the tips!
#1 | YOU HAVEN’T GOT AN OPT-IN FREEBIE
Do you think there’s no point in having an opt-in freebie?
A lot of people feel the same.
I’ve seen many conversations online of bloggers thinking there’s absolutely no point in having an opt-in freebie if they don’t offer any products or services.
I get it. If you’re not selling yourself in some way, then what’s the point in creating something to get more people to opt-in? Right?
I want you to look at it differently.
You need an opt-in freebie as a blogger because:
It deepens your relationship with your reader and allows you to provide more valuable content.
It allows you to share your knowledge and expertise with your target audience.
This is the very first step a subscriber takes when they sign up to your mailing list.
Now there will be people who unsubscribe as soon as they get your opt-in freebie. That’s okay. You do not want those people on your list.
So get creating an opt-in freebie!
This small thing has the power to turn subscribers who’ve just heard about your brand into fully fledged super fans.
#2 | YOU’VE GOT THE WRONG OPT-IN FREEBIE
Well if they’ve opted in then surely that’s all that matters, right?
If you offer a freebie that has nothing to do with your online presence as a brand, you’ll end up losing subscribers. Why? Because the content you share on your blog is going to be completely different to what’s in your opt-in freebie. Your content strategy won’t be aligned.
Every single piece of your content needs to be related and help to solve problems your audience has. If not, it’s going to be difficult for your audience to see how your content is going to benefit them.
Like we said, the opt-in freebie is the first step to growing your mailing list. And when that gels with the rest of your content marketing strategy, it’s so much easier to grow.
#3 | YOU DON’T HAVE A LANDING PAGE
You might think a landing page is unnecessary.
But it is completely necessary because it gives your reader a straightforward choice: do you want to opt-in - yes or no?
This is where your landing page has to do the hard work.
A good idea is to have a link to your newsletter landing page/opt-in freebie in your main navigation bar. This is a great way to get more traffic to your list.
I go into a lot more detail on this in this blog post, plus how you can create your very own landing page.
#4 | YOU DON’T PROMOTE YOUR EMAIL LIST
Are you really good at promoting your blog posts but bad at promoting your mailing list? You’re not the only one.
If you don’t promote your latest blog post, nobody will see it. It’s exactly the same for your mailing list. So you need to be promoting it as much as everything else.
I know that a good chunk of my email list comes from social media promotion. Here are some tactics you can try:
Create pins for your newsletter community/opt-in and use Tailwind to distribute them on Pinterest.
Share your opt-in in promo threads in Facebook groups.
Share your landing page URL frequently on social media.
#5 | YOUR AUDIENCE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT THEY’RE OPTING INTO
Your landing page doesn’t tell people anything.
You’ve got 5 seconds to tell people:
Who this page is for
Why someone should sign up for your freebie
What it helps them do
What problem it helps them solve
Because even if you get loads of traffic to this page, it’s not going to convert if people don’t know what they’re going to get.
You don’t need to acknowledge that their pain point needs solving. Your opt-in needs to convince your reader that this is something they need.
Use language your audience would use. Use bullet points to break down the benefits. And don’t forget to show them what they’ll be getting. You can easily make an image like this in Canva.
#6 | YOU DON’T DESCRIBE YOUR OPT-IN FREEBIE EFFECTIVELY
I’ve done this so many times for so many different things. It’s so easy to miss.
When you’re describing your opt-in freebie, you want to list the benefits, not the features. Basically, you want to list what it does and what your reader will learn from your freebie.
So “a calendar blocking tool” becomes “a calendar blocking tool to help you save time and do more of what you want to do.”
Look at the difference!
Adding that benefit to the sentence puts the reader right there in the situation and shows what your freebie does.
Have a look now at how you have described your freebie and see if you are falling into the features trap.
#7 | YOUR SIGN UP BUTTON SAYS “SIGN UP”
Would you sign up if you saw a button that said “sign up” or “subscribe”? Didn’t think so.
Unless you’ve already got a huge following and loads of subscribers, you’re going to need your sign up button to do a little more work than that.
You might have been able to do that previously when it was easier to build an email list. But that won’t work today.
If a user doesn’t take action on something, there can be many different reasons for it. One of those reasons could be that it’s just too vague. Because they don’t know what’s going to happen when they sign up.
So the copy that you use for your sign up button needs to direct users to take action AND be an easy decision for them to make. For instance “show me the template” or “yes, I want this!”
Both are written from the perspective of the reader and that’s the most important thing.
#8 | YOU DON’T HAVE OPT-IN FORMS ALL OVER YOUR WEBSITE
You might think you’re doing a good job by having an opt-in form in your sidebar. But users know to expect to see it there. So if you want to grow your email list, you need to be putting your opt-in form in some unexpected places.
I don’t know about you, but my sidebar opt-in form performs the worst out of all my opt-in forms.
And when that happens, you need to tweak your strategy.
I did this and instead, decided to add an exit intent pop-up on my website and it’s skyrocketed my email list growth. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
You want people to stay on your website for as long as possible. You want them on there, clicking around for long enough that they then turn into a subscriber.
Here are a few things you can try:
Add opt-in forms to every page on your website
Add top bar opt-in form using Hello Bar
Make it super easy to share your blog posts - I use Sumo for this and talk more about how to use it here.
#9 | YOU DON’T USE CROSS-PROMOTION
If a piece of your content is going really well, don’t just celebrate that fact. Instead, ask how you can capture this traffic and turn your users into subscribers?
Go to your most popular posts on Google Analytics. If they don’t have a content upgrade, add one. Or, if a post does have a content upgrade and it gets a lot of traffic but few sign-ups, change the content upgrade.
Play around with some different possibilities. And when you’re getting loads of traffic and your content upgrade is performing well, think how you can get more traffic to it.
Share it more in your social media editorial plan
Create different pin graphics for it
When something is working this is a good thing - do more of that.
#10 | YOU DON’T USE A POP-UP
Remember what we just said about pop-ups?
I get that you might not like them.
It can be SO frustrating when a pop-up doesn’t work properly or you can’t click off it once it appears. It happens all the time. But if you test them out, they can really work in your favour.
A great way to test them is using a private browser - a private window on Safari and an incognito window on Chrome. By doing this, you’re treated as a new user and so you can test your pop-ups.
Now with the Google rules, there are some rules as to what’s allowed and what’s not. But exit intent pop-ups like we talked about above are still fine. Why? Because they capture your reader on their way out.
My exit intent pop-up is one of the most successful ways I grow my email list.
#11 | THERE ARE TOO MANY STEPS TO GETTING YOUR FREEBIE
Don’t make it take hours for your readers to get access to your free download.
Do you really need all that information?
I just ask for a first name and email address. You might just want to ask for their email address.
Don’t ask for too much.
#12 | YOU HAVEN’T OPTIMISED ALL YOUR PAGES
You’ve optimised your homepage, right?
Does it look really pretty?
I bet you spent ages on it.
You might think that’s for good reason. I mean, surely the first place a new visitor goes is your homepage, right?
Most people click through to a blog post from one of your social media platforms. It’s exactly the same if they find you through organic search.
A user’s experience is a big part of what Google prioritises now, so you need to take this into account. Write down the first pages someone would land on if they came to your site.
Don’t forget your About page.
Here’s what you need to make sure for each page on your website:
It’s ready to turn a user into a subscriber
It’s got an opt-in form (or more than one)
It promotes your freebie
You can share the page easily
#13 | YOU DON’T OFFER CONTENT UPGRADES
I get that you’re busy and you might be creating three blog posts a week. You probably don’t have time to create content upgrades.
One of my coaching clients decided to go down to publishing one post a week and started creating content upgrades. Her results were amazing.
If you don’t want to do this, I’ve got another alternative for you:
Find your most popular posts in Google Analytics (Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages).
Start by creating a content upgrade for 5-10 of those posts.
Then create a content upgrade for each category on your blog - that way, you can just rotate them according to your editorial calendar.
You can also add a content upgrade if you find a new post is getting a lot of traffic.
The point is that you’re adding content upgrades to posts that are getting the most views, which makes it easier (and quicker) to grow your email list.
#14 | YOU DON’T TELL PEOPLE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
If you opt into something and wonder whether it even worked...that’s not a great start.
But it happens more often than you think.
You need to give the subscriber instructions on what happens next.
A thank you page is the first point of contact to do this after a subscriber has opted in and it serves a purpose.
It needs to give the subscriber clear instructions as to what happens next.
This is even more important if you use a double opt-in (recommended with GDPR), where the subscriber has to confirm their email before they get access to your freebie. So tell them where to get their freebie or when they can expect it in their inbox.
If your reader actually takes action with your freebie, that means you can start the nurturing process.
#15 | YOU DON’T SEND A WELCOME EMAIL
Welcome emails have the highest open rate over any other type of email.
When a subscriber first signs up to your list, that’s when they’re the most engaged. They look forward to receiving what you have to offer. But they might still have some doubts.
The way a subscriber feels and the experience they have in that initial period determines what the rest of their time will be like on your list.
You are missing an opportunity to build trust with them if you don’t send a welcome email.
Here’s a quick outline for what to put in your welcome email:
Who you are and why you started your website
What your subscriber can expect from you
What your subscriber can do next
Sign off and P.S.
And if you send a welcome sequence, not just a welcome email, then you’re definitely onto a winner!
#16 | YOU DON’T CUSTOMISE YOUR EMAILS
Never ever use a default template. That’s a rule.
As in the “confirm your subscription” page, the “welcome email” and the “thanks for subscribing page”.
Your welcome email also needs to be personalised and show your subscribers that they did the right thing by signing up to your email list.
#17 | YOU DON’T EMAIL YOUR EXISTING SUBSCRIBERS
It’s so easy to think you should be constantly growing your email list. But you can’t forget about your existing subscribers.
If you don’t have a plan for your current subscribers it’s unlikely you’ll ever build a relationship with them.
Here are some things to think about:
How often will you email your subscribers?
What types of content will you send?
How do you want them to feel when you email them?
I have loads of examples you can download below.
Always ask a question at the end of each email and open up a conversation. If you treat your email list well, they’ll become your cheerleaders. The way to do this is by having an email marketing content plan.
Once you create this plan and put it in place, you’ll be able to retain your most engaged subscribers.
#18 | YOU DON’T SEE THE POINT IN AN EMAIL LIST
Yes, there IS a point in having an email list, even if you don’t want to make money from your blog.
It is a lot of work to manage, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t have one.
If the only way you’re communicating with your readers outside of your blog is on social media, you’re missing a trick. You don’t own your social media followers. What happens if they disappear tomorrow?
Your email list is your own.
#19 | YOU DON’T CLEAN OUT YOUR EMAIL LIST
I never used to do this because I didn’t want to lose subscribers. But it’s key to growing your list.
The more unactive subscribers you have, the lower your open rate will be.
If you don’t do anything about the people who don’t engage with your emails but they’re still on your list, your email may not appear in the inbox of those who do want to read your emails.
What’s the point in that?
They might have moved on from your content or maybe they have other priorities. Whatever it is, let them go.
If you go through each of these points and implement small changes, you’ll soon start to see an increase in your email list.
But this is just the start.
You need to focus not just on growing your list, but on nurturing your current subscribers too.
If you can get this balance right, that’s the key to a healthy email list.
Which point are you going to put into action first? What do you need to work on?
P.S. Don't forget to download your list of hacks to grow your email list in less than 60 minutes!