How I Grew My Email List To 5,000 Subscribers In 6 Months

By Apr 13, 2015April 2nd, 201715 Comments

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Everyone wants a large email list. If you’re like I was last year, you may feel like growing your list is about as slow as watching grass grow. But if you take these steps that I discovered last fall, you’ll start to grow your email list in a short amount of time.

I great my email subscriber list to over 5,000 in 6 months. Learn how I did it, and use my system to grow your own list! | Blogging Tips | Email Marketing

Why should you grow your email list?

I have always put a big email list as one of my goals ahead of Pinterest or Facebook followers, although those are great, too. (In fact, we’ve got great tips for optimizing for Pinterest and Facebook, too!). Having someone’s email address is almost like having an invitation to call them up – you’re much more likely to get their attention than on Pinterest or Facebook.

With email, you have a great opportunity to build a relationship with them. Of course, if you abuse that invitation, that unsubscribe button is a click away and they will not hesitate to use it.

How To Grow Your Email List Quickly

Grow Your Email List

1. Create a freebie.

My subscriber freebie is quite simple – just one page, but on a topic (finding the motivation to organize) that’s hot for my readers.

Even though my freebie is very simple, I took the time to make it look nice. Since I’m not a graphic designer, I based the style on another freebie I liked, while adding my own content.

All my printables are designed in OpenOffice Writer (similar to MS Word) and converted to PDF.

Other ideas for subscriber freebies:

  • Mini-recipe booklet
  • Printable forms and checklists
  • Detailed explanation of how to do something – put it in a PDF and it becomes more tangible.

2. Create a landing page for the freebie.

I have a simple landing page with an opt-in form for this freebie. When someone signs up, they are added to my Mailchimp list and are sent to the download page for the freebie. I also have a graphic in my sidebar that leads to the landing page.

3. Use a pop-up.

I know – you hate pop-ups, right? Bloggers are often hesitant to use a pop-up because we’re hyper aware of them, but readers are used to them and they work. I haven’t had any complaints.

Once I installed the Sumo pop-up and started promoting my freebie, my list really took off. About 3,000 of the addresses I have were collected through the pop-up. My pop-up is triggered after about 10 seconds on a page and then it waits a day to show itself to a reader (in case someone returns).

Also, I make sure to turn off the pop-up on any pages where it doesn’t make sense (my landing page for the subscriber freebie and my advertise page, for instance).

4. Create an eye-catching pinnable image for the freebie.

Create a pinnable image for your email subscription landing page.

This is a key step – once you have your pinnable image, pin it to your applicable Pinterest boards and watch the subscribers start signing up. My pinnable images for this freebie have been pinned over 5,000 times – this is great word-of-mouth for my site!

Advanced Email List-Building Technique: Content Upgrades

The steps above brought me over 4,000 subscribers. With the addition of content upgrades, I’ve added almost 1,000 more subscribers to my list.

I first learned about content upgrades from the free Email1k course I took a few months ago. The concept is simple – create some kind of added value for a post and require readers to opt-in in order to receive it. It could be a simple checklist, a short video with more detail on your post, or a printable.

Use content upgrades to further grow your email list.

Whatever you create, it has to give added value that’s specific to a particular post.

Then you mention the upgrade within your post. People won’t be able to resist signing up for it! This kind of an opt-in is like a super-targeted freebie – you know that the person is interested in it because they are reading that particular post. The content upgrade is much more relevant than a more general freebie on your site.

Right now, I offer content upgrades on 3 posts on my site (here, here and here). I have plans to add them to the top 10 posts on my site. I’ve got a nice little box that highlights the offer, but you could also show a button or even an opt-in form right on the page.

The link in my box pops up a form so the reader doesn’t even have to leave the page to opt-in. Sweet and simple, right? And it has a great conversion rate!

If you look back at the graph of my subscriber growth, you’ll notice that growth leveled off in February and March of this year. I have been focusing on essential oils as a revenue generator for my blog and so the regular list has taken a back seat. But the nice thing is that without any extra work, my pop-up, subscriber freebie and content upgrades continue to bring in new subscribers.

Does it sound like a lot of work to set all this up?

I promise that it actually doesn’t have to be too difficult. The key is to keep your reader in mind – if you create something useful for them, it will be easy to “sell” it.

Often, I am tempted to make things complicated and get bogged down in technology, but I try to keep coming back to the idea that simpler (and cheaper!) is often better. You can always improve on things later – just get a first attempt done and then revisit and improve on your work.

Whew – that was a lot of information! Let’s review.

How to grow your email list in 4 (or 5) steps:

  1. Create a subscriber freebie.
  2. Create a landing page for the freebie and integrate with your email service.
  3. Use a pop-up.
  4. Create a pinnable image and pin regularly.
  5. (Optional) Create content upgrades to bring in even more subscribers.

Now I want to hear from you.

What are your favorite techniques for growing your email list?

About Sarah Mueller

Sarah is a work-at-home mom to 4 rambunctious boys and the creator of Early Bird Mom, a popular mom blog focusing on organizing, budgeting, parenting, and more. She has a long history with the internet, starting out with a clunky webserver in 1995, a busy e-commerce site in 2003 and now pursuing her original passion - writing - on Early Bird Mom. She's married to her college sweetheart who she imported from Germany and thanks God every day for His grace and mercy. She loves to encourage other busy moms with simple, practical strategies and tips. Sarah lives in Pennsylvania but you can connect with her at Early Bird Mom, on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.


  • Lisa says:

    I’ve decided to really focus on growing one of my blogs this year and the subscriber list is where I’m starting. So this article is really timely for me to read! Thanks for sharing the great tips.

  • Thank you for the great tips as always!

  • Dawn Lopez says:

    This is just the post I needed to read. I finally finalized an ebook a couple of weeks ago that I had been “sitting” on for a few months. You motivated me to create a landing page and some cool pinnables to go with it. Already seeing re-pins and I just did this today! Thanks so much for taking the time to share this, it’s a huge motivator. I can’t wait to set up some content upgrades too! You rock!

  • Awesome tips, my opt in freebie (a calendar) over the holidays grew my list like mad but it’s tapered off now that I have a different opt in. I’d love to get a bit more information on your content upgrades… does this box just send them to the opt in page or is it a separate page you have? Do you use a plug in for that?

    Thanks for the tips! Very encouraging 🙂

    • Sarah Mueller says:

      Thanks, Colleen! The link in that box you see triggers a pop-up with a very short opt-in form. I use a plugin called Layered Popups from Code Canyon. This technique is called the 2 step optin – once someone clicks the link, they are much more likely to complete the signup process. Leadpages has this functionality, but I didn’t want to pay the monthly fee for just this. I hope that helps – let me know if you have more questions.

  • melissa says:

    Thanks for the tips,I need to add some more printables to my site. I also like the idea of a mini recipe book.

  • Interesting strategies. Some I will consider!

  • This is good, Sarah! I’ve grown my email list pretty decently without really much work at all (just a blurb here and there in posts and a Hello Bar at the top of my site). But I know I could grow it MUCH faster if I did something like this and I really want to. Somehow though, it just seems so overwhelming to do. For one, I never can think of a good freebie to offer. My guess is, I’m probably thinking too complicated and should just do as you say and keep it simple.

    Also, with you email list, do you simply just send out post updates or do you do an actual newsletter?

    Thanks for these tips! Now…for the motivation to just start tying to implement them. 🙂

    • Sarah Mueller says:

      That’s awesome, Lydia! Your readers must be enjoying your site.

      It does sound overwhelming – you just have to take it in steps. And the good thing is that each of these steps above brings a return all by itself so you don’t have to wait to get through them all to see results.

      With my list, I send out a short blurb with each post I publish (currently 2-3 times a week). I like to get a little chatty in the email. I feel it helps readers get to know me better and also know if they want to read the whole article or not instead of overwhelming them with a long email. It only takes about 10 minutes to write up a quick blurb after I’ve published a post.

      Thanks for your comment!

  • Marie says:

    What did you use to create your landing page? Was it a separate page on your blog or did you use something else?

    I have been blogging for a while and yet can’t seem to get anyone to sign up. I believe I have good content but am working hard to create even better info, photos, etc. l know I need to be patient, but it gets frustrating.

    Thanks for the great tips. I’m going to figure out a few freebies I can offer. That may help!

    • Sarah Mueller says:

      At first it was just a wordpress page which worked just fine. Now I’m using Optimize Press which does make nice landing pages, but I don’t think you need a fancy plugin just for that. I’d love to hear how it goes for you, Marie. Definitely start with the freebie!

  • Kelly says:

    Great tips! Love the traffic I get from giveaways. Will try to implement some of your suggestions as well.