6 Quick Actions to Quadruple Your Mailing List in 3 Months

  • March 27, 2012 by Caleb Wojcik
  • 56 Comments

Aweber Subscribers: Pocket Changed

Note: That headline is not a typo. My mailing list at Pocket Changed has increased fourfold from the end of 2011 to the writing of this post (March 22nd). Keep reading this post to find out the six exact strategies I used to do so.

If you’ve been blogging for a while, you should know about the power of building your mailing list.

Social media followers and RSS subscribers are great, but until you harness the personal connection you can have by communicating through someone’s inbox your influence online will suffer.

Just like Derek Halpern talked about in our latest interview, you need to be growing an email list.

Sure, you could try to promote everything you do passively by mentioning your latest content on your different outlets on the web.

But, compare the results from hoping that people will click through all the noise to when you can send an email to thousands of people and reach their inboxes in seconds. Now that is power.

In this post I’ll outline the exact six step strategy I used to quadruple my mailing list in less than three months on Pocket Changed.

(If you are unfamiliar with what a mailing list is or are looking to set-up your own list, read the post about why we use Aweber as our mailing list host.)

Action #1: Refresh Your Site Design

Be honest with yourself. Your website could use a design refresh.

Updating your website to the latest design trends used for online web apps like Google+ or Gmail will make your website feel new and fresh. Try using a simple color palette and a lot of white space.

If your website looks old and stale, people won’t want to subscribe to it.

This is why we use a simple and straight forward design here at Think Traffic and why I have continually worked to keep Pocket Changed clean and clear of clutter.

Strapped for cash but still want a strong design? Follow the step-by-step fundamentals in the subscriber only guide in our Traffic Toolbox: 5 Easy Design Enhancements to Make Your Site More Magnetic.

Homework Assignment #1: Refresh your design by simplifying it and decrease the amount of clutter (ads, badges, blogrolls).

Action #2: Optimize Your Subscription Forms

You want to use flashing arrows or pop-ups to trick people into giving you their email address? Sorry, the results are in and people hate pop-ups.

Just a simple phrase like “Get Free Updates” and then a spot for someone to place their email address is all you really need. But, how can you know exactly what these forms should say?

One of the best things you can do to optimize your subscription forms is to A-B test them.

If you are using Aweber all you have to do is create two web forms with different copywriting. You could use a different headline (Get Free Updates vs. Get Our Newsletter), a different call-to-action (Join 2,500 monthly readers vs. Welcome to the Revolution), or a different phrase on the button (Get Updates! vs. Subscribe). Get creative with your A-B testing. 

Split-Testing-Example

Here are the two headlines I'm currently testing for my sidebar form.

Once you’ve created the different forms to try, under the list of web forms there is a section called ‘Split Tests’.

Split Test Aweber

Create a new split test and just set the percent of the time you want each form to show (for two use 50%-50%, for three use 33%-33%-34%, etc.). Next, paste the A-B code where you would be pasting the web form code normally.

After a week or so go back and see which forms performed the best. You can keep A-B testing with more options at that point or just pick whichever one is performing the best.

Homework Assignment #2: Go set-up an A-B test of your sign-up forms.

Action #3: Simplify Your About Page

Your about page is the single most important page on your entire website. When someone new comes to your website the thing they are most likely to click on is your about page.

This is the exact reason why you want to make your about page stand out.

Here at Think Traffic’s about page and my about page at Pocket Changed we follow the about page model Derek Halpern suggests in this critique.

  • Section 1: Tell people why your site is different.
  • Subscription Box 1.
  • Section 2: Tell people who you are.
  • Subscription Box 2.
  • Section 3: Show social proof through testimonials/”featured on”.
  • Subscription Box 3.

Keep each section to a single screen, remove sidebars, include relevant photos, and focus the visitor’s attention on why they should care about your site. People will appreciate the straightforward nature of the page and won’t get bored reading your life story.

If you have an awesome video about yourself you should include it on this page too, but only if it is short and above average.

Homework Assignment #3: Go re-write and simplify your about page.

Action #4: Create Multiple Pieces of Epic Content

Now that you’ve updated your design, optimized your sign-up forms, and simplified your about page it is time to get some huge traffic by writing epic shit.

Instead of worrying about the amount of times a week you update your blog, focus on creating some pillar content that gets shared hundreds of times.

When was the last time you spent 5 to 10 hours creating a single blog post? 

In January and February I put together four blog posts that each took that long to create and I got a response 10 times larger than my regular posts.

Look specifically at the sharable naming convention I used for the titles below. Also, the tallies to the right equal how many times they have each been shared on Twitter + Facebook + Google Plus + LinkedIn at the time of writing this post.

These four posts alone doubled my mailing list.

Homework Assignment #4: Go write an epic post.

Action #5: Feature A Ton of Interesting People You Actually Know (And Some You Don’t)

One surefire way to get people to share your content is to write about them. Obviously you’ll want to do this in a geniune manner, but giving other people props is an excellent way to get on their radar too. People you already know will end up sharing it 90% of the time. That is free publicity.

For example, in my post 35 Cubicle Renegades to Watch in 2012 I linked mostly to people that I had already met in person or online, but I also linked to some people I hadn’t met. This post helped me open the door for that first introduction. 

The power of flattery should not be abused though. Don’t just link to 100 people hoping that they’ll notice you.

For this post I sat down for each and everyone of the 35 people featured in that post and did in-depth research about what they were currently working on and up to next. I had to do this because there simply is not enough time in the day to read everyone’s blog and social media updates.

Do you think if I would have just pulled some text from their Twitter profile or their about pages that they would have seen how meticulous I was about including them in my list? What if I didn’t include any anecdotes about my personal experiences with them?

Doubtful.

Homework Assignment #5: Feature people on your blog in a genuine way.

Action #6: Have A Subscriber Bonus

The last thing I did to triple my mailing list at Pocket Changed in three months was to release my first manifesto last week as a subscriber bonus.

I chose not to release an eBook that was just filled with life stories and fluff. I made it all about actions you can take to start earning more money from your business or side hustle.

Too specific for a manifesto? Perhaps, but I wanted to show that when I create something special for my mailing list it will lead to actual, realistic, and tangible results. Not just the feeling of “oh, that was nice” after they read it.

We are doing the same thing here at Think Traffic with the Traffic Toolbox. There are five subscriber bonus in there that we could easily charge hundreds of dollars for. (If you want to see what free bonuses I’m talking about just click here.)

Creating your manifesto, sign-up bonuses, or ebook doesn’t have to be that complicated either. If you have no design background you can just type up a simple word document and save it as a PDF. Boom. eBook.

If you want to get a little fancier, you can use Adobe InDesign to make a multiple page book like I did for my Get Paid Manifesto or Corbett did for his manifesto: 18 Months, 2 Blogs, Six Figures. Then, just include the eBook as a sign-up bonus for your subscribers and launch it.

If you just want to make a single page manifesto outlying the values and principles of your website you can create one in Adobe Photoshop like we did for the Expert Enough Manifesto and then just include a sign-up form in the post.

Homework Assignment #6: Create a Manifesto or Free eBook for your site.

***

If you’ve made it this far, start working through the six actions above. You’ll not only grow your mailing list, but people will start to realize how serious you are about this whole “blogging thing”. ;)

What was your biggest takeaway from this post? Which action are you going to do first?

Cheers!

- Caleb Wojcik

Written by . Caleb Wojcik is one of the 3 C's at Think Traffic and Fizzle.co. He writes at CalebWojcik.com and hosts the Cubicle Renegade Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @CalebWojcik.


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Ankesh Kothari March 27, 2012 at 6:21 am

Thanks Caleb.

Few more tips that have worked for me.

1. Ask folks to share their action from the newsletter thank you page. “I just subscribed to [newsletter] because [reason].” The trust level with folks will be high right after they have subscribed. So the chances of them sharing your website on social media will be higher too.

2. Offer a one-time-only product on the thank you page. And use the profits from this product to advertise your website and the newsletter. This tip allows you to create a perpetual traffic loop.

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:27 am

I like both of your suggestions Ankesh. Using the trust level is how we get people to connect with us on social media on our thank you page right after joining our mailing list.

mars dorian March 27, 2012 at 6:28 am

Those are some kick-ass tips Caleb, too bad I can’t do AB testing with Mailchimp ;(
But I definitely will write/draw more epic cornerstone content and enhance the bonus subscription gift.

BTW – having the sign-up form in the feature box (got this from Derek too – it’s on my blog) is another efficient way to capture subscribers !

Vítor Maia March 29, 2012 at 6:31 am

Hello, great post as always!

Can we do a AB testing with GetResponse?

Thank you

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:30 am

Hey Mars,

You could always just to do AB testing manually if mail chimp doesn’t offer it. Looks like they only allow AB testing on actual things you send out to your list.

Just run with one form for a week, then switch it up the next week and compare the results.

We have been testing the feature box here at Think Traffic as well and are planning to talk about it in an upcoming post. :)

Mike Yasieniuk March 27, 2012 at 6:33 am

I needed this list. We are taking part in the MDBP put on by Think Traffic and one thing we have been lacking in is newsletter signups. This has spawned some great ideas and I will be optimizing the site to help generate more signups.

Thank you as well Ankesh for your ideas. These are great also!

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:31 am

Awesome Mike! Glad you enjoyed the post. These will really the only things I did in the three months to grow my list other than a single guest post which brought in a few as well.

Tania Dakka March 27, 2012 at 6:37 am

Oh, I have SOOO much to do after this! A lot of this I knew I needed to take care of, but being sidetracked with freelance work tends to take priority. No more! Thanks for the reminders and the inspiration:)

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:32 am

Anytime Tania. ;) That’s why we’re here!

Adam March 27, 2012 at 6:42 am

Thank you Caleb. The part which resonated with me the most was an effective “About” section; my next job is to make a 1 minute video that makes an impact, talking about my uniqe perspective. Appreciate your post reminding me I need to do this now! Thanks again, Adam

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:33 am

Great idea Adam. And 60-seconds is a good length for an about page video too so people don’t get sidetracked.

Lori Lynn Smith March 27, 2012 at 7:14 am

My next Action items – Optimize my Subscription Forms top priority and then create additional EPIC posts!

it really is a fine balance between optimizing your site and writing great content…

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:34 am

Agreed Lori. The optimizing should hopefully be close to 100% in a short time, but you could theoretically always be optimizing.

As for creating epic content, that is never done. :)

Jane | Problogging Success March 27, 2012 at 7:43 am

Creating multiple pieces of unique & epic content is really a winner in my book. When people find that a blogger has “stuff” they usually surrender their email address without having a second thought!

Great post Caleb!

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:35 am

Yep. You have to give most people a reason to subscribe and a tangible bonus like an eBook or a video is more enticing than email updates.

Alexandre B March 27, 2012 at 7:51 am

Hi Caleb,
I just finished my ebook telling people how to choose and find the right WP theme for their website or blog. I wrote the previous one almost 1 year ago, it was time to update.

Next step is to update my forms and my about page, let’s go !
Thanks for the tips ;)

Alex

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:43 am

Awesome Alexandre. Updating once a year is a good strategy too. :)

Dev March 27, 2012 at 8:21 am

Fantastic tips, Caleb.

The best way to get more subscribers – is to write epic content and build relationship with the audience of your blog.

Next step is to add some stylish forms on the about page.

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:44 am

Thanks Dev. Most of your forms don’t actually need to be that stylish though. We use simple forms everywhere except at the bottom of posts and in the sidebar.

Benjamin March 27, 2012 at 8:35 am

Yo Caleb!

Loved the specific model of how to rock out an About page. After watching Derek’s interview recently, I went back and redid mine based on a few of my fave blogs.
I like this approach even better though.

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:45 am

Thanks Benjamin. A simplified about page shows people you know what you’re doing and I think they really appreciate that.

Razwana March 27, 2012 at 8:43 am

Caleb – what great, actionable suggestions. I will be be updating my About page for sure.

Ankesh – love the idea of encouraging subscribers to share. Cloud Flood by Glenn Allsop does a fabulous job of making it easy for new subscribers to tweet a link to their followers.

- Razwana

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:45 am

Thanks Razwana. Glad to help. :)

Tommy Walker March 27, 2012 at 10:08 am

Thanks for this Caleb,

While I’m going to be working on all of these things in the very near future (i.e… new design, more epic shit) the first thing I’m going to be working on immediately is an ebook on Why Quality Matters.

There seems to be a lack of content that focuses specifically on creating quality stuff, and conditioning yourself to set your bar just a little higher, don’t you think?

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:46 am

Agreed. There is certainly a time and place for shorter content that gets to the point quickly, but even with 300 word essays quality is still key.

Joe Wong March 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm

thanks a lot for the tips Caleb, I will start applying them immediately…

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:46 am

Awesome Joe. Let us know how it goes.

James Kirk March 27, 2012 at 12:25 pm

I would thank you, Caleb for the epic post here, but you just about quadrupled my To Do list. So thanks. Thanks a lot for that ;)

Seriously good shizzle, for sure. But an even bigger take away for me personally? The fact that I have about half a dozen new tabs open from all the amazing folks who have left comments above me. (No pandering, honest!) So, in reality, now my quadrupled work load has just doubled again. How to you say 8x?

Grazi!

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:47 am

That’s what we are here for: to give you more work to do. :)

Glad you enjoyed it.

Sergio Felix March 27, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Hey Caleb,

Thanks for the pointers man, however I have one (a bit of a noobie) question…

How do you split test your opt-in forms, is that done inside Aweber or are you using html segmentation with Google Web Optimizer?

Thanks in advance,
Sergio

Caleb Wojcik March 28, 2012 at 11:54 am

Hey Sergio,

I’m using Aweber to do the AB tests. I explain exactly how to do it in the post above.

Cheers!

Alden March 28, 2012 at 12:34 am

An ebook doesn’t have to be complicated.

Indeed!

When I wrote my first ebook (I took it down for editing), the word “book” just made everything so complicated and that I thought I had to make it really big and great, as if I was going to be published in real life.

Then I realized, after scouting and checking out successful blogs, the best ebooks are simple, in the sense that the title gives people an idea of what it is immediately and the content itself delivers!

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:48 am

Simple really is the key. I’ve seen “eBooks” that are successful that are no more than 200 words and just have a single sentence per page.

It is all about delivering something useful and valuable to your audience.

Jodi March 28, 2012 at 1:39 am

Yes! YES GET RID OF THOSE POP UPS! So glad you said this. They drive me crazy.

A note about sign-up bonuses: I think they’re also a great opportunity to show another side of your personality to the wider world, and can be tailored accordingly. E.g. I love to write travel narrative and post photoessays, but a bonus for me could be something specific to the food niche, which I’ve been exploring more and more. It makes you more human in the eyes of your subscribers, too.

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:51 am

Totally agree. Pop Ups are the junk mail of the Internet… well, if there wasn’t also junk mail. They are like the people on the sidewalk with the spinning arrow signs for people to check out mattresses or houses.

I love your idea of offering something that doesn’t exactly relate to the content of your site, but that shows off the personality the author.

And who doesn’t love food?

Thanks for commenting Jodi.

Glynis March 28, 2012 at 2:55 am

Does the manifesto really work? There doesn’t seem to be much to it. I would think the people would prefer an E-Book.

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:52 am

Hey Glynis,

Are you referring to the Expert Enough Manifesto? We have had success with the manifesto leading to email sign-ups because people resonate with the message it shares. “Learn more, do more, be more.”

Rosemary Jayne March 28, 2012 at 3:34 am

Great tips Caleb! Personally I need to work on more of the epic content, and I’m going to see if I can a “load a random set of code from these” plugin to work in a certain box on my page and put different sign-up codes in those – and try some AB testing that way with MailChimp.

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:55 am

Great idea Rosemary. AB testing with Mailchimp is a little harder unfortunately.

Dan Sumner March 28, 2012 at 10:23 am

Hey Caleb,

Thanks for sharing man. I have most of those down already so that feels good to know I’m on the right track for a change.

I learned a lot from Derek also, his methods are excellent.

Cheers.

Dan

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:55 am

Of course Dan. Glad to hear you are on track. :)

Michael March 29, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Thank you Caleb, for this excellent post. I see it is definitely time for me to redo my About Me page. Time for split testing too. Thanks for the double butt kick. :-)

Ric Molin March 30, 2012 at 6:36 am

Hey man,
Great post, I barely discovering this “blogging” world but this isn’t the first time I have added one of your posts to my “favorite posts “list.
Keep the good work, I’ll start following you too ;)

PS, I’m a newb, and I was wondering about what plugin did you use to insert subscription boxes in your about page!

Thanks man, Cheers!

Caleb Wojcik March 30, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Thanks Ric. It isn’t a plug-in, just the html code from Aweber.

Shayna March 30, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Fantastic, practical post!

I really want to implement #6, and I already have two e-books I could use as a bonus. However, I’m a bit hesitant to put in the $15/month to upgrade my Mailchimp account so that I could use the autoresponder feature to deliver the bonus, since my site (a 3-month old baby!) isn’t making any money yet.

Do you think it’s worth it – should I just spring for the extra expense with hope and faith that I’ll eventually, someday, turn some of my subscribers into customers?

Caleb Wojcik March 30, 2012 at 7:28 pm

When you start to offer something enticing people to sign up for your “bonuses” you subscription rate will increase greatly.

Autoresponders are also a way for you to automate corresponding with new readers as your list grows. It is worth investing in mail list hosting off the bat.

Jordan J. Caron March 30, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Caleb,

Thanks again for such awesome content that inspires me to get shit done!

I have been tossing around what to offer my email subscribers and I like the manifesto. During my branding I was thinking of things I could use for a tagline but they can be used in my manifesto.

Down the road I want to expand and create different email lists offering and ebooks or video series for specific areas of internet marketing.

None the less a busy weekend!

Thanks again,
Jordan

Salvador Figueros April 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Useful information. Simplify your about page is a great tip. Thanks a lot.

Darlene April 18, 2012 at 11:47 pm

What I took away from this, (I’ve bookmarked it to come back and do the rest too) was to redo my About page. My site used to be about photography and aimed at getting photography jobs like portraits etc. Now my site is directed at photography teaching and classes so my clientele has changed.

This is my new About page. I still need to add the sign up links, I can’t seem to get my Aweber form to work on this page, and I want to add a couple images – but other than that I’d love some feedback on the text. Is it too long? How would I streamline it a bit more? I don’t know what to take out?

http://www.herviewphotography.com/about-her-view-photography

My server is having database errors right now but they should have it fixed by morning I’d love to hear your comments. Thanks.

Nathan July 26, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Great tips Caleb. I found the About Me page tip very useful. I’ll be adding sign up fields in between content. Thanks for sharing.

Matthew Insardi September 13, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Great tips… just went through the 6 steps to 1000/visitors a day and between you and derek you guys blew my mind… simple yet extremely effective

Caleb Wojcik March 29, 2012 at 8:10 am

Hey Vitor,

I’m not familiar with GetResponse, but if they don’t you could always just do a manual AB test by changing the forms once a week.

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