The 5 Pillars Of Rapid Email List Growth

The 5 Pillars Of Rapid Email List Growth

You know the importance of building an email list.

After all, it’s one of the best ways to encourage your audience to keep coming back to your website.

And there are plenty of tools available to make it easy for you to deploy various types of opt-in forms.

But what exactly can you do to speed up the growth of your email list?

Below I’ll show you the 5 pillars of rapid email list growth.

Let’s dive in:

#1 – Offer your readers something in exchange for their email address

If you’re serious about growing your email list fast, offering ‘free updates’ just won’t cut it.

So what can you do instead?

Offer something to your readers that they can only get access to as an email subscriber.

You may know them as lead magnets, opt-in bribes or something else.

The idea is that you identify a problem your audience is facing, and put together some sort of free download to help them out.

You can then offer this in exchange for their email address.

You could offer any of the following:

  • Ebook
  • Workbook
  • Templates
  • Checklist
  • Cheat sheet
  • Email course
  • Video course
  • Extended blog post
  • Curated newsletter
  • Infographic
  • A discount for a product/course

But, don’t worry – this doesn’t mean you’ll have to write a 50,000 word ebook to give away for free.

More often than not, you can do just as well (if not better) by offering something a lot smaller.

Checklists and templates can work especially well because they make processes a lot quicker to implement.

The key here is that whatever you offer should be specific and useful.

One thing you may be wondering:

How come I’m not offering a lead magnet here on my personal blog?

This is mainly because I’m focusing my efforts on developing lead magnets to build my list over at

Yes, I’ve gone for a lot more than a single lead magnet.

That does complicate matters because I have to spend more time developing them etc, but it offers a lot of value for my subscribers.

That said, don’t let that make you think that you need to do the same – when you’re just getting started, having a single lead magnet makes things far easier.

At some point, I’ll offer a lead magnet on this blog too.

#2 – Leverage the power of relevance

If you were reading a blog post about social media marketing, which of the following would you be more likely to sign up to receive?

  • 17 Ways You Can Generate Leads With Social Media
  • 17 Marketing Automation Tips To Increase Leads

The chances are that you’d pick the first one.


Because it’s more relevant to what you’d be reading at the time.

This is why list building strategies such as the content upgrade are so powerful – they leverage relevance.

If you haven’t come across content upgrades before, don’t worry. They’re just post specific lead magnets.

While these convert extremely well, they are time-consuming to create.

Here’s what to do instead:

Step 1

Break down the topics you cover into 4-6 main categories and organize your website to reflect those categories.

In WordPress, this is fairly straightforward but if you’re removing any categories or changing permalinks, make sure you redirect the old URL’s to the new ones (this tutorial explains how).

Step 2

Create a lead magnet for each topic.

They don’t need to be too long or complicated – checklists and templates can work well.

You can use a free tool like Canva to design them.

Step 3

Create a page that can house all of your lead magnets, so it’s easier for your subscribers to download.

There are a few ways to set this up, but here’s an example:

On Blogging Wizard’s confirmation page, we link to another page which contains all of the lead magnets. It’s then mentioned again in the welcome email we send out.

They’re hosted using my CDN, but you could use Dropbox or Google Drive as an alternative.

Step 4

Add category targeted opt-in forms to your content.

You could go with sidebar opt-in forms, after post forms, popovers or scrolling opt-in forms.

The choice is yours, but only the relevant opt-in forms should appear across each of your categories.

I recommend using a list building plugin like Thrive Leads* for this.

Simply create a new group of opt-in forms for each of your categories – then once a reader lands on a category, they’ll only see opt-in forms offering lead magnets that are related to the topic they’re reading.

Also, Thrive Leads supports digital asset delivery – you could just stick with using a page, but this will make it easier for subscribers to get the exact lead magnet they signed up for.

What about the results?

I tried this setup on UK Linkology’s website (the marketing agency I co-founded).

Immediately after rolling out the new category targeted opt-in forms, our site-wide conversion rate jumped up by around 300%.

Not bad right?!

#3 – Provide multiple ways to join your email list

Just one opt-in form won’t cut it.

You need to give your audience multiple opportunities to join your email list.

Forms like sidebar opt-in forms can easily be missed when your readers are focusing on your content.

Although having a sidebar opt-in form is a good idea because it’s one of the first places people will look when they decide they want to join your list.

You could use forms such as:

  • After post
  • Popovers
  • Slide-in
  • Widgets
  • Ribbons

The good news is that there are plenty of tools that you can use to setup opt-in forms – my post on list building plugins for WordPress is a good place to start.

It’s also worth setting up a dedicated landing page with an opt-in form on it.

They work well because they’re a single page with one goal – to convert. There should be no other distractions like navigation elements or links to content.

These can be added to the navigation area of your website and used for paid traffic such as Facebook Ads.

Given the number of tools on the market – some specializing in only a single type of opt-in form, it’s easy a bunch of them that end up crossing over in functionality.

The problem with using different tools for each opt-in form type is that you end up with limited access to data.

The best approach is to limit the number of tools you use. You’d typically need two different tools – one for opt-in forms and another for landing pages.

#4 – Split test your opt-in forms

Best practice can only get you so far and here’s why:

What works well in one industry doesn’t always work as well in another.

After that, it’s up to running split tests to boost your conversions.

This means testing different variations of your offer, copy, colors and other design elements.

Tools like Thrive Leads* and OptinMonster* have this functionality built in and it’s fairly straightforward to deploy.

But, before you get started with running split tests, I’d recommend giving this guide from ConversionXL a read.

It’s a long post, but well worth your time.

#5 – Tighten up the ‘after sign up’ process

Once you’ve got your opt-in form system all setup, there’s one more step.

After your audience subscribes to your list, what do they have to do next?

The usual answer is to click the subscribe link in a confirmation email but you should also ask them to whitelist your email address.

I like to add multiple reminders for this:

  • Thank you page
  • Welcome email
  • 2nd email in auto responder sequence

All of your list building efforts will be in vain if your emails don’t end up reaching them (read this post for more deliverability tips).

Another issue that some people face is getting subscribers to click the subscribe link in the confirmation email.

There will always be people that won’t confirm their address – some will be from people who want to try and get your lead magnet without confirming, and others might be bots.

Fortunately, you can increase the likelihood that they’ll confirm their subscription.

A great way to do this is to edit the confirmation email within your email provider (the likes of GetResponse, MailChimp, AWeber, and many others offer this option).

By editing this email, you can mention all of the benefits that subscribers will get once they confirm – make it as compelling as possible.

Wrapping it up

Now that you’ve got the principles of list building nailed down, it’s time to consider which tactics you’re going to use to build your list.

This post I wrote for Blogging Wizard is a great starting point – I cover 36 tips to kick-start your email list growth.

Over to you:

Have you started building your list yet? If so, what’s worked best for you so far?

I’d love to hear your insights in the comments below!


* Denotes an affiliate link – if you click and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.

Adam Connell

Adam used to manage the content marketing efforts for brands earning well over 8 figures in annual revenue. Now he teaches entrepreneurs how to create a blog that thrives in a noisy online world over at and here on his personal blog. Fun fact: Adam can 'split the atom' on a yo-yo.

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  1. Hey, Adam.

    These are useful tips for anyone trying to build their email list.

    I’ve finally begun using content upgrades to grow mine.

    I think I’ve made about 4 or 5 now… and I’m getting better with each one!

    Of course, it took me a while to learn how to properly use the Content Upgrades Pro plugin… but I got all the steps down-pat now. 🙂

    I’m even creating a tutorial to show others how to use it!

    I have not spent a lot of time building my list… because when I first started blogging, I had nothing to sell to my subscribers (other than my services, of course). But I’m re-focusing my efforts these days. 😉

    1. Hey Lorraine,

      Sorry for the delay replying to your comment!

      That’s great – you’ve got plenty of content upgrades to use. You could also use them with a tactic called ‘topic boxes’ – for example, if you have a post that’s related to one of your content upgrades, but not specifically designed for it – you can add it as a CTA within the post. Won’t convert as well since it’s not tailored to the specific post, but the topical relevance will definitely help.

      Glad to hear you’re re-focusing your efforts on building your list. It’s good to have ready for when you have something to sell.

      And you could try adding a “P.S. Need a freelance writer? Check out my services here” type CTA to the bottom of your emails. 🙂

      1. Adam, thanks for the suggestions.

        I actually have a customized email signature in my gmail account already! 😉

        1. Sure thing, Lorraine.

          Oops I meant the broadcasts you send to your email subscribers!

          1. Well, I do have a box that reminds others of my services, but I am not sure it is always visible, so I will change that in the next emails I send out.

            Thanks for the tip. 😉

  2. I’m trying to build my email list and this article is just what I need. Thanks for the tips Adam!

  3. Anupam Rajey

    Indeed, a great post. And the best thing about this post is the strategies you discussed are practical. Thanks for writing such an informative post. You have rightly said, “Offer your readers something in exchange for their email address”. I personally believe that gated offers are highly effective in building a large email list.

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