I blogged for four and a half years without an email list, which was a huge mistake. This limited the connections I could make with my readers, the impact I could have on their lives, and the success of my online business.
I started an email list before Unsettle even launched (more on why here) and I've already outpaced my old, 4.5 year old blog in terms of relationships, value, and income. And that's no coincidence. One of the biggest objections I hear about email lists from Unsettlers is this: “I'm not good with technology”. And that's a shame.
I don't want anybody to feel lost or unable to start a list because they don't feel confident in their computer skills or know how to create an email list, so I wanted to walk you through the process of starting your list.
Ultimately, an email list will be the most powerful tool you have to grow your audience and increase your income. Your email list will enable you to make a difference in the lives of your followers far more than your blog will allow. So it's crucial that you have one. Here's how:
1. Sign Up for an Email Service Provider (ESP)
An email service provider is the platform that houses the email addresses you collect from your followers.
I use Aweber, and would highly recommend it. Not only is it super easy to use (especially important if you aren't great with technology) but the team behind Aweber is great. I've never had any issues with the service, but once I was trying to figure out how to do something unusual with my list, and they have a live chat function that I could use to find out how to do it. They were super quick in answering my questions.
Many other people use MailChimp as it's free up to 2,000 subscribers. This is a good option as well, but the features you need aren't free, so you'll have to snag the paid version.
For the rest of this guide, I'll be showing you how to set up an account through Aweber, but much of the guide will be the same if you're using a different Email Service Provider.
To sign up for an account with Aweber, click here to get the first month for free. This is an affiliate link where I get a small commission at no extra cost to you if you use it. At the top right hand corner, press the “Free Trial” button.
Select your plan and create your account – I recommend choosing the first one so you can get the free trial and there are no strings attached.
2. Create an Email List
When you confirm your account details, you'll be taken to your Aweber dashboard. Now, you need to create your first list. Press on Manage Lists at the top right hand corner, where you will be able to create a page.
When you've landed on that page, press the green “Create a List” button on the right:
Now it's time to populate the details of your list. Fill out your website's name under “Company Name”, and your website URL (complete with the http://).
Then, you need to populate an address. There is a lot of confusion around what address to include, so here's a few tips:
- An address is required by law (the CAN-SPAM act, which regulates commercial email)
- The address will appear at the bottom of every email you send. Here's what mine shows:
- If you're comfortable doing so, you can use your home address. I wasn't comfortable doing so, so I signed up for a P.O box. I know many people who have provided a friend's business address. It's up to you. I've never had anybody send me spam through my P.O box.
After you choose which address to use, fill out your name and the email address you want your emails to be sent from.
I highly recommend you use your real name instead of your blog or website's name.
People don't like to get emails from faceless websites. They like to receive email from people. Press “Next Step” and name your list. Describe what people will receive. People won't see this until (if) they unsubscribe.
Approve the “confirmation message” and press Approve Message and Create List.
You've created your first email list! But you can't start collecting emails until you've published an opt-in box.
3. Create a Sign-Up Form
You could have 12 emails lists but never collect a single email if you didn't have a sign-up form. Sign-up forms are those boxes you see on websites that ask for your name and email address. The box you see under this article is a sign up form:
Note that you can only create a sign-up form after you create a list. The emails you collect through your sign-up form funnel into your list. You publish your form on your website.
To create a sign-up form in Aweber, press the Sign Up Forms button at the top of the page.
Press “Create a Signup Form” and it will take you to the Sign Up Form generator.
There are dozens of pre-designed templates, or you can play around with the settings and design your own.
If you're integrating Aweber with Leadpages to publish custom landing pages, you don't need to worry about designing a form. You'll design an opt-in form with Leadpages. Just save the form and go to Step 3 in this case.
- Include the fields you want to collect: Many bloggers will say that their opt-in rate will increase if you only ask for an email address. I like to collect the subscriber's name, too, because it's important for me to be able to build relationships with my subscribers and make them feel like they are part of the community. If somebody is too lazy to include their name when they're signing up for my email list, then I generally assume they aren't a good fit for the Unsettle community. It's up to you what you do for your own brand. Generally the less you ask for, the more subscribers you'll land.
- Play around with the button text: It defaults to saying “sign up” but you could be a bit more creative. In fact, I'd highly recommend you change it up.
- Play around with call-to-action colors: When you're asking somebody to sign up for your list, that's a Call-to-Action, or a CTA. You want to make the buttons and links on your website a color that draws attention to it and makes it jump from the page.
Once you're done playing around with your form, press “Save Your Form” and then “Go To Step 2”.
4. Play With Your Settings
Even though this is still part of building your sign-up form, I wanted it to be a whole other step because it's so important.
I want to focus on your “Thank You” page. Aweber comes with a canned thank you page. This is what mine would look like if I used it:
So if somebody signed up for my list, they'd be redirected to this boring page. Instead of using the template Aweber creates for you, create a custom page on your website for a Thank You page. This will help you convert more subscribers, build a more loyal fan base, and properly welcome new subscribers into your tribe. I've created a guide to help you create a killer “thank you for subscribing” page. Click here to subscribe and get this freebie sent to your inbox.
Once you have your Thank You page created, choose “Custom Page” in the drop down list. Type in the URL of your “Thank You for Subscribing” page.
Tick the “Open This in a New Window” box so your reader doesn't have to find their way back to the page they were on. Press “Save Your Form” and “Go to Step 3”.
5. Install Your Form On Your Website
In your WordPress Dashboard, go to Appearance > Widgets and drag a Text widget into your sidebar.
Paste the code you copied from Aweber into the Text widget, and press “save”.
6. Test It Out!
Now that you have a sign-up form on your website, it's time to test it out. Type your name and email into the fields on your website and make sure that:
- You are redirected to your Thank You Page and
- You get the confirmation email to your inbox (if not, check your junk mail).
After you do all of this, you'll have started an email list and installed an opt-in form successfully – congratulations!