To quote best-selling American author, web TV host, and personal development trainer, Marie Forleo:
“Insight without action is useless.”
Understanding the need and the benefits of developing a targeted and responsive email list is important, but taking the steps to actually implement what you’ve learned, is essential.
And this is where most people get tripped up.
Because between theory and application, there is often a chasm of indecision, fear and even plain old procrastination.
So to eliminate this gap, this post will hammer out the exact steps you need to take to set up your email list and start collecting email addresses on your website.
You’ll not only know how to create–and where to place–your web forms, but have a collection of tools that will help make the task much easier.
Oh, and I’ll also be giving one of these tools away for free… 🙂
So please don’t just read this post. Take action! This is your “no-fluff” cheat sheet for getting your email list set up TODAY.
Ready? Let’s go.
There can be a lot of moving parts to creating your first email list, so it’s important to get a clear understanding of both the behind-the-scenes process, as well as the experience from your new subscriber’s perspective.
Here is a sketch of the flow of the email process:
(Click here to download the Email List Building Diagram PDF)
As you can see, there are several things happening at once, so as we go through each step, reference the Email List Building Diagram so you can stay oriented.
Step 1: Sign Up for Your Aweber Account
There are several options available when it comes to email marketing services, but Aweber is the service that I use and recommend. It’s easy to use, the customer support is super helpful if you get stuck or need a little extra help, and if you have more than one email list (author website list, book website list(s), etc.), you can manage them all with just one account.
Sign up is simple. Just go to Aweber and you can get started for just $1.
An important tip: remember that this is your business. No matter how friendly or casual your interactions with your fans, you still need to be professional. Never sign people up without their permission, and always require a double opt-in from your subscribers (which requires sign up AND confirmation).
It’s your job to ensure that your subscribers are interested, human and legally obtained (see A Complete Guide to Email Marketing and Anti-Spam Laws by WPMU DEV or Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)). An email service like Aweber, makes it much easier to ensure your emails are CAN-SPAM or CASL compliant.
Step 2: Create Your Email List
Once you have your account set up and are signed in, you can create your list by clicking on “Create and Manage Lists”:
Next, click the “Create a List” button and fill out the basic information (under Basic Settings) for your list as prompted. If you are unsure about what to add, hover over the item and an information box will pop up with further explanation:
Tip: Consider getting a UPS or PO Box to use as a business address instead of using your home address in the “Contact address” field.
Remember to save your settings and proceed to the next page. You will then be asked to add your “company brand” info (in most cases, this will be your name), as well as set your social media integration, if you choose.
Step 3: Set Up Your Opt-In Confirmation Email
An opt-in confirmation email is the second part of the “double opt-in” process noted briefly above. This is an email that is sent immediately to your new subscriber after they have signed up (or opted-in) to your email list via a form on your site. It requires the new subscriber to re-confirm their intent to receive emails from you, by requiring them to click on a confirmation link. (It also ensures the validity of the email they’ve provided).
The email is pre-written, but you can customize and tweak it to better fit with your personality and brand if you wish–just keep it short and simple.
This is what you will see if you sign up to my list here at YWP:
Leave section two “Require Opt-In on Web Forms” set to ON.
Then move on to the next section at the bottom to add your “Success Page”.
Step 4: Create Your Success Page
As noted in the Email List Building Diagram above, your new subscriber will be directed to your “Success Page” once they’ve clicked on the link in the confirmation email.
For this to work, you will first need to create a new page on your site that includes some or all of the following:
- A welcome and a thank you for joining your community.
- Let them know that they will soon be receiving an email from you (Follow Up Email #1 in the diagram), which will include a link to the opt-in freebie you promised or more information about what to expect.
- Direct them to recent or important posts, events or a New Here? page that helps them get up to speed.
- Additional ways to contact you, as well as a reminder to add you to their safe senders list.
Once this page is complete, copy and paste the URL into section three, under where it says “Confirmation Success Page URL”.
Save settings, and move on to Step 5.
Step 5: Set Up Your Opt-In Form (s)
Now that we have the basics in place, it’s time to create the forms that you can add to your blog or website that will collect the email addresses from eager readers ready to sign up!
The first step before designing your forms is to determine where you will place them, and what information you wish to collect (apart from an email address).
You can add additional fields to your form, like name, phone number, etc., but keep in mind that every additional bit of info that you require from your subscriber will increase their resistance to subscribing. My suggestion is to keep it as simple and easy as possible by asking only for a name and email address (or even just an email address).
Where to Place Your Email Sign-Up Forms
Most people tend to add an opt-in form at the top of their sidebar for the following reasons:
- It’s a prominent and prime location.
- It’s usually shown on every page.
- Blog readers have come to expect to find a form there.
But there are many other locations in addition to your sidebar where you can add forms to capture your readers’ email addresses when they are most inclined to give it.
Readers are most likely to share their email info when they are engaged in your content. Therefore it’s important to look for other opportunities and locations on your site to place forms that encourage sign ups–but without being repetitive, annoying or overly intrusive.
Here are some suggestions:
- Within a post.
- At the bottom of posts.
- On your About page.
- On a Free Updates page.
- At the top of your site using a feature box or the hello bar. Not sure what a feature box is? Check out this post on the feature box method to list building by Derek Halpern at Social Triggers. For a simple tool to help you design and add a feature box to your WordPress site, try the Optin Feature Box Plugin by Plugmatter.
- Popups. This one is a bit controversial, but I’ve found a great free “exit intent” plugin – PopupAlly – that you can set to prompt your readers to sign up just before they are about to leave your site.
- On your Facebook Page. Here’s a video tutorial via Aweber on how to add a form to your Facebook Page.
Now that you have some ideas as to where to place your forms, you’ll have a better sense of how to design the forms to fit these locations. Aweber has oodles of opt-in form templates to choose from, or you can choose to design your own to coordinate with your brand colours and style.
To get started, click on the “Sign Up Forms” tab at the top, and then the green “Create a Sign Up Form” Button:
This will bring you to the web form editor which will allow you to select a form template, edit the template, or create your own custom form.
Advanced Tip: Adding an image or graphic to your form can give it a little extra pizazz. You can coordinate the form to your website and author brand, or add a fantastic cover image of your stellar sign-up incentive.
Here’s a quick how-to:
- Determine your sidebar dimensions (or the dimensions for the form you wish to create).
- Use a photo editor like PicMonkey to create a background graphic or edit/resize an image you wish to use. (Make sure you leave room within your image for the “Name” and “Email” fields as well as the subscribe button).
- Upload your graphic/image to your WordPress library.
- Choose a basic template in the Aweber form editor; delete all unnecessary fields.
- Click the “Image” button in the form editor and add your image URL in the space provided (which you can now get from the uploaded image in your WordPress media library) and hit enter.
- Adjust and fine-tune using the editor tools to get the layout/design just right.
Once you’re happy with the web form you’ve created, save your form and click the “Go to Step 2” button. You’ll then be asked to customize the basic settings for your new form:
Give your form a name so that you will easily be able to identify and keep track of the forms you create.
The “Thank You Page” is the page your new subscriber is sent to after they have entered their email address and clicked the subscribe button on your sign up form (at the same moment, the email confirmation is being sent to their inbox).
In the drop down menu, you have several “Thank You Page” options created by Aweber to choose from. All of which let your subscriber know that a confirmation email has been sent and that they must confirm their consent by clicking on the link within that email.
There is also the option of creating a “Custom Page” (much like the “Success Page” we previously created), that your new subscribers can be directed to, rather than Aweber’s pre-made options.
If you decide to create your own custom thank you page, ensure you let people know that a confirmation email has been sent to their inbox, and that they must click on the link to confirm their interest and to receive more email updates from you.
This is also another great opportunity to keep new subscribers on your site. Consider providing a link to info on your work and projects or links to articles and pages you wish for them to visit.
Advanced Tip: On occasion, there will be people who have previously signed up to your list, but have either forgotten that they have done so (this is me!), or they sign up for your offer again because it’s easier than searching their computers for the original download (yep, again me!).
Aweber provides a basic “You are already subscribed!” page, but it’s essentially a dead end for a reader who is showing interest in what you have to offer.
Instead, click the down arrow and choose Custom Page. Add the URL to the web page that holds the download link to your freebie or opt-in offer, so that your eager reader quickly gets access to what they want, plus they are back on your website to devour more of your great content.
Publish Your Form
Once you’ve saved your settings, click the button that says “Go to Step 3”. This is the step where you will get the code to make the form visible and functional on your site.
Choose “I Will Install My Form”:
Don’t panic! 🙂
It’s just a quick copy and paste; nothing complicated.
I’ve Copied the Code, Now What?
If you wish to add your new email opt-in form to your sidebar, go to your WordPress Dashboard and click on “Appearance”, then “Widgets”.
Drag a new Text Widget to your sidebar where you want your form to appear, and paste the code you copied from Aweber. Save it, and then check to see how it looks on your site.
If you’d like to add your form on a page or within a post, paste the copied code into the Text (or HTML) editor of the post or page where you want your form to appear.
Your new sign up form is now up and running!
Step 6: Add Your Welcome Email (Follow Up Email #1) and Autoresponder Series
The final step in your email set up process is to create your welcome email and any additional follow up emails that you wish for your new subscribers to receive.
Just to be clear, your welcome email is pre-written and sent automatically and immediately to your new subscribers upon sign up (see diagram). It is in this email that you would add your link to the sign up incentive you promised, welcome your new subscriber, thank them (again) for joining your community, and let them know what they can expect from you going forward.
It’s a good idea to set clear expectations on when–and how often–you will be sending emails, as well as what your new subscribers can expect in terms of the content you will share in your emails.
An important tip: ask your subscribers to reply to this email with any questions, feedback or struggles they may be having. It will help you get to know your readers better, provide ideas for future blog posts, and it also just may surprise you as to the audience you are actually resonating with. 🙂
What Exactly is an Autoresponder Series and Why Would I Want One?
Your welcome email is really just the first email in a series of possible follow up emails, often referred to as an autoresponder series.
This allows you to pre-write any number of emails and have them sent out, in order, at customizable time intervals–automatically and to every new subscriber.
You can even ensure that your follow up emails (other than the Welcome Email), go out only on specific days of the week.
As your list grows, this can save you an immense amount of time, while still allowing you to “keep in touch” with your list. (We will discuss in more depth what sort of topics you can cover in your follow up emails in Part 4 of the Email List Building Series.)
Adding a Follow Up Email
To create your Welcome Email (and any additional follow up messages), hover over the Messages tab and click “Follow Up Series” from the drop down menu.
Then click the green “Create a Follow Up” button.
Design and write your Welcome Email, and when complete, make sure to save and send a test email to yourself to see if it is appearing as it should.
Click “Next” to move to the “Settings” page, where you can choose how and when your message is sent.
Follow Up vs. Broadcast Emails
A quick note on the difference between follow up emails and broadcast emails:
As above, follow up emails are pre-written and set up to automatically go out to subscribers in a set sequence and interval.
Broadcast emails are not pre-written, and can be sent out in addition to your follow up series. They work well for more timely information, newsletters, recent news and upcoming events or book launch updates.
The key is to coordinate your broadcast messages with your follow up series to strengthen the connection and engagement with your community, without overloading them with emails.
Time to Take Action
You should now have your first, shiny new email list up and collecting email addresses! Congratulations!
We are over half-way done the Email List Building Series, having uncovered why an email list is a must, how to create a compelling sign-up incentive, and now, the nuts and bolts of your email list set up and adding web forms to your site.
The final two posts in the series will help you determine what to include in your emails to build your subscribers’ interest and engagement, as well as smart ways to continue to grow your list over time.
If you know other writers who will benefit from this series, please share. And if you have anything holding you back from creating your own email list, let’s discuss it in the comments below.
Who doesn’t like free stuff?
As I hinted in the beginning of the article, a random commenter will be chosen to receive a free “tool” to help boost their email list building!
Mustafa Khundmiri at Plugmatter has offered to provide a complimentary copy of their premium Optin Feature Box plugin to one lucky YWP reader. Yippee!
Leave a comment before 11:59 pm MDT Friday, May 23rd and I’ll choose someone at random to receive the premium plugin. I’ll contact the winner via email to arrange the receipt of their fancy new list building tool. 🙂
UPDATE: Congratulations to Julee at www.jinglebellejackson.com, winner of the premium Optin Feature Box plugin! Yay, Julee! 🙂
Please note: Some affiliate links are included above. I will earn a small commission if you buy from one of my links, at no extra cost to you. This helps Your Writer Platform continue to provide loads of free, quality content. I appreciate your support!