8 Essential Email List-Building Strategies
Oct 5

8 Essential Email List-Building Strategies

Email marketing is still the most productive digital channel marketers have, but with an annual 25% deprecation rate, it is essential to have a strong list building strategy.

This is why we’ve compiled our own guide to email signup strategies worth trying. Many work best when implemented at the same time: after all, Buffer doubled their email signups in 30 days after adding eight different ways to subscribe. Here’s our take.


Despite being one the most controversial of email signup tactics, pop-ups and slide-ups often get the best responses in many cases. The trick, however, is to use them with care.

Visitors to your site will respond to pop-ups in one of three ways: they’ll supply the information, close the pop-up and ignore your CTA or get annoyed and leave the site.

This is where pop-up optimization comes in. However, every site features a different audience with a different threshold for how often they are exposed to these kinds of efforts—which is why each of these general rules should be tailored to your brand’s needs.


AppSumo has helped its SumoMe users collect over 100,000 emails. Along the way, they’ve found that timing makes all the difference both in terms how often a visitor sees your pop-up and how fast the pop-up appears once the visitor finds your site.

Both AppSumo and Buffer found that it’s most effective to show pop-ups or slideups to users every 30 days to avoid visitor annoyance. AppSumo also found that by far, five seconds is the best amount of time to wait before displaying a pop-up on a page. It gives the user time to digest the website they’ve chosen to visit, but establishes the CTA before the visitor gets too distracted.

Page Views

Another option for filtering which visitors see your pop-ups is to use page views. This is logical because only people who are spending time reading your content will see the pop-up. And if certain visitors are spending time reading your content, they’re more likely to subscribe to your email list.

Display at the End of Post (Or Almost at the End)

Buffer’s most successful (and original) email signup strategy is their slideup box which only appears after a reader has made their way through 60 percent of a post. The reasoning behind its success makes sense: people who read your posts from start to finish are engaged by your content, and they’re more likely to want more. Another similar strategy is the exit pop-up, which appears when a visitor’s mouse moves towards the “back” or “close” buttons in order to capture visitors before they leave.

Pop-ups are best kept succinct. Don’t ask visitors for more information than needed (just their email is often best). Tell them what benefits they’ll receive from subscribing. On top of that, offer social proof in the form of a headline if you already have a sizable email list to show others are enjoying your content. Experiment with different styles like the popover, which displays a pop-up over a slightly-grayed out background. There’s also the top-bar method, which draws attention to an email sign-up at the top of a page.

Be a Content Provider

Every substantial email list starts with great content. And every potential email subscriber loves free stuff. By promising valuable content at the price of a visitor’s email address, you’re sure to gain interest. Examples of free content brands can offer are ebooks, how-to guides, reports or even discounts and coupons.

Landing Pages

Landing pages are a classic tool to build email subscriber lists. Just like pop-ups, however, it’s important to keep them succinct and to the point. Focus on just one call-to-action and make sure it’s “above the fold” on both desktop and mobile browsers. Eliminate as many distracting elements as possible to keep visitors focused on why they should provide their email address to your brand.

CTA Buttons

Call-to-action buttons remove all doubt from visitor’s minds on what the next step is, which can increase click-through rates. However, in order to achieve this the copy on the button must provide value and incite action. There are two specific routes one could take with button copy.

Opt-in Buttons

Opt-in buttons are what our visitors click when they decide to give us their information. They need to feature captivating copy. Active language directly tells visitors what they could receive from clicking the button like, “Get the free email course.” CTA button copy is improved further if it offers a desirable solution, like “Make me a better marketer.”

Opt-out Buttons

Opt-out buttons are meant to be painful. Opting out is a much more passive action for visitors than opting in, which is why including both buttons on a pop-up or any other form can be powerful. When visitors are presented with a choice between two buttons, especially a choice that demonstrates the consequences of choosing to opt-out, more will choose to opt-in. You’re providing the visitor with the opportunity to make an informed decision. They could choose to opt-in: “Yes, I want 20% off.” Or opt-out: “No, discounts aren’t my thing.” This eliminates easy, passive opting out.

End-of-post Forms

End-of-post forms are essentially the static versions of end-of-post pop-ups. They’re sure to cater to engaged readers, and subtly encourage them to sign up to receive more content. An alternative to a traditional opt-in form is including a P.S. message at the end of blog posts or related content on your site. Postscript messages in email are often where are eyes jump first, so it’s only logical to leverage that space in your content to increase email list subscribers. This can be done by providing a link to sign up with one or two lines of copy instead of a CTA button.

In-line Forms

In-line forms are similar to end-of-post forms only they’re incorporated into the flow of text on a page. They work best when incorporated into long-form content to act as a brief pause as readers work their way through. In-line forms demand impulsive action: if your content is providing value right now, there’s a greater chance a visitor will sign up.

Feature Box

Feature boxes are made for companies whose blog homepage is one of their most-visited pages on their site. A feature box is essentially a large call-to-action positioned at the top of your blog homepage, usually below the header but above any posts. Benefits of subscription are typically described along with an input box for users to submit their email address.

Sidebar Forms

Sidebar forms are most likely what visitors are most used to. They’re often already built into web templates, which is why they’re so ubiquitous. However, sidebar forms may not be as successful as one may think because of that very reason. Because visitors are so used to seeing them, they may have “sidebar blindness” and ignore your form.

Your Turn

The email marketing channel isn’t one that should be neglected. Keep your brand’s audience in mind when experimenting with different email signup strategies. With the right combination and execution, it should be easy and obvious to your audience why they should click ‘subscribe.’