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By: Bob Ruffolo on June 27th, 2016

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How to 10x Your Blog Subscribers

Lead Generation

The only thing more difficult than attracting a huge list of blog subscribers is trying to do so in a short amount of time.

Hopefully, you already have some blog subscribers trickling in, but marketers rarely get excited about slow and steady growth. If that sounds like you, keep reading.

In this article, we're going to cover everything you need to know to get your first 1,000 subscribers quickly and how others have 10X+ their email list using conversion and blog optimization strategies and tactics available to every business.

Getting Your First 1,000 Subscribers

The hardest part about building a massive email list is getting your first 1,000 subscribers. 

While there are plenty of advanced tactics to help grow your list, you need to make sure you're executing the best practices first. You won't be able to implement the advanced tactics until you have the foundation of your list-building machine in place.

The Lead Magnet

A "lead magnet" is something you offer in exchange for your buyer persona's contact information. The most common lead magnet is an eBook, but lead magnets can range from resources like a guide or whitepaper to events like a webinar or consultation.

The term "lead magnet" is used interchangeably with "Offer."

hubspot_what_an_offer_is.jpg

You don't have to give away a free lead magnet to grow your email list, but it will take MUCH longer without one. 

According to HubSpot, your lead magnet needs three elements to be effective:

1. Is High Quality/Premium and Valuable to Your Target Audience

The important thing to remember is that, if you're requiring a site visitor to complete a form in order to obtain your offer, the value of that offer needs to be compelling enough to convince those visitors to fill out the form. People don't like to give up their contact information freely, and your lead-capture form will create some friction. So if you start putting mediocre, low-value offers behind your forms, your business will start to get known for bad offers that aren't worth the form completion, seriously hurting your lead generation and nurturing goals.

In the simplest sense, an offer is valuable if it addresses the problems, needs, and interests of your target audience. This value could also mean different things for offers used in different stages of the sales process. For example, an offer you're promoting to generate net new leads at the top of your funnel (like, say, an educational ebook or a webinar) is likely valuable because it educates your prospects and fulfills a need. A free product trial, on the other hand, may not be as educational in nature, but it's still a very valuable offer for existing leads you're trying to nurture and who are closer to making a purchasing decision.

2. Aligns With Your Business and the Products/Services You Offer

A great marketing offer complements the products and services your business sells. That educational ebook is probably not very focused on how awesome your products and services are, but it should address concepts that align with your paid offerings. For example, HubSpot sells inbound marketing software, so our offers focus on helping prospects with their marketing challenges. These offers help set HubSpot apart as an industry thought leader and educate prospects about the problems our software helps to solve.

3. Targeted to the Right Buyer Persona at the Right Time

As we hinted at before, a truly great marketing offer also takes into account a person's point in the sales process as well as that buyer persona's specific interests and needs. How this really comes into play is in lead nurturing campaigns and how you decide which calls-to-action (CTAs) to place where on your website.

Here is a lead magnet offered by HubSpot:

hubspot_offer_10x_email_list_growth.jpg

The key to offering a tempting lead magnet is to offer something ultra-specific. Solve a specific problem. 

If you really want to up the value of your lead magnet and increase conversion rates -- provide a solution that your leads can put to you use immediately.

People are busy and your lead magnet might end up in the "things to do" pile that never shrinks. Quick wins motivate people to take action and it makes them more interested in what else you have to offer.

The Call-to-Action (CTA)

A CTA is an image, button, or message that calls website visitors to take some sort of action. When you're building your email list, you're calling your website visitors to complete a form to receive your lead magnet.

In our recent blog post, CTA Best Practices: How to Push All the Right Buttons With Your CTAs, our Content Marketing Manager, Ramona Sukhraj shared five crucial tips for creating persuasive CTAs.

1. Make Your CTA Action & Benefit Oriented ramona-circle-crop.png

To make your CTA action-oriented, you have to be mindful of the language you use in your copy (we'll get deeper into that in tip #2) and also what benefits your visitors are receiving.

The more descriptive you are about the action that you want your persona to take and what they'll get by clicking that button, the better. 

"Click here" and "submit" are weak CTAs. Instead, opt for one of the following:

  • Get My eBook 
  • Stay Connected
  • Join the Fun
  • Let's Talk
  • Give Me More
  • Watch Right Now

When prospects see this type of copy on CTAs it forms a better mental connection to the action they're taking and the Offer they're receiving.

2. Keep Your Message Consistent

As I mentioned earlier, consistency is key when it comes to CTA copy.

In order to make it absolutely clear to your visitor what they should do next and why they should, you want your CTA to directly reflect the message of the content that came before it. (This is most easily done in your headline or microcopy before your actual button.)

For instance, if your CTA is at the end of an article titled "16 ways to boost your SEO rank on old content" and you want people to download a premium guide about SEO, don't simply say "Download Our Free Guide." Make your CTA read something descriptive and reminiscent of the content above like, "Boost your SEO Rank even further with this free guide."

Having just finished reading an article about this topic, this headline is more likely to resonate with the prospect, as a continuation of the journey they've just taken. 

HubSpot is a master of this kind of alignment. Just take a look at this example below:

call-to-action-alignment.png

Consistency reduces confusion, creating a better use experience and making your conversion path seem much more streamlined. 

3. Stand Out From the Crowd!

No one is going to be able to click on your CTA if they don't even know that it is there. Visually, it needs to stand out on the page.

Here are several things to experiment with:

  • Size: A bigger CTA button or banner will definitely stand out more, but don't go overboard. Having too large of a CTA can risk getting lost due to banner blindness. 
  • Contrast: An easy rule-of-thumb to make your CTA stand out is to create contrast with the surrounding content. Vibrant colors are great for creating contrast and drawing attention. When you're deciding on which color to use, a good way to start is by looking at the most common colors used on your website or landing page design and pick the opposite. You can also consider going with orange or red. These are generally accepted as the highest converting button colors. 
  • Image: If you use an image or custom design in your CTA, it should always be high-quality and relevant to the offer. Consider featuring an image of what you're offering or perhaps an image of someone enjoying it

Continue reading the full article here

As you can see from the example below, Netflix has mastered the art of reducing friction by making it extremely easy to try their service.

netflix_cta.png

Take a look at these 30 CTA examples to get inspiration for your company's website.

The Form

A form is a box where your leads input their contact information and sign up to your email list. Forms are usually hosted on a landing page but are often placed in a sidebar or appear as a pop-up.

The quality of your form is crucial to seeing high conversion rates, yet it is often overlooked. 

The conversion rate optimization experts at Unbounce share the following advice for maximising conversions on your form:

unbounce_form_conversion_optimization.jpg

  1. Minimize friction. It’s a good idea to use fewer form fields – the general rule of thumb sweet spot is between 3 and 5 fields. Also, cut down required fields. If you are unwilling to sacrifice data precision over conversions, consider dividing your form into several steps.
  2. A good privacy policy is golden. People are reluctant to give away personal information, so you need to reassure them that their details are safe in your hands. The best way is to link your privacy policy within the form, either below the most sensitive field (usually field asking for a phone number or email), or as a footnote.
  3. Ensure you have a strong call-to-action. This refers to both your design and your copy. “Never Submit” says the Unbounce team. As you can see in the infographic, the most compelling text formulas for the button would be “Click Here”, “Go”, “Download” and “Register”. Don’t be afraid to super size the button, and give it an attention-grabbing, positive color (orange, green, blue).
  4. Use smart CAPTCHA, or no CAPTCHA at all. To avoid the risk of scaring off visitors, make sure that your “human verification” code only shows up when there is some sign of abuse over the form (such as multiple submissions from the same IP in the same day).
  5. Place the form above the fold. It’s been reported that the best converting spot lies in the upper right hand corner of the page, as people tend to look over there first. The rule of thumb is to make the form visible at first glance without scrolling.
  6. Last but not least, you should also take care of the surrounding space on the page that contains the form. Give the form some room to “breathe”, and use directional cues to highlight it. It’s a good idea to include trust seals on the page, and powerful elements that reinforce the statement of benefit (what you will get from filling in the form). Generally, the page should pass the blink test, which is roughly 6 seconds from the moment the visitor enters it. Minimize friction by avoiding dissonant colors, text cluttering, navigation that distracts attention, and parasite calls-to-action that overlap with the form’s main goal: submission.

Expert tactic:

Use a two-step opt-in. The two-step opt-in is a tactic where you use a CTA that triggers a pop-up form, requiring the prospect to first click the link and then complete the form.

Take a look at this gif from Pat Flynn to see it in action.

two-step-opt-in.gif

This may sound backwards because we're usually trying to eliminate the steps to conversion. However, it's usually more effective because:

  1. It doesn't look like it's asking for anything upfront, allowing them to focus on the value of what you're offering
  2. People are more likely to take action on something you ask of them when they've already performed a preceding action

A Model for Building Your Email List the Right Way

Are you feeling overwhelmed with information?

You don't have to worry about creating the most state-of-the-art lead generation system on the planet -- keeping it simple is often the best approach.

ConversionXL is the perfect example of keeping it simple, but executing well. I suggest following a model similar to theirs if you're just getting started and want to make sure you've got a solid foundation in place.

conversionxl_home_page.jpg

What do you notice about their homepage?

  • They have a CTA and form above the fold
  • The form only requires one field, making it very easy to sign up
  • Look at the copy in their CTA -- do you want to be an amateur or an expert?
  • The button on the form says "GET THE FREE E-BOOK" instead of something weak and non-descriptive

conversionxl_about_page.jpg

The about page and other key pages on their website are all designed with lead generation in mind.

Although the homepage is important,  most people aren't going to convert right away. They need a chance to look around and decide whether they trust your brand or not. When they decide they're ready, you want to make it easy for them to subscribe -- no matter where they are on your website.

conversionxl_offer.jpg

ConversionXL even keeps the design of their eBook lead magnet simple. The reason this works is the information within their eBook is high-value.

Your company might prefer to add more visual appeal, but the point is your lead magnet doesn't need to be complicated or fancy -- it just needs to be valuable to your buyer personas.

conversionxl_thank_you_page.jpg

Don't forget about your thank you page.

Once your prospect has converted to a lead, you want to make them feel welcome and reassure them that giving your company their email address was a good decision.

On the ConversionXL thank you or "success" page, they provide a quick link to their eBook, allowing their lead to immediately dive into the material. They've also provided links to a relevant blog post and a list of tools their lead might need to put the information from the ebook to use on their website.

Once you've convinced someone to take action on one thing, it's easier to get them to take action again. (That's part of why free trials are so effective.)

Peep Laja, founder of ConversionXL, uses this tactic to also get new leads to follow him on Twitter.

How to 10X Your Blog Subscribers

Once you've got the best practices figured out and implemented you should see your email list steadily grow. If you want to 2X, or even 10X, your blog subscribers in a short amount of time, you'll have to get a little more advanced.

10X list-building tactics include:

  • Experiment with "exit intent" pop-ups, slide-in CTAs, light bars, etc. 
  • Use Optimizely (or similar) to run A/B tests that compare the performance of headlines, CTAs, button colors, and other elements against one another
  • Optimize every page for conversions, not just your Home page
  • Become a guest contributor on major websites and popular industry blogs to drive targeted traffic to your website or lead-generating landing page
  • Run a contest or giveaway

The following case studies will show you exactly how others have grown massive email lists in a short amount of time.

Case Study Featured on Blog Tyrant: How to Launch a Blog and Get 17,800 Email Subscribers in 6 Weeks

This case study shows how Marina De Giovanni launched her fashion and style blog, Not a Model, with a contest and got close to 20,000 blog subscribers in less than two months!

Below is an excerpt with the key takeaways from Marina's approach.

"The main lessons I’ve taken away from Marina’s case:ramsay_blog_tyrant.png

  • Create a bloody brilliant brand
    The first thing I said to myself when I first visited Marina’s Facebook page was, “Good name!“. The “Not a Model” brand is memorable and you instantly know what it’s about. I imagine this would “click” with a lot of people.
  • Understand the power of value
    Marina was giving away a $300 bracelet every month to an email subscriber. This is a good quality giveaway that her audience would recognize as valuable. Here’s how you can do that with a free eBook as opposed to a product.
  • Know the technology available
    Marina has combined a self-hosted website with an email opt-in form that is then promoted with Leadpages and Facebook Ads. It might be complicated for some but the combination has worked exceptionally well for her.
  • Don’t be afraid to spend money
    Marina mentions this specifically in her email to me: it’s not cheap. But as I always say, if you want to make your blog a business you need to treat it like one and sometimes that means spending money on marketing and advertising.
  • Target specifically and follow up with quality
    All of the above is useless if Marina targeted the wrong group and then followed up with bad content. Rather, she regularly creates useful content and has been growing her brand in a way that keeps all those new email subscribers engaged.

The great thing about this blog launching process is that it really can work in any niche for any type of blog. You just need to keep testing and tracking to see what is working."

Here's a deeper look at the actual tactics Marina used:

"Simplify your process and remove obstacles

When you launch a blog or a product you need to make the process simple. People get confused at even the most basic steps so learning a few marketing tricks for removing obstacles is a good idea.

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The above is a screenshot from Marina’s Leadpages landing page that she used Facebook Ads to drive traffic to. The button tells potential subscribers that it is a quick an easy process and the arrow is a very effective tool for directing people to where you want them to go. Glen uses this on a lot of his sales pages too.

Get your graphics and forms right

If you visit Not a Model’s sidebar you’ll see a very simple “enter now” button which causes a mobile responsive pop up to occur where you then enter your email address. 

popup.jpg

 This is known as a “two step opt-in” and many people are saying that this now converts better than having the email submit form as the first thing that people see. The thinking is that the initial button click to open the pop up makes readers feel like they’ve done something and reduces friction on the next page.

Regardless of the psychology of the method, the graphics are all extremely tight and on-message and it feels very professional.

Use video on sales pages to pitch and clarify

At the top of her sales advert Marina uses a video very effectively to explain exactly what is going on and how to enter. 

video.jpg

She then places an entry button right below the video and actively points to it during the video. Here is a link to the original ad that was running although please note that it is no longer running actively on Facebook itself."

Case Study Featured on Backlinko: 36,282 Readers + 1,000 Email Subscribers

This case study shows how Jimmy Daly, head of content marketing at Vero, was able to generate over 1,000 new blog subscribers from one piece of content.

total-pageviews2.png

You can take a look at Jimmy's epic post here. Below are several reasons why this post was successful:

  1. Jimmy provides value. The post is over 5,000 words, it covers a wide range of topics, and he provides original content, as well as information from experts.
  2. The post is designed beautifully, making it easy to read, while also being optimized for conversions.
  3. The post has actionable tips, useful links, and tons of images.
  4. Jimmy reached out to experts for quotes, which he included in the article. (More on that later.)

In addition to creating an awesome piece of content, Jimmy promoted the hell out of his blog post by:

  • Sharing the blog post with his existing email list
  • Reaching out to all of the experts he quoted in the article to see if they would be interested in sharing it with their audiences
  • Including a "click-to-tweet" link beside every single tip
  • Scheduling tweets for each tip in the article and linking to the article
  • Linking to this post from older blog posts on their website

Case Study Featured on CopyTatics: How One Blog Gained 3,200 Subscribers in 7 Days

In this case study, Alan Perlman uses a giveaway campaign to nearly double the email list of UAVcoach. In this particular contest, Alan gave away a free drone valued at $799!

uavcoach_giveaway.png

Here are the nine tactics Alan used:

  1. Build anticipation by teasing the contest and offer a tempting prize with low barriers (anyone can have a free drone mailed to them)
  2. Optimize your website to capture emails so you have more chances to capture leads, even if they don't enter the contest
  3. Make a big announcement and get your audience excited on the day your contest launches
  4. Aggressively promote your contest across all of your social media channels (not all companies will be comfortable with this, but it's what Alan did)
  5. Use a head bar to funnel website traffic to your giveaway
  6. Promote your giveaway in relevant subreddits
  7. Promote on industry forums and other niche websites
  8. Run a Facebook advertising campaign for your giveaway
  9. Send one final email to your current list promoting the giveaway

The key to creating a viral contest is having a valuable prize that your buyer persona wants, and more importantly, one they can actually receive. If you offer a free ticket to an event, they might not be able to attend. 

Conclusion

Growing a massive email list of loyal blog subscribers comes down to executing the fundamentals and optimizing your way to higher conversion rates.

Of course, a viral article or giveaway thrown into the mix can only help!

When getting started, focus on creating a lead magnet with tremendous value to your buyer persona and making it as easy as possible for them to download it.

Once you've got a system in place and you're generating leads, it's all about refining that system to maximize conversions. After you've fine-tuned everything, your business is in a position to generate a ton of leads from everything you do that gets more eyeballs on your brand. 

IMPACT Blog Redesign

About Bob Ruffolo

Bob is the founder and CEO of IMPACT, an agency he formed in 2009 to help people and their organizations succeed by changing the way they market themselves online. Since its founding, IMPACT has achieved its status as one of HubSpot's Diamond Partner Agencies and secured its place as one of the top inbound marketing agencies in the country.

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