All email marketing literature focuses on the necessity to build a list of active email subscribers. An active list of subscribers is a preferred, long-term and a sustainable method to earn money online. You can sell affiliate offers, sell in-house products like my eBook, sell solo ads and keep the audience engaged with your business through regular newsletters.
Despite the known benefits of email marketing, bloggers and website owners fail to create an impressive email list.
I understand that having a list of active email subscribers is like having a personal brand following whom you can nurture and build brand engagement.
When I started blogging way back in 2011, I had a real hard time building an email list for my first blog, SocialVani. I read about various email lists building strategies like offering a freebie, a free service, free products, guest blogging and implemented one or two strategies but never had much success.
I had traffic but email list conversion rate was negligible.
Clearly, I wasn’t doing something right and I am sure the situation resonates with many of you reading this case study.
[Case Study] Acquiring 590+ Active Email Subscribers from a Single Post in 30 Days
The case study contains details of all the steps undertaken to achieve the mentioned result.
- Expenditure: 48 USD ($1 for Aweber to collect signups and $47 for the plugin)
- Duration: 14 May to 14 June, 2014
- Tool Used: Premium Content Lock Plugin
- Target Blog Post: List of Freelancing Sites in India
There are three steps to build a list of active email subscribers.
- Drive Traffic
Let’s look into all the three steps and how I made use of them.
1) Drive Traffic
EsmeeNetwork is my second mainstream blog and it targets freelance writers and bloggers. I include bloggers because unless a blogger has a team of content writers, the blogger is the one creating content.
Freelance writing and blogging (as a medium of writing) is a targeted and focused niche. The purpose of EsmeeNetwork is to help writers find their foothold in the industry by offering informative resources, help me strengthen my brand as a writer and offer personal consultation to develop their craft.
To fulfill this objective, I needed to reach out to those who are searching for freelancing opportunities. These are people who hit Google search looking for opportunities rather than visit blogs and forums. Therefore, I figured, Google organic traffic would suit my purpose.
For SocialVani, I blindly followed what others were doing. I didn’t stop to think whether those strategies would suit my purpose or not.
Lesson 1: Choose a strategy which serves your purpose.
I used Google Trends, LongTailPro keyword analysis tool and my shrewd observation of the Indian freelancing trends to create this blog post. I understood the mind of the Google searcher. As all online marketing literature point out, find a demand and fulfill it and I did exactly that.
Indian freelancers were looking for freelancing opportunities and guidance to help them succeed. There weren’t any specific Indian blog catering to this requirement and this was my golden opportunity. The whole EsmeeNetwork site works as the guidance factor and the blog post offered freelancing opportunities.
Few days went into writing it and finally, the post went live on 22 March, 2014.
I invested a lot of time into its on-page SEO elements and waited for results. Initially, I shared the post on Facebook groups and used JustRetweet for Twitter sharing and that’s it. Within a week, the post started climbing Google result charts.
Here is a snapshot of the traffic the post received from 26 March to 13 May, 2014. The average time spent on the post is 5 minutes and 17 seconds.
Cumulatively, 121 keywords were sending me traffic to that post.
Really, I felt like this –
Now, I had conclusive evidence that people were looking for freelancing opportunities and it was time to go for the kill!
I needed a way to convert the traffic.
Let me remind once again that the whole purpose is to help writers find their foothold in the industry and offer personal consultation to develop their craft.
Needless to say, I wasn’t looking for generic subscribers but ONLY those who were seriously interested in freelancing.
I could offer a freebie or offer my paid eBook for free or some other proposal like direct consultation as a pop-up feature but decided against it.
Finally, I settled for using a content locker plugin.
A content locker plugin ‘locks’ the page content until the visitor takes the desired action. There were a lot of free content lock plugins on WordPress repository but none of them had email opt-in as a feature. I searched and came across some paid content locker plugin and picked the Premium Content Lock (PCL) for this case study. The plugin costs $47.
Here’s what you can do with it.
With PCL, you have the options to use either social media unlocking or an opt-in form. You can create a Facebook app and gather opt-in. I signed up with Aweber for $1 and synced it with PCL. The PCL plugin works with almost all email marketing software like MailChimp and GetResponse but when I purchased, there was a glitch in the plugin which wasn’t accepting the MailChimp code; hence, I had to purchase the Aweber subscription. I guess they have sorted it out now.
Anyways, you can either offer the options either as a pop-up or within the content. I used within the content and here is my ‘offer’.
The setup is very simple and within few hours, subscribers started to come in.
Note: I absolutely avoided any kind of social media promotion. Therefore, whatever stats you see here is only from Google organic search.
Surprisingly, the impressions, Pageviews and clicks improved in the case study month.
The average time spent on the post remained above 4 minutes.
Lesson 2: Be specific with your offer. In my case, people wanted to learn freelancing and therefore, signed up.
Isn’t a Content Locker Plugin Intrusive?
I did think about this factor before implementing the method. Only those who subscribed could read the blog post. It might feel like as if I am coercing the visitor to sign-up for my email list.
See the offer-page screenshot above. ‘Learn Freelancing’ is the keyword here. By signing up, they not only get to see the list of freelancing sites but also receive informative newsletters, announcement of writing assignments and other resources without paying a dime.
The idea here is to offer a value-based proposition.
So I see it like this – those who perceived it as coercion didn’t subscribe and those who didn’t find it coercing, signed up and stands to benefit.
As it stands, I gained 597 active email subscribers in 30 days. If I count the unsubscribers, 610 people had subscribed and just 13 unsubscribed after few days. The unsubscription rate is just 2.2%.
Once the 30-day period expired, I imported the list to the email marketing company I use regularly, that is, MailChimp.
Retaining active email subscribers is another troublesome job. Gladly, my blog subscribers are awesome people who love to engage with my content.
Here is a screenshot of one such email campaign.
Lesson 3: Don’t allow your list to go inactive. Keep sharing within a schedule.
A Change of Strategy
If you see the blog post now, I have changed it from opt-in format to social media sharing with the hope of boosting social media outreach and again, it is working.
In the near future, I will use the same method on other blog posts and see whether it yields the same kind of results.
How I Monetized the List of Active Email Subscribers?
Apart from sending informative newsletters and available writing assignments, I monetized the list in the following ways:
- I sold my eBook to some of them.
- Some became my students to learn the art of content development.
- I got 3 freelance writing deals.
Further, I will leverage this case study to make inroads in the eCommerce sector. In short, I invested 48 USD, already earned 10 times the amount and guess what, the benefits doesn’t end here.
Note: All data based on Google Webmaster Tools (GWT).
I hope this case study proves to be a learning experience. Share your observations, doubts, questions and comments below.