Step By Step Guide To Building an Email List From Scratch

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Email marketing is one of the most reliable ways to grow your blog following. If you missed our previous article on why you should start building an email list for your blog today, make sure you check it out here first before reading on. It’ll help you understand why email marketing is so important and inspire you to start taking actionable steps toward building an email list today. By following our step by step guide to building an email list from scratch, you’ll have an email service set up and a clear direction for how to start building your very first email list in no time.

What to Look for in an Email Service Provider

Each email service provider (ESP) offers a similar list of features, but you’ll need to pick and choose the features you want based on the price point you’re most comfortable with. In order to do so, you’ll first need to know what you’re looking for in an ESP.

Here are five things to look for in an email service provider:

  1. Templates
  2. Automation
  3. Tracking and Analytics
  4. Responsiveness
  5. Pricing

1. Templates

Sending out regular email newsletters to your list can become a very time-consuming task if you have to build your newsletter from scratch each time. That’s where email templates come in. Rather than creating each newsletter from scratch, you can save an existing newsletter as a template or create a new template from scratch, so all you have to do is customize your template each time you want to send out a newsletter.

Not all ESPs offer the same thing by way of templates. Some offer more template designs than others, and you might find certain ESPs’ templates to be more visually appealing than others.

2. Automation

Automation allows you to write out your emails in advance and schedule them to be sent at a certain time. You can set your emails to be sent once a user takes an action, like signing up for your webinar or downloading a free ebook. Having the ability to automate your emails is especially useful if you have a product or service offering. Rather than sending each prospect the same series of emails once they sign up, you can simply schedule your email series to be sent to each new prospect automatically each time they perform the triggering event.

3. Tracking and Analytics

Another feature you’ll want to consider for your ESP is tracking and analytics. Tracking helps you keep track of where your email sign ups are coming from, so you can keep track of which email campaigns are performing best and focus more of your time and money on those. Analytics help you keep track of how your newsletters and campaigns are doing, so you know whether you’re on the right track with your campaigns or whether you need to make adjustments to increase the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

4. Responsiveness

Since a majority of users open their emails on their mobile devices nowadays, you’ll want to make sure the ESP you choose offers responsive email templates. In order words, you’ll want to make sure that the emails you send look just as good on mobile as they do on desktop.

5. Price

Lastly – and perhaps most importantly – you’ll want to compare prices between ESPs. Most ESPs offer multi-level pricing options that are dependent on how many subscribers you have in your email list and which features you need. If you’re operating on a limited budget, you’ll want to be extra strategic about which features you absolutely need vs features that would just be nice to have.

Best Email Service Provider for Bloggers

Now that you know what to look for when searching for your perfect email service provider, let’s take a look at the five best email service providers for bloggers:

  1. MailChimp
  2. ConvertKit
  3. GetResponse
  4. AWeber
  5. Constant Contact

1. MailChimp: Best for Beginners


MailChimp is an excellent all-in-one ESP that’s easy enough for beginners to use and well designed enough for your subscribers to believe your emails were designed by professionals.

At MailChimp’s higher price points, you have the option of removing MailChimp’s branding and using your own branding, access to multi-level workflows so that you can fully automate your emails, and advanced analytics so that you know exactly what is working and isn’t working with your email campaigns.

The problem I have with MailChimp is with their pricing scheme. The prices you see in the screenshot below are actually quite deceiving.

At first glance, it appears that the Standard plan allows you to have up to 100,000 subscribers in your email list for only $14.99 per month. However, when you click on “Calculate your price,” you’ll see what the fine print is all about. The base price listed for both the Standard and the Essentials plans represents the price for an email list of under 500 subscribers. At 2,500 subscribers, you’re paying $29.99 per month for the Essentials plan and $49.99 per month for the Standard plan.

If you have a large budget and can afford all of MailChimp’s offerings, then MailChimp is a great option. However, if you’re operating on a smaller budget, there are other ESPs that charge less for the same features.

2. ConvertKit: Best Visual Design


One of the most attractive features about ConvertKit for bloggers is that they belong to the specific audience that ConvertKit was made for: creators. ConvertKit has the most visually appealing design (think: SquareSpace for email marketing), with easy drag-and-drop functions for maximum design customization.

With ConvertKit, it’s easy to start selling a product or service through your social media channel before you even get your website up and running. You can easily build beautiful landing pages to promote your offerings without the need for a fully hosted website.

The downfall of ConvertKit? Its high price tag.

You’re looking at $49 per month for lists of 1,000 or more – and trust me, it doesn’t take very long to build your email list to 1,000 subscribers.

ConvertKit Pricing

If you have a bigger budget, and visual design is one of your top priorities (i.e. you mainly blog about photography or graphic design), then you’ll definitely want to consider ConvertKit. Otherwise, stick with one of the more streamlined and affordable options.

3. GetResponse: Best Overall Value


GetResponse is by far the most budget-friendly option on this list. For only $15 per month, GetResponse will provide you with all the email marketing tools you need for a list size of up to 1,000 subscribers. Compare that to the $49 per month price tag for the same list size with ConvertKit. In fact, even with a list size of 5,000 on GetResponse, you’ll still pay less than you would for a list size of only 1,000 on ConvertKit.

GetResponse Pricing

Of course, the lower price tag doesn’t come without sacrifices. GetResponse’s templates are more old school and bare-boned than the highly customizable, ultra-sleek templates in ConvertKit. However, unless you’re a photographer or designer, your followers are highly unlikely to care – or even notice – that your emails aren’t the most visually stunning.

4. AWeber: Best at KISS- (Keep It Simple, Stupid) -ing


AWeber is all about simplicity. If you’re looking for a no-frills, basic email marketing provider, AWeber is perfect for you. Its price tag and offerings are comparable to other ESPs, but you won’t need to waste any time learning how to use fancy features you won’t actually need. Focus on the basics – the essentials – and get the job done quickly with AWeber.

AWeber Pricing

AWeber is perfect for individuals or smaller teams whose main goal is to streamline their marketing processes. Plus, as one of the oldest email marketing providers out there, you know it’s reliable and won’t be going anywhere.

5. Constant Contact: Best “Extra” Features

Constant Contact

Constant Contact prides itself in being all of the things for small businesses – beyond just email marketing. Some additional tools you get with Constant Contact include an event management tool and a social media tool that lets you create coupons and downloadable PDFs to share on social media.

One very important thing that’s missing from Constant Contact, however, is an automation tool at the basic price level. Personally, automation is one of the most important tools I want in an email service provider, and I would certainly want to have automation capabilities before considering more advanced features like event management or social media tools.

As for pricing, Constant Contact sits at the higher end of the spectrum, with basic plans quickly rising to $65/month for a list of only 2,500 subscribers. The higher price tag, coupled with a lack of automation capabilities, eliminates Constant Contact as a viable option for me.

Constant Contact Pricing

Step by Step Guide to Building an Email List From Scratch

Now that you know what you’re looking for in an email service provider and you’ve (hopefully) selected the best one for you, it’s time to set up your account and start implementing strategies for building your email list.

Setting Up Your Account

In this section, I’ll show you how to set up your account and point out some of the most important features you’ll need. Rather than taking you step by step through each of the five ESPs highlighted above, I’ve selected GetResponse – the email service provider with the best overall value – as the tool I’ll use to walk you through your next steps.

Step 1: Click “SIGN UP FREE” at to sign up for a free account with GetResponse.

GetResponse Sign Up Form

GetResponse offers a free 30 day trial, so you can play around with the interface and features and make sure it’s suitable for your blog/business before committing to it.

Step 2: Activate your account.

Click the activation link in your email inbox to activate your account.

Activate Your Account - GetResponse

Step 3: Complete your account set up.

Once you’ve activated your account, go ahead and complete the set up process by filling in your contact information.

GetResponse Account Setup

You may be asked to verify your phone number as well after submitting this form.

Step 4: Explore GetResponse.

Finally, you’re in! The first thing you should see on your screen is this pop up box:

GetResponse Welcome Screen

You can either take a tour of GetResponse, or check it out on your own. If you’re interested in exploring all the features of your new GetResponse account, including marketing automation, landing pages, forms, surveys, and your analytics panel, then I would recommend taking the tour. Otherwise, continue on to the next section, and I’ll show you exactly how to use your GetResponse account to start building an email list from scratch today.

Ways to Start Building an Email List From Scratch

There are many ways to build and grow your email list, but for now I am going to focus on these four simple ways to start building an email list from scratch today:

  1. Create a pop up box.
  2. Create a landing page.
  3. Offer a free resource.
  4. Host a giveaway.

1. Create a pop up box.

The easiest way to start building an email list from scratch is to create a pop up box on your website. While GetResponse has great features for creating forms, my favorite way to create a pop up box is with Sumo. If you use WordPress, you can simply go to your plugins and download the SumoMe plugin for free.

Once you’ve downloaded and activated your Sumo plugin, click on “Sumo” in your dashboard, followed by “My Apps.” If you haven’t created a free Sumo account yet, you’ll need to do so before moving on to the next step.

In “My Apps,” click on “Forms” on the menu at the top of the page to create a new form. Any existing forms you have will show up here as well. From this page, you can also see how many views each of your forms has received, as well as your conversion rate and total number of conversions (emails collected).

Sumo Forms

When creating a new form, you have the option of creating the form as a pop up box, a bar at the top of the page, or an inline form. I recommend starting out with a top bar and a pop up box. After running your forms for a few weeks to a few months, depending on how many views your blog receives, you can start analyzing your data. Based on the data, you can make a determination as to whether your forms are effective, and make any necessary adjustments to increase your conversion rate.

2. Create a landing page.

If you haven’t yet launched your website, you can still begin building an email list today through a landing page. A landing page is a standalone web page that is usually created for the purpose of promoting a product or service, or just collecting email addresses for your upcoming blog launch.

In GetResponse, click on “Menu” in the top left corner, and then “Landing pages.”

GetResponse Landing Page

Scroll down and click on “Create a page.”

Now, you’ll have the option to build a landing page from scratch or use one of GetResponse’s pre-made templates. You can sort through GetResponse’s templates by clicking on the category in the left-hand column that most closely aligns with your goals. I recommend starting with the “Sign up and registration” category since your goal right now is to start building an email list from scratch.

GetResponse Landing Page Templates

When selecting a template for your landing page, remember that the colors, images, and fonts are easily customizable, so what you’re looking for here is structure. You want to choose the template that has the best structure to hold the content you want to include.

Here are three templates that serve the same purpose but take very different approaches toward reaching that goal:

As you can see, GetResponse has a wide array of templates to suit all your email marketing needs. However, if you don’t see one that catches your eye, you can always build your own landing page from scratch by clicking on “Build from scratch” in the left-hand column.

Within each template, you can double click on each element to change it. You can customize the font, font size, and color of any text block or button, and you can replace all of the preloaded images with your own.

After you’re finished building your landing page, click “Next,” set your landing page settings, and click “Publish” to watch your landing page go live.

GetResponse Landing Page Settings

On the next screen, you’ll receive a message with the link to your landing page, which you can now use to start building an email list from scratch. You can start promoting your landing page on your social media channels or emailing it to friends and family who you think might be interested in your content.

3. Offer a free resource.

People are much more likely to want to give you their email address if they can get something of value in return right away. The easiest way to offer value to your potential subscribers is to give them a freebie.

As is true with building a landing page and writing blog posts that people actually want to read, you’ll want to consider who your target audience is and what type of content would be relevant and useful to them.

Here are some ideas for types of freebies you could provide:

  • eBook
  • Infographic
  • Cheat sheet
  • Resource list
  • Workbook
  • Template
  • Destination guide
  • “Top 10” list

Whichever type of freebie you decide to create, just make sure it is packed with value and is relevant to your audience. There is nothing worse than going through the trouble of typing in your name and email address, only to be let down by a completely useless resource.

You can get access to my free blogging cheat sheet for bloggers who want to learn how to secure sponsored travels by clicking here.

4. Host a giveaway.

Giveaways are an excellent way to start building an email list from scratch when you have a product or service that you are happy to part with in exchange for email addresses.

There are many ways to run giveaways, but the easiest way is to use a third party provider like Rafflecopter that does all the work for you.


As you can see from the image above, Rafflecopter encourages people to take actions like sign up for your email list, visit your Facebook page, and tweet about your giveaway so that more people become aware of it.

You can also organize a joint giveaway with a few other similar brands so that you can help each other reach a larger audience.

Questions? Leave Them in the Comments Below!

I know this was a ton of information to take in at once, but I hope you found it to be useful. I also hope you took note of some actionable steps you can take today to start building an email list from scratch. If anything was unclear, or if you run into any issues along the way, please drop me a comment below, and I’ll do my best to answer your questions. On the other hand, if you end up finding huge success with these tactics, please also drop me a line below so I can continue creating valuable content for you!

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