List Building: Why You Should Make List Building Your #1 Priority

One of the most important things you’re going to do for your business is to build your email list.

What’s the bottom line?

When people tell you that, “the money is in the list”, they’re not just blowing smoke or using keywords. They are telling you the truth.

Think about the fact that when you build an email list, you have access to your audience 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and that you own that list.

How Content Plays a Role in List Building

Here’s the deal:

Content plays such a big role in list building because it’s content that brings people to your website,  content from your Lead Magnet freebie they’ll download onto their computer when they get on your email list, and content you will send in emails to add value and make offers that help them solve their problems.

Do you want to know the best part?

List building is so important that you should think of it as your main goal when working on marketing, brand awareness, and adding value to your audience.

While your website is the hub of operations your email list is the foundation for the longevity of your business.

What Is “In-Content” List Building?


When you build your email list, you will use Lead Magnets (freebie opt-ins) and Content Upgrades (specific content opt-ins for that post or category of posts).

In-content list building is putting the freebies within the content of your website. They can live on your blog posts, within your pillar content, on your About Page and everywhere else on your blog.

ExamplesLet’s look at a few examples:

The best way to explain how this works is to give you a few examples of in-content opt-in freebies that will help build your list.

Your website targets people are on keto diets. You write and publish pillar content about several low-carb diets and the reasoning behind them. Within the content, you can link to an opt-in offer that gives more info about keto dieting.

For example:

You could offer a “Low-carb Diet Starter Kit” as a freebie. The kit could include a 7-day menu, a shopping list, and recipes along with tips to stick to the diet.

An individual blog post you write is about how to choose a good web host. Your opt-in offer could be an extensive comparison sheet of the various hosts, their pros, cons, costs, and whether they have good customer service.

Your website is for mothers who have home-schooled elementary age children. You write a blog post about teaching letters and numbers to your children.

Your freebie (linked to within the content of that blog post) could be coloring sheets with letters and numbers on them that your audience can download, print, and let their kids color.

Here’s the deal:

It’s still a freebie, opt-in, or lead magnet, it’s just presented in a new way. Instead of being sitewide, it’s included in the content your blog visitor is reading.

Offering additional information that adds value to what the viewer is consuming at the moment makes it more likely they’ll sign up to your list because they want that freebie because it applies to them right at that moment.

By having several in-content opt-in options on your site, you not only give your audience more opportunities to get onto your email list, but you give different segments of your audience an even better reason to sign up.

In-content offers, due to how laser targeted they are, make these types of email list members even more valuable and usually more responsive to your offers.

A quick Way To get started

A Quick Way To Get Started: Add An Opt-In At The Bottom Of Your Posts

Now you know about in-content opt-in offers, let’s talk about where to put them in your content. There are several high converting spots to add an opt-in outside of your sidebar, slide, or pop up offers.

But here’s the kicker:

Add an opt-in at the bottom of every blog post. If someone reads all the way to the bottom of a blog post, they are interested and will probably also be interested in your freebie opt-in offer.

I consider this offer a site-wide offer even though it appears at the bottom of each post. (Although you can put a different opt-in at the bottom of each post you create based on the blog category you use.)

The tech you need to useThe Technology

To add opt-ins, you will need to…

Create a sign-up form and a thank you page.

You can do this in a few ways but at the absolute minimum, you need to get an email autoresponder software like ConvertKit or Drip. This allows you to create the form you use to collect an email address to add to your list.

Develop at least one landing page for the opt-in offer.

You can do this easily by creating another page on your website that is not added to the menu and is not indexed for search. You can also accomplish it with specialized landing page software that works with the email autoresponder software such as LeadPages or, my new favorite, Instapage. (ConvertKit also has landing page ability included in their regular price). Clickfunnels is also a choice but I find it harder to use.

You also may need a service to create pop-ups, slide-ins, sidebar opt-ins, Welcome Mats, etc. that will help you put your freebie opt-in offers in different places on your site. My favorite is Optinmonster.

You also must create the opt-in for downloading.

The easiest is to create something in Word and then turn it into a PDF file. You can make it look professional using Google Docs or Word or you can even hire a graphic artist to lay it out for you to make it really stand out.


It’s up to you how you do it but you cannot go wrong using PDF documents as your actual freebie that your readers opt-in for and receive.

Choosing the Right Blog Posts

Before you create your opt-in, analyze your blog posts to find out which of your blog posts already get the most views and comments.

You’ll want to reach the most active and engaged part of your audience by creating something for the most read posts on your website.

Finally, once you’ve decided what opt-in to create, just make an outline and then write it.

Keep it short:

A cheat sheet, checklist, worksheet or some other one or two page opt-in works best.

Once you have created it, use the software to get it up on your site so they can download it, and you can make list building a priority. The faster you get it up, the faster you’ll build your list.5 Reasons Why

5 Reasons That In-Content List Building Works

When you’re focused on list building, it’s better to have many points of entry to your list.

Some visitors are coming over from social media, from your guest posts and perhaps even from paid ads.

The more points of entry you have mean more of your audience will also see the in-content lead magnets you’re offering, and the more who will sign up and end up on your email list.

Ends Side Bar Blindness 

Blog readers are smart and can block out the information on your sidebar so they can just read your content. But, by putting your freebies within the content of your blog will help avoid this problem.

Grabs Your Audience’s Attention 

When you put additional (especially free) information within the content of your website, whether it’s on a blog post, a content upgrade to give additional information, or under your blog posts, it’ll become more clear to your audience that this is something they should pay attention to.

Provides Relevancy 

When creating a freebie this way, you’re forced to be laser targeted so it has something to do with what the blog visitor is looking at. That makes it more likely that they’ll download it and get on your list.

They’re Already Interested 

Another reason in-content lead magnets work so well is that the person reading the content that the lead magnet exists in happens to already be very interested in what they’re reading. This makes them much more likely to download the lead magnet and sign up for your email list.

Gives Deeper Understanding 

This lead magnet is laser targeted and designed to give a deeper understanding of your customers’ problems and pain points and the solutions.

The More Targeted The Offer, The Better

When using in-content list building, one thing you must remember is that focus is everything. The more targeted your offers are to your ideal audience, the better.

To create a highly targeted opt-in, offer here are things to consider.

  • Know Your Audience

You hear this constantly because it’s so important. Continuous study of your audience so that you can develop your ideal customer personas or avatars will help you not only create better products and services but lead magnets. Once you develop your ideal customer persona consider also making them for subsets of this audience so you can laser target your audience even further.

For example, if your audience comprises divorced women who want to learn to get on with their life, you may have subsets of this population. Some with kids, some without kids, some who decided to divorce, and so forth. If your products are right, you can dig deeper with your targeting.

  • Know Your Products & Services

It might seem obvious, however, if you’re not a product creator but instead promote other people’s products as an affiliate, it’s up to you to understand the products and how they really work beyond the sales page information.

The best way to do this is to buy and use the product. If you’re a super affiliate, you may contact the producer and get a free review copy, but otherwise, until you’re more known you must buy the products so you can know them inside and out.

  • Determine Your Goals & Objectives

Before creating any content at all, you need to know what the purpose is.

  • Why are you creating this freebie?
  • What content will the freebie go with?
  • What do you want the audience to do?
  • What do you want them to learn?
  • How do you want them to feel about the content they download after signing up for your list?
  • Remember: One Problem Means One Solution

It also helps to keep in mind that you need to create lead magnets and offers that focus on only one problem and one solution at a time. This is the best use of a lead magnet. Your audience wants the solution and they want it fast. They want it instantly, in fact. People aren’t very patient these days, so you must give them what they want.

  • Expand the Content

One way to create an effective lead magnet is to expand on the content in the blog post.

So, for example, let’s say you’ve created a recipe for roasted chicken. You’re making a lot of assumptions they know how to carve the chicken but what if you added a lead magnet to the recipe on how best to carve the chicken to serve it? How many people would want that extra information, grab it, and sign up for your email list?

  • Help Them Do Something

Another idea is to help your audience complete something that you’ve written a “how to” blog post about. For example, let’s say you wrote a blog post about How to Build a Basic Website with Self-Hosted WordPress. Include an opt-in within the content that is a checklist that they can use to ensure that they don’t miss a step.

Know Where the Lead Magnet Should Be Placed

Before you even create the opt-in, you want to know where you will put it for maximum impact. You can put it in over one place too if it has something to do with other content and will fit in. Knowing where you want it will help you focus it better. After that, you can use it elsewhere if you want to.

Creating highly targeted offers requires that you understand your audience and you understand your products and services. Knowing this information helps you develop better lead magnets because they all have a reason for existing.

Eventually, you’ll get so good at thinking about list building and lead magnets it’ll come more natural with each type of product you create.

Join me next week for the 2nd post of the List Building Series, “Using Content Upgrades To Build Your List”.

54 thoughts on “List Building: Why You Should Make List Building Your #1 Priority”

  1. Hey Sue,

    Totally agree with you – content marketing plays a HUGE role in list building. And yes, list building is something that most marketers totally put off – may be they don't know how to set up the optin forms, or it takes a while to create those freebies.

    But every blogger should remind themselves of the fact that a list is the number one and a very crucial (not to mention, a living) asset to every business.

    Thanks for the practical tips you have listed out.


    Jane recently posted What to do when you have a brand new blog with no traffic?My Profile

  2. Hey Sue,

    The money and the traffic are in the list 😉

    Each time I publish a post and mail my list, I usually get a jump in traffic. I'm sure that's true in your case too. I just came here from your newsletter.

    Looks like our brains have been working together. I recently removed the sidebar form from my blog shifting to in-content triggers. This strategies allows one to build very targeted lists as you mentioned. For a few days now, I'm beginning to see results.

    My campaign platform, mailerlite is adding more resources and making it quite exciting. It's becoming easy to add these lead capture elements in content with their free plugin. I have read about Optinmonster but never used it. It should be excellent from its reviews and also given the fact it's your favorite. I know you won't use just anything 😉

    Your points on content expansion and helping your readers do something are top in creating a free product to attract signups. People want to signup because they want access to something that adds value. The stronger the locked content, the more the urge to signup.

    Thanks for the content. Hope you are having a great week

    Enstine Muki recently posted Bloggers make money ~ 15 Foolproof ways to make money blogging!My Profile

  3. Thanks for the nice article on growing email list.

    I really liked that the idea of using in-content email building forms. I noted that users aren't clicking much of what I put in my website sidebars. I am using one-page analytics tool which showed where my users clicking most. It was certainly not the sidebars.

    So now I plan to add email opt-ins in between my content.
    Mathew Adams recently posted {Multi-Tool} Best Oscillating Tool Blades Reviews (2018 Top Edition)My Profile

  4. Hey Sue,

    Very well explained post. Thank you for sharing.

    I'm trying to build my email list from the first day of blogging. Is there any way to build my list free? Such as we can use Mailchimp for free up to 2000 subscribers. Is there any free auto responder software like leadpage?

    Thanks in advance Sue.

  5. Many thanks Sue for this wonderful write-up.

    Building an email list is a very crucial part for every blogger, especially for affiliate marketers & online business owners with niche products. But at the same time, this is not that easy too.

    There are various tactics and one of the most popular ones is by offering a free ebook or some free stuff. There are various plugins and tools available in the market with which one can easily plugin necessary popups & opt-ins these days.
    Santanu Debnath recently posted Elegant Themes Review 2018 (20% Discount on Lifetime Access @ $199 Only)My Profile

  6. Hello Sue,

    List building is very important for bloggers. If you are doing affiliate marketing then list building is a boon for you as it will help you to drive huge sales and increase conversion. Content plays a great role in list building. When you create quality content, people love to subscribe your list. Due to huge competition in affiliate marketing, list building definitely plays a great role in drive sales and conversions. Thanks for sharing these great tips and insights here.

    Have a Great Day 🙂

    Vishwajeet Kumar recently posted 5 Digital Marketing Skills You’ll Need In 2017 To Make The Right Impact!My Profile

  7. Hi Sue, great practical ideas … as usual!

    This is outside the blogging arena but do you have any thoughts on list-building from a podcast platform? Other than an opt-in in the show notes, nothing comes to mind….

    • I would still put each podcast on your website and have optins all around the site to encourage sign-ups, Sara. As well as having an opt-in list magnet that you can also give the URL to on the podcast.

      Thanks for commenting!

  8. Hi Sue,

    Me and my friend Alonzo Pichardo are 2 of the few guys online who have *decent* followings 😉 with no email lists. But overall, definitely build a list guys. For these very reasons. Convenience marketing, for both bloggers and readers.

    I just always ran into resistance with it and when I stopped list building began making so much more money, and my podcast plays with him for only 3 episodes are well over 133,000 plays. We are rare birds though; most will begin seeing some strong success with an email list so build it guys. Then if you stop building and your success blows up, you'll be rare birds too LOL.

    Great post Sue. Loving your newer logo and design too. Well done.

    Ryan Biddulph recently posted Salvador Dali And Pricing Your Blogging Products Or Services?My Profile

    • Always enjoy your stories, Ryan! Resistance always leads to big breakthroughs, right?

      Thanks for the compliment – it was time to shake things up a little 🙂

  9. I didn't Know of this when I started blogging, If I did, I'd probably be as big as you (lol). Thank goodness I learned my lessons, albeit late.

    Building an email list is extremely important, and it must be the very first thing a blogger does immediately after creating his blog. Apart from traffic, those on your list are more likely to purchase your course or programs.

    Thank you, Sue, for another great post.
    Bisco Inspired Fully recently posted 5 Reasons Why You Will End The Year Without ResultsMy Profile

  10. Hey Sue!

    List building is super important for the success of your blog and internet marketing business.

    I agree with what you are saying here, your content plays a big role in your list building strategy. It is the foundation to build that audience.

    You have to become very creative with your content and the way you want to capture subscribers. Having a very enticing lead magnet is important.

    It is also very important to really get to know your target audience. Ask questions and do more research on what your target audience really wants to learn more about. You can then create your lead magnet according to what you know about them.

    I love your tips on list building here!

    Thank you for sharing this!

    Best regards! 😀
    Freddy G. Cabrera recently posted The 3 Most Important Keys To Successful Blogging (You Will Fail Without These 3 Blogging Keys!)My Profile

  11. Hi Sue,

    This is a very detailed article about list building. It covers all the aspects of opt-in forms and list building. The kind of focus it helps achieve can not fail to build a rich list of responsive visitors.

    You have given valuable information about opt-in forms and the softwares that can be used to build them and also landing pages.

    I agree with you that PDFs are possibly the best freebie we can offer.

    Thanks for sharing the information with us. Have a great day!

    Naveen Sharma recently posted 12 Ways Content Will Evolve by 2019My Profile

  12. Hey Sue,

    I just stumbled across your site and this has been the first post I've read. It was such a power house of an article though that I'll definitely be back.

    I'm a relative newbie to the blogging world but am sure to prioritise my list building as my blog grows. I've also decided to use chat bots through FB messenger as my list building tool, which offers open rates of up to 90%! Looking forward to seeing where it all leads.

    Thank you for such an informative post.



  13. Hello Sue,

    You're right. Content has a strong role to play in list building. If you write the right content, you will get the right people into your list.

    When it comes to list building, one thing we must not fail to do is to focus on building a list that will be relevant for the kind of product we intend to sell in future.

    You can't be building a list of people interested in digital marketing and we sending them an offer of how to bake cake. That will be bullshit.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    Emenike Emmanuel recently posted Why Your Guest Posts Are Not Converting and How to Fix ItMy Profile

  14. Hello Sue,

    You certainly hit the mark when it comes to list building. As an author of Kindle Romance books I know so well the need to build a list.

    If you write your best novel and it is snatched up it is precious to be able to reach out to those that loved your book for many reasons.

    When it comes to my own list building, I like to focus on growing my list as i write many books and having a readership waiting for my work to sell to in future is priceless.

  15. Hii Sue

    Great post , You have mentioned every topic in detail .. and most importantly you have covered all the points regarding the software and other things…

    Very informative post .

    Really like it ..

    thanks for sharing it ..

  16. Great post as always Sue.

    It doesn't matter what industry you are in, if you really want to build a profitable business online you need to convert your website visitors into email subscribers. Only then you will be able to build a rapport with your email subscribers then you can use that rapport to later turn them into customers.

    I think the fundamental key behind building a profitable email list is how you craft your email sequences. Without proper sequences, you’re not creating any awareness about the products or services you promote.

    One of the common mistakes most bloggers make while building a blog is that they don't focus on building and growing an email list. without an email list it's almost impossible for you to educate your audience about your products, serve them better with your content or turn them into sales later.

    If you want to quickly grow your email list I think it's better to offer freebies such as lead magnets to your website visitors so they can easily get into your email list without thinking twice. Also make sure to create highly informative content on your blog by also adding email optin forms within your content to convince more people to subscribe to your email list.

    Thanks for the great post Sue.

    • I totally agree, Anil. When I talk to other bloggers, their biggest regret is not starting an email list on day one.

      I so appreciate your comment!

  17. The 5 ‘questions’ to think about when creating an in-content opt-in are great to have in mind when thinking about a new opt-in. Sometimes it is easy to get lost in your own content and forget to try to look at the post from the audience perspective and just thinking about what you want the audience to be able to do, learn, and feel after reading the freebie makes it more clear as to what you need to create for them!

  18. Excellent post,

    I build my email list every single day, cold emailing is probably one of the most effective subtle branding techniques. Many people obsess over open rate but they still see your name and company despite not opening them. Persistence is key.

  19. Great post as always Sue.

    It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, if you really want to build a profitable business online you need to convert your website visitors into email subscribers. Only then you will be able to build a rapport with your email subscribers then you can use that rapport to later turn them into customers.

    I think the fundamental key behind building a profitable email list is how you craft your email sequences. Without proper sequences, you’re not creating any awareness about the products or services you promote.

    I think an email list is very important in buildings that audience which is really helpful in your sales promotion or your products.

    So a very nicely written article which is really helpful for me.

    Thanks a lot for sharing

  20. Hi Sue,

    so glad I came across your site. List building is definitely something that I need to up my game in; incorporating free opt-ins at the bottom of content is such a wonderful way to do this!

    Thank-you for such an informative article that has inspired me to actually take action.


  21. Hi, sue,

    I totally agree with you. link building plays a major role in ranking of any website or blog. it is a primary factor which Google current algorithm structure is giving priority.

    Thank you very much for updating my knowledge.

  22. Hi Sue

    You have mentioned every topic in details.List building is super important for the success of your blog and internet marketing business.Very informative post .Really like it ..

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