How to Build an Email List in WordPress – Email Marketing 101

As an experienced webmaster, I can tell you that email marketing remains one of the most powerful ways to reach people online.

Building your own engaged subscriber list allows you to directly connect with your audience, nurture relationships over time, and drive more traffic and sales.

In this complete guide, I‘ll share insider tips to help you successfully build your own email list within WordPress.

Why Email Marketing Still Matters

Some people think email is outdated or ineffective compared to social media. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here are three key reasons email is as important as ever in 2022 and beyond:

1. Email delivers results

While social media can help grow awareness, email converts that awareness into real business results.

  • Email generates $44 in ROI for every $1 spent, the highest of any marketing channel [1].

  • 89% of customers want to receive promotional messages through email [2].

  • segmented emails have 7X higher transaction rates than generic blasts [3].

Bottom line – when used correctly, email marketing pays off big time!

2. Email builds loyalty

Because it‘s private and personal, email allows you to foster relationships with subscribers in a way that social media can‘t.

  • 72% of customers will share bad experiences on social media, but only 33% will contact the company directly [4]. Email gives you a chance to rectify issues one-on-one.

  • Email subscribers have a 2-3X higher lifetime value than social followers [5]. The ability to regularly engage leads to higher loyalty.

3. You own your email list

If a social network declines in popularity or goes away completely (remember MySpace?), you lose all those followers.

With email, you own your list. No algorithm or outside entity can take that direct connection away.

  • Top brands like Apple and Nike have millions of email subscribers that they can market to directly [6].

  • Legendary investor Warren Buffet called an engaged email list the most valuable asset any business can have.

In a crowded digital landscape, building your own email list provides a reliable way to reach people who care about your brand.

Choose the Right Email Service

The first step to building your email list is selecting an email service provider (ESP) to handle sending and managing your email newsletters.

Here are the most popular ESPs along with key factors to consider:

Email Service Free Plan Key Features
Mailchimp Up to 2,000 subscribers Great for beginners, easy to use
ConvertKit Up to 1,000 subscribers Made for digital info products
AWeber Up to 500 subscribers Powerful segmentation and automations
Drip 500 subscribers forever Great for ecommerce sites
Constant Contact 60 day free trial Best for traditional small businesses

When selecting your provider, consider your budget, list size, integration needs, and types of email content. Most offer a free trial to test drive.

For this guide, we‘ll use Mailchimp since it‘s very beginner-friendly and has a generous free plan.

Set Up Your First List

Once signed up for Mailchimp, it‘s time to create your first email list. Think of this like setting up a database to store all your subscriber‘s information.

Here‘s how to create your list:

  1. In Mailchimp, click Lists in the top menu and click the Create List button.

  2. Choose a name, like "Newsletter Subscribers" or "Email VIPs".

  3. Select the type of list. For most blogs, choose "Regular" for a general newsletter.

  4. Enter default sender name and email address.

  5. Click Create List and your list is ready to go!

Now it‘s time to start collecting those all-important email addresses.

Embed a Signup Form

The fastest way to grow your email list is adding a signup form to your WordPress site. This makes it easy for visitors to subscribe without leaving your page.

There are a few options for WordPress plugins that integrate with Mailchimp:

  • Mailchimp for WordPress (free)
  • WPForms – Very customizable forms
  • ConvertPlug – Comes with popup and slide-in form options

We‘ll use the free Mailchimp for WordPress plugin.

Install and Activate the Plugin

  1. In your WordPress dashboard, go to Plugins » Add New.
  2. Search for "Mailchimp for WordPress" and click Install Now.
  3. After installation completes, click Activate.

Connect Mailchimp to Your Site

  1. In your dashboard, go to Mailchimp for WP and click Settings.
  2. Click Connect with Mailchimp and enter your username and API key from your Mailchimp account.
  3. Select the list you want to add subscribers to.
  4. Click Save Settings and you‘re connected!

Add a Signup Form

  1. Go to Appearance » Widgets.
  2. Find the "Mailchimp Signup Form" widget and drag it to a sidebar, footer, or other widget area.
  3. Configure the title, description, and any other options.
  4. Click Save and the form will display.

That‘s all it takes to get a signup form on your site and start growing your list!

Optimize Signup Placement

Where and how you place your email signup forms plays a big role in conversion rates.

Here are some tips for getting more signups:

  • Show a popup after a visitor scrolls past a certain point. This converts abandoning visitors into subscribers.

  • Add a slide-in form that emerges from the side after a few seconds. Keep it unobtrusive.

  • Place forms above the fold near high-value content like blog posts or resources.

  • Use attention-grabbing calls to action like "Join our Newsletter".

  • Offer an enticing freebie like a toolkit or checklist in exchange for their email.

  • Embed forms in multiple locations – header, footer, sidebar, etc.

Test different styles and placements to see what converts best for your audience. Aim for visible yet unobtrusive forms that grab attention.

Send Your First Newsletter

Once you have a handful of subscribers, it‘s time to start sending out some email newsletters.

Here‘s how to create and send your first campaign using Mailchimp:

  1. In Mailchimp, click the Campaigns tab.
  2. Click Create Campaign and select Regular Campaign.
  3. Give your campaign a title and select your list.
  4. Compose your email content – images, text, sections, etc.
  5. When your message looks good, click Send or Schedule.

Some tips for creating quality newsletters:

  • Write compelling yet scannable subject lines to encourage opens.
  • Make content visually engaging with images, videos, gifs, etc throughout.
  • Aim for a balance of value-focused articles, company updates, subscriber spotlights, special deals, and more.
  • Keep paragraphs short and text easy to scan. Use lists and headings.
  • Send at optimal times based on your audience‘s habits (Tuesdays and Thursdays tend to perform well).
  • Start by sending once or twice a month tops while you build loyalty and engagement.

Keep an eye on open and click rates within your emails using Mailchimp reports. This helps you refine your approach to provide maximum value.

Grow Your Subscriber List

Building a quality email list takes continual effort. Here are my top tips for growing your subscribers consistently:

  • Spotlight your email program prominently on your website and social channels. Give people plenty of opportunities to sign up.

  • Produce consistent high-value content so visitors want to stay in the loop. An email list starts with great content!

  • Run promotions like limited-time contests or giveaways in exchange for email signups.

  • Send "re-engagement" emails if someone hasn‘t opened in a while. Offer them something enticing to come back.

  • Use segmentation to provide subscribers with content tailored to their interests and preferences.

  • Partner with similar sites or influencers to promote your newsletter in front of new audiences.

  • Add social sharing buttons within your emails so subscribers pass them along.

  • Avoid over-sending! Focus on 2-4 quality emails per month as an achievable goal.

Growing a loyal audience of email subscribers takes continual testing and refinement. But it‘s one of the most rewarding investments any website can make when done right.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this guide provided you with a solid game plan and real examples for building your own email list on a WordPress site.

Here are the key steps we covered:

  • Picking the right email service provider
  • Creating your subscriber list
  • Embedding signup forms
  • Optimizing form placement
  • Sending high-quality, valuable newsletters
  • Growing your list over time with promotions and segmentation

If you dedicate time to growing your list and creating subscriber-focused content, your email marketing efforts will pay dividends for years to come.

What tips do you have? What types of content does your audience respond well to through email? I‘d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Written by Jason Striegel

C/C++, Java, Python, Linux developer for 18 years, A-Tech enthusiast love to share some useful tech hacks.