8 Online ways to build your email list organically


I can often be found on forums and various web2.0 communities warning of the dangers to your email reputation and deliverability if you utilise purchased lists as a means to developing your email program and I constantly advocate the growing of your list organically.  As a result I am often asked what are the best methods for growing your list organically. There are many aspects of your email marketing program which I would strongly suggest that you have in place first if you would like to ensure the greatest success,  I will cover this in other posts, suffice to say all emails that you send should always be relevant, targeted and of potential value to the recipient.

In this article we will cover the various ways available to you to promote your list online to potential subscribers, it is meant as a starting point for your own brainstorming session where you can tailor and develop ideas around your own particular email program. It is worth noting at this stage you really should develop your email marketing program before you start growing your list. Identifying your audience, your reasons for having a mailing list and your targets should come before gaining subscriptions.

Here are a number of ways that are available to you, the list is by no means exhaustive:

1. Your website

This will be where most subscribers to organic lists are generated. You should include the optin form on every page of your website if at all possible. If not then cross-promote your newsletter on your website by way of text links, banners, buttons and other CTA’s. There are other options that many have used to great success, and it is worth testing one or more of these methods, they include exit/entry pop-ups, interstitial and inline adverts promoting your newsletter. Beware of annoying your visitors.

2. Subscriber Landing Pages

Create subscriber landing pages, pages on your site specifically designed to promote your newsletter, this should be the only focus of the page and the primary CTA. Optimise your email subscribe page for visitors and search engines. This ensures you can be found for your industry keywords and also making sure you drive home the real benefits of subscribing. If possible have your current subscribers evangelise by way of testimonials.

3. PPC advertising

Whilst Pay-Per-Click advertising to generate visitors for your website is not an organic way building website visitors, it can be used as part of a campaign to grow your opt-in mailing list. This would normally be done with the use of a subscriber landing page. The subscriber landing page should be optimised for the traffic you are generating, it should include a clear call to action, and above all give a compelling reason to subscribe. This could be through the provision of freemium content or a service as result of subscribing. What will be provided to subscribers will very much depend on your organisation, your goals, your product or service. However access to reports, product samples, free trial subscriptions, case studies, tutorials and similar content whether delivered as an email, PDF attachment or video online are all good examples.

4. Social Networks: Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn

Let everyone know you have an email marketing program across all your social networks. You should as always let your followers know of the benefits of subscribing. Send a Tweet announcing your upcoming newsletter and a link to the subscribe page. When a newsletter comes out tweet a link to the online edition. With Facebook you can also promote your newsletters, include a link to subscriptions and current editions online as with Twitter, however with Facebook you can go a step further, you can and should embed your email subscription form on your Page at Facebook. To do this you can use th “Static FBML Application” it is free and provided by Facebook itself.

5. Social Sharing

Encourage social sharing, within your newsletters make sure you offer the ability for your recipients to share-on-social, for example a “tweet this” link is incredibly easy to incorporate, with a little more effort you can also include a Facebook “Like This” option. Other option would include Digg, Delicous and StumbleUpon. There are many others, however do not overdo it, include those networks your subscribers are most likely to be active on.

6. Blogging

If you maintain your own blog ensure you include an email subscription form (ideally on every page).  Another great way of utilising blogs is through the practice of “guest blogging”. This is where you write a post for another blog complementary to your own. When writing for other sites it is customary for the site to include an “Author Bio” be sure to include a link to your newsletter subscription landing page from your bio.

7. Referrals & Recommendation

This can be one of your most powerful tools. Your current subscribers are more than likely to know more individuals that will be interested in your newsletter. If done correctly recommendations from friends will be a powerful tool in your list growing arsenal. A website like Facebook grew so large of the back of this kind of referral and so can your email list. Encourage subscribers to promote the newsletter to friends/colleagues, not only through social networks as we have already discussed by “liking” or “tweeting. Take it one step further and offer your subscribers rewards for evangelising on the social networks. Other ways of encouraging referrals include have a “forward to a friend” feature within the email newsletter itself. You can also encourage your current subscribers to recommend others who may be interested to your subscription landing page. Refer a confirmed subscriber and be entered into our competition is one example. I say refer a “confirmed” subscriber as you should only reward individuals for referring people that confirm their opt-in subscription. This will alleviate some of the problems associated with users spamming people within their network.

8. Your email signature

When I originally worked on this article as a response to a question on Focus I manged to overlook this method of generating subscribers online. Kudos to Jordie van Rijn for reminding me of  this powerful tool. Who better to subscribe to your mailing list than individuals your organisation deals with already. Customers, leads, press, media, suppliers and the like. You can do well to promote your newsletter through your organisations email signature.

That is a roundup of the most popular ways you can encourage subscribers to your mailing list online. Offline there are a variety of things that can be done to encourage subscribers and that will be covered in a follow up post. Is there something missing? What is your favourite method? What has proven most successful for you, I would love to hear your experiences and feedback by way of the comments form below.

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emailexpert is published by Andrew Bonar, the founder of the company Deliverability which is incorporated in Australia, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. Deliverability has included Dotmailer, GetResponse, outreach.io, SendLane and other ESPs as clients. Having launched his first website in 1990, he went on to become the co-founder of @POBox UK in 1993, a free email address provider, possibly the first in the world. Thereafter launching Cheapnet which became the longest running privately owned ISP in Europe before launching the first privately owned online payment gateway in the UK: Ebanx. Andrew has consulted to some of the worlds biggest senders including Amazon, Mondelez and Nestle. 2012 in his role as Global Deliverability Director at Emailvision was the first time he oversaw the delivery of more than 100 Biillion messages in a single year. Since that time he has provisioned consultancy or performed leadership roles at some of Australia's most successful tech companies. Including Campaign Monitor, Freelancer.com and Kogan. With 21+ years of industry experience, Andrew is widely recognised as a leader in the field of message sending, deliverability and compliance. He currently resides in the Harbour City of Sydney and continues to serve as an independent consultant at organisations throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and the US.


  1. The most effective one for me so far is the having a opt in box on my blog. I have it on my site bar, and can be view on all my pages.

    Thanks for the information, very usefull.. I am now interested doing it through Social Networks: Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn

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