How To Build An Email List From Scratch (5 Practical Steps)

email marketing for blog

Do you have content you want to share with people?

Products you want to promote?

If so, building an email list is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.

As long as you provide consistent value to your subscribers, it’ll become one of your most valuable assets.

In this post, I’ll teach you how to build an email list from scratch in 5 practical steps.

This method can be used even if you’re on a smaller budget.

Also, there’s no coding involved whatsoever.

Sound good?

Let’s begin.

how to create a lead magnet

Step 1: Create A Lead Magnet

In sales terminology, a “lead” is a person or business that may become a client down the line.

A lead magnet, then, is something that attracts these people to you.

Such a “magnet” can be given away for free in exchange for contact information.

This lets you directly communicate with people who are interested in your business.

Having a lead magnet is essential to building a large email list.

This is because, even though they may enjoy your content, most people’s inboxes are already full of stuff.

If you just ask them to sign up to your newsletter, there’s a very slim chance they’ll do it.

However, if you offer them something of value in return, they’re likely to invest.

Your Lead Magnet Blueprint

Here are some common lead magnet examples:

  • A video series or short video course
  • Cheat sheets
  • Access to a software
  • A trial for one of your products
  • Audio files
  • Access to a VIP section of your website
  • An exclusive PDF guide or Ebook

Depending on your skillset and the niche of your business, some of these will be more suitable than others.

For this tutorial, we’ll be using a PDF guide as the lead magnet example.

In order to hook as many people as possible, ask yourself:

– What does most of your audience need right now?

– How can you save them time and/or money while moving them closer to their goals?

If you can answer these questions and deliver what’s needed, you’ll have an enticing offer you can use to build your list.

In the past, I’ve made PDF guides for several of my blogs.

In general, I’ve found that around 1000-2000 words is a good length to shoot for.

Should You Outsource Or Write It Yourself?

If you’re familiar with writing posts around 1000-2000 words, making a PDF guide will be a breeze.

Just think of it as a series of normal blog posts which are fused together.

As long as you create a detailed table of contents, you can easily finish it in less than a week.

If you don’t want to write it yourself, I recommend going to Upwork and creating job postings with an absolute minimum of $2 per 100 words, preferably higher.

When you go lower than $2 per 100, I’ve found that the quality simply isn’t up to par.

Remember, we’re talking about one of your cornerstone pieces of content here — what you’ll be using to introduce people to your brand.

So, if you’re going to outsource it, don’t be afraid to invest a little — it’ll pay off in the long-term.

Deciding On The Content


There are several ways to approach the content strategy behind your lead magnet.

Personally, I’ve found that it’s best to tie it into the first autoresponder sequence (more on that later).

Here’s how you do it:

When you forge the table of contents for your guide, include a few extra sections that are non-vital to its completeness.

Then, simply move these to your email sequence instead, where it’ll act as bonus information.

This creates a nice sense of continuity for your new subscribers.

Also, they’ll have a good reason to keep opening your emails.

Practical Tips

There are several ways to create a nice-looking PDF guide.

The easiest one I’ve found is this:

A. Write and save the completed text of your guide.

B. Add formatting, page numbers, a clickable table of contents, and some images to make it look more professional.

C. Go to’s PDF converter.

Drag and drop your Word document in the middle of the page.

D. Wait for the process to complete and download your file in PDF format.

E. Using a program such as Winrar, make a ZIP file out of the PDF.

F. If you have a WordPress site, upload this ZIP file to your media library.

(If you don’t have a site, you can use Dropbox or Google Drive instead.)

how to build an email list from scratch

Step 2: Set Up An Autoresponder Account

Before you can begin gathering email addresses, you need to set up an autoresponder.

An autoresponder is a program that sends out your emails automatically.

This will smoothen the process and save you countless hours of valuable time.

For this tutorial, we’ll be utilizing GetResponse.

Besides their autoresponder, other features you’ll need are included as well, such as list management and a landing page builder.

How To Do It

A. Create a trial account to make use of the 30 free days.

The process is quite straightforward.

However, if you want details on how to do it, you can check out this post.

B. Once your account is up and running, click “Lists” in the top menu.

C. Hover over the 3 dots in the default list row, and select “Settings”.

D. Don’t worry about all the fields staring you in the face, we only want to enter a few important details here:

List Name:

The name people will see in the confirmation message when they subscribe or unsubscribe.

Make sure this reflects your brand.

Confirmation message:

Here, you can customize the email people get when they’re told to confirm their subscription.

Make sure that the correct “to” and “from” email addresses are selected, since these will show up in the emails you send to people.

If you don’t want to use the one you’ve signed up with, you can add additional addresses by going to “Manage account” -> “Email addresses” -> “Add email”.

Alright, your autoresponder is now ready to go!

email marketing examples

Step 3: Create Your Initial Email Sequence

Now, it’s time to write your first sequence of emails.

A starter sequence typically consists of 5-7 emails that are sent in the days after a new email subscription.

These should contain valuable information which helps jump-start the relationship between yourself and your subscribers.

Also, remember that the content of these emails should be related to your lead magnet, so there’s a sense of continuity.

How Often Should You Send Emails?

When it comes to frequency, don’t be afraid to send one email a day for the first week.

This is when your leads will be most interested in what you have to offer.

If you want to keep sending automatic emails after this initial batch (in addition to manual newsletters), slow it down.

Unless you’re offering jaw-dropping stuff in every single email, most people won’t handle the daily bombardment for weeks on end.

So, space out your emails after the first week or so if you don’t want a bunch of unsubscribes.

How To Promote Products Or Affiliate Offers

how to promote to email list

Do you want to use your first sequence to sell something?

If so, how should you go about it?

Well, it really depends on what your monetization methods are, and what your brand is about.

With that being said, here’s some general advice:

If you want to promote an offer in the initial email sequence (the first 5-7 days), you need to be strategic about your content.

Instead of just adding value to build trust, your emails must pre-sell your offer as well.

Initial Email Cycle Example

Say I want to promote a weight loss product.

– To warm up my list, the first email will contain tips on how to reduce hunger.

– The second email will be about foods that boost metabolism.

– In the third email, I’ll give them a great weight loss recipe, before casually introducing them to the product. Something like, “If you found this helpful, check out (product). That’s where I learned most of this stuff”.

– Then, I repeat this cycle 1-2 times more to finish it off.

The initial sequence, then, will look something like this:

  1. Welcome email with download link to lead magnet
  2. Valuable content related to product
  3. Valuable content related to product
  4. Product pitch with soft call to action
  5. Valuable content related to product
  6. Valuable content related to product
  7. Product pitch with soft call to action

You can add additional cycles if you want, but this is usually enough to get some sales.

If done right, it won’t come across as too pushy or “salesy”, which usually leads to more conversions.

If you don’t want to sell anything in this initial sequence, just do this instead:

  1. Welcome email with download link to lead magnet
  2. Valuable content to build trust and authority
  3. Valuable content to build trust and authority
  4. Valuable content to build trust and authority
  5. Valuable content to build trust and authority
  6. Valuable content to build trust and authority
  7. Valuable content to build trust and authority

You won’t make any direct sales from this sequence.

However, you’ll definitely strengthen the relationship between you and your list.

The Vital Ingredient

email list vital ingredient

As you can see, it’s really not that complicated.

Just pay attention to the common theme here:

Valuable content.

You have to give your subscribers some cool stuff, or they won’t bother opening your emails.

Again, preferably something that’s related to your lead magnet, and which can’t be found on your website.

Setting It Up

Since you’ve already completed step 2 by this point, creating your initial email sequence will be easy.

A. Log in to your GetResponse account.

B. Click on “Create autoresponder” in the “Quick actions” menu.

C. Enter an autoresponder name for your reference.

This will be the welcome email, so let’s simply call it “Welcome”.

D. Make sure that the correct email list is selected.

Let the rest of the options stay as they are, and click “Create new email”.

E. Enter a message name for your reference (just name this the same as the autoresponder).

Then, add a subject line (the title of your email your subscribers will see) and click the “Next step” button.

F. Select a predesigned template or a blank one to edit.

G. Write your email. This should include a welcome message along with a link to the PDF guide you uploaded to your site or directory earlier.

In WordPress, simply go to your Media Library, click on the file, highlight the address in the URL field and copy-paste it.

Since you made a ZIP file, your subscribers will get a direct download prompt when they click this link.

H. If you want, you can preview your email by selecting “Test message” -> “Send test message” -> “Send”.

I. When you’re done, click the “Next step” button, and then “Save and publish”.

Now, all that remains is to create the 5-6 content emails for your initial sequence.

After that’s finished, your autoresponder will be ready for action.

how to build an email list from scratch (2)

Step 4: Create Ways For People To Subscribe

At this point, your email list is (technically speaking) live and functional.

Now you just need to make it easy for people to subscribe to it.

There are a few different ways to do this.

Landing Page

To maximize the growth of your email list, you should have a focused landing page you can send people to.

This will generally lead to a high conversion rate (meaning, a high amount of people who visit this page will sign up to your list).

Check out this post for an in-depth, step-by-step guide on how to create a landing page with GetResponse (it’s built in with the email platform).

Opt-In Forms

Opt-in forms usually need lots of views before they convert.

However, the big benefit is that you can place them alongside your content on your website.

They’re also very flexible — you can use:

  • Banners,
  • Widgets
  • Pop-ups
  • Slide-ins
  • Boxes inside your posts

To make these, you can use the free WordPress plugins OptinMonster or Hustle.

Find and install them by going to your WordPress dashboard, then “Plugins” -> “Add New”, and entering their names in the search bar.

If you’re willing to spend some money for premium features, I recommend getting Thrive leads instead.

Quick tips:

– Pop-ups and slide-in windows can be very useful, but try not to make them too obnoxious.

– Always include a sidebar widget to your site, plus a box inside each post that’s related to your lead magnet.

website traffic

Step 5: Drive Traffic

This is the final step in the process.

To grow a BIG email list, you need BIG traffic.

You can create the sleekest opt-in forms and the most convincing landing page.

However, if nobody’s around to see them, all that work would be for nothing.

Any website owner or online marketer can tell you:

Getting good traffic is one of the hardest parts of the game — especially for beginners.

That being said, if you’re willing to put in the work, the following sources will be enough to grow your email list.

How To Drive Traffic To Your Website

Search Engines

keyword research

If you have a lot of keyword-optimized, high-quality content on your website, you can expect to receive some search engine traffic sooner or later.

However, with a new website, it’ll take a long time before you see results from this.

Google’s bots, for example, need to crawl your site and measure your content up against others’.

It can take many months, maybe over a year, before your pages start getting ranked high enough to get daily clicks.

Building good backlinks, submitting your sitemap to Google, and linking out to trusted websites (like online science journals) may speed up this process.

While it will take some time to get rolling, search engine traffic is the most powerful traffic around.

Getting your pages ranked high will ensure a consistent stream of new visitors to your site each and every month.

If you have opt-in boxes and widgets on display, your list will grow steadily over time.


pinterest logo

Pinterest can be a great source of traffic IF you’re in a Pinterest-friendly niche.

Here’s what I mean:

Firstly, Pinterest is all about images, so your niche has to lend itself well to visual content.

In order to gain traffic from the platform, you should create and pin things like photos, infographics and alluring thumbnails.

Secondly, when it comes to demographics, women are more than 4 times more likely to use Pinterest than men, according to a Business Insider report.

Also, its widely popular among the wealthier parts of the U.S. population.

With all of this in mind, Pinterest is a great fit for niches such as:

  • Health and fitness
  • Beauty
  • Travel
  • Clothing
  • Jewelry

(This has been confirmed by data from Statista).

Quick tip:
For maximum growth, you should always pin cool stuff from other sources in addition to your own brand.

This makes your account look more lively and interesting — encouraging faster organic growth.

Quora is a website where users can post questions that others will attempt to answer.

how to use quora for traffic

It’s basically a higher-quality version of Yahoo Answers.

To gain traffic from Quora, select categories related to your niche and/or search for keywords.

Then, simply answer questions to the best of your ability.

At the end of some of your posts (or wherever appropriate) link to a relevant piece of content you’ve made.

Don’t overdo it, though, or your posts will be tagged as spam and deleted.

Remember to put a link to your website in your profile, and add the URL of your website in your credential field (“founder of”).

This way, even when you don’t drop your links directly, you’ll still get exposure.

To get your answers more views and upvotes:

  • Break up the content into neat paragraphs
  • Use bullet points and numbered lists
  • Add a few images
  • Make sure your information is helpful
  • Minimize spelling errors

If you find yourself answering similar questions over and over, do this:

A. Create a set of answer templates based on the most common questions you answer.

B. Save them all to a specific folder and pull them out whenever you need them.

C. Then, simply edit parts of the content if required and submit it.

This will save you a lot of time, and lets you post more answers (which equals more potential traffic).

Just make sure to edit a large portion of them, since the Quora bots immediately delete what they consider to be duplicate answers.


As you probably know, Youtube is the number one video site on the web and the second largest search engine.

This makes it a potential goldmine when it comes to traffic.

In order to grow a new channel, though, you’ll need:

  •  A somewhat consistent upload frequency
  • High-quality content
  • Good search optimization
  • Patience

Delivering value through videos is a great way to get people primed for your email list.

Just remember to place a link to your website and/or landing page in the descriptions.

If you grow your channel big enough, people will also start visiting your website directly, due to increased brand awareness.

All in all, Youtube is one of my favorite traffic sources — I use it for most of my websites.

If you want to grow your list as fast as possible, I highly recommend you give it a shot.


comment for money

With the rise of Facebook groups, the popularity of online forums took a huge hit.

However, there are still a good number of them around, in all kinds of niches.

In order to gain traffic from these sites, though, you’ll need to invest some time.

You can’t simply join them, start spamming your links and hope for the best.

You’ll just gain a bad reputation or get ignored — if not permabanned.

Instead, become an active member of the forums you join.

Provide valuable information and discussions around the topics within your niche.

Then, once in a while, you can link to your content when it’s appropriate.

If the forum allows it, you can place a link to your landing page or website in your signature field.

This gives you potential exposure every time you post something, even if it has nothing to do with your content.

Paid Advertisement

paid ads for email list

Using paid ads is without a doubt the fastest way to grow your email list.

Personally, I haven’t used a ton of paid traffic for my sites or lists.

However, I’ve had some positive experiences with Facebook campaigns.

If you want to funnel people from search results, Bing Ads and Google Adwords may be better suited for you.

Whatever you choose, you should only use money you can afford to lose.

When starting out, be prepared to spend at least a couple of hundred dollars on testing and tweaking.

You have to continually fine-tune variables like:

  • Title
  • Body copy
  • Images
  • Keywords
  • Demographic targeting

Once you nail it, though, you can grow your list incredibly fast.

Steps Completed!

We’ve now been through the 5 steps on how to build an email list from scratch.

With this info in hand, all you need to do is to TAKE ACTION.

Some of these steps are harder than others, but all can be done with very little money investment.

If you’re willing to set it up correctly and continually drive traffic, you will see positive results.

Now, grab your tools and get ready — it’s time to build your list!

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