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How To Grow Your Email List (For Free) As A Blogger [2018]

Email marketing for bloggers is very, very important.

And hey, maybe you know it’s vital to grow an email list; but you’re not sure why.

Here’s the deal:

As a travel — or really any niche — blogger, it’s vital to grow a community.

Building an email list means growing a fanbase of your most dedicated readers; the ones who can’t wait to eat up your content and buy your products. These are the people you can nurture and empower in a way that allows you to truly help them.

Want to know how? Keep reading to swipe my step-by-step email marketing for bloggers strategy.

The best part:

You can implement this strategy without spending a dime!

Psst! Don’t forget to pin this post for later!


A Note On Email Marketing vs Social Media

Good news:

Growing an email list is often easier than growing a social media channel. For many, it’s also more worthwhile.

Let me explain why with some examples.

There was a solid year when my Instagram was steadily growing.

Then, in mid-2017 when the algorithm changed and everyone seemed to resort to follow-unfollow and time-consuming Telegram pods, it plummeted, mainly because I wasn’t willing to play this game. And while it is growing again, my engagement is still not back to where I was at in 2016 and early 2017.

Another instance:

Facebook recently decided it would begin showing pages further down in the feed so that users would see posts by family and friends — and paid ads — first.

Meaning that for many bloggers, this channel is steadily pay-for-play if you really want to get noticed.

We can also look at the now-defunct Vine (RIP). Imagine if you’d spent time building up a following on the channel, only to have it shut down, your followers gone in an instant?

Sure, you could tell them to go follow you elsewhere for great content, but there’s still no telling they’ll even see that message or take that action.

Prefer to learn through video? Check out my free training! Feel free to share it with your community and spread the knowledge! 

Benefits Of Email Lists

Now let’s look at email and why growing your blogger email list is so awesome:

  • You own your email list. If Mailerlite went out of business tomorrow, I could export my list and import it to Mailchimp or CovertKit. I’d still have access to the inbox to every subscriber who signed up for my list.
  • It’s authentic. While on Instagram I sometimes feel like I need to wear an impractical floppy hat and red bikini while hiking the Inca Trail to get noticed, on email my audience responds best when I send juicy emails that help them in some way. I feel really good after sending an email — even if it’s promotional — because I know I’m promoting something that, again, will help them.
  • You don’t have to worry about algorithms. Sure, there is data out there about when it’s the best time to send emails, and sometimes your emails may go to a subscriber’s spam folder, but you can help fix this by re-directing your new subscriber to a thank you page that instructs them to add you to their contact list.
  • These are your most dedicated community members. They gave you their virtual phone numbers, which takes more than simply hitting “like” or “follow”. These will be the people who interact with your campaigns and eat up your content, and who will be most likely to purchase your products and click your affiliate links (as long as you follow the effective and ethical approach I lay out below).

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Free Newsletter Service & Email Marketing Tools

Before we dive into my simple yet powerful list building strategies, let’s discuss what you need before getting started.

Everything I list here is free, and will truly help you excel at email marketing for bloggers.


Or any email marketing software. Personally, I’m obsessed with Mailerlite, which is free up to 1,000 subscribers (and is then only $10/month).

It’s got many of the fancy features of the more expensive ConvertKit, yet ends up being cheaper than Mailchimp once you get to a point where you need to pay for your subscribers.

Some of my favorite free Mailerlite features include:

  • Automation. I have several automated welcome sequences I place new subscribers into, depending on how they’ve opted into my list.
  • Landing Page Builders. You can create your own landing pages — as in, pages with only one goal, such as getting someone to subscribe to your email list.
  • 24/7 Chat Support. This is invaluable, especially when you have a timely campaign you need to get out. While Mailchimp has stellar support, it’s via email, and you often have to wait until the next day for a response.


No design skills? No problem!

Canva’s pre-filled graphic designs make it easy for anyone to create beautiful graphics. We’ll use this tool in the list building strategies below so that you can create irresistible Content Upgrades.


One of my favorite free stock photo sites for finding beautiful backdrops — like workspaces — to put your Content Upgrade images.

Don’t worry if you felt like I was just speaking an alien language. This will all become clear shortly.

Profit Clarity 

An intangible tool; though an important one.

As a travel blogging coach, I’m all about spending time on strategies that actually bring in profits.

Trust me; there are tons of bloggers out there with thousands of social media followers and high blog traffic that aren’t making any money.

If you’re working to grow your newsletter subscribers, there should be a reason behind it. It’s great if you want to have a travel blog so that your family and friends can keep up with your journeys; however, if you really want to pursue travel blogging as a career, you’ll also need to understand how you’re going to make money.

For instance, one way I generate income for my travel blog is through my Travel Blog Prosperity membership community. The program helps travel bloggers turn their websites into profitable businesses that grow every single month.

And psst, you can join the waitlist for the community right here to be notified when doors re-open

You can also consider lucrative affiliate programs if you’re not ready to create your own product or service.

In short, you’ll need some kind of income generator for the following list building strategies to be worthwhile.

Have you started building your #email list yet? @jessonajourney breaks down how to to do #free and easy! Click To Tweet

How To Build An Email List For Free

Now that we’re set up, it’s time to get into my simple but juicy tactics for excelling at email marketing for bloggers.

We’ll be piecing these tactics together to form one step-by-step community building strategy; one that is so powerful it will bring new, targeted subscribers on to your email list every single day.

Every. Single. Day.


Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Know Your Blog’s Mission

Before you can start attracting people onto your email list, you need to know who you’re attracting and why.

This can be boiled down to your blog’s mission. Use this template to craft one:

“I help ___(group of people) do ___ (what you help them do)”.

This template is wildly powerful for helping you gain clarity in your blogging business. Once you have this fleshed out, you can use it to guide every single piece of content — whether on your blog, social media, YouTube or your email newsletter — to keep everything cohesive.

A cohesive content plan means visitors will know exactly what they’ll be getting and why they should stick around.

To help you remember this mission statement template, I’ve created a graphic you can pin for later:

email marketing for bloggers

Pin Me For Later!

Of course, this is the simplified version of crafting your blog’s business plan, though it’s a good start to understanding why you truly put out the content you do.

For instance, if you say “I (help) empower females to take their first solo trips,” you’ll now have a good idea of what topics you should be covering across your channels.

If you’d like to dive deeper into fleshing out your brand, you can click here for access to my travel blogging resource library, where you’ll find a handy Branding Your Blog For Success Workbook.

email marketing for bloggers

Click here to snag access to my FREE travel blogging resource library for funsheets, Mad Libs and video lessons

Step 2: Know How You’ll Earn An Income

While not every single person on your email list is going to purchase a product from you, you should be aiming for some to. Actually, according to ConvertKit the average is 9.4%; which, by the way, is higher than the average conversion rates for YouTube (2.2%), Twitter (5.4%) and Facebook (6.3%).


This conversion rate does vary by industry and product. For instance, Teachable tells their online course instructors that the average conversion rate for converting email subscribers to paid students is 2%.

Okay, now let’s backtrack for a moment with our email marketing for bloggers strategy.

In Step #1 you pinned down how you can help people and who you can help.

Now, you want to become clear on how you can further help these people through a paid service, whether it be your own or the product/service of an affiliate partner.

My opinion:

Courses make great products for bloggers of all niches, especially because you’re already helping your audience in some way.

Think about it.

If your mission is to help rookie photographers take better travel photos without needing fancy equipment, and you’re consistently sharing juicy posts and social media shares that help fulfill this, wouldn’t it make sense to offer a robust paid course that puts these pieces together?

You’ll be pitching a community who already sees you as an authority on the subject of travel photography, and who is already coming to your blog to learn from you.

I highly recommend Teachable for setting up your course.

Personally I started offering courses on Thinkific, which ended up being pricier than Teachable, had more bugs and was less attractive. Both offer great customer service, but in the end Teachable was just an all-around better product, at least in my opinion.

How do you attract new subscribers onto your #email list? Here, @jessonajourney shares her favorite content upgrade examples! #blogging Click To Tweet

Step 3: Craft Your Content Upgrade

Okay, so you’ve got your mission that you’re fulfilling by publishing high quality free content via blog posts, social media shares and regular emails (because you want to stay front of mind for your audience).

You’ve also got your product that you plan to pitch your email list.

Now, we need to close the loop by offering a Content Upgrade.

A Content what?!

A Content Upgrade — also sometimes known as a Lead Magnet or opt-in freebie — is a free gift you provide your readers and social media followers to entice them to opt into your email list.

Here’s the deal:

In 2018, it’s not enough to say “Click here to subscribe for the latest updates.” Instead, you need to give people a reason to subscribe.

You also want to entice the people who would be interested in your course.

So, the Content Upgrade also acts a primer.

Through your Content Upgrade, you’re not only getting people on your email list; you’re helping them right away, while growing your authority even further on the topic.

The Content Upgrade you choose should be something high quality that helps your audience solve a problem quickly and efficiently, while attracting people who’d be interested in your paid product.

Need some inspiration? I’ve created the following infographic to help spark some powerful Content Upgrade ideas.

Make sure to save this Content Upgrade ideas graphic on Pinterest for later, too! 


email marketing for bloggers

Pin me for later!

Step 4: Create Irresistible Opt-In Graphics

Once you have your content plan laid out, it’s time to create some gorgeous graphics to attract your readers to click.

This should include a vertical Pinterest-optimized graphic as well as in-line graphics throughout the post.

For instance, I invite people into my free profitable blogging ecourse by showcasing this graphic throughout relevant posts (which, by the way, you can really click for ecourse access!):

travel classes

Additionally, here is an example of a Pinterest pin graphic I’ve showcased within a post before.

See how I don’t just say the title of the post, but also mention there’s a freebie offered within it?

This makes my Pinterest pin more enticing, encouraging more people to click through to the actual post, read and opt into my email list!

email marketing for bloggers

By the way, both of the above community building graphics were created in Canva for free.

Step 5: Have A Way To Deliver Your Content Upgrade

Okay, so you’ve created your snazzy, on-brand freebie.

Before you can promote, you need to plan how you’ll deliver it.

A few ideas:

  • Store the freebie in Google Drive, and share the link in a welcome email to your new subscriber.
  • Provide them access to a password-protected resource library, where the freebie advertised is included. You can provide them the password and link to the library in their welcome email.
email marketing for bloggers

This is how you create a password-protected page in WordPress. This box is on the right side of your page editor.

  • Instead of sending your new subscriber to a Thank You page, re-direct them to the freebie.
  • Include the freebie on the new subscriber Thank You page.

This is something you’ll need to pin down before moving on to Step #6.

Step 6: Promote Your Content Upgrade

Now there are tons of ways to promote your Content Upgrade for free:

  • In your social media bio
  • In collaborative Facebook groups (when there are self promotional threads)
  • On your homepage menu (above the fold; as in, before your reader scrolls)
  • In a Pinterest pin
  • On your Facebook page’s cover photo & cover photo description
email marketing for bloggers

This is how I promote my Content Upgrade on my Facebook page

We won’t be diving too deep into all the various list building strategies revolving around promoting your Content Upgrade — that’s something covered in-depth in my Travel Blog Prosperity membership community — though we will focus on one strategy here:

Promoting your Content Upgrade within, well, your content.

Let’s look at some examples.

If your Content Upgrade is a printable cheat sheet for mastering manual camera settings, you could write a blog post on How To Master Your Camera’s Manual Mode, offering the cheat sheet as a printable the reader can carry around until they get comfortable.

Or if you have a more business-centric blog, maybe your freebie is a workbook that helps people craft a brilliant About Page for their blog. Publishing a post titled “How To Craft An Irresistible About Page” would be sure to attract someone interested in doing just that.

Maybe you cover ski travel, and your Content Upgrade is a printable ski travel packing list. You could promote this freebie in all of ski travel guides.

Just check out how I promote a Blog Branding Workbook in a post I wrote about creating your blog’s brand identity.

email marketing for bloggers content upgrades

An example of how I promote a Content Upgrade within my blog posts

Step 7: Add An Automated Opt-In Box At The End Of Your Posts

This functionality might be built right into your blog’s theme. If not, a free plugin like Magic Action Box will do the trick.

Keep visuals in mind, too. Remember, the clearer you can make what people are actually getting, the better.

Here is an example from my own blog showing what you might put at the bottom of your posts.

email marketing for bloggers

Step 8: Promote Your Content

Once your post publishes don’t just let it sit there. Promote it!

And I don’t just mean sharing it on social media once and calling it a day.

  • Create an Instagram Story around the post and have people “swipe up” for the full content
  • Create 20 unique Tweets (with images) and schedule them throughout the month
  • Take part in collaborative Facebook groups; I’m a *huge* fan of Female Travel Bloggers‘ #BlogPostSaturday thread for promoting posts
  • Create your own collaborative group where you share each other’s content
  • Craft a high-quality infographic to entice people to pin your post on Pinterest; or, spend time asking others to post your infographic on their blogs and offer to craft a unique introduction to go along with it
  • Add the Content Upgrade to your top 10 posts that are already bringing in traffic
  • Include sources within your post and let them know they were mentioned, enticing them to share on their channels
  • Guest post on a blog that has the same target audience as you, and promote your Content Upgrade within the guest post to leverage their audience

There are so many ways to promote your content. If you really want to see results, you’ll want to spend just as much — if not more  — time spreading the word about your new post as you did writing it.

What's your favorite way to promote your lead magnet? @jessonajourney shares her favorite promo tactics! #blogging Click To Tweet

GDPR Form Template For Email Marketing

In May 2018, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) went into effect. Now, it’s imperative you make it crystal clear how you’re using people’s data.

There are a number of things you should be doing as a blogger to be GDPR compliant; one of which is tweaking your subscriber opt-in form(s).

Instead, of including a check box — which I’ve seen a lot of bloggers do — I’ve simply changed the language on my opt-in forms.

Here is a GDPR form template you can swipe and tweak to use yourself:

email marketing for bloggers gdpr form template

PS: If you want my free influencer network list, simply click here 🙂

See how I state right in the opt-in form that they’ll be subscribing to my email list?

I highly recommend doing this.

Moreover, I use a double opt-in. This means that instead of automatically subscribing someone to my email list after they enter their details, I make them re-confirm first.

By doing this, I ensure that everyone on my email list actually wants to be there and has given me full permission to email them.

How To Do Email Marketing For Bloggers: Final Notes

I wanted to leave you with one last vital piece of community building advice.

Even though we’re using the term “email marketing,” and deep down your goal is to market and grow your blogging business, I don’t want you to think of list building as purely transactional.

Instead of using email to broadcast, use it to converse and grow a relationship.

Does forming a true relationship with your community take time?


But trust me when I say it’s so worth it.

In terms of downright “this feels darn good,” you get to know the problems and pain points of your readers to better serve them.

On the blogging business side of things, when you can better help your audience, you make more sales.

More sales equals a more sustainable business, and a more sustainable business equals more time and resources to help your audience.

Thus, the cycle continues. If you run your blogging business using this list building strategy, you’ll truly be able to make a positive impact through your website.

And isn’t that just the best?

Here's how to do #EmailMarketing ethically. Grow -- and help -- your community at the same time! #blogging Click To Tweet

To prove what I’m saying is true, and that you can create an ethical list building strategy — for free — that also helps you grow your blogging business, here is a testimonial someone left me recently on Facebook.

He commented on an image I’d shared promoting my free profitable blogging e-course:

email marketing for bloggers content upgrade testimonial

It’s messages like these that truly move me, and help remind me of my purpose.

My email marketing efforts help me further fulfill this purpose by nurturing my community.

Enjoyed this post? I’ve got an email marketing for bloggers infographic below. Make sure to pin it to refer back to later!

Email Marketing For Bloggers: How To Rapidly Grow Your Email List


*Note: Some of the above-mentioned links are affiliate links, meaning I make a small commission if a purchase is made, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Featured image courtesy of @criene via Twenty20

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Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

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