How to Start a Mailing List Free with WordPress

Intro
I hope everyone had a really great week. Mine was good. I got a few interesting items I thought I might mention. First, I got new plugin that I've installed in allthingsblogging.com. It's called Easy Digital Downloads and it's an easy way to sell digital products with WordPress. I decided to get this plugin because I've got an eBook, and I've actually had the eBook since I published it in 2015. It just hasn't been updated. This weekend, I decided to take it out, brush it off and just revamp it, update it and started looking for a way to distribute it from my website, from allthingsblogging.com and came across this plugin and a few others, but this is the one that I decided on. It's free and it allowed me to upload the eBook, set a price for it, add a description and an image, and now I'm selling it.

You can actually go to allthingsblogging.com and purchase the eBook. There's a shopping cart and a checkout and everything. It's tied into PayPal so it makes it easy for people to pay. It also works with other payment processors like Stripe and a couple others. If you like to learn more about this, I'll be doing a more thorough review on it in the coming months.

Also, this week, I subscribed to a new YouTube channel. It's called Booth Junkie. It basically is a YouTube channel about doing voiceovers and all sorts of tips for recording audio. Recording audio is pretty complicated. There's a lot to it and I'm definitely a beginner so I'm always looking for sources where I can learn how to make this podcast sound better or to make things more efficient. The last episode I watched was one about how he set up a recording booth, a makeshift recording booth in a hotel room. From that video, I've taken some tips and I've got myself surrounded by some couch cushions and blankets. Shout out to Booth Junkie. I'll add a link to the YouTube channel in the show notes.

Today, we're going to be covering a really important topic. It's one that I touched on back in episode four of the podcast and that was called what do you wish you knew before starting a blog? This is also number 17 on the list of 20 things that you need to do before starting a blog and that's on allthingsblogging.com/wpseo. I'll just actually read from there. It's start a mailing list now. If you’re anything like me, or at least how I was, the idea of asking your visitors to sign up for a mailing list might sound cheesy or desperate. You might cringe every time you see one of those popups asking you to join a list.

Well, it’s true. Mailing lists aren’t for everyone, but just because some people don’t like them, doesn’t mean that just as many, if not more, don’t find them to be extremely valuable. But, the truth is that people are coming to your website because they value your content and what you have to say. Many of them would love to have another avenue to receive news, content and updates.

Aside from having your own domain name, building a list of subscribers is one of the most important things you can do to build your business online. Unlike Facebook and Twitter followers, an email list is all yours. There’s no third party in the middle deciding who will and will not see your message.

Obviously, we're talking about starting a mailing list today and in that quick intro basically answered the why, why would you want to start a mailing list. Now that we've covered why, let's look at how to start a mailing list with WordPress. I'm going to be covering a few different plugins and products in this next part. Since it's geared toward beginners, all of this have a free option and most of them also have a pro option that you can upgrade to once you've gotten a little bit more experienced or maybe more customers or subscribers.

The first product I'm going to talk about or the first type of product we're going to be talking about is email service providers. There are lots of different companies that offer this service and the main function that they serve is that they provide a way for you to send emails to a large list of people. Most of the pricing for these services is based on how many subscribers you have and also how many messages you send per month. The main service I'm going to recommend and talk about today is called MailChimp. They, like I said, have a free option where they allow you to have up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.

Compared to most other services, that's extremely generous. The only other service that I can find that comes even close is the service called Mailgun. Unless you are a developer or a programmer, you're probably not going to be interested in using Mailgun because the only way you can use it is via their API or application programming interface. A very stripped down, very much meant for just tying into other applications. But, again, if any developers are out there, it might be something that you could use to actually manage your whole email list and do it pretty cheaply.

For everyone else who just wants a really simple straightforward way to manage your email list, you're going to want to check out MailChimp. The really cool thing about this is if you do start with MailChimp, it's actually really easy to move to another company. For example, I've also tried a company called ConvertKit. They just have a lot more features and I think the main difference between ConvertKit and MailChimp is that to me ConvertKit was much more user friendly. Now, I know that ConvertKit actually has quite a few more features but, at the time, I was just starting out so it really didn't matter to me. Since I was only using really basic features anyway, I ended up just going to MailChimp and that's actually what I'm using right now. In the future, I'll be able to take my list wherever I decide to go. I might be staying with MailChimp or I might be moving to something like ConvertKit.

Now, that you've got an email service provider, the next thing you need to think about is how you're going to grow your list or, in other words, how you're going to collect email addresses. The main way people collect email addresses is to create something called an opt-in form. These are the things you see all over the place probably too much. For those that aren't sure exactly what an opt-in form is, it's when you're browsing to a website and it's usually the first page that you landed on. And, maybe after a few seconds or a few minutes, you'll see a big box that pops up and it blocks everything and the only thing you can see is maybe a short message, one or two sentences and a field that ask you to enter your email address. Some of them can get pretty annoying but done right, they're actually minimally invasive and quite effective.

Just like email service providers, there are lots of different companies and products that you can use for opt-in forms. The one I use is called addthis.com. AddThis was a company that started out doing just social media buttons like a little widget that would stick out on one side of your page or hover in a place so people could like and share your articles. They later started providing these opt-in forms.

I started using them because they are one of the only companies that have a free opt-in form service and also they've got some pretty cool features. For example, you can do what I describe the giant form that blocks the whole page. Like I said, that's actually quite effective. But, if you're not comfortable doing something that obtrusive, you can also use another option that they provide which is a small, thin bar that goes across the top of the browser, and it has your message there. It just sits there instead of popping up and covering everything. It just blends in a little bit better, not as effective as the big one that blocks everything of course, but again may depend on your users what you decide to use.

Another list building method, which is in my experience much more effective, is what's called a lead magnet. A lead magnet is something that you offer to your visitors in exchange for them signing up for your mailing list. This could be pretty much anything. Some examples might be digital products like eBooks, templates, memberships or even a discount or promo code for a product. It could also be physical things like books or DVDs.

Now, that you've got a email service provider and you've got a way to build your list, you're going to need one more really important thing and that's going to be a reason why people should join your list. Or, if you're using a lead magnet, then it would be a reason why they shouldn't unsubscribe or mark you as junk. If you've got a lead magnet, especially if it's a good one, you won't have any problem getting people to sign up. The problem is going to be retaining them. You're going to need to offer something that will be ongoing, something that you're going to send to these people every week or every month or whatever your schedule is going to be for sending emails.

On allthingsblogging.com, the offer is become a member and receive exclusive content and updates. In every message that I send, they're really short, very brief and it usually is to just let people know that there's a new podcast or maybe a new article but, in addition to that, I will add a tip or something that is not published anywhere else. It's something that is exclusive and hopefully really valuable.

Well, we've covered all the basics of starting an email list and there's definitely a lot more you could learn but with what I've shared so far, you definitely can and should get started with an email list right away. If you've got any questions about this episode or a question you'd like me to answer in an upcoming episode, send an email to podcast@allthingsblogging.com and I'll make sure to answer that ASAP. I should also mention that if you would like a free copy of my eBook, it's called The WordPress SEO Checklist: 20 Essential Prelaunch Tips and Tweaks, then you could head over to allthingsblogging.com. On the homepage, just scroll all the way down to the bottom and you'll see an example of my opt-in form and lead magnet. Also, if you're not subscribed to the podcast yet, drop everything right now and head over to wherever you listen to your podcast and subscribe. As always, thanks so much for joining me. I hope the rest of your week is great and I hope you'll join me next week for another episode of All Things Blogging.

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