How to Make Money from Your Mailing List Without Selling Out

36 amazing comments

Making money from your mailing list is one of the most sustainable income solutions for an online business. Why, then, are so many bloggers afraid of it?

When I talk to new bloggers I regularly hear complaints about how they don’t want to “sell out” by promoting something to their mailing list. They feel like it dirties the integrity of the blog.

Well, there are a few ways you can make ethical money from your mailing list, and I think it is something that all bloggers should look at doing more often.

What is a mailing list and why is it important?

Every blog needs a basic mailing list that informs subscribers when you publish a new blog post.

It’s an extremely important part of online business because it allows you to grow a traffic promotional base that you can tap in to at any time, regardless of how well your Google rankings are performing, and so on.

This is absolutely vital, especially if you are trying to work from home by building an online career. But it’s also good to remember that you can use a mailing list for many other things, and one blog can have more than one mailing list.

This diversity and flexibility is what we’re going to take a look at today.

How to make money from your mailing list

Let’s dive in now and take a look at how you can actually use your blog’s mailing list to make some ethical income. As always, I’d love to know if I’ve missed anything in the comments below.

First, get lots and lots of email subscribers

The first thing we need to talk about is the fact that you want lots and lots of email subscribers on your mailing list. This might sound obvious, but many bloggers have the idea that it’s better to have a small list of highly engaged followers.

This is a bit of a mistake. While it is important to have an active list, it’s more important to try and set the goal of having LOTS of engaged email subscribers, not just a few.

unsub

This is because all subscribers go through a natural life-cycle of being excited and engaged and then fading away and eventually unsubscribing. The graph above, for example, show people unsubscribing as a natural part of the process of signing up to a list.

For this reason it’s vital that you keep adding more and more to prevent the list declining to zero.

So how do we get more email subscribers for our mailing lists?

  1. Write amazing content that solves problems
    The first thing is to make sure you are writing useful content that helps people solve a particular problem. That means knowing who you’re targeting and what they need help with. Make sure you regularly check to see if you’re hitting the right keywords.
  2. Get more traffic to your blog posts
    The next step is to make sure you have a strategy to ensure that you are getting new visitors to your blog. This might be from Google or social or advertising, but it needs to be specific and, once again, regularly assessed to see if it’s working.
  3. Have a dedicated offer
    When that traffic starts to trickle in to your blog it’s important that they find a dedicated offer that encourages them to subscribe to your mailing list. This might be a free PDF eBook or a training course, but it should be centered very tightly around your blog’s main topic and helping those needs further.
  4. Have a specific landing page
    When you have the offer all ready to go, it’s important to set up a specific landing page that promotes the offer and shows people why they might like to subscribe and the benefits that they will get. Don’t leave this just to a small little box in your sidebar but really put it out there.
  5. Reference that offer and landing page regularly
    The next thing you’ll want to do is talk about that landing page and offer in your blog posts and other promotions. If it is targeted correctly, you’ll start to get a nice trickle of people through to the page and signing up to your list.

We’ve talked about this little blogging strategy at length before so it might be a good idea to jump back in and refresh on some of the ways that you can develop this overall picture so as to maximize your chances of success.

Next, build on the strategy above by adding a paid upgrade

If we keep in mind the blogging philosophy that we are trying to help people to solve problems in our particular niche, we can generate income by expanding on the strategy above.

It works like this.

First, follow through the five steps above and then when you get to the end of the last one you add a sixth step that is a paid training course or product that expands on the free giveaway that you gave to people when they signed up.

courses
For example, if you have a look at Digital Photography School you’ll see that there is the regular mailing list that covers blog updates and so on, but then they’ll also promote their paid courses to you over time.

They also have a Christmas special called 12 Days of Christmas that has a bunch of discounts and other offers that are only available for a limited time. This is a really natural and organic way to enhance the content that people are already seeing and seeking out on the mailing list.

google forms
One way you figure out what your subscribers might like to learn more about is by doing a simple blogging survey with Google Forms that offers some options and asks for feedback about enhancements or what might be lacking in the current information.

You can also use more robust services like Survey Monkey which have a lot more features if you want to build a survey that is a little more insightful. For most bloggers, however, a simple and well-planned Google Form should give you enough insights.

filthy casuals
The kind boys over at the Filthy Casuals podcast did this recently and then talked about the survey on a later episode. It seems to have played into their decision to keep making premium episodes on Band Camp whereby listeners give them any amount over $1 to access a podcast on a special topic such as the Mario or Uncharted series evolution.

I’ve bought every single one and never feel like I’m paying for something that should be free, which is exactly how a paid product or upgrade should make you feel.

Then offer an affiliate product in conjunction with more free content

Another alternative way to expand on the above strategies (or replace section two) is to promote an affiliate offer in conjunction with more free information that helps your readers once they have subscribed.

It essentially works the same as way as everything above, but instead of the paid product that you build yourself, you are promoting someone else’s product.


For example, when you subscribe to the Blog Tyrant mailing list you get sent blog updates as well as an automatic Follow Up series which contains an email about getting your blog set up the right way the first time. This is a long-form article that covers a lot of information, but also has a transparent affiliate promotion using a slide out box (screenshot above) that recommends a host to new bloggers.

When you are promoting an affiliate program it’s important to have all the legal disclaimers, but also have a set of rules that you yourself follow as a blogger. For example, here on Blog Tyrant we never promote any affiliate product unless it meets three criteria:

  1. We have to use the product
    If we don’t actually use the product ourselves then how can we recommend it to others.
  2. The product must have support
    It’s important that the product has support staff who are able to assist anyone with technical help.
  3. They must have a refund policy
    Make sure there is a good refund policy so that if our recommendation was bad people can get their money back.

One of the really great things about online business is that by running a blog in a certain niche or writing about a certain topic, you inevitably come across products or services that are useful to you and will thus be useful to other people who want to learn from you.

We have a short post on how to make money from affiliate products that will give you an overview of where you can find the right items to promote and some different ways in which you can get the links in front of people without seeming pushy, and I wrote more extensively about it here.

Ideally, however, you just want the product to appear as a naturally occurring part of the content regardless of whether it is appearing in a mail out or a blog post that you have promoted to your mailing list.

Lastly, add a one-time promotion that goes directly to your mailing list

One-time promotions can be a valuable part of your online strategy, even if it doesn’t seem to directly fit into content plan that you built above.

For example, a few years ago here on Blog Tyrant we did a Private Coaching sale where we took just five bloggers and mentored them. It wasn’t cheap, but it sold out in a few minutes, and it was totally about the mailing list.

If you have a skill in a particular niche that might solve problems for people, you can always consider doing a promotion like this one where the offer is available only for the mailing list. This helps to create a sense of scarcity and exclusivity and, if it goes well, it can be something you repeat again and again.

Another similar method is to use this opportunity to invite people to join a paid section of your site where you are simply asking subscribers to contribute a small figure in order to access the site or a special section of the site where you give more one-on-one help.

I reference him all the time, but Steve Kamb from Nerd Fitness has, in my opinion, done this better than almost everyone else and is a great person to learn from. The entire site is so on-point, and the upgrades and community features that are available really make people feel like they’re part of a family, not a website.

If you want to study how to develop a “flow” on your blog that funnels people towards an organic outcome of products and paid upgrades then this site really is one you should pay attention to.

A final word on making money from mailing lists

The main point with all of this is that we want to be offering our mailing list something that is useful and perfectly on-brand with the rest of the blog. People are more than willing to pay good money for products or services that are going to save them time and provide solutions, and it’s okay to make money from helping them do that.

I’d love to know how you are (or aren’t!) making money with your mailing list and whether you have noticed any particular strategies work well on your site or other blogs that you follow.

Please leave a comment below and let us know.

Top photo © Daniel Villeneuve

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36 Comments. Join in. *Closed after 30 days*

  • Scott Kindred

    Ramsay,

    Intrigued by your idea about the one-time promotion. I have been targeting a higher-end niche and your post helped me see a way to instill that sense of exclusivity you mentioned. A website give-away is the one-time promo idea.

    Thanks,

    Scott


    1. Ramsay

      Great! I hope it goes well!


    2. Slavko

      Hey Scott,

      Make sure to experiment with scarcity and urgency. Social proof won’t hurt as well, but these two are crucial. The one time offer has to be irresistible.

      Also, make sure to experiment with the pricing strategy. Here is article you’ll find handy – it is more of a resource page with several other articles going over the topic.

      https://conversionxl.com/blog/pricing-strategies-13-articles-you-need-to-read/

      It also includes Nathan Barry’s articles (some of the best advice I’ve ever seen on pricing strategies).

      Then, you can also check these two as well (same website):

      https://conversionxl.com/blog/10-principles-of-effective-pricing-pages/

      https://conversionxl.com/blog/pricing-experiments-you-might-not-know-but-can-learn-from/

      Hope it goes well!


  • Laura Routh

    Ramsay, those are really helpful points. I’m still at the build a strong email list part. I realized recently that my subscribe block wasn’t all that noticeable, so I’ve added it to all my new posts.

    Although I know this is frowned on, I also added a “support” button because my website is more science, environment and climate change related. I send out a well-researched newsletter with commentary each month(weekly, as of late) on important environment related topics in the news. It’s an experiment until I come up with a product to sell, like maybe writing a book? I created a page for the donation button with a message about how concerned I am about climate change and that I don’t want to go to Mars.

    Interestingly, even though my news-links series isn’t evergreen content, I’m starting to get organic traffic from some of the older posts. Tags, maybe? I’ll continue adding to my evergreen content, too.

    I once heard about a blogger who made a living from a news-links series. It’s a similar idea to how the Brainpickings website is funded: donations from followers and links to books on Amazon.

    As always, you given me much to think about, and it’s greatly appreciated.


    1. Ramsay

      Sounds like you’ve got some good ideas going on!


  • Soumen Ghosh

    Very useful information. Getting ranked well in SE is becoming tough day be day with the rise of number of blog posts and new websites.

    Could you please provide some insights on how to increase the rate of conversion?

    Thanks,


    1. Ramsay

      That might make for a good blog post!


  • Harish

    It is very Informative and came to know interesting thing,natural life-cycle of subscribers:
    excited>engaged>fading away>unsubscribing. Glad that I read it.
    Thanks.


    1. Ramsay

      Thank you.


  • Stephen Walker

    Love the post Ramsey.
    I like all the suggestions. My problem is sticking it all together.
    The landing page, the thank you page, the email sequence and more.
    Aargh.


    1. Dev3lop

      Happy to help. Use my business site dev3lop for a good starting point. We use a WordPress theme called Uncode from Envato.com, it is very user friendly and easy to split test different design service pages or reiterate by using a plugin for WordPress called duplicate.

      Yoast – helps you drop those on search engines quickly.

      Keep it simple, draw it on paper. Make symbols for content, and write down your strategy!

      What’s the over arching reasoning for your blog, why do they want to go to that landing page?

      Lastly don’t sale it like a car salesmen. No one wants to see your contact button every page, and no one wants to hear about your product and service every page. Make sure every page is relevant to the topic… Do one keyword at a time, and then always know it’s not high school. It’s not college.

      Everything can be edited. Drafted. Published. Anything is safe. Publish everything immediately. Get Google in the know on who you are :-), and never wait to blog.


  • Slavko

    I used to read articles like these and never really did anything with them. If I can ever go back, I’ll definitely give my younger self a slap!

    The email list (if done right) is likely the best income opportunity. It means traffic flowing through your site is not temporary, but there to stay. It might not seem like much, but when you add the numbers they can go rather high.

    Biggest mistake? Never neglect your list. Create a plan, write upfront e-mails if necessary (and spend a lot of time on that), but never neglect your list. Give them something to look forward to when you send a new e-mail.

    I neglected a list of 4k subscribers, and when the product launch came out, only 3 of them bought it. Never neglect the list!

    If you can, create a digital asset and sell it to your email list. Courses and platforms tend to go better, but you can do the same with a book if you can pull it off. (Read my reply to Scott above)

    If you do not have time, energy, knowledge etc, partner up with someone who can provide a quality digital asset. If that person is legit and has social proof backing his work, both of you will prosper, and your subscribers will be happy.

    Great article as always man, I hope people are listening!


    1. Dev3lop

      I’ve never wanted to – but now that I’m looking at scaling. It’s all about the network – networking with bright minds… Networking. Networking. Networking.

      The email list plugs into this, like an input. And if we talked about how emails can be a ‘plug and play’ for your content to help generate ranking like a mofo 😉

      Dude I’m there with you, blog tyrant has changed my life.


    2. Ramsay

      That is a really good point about neglect. Sometimes it’s very hard to manage.


  • Dev3lop

    My niche has been such an expensive niche I’ve learned a lot about high tech blogging over the past two years. And actually because of some design ideas you’ve given me… I’m think about turning all my content into an E-course.

    Each requiring a sign up, to get my TLDR content in the eyes of people truly interested. I’m thinking because my services are so niche, I need to build a funnel per course Vs waiting on their ass to contact us!

    Another great blog.

    Best!
    Tyler


    1. Ramsay

      Could work! Let us know how you go.


  • Chuck Bartok

    A reminder and a tip that works…..
    We regularly ASK our readers to sign in for updates.
    And also share with their friends and recommend to sign up for updates


    1. Ramsay

      Very good point, as always.


      1. Chuck Bartok

        Thank you, Ramsay.


  • Kathy Stowell

    I just answered this question for a local friend who was asking on FB what works for selling. Everyone was saying word of mouth but I answered my email list. I build that know, life and trust factor with a welcome sequence that kicks in for newbies. Four or five emails that explain who I help (moms who love to blog) and what I help them with (stop blogging for fun and start blogging for biz). And then I start giving them a glimpse into some of my best, value-packed content and my story – let them know I’ve been in their shoes as well as case studies of specific ways of how I helped moms just like them.

    And then it’s so important to foster that relationship with consistent emails – like at least once a week – in a tone that I’m writing a quick note to a friend (kind of like you do Ramsay) that ties in with either my current offering (ecourse, coaching training or my new subscription of a blog club) or my one on one coaching.

    Often those who respond will say they’ve been following me for years. So sometimes it takes time for the action taking to kick in but that’s why, like you said, best to get a big list with outreach activity (getting interviewed, guest posting, fb ads, webinars) to increase those statistical chances for sales 😉


    1. Ramsay

      This is a great comment! So valuable. Thank you.


  • Darius Gaynor

    Great read! Nothing wrong with promoting to your email list. As long as you are giving more free content than promotion and you use the products yourself.


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks mate!


  • Prakash Dayani

    Nice Post. I will certainly try some of it.


  • Pedro

    Hey Ramsay,

    Awesome blog post (as usual).
    I have found that ‘trust’ plays a key role in the relationship with our audience. I’m inspired by the fact that you only promote affiliate products that you’re using, that have customer support and that have a money back guarantee.

    Here are just 4 of the ways I am building trust with my email subscribers over at Astute Copy Blogging:
    #1. I Send them flowers and chocolates. “What?” I hear somebody screaming. Here is what I mean: Go the extra mile. Give them extra-ordinary value. Make them feel valued.

    #2. I avoid spam complaints with frequent, consistent mailings. Surprising as it sounds, mailing more often can actually reduce spam complaints.

    #3. I give my audience an unusually great reason to opt-in and stay in. My goal is to work harder than other marketers in my niche to create lead magnets of unusual value. Then give them fantastic reason to remain on your list. Don’t take it for granted that anybody is interested in reading your next email. Give them a reason to want to read it.

    #4. I try to craft subject lines that grab my audience by the eyeballs, and make them want to read the rest of the email. Without a good subject line, the content of the email doesn’t matter.

    Thanks for sharing

    Best regards,

    Pedro


    1. Ramsay

      Lovely work, Pedro. Thank you for taking the time to write that.


  • Susan Velez

    Hi Ramsay,

    I’ve actually just been focusing on growing my email list. It’s been a slow process. I do get new subscribers every month, which I like to celebrate my success.

    Like you said, it’s best to have a big list. Right now I have 106 subscribers, so not even close to 1,000 subscribers.

    While I have to admit, I haven’t really promoted my landing page on social media.

    I need to spend some time this weekend creating my landing page for social media promotion techniques.

    Thanks for sharing these tips, right now my main focus is growing my email list.

    Have a great day 🙂

    Susan


    1. Ramsay

      Let us know how it goes.


  • Ahmad Imran

    Ramsay, I am on the list of a few top and famous bloggers who are considered as authority in their niche.

    Although, mostly, their emails are useful and full of relevant stuff, I have also witnessed a few really pushy and sales-y emails as well.

    And you know what, I wasn’t very impressed as a common user but at the same time I appreciate that they have to monitise through their list as well. So in the end, it is well justifiable.

    A good topic selection as ever. Thanks for sharing.

    Ahmad


    1. Ramsay

      Always appreciate your insights mate!


  • Robin Khokhar

    Hi Ramsay,
    I have used the Email lists to increase my blog traffic but never thought of doing this.
    Thanks for sharing this amazing post.
    Have a good week ahead.


  • Pradeep Chaudhary

    Haha, hey Ramsay, loved your this article as always. I’m Currently pursuing bachelor’s in Mechanical engineering. And always have a dream to be online entrepreneur. And always reading your posts with a dream that one day I’ll start my own blog. It sounds funny that in today’s world I have not started the blog yet but genuinely speaking I don’t get that much time. Do u have any suggestions for me?

    Thanks,
    Pradeep, (India)


  • Sunaina

    very good and useful content.
    Keep sharing with us.


  • Vidya Tiru

    With a new blog (an infant literally) that I am working on now, I am so glad I found blogtyrant! The tips here are easy to understand and I am finally making sense of things I had not for a long time…


  • Criação de Sites BH

    Why I never figured it out. THANK YOU!


  • Arvind Kumar

    Hi Ramsay,

    Building an email list is very good to remain in contact with our readers..you have really mentioned some of the great advantages of building an email list…..the best part of having an email list of our subscribers is that you can share all your blog updates at any time with them and which will ultimately increase your blog traffic….!!

    Great information shared!
    Thanks,
    Arvind


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