Creating and building an email list might not be at the top of your list of priorities right now as an outdoor blogger. I mean, after all, we just want to go on epic adventures, write about them and maybe share a few others the lessons we’ve learned, right?
But here’s the hard truth – if you’re just publishing new blog posts of your most recent trips or gear reviews and then hoping someone out there will read it, become totally fascinated with you, want to learn more and keep reading all your new blog posts each week…. that probably won’t happen.
This post may contain affiliate affiliate links for your convenience, see my full disclosure for more info.
More likely, they may stumble onto your post, read it for 5-10 seconds and then bounce, never to be seen or heard from again.
The internet, and our attention spans seem to pick up the pace and be moving faster and faster each day. That’s why an email list has become such a powerful tool for bloggers, including outdoor bloggers.
What is an email list?
An email list is basically a list of email addresses of people who already sort of know, like and trust you. They want more of what you have to offer, so they give you their email address. These are your people, they are your community.
You’ll want to keep and grow your email list with an email service provider, we’ll touch more on email service providers in a minute.
Why do you need one?
Many new bloggers, and I find some super niche bloggers like us outdoor bloggers don’t really see the point of an email list or understand it, it just sounds like more work and more things to add to the never ending to do list.
But having your very own email list is key to creating a community of fans who want to actually read your content, hear what you have to say and eventually, even buy products from you!
If you ever hope to make money from your blog, I really do believe building, nurturing and selling to your email list is one of the best ways to get there. Of the other bloggers I follow, most report 70% or more of their income comes directly from selling their own products or affiliate products to their list.
While I’m not making a full time income yet, the money I’ve made from launching products to my list is in the hundreds of dollars compared to the few cents or $5 or $10 I make here and there through affiliate links in my blog posts alone.
Emailing your list is also the most reliable and consistent way to keep in touch with people, it’s not Facebook or Instagram or even Instastories. With bloggers and businesses reach constantly being throttled by social media algorithms, an email list gives us direct access to our readers – no algorithm involved!
Okay, okay, I guess email spam filters may be considered an ‘algorithm’ of sorts, but that’s a whole other topic for another day. For now, just know that email spam filters are still much easier to bypass than the Facebook algorithm.
Best email service providers
To get started building your email list – legally – you’ll need to use an email service provider. This is a company who basically provides the software that allows people to subscribe to your list of their own free will, unsubscribe themselves at any time, and allows you to actually send emails and automated emails to your list whenever and however you want to.
Not providing your readers and subscribers an easy, obvious and prompt way to opt out of your emails is not only incredible annoying, disrespectful and unprofessional but also is not compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act put in place by the Federal Trade Commission. You can learn of basics of the CAN-SPAM Act here and how to implement it in your email marketing, most of it is pretty straight forward, but not providing subscribers a way to opt out of your list is one of the biggest mistakes I frequently see in my own inbox. (And those people get a nastygram from me to be totally honest.)
I think it fires me up so much to see these mistakes because as long as you are using an email service provider and not just using your personal Joe Schmo gmail account for your business, it’s actually very easy to follow the law and not annoy your subscribers 🙂
You’ll find there are many options out there for email service providers, they all different levels of bells and whistles, different levels of customer support (this is a big one to watch out for,) and different price points.
If you’re just starting out or don’t have a large budget to invest in an email service provider, I highly recommend Mailerlite. They are free up to 1,000 subscribers, and I’ve found them to be the one most affordable service providers even after that as your list grows.
While Mailerlite is not the most advanced software out there, they have all the basic functions you’ll need, especially if you’re just starting to build your list, including creating optin forms, landing pages for your optin forms, subscriber tagging so you can segment your list and send super specific emails only to the people who are interested, plus the #1 reason why I switched from Mailchimp to Mailerlite – is the ability to automatically move subscribers from one list or group to another. You’re going to need to do that once you have a welcome email sequence (or a few) set up to then transfer the subscriber onto your main newsletter list so you can continue to email them real time updates and newsletters.
If you already have a decent list and you are making some income from it, then ConvertKit might be a better option for you. I only mention ConvertKit in the post because I know a lot of bloggers who use and love it, like genuinely love it, they’re not just trying to make an affiliate sale for it.
From what I understand ConvertKit might be faster and easier to learn (although I’ve also read that that’s because they have less options overall, so yes it is less overwhelming to learn) and it used to be that ConvertKit was one of the more affordable services that still offered subscriber tagging. But Mailerlite has made some big strides over the last year and also offers tagging now…. for much cheaper.
You can try out ConvertKit for 14 days for free here and see if you like it – let us know how it goes! I actually am also curious to learn more of the benefits of ConvertKit, because I like I said, I know a lot of people love it, but on the surface it seems to do pretty much everything Mailerlite can do, so I’m not sure why.
Then once you’ve finally made it as a blogger, it may be time to upgrade to Drip. Again, I know a lot of people who use and love Drip and from what I understand it is one of the best and most powerful email service providers out there as far as the automations, sequences and tagging go. But they are a little pricey for me at this point.
Of course, if you’re interested you can test Drip out for 14 days and see if you like it, or even see how it stacks up against ConvertKit or Mailerlite!
How to build your list
Now, how the heck do you actually get people onto your email list?
At first it probably will just be a few close family members or friends, which is totally normal. I actually appreciated that in the beginning because it let me ‘practice’ emailing my list and get some pretty honest feedback in return before I started emailing 1,000+ random strangers each week!
First, the actual logistics, once you’ve decided on an email service provider, you create optin forms (the little box where people put in their name and email address) within your email service provider, and then get as many eye balls on the opt in forms as possible!
Embed the form into every blog post, put it in your side bar, add a pop up to your site, create a landing page just for your opt in form and share that on Pinterest, in Tailwind tribes and all over social media – regularly! You can’t just share it once and call it good, you need be regularly talking about your optin, sharing your optin, recycling your optin, creating new optins, it never ends now. Sorry!
Getting eye balls on your opt in form is only half the battle, you also need to give people a reason to hand over their email address. Your optin and optin form need to be compelling.
The most common way to do this is to create a free offer or a freebie that they will receive when they sign up. I create my freebies in Canva and love it. I even just used the free version for my first few years and it did everything I needed, but then was gifted Canva Pro one year for Christmas and don’t think I could go back to the free version now just because Pro has too many features I like!
On top of offering an awesome free resource in exchange for their email, your form itself should be eye catching and attractive. It should stand out on your site, jump out at your readers and be immediately clear what it is for – Get X resource so you can start Y today! With a big ole ‘download now’ button. I also create my graphics for my optin forms in Canva.
If your list isn’t growing as quickly as you’d like, ask yourself if you’re really doing all the things, and be honest with the answer.
Have you created a different, super specific, freebie for each category on your blog?
Have you created a designated landing page for each freebie, plus optin forms to embed through out your site?
Have you created at least six Pinterest pins per freebie and pinned them to applicable boards, group boards, and Tailwind Tribes, and Smartloop if you have room in there?
Have you been posting about your freebies on all social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) at least once a week?
Have you been mentioning your freebies in your live videos on Facebook, Instagram and/or YouTube and giving a call to action to download them within the video each week?
Have you tried hosting a giveaway?
Have you tried running a 5-7 challenge?
I don’t recommend doing those last two things every week, but maybe once a quarter or twice a year would give your list a nice boost of new subscribers. But all those other things – you should be doing each and every week! If you really want to grow faster, you could run paid ads on Pinterest, Facebook or Instagram to get people to sign up for your list.
But I wouldn’t run too many ads unless you either have the money lying around to just invest your blog, or you have a way to recoup that money through either a small trip wire product or a bigger launch that you will sell to your list down the line to cover the ad costs.
What to send to your list
As soon as you start getting people on your list, you should write to them! Start creating a connection, share more valuable information or a personal story.
First, ideally immediately, you should set up an automation in your email service provider to deliver whatever free thing you promised them when they gave you their email.
After that, you could also create an automated welcome sequence of a few emails, spaced over a few days or a few weeks, to warm them up to you and your emails. You could share even more free resources, some of your best tips or blog posts, some more of the behind the scenes of your blog or some of your personal experiences, then after they’ve gone through your entire welcome sequence, you can add them into your main ‘newsletter list.’
Your main list is where you’ll keep all your active subscribers and then email once a week or once every other week at least. You can send them your recent posts or stories or recent adventures, you can recommend gear or guide services, or let them know your thoughts on any big news happening in our industry at the time.
Those are just a few examples, the possibilities are literally endless here and are only limited by your own mindset or imagination.
Just promise me you won’t be spammy McSpammerson over there and also follow the rules laid out by the FTC ok?? Okay! 🙂
Let us know what’s worked best for you when it comes to building your list as an outdoor blogger in the comments below!