How I Generated 100,000+ New Email Subscribers In Under One Year

By Bryan Clark
33 Comments

Impossible? I did it in 11 months and 9 days with a niche site that solved a problem, but didn’t get a ton of traffic.

The traffic I did get, subscribed, purchased, and told their friends that were looking for similar information. Magic? No. Marketing.

Due to a non-disclosure agreement I signed after I sold the site, I can’t tell you the name of it, but I can tell you that it was in the internet marketing niche. To be more specific (and about as specific as I can get) it covered a common concern amongst marketers – how to increase traffic.

I had approximately 40,000 unique visitors a month, and I ranked on the first page for each of my four targeted key phrases, as well as a few that I wasn’t targeting.

As far as traffic generation, it was almost entirely search engine optimization.

I posted 118 posts within the first six months, and then didn’t add another post for the entire 14 months I owned it. I worked on bringing those posts to the front page of Google, and succeeded on quite a few of them. The niche was highly contested, but the keywords I was using weren’t. They were searched for a lot, but not marketed to nearly as much. Sadly, it’s harder to find these niches, but they still exist.

Let Me Tell You How I Did It

Although about three percent of the subscribers were RSS subscribers, the vast majority of them signed up to my AWeber opt-in to download a free book that covered their specific problem – traffic generation.

The book was outlined by me, and then written by an outsourcer for $900 in about three weeks time. Total amount invested in the site was roughly $1,500. Each time I sent out a mailing, I made an average of $844.

I sent one mailing each week with information about niche selection, traffic generation techniques, and how to monetize your existing traffic. The blog itself was almost entirely passive after six months. I didn’t write another article for the blog other than the occasional outsourced article for article marketing purposes. Not one appeared on the blog.

Here’s where a lot of marketers go wrong. I know many of you are saying to yourself, why didn’t he make a course? Why didn’t he charge $27 or $47 for the info each month and sit back and passively create income? Well, the problem with courses is that you have to maintain them.

As anyone that has ever created a course will tell you, getting members is the easy part. Keeping them happy, or keeping them from ripping your content and then leaving is a much different animal. Although I didn’t make anything on the front end, I did gain a subscriber, and I could market to that person indefinitely, assuming he didn’t unsubscribe from the list.

On the back end though, I pitched everything from products to hosting and even grew a nice base for my consulting business. I pulled in well over six figures in the 14 months I owned the site (and even more on the sale), even though on paper I was only showing about $3,400 each month (from the list). Some of the commissions were recurring, and I still get the random check here and there even though I sold the site two years ago for a tidy sum. The additional cash came from the affiliate links within the book itself.

Now here’s how you replicate my success…

Choose A Niche That Solves A Problem

Traffic generation is something that most of us have struggled with at one time or another. The niche was ripe for those looking to boost traffic numbers. A blog, a pop-up opt-in, and a few teaser posts were all it took to start generating leads. It was only about a month in before I had to switch to the next pricing bracket on Aweber.

If you solve a problem, you’ll always have business. I made quite a name for myself by generating traffic to new web properties, so a lot of the initial promotion was word of mouth. I didn’t do much for the next few months before my SEO efforts started to kick in. I was achieving month over month growth by helping people with one of the most common problems online. You can do the same, if you find a problem, and then solve it.

Make The Decision To Build A List Early On

I’ve read on countless blogs that say you should avoid monetization until you have a substantial base of readers. Not true. I had the opt-in from the day I added the first post, and the random Google Adsense ad here and there to pay me for each click. The Adsense didn’t make me a ton of cash, but it was a nice bonus to the money the list and the book were generating.

On my first few blogs, my biggest regret is that I didn’t start to build an email list earlier. The gold is in the list, but I didn’t learn this until one of my many conversations with Yaro.

Determine Your Mailing Frequency And Be Consistent

Whether you plan on mailing your list every day, or once a year, be consistent. Once you pick a frequency, that’s what you need to stick with the entire time you run your list.

Some marketers are advocates on posting sporadically and waiting until you have your best content to send out a mailing. Wrong again. The content should always be solid, but the more you mail your list (without going overboard) the more you begin to “train” them to open your emails. Provide value and they’ll always be happy to read whatever you send them.

Not only will they read your material, they’ll start to trust your opinion and that’s when the cash really starts rolling in.

Use Cross Promotion & Viral Backends For Maximum Effect

The biggest single bump in my subscribers came when I decided that over the course of one month I’d do a cross-promotion with several marketers in my niche. They marketed my free ebook to their list, and I pitched their product of choice in theirs. Subscribers poured in.

Did I mention that I averaged a profit of 44 cents on every person that signed up for my ebook? This isn’t income made from the list, this is strictly from clicking on affiliate links within the book.

Not only did I cross-promote, I also had an option that allowed anyone downloading the ebook to tweet it to their friends for a free month’s worth of hosting (I was paid if they renewed after the free month via affiliate commission), and an additional PLR ebook on search engine optimization. Not a bad way to kill two birds with one stone. Tweet, Tweet.

Teaser Content Is Gold

Teaser content – in my opinion – is underutilized. I used it on approximately 25 percent of all posts. My best tips weren’t given away for free (or, without signing up for free to my list), but cut off just before they got to the “meat” of the article. I’d write a catchy headline that was guaranteed to pique curiosity, write 250 or so words leading up to the big secret, and then place a link telling them that they can read more if they sign up for my newsletter. Once they did, it gave them the password to read the rest of the post.

I implemented this in month three, and saw roughly three times the growth I had seen the previous months.

Give Something Away

My last tip is probably the most important. Instead of selling that product of yours for $97 one-time, why not sign up a customer that you can market to for life?

I gave away my best material to my list and then gained people that were so happy with what I gave away for free that they couldn’t wait to see what I was going to offer when they actually had to pay. Selling a product to a new customer – in my opinion – is short sighted.

Acquire the customer, build the relationship by giving them valuable goods for free, and then pitch your products, or your friends’ products to them. If you pitch to them before adding them to your list, and they don’t bite, you’ve lost them for good. If you have them on the list, and they don’t bite, you’ll get another chance next week. See how this becomes way more valuable than a one-off customer?

Long story short, I sold this site in 2009 because I didn’t feel I was able to add any value to the newsletters anymore (I was running out of top-notch content), so I turned over the keys to someone that was hungry to keep it going.

I sold the site, the product, and the list for a great deal of money (still my biggest site flip) and although I didn’t get to keep the list, I made over $1,800 a month from it (on top of the sale price) for about a year after that. I’m still bringing in roughly $4,000 each year on a list I haven’t seen for over two years. Recurring commissions… not bad, huh?

So, my quick summary for the day is – don’t always pick the low hanging fruit. Sometimes by giving up money upfront, you are making yourself more in the long run. Big business calls this a loss leader. I call it smart marketing. What say you?

Bryan Clark

About Bryan Clark

Bryan Clark is a professional writer, blog editor and evangelist. He has contributed to leading news properties and blogs in tech, entrepreneurship, finance, and the digital lifestyle. Bryan has earned features on Problogger, Entrepreneurs-Journey and USA Today. Bryan works with Growth Partner, a venture fund and startup platform for web businesses.

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33 Comments

  • Hi Bryan,

    Great post, what was your number one source for traffic generation? I read you used SEO but you didn’t focus on SEO until the third month, am I correct on this?

    If that’s the case, than what was your source for traffic generation? Did you use paid traffic? PPC? Facebook Advertising? etc?

    Or did you develop strategic partnerships with other vendors or blogs in your market by asking them to market your free ebook to their list and in return you would promote their product on YOUR list?

    • It was a mix of all of the above. I used some paid traffic, but I couldn’t get it to convert at a rate that I felt was acceptable. I outsourced some forum posting, and blog commenting for the bulk of the traffic in the early months. From day one I was getting “some” SEO traffic, but the brunt of it didn’t come until around month three.

  • Well, Bryan, it doesn’t surprise me that you could get so many subscribers in that niche. I’d like to read about the same success in the niche that isn’t related to money, health or self-development but is concerned to something like sewing, knitting, something more hobby’ish.

    • In a smaller niche, you don’t need 100,000 subscribers. The same methods work no matter what the niche.

  • You stopped blogging to write to the subscribers. How can I do both in the same time without giving duplicate content by email and blogging?
    How to choose what to send by email and what to post on the blog?

    Thank you so much for the insights. Very, very, very valuable.
    :)

    • Test, test, test. My niche didn’t require constant updates. I wasn’t building a readerbase like Yaro, I was just giving search engines a place to send people to sign up for my list.

  • Paul L.

    Great post and a great marketing model, but I wonder how easy it would be to replication in other niches. Internet marketing has lots of products with affiliate programs. Other niches (especially those that are not highly competitive) have few affiliate products to promote and ones offering recurring commission are even rarer.

    • Forget about the numbers and focus on the model. It works no matter what niche you are in.

  • Thanks for sharing this concrete example Bryan, it’s inspired me to try it on a new project I’m about to launch with a partner of mine.

  • I like your Use Cross Promotion & Viral Backends For Maximum Effect. I will be finding partners with lists to trade and send promotions.

  • Thanks Bryan-nice post
    How long were your keyword phrases if they weren’t very competitive?
    Mark

    • 2-4 words mostly. One long tail was 5 words, and brought 1/3rd of my traffic.

  • Long time RSS reader here. I simply had to reply and thank you for this post. It’s one of the best ones I’ve read this year, Bryan. Have you tried experimenting with more teaser posts (than 25%)? Did it backfire? Did you still offer a bonus for signups? Or was the teaser content enough? Thanks again!

    • You have to have enough content on the site to keep people satisfied. If I went overboard on the teaser posts, I’m thinking (but I didn’t try) that I would have turned some people off. Give them some good bits for free, and you’ll have their imagination running wild with what could possibly be considered “premium content” in your list.

  • Hey Brian,
    I learned a ton from reading this post. I will use your model to help my blog become more successful. Thanks.

  • Awesome information Bryan, I will love to start doing this technique when I get some money for email marketing.

  • This is a really nice post with great information which will sure be helpful to me the future. Thanks a lot for sharing your experience with us !!

  • That is quite impressive! Plus you give away some valuable insights that few are willing to give…

  • A very important part of achieving the above is CONSISTENCY and COMMITMENT. Unfortunately many people lack this (including me at times) and I think that’s one of the main reasons many fail. Also inner conflicts about different aspects of the business and the work do not help. so, apart from having a sound strategy for your marketing it’s absolutely important to work on the inner issues at all times!

    • I find it helps me to make mind maps. This allows me to squash any conflict while seeing all sides of a situation.

  • [...] How I Generated 100,000+ New Email Subscribers In Under One Year (entrepreneurs-journey.com) [...]

  • Inspiring and motivating. Thank you!

  • Joe

    realy motivating… :)

  • Hi Bryan

    Great post! I am fairly new to the Internet marketing game and I have yet to create an email subscription service for my small business articles.

    As an aside my site tries to solve a problem by demystifying the process of starting a small business.

    A couple of questions:

    Have you seen a trend away of late from enewsletter subscriptions to social media/rss etc?

    Also how long would the optimum autoresponder campaign run for – one year, two years, forever?

    Thanks once again for this very useful post.

  • Bryan,

    This is quite brilliant and a huge relief for me, as I’ve spent an insane amount of time lately on SEO and now I can see it will pay off soon.

    Thanks for being willing to share.

    I was wondering if choosing SEO or PR was a better investment.

    Thanks!

    Krizia

  • Hey Bryan, excellent information here. Most times, bloggers are so quick to say that they succeed but hesitant to say ‘how’. You’ve given a lot of tips here that I can use, thank you. I know that my emails are not consistent (it’s the Lion-Otter personality type that I am LOL) and frankly, I think we give away too much.. over 80% of our posts are freebies and tips. I know the 3:1 rule but again, I find that I lack in consistency and regulating my system. These are definitely areas I need to work on – but the first step to solution building is to identify the problem, and you have helped me to do that. Thank you. Keep on bloggin’ and we’ll keep on readin’ :D

    Sally O’Connor

  • I love this post. Really inspiring and I like the idea of the smart marketing….can pay good dividends down the road. Can you say how you can your strategy on identifying the deep part of the niches people were just dancing around?

  • Great insights there Bryan on building a high traffic and monetized site. You didn’t mention how much the site sold for, was that protected by the NDA as well?

    Dwight Anthony
    Financial Freedom Lives

  • Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the post. I found it really useful for when I am looking at setting up another site. I have a website that is around 8 months old and people either use the service of they don’t, but I don’t have a physical product. Do you think I could still set up a newsletter and build a list? Without saying what my service is as I am not sure if I am allowed on here and don’t want to break any rules, people either need it or they don’t if that makes sense, so I am not sure if a newsletter is beneficial. Do you think you could offer any advice. Thanks in advance.

  • You stopped blogging to write to the subscribers. How can I do both in the same time without giving duplicate content by email and blogging?
    How to choose what to send by email and what to post on the blog?

  • Excellent article. I appreciate the cross-cut of your method to build a huge list. I have been attempting to build a list for some time, without much success. I am starting to feel as though I am pulling in the wrong type of traffic.

    I will re-evaluate my seo and see if I need to make changes.

    Thanks for the insight, Bryan.

    Tony Brayley.

  • Bryan,
    This is excellent stuff here. Most times, bloggers are so quick to say that they succeed but hesitant to say ‘how’. You’ve given a lot of tips here that I can use, thank you. Honestly, I think we give away too much. ;)

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