The Most Important Aspect of a Successful Blog is Your Email List: How I Grow Mine with Thrive Leads - Elizabeth Stapleton
Elizabeth Stapleton
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The Most Important Aspect of a Successful Blog is Your Email List: How I Grow Mine with Thrive Leads

As I’m sure you’ve heard from pretty much everyone in the blogging space, your email list is super important. Because you own your email list, unlike social media platforms where if they decide change something, you have to just accept it. You have no control.

With an email list, no matter what, you own and control what happens with your list. No matter what changes are made to social media platforms, you can keep communicating with your list.  

Just so you know, this post may contain affiliate links. Meaning I receive commissions for purchases made through those links, at no cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. You can read my disclosure policy for more info.

Everything Comes Back to Your Email List

So you wrote your blog and are working to make it successful. You know that to do so you need to be providing people with helpful solutions. You are leading them on a transformation they want to accomplish. However, to successfully monetize your blog or business you need to communicate directly with your audience. 

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Blog Posts vs Email

Blog posts are like flyers on the cork board in your mail room. An email is the personal letter in your mail box. Which do you pay more attention to? 

You may glance at the cork board occasionally, but you always check your mail. Which is why you want to grow your email list. It provides you with the most direct communication with your audience.

This means that everything you do, from writing content, to scheduling social media updates, to creating those great images for Pinterest, is all so you can get people to subscribe to your email list.

You want them to opt-in to that content upgrade or great newsletter. Or maybe you get them to sign up by offering them some kind of discount. You do what works best for your business to get them on your list.

Literally, everything you do is to get them onto your list. Now in order for them to sign up for your list, you need to have forms and opt-ins all over your site. There’s a lot of tools out there that can help you do this and chances are you’ll use more than one.  

Start with Your Email Marketing Company

There are lots of different email marketing companies. Some of the most heard of are Convertkit, Mail Chimp, and Aweber.

Personally, I use, love, and recommend Convertkit. It was created by a blogger for bloggers. Meaning it works the way you would want an email marketing tool to work. 

 Best Email Marketing Tool

I started with MailChimp, quickly left, went to Aweber, and finally settled on Convertkit. I love how easy it is to use. It makes confirming opt-ins and delivering content upgrades (like worksheets) a snap. I use the WordPress plugin and then just choose what form I want on each post and page.

One thing that makes Convertkit stand out from other email marketing services is that they don't count subscribers twice. Most other email marketing tools count subscribers on each form, so if a subscriber subscribed to more than one form, they are counted more than once. Since pricing is typically determined by the number of subscribers this could drive up your costs significantly.

Related: How to Start Building Your List: Email Marketing Company Comparison

Tools to Create Even Better Opt-ins

Most email marketing companies have some forms that you can use on your site to allow people to opt in to you list. However, some of them are super basic.

Additionally, its been shown that two step opt-ins, are more successful. Two-step opt-ins are where they click a button and then an email form pops up.

The idea being that they’ve already said yes once by clicking the button. Making them more likely to continue on and give you their email. This is opposed to showing an offer and immediately asking for an email which can be off putting.  

There are different options to help you create opt-ins that are irresistible so you get higher conversion rates. And you want those high conversion rates because it means more people are subscribing to your list. One company you’ve probably heard of to create good opt-in is Leadpages. 

Using Convertkit with LeadPages

Leadpages does integrate with with Convertkit so you can definitely create those beautiful opt-ins and landing pages using Leadpages.

Personally, I used Leadpages for a long time but ultimately it was just too expensive. I didn’t feel like I was making the most of it or that it was helping me in the best way. 

For example, every time I had a post or page I had to go in and add the lead pages form, it made it one more thing to do on the never ending list of things to do when reading a blog post.  It was just a big hassle to ensure that I always had opt-ins available.

And as I mentioned, it cost a lot of money if you’re not paying for an annual plan or a biannual plan then it’s $37 a month and you don’t even get the A/B testing feature. Paying for email marketing and a tool like Leadpages and hosting, it can all add up fast.

I left Leadpages when I decided to use the Thrive Themes Membership for my site redesign. It includes Thrive Leads which in my opinion is much better than Leadpages and cheaper to boot.

Switching to Using Thrive Leads with Convertkit

I ended up getting the entire Thrive Themes membership which cost $19/mo when paid annually, so $228 a year. However, you can get Thrive Leads on its own, which is just a one time cost $67.

Now switching from one tool to another is never super easy. There is always going to be some stuff that comes up. However, what I found worked best to get rid of those old Leadpage buttons and opt-ins was using a plugin called Better Search and Replace.

Basically I just figured out what the code was for each of the different Leadpage opt-in forms I had created, then I searched for them and replaced the code with a blank space.

Once I had all that old code and stuff that wasn’t gonna work anymore gone, I started working on using Thrive Leads. 

Now here’s a lesson in how not to do things. I got Thrive Leads and I jumped right in. I figured it was like Leadpages where I would create a two step opt-in and use an image as a trigger. Silly me. Remember the goal is always to work smarter not harder.

A Lesson in Learning a Tool Before Using it

So after doing that for a few opt-ins I realize there’s actually a much smarter way to add opt-ins to my site using Thrive Leads. It was with Lead Groups and now, oh my gosh, I am obsessed with Thrive primarily because of Lead Groups. 

How Lead Groups Work

With lead groups you can create a grouping of a specific opt-in. For example, on my other site, I have my side hustling freebie and  I want to show it on all my posts about side hustling. I want to show an opt-in in the content, below the content, and maybe sometimes as a ribbon or slide in. I could even do a light box. So what I do is I set up a Lead Group. 

For each of those opt-ins I can use a design template or start from scratch, I could make it a one step or two step opt-in. Where instead of an image with a “button” in it, there is actually a clickable button.

The beauty of creating all these opt-in forms for each specific content upgrade in a Lead Group is the display options. You can set rules for when and how they show.

For example, I can say show it on all post categorized as “side hustles.” Then I can have another lead group for my budget workbook that shows on all my posts categorized as “personal finance basics.” Then I can have my money 101 opt-in as a catchall so if none of the other rules apply there is still a form showing.

With Lead Groups, I'm always giving my audience an option to opt-in to my email list. So, I’m never losing out on people being able to subscribe especially when I get those big traffic bursts from a Pin going viral.

Lastly, Lead Groups are hierarchical, so the one at the top if it has the same display rule as one below, the one on top will show rather than the lower ranked one. For this reason, you catchall should be at the bottom.

Lead Groups from my other website

Other Options In Thrive Leads

In addition to Lead Groups you can also set up Thrive Boxes and Lead Shortcodes.

For example, if a content upgrade really only applies to one specific post and you know you aren’t going to use it for any other post, rather than doing a lead group you may just set up a Thrive Box for the one post.  

You can also set up your Lead Groups so they do not display on specific posts or pages, that way you aren’t confusing your reader with different opt-ins on the same page. 

Overall the display options in Thrive Leads are really flexible. It’s just awesome (I mentioned I’m obsessed right?). By using Thrive Leads and Lead Groups, I don’t have to worry about coming up with new content upgrade for every post. And when I do come up with another freebie for my site it is easy to implement it on the post that would most likely convert the opt-in.  

Thrive Lead Analytics and More Than Doubling My Subscriber Rates

Now for some results. In the first six months of year when I was using Convertkit with Leadpages I got about 185 subscribers and 80 of those are from a giveaway. Meaning it was really more like 100 subscribers in the first six months of the year. If you average that out, it comes to about 30 subscribers a month.

Since using Thrive Leads, in a little over four months (4.25) I’ve had over 300 subscribers which averages out to more than 70 subscribers a month. This is more than double the number subscribers I was getting before and BTW I haven’t done a giveaway in that timeframe. So I’m seeing a huge increase in my subscribers by using Thrive Leads.

With Thrive Leads I can see what content is converting best, and which opt-ins have the highest conversion rates. I can also send links to posts to those already on my list where when they go to look at the post they won’t see the forms. It’s like voodoo email marketing magic. 

Bottom Line 

If you are looking for a fantastic tool to help you increase your conversions, I cannot recommend Thrive Leads enough. At a one time cost of $67 it is a steal compared to other tools out there.

While there is a learning curve, if you take the time to watch the tutorials, like I finally did, you will be on your way to gaining more subscribers to your email list. Which as we all know, is the most important thing for your blog and business.

Blogging tools i recommend

Bigscoots (hosting) is the hosting service I use. The customer service has been fantastic. When I moved my Squarespace site to wordpress, I had a lot of questions, they had the answers. When I screwed up a few things, they were able to help me fix them. They have been awesome to work with and I highly recommend using BigScoots for hosting your blog

Hosting starts at just $3.55/month, which is excellent considering how amazing their customer service is.

Bluehost (hosting): When I started blogging, I hosted my blog on Bluehost as it seemed the most recommended hosting service. Bluehost worked just fine when I was starting out but I outgrew it. When I needed help I was able to get it, though it wasn't quite as personable as BigScoots, that being said Bluehost can be a great option to start.

Convertkit (Email marketing) I started with MailChimp, quickly left, went to Aweber, and finally settled on Convertkit. I love how easy it is to use. It makes confirming opt-ins and delivering content upgrades (like worksheets) a snap. I use the WordPress plugin and then just choose what form I want on each post and page.

One thing that makes Convertkit stand out from other email marketing services is that they don't count subscribers twice. Most other email marketing tools count subscribers on each form, so if a subscriber subscribed to more than one form, they are counted more than once. Since pricing is typically determined by the number of subscribers this could drive up your costs significantly.

Making Sense of Affiliate marketing (monetizing your blog): Michelle is an affiliate marketing maven. She regularly makes over $50k a month from affiliate marketing. I bought her course at the end of Nov. 2016 and mid-December 2016 while I'm still working to implement everything I've learned, I've already seen an increase in my affiliate marketing income. She really knows what she is talking about and the Facebook community that accompanies the course is a terrific resource. Learn more about Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

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About the Author Elizabeth Stapleton

Elizabeth Stapleton is the founder and voice behind Less Debt More Wine and ElizabethStapleton.com. She is a Pinterest marketer, online entrepreneur, and recovering attorney whose writing has been featured on Entrepreneur.com, The Huffington Post, The Penny Hoarder, Budgets Are Sexy, Credit Sesame, and Magnify Money. Additionally, she has been quoted in articles on Business Insider, Student Loan Hero, and Nerd Wallet.

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