The Basics of Building a Better Subscriber List

A subscriber list is more than just a vanity metric. It’s key to any online business’s success and the most direct connection to your audience. It’s the validation of your audience, your presence, and your available reach.

I want to teach you why you need to invest in a healthy subscriber list, what kind of subscriber lists there are, and how to quickly build a broad subscriber list to use for your business’s advantage.

It’s rather simple.

Prioritize the ROI

I’ve made an acronym to help ingrain this concept in your memory and to help you understand the benefits of a subscriber list. That acronym is “AARR” or “the pirate subscriber motto” which stands for Amplification, Authority, Reach and Retention.

Here’s what I mean:

Amplification - The process of hyping your newest content to ensure that it reaches its maximum audience and sharing potential.

Authority - The trust → leads → followers cycle. It’s a network effect. The leader is all alone until someone joins in. High numbers are directly proportional to trust, which gets rid of hesitation.


Why do you think people like Orman Clark (highly acclaimed web designer) throws his Dribbble, Twitter, RSS and Email subscriber counts at the very top of his websites like Themezilla and PremiumPixels? It’s a massive trust indicator.

Reach - For every person following you there is an average of 200 following them. This means that if you have 1,000 subscribers and every one of them shares your content you could have a potential reach of 200,000 users, and that’s on the conservative end.

Retention - The act of keeping customers. A subscription list is a tried and true method of transforming one-time customers into repeat buyers. Encourage customers to opt-in, and keep the relationship alive.

Choose the Highest Impact Methods

Email - The runner of the pack. Email is the most accessible and most widespread subscription method there is. Businesses are cut-throat to create a strong email list and you should be too. Any large department store will always hound you for your email address. This is because they can send you heavily targeted outreach at a moment’s notice of a promotion. Thinks AE, Express, Macy’s etc.

RSS - Not as prevalent as it used to be but still used to a wide extent. Google recently cut off their Google Reader service, but that doesn’t mean this medium is dead. Not by a longshot. Companies like Feedly still take great advantage of RSS to promote blogs and content streams. Tim Ferriss has implemented this on his blog and has more subscribers than most startups have customers.

Social - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Dribbble are all tools for building a social subscriber list. Having a strong social following is highly useful for a number of reasons far spread from just the “AARR” principles noted above. Think about how GoPro used their subscriber list to send out free products on a daily basis under the “Everything we make” sweepstakes. They were able to capitalize off of their audience to have constant a visitors stream to their site on a daily basis.


Use These Tools to Get Up and Running Fast

Save time with the following tools and tactics:

Mailchimp is the first on my list. It’s easy, clean, user-friendly, and free up to 2,000 emails a month.

Mailchimp has many integrations with modern CMS’s like Wordpress. You can also link to a dedicated subscription landing page if you are throwing a link in a blog post or something of the sort.

Feedburner is a close second. It lacks customizability but its automation capabilities are robust. Google offers this easy service to create email subscriber lists for your blog or RSS subscriber lists simultaneously. Feedburner will let you see the reach of your subscribers and blog posts as you publish them (via email).

Hellobar is just a quick add-on to your website that can help generate more subscribers through targeted call-to-actions. It’s free for a small number of users and then $4.99 for a monthly subscription.

This easy to install javascript plugin helped Tim Ferriss sell more books of his New York Times Bestsellers “The 4-Hour Workweek”, “The 4-Hour Body” and “The 4-Hour Chef” using call to actions placed at the header of his blog.


Using proper call-to-actions is always an efficient way of building out your list. Placing subscribe buttons in prominent places like Moz does on their blogs helps increase your subscriber base and lets people know where your business is at around the web.


Final Thoughts: Ideas to Try

Put your new knowledge to use. Here’s how you can make the most out of your list:

  • To amplify visibility for new content production

  • To use in outreach campaigns for content promotion

  • To promote consistently updated newsletters for thought leadership in your industry

  • To promote new services, products, or company announcements.

Last but not least, remember to focus on the human side of the relationship. Remember that you’re talking to a customer on the other side of the computer screen.