Making Money with Email Lists (Works for Niche Sites too!)

“The money is in the list.” You hear that phrase over and over again if you follow any internet marketing blog or podcast. And it’s true! Sure, there are plenty of other ways to make money online. But, making money with email lists has been proven to be extremely effective. It is so effective that it is pretty much mandatory that any and every website owner should be building and growing their email list. I think popular internet marketing blogger, Derek Halpern, said it best when he stated…

If you're not building an email list, you're an idiot. ~ Derek HalpernClick To Tweet

Video by Derek Halpern from SocialTriggers – Click Here to view directly on YouTube

Only 2 Ways to Make Money with Email Lists

From my own experience over the last several years, I can tell you with confidence that there are only 2 ways to make money with an email list. There is a right way and a wrong way. Unfortunately, both are very effective. And I have experience both as a buyer from other peoples email lists and as a seller from my own email lists. In both cases, I much prefer the right way.

The following explanations of right vs. wrong are solely based on my own opinions and preferences.

The Right Way

Build a targeted list of email subscribers. Give away tons of value for free first and then offer relevant products or services that will help or serve them.

People usually won’t voluntarily add their email addresses to your list. You have to offer them something in exchange. This something is typically called an opt-in bribe or an opt-in magnet. Whatever it is, it has to be something that people really want and that they will gladly hand over their email address to get.

My favorite strategy for offering opt-ins lately is something called The Content Upgrade Strategy. I’ve been experiencing incredible success with it for several months now. Hint: I’m even using it at the end of this post!

Once you have subscribers on your email list, you have the option to send them automated emails at predetermined intervals (called a follow-up series or autoresponder series). Typically, a best practice would be to use the first 3 or 4 emails in this series to offer more free value for your subscribers. Don’t try to sell anything until after the 3rd or 4th email. This is called, building trust.

After you’ve gained trust from your subscribers, then it is okay to start offering products or services. Always make sure that whatever it is you are offering is relevant to your audience or subscriber base. Do your best to explain the offering in detail and show exactly how it will help or serve them.

Don’t just sell, sell, sell. Use future emails to gain even more trust by offering more free value. Teach your audience something. Give away secrets. Make them feel like they are part of an exclusive club. And when you do sell, present the product in a manner that isn’t pushy or sales-y, but rather in a passive or unassertive (non-forced) way.

The Wrong Way

Get email subscribers any way you can – targeted or not. Offer very little or no free value and send out regular emails blasts that do nothing but try to sell.

There are lots of ways to get peoples email addresses added to your list(s). Some are scammy or even spammy. Others are legit. But what you do with those email addresses and how you treat them is what makes this way wrong (in my opinion).

One example… When I buy a product or service from somebody, they get my email address so they can deliver that product to me. I have no problem being added to some sort of email list that they have in order to keep me updated about future upgrades or updates to the product. But I feel abused when they use my email address to try to sell me several other products that may or may not be related to the original product that I purchased from them.

Another example… I might get on somebody’s email list because I really want whatever their opt-in bribe is. I get some value when I get that opt-in bribe – but after that I never hear from that person unless they are trying to sell me something. Not cool man! I feel betrayed when I am treated like that. I’ve been on email lists where I don’t hear from the owner for months – but as soon as they have something to sell me, I’ll start getting multiple emails from them per day, for several days in a row. Annoying!!

Effective Email Marketing

As I mentioned, the right way and the wrong way of email marketing are both very effective. I’ve purchased products myself that were marketed to me via email in a way that really annoyed me. In fact, one of my favorite tools that I use today – AmaSuite – was marketed to me that way.

I was on one of Chris Guthrie’s lists because I had purchased EasyAzon from him. The week that he was releasing version 3 of AmaSuite, I started to receive several emails per day from him. I knew nothing about this product and didn’t want to know anything about it. Finally, on the very last day of that launch, I opened up one of his emails. I ended up watching the video on the sales page and I purchased AmaSuite that day because of it. Proof that email marketing works. Even when done the wrong (annoying) way.

The bottom line is this…

Click To Tweet

What Types of Sites Should be Building an Email List?

Every type of site can and should be building an email list. Think about it. Visitors find your site each and every day through random search queries. They might visit your site once. Read the post or page that they landed on. Then never return again. If you could capture email addresses of even just a percentage of those visitors – then you could reach them in the future for one or more of many reasons that you might want to reach them.

Here are a few different types of sites and ways that these types of sites could use their email lists

  • Blogs – Let subscribers know when new posts are published. Send out a weekly, monthly or even quarterly newsletter. Market products or services relevant to your blog audience.
  • Niche Sites – Same as blogs. In addition, Amazon niche sites could inform subscribers about new products or new review posts. Send out periodic reminder emails to subscribers about the product(s) your site features. Let them know about relevant products they might be interested in. (Note: Amazon terms of service do not allow you to place Amazon affiliate links directly in emails. Instead, you must link to a page on your website that contains those affiliate links)
  • Podcasts – Same as blogs. Most podcasts have a website. Let listeners know when new episodes are available. Show subscribers the important pages on your website. Listeners almost never click over to your site while listening (they are probably either driving or exercising) – so if you can get at them via email they are much more likely to click over to your site. And on your site is a great place to market relevant products or services to them.
  • Small Business Websites – Stay in touch with your past, present and potential future clients or customers. Keep them updated about your product or service offerings. Let them know about sales or deals. And much, much more.

The Golden Rule of Email Marketing

Following THE Golden Rule (the one from the Bible) is always a good idea. And I think it applies to email marketing as well. So I try to follow it as best as I can.

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you - even with email marketing!Click To Tweet

I choose to build and use my email lists the right way (as explained above). Especially my email list for this blog. But I must admit, I have been very tempted to go the wrong way. Because I know that it works – it has been very tempting to send out tons of email blasts that do nothing but promote products. But I won’t do it. I can’t do it. I don’t like getting those types of emails myself – so I don’t send them to my email lists.

How Much Money Can I Make with an Email List?

Obviously, the answer to this question is subjective and varies greatly. It depends on lots of factors. Two of the big ones being the size of your email list and whether you have relevant products or services to sell to them.

If you take a close look at my income report for July 2015, you will see that I had a killer month for affiliate sales for Long Tail Pro – my favorite keyword research tool. I earned just over $1,400 in affiliate commissions for that one product in just that one month! The main reason I had such a good month is because there was a huge week-long sale to promote the release of version 3 of Long Tail Pro. But if I didn’t have an email list associated with this blog – I wouldn’t have had so many people to market and sell that product to.

To put it into perspective, my email list for this blog at the time of that sale was just under 1,000 subscribers (around 960). Much of my audience on this blog, and the subscribers to my list, also happen to be website creators (niche sites, blogs, etc.). Since keyword research is very important for websites that wish to get traffic from search engines, and because Long Tail Pro is widely known as the best keyword research tool on the planet, it was completely relevant and very easy to ‘sell’ Long Tail Pro to my subscribers.

Email Marketing Mistakes and Failures

Building and treating your email list the wrong (annoying) way isn’t the only mistake you can make when it comes to email marketing. There are plenty more mistakes that can be made. I’m going to share two of the biggest ones that I am guilty of myself, with specific examples.

Mistake – Not Building an Email List

I mentioned above that every site (including niche sites) should be building an email list. I run several niche sites and I am only building an email list on one of them. I do not have email lists for any of my Amazon niche sites – yet I just explained above exactly how I could and should be using an email list for that type of site.

Example – One of my Amazon sites was gaining traction around this time last year and getting about 500 visitors per day. It was approaching $500/month income too – and then Google came out with their PBN update. My site didn’t get obliterated like so many other sites did then. But it did lose several positions for a few of the main top ranking keywords. Ever since then, the site has averaged around 150 visitors per day and only around $200/month income.

Had I created an opt-in bribe and started building an email list from the very beginning, I could have captured a percentage of those early 500 per day visitors. I could have used their email addresses to get them back to my site periodically and generate more possible sales commissions.

Failure – Building an Email List with No Clear Monetization Strategy

I know that I mentioned above that you should be building your email list no matter what. Even if you don’t have anything to sell. But in most cases, you should at least have some sort of idea for products or services that you could create yourself or sell as an affiliate for somebody else.

Example – I started an email list for one of my niche sites and it has grown to over 3,000 subscribers now (growing by 10 to 15 new subscribers per day) and I still can’t figure out how to monetize that list. The site is in a specific type of scholarship niche. My opt-in bribe to get subscribers on my list is a massive list of scholarships that they can apply for. My follow-up series offers tons more value by providing additional information and motivation. But I have nothing good to promote after that. Nothing that is relevant and that pays well.

The problem here is that this audience is looking for free money. They are not looking to spend money. I’ve tried sending them affiliate offers for things like student loans and other college related eCourses and have gotten absolutely zero success. Wrong type of audience. Bad plan. Instead of building that email list, perhaps I should have left the site optimized for Adsense and just focused on ad-clicks instead.

How to Start an Email List

One thing that is absolutely necessary for building an email list is that you must use an email service provider. There are lots and lots of options here. Some are even free – although the free versions are very limited in the functionality that they provide. When you get serious about your email list(s), you are going to need to pay for one of these service providers. Not to worry though – because if done right, your list should more than pay for itself!

Pretty much all of the different email service providers will work just fine. Each offers slightly different functionality and user interfaces. Because I only recommend what I actually use – I have to promote Aweber. I’ve been using Aweber to manage all of my email lists from the very beginning and I’ve been an extremely happy and satisfied customer.

Setting up your first email list with Aweber is super easy. A wizard tutorial walks you through the entire process, step-by-step! The user interface is updated, clean and easy to understand and navigate. Customer support was very helpful when I had to contact them (I don’t even remember why). And you can’t beat the price for the first month – FREE! Prices vary based on number of subscribers after that, starting at only $19/month (as of the date this was posted).

Try AWeber - First Month FREE

And here comes the very best part of this post…

FREE Email List Building Course (A $297 Value)!

Get the FREE Email List Building Course

As an affiliate and promoter for LeadPages, they occasionally send me offers and deals for me to pass on to my readers and subscribers. This latest one that I received is really awesome!! A complete Email List Building Course, worth nearly $300, and they’re allowing me to give it to you absolutely for FREE!

What you’ll get in this FREE Email List Building Course…

  • A 9-video course (completely free – no strings attached) that takes you from start to finish through a profitable email marketing campaign.
  • Simple, step-by-step instructions on how to plan and execute your own email lead generation and nurturing strategy.
  • All 9 videos are super easy to implement – taught in bite-size chunks
  • 9 MP3 audio files included – so you can listen on the go
  • 12 downloadable PDF’s that include
    • transcripts
    • module handouts
    • a checklist
    • the list building Monetized Action Plan Mindmap

I know that it can be very intimidating when you first start out with building your own email list. I myself read as many blog posts as I could find on the topic and listened to several podcasts over and over again. I wanted to make sure I completely understood everything before I jumped in and actually started building my list.

I only wish that a FREE course like this was available when I started out with building email lists.Click To Tweet

Get the FREE Email List Building Course

I’ve made plenty of mistakes and have had plenty of failures throughout my experiences with email marketing. I’ve also enjoyed my fair share of success too. I’ve learned a lot along the way. Hopefully this post sheds a little bit of light and helps you avoid some of the mistakes that I made. If you really want to learn how to do it right, whether you’re just starting out or even if you’ve been building your list for years, please take advantage of the FREE Email List Building Course offered by LeadPages.

Image by Great Beyond via Flickr

Note: Several of the links within the post that lead to products or services that you can purchase are indeed affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase after clicking through via any of these links, I will receive a commission. Thanks a lot for your support! I really appreciate it.

Matthew Allen
Matthew Allen
Matthew Allen is a full-time trucker, part-time blogger, and imaginary entrepreneur. He's probably not the only trucker who calls himself a dumbass. But, he is the only known trucker who is blogging about passive income."Might be crazy, but I ain't dumb!" ~ Crazy Cooter (also Matt's CB handle) 
Matthew Allen
Matthew Allen
Matthew Allen is a full-time trucker, part-time blogger, and imaginary entrepreneur. He's probably not the only trucker who calls himself a dumbass. But, he is the only known trucker who is blogging about passive income."Might be crazy, but I ain't dumb!" ~ Crazy Cooter (also Matt's CB handle) 

20 thoughts on “Making Money with Email Lists (Works for Niche Sites too!)”

  1. Hi Matt,

    Great post! Building an email list has always been something that I “never got around to do.” I guess it’s really time for me to start building an email list, even for brand new sites!

    For some reason, I’ve not subscribed to your email list even though I’ve been visiting DPI for a long time now. Never too late!


  2. Perfect chance for you to get on my list Paul! Just grab that free course at the end of this post and you’ll automatically be added to my list (the content upgrade strategy in action!). I better “get around to” starting email lists for some of my other niche sites that get traffic too.

  3. Wow, Matthew awesome post!

    I’m a total newbie when it comes to growing and monetizing a list, but am quickly realizing the power of it. I use Aweber too and love it. I’ve been using Mailchimp before, and sent one affiliate email and my account got locked. Had to contact support to unlock it, then moved over to Aweber right after.

  4. Thanks Chris. Yeah, AWeber has treated me well from the beginning. A few of the other providers have slightly better and more advanced functionality. But they cost a bit more too. AWeber offers everything I need for a fair price.

    Are you building lists for any of your niche sites? I don’t know if it makes sense for your main site or not – but imagine the possibilities if you could capture even a percentage of nearly one million page views (or is it visitors?) per month!

  5. It’s a great post. And it’s very smart to give a free list building course at the end of it. I’m sure you’ll get plenty of subscribers. I’m wondering is it possible to get PLR for this free email course?

  6. I was and then I stopped after I exceeded the free limit in mailchimp…. Maybe not the best move, but it was piling up fast and I don’t have anything planned to monetize the list with, so didn’t make sense to pay for it.

    But yeah, email is powerful like you say, so am thinking of things I can do with it, and then start building the list again through Aweber.

  7. This was a good first post to find. I’m just starting this journey myself, and it’s good to see the some helpful information on gaining lists and being ethical, do you mind if I use a snippet for an upcoming post? Backlink and credited, of course.

  8. Well, they sold you their product after all.

    Even if you were annoyed by it the strategy worked although I understand why you say it’s a sort of betrayal.

    Must confess I have sold products the very same way from one of my lists.

  9. Yep Eric. And I’m still on that email list too. Even though they still annoy me..

    And I must confess too – I’ve been tempted to sell in that same way to my lists. But I can’t do it. I won’t do it. That golden rule thing always stops me.

Comments are closed.

Get my updates in your inbox...

The Dumbass Newsletter

100% FREE! You may unsubscribe at any time.

Your email address is safe. I will never spam or share your email with anyone.