Top 10 List Building Mistakes

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Making mistakes in the list building phase can be devastating for a business. It has an exponential effect on the rest of your sales funnel. Fewer email signups means fewer phone calls, fewer free gifts, fewer initial purchases and fewer sales all the way down your product line.

Many of these list building mistakes can seem quite small on the surface. It could be as simple as failure to click one button. Yet the effects could be as drastic as a 30% drop in revenue (or more!)

Building a strong email list is the cornerstone of any successful internet business. Knowing about these mistakes can help you avoid them – And save you and your company a lot of time and money in the process. Without further ado, here are the top 10 list building mistakes.

Mistake #1: Assuming You Know What Works

Internet marketers can often get a little too confident in their own abilities. It happens to everyone, from seasoned 10 year marketers to the brand new marketer.

If you ever start assuming you know what works or what your audience responds to, you can be fairly certain that you’re leaving money on the table. The right way to design a squeeze page is to come up with several “best versions” and let the statistics do the talking.

Never, ever assume you know what works in your industry or with your audience. Always split test it.


Mistake #2: Split Testing Too Similar Pages

Another common mistake is split testing pages that are far too similar. For example, marketers will often split test different fonts, different colors or variations on a headline (like adding “who else wants …” to the front.)

These are all great things to test. However, those tests need to come down the line, a long, long time later.

In the early stages, you need to test completely different pages. Page 1 might have an autoplay video, page 2 might have a giant image and page 3 might be only text. Each might have a completely different message.

Paint with broad strokes first. This is what will really swing the needle. Figure out broadly what works, then gradually narrow things down. After a few weeks or months of testing, then and only then should you test the small stuff.


Mistake #3: Using Double Opt In

Using double opt in is one of the worst decisions you could possibly make when you’re building an email list. You can easily lose as much as 30% to 60% of your email list simply because you’re using double opt in.

Many marketers fall for the double opt in trap because their autoresponders push it so heavily. Some of them make it sound like you’re a criminal if you turn off double opt in.

The reality is that turning on double opt in is the best interests of the autoresponders, but not the marketer.

When you turn on double opt in, you instantly guarantee that you’ll lose a segment of your list. It might be 10%, it might be 30%, it might be 60%. There’s absolutely no reason to do this. Your spam rate won’t lower significantly, your total opens will go down, as will your total revenue.

The argument that it “improves your open rate” is absolutely meaningless. Out of 1,000 who signed up, if you lose 500 of them and of the other 500 you have a slightly higher open rate, it doesn’t mitigate the fact that you lost half your subscribers to begin with.

The lesson is simple: Use single opt in. Every time.


Mistake #4: Not Having a Strong Sales Hook

People are very hesitant to give out their email addresses these days. They’re already bombarded with more emails than they want to handle. In order for you to get someone to give you their email address, you have to really make an offer that stands out.

The hook for your autoresponder should be something that they really want. They should be dying to get their hands on whatever it is that you have to offer.

If your hook sounds like a “me too” product, people are just going to leave your page. In order for your hook to work, it needs to sound unique and powerful – And it needs to seem like it’ll benefit their lives in some way immediately after reading it.


Mistake #5: Under Delivering on the Hook

This one is an extremely common mistake. A lot of marketers do understand the importance of a good hook. That’s why they go out of their way to make some very big promises.

Unfortunately, many of them end up not delivering on those promises. They get people’s hopes up and get them excited, then deliver a shoddy report or freebie.

What happens then? Sure, you may have gotten their email address. But they’re never going to open your emails again in the future. They’re never going to link to you. They’re certainly never going to buy from you.

If you’re going to give away a free hook, make it good. Make it phenomenal. Make it so good that it exceeds your promise. People should be shocked at how much great content you’re giving away.

This not only builds your list, but helps you create a list of avid readers who’ll open every email you send.



Mistake #6: Using a Slow Autoresponder

When you promise to help someone solve a problem, they want that solution right away. If you promise to help someone lose 20 lbs in 20 days by giving you their email address, they want to read that solution immediately after typing in their name and email.

Yet many autoresponder services can take as long as several hours before delivering the welcome message and the accompanying free gift. This can cause people to be frustrated and disappointed as they stare at their blank inbox waiting for your promised freebie.

They might then step away from their computers. When they come back, they won’t be as excited and might not even end up opening your email.

Use a fast autoresponder. Don’t use your own mailserver unless you really need to. Go with top name email services that have a reputation for speed.


Mistake #7: Relying on Just One Contact Point

You should give people as many opportunities to sign up as possible. Don’t just use one contact point.

For example, many marketers simply use a lightbox popover as a kind of squeeze page. When the visitor lands on the site, the opt in box pops over. They have no other opt in boxes on their site.

However, there could be many reasons why this customer doesn’t sign up at the popover. For one, they might just have an ingrained habit of closing any and all popovers immediately. Also, they might not know who you are yet. After reading something you write, they might be a lot more inclined to join your list.

Put your signup box beside your content, under your content and occasionally even in your content. Use squeeze pages and popovers on top of that to boost your opt-in rate. Use multiple contact points to catch people in different parts of your funnel.


Mistake #8: Not Experimenting With Different Traffic Sources

Most small marketers pick just one traffic source that works for them and stick with it. For instance, if what has been working for you is SEO traffic through blogging, then chances are that’s what you’ll focus on.

While focusing on and doing what works is a great habit, it can also be limiting. Truly successful marketers never use just one traffic source. They use a multitude of sources that turns their trickle of traffic into a torrent.

Try different traffic sources. Yes, many of them won’t pan out. But if you try six new traffic sources and end up with two that work, that’s all you need to double or triple your traffic. That means a massive increase in your list growth rate.



Mistake #9: Using a Stock Squeeze Page

Your squeeze page should be personalized to the wants and needs of your audience. If you’re simply using squeeze page templates along with “time tested” headlines, chances are your squeeze page is going to look very generic.

In very low competition markets, this can work. But in moderate to high competition markets, where people have seen squeeze pages before, you’re most likely just going to get an eye roll and a page close.

To catch attention, both how you present your material (your design) and what you say (your copy) has to be original and authentic. You can use other people’s pages for inspiration, but ultimately what you put out into the world has to be your own.



Mistake #10: Buying Subscribers

You can easily buy hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of subscribers for just a few dollars. You can buy lists of email addresses from many different vendors. You can massively expand your list in a matter of minutes … Right?

Wrong. Almost invariably, buying subscribers is a bad idea. If they didn’t explicitly opt in to receive your mailings, chances are they’ll never buy. In fact, they’ll probably end up clicking the spam button, which can get you in trouble with your autoresponder.

There are a few exceptions to this.

First, you can pay affiliates on a per lead basis to generate emails for you. The key is that they have to explicitly opt in to your list.

Second, co-registration leads can be profitable. It’s a very difficult industry to break into and get a profitable ROI on. That said, co-reg leads when done properly can be both ethical and profitable.

Straight out buying subscribers or email leads should always be out of the question.



These are ten of the most common mistakes email marketers make when building their list. Some are complex, like testing many traffic sources. Some are very simple – Like flicking a button to turn off double opt in. All of them can make a big impact on your bottom line.


30 List Building Ideas

Idea Innovation Solution

Building an email list is an intricate dance of psychology. You need to get people excited. You need to build trust. You need to create a sense of urgency. You need people to think they’ll get value from your list. You need social proof.

You need to put together all kinds of social, psychological and emotional factors that all combine to create a spontaneous urge to sign up for your mailing list.

How can you increase your list opt in rates and get your list exposed to more of the right people? Here are 30 ideas to help.


  1. Offer a freebie. This is one of the most common and popular tactics for building a list. Give your visitors something for free if they sign up.
  2. Use a lightbox. A lightbox is a popover that greys out the rest of the screen when it pops over. It’s one of the most attention catching ways to build a list.
  3. Give massive free value first. Give a ton of free value on your site before asking them to sign up.
  4. Set expectations for how often they receive mail. People hate spam. But if you tell them exactly how often you’ll mail them, (E.g. “We’ll email you once a week”) they’ll often be much more willing to sign up.
  5. Clearly tell the benefits and have a clear promise. Tell them in no uncertain terms what the benefit is of being on your list.
  6. Link to a sample issue. Link to an issue of your newsletter that people can look through. Make sure to put your best foot forward.
  7. Use PPC to promote your mailing list. Do this once you know you have a good opt-in rate and that your email list converts.
  8. Try contextual ad networks. Buy traffic to your opt-in page from other similar sites.
  9. Try Gmail ads. Try to use keywords that get people who’re similar to the people you want on your list.
  10. Write a guest post around your freebie. For example, write a guest post about “17 Mistakes AdSense marketers make” if you have a free report about how to succeed with AdSense.
  11. Promote your list on social media. Especially try posting relevant responses to popular hashtags in your industry.
  12. Create a viral video. Have a link to your signup page on the video or the video’s description.
  13. Launch a podcast. Promote your list in your podcast.
  14. Offer a “Secret Blog Post”. Tell your blog audience that you’re going to release a blog post only to your email list.
  15. Give a discount. Offer a one time discount to only list members. Let people know they can still join your list to get the discount.Ideas2
  16. Add a signup box on every page. Add it on the right, on the bottom or both.
  17. Give a stern warning, then the solution in the email. For example, write a blog post about how most people’s businesses aren’t setup to scale and will stall out in a couple years. Then offer the solution in an email.
  18. Segregate your list. Split people who’re interested in specific sub-topics into different lists. This allows you to be more tailored in both your marketing and your mailings.
  19. Do a solo ad mailing. Buy solo ads from other people with mailing lists to promote your list.
  20. Do an ad swap. Mail a promotion to your list, then have someone else do the same with their list.
  21. Tell people who email you their question will be answered in the email list. Answer questions on your list rather than privately.
  22. Write a mini-book series to be released via email. For example, a 7 part series on one specific skill. Market the book heavily.
  23. Gather testimonials for list building. This helps demonstrate social proof for your list.
  24. Buyers must sign up to buy. Make it a mandatory part of the process.
  25. Wall off long content. For example, on a 5 page article, make people sign in to their mailing list address after 2 pages to continue reading.
  26. Host discussions about an article only sent to your list. People will join your list just to join the discussion.
  27. Run a CPL affiliate campaign. Pay affiliates for every email signup they generate, rather than for sales.
  28. Make it mandatory for free online tools. Give away free web tools, but make sure they sign up before using it.
  29. Add a signup form to your fan page. Many autoresponders will provide the code for this.
  30. Use Facebook Auto-Fill. Facebook allows you to automatically fill in someone’s email address into a form. This can increase your opt in rates.