18 Ways to Build Your Email List FAST in 2024

Your #1 asset as an online business owner is your email list. 

Email gives you maximum profitability and flexibility while protecting you from social media platforms’ ever-changing algorithms. Email marketing can give you a 30x or higher return on your investment, so you need to build your email list as fast as possible if you want to generate real money.

And today you’re going to learn 18 ways to generate email leads so you can connect with prospects, drive website traffic, and make sales.

16 of these list-building strategies are free and 2 will cost you money. 

I included a handy dandy “Effectiveness Rating” for each list building-methods.

Because not all email lead generation strategies are created equal.

Let’s dig in so you can start collecting emails as soon as possible:

1) Put Opt-in Forms on Your Website and Blog

Every single page on your website must give readers the chance to join your email list. This includes your about page, your contact Page, and all your blog posts.

The only exception is sales pages where you want people to lay down a credit card and buy something.

That’s why I doubled down on blogging. 

On the site you’re reading, 12% of my website readers convert into email leads.

That number is high because most of my traffic my home page, which converts at a very high rate.

Over time, as traffic is spread more towards blog posts, I expect it to come down to 5%.

So if I build up to, say, 10,000 unique visitors a month, I’d expect 500 new email subscribers every month  like clockwork.

Effectiveness rating: 9/10 because people are on your website because they’re interested in what you do, and lead quality tends to be high

2) Use Pop-Up Ads

You could argue that pop-ups fall into category #1, but they work so well that they get their own category.

I also put them up front here because so few of you use them.

Pop-ups have a bad name and they are not always ideal for the user experience.

But they work far better than you can imagine.

Pop-ups go in the category of “stuff your friends say is a bad idea, but which generates big results.”

I do not recommend pop-ups that automatically appear on page load.

I use:

  • Exit intent pop-ups, which only appear when someone is about to leave a web page. 
  • Time-delayed popups, which appear after a specific amount of time

This gives me a good balance between pop-up effectiveness and user-friendliness.

Plus obnoxious pop-ups violate Google rules in some cases. That could hurt you in search rankings and limit your ability to display Google ads.

So use pop-ups but don't go crazy.

Effectiveness rating: 8/10 because they just work!

3) Offer Lead Magnets and Content Upgrades

When asking for an email address, you want to offer instant value in the form of content.

You can use eBooks, white papers, videos, checklists, case studies, a preview of a paid product, a free software trial, etc.

We call these “lead magnets” because the content attracts leads like a magnet.

For example, I offer an ebook called '7 Deadly Email Marketing Secrets.'

Content upgrades are similar, but they work as extensions of a particular piece of content.

For example, in this article, I could offer a companion video tutorial on how to build your email list.

Or I could offer you this article as a PDF you can read on your iPad or Kindle.

Effectiveness rating: 8/10 because people love free stuff

4) Turn Your Home Page Into an Optin Page

Your home page is your most important piece of website real estate, so use it to capture email addresses.

That's why the home page of this website is focused on generating optins:

I’ve seen home pages convert as much as 50% of traffic into email subscribers.

So take your home page, and strip out everything that isn’t related to acquiring an email address.

Effectiveness rating: 9/10 because you have people right where you want ‘em

5) Leverage Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is related to all the strategies above because you won’t get any email opt-ins without traffic.

And over the long run, SEO is an amazing way to generate traffic like clockwork.

The downside to SEO is that creating search-friendly content is difficult and time consuming, and you have no guarantee of success.

On the positive side, the content you create for SEO can be repurposed for social media content.

Every article I wrote on this site gets broken up into 10+ social media assets.

Effectiveness Rating: 7/10 because it’s hard work but the payoff can be huge

Speaking of social, let’s talk about it:

6)  Social Media Engagement

Twitter is my primary email lead generator as of the time I’m writing this guide.

You can guess how this works.

People read my profile and/or individual posts, and then they click on links which sends them to my home page where they can join my email list.

I also have links in my YouTube video descriptions and my LinkedIn profile.

And I use special tracking links so know where each lead comes from.

Make sure you check every nook and cranny on each social platform so you can get links everywhere you can.

For example, you can put a newsletter link on your YouTube channel page.

And you can add a “Subscribe” button to Facebook Pages.

Though is anyone using Facebook Pages in 2023? Another question for another time…

Effectiveness Rating: 7/10 because it’s hard work but the payoff can be huge (just like SEO), and lead quality tends to be high

7) Split Test Everything You Can

You should always be A/B testing email opt-in forms and pages so you have an idea of what works.

Let’s say your blog post footer form is turning 2% of readers into email subscribers.

If you split test different messages to get that opt-in rate up to 3%, you will get 50% more email optins.

Get to 4%, and that’s 100% more email optins.

And if you have a small list, you want to start split testing right now because the sooner you start, the sooner you get meaningful data that can boost your long-term growth.

Effectiveness Rating: 6/10 because it can be hard to find meaningful results with split tests

8) Podcast and other Media Appearances

Podcasts are a great way to attract new email subscribers.

When a podcast host brings you on, they are giving you an endorsement to their audience that you can be trusted.

So they will be very receptive to you.

And fun fact: I once dated a woman who was a business book agent in New York City. 

She told me that the #1 sales driver was podcast appearances - worked way better than newspaper mentions, radio spots, and even TV appearances.

So while I recommend focusing on podcasts, jump at every chance you can for media exposure.

Even if you’re not getting real traffic, it’s good to have names on your resume.

And oh yeah - make sure you have a really simple URL for people to type out, and it helps to have something specific for each audience.

If I somehow ended up on Tim Ferriss’ podcast, I’d say something like “go to michael99.com/TIM for my free email marketing video course!”

Effectiveness Rating: 9/10 because you are piggybacking off the host’s trust with the audience

9) Guest Blogging

When I ran a photography website, I used guest blogging to build my email list.

It was very effective. 

I’d write a kick-ass article with a link to join my photography newsletter at the end.

It worked like a charm and I could add 25-100 people to my list with each guest blog post. 

For this site, I did a guest blog post for the email service provider Beehiiv to get exposure to my target audience (email marketers and newsletter writers).

Guest blogging might be the most underrated list-building method in this guide.

Remember, you can take this way beyond guest blogging. 

You can write articles for someone else’s email newsletter, which is an ideal way to find people who appreciate email newsletters.

Effectiveness Rating: 9/10 because you can get in front of large, captive audiences

10) Co-Host Webinars and Other Online Events with Partners

Co-hosting webinars or other online events is a great way to get your email list in front of a new audience.

Find 1-2 partners with a similar size audience, and start collaborating on webinars and other online events. 

Don’t try to make money. Just combine your audiences so you can grow together.

Just make sure you post the video replay to Youtube to keep email leads flowing in after the event.

Effectiveness Rating: 7/10 because you’re dealing with semi-cold prospects and you might not have a lot of volume

11) Cross-Promote Other Email Lists

Have a buddy with a similar-size email list?

Then promote each other.

You promote her list, and she promotes yours.

This is a great way to spread some love around while you grow together.

Recommendations from a trusted source also carry a lot of weight and help you build authority.

And if you don’t have the same size lists, just adjust.

If you have 500 people and she has 1,000, you just do 2 for 1.


Effectiveness Rating: 7/10 because you’re dealing with semi-cold prospects from your partner, like #10 on this list

12) Hold Contest and Giveaways

Contests and giveaways can be a great way to build your list fast.

Because everyone likes to win stuff.

But you have to be careful because you might stuff your system with low-quality leads.

For example, this site is about email marketing.

If I held a contest where I gave away an Apple iPad, I’d end up with a bunch of people that just want an iPad.

They wouldn’t engage with my content and would be a drag on my email deliverability.

So if you have a contest, do two things:

  • Give away one of your own products, not a mass-market item like an iPad or Playstation or whatever
  • Clean your list to remove unengaged prospects

Effectiveness Rating: 5/10 because the email leads will be low quality

13) Referral Programs

Some email newsletter platforms Beehiiv, ConvertKit, SparkLoop, and Viral Loops let you implement referral programs to build your list.

In most cases, you would offer a lead magnet or other bonus to people who recommend your newsletter.

You can also do this informally.

Just write to your email list with a message like:

“Can you do me a favor? I want to build this community as big as possible, and was hoping you could share michael99.com with your friends. It would really help me out.”

You wouldn’t be able to do any kind of tracking with something like this, but it works great if you have a large, engaged audience.

If you’re putting out great content, your fans will jump to give you a hand.

Effectiveness Rating: 6/10 because you need a large list to make this work

14) In-Person Networking and/or Commerce

If you attend networking events or conferences, you will meet people that are a good fit for your list.

Asking someone “want to join my email list” may be awkward in one-on-one situations, but if you are running something like a desk at a trade show, you should collect as many emails as possible. 

I’d even encourage people to click on double opt-in confirmation emails right on the spot.

And oh yeah - make sure your business card has a link to your website with an optin page.

Effectiveness Rating: 6/10 because this can be awkward when people are afraid to tell you no

15) Use Retail Space to Generate Opt-ins

If you run any kind of retail operation, your space should have dedicated call-to-action to join your email list.

You can go old school with a clipboard and piece of paper. You’d have to enter each email to the system yourself.

Or you can have a simple sign with a QR code that says “point your phone camera here for a 10% off coupon.”

(yes, most people don’t know how QR codes work)

You could even have a dedicated iPad. Just lock it down so no one steals it!

This way you get the email and you give people a reason to buy something.

Effectiveness Rating: 6/10 because people are distracted in a physical store

16) Your Email Signature

This seems obvious, but your email signature should include a link to your website home page, which of course should have an optin form front and center.

Mine is super simple:

This won’t be super effective but it takes no effort and it’s good to show you have a website.

So just set it up now and forget about it.

Effectiveness Rating: 3/10 because few  people will click

17) Use Paid Ads to Drive Optins

You can buy ads for your newsletter on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google, and YouTube.

This can get expensive fast so you must understand how you’re going to convert new email subscribers into paying customers.

So I’d only consider paid ads if you have a ready-made funnel that you think will convert.

Or if you simply need to build a list at all costs.

Effectiveness Rating: anywhere from 1/10 to 10/10 depending on the strength of your ads and funnel

18) Buy Other People’s Email Lists

You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to sell email lists or websites that they’re sick of supporting.

You can come in, take over their lists, and integrate them with your own. 

I almost just bought an AI newsletter with 3,000 subscribers and a complete content archive.

And if you can find a list with strong engagement metrics but low profitability, you could be striking gold.

The owner will likely sell cheap, and you profit big time once you improve the list monetization.

And in many cases, you can get a website along with the email list, which means a big giant pile of content you can use.

Effectiveness Rating: 8/10 if you are a good negotiator and you know how to analyze email and web traffic

How many of these list-building strategies are you using?

By now you should be swimming in ideas for building your email lists so you can drive sales and traffic.

So let me know in the comments: which of these methods are you using? And which one will you try next?

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