How to Build an Email List

This article discusses why and how to build an email list, including the purpose of an email list. I will also describe some of the common ways to build lists.

The primary purpose of creating an email list is to communicate via email with current and potential customers and prospects on a periodic basis.

Why you would want to build an email list includes:

  • communicating useful information and news to customers and asking for feedback and comments,
  • building trust and loyalty, and
  • building a relationship with customers.

Email List Building Process

The following image captures the email list building process.

Email list building process

How the process works

Opt-in box example
Rather boring example of my opt-in box

Building an email list starts with a method to capture email addresses.  Some marketers also prefer to collect names as well. Others even go further and ask for first and last name and other personal information such as telephone numbers.

Two common methods of capturing email addresses are:

  • Opt-in form ( such as the example to the right)
  • Email subscription link – sending an email to an email list address will start the subscription process.

Note: Marketers will ask for additional information as a means to “sort out” prospects. Information could include telephone number, address and other information to determine the extent of the person’s interest in the offer.

Step 1: When the customer clicks the opt-in form submit button (link), the email address (and other information) is sent to the email marketing system (EMS) linked to the webpage.

Step 2: The email marketing system adds the email address to the email list (database), sends an email to the customer’s email account requesting confirmation. At the same time, the EMS shows a new webpage to the customer acknowledging receipt of the subscription/information request and informing the customer to check their email for the confirmation message.

Step 3: The customer opens the email message and clicks the confirmation link within the email.

Step 4: The email list database is updated with the confirmation and then sends a welcoming email (1st email) to the new subscriber. The EMS also shows a new webpage thanking the customer for confirming their email address and providing either information requested and any associated bonuses, gifts or coupons. (Note: I give away free digital products (ebooks) by including a link to the ebook (pdf file) I have uploaded to my website via an FTP program. The file is stored in one of the sub-directories. The link is either included in the confirmation email, the confirmation webpage, or both.)

Step 5: The customer then starts receiving periodic emails until they unsubscribe or the email series ends.

The above 5 steps applies to a double opt-in email list. This means the subscriber has to confirm the addition of his email to the email list. In a single opt-in process, step 3 is omitted as the email marketing system does not send a confirmation request email to the subscriber.

Building the Email List

Now that you have seen the email list process, it is time to start building the list. You have several options. First, you could manually prepare and maintain the list yourself. Of you could obtain the services of an email marketing vendor.

  • Doing It Yourself – Back in the day, this is what I did. Totally prehistoric! I used an email program and maintained my list of contacts. I had to manually manage my list and send emails. This was very labor and time intensive. 
    • Microsoft Outlook is an option.  Create a Contact Group and as you contact people, add them to your group. When ready to send email, send it to them using the Outlook Team mail function.
    • Google Mail (Gmail) – Use an online email account and maintain a contact list of prospects. Gmail does have a send limit of 500 contacts at a time. I still receive email in my Gmail accounts from marketers who are maintaining their own lists! Unfortunately, Gmail sends most of this email straight to the Spam folder.
  • Email Marketing Service – My article on Email Marketing Systems provides more information about EMS. There are free and subscription-based email marketing services provided.
    • Free services include MailChimp, ListWire and a bunch of others. Just google free autoresponders or free email marketing service providers and do your due diligence. I do not recommend using free services because of poor delivery results and many include advertising of which you have no control.
    • Subscription-based services include AWeber and a number of others discussed in my Email Marketing Systems article. A number of these vendors offer 30 or 60-day free trial periods.

Useful Email List Building Tips

  • Wait until you have decent website traffic before starting to build an email list – Have at least 200 website visitors a day or some sales. Or if you have a high page ranking in the search engines. Most email marketing services (autoresponders) require a paid subscription. So, unless you have a large budget, use the time to create an autoresponder series of emails (training, free offers, etc) and learn about your audience and visitors.
  • Create a clear value proposition – Your email opt-in form should communicate clearly what you are offering and how it will benefit your reader. So be sure it addresses your desired audience’s problems in a way and language that they understand what you can do to help them.
  • Marlon Brando as the GodfatherMake your visitor an offer they can’t refuse – People are reluctant to give up their email address and personal information. And rightfully so. Your opt-in incentive must be so tempting, so useful that your offer solves your visitor’s problem for them immediately. This approach eliminates the need to persuade, convince or sell the solution to the problem.
  • Do not sell; tell a story and educate – People came to your website or business to find information to help solve a problem they are having.  Your story should relate to the reader’s experience. It should be believable. It is not a college lecture, do not tell them theory. People do not sign up on lists to be continuously pitched or sold stuff. (Unless you have a commerce site, then readers may be looking for deals and discounts.) This is not to say you cannot make offers. But offers should be described in terms of benefits that help customers fix problems or make things better.



An email list is the primary means to communicate with current and potential customers and prospects on a regular basis. You often hear marketers say that “the money is in the list.” They mean the money is for the list owner.

I think that is backwards. A top quality newsletter that provides useful, timely information to me is more valuable to me than I am to the publisher!

Have you tried building an email list? Share your experiences below. Just fill in and submit the form below. I love feedback!



  1. I love this collection of blogging tools. Most of theme i used to. Thanks!


  2. Great description of an email list Glen! Really important to grow your list and look after them. Which is what I must consistently do. Thanks for that


    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, Sharon. I appreciate you taking the time. I hope you had a chance to read my Email Marketing Systems article as well. It discusses types of email marketing systems used in building lists and communicating with customers.


  3. Glen –
    First let me say Thank You Sir for Your Service to Our Country. You are a fine example of what our country was founded on.
    Your Website ‘Home Business for Veterans’ has a flare about it that resembles a high tech newsletter.
    Your pages are direct to the point of the subject matter being discussed. Not surprising being ex-Navy plus a CPA by trade as well.
    Headers – The sub-topics of these headers cover the subject matter with a ‘cut-to-the-chase’ manner. No beating around the bush here. The way you’ve laid out the pages are very professional.
    Primary Website Message – The way you’ve designed the site takes a visitor from inception to the point where there’s only one decision to make; Let’s give it a try, it’s FREE. I believe that you represent Wealthy Affiliate very well.
    Only really one small thing I found that you may want to look into. I had to look closely to find the About Me link. The font was small so I kept blowing by it there on the sidebar. I always want to know a little bit about who I’m working with here at WA.
    I’ve learned some lessons that I can consider using on my current and future websites. I thank you for that.
    I hope that this will be found somewhat useful.
    Best Regards,


    1. Thanks so much, Gary. I appreciate your kind words and comments about the About Me page. I moved my About Me page off of the main top menu because the menu was wrapping to a second line. I plan on putting my picture and brief bio on top of the right column with a read more link to my About Me page.

      Thanks again,



  4. Great info on email marketing, Glen!
    I especially think the tip you’ve mentioned about not selling often is important. It is really necessary to add value by educating and telling stories before offering any product.
    These days customers are getting bombarded with different products to their email…
    Just one question: How often do you think is best to email your prospects in a week, according to your own experience? Tnx 🙂


    1. Hi Albert. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Years and years ago, I published a weekly newsletter. My latest newsletter goes out on Mondays. When people sign up for my newsletter, I send them an automated series of emails every few days as well as the Monday newsletter. The automated series of emails gives subscribers several freebies as educational material. Honestly, I do very little outbound marketing (selling) via my newsletters and emails.


  5. Thanks for your diagram explaining the email list process. I am currently on a course training me the route for running an online business but haven’t arrived at building an email list yet.
    Now I have read your post I’m finding out how straightforward the process is.
    I have just read your article on Email Marketing Systems and the Generic Autoresponder Process sounds a powerful solution for automating your emails.
    Currently I haven’t got to the stage of receiving organic traffic through the Search Engines but a few of my posts are on page 3 and 4 of the Search Engines results page so hopefully by the time I get to the email part of the course I shall have the odd post on page one.
    Do you think it is beneficial to concentrate on building up enough content and receiving organic traffic first before getting rolling with email marketing?
    Thanks for your informative article, I’ve learnt loads here,
    Thanks again,


    1. Thank you Simon. I am glad you find the information beneficial.

      Unlike most marketers, I believe it is important to have lots of content and some organic traffic coming in before starting to build a list. Without content, people will not stay around while you develop it.


  6. Hi, Glen!

    I am stumped for words to say how useful and relevant this article was for me. I am going to bookmark this page right now so that I can refer back to it! 🙂 You have identified and answered some of the difficulties and obstructions that I have routinely faced when trying to build my own email list. I now feel much more prepared.

    Thanks once again!


    1. Thanks for your kind words, Philip! Are there any topics or challenges I could add to the article?


  7. Great post on building an email list. You do a good job with the why and how of list building. You also make it look pretty easy. I have not yet started to collect emails from visitors as it all seemed a bit intimidating to me.Lately I have been on sites that request to “push” me notifications. Do you know about this? I am wondering if this is a different methods to build a list?


    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Erin. Push notifications were originally developed for mobile devices and have migrated to the desktop. They were originally designed to compete with SMS texting on mobile phones. Push notifications are used to provide timely or current announcements or notices of events such as a website update or new post. I do not see them as an alternative to a mailing list.


  8. Hey, Glen

    As a new blogger, I’ve been currently looking into email marketing and the best way to go about it so I can spread the wings of my online business some more 🙂

    The email list process seems really simple, looking at your diagram and reading the steps you’ve mentioned. I really appreciate your help with building my own email list using my website and I’m also Thankful for the email tips because you’ve certainly saved me a lot of time.

    I’ll definitely steer clear of the free email software because I would like to build my own online business, so I thinking maybe Aweber or GetResponse. 🙂



    1. Thank you for commenting, Neil. Sorry I did not get back to you earlier. We had lots of family visiting from out-of-state to attend a wedding. I am glad you found the article useful and able to save some time and effort. Both AWeber and GetResponse offer trial periods and are good products.


  9. Thanks for making it easy to understand the options of creating an email list and how to actually go about it. As a new internet marketer, this will come in very handy. I also like your advice of when to start building the list. This is also very useful information. Keep up the good work and I’ll be visiting your site regularly.


    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Gerry. I appreciate you taking the time. I am glad the article is of help to you. Please stop on by; I add new stuff weekly. Thanks. Glen 🙂


  10. Thanks for sharing this information this is vauable to the success of and affiliate markter. I myself need to know how to build and email list, because this is a powerful tool to reach persons who may be interested in waht you have to offer. Nice work.


    1. You are welcome, Norman. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I hope the article helps you with building your email list. If you have questions or comments, I would be happy to help.


  11. I really wanted ti understand how email marketing works and you have explained it really well here.
    I too have a blog of my own and thought of incorporating an email-marketing list but as of now I do not have as many as 200 visitors, all I have is around 70-80, do you think it will be better if I include email marketing now?
    I’m alreay having very little time left after content creation, so I never really thought of diving in !


    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate your comment. You ask a really good question. It is your decision as to when to start email marketing. But I recommend waiting because the focus should be on creating and adding content to your site. You would have less time to develop content if you start email marketing now. If you set up an autoresponder, you will have to prepare all the messages. And if you start a newsletter, then you will have to prepare that as well as continue adding content to your website. I hope this helps.


  12. Hi Glen

    That’s very thorough and simple to follow and understand.

    It gives enough to someone on the right track towards setting up their mailing list.




    1. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. My aim was to provide a basic understanding on how email list building works. 🙂


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