Build an Email List for Your Travel Blog: A Guide for Beginners
Remember the days when Myspace was the biggest thing in the world? Imagine if you spent a ton of time and money building up your Myspace following. You were making good money selling your products and services to your Myspace followers. Then Facebook came along and…poof! Myspace was now a thing of the past and your main income source disappeared overnight. This type of scenario is precisely why you need an email list as a travel blogger. In this post, I’ll explain exactly why an email list is more important than Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, and Stumbleupon combined. Then I’ll go over how to build an email list for your travel blog the right way.
This post may contain affiliate links as explained in my disclosure policy
Some email marketing stats you should know about (sources: OptinMonster, Email Monday, and Hubspot)
- There are 3.8 billion email users in the world
- Over 280 billion emails have been sent every day in 2018
- 85% of US adults check use email (compared to 63% who use social media)
- On average, every $1 spent on email marketing brings you $38 in return
- 66% of email users have made a purchase from an email (compared to 20% from a Facebook post)
These are some of the reasons why your email list is your #1 asset as a travel blogger or anyone serious about digital marketing. Let’s dig deeper to see the advantages of focusing on email as your marketing channel.
Your email list is the only audience you OWN
Simply put: your email list is 100% your own. That’s not the case with social media; you’re just renting space on those platforms and can get evicted at any time. For instance, Facebook, Inc owns Instagram and Youtube. As a user, you’re not in control of any algorithm changes or adjustments to their terms of service. There’s also no guarantee that your account will be around tomorrow. Facebook can disable your account at will, without any explanation. (You’ll see this mentioned somewhere if you read their 1,578,496-page terms of service.) Instagram can shadowban your account, preventing your pictures from showing up under hashtags. I know this because it happened to me! My account was shadowbanned because I posted hashtags in the comments of my photos, and Instagram’s bots marked that as spam. For around 6 months, I struggled to grow my account and had no idea why I wasn’t making progress. Such a waste of time and energy!
Social media = bad business model
Given how unpredictable social media is, do you really want to build a business around it? Not very wise, is it? You don’t need to be an influencer to succeed as a travel blogger, contrary to what some ‘gurus’ might tell you. Some travel bloggers, like Wandering Earl, have managed to monetize their blogs with barely any social media followers. They focused on building an email list of raving fans who loved what they were doing. Wandering Earl promotes his group tours around the world to his email list and makes a full-time income from that.
Don’t fret over your Instagram likes and comments, as I did in the beginning. Instead, focus on building an audience that cares about what you have to offer, whether it be content, services, courses, or affiliate products. Make sure you capture this audience on an email list that you own. We’ll go over how to do that later in the post.
Your email list gives you direct access to your most loyal readers
If someone hands over their email address to you, then that person must really value your opinion. Something you wrote or did resonated with them. Giving someone access to your inbox is like inviting them into your home. You only invite people you like and trust to your home, right?
With email, you can get more personal and give your readers a true sense of who you are. You can tell stories about your family, talk about the struggles you’ve overcome, and explain why you really want to help them. Because at the end of the day, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it (Simon Kinek). Sure, you can share those things on social media, too. But with an algorithm that favors those who pay, Facebook and the like will only show your post to a fraction of your audience. Your message might get lost in people’s never-ending feeds. With email, it’s different. Most American adults check their emails more than 20 times a day! Think about it: you notice pretty much every email that comes into your inbox, right?
Your email subscribers are more likely to buy from you
Email marketing is one of the most reliable ways to make money as a blogger. Why? People are more likely to make a purchase when they receive an offer directly to their inbox. According to Optin Monster, 66% of people surveyed between 2016-2019 made a purchase after seeing an offer by email. Compare that to 20% for a Facebook post and 6% for a tweet.
An engaged email list = peace of mind
When you have an email list of people that pay attention, you don’t have to worry about the next Pinterest or Instagram algorithm change. Other bloggers on Facebook groups will be having a meltdown while you’re sipping margaritas on the beach. With an email list, you’ll always have an audience you can sell to. Imagine being able to make $5k, $10k, $20k, or even $50k just by sending an email. This isn’t some fantasy. It happens all the time. I’m currently working with an email marketing coach who has helped a client make $49k from just one email. I’m learning all her secrets!
Email isn’t going anywhere
Social media trends come and go, but email usage keeps growing. Who knows what will happen to Instagram over the next ten years? With email, though, you don’t have to worry about longevity. Email is such an integral part of both work and everyday life so it safe to say that it’s here to stay.
So how do you build an email list?
I’ll admit it: email list building seems intimidating at first. You have to get a bunch of strangers to sign up for your newsletter. Then you have to message them consistently? What do you even say to those people? How do you get them on your list in the first place? Building an email list is unchartered territory for most new bloggers so it’s completely normal to be unsure where to start.
Sign up for an email service provider
Convertkit is the email service provider I use. It’s specifically designed for bloggers so setting it up and integrating it with WordPress are super easy. If you want to add a signup form. Before Convertkit, I used Aweber and had non-stop problems. First, the user interface looks like the first version of AOL. Then my emails always ended up in people’s spam folders. I haven’t had that problem with Convertkit. You can sign up for Convertkit for $29.99/month.Here are some of the benefits of choosing Convertkit over Aweber, MailChimp, MailerLite, and other email service providers.
- It comes with a drag and drop feature that helps you build your email sequences so you don’t stare at the page wondering what on earth to do.
- You get 24/7, super friendly customer support. I’ve contacted support many times and love how quickly they respond. They also follow up to make sure everything is going well!
- The tag feature enables you to categorize your subscribers based on actions they take. For instance, if someone clicks on a link to go check out your new post about scuba diving, you know to target that person if you create a scuba diving tour. Tagging your subscribers helps you better understand what they’re interested in.
- Because Convertkit is designed specifically for bloggers, it integrates seamlessly with WordPress. You don’t need to use any completed code, like with Aweber
Get clear on your mission
In order to attract the right audience to your email list, you need to know your why. What is the purpose of your business? Notice I used the word business instead of blog? Your blog isn’t your business. It’s the medium you use to attract your ideal customers and convert them to customers. Thinking in these terms makes writing content and building a list a lot easier. For instance, my mission is to help travel-loving, freedom-craving people like me learn how to make passive income online and work from anywhere. Being raised in an immigrant family that pushed me towards medicine, I also want to show others that you don’t need to pursue a career in science to be successful. With that in mind, I create content like this to attract people that would identify with my mission.
Now think about what message you’re dying to share? What kind of impact do you want to have? It doesn’t have to be anything out of this world. Something that might seem simple to an avid traveler, like helping someone plan their first international trip, can be transformational.
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Decide who you want to serve
Going along with your mission, who is it that you want to help? You have to get specific. Focusing on one ideal customer helps make this process easier. It’s even better if that ideal customer is a real person instead of an avatar. Let’s say you’re looking for an ideal customer for your solo female travel blog. These are some of the questions you’ll have to answer:
- Does she live in a rural or urban area?
- Where does she work?
- Does she have kids?
- What’s her personality?
- How much income does she make?
- What are her fears and doubts?
- What are her struggles?
- Does she have a college degree?
- What are her goals and dreams?
- What are her values?
If you’re having a hard time deciding who your ideal customer is, then just use yourself. What? Yes, you are actually a great proxy for your ideal customer since you want to serve like-minded people. My ideal customer is myself when I was 3-6 months into blogging. During that period, I was still trying to figure out how to use Pinterest and set up affiliate links on my blog. Knowing what my struggles were at the time, I can come up with solutions to help those who are in the same boat right now.
Try one list building strategy at a time
At the beginning of 2018, I participated in a list-building coaching program and learned about more than 15 different ways to grow an email list. You need to create a lead magnet or an opt-in incentive to convert website visitors into subscribers. Here are some of the ones I’ve tried:
- Giveaways: I doubled my email list in November 2018 by hosting a giveaway of the Tep Wireless Pocket WiFi
- Content upgrades: when I write a post, I include a download that would help my readers get results faster. For instance, in my Ultimate Guide to Pinterest for Travel Bloggers, I included a list of 5o Pinterest group boards in the travel niche.
- Resource library: using the Essential Grid plugin, I created a private resource library for my subscribers. It contains blogging guides, worksheets, and cheat sheets. I also have a resource library for female solo travelers.
- Free email courses: I created a free affiliate marketing email course and grow my list by 15%
- Asking friends and family: don’t forget old-fashioned communication. Tell your friends and family about your new venture and ask them to let others know about it. You’d be surprised by the number of subscribers you can get just by word of mouth.
Consistently test different list building strategies
There are so many list-building strategies out there, but you won’t know what works and what doesn’t if you try a couple at the same time. List building involves a lot of testing. What works for The Blonde Abroad might not work for you. It’s really important to try one strategy at a time and then repeat the ones that are most effective. Using this system, I figured out that giveaways worked great so now I do giveaways more often. If you want to grow your email list, you have to be consistent. Even spending one hour every week to grow your list adds up over time!
I hope this post has helped you see how important an email list is to your business. If you have any questions at all about list building, just leave a comment below and I’ll respond ASAP.
One more thing: if you found this post helpful, please share!