21 Ways to Get More Email Subscribers Without Spending Money

Looking to grow your email list? Check out these 21 ways to get more email subscribers that won’t cost you any money!

Make a Quiz to Grow Your List Now

1. Quizzes


This is a new strategy, and one that is quickly gaining in popularity. Quizzes have been huge online as just-for-fun content for a long time, but recently more and more companies are starting to use them as lead magnet. A quiz has the natural advantage of being very appealing to people in and of themselves, and by combining them with your email marketing program and adding all the data from the quiz to the new contacts you acquire in your quiz, you can not only build up more contacts, but also follow up with people in a more personalized way.

Anytime there is a “new kid on the block” strategy there is an opportunity to steal a big win, quizzes are in that category right now.

To create a quiz, use Quiz Maker

2. Giveaways


Who doesn’t like free stuff? One really easy and time effective way to get new subscribers is with a giveaway. All you have to do is set up the entry criteria, put together a prize, and let people sign up to enter. You can even set up a giveaway so that people can enter more times by sharing the giveaway, so it’s a self-propelling piece of content.

I must warn you though, only give away things that your ideal customer wants, that way you eliminate anyone who is not a good fit for your brand by default.

To create a giveaway, use Giveaway Builder

3. Polls


Opinions are powerful drivers for most people. We love to share our opinions and also enjoy berating opinions we disagree with. Polls let people voice their choices and see how they compare with the general population. You can also add in an email capture form to your poll and offer to send more content around the subject of the poll. The poll itself does the job of drawing people in very well, and capturing attention is easily the most difficult part of starting a relationship with a customer, once you get that done you can present a relevant call to action for email signup and you’re golden.

To build a poll, use Poll Maker

4. Content upgrades

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Contextual links work super well for driving traffic to other sites, so why not use them to capture emails? Think about it, you have an article about marketing and you include a link in the article to “Get my top 100 marketing tactics” which when clicked opens up an opt-in form (you can do that using Leadpages). I really like this one because it creates a smooth flow of attention, so rather than diverting someone’s attention to an email capture form separate from the content they are consuming, you are able to bring in new leads right within the context of the page the reader is already engaged with.

To set up content upgrade links, use Leadpages

5. Popups


Okay, caveat time. I don’t like pop ups, but they absolutely work to get you new email subscribers, so I can’t publish this list without including them. Below I’ve included what I would consider to be my acceptable pop-ups, as well as what not to do.

Popups that don’t totally suck:

1. Timed ones

I.E. the popup only shows after a certain amount of time on the page. This way at least you know I’m interested in whatever I’m looking at on your site before you shove an email capture form in my face.

2. Exit intent

That says something like “Still interested in content marketing stuff? opt-in to get more articles like this in your inbox” that doesn’t totally suck, maybe I am interested in your article and would like to get more in my inbox, so I’ll opt in.

3. Content-relevant ones

So for example if I’m reading an article about different hairstyles and you pop up an email capture form that says “stay on-trend by getting the latest styles delivered to your inbox” that makes a lot of sense and is less annoying.


Make one of those opt-in call to action’s that says “if you don’t opt-in your business will suffer.” that’s not true and it’s insulting and it’s rude.

To set up a popup, use Sumo.com

6. Contests

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Everybody wants to be a winner. Let people attempt to win by entering your contest. It can be a bit tough to come up with ideas for contests if you’re not in a creative space (photography and caption contests are obviously super easy). However, with a little outside-the-box thinking you can come up with your own contest idea and capitalize on people’s natural desire to win in order to get more opt-ins (opt-in to enter obviously).

To set up a photo contest, use Woobox

7. Roundup newsletter

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There are a few companies such as MOZ who have really cashed in on the roundup newsletter idea. It makes a lot of sense to subscribe to a curated list of industry news. I think the reason this one doesn’t work well is two-fold. First, if you don’t have a topic that lends itself to lots of new content this won’t work because there simply won’t be a lot to search through when building up the top list. Second, it takes a surprising amount of work to consistently deliver a good list of content. You’ll have to dig deep and find posts that don’t make the rounds on the traditional channels because people have already seen those and there’s often great content hiding in a blog that doesn’t have an enormous following.

Despite those setbacks, I do think this one can be very effective, and if it works well it automatically puts you in a position of authority as the person who know where to find good advice, which is a perfect place to be for promoting your own offerings.

8. About/Team page optimization


We always want to know how things are done or who is the creator of a product. About and team pages get a surprising amount of traffic as people attempt to satisfy the curiosity of what is behind the curtain. Simply adding an opt-in form with relevant reasons for subscribing on the about page is a great way to get people a bit more engaged.

9. 404 page optimization



Like it or not, people will land on pages on your domain that no longer exist, and they’ll get a 404 error page. You can turn this negative into a positive by adding an email capture page with a compelling offer for a free download or resource sheet on the 404 pages that show up on your site. Leadpages has a setup process that will automatically display a landing page with opt-in form on all error pages that show up on your site. This one’s easy to get up and running and can deliver consistent results so it’s really a no-brainer.

You can set up a quick 404 landing page using Leadpages

10. Host free webinars


Webinars are enormously successful for some companies and a total waste of time for others. Sometimes the same company flip-flops and webinars go in and out of usefulness. I think anytime you have a repeatable training course that you know drives potential customers to sign up for your product you can make great use of webinars. It takes a good amount of effort to set up a webinar, but if you’re able to do the same webinar concept lots of times you can spread out the time investment and it becomes much more worth it.

Quickly set up webinars using Leadpages and Gotowebinar

11. Trade Newsletter Sponsorships


People who subscribe to newsletters for topics related to your area of expertise are certainly more likely to opt in for your email marketing as well. Once you have a certain size list, you can do collaborations with other companies that run their own lists. Co-marketing efforts like trading newsletter spots are a great way to grow both of your followings. The only crucial part of this strategy is to ensure that both companies have roughly equal followings and the same level of engagement for their lists, and obviously you want to make sure both products are useful to both audiences.

Find relevant newsletters to sponsor at Upstart.me

12. Add a face to your opt-in forms


Did you know that we imprint onto faces when we are babies so that we know to follow our parents around and not get lost? It’s the same concept as when ducks raised in captivity imprint on their human “parents” and follow them around. We never stop looking for faces as long as we live, and as marketers you can take advantage of that fact by using faces to attract attention to certain elements you want to highlight. This is one to try, run an a/b test and see what the difference is when replacing the hero image on your email capture form from a regular image to a face.

13. Put together a resource list

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Whenever you have some success people will want to know how you did it. If you put together a list of resources that you use to grow your business or operate your company, then give that list away it can be an excellent lead magnet. I’ve seen folks like Lewis Howes use this as their main opt-in and it works exceptionally well for them. It’s easy enough to put together so worth a try.

14. Replicate top blog posts onto Slideshare, YouTube and Medium

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There’s usually an 80/20 rule with blogging, meaning that 20% of your posts will yield 80% of the leads. For a quick boost in traffic and subscribers, re-build those 20% of posts that are driving a lot of results as Slideshares, YouTube videos, and Medium posts. These channels will put you in front of new audiences and provide an instant bump in results with very little creative effort.

15. Free email course

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Email courses are huge right now. Education through drip email sequences works really well both from the company perspective and from the customer viewpoint because you can schedule the education to go out at a manageable pace and then also provide all the resources in one place once the email series is over. Putting together a course can seem daunting, but in reality you are just transferring a lot of the information and education you’d normally share with customers one-on-one over to an email format.

To create an email course, use ConvertKit

16. Scroll-triggered slideouts


You can use a plugin to set up an email capture box that slides out once you reach a certain point on the page. That way it doesn’t show until they’ve read a certain amount of your article. Now there are pros and cons to this. Pro: you know someone is interested if they’ve already read part of your article. Con: if you shove an email capture form into their face mid-sentence that’s annoying.

To set this up, use Dreamgrow Scroll Triggered Box

17. Private Facebook Group Access


I’m seeing this one really grow in popularity recently. It can work really well when you have a lot of information to share and your customers are engaged enough to contribute to the conversation. In a private Facebook group people are much more likely to ask questions because they know someone will answer and that not everyone in the world will see the question if they’re apprehensive about the quality of their inquiry.

18. Smart slide in (milo tree)


There’s a new company called Milo Tree that I’ve been following and what they do is an intelligent slider that remembers visitors and shows different offers based on who is on the site. For example, it’ll show your email opt-in form first, but then if someone does subscribe it will show your Facebook page and ask for a “like” and then it’ll move to Pinterest, Twitter, so on and so forth. It’s an intriguing concept and worth testing on your site.

Set up a smart slide-in at Milo Tree

19. Targeted keyword buying paired with landing pages


I love this one because it’s super quick and works exceptionally well. Basically what you do is look at what keywords are driving the most traffic to your content, then look at which posts are getting the traffic from those keywords, then re-factor those posts as landing pages that have the exact word or phrase you know people are using to get to them on the page so it’s a natural transition. You’ll see an instant 25-50% increase in conversions by converting your top posts like this.

20. Co-hosted Webinar

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Having someone join you to run a webinar is a great way to share audiences. There can be lots of mutually beneficial outcomes as well as you can share expertise, followers, information, etc. between you and the co-host.

21. Link from email signature



If you’re like me, you send a lot of emails. As unfortunate as it is, a lot of the people you email get lost in the shuffle and it can be months or even years between communications. If you throw a link to your newsletter in your signature then anyone who wants to hear from you more often can do so by just subscribing. Definitely keep it a soft sell like “Get my newsletter to keep in touch” something like that.

Make a Quiz to Grow Your List Now

Josh Haynam

Josh Haynam is the co-founder of Interact, a place for creating beautiful and engaging quizzes that generate email leads. Outside of Interact Josh is an outdoor enthusiast, is very into health/fitness, and enjoys spending time with his community in San Francisco.

More Posts by Josh Haynam