Lesson 4: The Problem with Guest Posts…

Written by James Clear at JamesClear.com

Looking for previous lessons? Lesson 0 | Lesson 1 | Lesson 2 | Lesson 3

Less than two years ago, I started writing on JamesClear.com. During the first month, I didn’t even get 1,000 visitors.

Today, my site gets over 250,000 unique visitors per month. In less than 2 years, I’ve built an email list of more than 100,000 people.

Here’s how I did it…

The Problem With Guest Posts

Guest posting is a common strategy for growing an email list. The basic idea is simple: you write a good article. You publish that article on another site that gets a lot of traffic. And then, that traffic clicks on links in the article or in your author byline and comes back to your site. It’s a good plan and it works.

The problem is that it doesn’t scale at all. I can write one or two decent guest posts per week, but if I write 10 posts, then they are all junk. In order to reach more people, you have to write more posts, but if you write more posts, then the quality decreases.

For this reason, I haven’t written a guest post in years. Instead, I do this…

Every Monday and Thursday, I write a new article on JamesClear.com. Obviously, I put a lot of time and energy into these articles. I want them to be as useful as possible.

About a week later, I take these articles and syndicate them or re-publish them to outside sites. For example, here is an article that originally ran on my site and then was re-published by Lifehacker later on. I gained over 600 subscribers from the Lifehacker version and I didn’t have to put in any additional work writing a new

That’s why this strategy is so useful: it gives your current content legs. You put all this hard work into writing a great article and now you get to leverage that hard work over and over.

There are a couple key points you need to know for using this strategy effectively…

#1 Pitch a Perfect Fit

Many people will wonder, “How can I get my work published by a big outlet?”

Answer: Focus on pitching articles that are only a perfect fit for that audience. Lifehacker is an audience filled with people who want productivity and success hacks. So, when I send them an email about an article I wrote that covers Kobe Bryant and Mozart’s practice strategies, it’s a very easy sell to them. In fact, here’s the exact email I sent to their editor to pitch that article…

SUBJECT: Republish this post about the science of success?



I wrote the following post about deliberate practice and the science of success. It’s been a popular post on my site and I think that the Lifehacker audience would love it as well.

See what you think: http://jamesclear.com/deliberate-practice

If you enjoy it, I’d love to see it republished on Lifehacker.


The most important thing is to know what your audience wants. In this case, your audience is the person you are pitching your article to. Know the type of content they run and only send them pieces that are a perfect fit.

If you’re wondering, “How do I find the right editor to pitch?” There are two answers.

First, if it’s a really big site (Yahoo, CNN, Lifehacker etc.), then start by looking at the editor for the vertical that is most relevant to you. For me, my articles typically fit best in the health or business verticals. Many outlets will have the editor listed for a particular vertical and finding their email address is usually a few Google searches away.

Second, if that strategy doesn’t work (or if you just can’t track down the editor’s email address through some searching), you can reach out to another writer who isn’t the editor, but who already writes for the outlet.

In many cases, individual writers will have their own blogs, social media accounts, or online properties. This is true even for large outlets like the New York Times (many writers for the Times have their own blogs elsewhere online, even if they rarely keep them up). Your goal should be to reach out, get to know them, and then — if a friendship starts to blossom — you can ask them to connect you with the right outlet.

#2 Links Are Everything

The second thing to keep in mind is that links are everything with this strategy. Having a post get republished without any links is useless. It might be nice to be in the New York Times, but if they can’t send you any traffic, then your email list won’t benefit.

Once an outlet has expressed interest in a piece, I typically ask them to keep all of the original links in and I will always have a byline added to the end of the article. (Note: if possible, you want your byline to be the last line of the article, not in the author box. Author boxes often get ignored by readers.)

Here is an example of a byline I typically use:

James Clear writes at JamesClear.com about the science of habit formation and how to use behavioral science to improve your health, creativity, and productivity. To get useful ideas for improving your mental and physical performance, join his free newsletter.

#3 Use Landing Pages

The single biggest mistake people make with this strategy is not driving people back to dedicated landing pages. Notice that my byline (above) links directly to my newsletter page.

I intentionally drive people to this page because there is nothing else they can do except sign up for the email list. In a typical month, this page will convert between 79 to 81 percent and send over 2,500 email signups.

Why does this page convert so well? Is it the world’s best copy? Is it the world’s best design?

Nope. It has very little to do with the design or copy. It’s because I am sending qualified and motivated traffic to that page.

Think about it. If you just finished reading an article from me, then you are already qualified. You don’t need to spend 10 minutes clicking around my site and getting to know me. You just read an entire article from me. Of course you enjoy the content. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have finished reading.

For that reason, you should drive people straight to a landing page where they can join rather than linking to your homepage and hoping they find the email form in your sidebar.

Simple Works, Now Repeat

It’s a simple strategy, but it works wonders.

…If you actually do it.

Now, find your best content (or write new content based on Lesson 2) and then start emailing editors.

Lesson 4 Task

1) Find 1 site that is a fit for your best post/article. Share it as a comment below.

2) Email the editor of the vertical you want to write for using the following script:

Hi [Editor]!

I wrote the following post about [topic of the post]. It’s been a popular post on my site and I think that the [THEIR SITE] audience would love it as well.

See what you think: [URL OF ARTICLE]

If you enjoy it, I’d love to see it republished on [THEIR SITE].

3) If they say yes, be sure to include links and create a simple landing page.

* * *

Check out SumoMe’s Content Analytics tool. It shows you exactly where your visitors stop reading your content. Use the tool to optimize your own posts before you pitch them as guest posts.

Lesson 3: How to Get 30% More Emails Per Post

Written by Bryan Harris at VideoFruit

Looking for previous lessons? Lesson 0 | Lesson 1 | Lesson 2

What if every time you wrote a blog post you got hundreds of new email subscribers?

Sounds impossible, right?

Two weeks ago I published one blog post that generated 543 subscribers.

A year ago I would have KILLED to have had that many people on my entire list. Using the strategy you’re about to learn, you can get hundreds of new subscribers every time you press publish…even if you have a tiny site.

How do you do it?

Content Upgrades.

A content upgrade is an opt-in bribe created for readers of a specific blog post.

Using content upgrades has grown my list from 205 subscribers to over 10,000 in the past 10 months. I’ve tried 18 different list-building strategies, and content upgrades outperformed all of the others combined.

Take this post, for example.

In that post you’ll learn how to take someone else’s teaching, offer it as a service and generate $1,000 per month in recurring consulting revenue. However, what makes this post unique is that at the bottom of the article is an opt-in bribe created specifically for the readers of that article.

Take a look…

Part 1: Incredibly helpful blog post (see Email1K lesson #2)

Part 2: Bonus content given in exchange for an email address

I’ve consistently seen content upgrades work 6x better than traditional universal opt-in bribes (like generic eBooks).

Step 1: Identify your most popular blog posts

The quickest way to get started using content upgrades is to identify your most popular blog post of the past 90 days and install a content upgrade in that post.

To find your most popular article follow these 4 steps:

Step 1: Login to your Google Analytics Account

Step 2: Click on “Behavior”. “Site Content” and then “All Pages” (sidebar)

Step 3: Set you date range to the last 90 days (upper right hand corner)

Step 4: Identify the blog posts that received the most traffic

Step 2: Create your Content Upgrade

Now you need to create the content upgrade to use in your post. I’ve used 11 different types of content upgrades and have found 3 that work the best.

1. Training Video: Some of the highest converting content upgrades I’ve created are training videos that show my readers how to do what I just taught them in the blog post. You can easily create these videos using the free screen recording software Jing.

2. Checklist: Turn your blog post into an easy to follow checklist. 3,000 word in-depth blog posts are great but it’s really easy to get lost in them. By turning the post into a short checklist the information becomes much more actionable. Use this Google Doc template to create your checklist.

3. Resource Lists: In the post referenced above I compiled a list of links that helped the reader take action on the strategies that I outlined in the post. You can compile all of the links into a Google Doc. Here is the list I compiled and offered as a content upgrade (use it as a template to create your own).

Step 3: Setup your Content Upgrade

Setting up content upgrades can be a pain in the butt.

Leadpages: I made a tutorial video showing you exactly how to do it using LeadPages.(Use this special Email1K link to pay $1 to get a Leadpages template and free 30 day trial – then it’s $67/month)

Leads by SumoMe: If you already have SumoMe installed you can quickly add Leads in the Sumo Store. Leads gives you the first 100 content upgrades free. After that it’s just $100/yr.

Lesson 3 Task

Today, we are going to help you get 30%+ more email subscribers every day.

1. Identify your most popular post through Google Analytics

2. Create a relevant content upgrade: video, checklist or resource list. (Use my checklist example)

3. Set up Leadpages or install Leads by SumoMe for free.

4. Embed your Content Upgrade in the top 1/3 and at the bottom of your post

Now Sit back and enjoy the new email signups. If you are highly motivated, set up your next four most popular posts.

Leave a comment with a link to your page featuring your Content Upgrade.

Lesson 2: Creating Content That Drives Targeted Traffic

Written by Brian Dean at www.Backlinko.com

Looking for the previous lessons? Lesson 0 | Lesson 1

When it comes to attracting new email subscribers, there is no substitute for great content. And while you have to write your own content, I want to show you how to create popular content that builds your list.

Let’s imagine two scenarios:

Visitor A lands on your outdated, boring post about your thoughts on paleo diets…


Visitor B reads a post that features hundreds of individual paleo diets rated from best to worst and offers a FAQ about paleo…

* * *

Which visitor is more likely to subscribe to your email list when they see a pop up?

Exactly! Visitor B has already received a ton of value and wants more of what you’re offering.

After today’s lesson you will never need to chose a topic out of thin air…

Instead, you will can find the best content that is already resonating with your ideal visitors and make it better.

Now for the question you’re already asking:

HOW do you find the best content that is generating the traffic and subscribers you want?

That’s easy: follow today’s step-by-step lesson. First, I’ll show you how to find the best content and then we’ll look at how to make your content even better.

Step #1: Find 5 Keywords in Your Niche

Funny story:

When I launched my first blog back in 2009, I had the bright idea to completely ignore keywords.

I said to myself: “I’ll just write for my audience and the rest will take care of itself”.

Face, meet palm.

The fact is, unless you target specific keywords, you have ZERO clue what your audience actually wants.

This has nothing to do with SEO: keyword data gives you objective information about what your audience searches for everyday.

And when you get your content in front of them — kablamo! — more traffic and subscribers for you.

So head over to Google Keywords and enter a few keywords that describe your site’s niche. (If you don’t have an account here are some simple steps you can use.)

In this example, we’ll look at a Paleo blog:

And see which keywords get solid search volume (don’t worry about the exact numbers. Just keep an eye out for relatively popular terms):

Grab the top five keywords and mosey on over to step #2:

Step #2: Find What Content Resonates on Social Networks

BuzzSumo is a rockin’ tool that finds content that’s generated a lot of social shares. (No connection to AppSumo, except that it’s another crazy useful site.)

Here’s how to use it. Take the keywords in step #1 and search BuzzSumo:

And see which content comes up.

Just like that, you have dozens of tested content ideas that you can improve on and use to attract the right audience.

Now, add those to this spreadsheet and move to step 3.

Step #3: Find What Content Ranks as High Quality

Google is one of the most powerful content marketing research tools because it curates by quality.

Take the same keywords from step #1 and search Google:

Study the first page. See what common threads tie the results together.

For example, the first page of results on Google for the keyword, “paleo diet recipes”, are massive lists of links to individual recipes:

In other words, they don’t tend to be a list of “Top 10 tastiest Paleo recipes” or “20 quick and easy paleo recipes”. The results on the first page are all MASSIVE lists. So don’t waste your time with a list of 10 recipes. If you want to rank for this keyword, go big or go home.

Step #4: Take the Popular/Quality Content You Found and Make It Better

Finally, it’s time to create something that takes what you found in steps #2 and #3…and make it WAY better.

The better your content is, the easier it will be for someone to sign up to your list.

Here’s how to make the content on your site better than the competition:

  1. Depth and Content Length: Longer content performs better than short-form content almost 100% of the time. BuzzSumo and OKDork recently teamed up and found that content over 2,000+ words performs better than shorter posts:
  2. Up-to-Date: People love to share cutting edge info. If the content you found in steps #2 and #3 are a little long in the tooth, add updated stats, info or screenshots.
  3. Design: Don’t sleep on design. Graphics, custom images, charts and infographics to give your content some extra pop.
  4. Readability: Use a 12+ sized sarif font (OkDork is a great example). Your paragraphs should have no more than 1-2 sentences.

Lesson 2 Task

  1. Find 3 high-volume keywords in your space using the Google Keyword Planner.
  2. Search for those keywords in BuzzSumo and Google. Add winning content ideas to this spreadsheet.
  3. Identify ONE topic that’s performed well, that you can improve and make better.
  4. Create your next blog post on that topic. Make sure it is better than what’s already out there:
  5. ● Length: Make it twice as long as the content you found

    ● Up-to-date: Add at least two relevant links from the past 2 months

    ● Design: Add 2x as many graphics

    ● Readability: Add sub-headers and make each paragraph shorter

  6. Leave a comment with the ONE topic you’re going to start with. Or if you’re a go-getter and already published your post, leave a link in your comment.

P.S. On Thursday, Bryan Harris will show you how to make your best content produce tons of email subscribers using Content Upgrades.

Lesson 1: The 2% Rule

Written by Noah Kagan at www.OkDork.com

Looking for the previous lesson? Lesson 0

Today, I’m alone in New York. I wish you were here to keep me company.

It got me thinking a lot about this email and how to share a story about how to understand the value of working with what you have.

Since I’m lonely, I thought about all the ways I could make a friend right now:

1- OkCupid

2- Craigslist’s Missed Connections

3- Stand on the street with a sign

4- Ask people randomly if they’ll be my friend


Reach out to people I ALREADY know to be my friend.

Oh Noah, You are so silly. That’s obvious….

Is it?

You all have traffic to your sites but you spend way too much time worrying about new traffic vs optimizing what you already have.

Let’s focus on optimizing your current traffic for email conversions.

I call this the 2% rule. You should be getting at least 2% of your traffic to join your mailing list.

2%. Why does it matter?

Knowing this rule for email signups should give you a better understanding of how you’re performing (or not).

100 visitors a day = 2 new email sign ups a day

5,000 visitors a day = 100 new email sign ups a day

At AppSumo, when we started, we were doing promotions for 6 months without ever asking for an email address.

For instance, we just kept going out and building brand new relationships with our customers, over and over. Luckily, my good friend Hiten bitch-slapped me in the face and said to start collecting emails.

Let’s do the same for your website, now!

Lesson 1 Activity: Optimizing Your Site for Email Collection

You already have a site with some traffic (even if it’s small), let’s make sure you are optimizing for the emails of the people already wanting to hear more from you.

As long as you have traffic you can always apply the 2% Rule. No excuses.

I’m going to show you SumoMe — the same tools we’ve used at AppSumo to grow to 750,000 sumo-lings. It’s free and will help you get at least 2%, but you’re free to try other plugins that do the same thing.

If you already have SumoMe, we’ll show you a quick and easy way to optimize it.

Let’s set you up so you are getting at least 2% email conversion rate. That means for every 100 new visitors you should get at least 2 email subscribers.

  1. Install List Builder by SumoMe.com. It takes a minute. I’ll wait, I’m not going anywhere.
  2. (If you already have SumoMe installed skip to step 2 below.)

  3. Now Optimize It:

  4. a) Search for your own domain on BuzzSumo.com to find your most shared most posts. (No connection to AppSumo, except they’re awesome too)

    b) Take your #1 popular post and make that your Heading in the “Design” section of List Builder (i.e. “15 Awesome Tools You’ve Never Heard Of”)

    c) In “Behavior” under “Success Redirect URL” add your the URL for your most popular post. Add that same URL to “Exclude Pages” to keep the pop-up from showing on the success page. Here’s how it should look:

    The Result:

  5. Post your site as a comment here on Email1k.com.

Now you should be getting at least 2%+ of your traffic subscribing to your email list.



P.S. On Monday, Brian Dean will show how to create content that drives new traffic for your email optimized site.

P.P.S. If you’re not part of the 4,000+ Email1K VIP Facebook group click here to join.

Lesson 0: Work Backwards from Your Goal

Written by Noah Kagan at www.OkDork.com

Right now I’m on a United plane cramped sitting next to a fat guy en route to New York City.

And hopefully wherever you are in the world you’re more comfortable than me.

What if I told you to meet me for lunch at 12pm tomorrow in New York City?

This is what you’d probably do:

  1. Ask where we’re getting tacos
  2. Look up directions on Google Maps
  3. Figure out if you should get a taxi / fly / hyperloop / ride your bike / use subway

After all this, you’re finally sitting across from me enjoying delicious tacos 🙂

Now what does that have to do with growing an email list?

To grow your email list you have to know where you want to go and plan the most efficient route to get there. Figure out your daily email target and then the ways to get there. It could be optimizing your conversion rate, guest posting, advertising, courses like this one, free books, public relations, podcasting, etc…

It’s hard to figure out which way(s) to go. In Email1K, we’ll tell you the most effective methods and how exactly to do them.

We are here to help but YOU have to commit 30 minutes every Monday and Thursday to doing the work. That’s when we’ll email out the expert lesson.

If you are not willing to do the work for your mailing list, please unsubscribe now.

Good, got rid of all the vegans. KIDDING. Got rid of all the people not cut out for hard work, like crossfitters.

Haha, okay now that I’ve offended everyone left. Now let’s get to work.

It’s absolutely critical to remember this: If you don’t take action on each expert lesson, your list won’t grow.

Today is “Lesson 0.” Before we jump into tactics and strategies, you first have to know where you are and where you are going.

Lesson 0 Activity:

We’ve created a simple spreadsheet to help you visualize where you are going. This is the exact exercise I did when I made my email list my #1 focus in 2014.

This is designed to be a simple exercise to help you see what your daily goal is for new email subscribers. Each Email1K lesson will put your daily goal that much closer.

  1. Open the Email1K planning spreadsheet
  2. Download the Excel file
  3. Change the fields in blue

Just focus on doubling your list, if you’re at 100 let’s get you to 200. Or if you’re at 5,000 let’s get you to 10,000. The point is: Learn the fundamentals of your growth engine so you can repeat it.

Now I want you to do 2 things:

1) Leave a comment here about what your daily email goal is!

The more you set your intention, the more likely you are to get it.

2) I want you to print out your # and put it somewhere you’ll see it everyday for the next 30 days! If you’re adventurous, post it in the Facebook group (VIP members only).

Get to work.

Noah “hot sauce” Kagan

P.S. Stay tuned for Thursday’s lesson where we help you increase your conversion rate.