Disclaimer: Some links in this post may be affiliate links. Making a purchase after clicking one of these links may result in a commission for me. Also, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
If you’ve been at this for a while, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “the money is in the list.” While this holds true for many businesses, does it apply to all scenarios?
Specifically, is building an email list worth it if you run a purely information site? Will you get the same type of return on that list that you would if your site was promoting products and services?
While there are clearly plenty of benefits to growing a mailing list for most businesses, I don’t think you can broadly say that it makes the most sense to build one in all scenarios.
After trying and failing multiple times across multiple sites, I’m going to share why I don’t think an email list is the holy grail for informational niche sites.
Before jumping in, I just want to point out that I’m truly referring to sites that are purely informational. No digital or physical products to promote. No coaching or courses to sell. Nothing.
In those scenarios, an email list becomes more enticing, and it can even make sense to build your list ahead of time if you know that you’ll have something to sell later on.
For the sake of this post, let’s assume that you simply have an informational site where people visit for the sole purpose of getting an answer to a question.
With that out of the way, let’s jump in.
Consider the Intent of Your Visitors
One of the biggest problems with growing an email list on an informational site is the intent of your users. If your users landed on your site to simply find some information about something, they have no buyer intent whatsoever.
Now, that doesn’t mean that those visitors won’t potentially buy something from you down the road as your grow your list, but it does mean that they’re much less likely to do so than someone who landed on your site to read a product review or to learn about some service that you’re offering.
To convert these visitors, you’ll likely need to nurture the relationship through a series of helpful, informational emails. As they learn to trust you, you can pitch products, affiliate offers, etc. It will just take more time and effort.
It Takes Time Away from What Drives Results
A big reason why we’ve put our email lists on hold on our niche sites is that is simply takes too much time away from what drives our business, which is producing content and growing organic search traffic.
For anyone that’s attempted to grow and manage an email list, you know how much time and energy it can take. Not only do you need to get everything set up in the first place and craft a series of automated emails, but to keep your list engaged, you have to continuously pump on new and great content.
There’s only so much time in the day, so it’s up to you to decide how best to divide up that time. For us, it’s clear that producing more content leads to significant gains in revenue.
For other types of businesses, reaching high traffic numbers isn’t the main goal. Instead, they can make a lot more money from a lot less people.
This all boils down to things like the niche that you’re in, the type of visitors that you target, your overall monetization strategy, etc.
For a purely informational site, producing content moves the needle the most, and taking time away from that to grown and manage an email list means not focusing on what makes your business successful in the first place.
It’s Not Passive
Right in line with my point above is that email marketing is not passive. Yes, you can streamline the process to some extent with automated emails, but to truly manage your list the right away, it takes time.
With most things that we do in this business model, we like the idea of putting in the work up front, then letting that work generate a recurring revenue stream. You do have that initial workload with an email list (configuring an autoresponder, adding opt-in forms, writing a series of automated emails, etc.), but it doesn’t stop there.
As you grow your list, you’ll need to keep pumping out engaging content. Otherwise, your list won’t convert when you send out those money-making emails enticing people to click on an affiliate link or to buy something.
Let’s also not forget that to truly manage a list the right way, you need to respond to people when they reach out to you. I have a relatively small email list here on passiveincomeunlocked.com, and just replying to the handful of replies each time I send out an email takes me away from doing things that could potentially grow our business.
If a mostly-passive business model is not what you’re after, this probably isn’t a big deal. However, to successfully scale niche sites, you need to a lot of the work to be as passive as possible.
Your time is not the only thing you’ll lose when starting an email list. If you’ve ever looked at any of the options out there, you know how expensive it can be to grow and maintain a list.
This is probably the biggest factor keeping us from growing a list. If it was free, we’d simply do it for the benefits that I’ll cover in the next section, but when the price per subscriber is higher than your average return per subscriber, the gap just keeps growing, and it doesn’t make financial sense.
There Are Indirect Benefits
My goal with this article isn’t to cover the benefits of growing an email list, as that has been covered to death in plenty of blog posts already. However, I do at least want to touch on some of the indirect benefits that you could potentially see on an informational site that most people don’t really think about when starting an email list.
Most of us know that the best kind of traffic to a site is direct traffic. After all, direct traffic can’t be wiped out overnight by an algorithm update.
If you build an email list for an informational site, one of the biggest drivers for that list might be to simply get people to click through to your site. For example, if you have a recipe site, you might send out emails that have links to new recipes that you’ve posted.
This is one of the biggest benefits of having an email list on an information site. If you have the type of content that would intrigue people to click, you can simply send out emails to your subscribers that link back to that content, whether it’s new or existing.
Another huge benefit of growing an email list on an informational site is that you’ll get return visitors. All of those people that signed up for your mailing list have already been on your site before, so getting them to click a link in an email to come back to your site makes them a return visitor.
Return visitors are not only great in that they send a good signal to Google, but people who visit a site multiple times are more likely to come back again down the road, even without receiving an email from you.
Again, this leads to more direct traffic, which means you’re less reliant on organic search traffic and instead get visitors to your site who really want to see what you have to say.
Though I didn’t really touch on it in this article, growing an email list has a ton of benefits. Not only can you potentially make a lot of money, but you can diversify your traffic away from relying on organic search.
Even with those benefits, growing an email list doesn’t always make sense. They take a lot of time to manage properly, can be expensive, and conversions can be difficult if you don’t have the right type of audience.
In the end, it’s always good to test things things like this for yourself. That way, you won’t be left wondering whether or not might have actually worked for you.
Just know that it’s not necessarily going to be a slam dunk, and to get it to work, you’ll likely need to be committed and invest a good amount of your time and money to be successful.