Many businesses have a great message to tell, but they don’t get the consideration they deserve. These businesses often neglect the most important element to building a tribe because they discard one simple, but essential, marketing asset–the email list.

I will discuss how to effectively build the size and quality of your email list by harnessing the power and reach of SEM (Search Engine Marketing). For the purposes of this post, I will infer that SEM includes PPC (pay per click), and display ads. Businesses use SEM for brand awareness, lead generation, and direct response marketing. Some of the most successful businesses harness their SEM efforts to concurrently grow their email lists…so can you.

Lay the bedrock for an effective subscriber experience

To ensure efficient SEM spend, it’s paramount that you first create an effective subscriber experience. When working to build an effective email list you should always start with an approach that is user-friendly and subscriber-centric. Here are some tips:

  1. Employ a splash page (an introductory screen seen before opening a landing page or website) focused solely on the email opt-in. This is a great way to cultivate and grow a subscriber base for brand awareness, product promotion, upcoming events, and regular newsletters.
  2. Provide prospects a way out of the subscription process and back into the rest of your website. The prospects who have a positive brand experience will be more likely to opt-in down the line.
  3. Limit the number of required fields that users are asked to fill in. For businesses that require a great deal of data, consider adding a second page where users can volunteer additional information.
  4. Explicitly state what value you are providing the user in exchange for their information. Renowned digital marketing expert, Seth Godin exclaimed:“If your email promotion is taking, not giving, I think you should rethink it. If you still want to take the time and attention and trust of your 4,000 closest friends, think hard about what that means for connections you’ve built over the years. There are few promotional emergencies that are worth trading your reputation for.”
  5. Engage users who opt-in with a triggered welcome email. While these emails won’t grow your list, it is a meaningful step in starting your email relationship off on the right foot.

Harness and power the reach of SEM

SEM provides various tools at your disposal to target prospects such as sitelinks, low cost and long tail keywords, and display ads. Each of these tools can be effective in growing your email list.


On Google, you can augment your PPC ads with ad extensions called sitelinks. Sitelinks enable you to take up more real estate within the SERPs (search engine result pages). Sitelinks also allow you to include additional copy and links to supplement your main PPC ad. At SendGrid, we utilize sitelinks to promote our free, industry leading, email resource guides:

When users select a sitelink, we take the user to a dedicated landing page which requests limited information in exchange for the free guide. Our use of sitelinks allows us to equip and empower both developers and marketers with solutions they need to navigate the challenges of sending email.

Low cost and long tail keywords

You can also use PPC to grow your email list by sending traffic to an email capture page directly through your main ad. Depending on the competitiveness of your industry, and the keywords you target, PPC can quickly become an expensive endeavor. For the strict purposes of building your email list, focus on highly targeted, long-tail keywords.

For instance, if a flower shop business wanted to build an email list in order to re-engage prospects during Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, they may want to target phrase match keywords such as, “Flower Shops in Orange County” or “Flower Shops that Deliver.” In an effort to be subscriber-centric, the flower shop business may offer a 20% off coupon on their website in exchange for providing a name and email address. It can also be effective to call-out your email program within your PPC ads, particularly if you have an offer for new subscribers.

Display ads

Display ads can be another great tool to assist in attracting users to your email capture page. The Google Display Network, along with numerous other display networks, enable you to proactively target your audience based on a plethora of variables such as demographics and interests. Display ads can also be setup to retarget users who previously visited your site.

Display Ad Examples:

You are ready to build your list, now what?

Now that you are equipped to leverage your SEM efforts to grow your email list, you might be asking, how do I get started?

  1. Select a great email service provider: SendGrid is great choice. With industry-leading deliverability, real-time, customizable analytics, advanced list management, and access to email templates we take the pain out of email sending-we make it easy.
  2. Generate an awesome signup form. It should be prominent, clean, user-friendly, and easy to complete.
  3. Offer meaningful value: Give prospects something in exchange for their email, this could be a whitepaper, a guide, a discount, or even a download. It’s important to reward your subscribers. Properly building your list requires give and take.

When prospects provide you their email, you are given a great opportunity to build trust. Always provide value, remain subscriber-centric, and watch your list grow.

For more insight on how to grow your email list, download How to Authentically Grow Your Email List.

Dustin Hovey
Dustin oversees and manages strategy for all of SendGrid's SEM marketing campaigns, and governs SendGrid's brand recognition and brand protection efforts. Dustin has over 14 years of experience in direct response marketing and managing large brands online with six and seven figure monthly spends. Dustin specializes in managing large, complex PPC search and display campaigns to optimize brand recognition, revenue, and retention.