How to Increase Email Sign-ups with Incentive Emails and Content Upgrades for Your Local Travel Website

Creating an email list for your travel website isn’t just a way to keep in touch with readers, it can make a significant impact in attracting advertising dollars, sponsors, and partnership opportunities. And if you have a healthy email list and low traffic, you can still charge advertisers for the chance to land on your list.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about:

If you’re completely brand new to the world of email lists, there is a bit of a learning curve, but there are programs that will automate everything for you and make it easy. If you’re already a fan of tools like MailChimp and Convert Kit (which is what I use), then you know what you’re doing.

But to actually increase your email sign-ups, you want to give people more than a reason to follow along with your travels, see your cute kids, or get some inside scoop. You need to give them an enticing reason to follow along with you that is worth offering up their email address to a stranger on the internet, as well as take the time to actually go through the process. Some ideas are:

  • Enticing discounts and freebies that are under the radar
  • Ebook on off-the-beaten-path attractions even locals don’t know about
  • Customized travel itinerary that meets the needs of their kids’ age groups, destinations, or interests
  • Secrets no one seems to know like scoring a discount at Disney

Once you’ve figured out what you can offer, write up a tip sheet or resource and include relevant links, high-quality information (ie: passwords to get these special discounts), and you’re ready to get your email autoresponder set-up.

If you’re brand spanking new to blogging and growing email lists, here are the steps to walk through.

Upload Your Resource to your Website

Once you have your special resource guide, freebie tip sheet, or incentive email set up, you need a place to store it. You can copy and paste it directly into ConvertKit or Mail Chimp if it’s not too long, but I advise uploading it to your own website. This can help drive even more hits to your website and keeps the resource within your control.

I usually upload my resource guides to a hidden page. I change the setting in WordPress to mark it to private. To make it as private or password protected, look for this on the right side of WordPress when creating a Post or Page:

But don’t get too hung-up on making it top secret out of fear someone who doesn’t subscribe will find it. When you’re getting up and running, this is very rarely an issue and not worth the time and trouble over one or two stray visitors who snagged your guide without signing-up.

Choose Your Email Marketing Provider

Once you’ve got your resource guide created and uploaded, the next step is signing up with an email management tool. I recommend MailChimp or ConvertKit. 

Convert Kit is more expensive, but I personally find it way more user-friendly and can do more as you scale your travel website. ConvertKit also has some drag and drop functionality and simplifies the process. MailChimp is usually reliable and less expensive but takes a little longer to learn if you’re brand new. Totally your call on what your priorities are.

Get Your AutoResponder Set Up

Go through the tutorials your marketing email provider offers to set-up your autoresponder. The idea is when someone signs up for your list (your email marketing provider will give you a special code you can put into your website to do create a form), they are automatically sent your resource guide.

It may take a few tries to get it set-up the way you want and get used to the system. But once you’ve figured it out, it’s easy to repeat. You can also create multiple incentive emails and sign-ups. For example, you could create one resource on discounts and freebies and another on secret spots around your town. You can check the analytics in your email marketing tools to see which one is performing better, turn them off and on, and create new ones as needed.

And remember there’s no rule that you can only create just one autoresponder. You can create multiple incentive emails and sign-ups. For example, you could create one resource on discounts and freebies and another on secret spots around your town. You can check the analytics in your email marketing tools to see which one is performing better, turn them off and on, and create new ones as needed.

Grab the Code for Your Email Sign-Up Form

Once you’ve got your autoresponder set-up and ready to go, you need a piece of code to drop into your website. This creates a form for people to sign-up from. In ConvertKit’s case, you can just install this plugin directly into your WordPress site. It’s very easy and they’ll walk you through the process. Once it’s set-up, you’ll see a drop-down at the bottom of every post where you can select what you want to use. Here’s what it looks like in my own WordPress account for this site:

But when you’re first getting started, I actually find it easier to copy and paste the code into a widget onto your homepage. Otherwise, you need to select a form for every post. That works well if you don’t need the form everywhere, or have multiple forms.

I prefer creating one universal form on my Intown Kids sit with a pop-up. You can also create these through ConvertKit and MailChimp and set it to activate when someone has been on your site for a set period of time like 30 seconds. And don’t worry too much about annoying people with pop-ups, there are options in ConvertKit to tell it not to show the same pop-up to anyone who has visited your site during the last month or who have already subscribed. That way they’re only seeing it once.

Create a HomePage Widget

There are a few ways you can paste your code onto your website, but I find the easiest way is to just create a quick and easy Text widget and paste it there. It shows up looking clean and simple and can easily be moved around as needed. When you’re in WordPress, hover over to the left until you see Appearance and then click on Widget.

From there, you want to click on Widgets and then drag and drop a Textbox into your sidebar. Open up the Text widget and drop in your copy and pasted code.

Create a Content Upgrade

This is an effective technique I use for clients and in some of the websites and travel blogs I’ve created. Instead of just an email incentive that signs people up for your list, you can create a content upgrade within your posts. If your blog is already a few months or years old, check your analytics to see which your most popular posts are. Otherwise, you can choose posts that you think you can create more value.

For example, a post on all the discounts you can get at your city’s attractions could come with a content upgrade on “10 More Hidden Discounts for Atlanta Attractions You Didn’t Know Existed”. People sign-up within your post and receive the content.

Content upgrades are popular in the online marketing space where you’re signing up for actionable advice to get more traffic to your blog, make more money, or connect with influencers who can help promote your blog. But in my experience, they’re not always necessary or as effective in the travel blogging space. It really just depends on your content and audience.

Test, Test & Test Some More

It’s crucial to actually test your form and make sure it works the way you expect. You should be getting an email when you sign-up for your form, and another email to your resource once you confirm yourself to your list. However, it’s important to note that in MailChimp’s case, they will only take you through the automation process once with the same email. That means if you delete your own email from your email list, it still won’t put you through your automation again. This is pretty annoying in my opinion, but it’s also how MailChimp is making sure you’re not spamming someone.

You can always create throw away emails or ask friends to sign-up to make sure everything is working smoothly.

Experiment with Your Incentives and Content Upgrades

Regularly check your analytics for which email incentives content upgrades are working best to figure out how to make them better. As you see patterns in what people are signing up for, you can focus on similar email sign-ups to keep growing your list.

Like anything in blogging, sucess takes time, so give yourself a few months to see results.

(This post contains affiliate links to ConvertKit, a product I regularly use and promote. I am given a small commission for each sign-up. As always, my opinion on this product is my own).