noah-kagan The WP Engine Finely Tuned Consultant series brings you interviews with some of the biggest names in WordPress, marketing, and tech. In keeping with our passion to deliver customer-inspired performance, we want to give you a chance to learn from the brightest consultants out there!

This week we speak with Noah Kagan,  the creative mind behind  AppSumo and SumoMe. His blog OkDork explores everything from marketing tips to case studies on LinkedIn posts. OkDork also boasts an impressive following, clocking in at 700,000-plus on his email list. Here, Noah discusses the relevance of email lists today, lessons in engaging with your audience, and the only tacos he would eat for the rest of his life.

You have a pretty expansive work experience, what is the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
I worked in a Holiday Smoked Salmon store. Ha! Yea, I worked at the mall in a popcorn stand for two years and the owner opened a salmon store for the holidays. You meet the nicest people in a store like that.

AppSumo is a hugely popular, what do you think makes it so engaging?
People like AppSumo because it helps them discover new tools / knowledge for a great price. Then we craft fun stories [on] why we think the products are so beneficial for our customers. It’s like having a private concierge help run your business.

AppSumo is also fortunate to be part of an incredible community (“sumo-lings”) that loves to share cool stuff with friends and coworkers–there is no way we could replace them.

How did SumoMe come about, and why did you decide to make it a free tool?
We had finished developing our popular How to Make a $1,000 a Month Business course and the No. 1 question we kept getting was “how can I grow my business?”People wanted to know how we grew AppSumo to 750,000-plus sumo-lings.

So, we put all those tools we made for ourselves into the product It is essentially a suite of custom apps that we’ve used to grow our own email list, traffic, and analytics–all built into a single free plugin.

We decided to make SumoMe free because it’s more fun to help more people. Our goal is to help our clients’ sites reach one billion unique visitors by the end of this year. There are some paid premium options but the plugin will always remain free.

What you are currently working on?
I am working on making sure everyone on our team is kicking [butt] and helping new sites get set up with SumoMe. We’ve released a ton of apps for SumoMe so we want to make sure people have heard of them and know how to use them effectively. I go around and do workshops, guest posts, and webinars helping people grow their web businesses. The rest of my time I spend making sure my team is fed and happy.

Why are email lists still relevant in today’s landscape of the internet?
What’s the first thing you did this morning? My point exactly. Email is one of the most effective communications for every business today. It’s not about the size, but the quality and relationship you have with your audience. Too many companies spend too much time trying to build new relationships while email provides a great way to keep in touch who already want to hear from you more.

Email is the No. 1 way to communicate with your customers. Well written, relevant emails have a reason and click through rate 400 percent to 600 percent higher than most tweets or Facebook posts.

Social Media and paid channels can change the rules on you. For example, not long ago Facebook decreased organic reach from 16 percent to 6 percent overnight. If you have an email list, it’s yours. No one (except the individual customer) can limit your reach.

What made you decide to ask for emails on your homepage instead of displaying most recent posts?
I changed the homepage because my only goal for the blog this year was to get 50,000 new email subscribers. With that goal in mind, I looked at the data. Using a Heatmap tool, I could see that less than 1 percent of visitors clicked on my side bar where I had a signup box.

I also knew that my homepage was my most visited page. To reach my goal I had to make it easy for any visitor to sign up for my email list. So I made a “Welcome Gate” homepage. There is a single objective on the whole page and now 10-plus percent of all traffic signs up to my list. (For returning visitors there is a “Read the Blog” button below the fold.)

What lessons have you learned working to grow traffic on yours and others’ sites?
Most people are convinced that traffic is the answer. But if I ask what they would do with 10 times traffic they don’t know.

Growing traffic comes down to picking one goal that a) matters to you and b) can be broken down into steps.

I love to tell people “Do more of what works.” If your best day of traffic ever was the day you guest posted, go do more of that. Or if you get the most shares and traffic when you send out an email to your list, make email collection your number one goal.

Try a little bit of everything but focus on the things that work. It’s also worth asking yourself, “Why do I want this traffic?” You have to answer that question before you get more traffic.

For OkDork, having guest posters write lengthy, data driven posts about marketing has been extremely effective. Each post offers a ton of value and that value gets shared more than a quick post that took only an hour to write. In the past year traffic has grown over 400 percent.

What blogs do you read daily for insight on marketing, WordPress, tech, etc.?

What is your favorite plugin?
SumoMe hands down. I’m biased (AppSumo created it) but I can tell you why: I hate installing 10 different plugins and then having to figure out each one.

SumoMe is one plugin with 10 tools that share an interface. It’s the easiest plugin you’ll ever use that has the power to be transformative for your web traffic and email list. Each tool is focused on either growing your email list, boosting traffic, or giving you insight to make your site/posts more effective.

You’re known as a guy who can eat some tacos. If you could only go to one place for tacos for the rest of your life, where would it be?
Tacodeli in Austin.

What did I miss? Here’s your chance to fill in the blanks and add something you want people to know about you!
I love Haikus and origami. Kidding. One of my favorite things is word jumbles and my biggest regret in life is not seeing Mitch Hedburg on campus when he was performing.

You can find Noah online at OkDork and on Twitter @noahkagan.