This post is based on episode 251 of the ProBlogger podcast.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: email is one of the best ways (if not the best way) to connect with your blog’s readers.
You might think email is outdated, and that communicating on social media will give you the best chance of attracting readers. But you have no control over any of those platforms, and so you’re at the mercy of whatever changes they make.
But with email you have complete control over every aspect of your communication. And if you’re not using it, you really are missing out.
But that’s easier said than done. How do you actually set up an email list? How do you get people to subscribe to it. And when they do subscribe, what do you send them?
So this week I’d like to answer some of the questions you’ll inevitably have if you’ve never done this before. Starting with…
Choosing an email provider
One of your first decisions will be to choose an email provider. Gone are the days when you manually copied and pasted people’s email addresses into a long distribution list. These providers do all the hard work for you, and provide the tools you need such as:
- forms for people to subscribe (and unsubscribe) from your list
- allowing people to confirm their subscription (double opt-in)
- templates to help you create your newsletter
- scheduling when people receive your newsletter
- sending your newsletter in batches so it isn’t flagged as spam
- segmenting your list based in various attributes (country, language, etc.)
- statistics on who opens and reads your newsletter.
How much you will need to pay will depend on the email provider and the numbers of features you need. However, a lot of them offer a free option based on how many subscribers you have in your list.
We have a guide in our ProBlogger PLUS Members Library that compares the various email providers so you can choose the one that best suits your needs. And here’s a blog post to help you even more.
Once you’ve settled on an email provider, the next step is…
Setting up your subscription forms
Pretty much every email provider will have forms you can place in your header, your sidebar, and even your posts, to collect people’s email addresses. And you can often tailor these forms to match your blog’s design and appear in different ways. You may need to experiment a little to find the most effective places to put these forms. You want to make them prominent without getting in your reader’s way.
Once your forms are in place, you should subscribe to your blog to make sure everything is working. Are you getting the opt-in message to confirm your subscription? Are you getting a message or some other indication from your email provider that someone has subscribed? Can you bring up the list of subscribers and see your own email address? Can you unsubscribe, and does your email address disappear from the list when you do?
Once you’ve set up your forms and tested everything out, you just need to wait for your first subscriber. (Of course, you’ll be working on creating more content while you’re waiting, right?)
And once you get your first subscriber, it’s time to start…
Sending out your newsletter
You now have your first subscriber (although hopefully you’ll have more than one). The question is, what do you send them?
What you include in your newsletter is totally up to you. But here are a few ideas on what you could include:
- A paragraph about your latest post with a link to the full post on your blog
- A teaser on what your next post will be about
- Links to interesting articles you’ve read
- Something you’ve learned
- A famous quote that resonates with you (and perhaps the reason why)
- A bit of information about you, or what you’ve been up to since the last newsletter
- Suggestions on what they’d like to read about on your blog
- A question they could answer, which could then be used in a future post (with their permission, of course).
And here’s a blog post that goes into content for your newsletter a little deeper.
As I said, what you put in your newsletter is totally up to you. Just make sure it has some useful information that can give your readers a ‘quick win’.
And your newsletter design doesn’t need to be overly fancy either. Don’t put off sending it out because it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles other newsletters have. What’s most important is that you send it.
And make sure you keep sending them, no matter how many subscribers you have. Don’t think you have to wait until you have 100 subscribers to make it worth your while.
But what happens when you have everything set up and people still aren’t subscribing? If that happens you may need to think about…
Creating an incentive to subscribe
If you’ve ever subscribed to a newsletter on another site, chances are you were offered some incentive in return for subscribing – a free PDF, a discount on your next order, etc.
This can be a good way to entice people to subscribe to your newsletter. You could create a simple PDF offering tips on how to perform a particular task or other information related to your niche.
Unfortunately, you may find that some people subscribe just to get your free offering. And once they have it, they unsubscribe the first chance they get (probably by using the link in your newsletter).
Of course, if the content in your PDF is as useful as the content on your blog they’ll realise it’s worth being a subscriber and stick around. However, there’s another way to get them to stay subscribed for longer – the email sequence. This is where you keep sending more useful information every week (or whatever timeframe you choose) as an incentive to stay subscribed.
The information you send could be more ‘freebies’ like your initial offering. But it could also be a series of emails that steps them through a process in greater detail. And at the end of each email you hint at what’s coming in the next one, which gives them more incentive to stay subscribed so they don’t miss out.
Creating an email sequence like this is a great way to build a relationship with your readers. Over time they’ll see that you really do want to help them with the content you’re creating. And it won’t be long before they realise that and become a regular reader.
We have a number of these email sequences at ProBlogger. But one of the most popular incentives is our 6 Months of Blog Post Ideas, where people can sign up to get 30 blog post ideas every month for six months. It’s a way to give those who subscribe a quick win (30 ideas within minutes of signing up), but also keep delivering those quick wins over time.
Another opt-in we have is our Ultimate Guide to Start a Blog Course. While it doesn’t necessarily create a quick win, we’ve found that the people who sign up for it have stayed with us as readers and listeners. They’re grateful, and it shows the power of creating something for free in exchange for an email address.
Ready to set up your email list?
As I said earlier, email is one of the best ways you can connect with your readers. And the tools available today make setting up a subscription list, gathering email addresses and sending out regular newsletters quite easy.
So choose your provider, get those forms on your site, and get ready to make a real connection with your readers.
And let us know how it all goes.
Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash