Most blogs offer an RSS feed, and readers can subscribe to the feed and use an RSS reader to stay up-to-date with all of their favorite websites and blogs. When I first started blogging in 2007 RSS was a hot, relatively new technology available to website owners and bloggers. There were a lot of articles praising the benefits of RSS and listing its advantages over email marketing. The biggest advantage involves deliverability. With email marketing you’ll always have to be concerned with spam filters and keeping your emails out of the spam and junk folders of your subscribers. Spam filters can at times be such a headache that many people were saying RSS was going to bring an end to email marketing because there were no spam filter issues with RSS.
Within just a few years it was pretty clear that email still is far more powerful than RSS for marketing. Yes, there are concerns about avoiding spam filters, but a good mailing list manager like GetResponse and AWeber will have tools to help you avoid having your messages flagged as spam. And email simply blows RSS away when it comes to getting any type of response from subscribers. RSS is still a good technology and most bloggers will want to offer an RSS feed for those who prefer to subscribe by RSS, but building a responsive email list is critical to success as an internet marketer.
The topic of email newsletters for bloggers can be a little bit confusing and needs some clarification. Most bloggers use FeedBurner for managing their RSS feeds, and FeedBurner also offers an email version of the RSS feed (other services such as FeedBlitz do essentially the same thing). In this case, a reader can choose to subscribe to your blog by RSS or email. When you publish a new post they will get an email containing that new post if they subscribed by email. This is not what I am referring to as an email newsletter.
An email newsletter can be approached any number of different ways, but you need more flexibility than you can get with FeedBurner. You need to be able to send your subscribers messages any time you choose, not only when new blog posts are published. And you also need to be able to have full control over the content of the email. The only way to do this is to use a mailing list service like GetResponse AWeber.
The mailing list manager will handle your list for you. You’ll add an opt-in form to your blog and whenever someone subscribes they will be added to your mailing list. They can also unsubscribe at any time and they will be automatically removed from the list. You can then create a message and send it to your subscribers at any time. It could be something as simple as a summary of a new blog post with a link to the full post, or it could be a message to sell one of your products or to promote an affiliate product.
Newsletters can be offered as an addition to a blog subscription, or you can remove the option for a blog subscription and only offer the newsletter subscription. Either way, you should be encouraging visitors to subscribe to your newsletter.
Why Email Newsletters are Important
More Responsive Than RSS
The biggest advantage email newsletters have over RSS subscriptions is that they simple get a better response. Whether you are trying to sell your own products, promote affiliate products, or get clicks to your blog posts, email is superior to RSS almost every time.
While RSS doesn’t face the same spam filter issues as an email newsletter, there are a few important flaws of RSS. First, the subscriber has to open the RSS reader in order to see the message. Many users set up an RSS reader, subscribe to their favorite sites, and then rarely open that RSS reader. In this case they are not seeing your RSS updates.
Another problem is that most people who do use RSS readers on a regular basis subscribe to so many different feeds that they ignore the majority of items. For example, I use an RSS reader every day, but I have well over 100 feeds that I subscribe to. Typically I scan the headlines of new feed items and I only pay attention to ones that catch my interest. Over 90% of them are ignored.
The last problem was mentioned earlier. With RSS you are limited in what you can communicate to your subscribers. If you want to send something to your RSS subscribers it has to be posted to your blog. With an email newsletter you can send anything to your subscribers, regardless of whether it is posted publicly on your blog. You can send special offers to your subscribers that are not available on your blog. You can communicate with them more intimately than you do with your blog.
The result of all of these things is that an email list will be much more responsive than your list of RSS subscribers. If you are trying to sell a product your email list is likely to be 5 or 10 times more profitable than an RSS list of the same size.
With emails you will still have the challenge of getting subscribers to open your messages, but open rates of a good mailing list are much higher than the percentage of RSS subscribers that actually read your blog content.
Market to the List Over and Over
An email list can be the most valuable asset for your blogging business because you can market to the list over and over again. As long as someone stays subscribed to your list you can continue to send them messages about your new blog posts, your products, affiliate products, and whatever else you have to market.
Of course, you will need to balance the messages and provide some value to them in order to keep them from unsubscribing. A good mailing list will be valuable to the blogger and the subscribers. You’ll need to make your newsletter more than just a constant sales pitch.
For those who create their own products or monetize their blog primarily through affiliate marketing, nothing is more powerful than a mailing list. Marketing a new product is infinitely easier and more profitable if you’ve already built a large and response mailing list.
Builds Loyal Followers that Respect Your Recommendations
One of the best things about having an email newsletter is that it is a great way to build a relationship with your readers and followers. Your most loyal subscribers will get used to seeing your emails and they’ll look forward to seeing what information you have for them. Of course, not all of your messages will be opened, but with the subscribers who are the most interested you can build respect and trust. Subscribers who trust your recommendations will be far more likely to buy your products or to buy a product that you recommend as an affiliate.
Easy and Profitable to Launch New Products
Building a large and responsive newsletter list takes some effort and time, but once that work has been done your product launches can be far more profitable than they would be without the list. Think about it. If you have a mailing list of 10,000 people who have been receiving your emails and you have been building their trust, getting just a 1% conversion could mean 100 sales of your new product just from one email. Building anticipation through a pre-launch series of emails can help conversions to explode to a much higher level. Of course, the specifics of your conversion rate will depend on countless factors, but a well-managed list will be a great resource to have whenever you are launching new products or running promotions and sales on older products.
Great for Affiliate Marketing
Selling your own products is not the only way to monetize your email list. You can also promote other people’s products as an affiliate rather than creating you own product. Actually, this is how many people with the largest lists make the majority of their money.
Just like promoting affiliate products on your blog, you’ll want to make sure that you are only recommending high-quality products that you are willing to stand behind. If your subscribers take your recommendation to buy a product and they are disappointed with the quality, they’ll be unlikely to act on your recommendations in the future.
Valuable Asset if You Want to Sell Your Blog
Should you ever decide that you want to sell your blog and move on to some other project, a newsletter email list corresponding to the blog can be a major asset that will help to boost the sale price. If the newsletter is effective at bringing in money through product sales, affiliate programs, advertising sales, or anything else, the buyer will almost certainly have a lot of interest in the mailing list.
Repeat Traffic, Great for Promoting Your Best Posts
Regardless of whether you are selling any products, email newsletters can be great for increasing traffic to your blog. Some bloggers who don’t publish posts extremely frequently will send out a message through the newsletter each time they publish a new post with a link back to that post on the blog. Some other bloggers who publish more frequently may send periodic messages, such as a weekly email with links to all of the posts published that week. However you approach it, the mailing list can be an excellent way to get repeat traffic to your blog.
Decide on Approach for Email Marketing
Not every blogger approaches their email newsletter in the same way. One of the things you will need to decide is what approach you want to take. You’ll want to consider how frequently you will send messages, what type of content or information you will provide, how you will engage subscribers to keep them interested and opening your messages, and how you will make money through the newsletter.
I know some bloggers and marketers that send messages daily, and sometimes multiple messages in a day. This can help to build a loyal following from your subscribers, but you’ll also get a lot of people who unsubscribe due to the amount of email. Bloggers who use this approach effectively do not mind the unsubscribes, because they are really after the responsive subscriber who wants as much info as they can get.
Others may send a weekly newsletter on a specific day each week. The newsletter may include links to their blog posts published throughout the past week, maybe an affiliate product recommendation, and maybe links to some relevant industry news from other sources.
Another approach is to send messages periodically on no set schedule. Whenever you have a relevant link or some type of interesting product to promote you can create the email and send it to the list.
There are no shortage of possibilities for how you approach your newsletter, and there is really no right or wrong way. You can always change or adapt your approach as you go forward, but it’s important to think about the approach that you want to take with your list.
Decide on a Provider
There are a lot of mailing list managers out there. Changing providers can be a major inconvenience (trust me, I’ve gone through it), so it is something that you want to get right the first time. Due to spam prevention, most good mailing list managers will require a double opt-in process. This means that in order for someone to be added to your list they must first enter their email address through a form at your blog, then they must click on a link in an automated email to confirm the subscription. They won’t be added to the list unless they click on that confirmation link. This prevents people from entering other people’s email addresses to a mailing list, reducing the likelihood of spam complaints.
When you move from one mailing list manager to another, the new mailing list manager may want your subscribers to go back through the process of confirming their subscription. This will be an inconvenience to your subscribers and you will no doubt lose a percentage of those subscribers because not all of them will confirm. For these reasons, make sure that you sign up with a mailing list manager that you plan to stay with for the foreseeable future.
I use and recommend both GetResponse and AWeber. I’ve also personally used MailChimp and had a pretty good experience with them, but many other users have had major issues with MailChimp. MailChimp offers a well-designed user interface and a lot of useful features, but they prohibit affiliate marketing, although their terms are not very specific about what they allow and what they do not allow. If they feel that you have violated these terms you risk having your account closed without warning, which means you could lose your entire list if you don’t have it backed up somewhere. For this reason I recommend going with GetResponse or AWeber from the start. Another benefit to both GetResponse and AWeber is that they tend to have better open rates than MailChimp. I moved a list of about 10,000 subscribers from MailChimp to AWeber and immediately increased open rates significantly with no other changes to the list. From what I have seen in research, Aweber and GetResponse do a better job of getting emails to the subscribers’ inbox and avoiding spam filters.
GetResponse and AWeber also have a lot of other features and functions that make either a great choice. You can create multiple optin forms and track how many signups are coming from each form. This is helpful when you want to test different locations on your blog or different types of forms. For example, you can test a sidebar optin form against one that is located at the bottom of blog posts. Another useful feature is the ability to set up autoresponders to send messages in sequence after people subscribe.
I recommend both GetResponse and AWeber from my own experience, but that doesn’t mean they will be the best choice for everyone. I suggest that you do some research on your own and choose the option that is best for you.
Choosing a Format or Template
You’ll also need to decide what type of format you want to use for your newsletters. Most mailing list managers will provide you with several free templates for HTML emails that you can select. However, depending on what you are trying to accomplish with your newsletter, a fancy HTML template may not be the best choice. Many marketers have seen better results by sticking with text-based emails and no images rather than an HTML template that may look more impressive.
If your newsletter is going to include only a small amount of content, such as a summary of a recent blog post along with a link to the post, or a brief review of a product along with an affiliate link, you may want to consider sticking with only text or a very simple HTML email template.
If you are planning a newsletter that will include a larger amount of content, such as links to several recent blog posts, or industry news with links to related articles, you may want to consider an HTML email template.
Building Your List
In order for your newsletter to be effective at generating traffic and/or income for you, you’ll need to be able to get enough people to subscribe. There is no specific number that you need to be able to achieve in order to have success with your newsletter, but as long as you are getting subscribers who are genuinely interested in receiving your emails, more is better.
Here are some tips for building your list.
Offer a Freebie of Value as a Subscriber Bonus
One of the best and most proven methods for building a large mailing list is to offer an incentive for people to subscribe. In many cases the bonus is some type of free e-book or info product. It could be a PDF download, access to an exclusive video, a series of training emails set up by autoresponder, access to a subscribers-only page on your site, or anything else that subscribers will see as being valuable to them.
This e-book that you are reading is an example, as it is only offered as a free download to anyone who subscribes to the ProfitBlitz newsletter. However, your freebie doesn’t have to be a full e-book that takes a huge amount of time to produce. The important thing is that it entices people in your target audience to sign up, and that it lives up to their expectations. The key is not only to get people to sign up, but also to start to build their trust by providing high quality information. Your freebie could be a brief special report instead of a full e-book and it could be equally as effective if the information provided is valuable to those who read it.
Offering a subscriber bonus is pretty simple with a mailing list manager like GetResponse or AWeber. You can set up a page on your blog that includes a link to download the freebie, and then set that page as the confirmation page, where subscribers will be sent after they confirm their subscription.
Include Opt-In Forms in Prime Locations on Your Blog
Another big factor in gaining subscribers is where you place your signup form on your blog. By placing the form somewhere prominent you will increase visibility, and also increase conversion rates. You may even want to include the form in a few different places so it cannot be missed.
Some options for good locations include somewhere in the blog header, at or near the top of the sidebar, between the end of blog posts and comments, and sometimes with the post or page content. Some bloggers get excellent conversion rates from their “About” page. It can also be effective to occasionally publish a post about your newsletter or your free bonus and include the opt-in form in these posts.
Along with your opt-in form, you will also want to mention the freebie in order to encourage visitors to sign up. If your freebie is an e-book or a special report you may want to consider displaying a book cover or mockup. Although the product is digital, showing the book cover or mockup often helps to give more perceived value to visitors.
Whatever mailing list manager you are using will supply the opt-in forms for you. Most of them will offer some form templates or give you control over the look of the form. They will provide the code, you just need to insert it into your blog.
Make it Easy to Subscribe
You can maximize your opt-in rates by requiring very little of subscribers. I recommend asking for nothing more than a first name and an email address, and in some cases the email address may be all that you need. If you ask people to fill out a form with more information you will convert fewer visitors into subscribers.
Promos or Giveaways to Encourage Subscribers
While it’s not a necessity, one option that can work pretty well is to use some sort of giveaway to attract new subscribers. I’ve known some bloggers to give away things like an iPhone or iPad to one random subscriber. In this case you would of course want to announce the giveaway and the terms and try to get some publicity from other blogs who might be interested in mentioning the giveaway. You can also ask friends and contacts to share a link to the giveaway via Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites.
In the terms you will want to address things like whether existing subscribers are eligible or only new subscribers, whether the winner must be subscribed to the list at the time the winner is drawn (discourages people from unsubscribing right away), how the winner will be selected, dates of the giveaway, how the prize will be provided to the winner, and locality for being eligible (important to consider if you will be shipping a physical product). I also recommend that you consult with an accountant to see if there are any tax implications of running this giveaway where you live.
While giveaways can cost you some money for a good prize, they can be very effective at gaining a lot of new subscribers quickly if you are able to get some publicity. It’s definitely one option to consider, although I would not recommend it to everyone. Offering a free bonus to all subscribers is something that I would recommend to any blogger who wants to grow an email list, the giveaway is just an additional option.
I think we can all agree that popups can be rather annoying. However, they can certainly be effective when used properly. One of the best uses of a popup is for encouraging your blog visitors to subscribe to a newsletter. This is often done in combination with the freebie bonus, as popups can be a good way to get the visitors attention and let them know about the valuable freebie that you are offering to subscribers.
I have personally used popups at times on my own blogs for getting subscribers, although it is not something that I do all the time. From my experience the popup and freebie combination has been the best method for maximizing subscriptions, but you’ll also need to consider the possible downside to popups. If you show the popups too often it can be a major frustration for visitors who get sick of seeing it.
There are a few good options for WordPress users to easily create awesome popups. I’ve been using OptinMonster, which has a lot of valuable features. What really sets OptinMonster apart is the exit intent option. It can be set so that the popup is shown when the visitor is about to leave your site (based on the movement of their mouse) rather than when the page loads. I’ve found this to be really useful, especially for blogs that have high-quality content. If the popup is shown when a new visitor first arrives at your site they may not fill out the form to subscribe to your list because they are not familiar with you and your site. But if they really like the content that they’ve read at your blog, the popup shown before the exit is a great way to convert that visitor to a subscriber. By waiting until they exit to show the popup you give yourself more time to win their trust through your content.
OptinMonster doesn’t have to be used with the exit intent setting, it can also be used like a regular popup. It’s really easy to integrate with your mailing llist manager and to get a great-looking popup set up and working quickly.
Aside from OptinMonster, the WordPress plugin Popup Domination is also very popular and I used it on another site for several months with pretty good results. With Popup Domination you can create a popup to promote your freebie, and you have control over the look and feel. It easily integrates with all the most popular mailing list managers. You’ll also have control over where the popup is shown (it doesn’t have to appear on every page/post of your blog), and you can set it to only show once to each visitor every so many days. So if you don’t want visitors to be bombarded with popups on your site they can only see it once every 10 days, or whatever length of time you enter.
One of the good things about using popups is that you can try it out and just see how it goes. Try it for a week and so what impact it has on the number of new subscribers. See if you get any complaints from visitors or if you see a decrease in page views per visitor. You can easily de-activate the popup any time if you want to get rid of it. Plugins like OptinMonster and Popup Domination come with a 30 or 60-day money back guarantee, so you can try it out with no risk.
Notification Bar in the Blog Header
Popups aren’t the only option for getting your visitors attention. You may have visited blogs or websites where there is a thin horizontal bar across the top of the website that makes some announcement or includes some link to get visitors’ attention. If you think that popups will be too intrusive you may want to consider trying a notification bar. There are several WordPress plugins that make it very simple to set up your own notification bar. Some of them will allow you to include the opt-in form right in the bar, and with others you will link to a page from the bar, and on that page the visitor will be able to subscribe to your list.
Probably the most popular plugin for this purpose is HelloBar. From my own experience I prefer FooBar. Either will accomplish pretty much the same thing, but the pricing is better for FooBar, and I have found it to include more than enough features to be a great option.
Use Guest Posts to Promote Your Freebies
Using a free resource to grow your list is a proven technique, but in order for it to work you will need to be able to get exposure. If your target audience doesn’t know about your incredible freebie and your list, how can they sign up? If your blog happens to have some traffic of its own you can easily promote your freebie to your own visitors, but if you are just getting started you will probably need to expand your reach. Writing guest posts for other blogs in your niche is a great way to do this.
We looked at the topic of guest posting extensively in chapter 7, so I won’t cover all of those details again, but we’ll take a look at the topic specifically for the purpose of gaining exposure for your freebie. The key is to write high-quality guest posts on topics that are related to your freebie, and then include a link and a call-to-action in the author bio.
For example, let’s use this e-book that you are reading as an example. Since I have a freebie that targets an audience wanting to learn more about blogging and making money from blogs, I could write guest posts at different blogs that cover topics related to internet marketing, blogging, and SEO. I could write posts on topics like common challenges for bloggers, how to make your first $100 with a blog, and really any number of similar topics that would attract the interest of the audience that I want to target. The author bio at the end of the post could then include a mention of this free e-book on blogging along with a link and a call-to-action asking readers to sign up to the list to get the book for free.
If you’re able to get your guest posts published on blogs that have an audience that matches your target audience, and ideally if those blogs have a decent-sized audience, you can make a huge impact on your list building efforts very quickly. Don’t expect to write just one guest post and get amazing results. You’ll probably need to write guest posts for several different blogs in order to reach a wide enough audience to get the maximum number of clicks and opt-ins.
This e-book has covered a lot, and if you’re new to blogging I know the amount of information can be overwhelming. I want the book to be thorough, so it needs to be in-depth, but that feeling of being overwhelmed is best avoided. You may have learned a lot of new things, but what’s really important is that you know the specific steps you need to take in order to make blogging work for you. Now that you have the base of knowledge from the information in this book I recommend that you take a look at the action plan that corresponds with the book. The action plan leaves out a lot of the nitty gritty details covered in the book, but it lays out the steps that you’ll need to take in order start from nowhere and work towards building a profitable blog. If you’re not sure what steps to take, use it as a guide to get you on the path towards profitability.