“Why bloggers need an email list from day one” is a post every new blogger must read before ever publishing first post. This is because starting your blog can take some work, from deciding on a name, to choosing a good design, to writing your content. But the area I see new bloggers struggle with the most is getting (and keeping) readers on their blogs.
Getting traffic to your blog is an absolute must if you want to build a good following, which will not only result in a popular blog, but one that has the potential to make a good amount of money as well.
There are a variety of ways to do this, but the most effective I have found is to ask your readers to sign-up for your mailing list from the very start of your blog. Having an email subscriber list is, without a doubt, the fastest way to grow your readership and your bottom line.
The most important asset you have as a blogger is your email list. This is your crew, your audience, your tribe. They are the ones who will come back and keep reading your content and who you will build enough trust with so they will buy from you (either products you create or promote) or click on the affiliate links for the products you recommend. While you can, and will, definitely make money running display and affiliate ads on your blog, your biggest money making opportunity is going to be with your email list. The million dollar bloggers out there are able to make between $1-$5 in revenue per email subscriber each month!! If you have a list of 10,000 subscribers you can make up to $50,000 in revenue off that list per month! It’s crazy.
Let’s briefly discuss some of the reasons why email is often overlooked by both beginning and experienced bloggers.
Why Is Email Overlooked?
The truth is that these days most people don’t consider email to be very “exciting.” Email has been around since the beginning of the internet, so at this point many people consider it to be boring or even outdated.
The trend now is all about social media promotion. Whether you are promoting your new posts via Twitter or sharing content on Facebook, these strategies often feel like they are the way we should be promoting our blog. In fact, it can sometimes feel like social media is the best way for us to get a promotional edge.
I’m certainly not here to talk you out of promoting your blog on social media, but rather to tell you to make sure that you are giving more of your focus to where your readers can be more easily reached. And where is that exactly? In their email inbox!
The simple fact is that while social media platforms have different levels of user adoption, none of them will ever catch up to email. How can I be so confident in this? Simply because these platforms still prompt new users to sign up with an email account.
So if social media users have email, and there are millions of other people who use email but not social media, then it stands to reason that you are missing out on a lot of potential readers if you are spending more time on social media strategy than email strategy.
Here are 5 tips to help you build an email list
- Start today.One of the biggest mistakes I made as an early blogger was not building an email list sooner. It took me an entire year to add an opt in form to my own blog and I’m sure I missed out on thousands of email subscribers and potential blog revenue. Start building your email list from Day 1.
- Pick A Good Email Platform. When it comes to email marketing you really get what you pay for. I’ve tried a bunch of email marketing platforms (MailChimp, AWebber, MailMunch, ConvertKit, Constant Contact, getResponse, etc) and among email marketing platforms suitable for beginners that don’t have money out there is MailChimp. It free for up to 2000 subscribers and it has tons of features and integrations. Hands down the best one I’ve found built for bloggers and use by bloggers is ConvertKit. It’s a little bit pricier than some platforms, but more than worth the investment. The founder of ConvertKit was actually a blogger and he built it for bloggers. The awesome opt in forms, subscriber tagging, and automation sequences are amazing. I use it daily and sent email using it. Get a special Free Trial of ConvertKit With This Link.
- Create A Sign Up Incentive. There are a lot of incentives that make readers sign up for optin forms! It could be a free 7 day course sequence that teaches you how to launch a blog side hustle. Always give something of value to someone who subscribes to your list – but make sure it’s something that your audience will actually want. A lot of the “Download my Free PDF” incentives no longer work as well because everyone does it. The more value you can offer and the more unique that value, the more subscribers you are likely going to get. And try to give someone who signs up your best content – something that they will go “wow, this is awesome.” so they will stay subscribed to your email list.
- Use a Pop Up, side bar, and end of post form.If you want to maximize your subscribers, you need to make it as easy as possible to subscribe to your blog. This means you need to put forms in the right places. The most effective form locations are in a pop up, on the side bar, and at the end of posts. But only use a pop up form on desktop. If you put a pop-up on a mobile device it’s going to hurt your Google rankings. I see a lot of bloggers make this big SEO mistake. Only use pop ups on desktop, but definitely use them. Here’s a breakdown of what percentage of my subscribers I get from each form: 50% pop up 30% sidebar, 20% end of post. If I didn’t have all three of those forms I would have a lot less email subscribers.
- Use Single Opt In Forms. There are two ways you can set up your forms – to automatically confirm a subscriber when they sign up, or require them to confirm. If you require people who want to subscribe to your email list to confirm their subscription in their email you are going to lose a big percentage of them. I did a test on single vs. double opt in and lost about 40% of people who wanted to subscribe to my newsletter because they didn’t confirm their subscription. And in most cases they probably would have confirmed, but likely missed the confirmation email. If they didn’t want to subscribe then they wouldn’t have filled out the form in the first place.
What Are The Benefits of an Email List?
Here are 8 Reasons why email list is beneficial:
- Because when you build a list, you own it and you have 100% access to it. If Twitter or Facebook collapsed or instituted a change tomorrow in their privacy or user settings, your ability to communicate could be hampered instantly. You don’t want 100% of your access to be controlled by someone else who you have no control over.
- It’s a permission based asset, meaning that those who sign up have given you permission to share and communicate with them. This gives you authority.
- It’s proactive and enables you to communicate when you need to with a qualified audience who is likely to pay more attention (since they opted in to your list).
- Despite the popularity of Twitter and Facebook, etc. not everyone is on them but almost everyone has email. The primary reason that email is so powerful than social media comes down to how personal it is. Your readers will receive each email as a direct note from you, which truly helps to build a relationship between your blog and your readers.
Even if you have a blog, many of your readers still have no idea what an RSS is or how to use it. An email newsletter or email blog subscription makes it simple for those who are less tech savvy.
5. Most people read or at least glance at their emails as they slide through their inboxes. On the other hand, when someone is following thousands on Twitter or Facebook it’s harder to get your message seen because they may only be “actively” following a much smaller group.
6. Email can be used to drive engagement on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Email represents one of the easiest and most direct ways of reaching the people who are most interested in your content. After all, if they visit your blog and opt-in to receive emails from you then you can be sure that they are interested in hearing more from you!
7. It’s low cost and it helps you capture the impact from any promotional efforts you do (example… if someone links to your site and sends traffic there but you aren’t offering any clear way for them to signup then you lose out on the impact of that traffic).
Even better, it also allows you an incredibly high conversion way of driving traffic to your blog, by tapping into a self-selected audience of your most interested readers.
8. Whether you are trying to drive traffic to a new article or promote a your own product or service, email allows you to make a direct appeal to your audience. You spend a lot of time creating high quality blog content, so you want to make sure that your most interested readers are seeing that content.
For example, I have several clients who we’ve worked with over the years and made growing their lists a priority, a priority that pays off again and again. One author has over 50,000 qualified subscribers to his email newsletter now and when he comes out with a new book he’s almost guaranteed to sell several thousand copies with simply the push of a button, hitting send on an email.
And then there’s a church I work with who we’ve grown their list to 12,000 subscribers. It’s a makeup of regular attendees, members, guests, prospects and people from all over the country who are interested in sermon messages and more. Having that list helps them to be proactive and send updates when needed to those who want to hear.
So How Do You Build Your Email Subscriber List?
- Set up a blog subscription landing page.Optimize it like you would any lead generation landing page. Include a clear, benefit-oriented headline. Show examples of the types of content that readers will be receiving. Include social proof indicating how many other subscribers have already signed up. If you don’t have a lot of subscribers, include a testimonial of some type.
- Use calls-to-action (CTAs).This is not to replace or take precedence over your lead generation CTAs. At the end of each blog post, however, include a secondary CTA inviting the reader who has just finished reading the post to sign up for regular updates via email. And don’t forget to tinker with your CTAs – A/B test them for color and verbiage optimization.
- Email your existing contacts with an invitation to subscribe to the blog.You already have emails from lead generation activities and even existing customers. Some of the highest subscription conversions will come from your existing email lists.
- Include blog content in your lead nurturing emails.Your lead nurturing, while trying to pull the prospect down the sales funnel with other lead generation offers, can also include links to your blog which can then prompt more readership and subscriptions.
You may want more, check out Kevin Duncan’s article on 16 ridiculously simple ways to get more email subscribers in less than 5 minutes. In case you still want more ideas, Mary Fernandez also shared 73 proven and simple ways to grow your email list that should get you going.
Building an Email Subscriber List: Common Questions
Whenever I talk with bloggers about building out their email subscriber list, a few questions tend to come up. Those questions usually boil down to the ten listed below.
I’ll answer each question, so read on to learn which email list management tool I recommend as well as some of my tips for how to build out your email list.
1. What is the best day of the week / time of day to send an email?
Weekends and mornings have the highest open rates and clickthroughs.
Data like this supports previous studies in favor of the morning/weekend send. One theory for the success is that there is less competition in the inbox at these times. With fewer other emails to distract, yours shines brightest.
2. How often should I send email to my subscribers?
I won’t cop out on this one either (but I probably should). Your own data will teach you a lot about optimal email frequency, but here’s a good rule of thumb to follow, courtesy of the Crazy Egg blog: Send email in a slowly regressing way.
People will open good emails no matter how often you send them.
Still, be aware that those who just met you might want to hear from you more often.
3. How does a spam filter work?
I was surprised to learn that spam filters go way beyond just the words and phrases in your email. It takes more than just a single mention of Viagra or Cash Now. Filters are quite a bit more advanced than that.
Here’s how content filtering actually works: A spam filter assigns points to an email based on the spammy elements found throughout the email. Each offense carries a point value, and if the total points exceed the spam threshhold – voila, you have yourself some spam.
What this means is that you cannot automatically end up in a spam filter for one misstep. It takes many.
4. What metrics should I track?
There are two titans of email marketing statistics:
- Open rate:The number of recipients who opened or viewed your email.
- Click-through rate:Percentage of recipients who clicked at least one link in your email.
Certainly, you should follow up each campaign by checking these two numbers. Industry averages range, but in general, a 15 to 20 percent open rate is healthy and a 1 to 3 percent clickthrough rate is good.
5. What is an A/B test?
You’ve heard of Always Be Closing. I’d like to propose a new maxim for email: Always Be Testing. A/B tests are your way to find out more about the campaigns you send. They work the same way that an A/B test on a website might work: You show one group an A option and another group a B option and see which option gets the best results.
For email, this can lead to huge insights on the way you send your campaigns. Here are some top areas to target with an email A/B test:
- Time of day / day of week
- “From” name
- Images vs text
- Preheader message
6. Where should I spend the most time on my email?
Certainly, there is a lot to consider for sending an email marketing campaign. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of options, so here’s an exercise to try: Put yourself in a subscriber’s shoes. (Should be easy; you probably get a ton of email yourself!). What will make the subscriber open your email? What will he or she see first? Their eyes will go in a pattern something like this:
- Who sent the email (“from” name)
- What the email is about (subject)
These are the elements that will determine whether or not your subscriber even proceeds to the body of your email.
In other words, spend quality time coming up with a quality subject.
7. What is the ideal length for my subject line?
8. How do I make my email look good everywhere?
The latest numbers on email opens confirm that mobile is hugely important. Forty-nine percent of emails are opened on a mobile device.
That means that half your audience will be viewing your email on a screen three inches wide and the other half could be viewing on a screen 14 inches wide. How do you bridge that gap in one well-designed message?
Answer: Responsive email design. Much like responsive web design, responsive emails look good no matter where they are viewed because they have specific styles for specific screen sizes. You can find beautiful responsive templates on Theme Forest, and in most major email service providers.
If you’d prefer a quicker fix, try this: Design a one-column email. One-column emails scale beautifully because there are no sidebars to squish the content as the screen size decreases. One column emails are as simple as they come and work great on almost any screen.
9. Are there any rules to email marketing?
Yes, and they aren’t just rules—they’re laws. In the United States, the CAN-SPAM Act legislates good and bad email with some specific guidelines. If you are sending commercial email, you must do the following.
- Include an unsubscribe link
- Include your brick-and-mortar address or your P.O. box
- Honor someone’s unsubscribe request by never emailing them again
- Avoid purchasing a list
Penalties for not following the law can be as severe as a $300 fine for each recipient of your email.
Which Tool Should I Use to Manage My Email List?
There are a lot of tools out there that are designed to help you manage your email subscriber list, but after trying all of the most popular tools, I recommend Constant Contact.
Constant Contact is the most user-friendly email tool, and the best part is that you don’t have to sacrifice any functionality in order to get that easy-to-use interface.
Besides the fact that they offer a free trial with no credit card required, there are a few reasons I recommend Constant Contact:
Easy To Use
The most common feedback I hear from other bloggers about Constant Contact is straightforward: It’s simple.
As a blogger your main focus should be on creating great content, so you want an email tool that delivers results without making things more complicated than they need to be.
Constant Contact is specifically designed for beginners to be able to get up and running in virtually no time at all.
As soon as you sign up, you will be prompted to dive in headfirst and begin designing your first email. While there are a ton of cool features, the basics are all very easy to use, and if you need help at any point there are text and video tutorials, as well as live support, to walk you through any questions.
Constant Contact allows for incredible levels of customization in all of your emails. This feature is the one that I most often hear positive feedback about, and it’s easy to see why.
From within Constant Contact’s sleek setup you can choose exactly who to target with each email, whether you want to send it to the entire subscriber list or a specific subset. You can also choose from a number of pre-generated templates that take care of the hard work of design for you.
All of this easy customization frees up more of your time to create top-notch content that will engage your readers, while still being able to promote yourself to your readers with easy to read, professional looking emails designed to look great on desktop, tablet, and mobile platforms.
Creating great looking emails is all well and good, but how do you measure whether or not they are making a real impact on your blog? Constant Contact offers some of the most complete analytics available anywhere that are designed to help you do exactly that.
These analytics will help you track everything from how many people actually open your emails, to how many people click on the links in your emails. You can even test out sending two different emails, each to half of your subscribers, to see which one gets opened more frequently.
Analytics are an easy way for you to take a more sophisticated approach to your email marketing, which in turn drastically increases your return on investment for each email that you send.
11. How Do I Start Building My Email List?
Often, when I’m browsing the web, I’ll come across a blog with a stunning newsletter subscription form, boasting thousands of subscribers. I’m kinda jealous.
Big subscriber numbers are something we all want, so it’s good to know there are many smart ways of going about growing a list. But first, let me start with one way NOT to grow: Purchasing email addresses.
Buying email addresses is frowned upon by most major email service providers (e.g., Mailchimp, which won’t let you even add a purchased list). More importantly for you, the quality of these leads is poor. These aren’t people who have shown interest in your product organically, so you’re already fighting an uphill battle.
Instead of buying subscribers, try earning them through quality content and asking permission. Here are some tactics for growing your list the right way.
- Create an offer
- Use subscription forms
- Make great partnerships
Now that you understand the importance of building your email list and how to use Constant Contact can help you manage and utilize that list to its full extent, you might be wondering exactly how you should start building out your list.
Aside from that, the most important tip is make building your list a priority. There two basic rules to follow here:
- Make sure to put the form where people enter their email address in an easy to see place on your blog, ideally somewhere at the top of your blog’s sidebar menu.
- Give people a good reason to sign-up. One of the best ways to do this is to offer exclusive content. For example, if you have a recipe blog, offer to send them some exclusive recipes not found on your blog in return for signing-up.
Too often a blog’s email list will just contain recaps and reminders of content that regular visitors will already be aware of. While those things serve their purpose, creating exclusive content will help you sign up and retain as many email subscribers as possible.
- Sign up for a free trial accountat Constant Contact.
- Use my step-by-step guideto get your email list up and running one.
As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions!