For many bloggers, attracting a new, loyal reader to your blog is pretty much the Holy Grail.
Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are fantastic tools for finding new readers who might spontaneously click on your witty headline – but regular readers are people who will pop by your blog a couple of times a week, reading and commenting on posts regularly – even if they don’t catch your latest Tweet.
So how do you find these creatures?
One of your best tools is email. While a Tweet linking to your most recent post might only be seen by 3% of your followers on a typical day (and clicked on by a tiny fraction of those people), most people see most of the email they receive.
Having a good mailing list is a BIG bonus when you’re working with brands. Having opt-in email subscribers receive your content can make it significantly more attractive than a blog that relies entirely on web traffic. So, how do you create an email newsletter?
Your blog is published as an RSS feed and there are countless WordPress plug-ins that can take this feed and email it out to people – just search for “newsletter” in the plug-in library. Alternatively, you can use a third-party newsletter service such as MailChip or ConstantContact to create and manage an email newsletter. Some of these services are free for bloggers, or you can choose a ‘premium’ account that gives you access to more functionality and better templates for a small monthly fee.
Generally, whatever plug-in or service you use, you’ll have the option to add a sign-up box to your blog where people can type in their email address and hit “subscribe”. The box might appear in your sidebar, at the bottom of each posts, or as a pop-up window whenever a new visitor lands on your site (this might be very effective, but my personal view is that it’s simply annoying and people will click to close a pop-up without really reading it).
Once people have entered their email address, people will then start to receive updates from you. Depending on how you set up your newsletter, they might receive an email every time you post on your blog (the email might contain the full post, or just a snippet, with a link to click to read more) or it might be a weekly or monthly digest of your best content. You might allow the newsletter to run automatically, pulling content from your site’s RSS feed, or you could invest a bit more time and create your own newsletter once a week or month, including your best pictures and content. It’s really up to you.
Here are some tips for getting people to sign up to your email list:
- Be clear about what people are signing up for – it’s a sad truth that some of the people who sign up for your email will forget that they signed up for it, and wonder, “What the heck is this?” when it lands in their inbox. So be sure your sign-up form says what’s going to happen: “Sign up here to receive thrifty recipes by email” or “Sign up here to get every new post in your inbox!”
- If you are going to use a “pop-up” then consider the specifics and be sure to choose the right plug-in that offers you some control – how long will someone need to be on the site before it pops up? Will the box show to everyone or just new readers? Research suggests giving people time to read your post before inviting them to subscribe works better than blasting them as soon as they land. And make your box simple and visually attractive.
- Consider adding an incentive. If someone gives you their email address, how might you thank them? You could offer all subscribers a FREE ebook of your new summer play guide, or 20 winter vegetarian recipes, or 10 family-friendly activities to do in London. A little investment could generate a big return.
- Make sure people know about your list. The simplest way is often to add a “subscribe now” button to posts but it’s not the only option. You can also add the link to your Twitter bio (use a URL shortener such as bit.ly to do this) or you can add it to your email signature. Make sure everyone you’re talking about your content with has the potential to join your email list!
- Use contests. We know lots of bloggers regularly use Gleam and Rafflecopter to run competitions – with bonus entries for follows on Twitter and the like. Have you thought about adding “subscribe by email?” as a competition entry?
- Use a tab on your Facebook page. Facebook can be challenging for bloggers wanting to reach new readers, but creating a tab where users can sign up to your newsletter is pretty easy – you can use a third party tool such as Woobox to do this, or some newsletter software services such as MailChimp and ConstantContact allow you to add Facebook to your newsletter.
If you’ve had success in creating an email newsletter we’d love to hear your tips in the comments!