So you’ve finally done it.
You’ve been thinking about it for a while, but now you’ve actually done it.
You’ve set up an email list for your blog.
Feels good, doesn’t it?
Because you just moved up in the world.
You’re not just a blogger any longer; you’re a list owner.
That means you’ve joined the ranks of serious bloggers who understand the value of a captive audience.
The same bloggers who know that email is still the best way of getting readers to take the action you want them to take. Like reading your latest killer post.
So you’ve put a sign-up form on the front page of your blog to catch new subscribers.
And each time you publish a new post, it automatically gets sent out to your list.
Job done, right? You’ve set it, so now you can forget it.
Why So Many Bloggers Make Basic Blunders with Their Email Lists
Bloggers are so used to being lectured on the importance of having an email list that it achieves a kind of magical status.
It’s almost as if creating an email list is an instant cure for all blogging ills.
But in truth, most bloggers make some embarrassingly basic mistakes with their lists.
Make a few of them, and you might as well not have a list at all.
So let’s call out these rookie mistakes, one by one. Because when you know them, you can avoid them a hell of a lot easier.
1. Your subscriber pickup line is mediocre at best
Just like asking someone out on a date, you’ve got to properly entice a person to sign up for your list. Telling someone to “sign up for my mailing list” is about as appealing as saying to a stranger in a bar, “Hey, do you come here often?”
So ask yourself some important questions:
- Why should someone sign up for your list?
- What can they expect if they do?
- How often will you email them?
- What topics, ideas or types of content will you send them?
- Why is your email list valuable and worth signing up for?
Your reader’s inbox is precious and you can’t expect to show up there without a good reason. So you must trade that valuable space in their inbox with useful and interesting content.
So tell them why they should let you in.
Chris Brogan‘s pickup line is, “You want to grow your business? Join me every week for some magic. I promise this is the best of what I do.”
Marie Forleo‘s pickup line is, “You deserve a business & life you love. We can help.”
Brennan Dunn‘s pickup line is, “Learn how to get more clients, raise your rates, perfect your sales website, and so much more.”
Notice that they don’t mention “FREE” or even “newsletter” – you can tell from the form what you’re getting, and they’d rather talk about the value than the specific medium.
So explain why someone should sign up rather than simply telling them that they should. Lead with value and benefits instead of just asking them to perform an action.
2. Your free bonus isn’t worth the price tag
A lot of people think that they can add a free one-page PDF to entice signups and call it a day. But since almost all email newsletters now come with some free bonus for signing up, you must offer more to stand out from the crowd.
So think hard about your freebie.
How valuable is it really?
Does it line up with the content they get from the blog?
Is it something your ideal readers would be excited to receive?
There’s no one-size-fits-all freebie. Yours could be anything from an e-book to a free webinar, a discount on a product, or exclusive subscriber-only content.
The goal is to figure out what your own audience wants and give them that.
Use your blog stats to find out which posts perform best. Notice which topics get the most engagement. And pay attention to what people ask you on social media.
The most asked question I received from existing subscribers, blog readers and on social media was, “I know you write books; how can I write books?”
So I created 13 easy-to-consume lessons in an email course. I also used a few of the lessons as the basis for guest posts and even wrote about how I set up the course itself. I told my existing subscribers about the course and from there they told their own audiences and it snowballed.
Using this approach, I was able to grow my own list by 3,000 people in a single week.
I paid attention to the content they were interested in and created something I knew they’d immediately value.
3. You don’t have a landing page that’s just for your list
Landing pages are great to focus a user on taking one specific action. That’s why it’s smart to have a landing page for your email list, to persuade them to sign up.
Even if you have a basic sign-up form on the front page of your blog (and hopefully at the end of every blog post too), creating a subscriber landing page that you can link to from other places is still a good idea.
Use your landing page to extol the virtues of your list. Offer social proof about how good it is by showcasing some user testimonials. Link to your top-five best newsletters to show the type of content people will receive.
And make sure the biggest call to action is to complete your sign-up form.
Look at the following examples of great landing pages:
- Austin Kleon keeps things simple and to the point.
- Andrew Chen uses his home page as a landing page for his mailing list.
- Nathan Barry has a dedicated newsletter landing page to drive subscriptions with his photo and mention of the 8000+ subscribers already on the list.
- Kris Carr has a “freebies” page with lots of valuable resources you get when you sign up.
- James Clear offers webinars about personal growth, and he links to the newsletter landing page at the start and finish of every article he writes. (And he’s grown his list by over 70,000 people in just 18 months!)
4. You let robots write your welcome messages
Too many subscriber sign-up processes use the default text that comes with the mailing list software to confirm your request and welcome you to the list.
Welcome messages often include the corporate, or royal, we, which only works if you start your blog written by more than one person. You can certainly make your messages more interesting than: “Your subscription to our list has been confirmed.”
Any serious mailing list software allows you to customize the sign-up experience. Most lists require a double opt-in (i.e., fill in the form AND click the confirmation email) and so your “please confirm” message needs to be just as compelling as your opt-in text, otherwise subscribers will slip through the net.
The confirmation message, the welcome message and even the URL new subscribers are directed to once the sign-up process is complete are all important parts of the overall experience.
Why not apply some of the writing skills gained as a blogger to your sign-up process?
Get creative, get interesting and get valuable. Do something completely unique and unexpected! Make every step in the process sound like the writing voice you use on your blog.
On my own list, my welcome message is a tongue-in-cheek story about how I was so excited that the reader signed up for my list that I ran to my local tattoo parlor to get their name tattooed on my arm.
It’s unexpected and I get replies every day about how funny, awesome, or interesting it is.
The message took me five minutes to write, but it’s something people remember.
5. Your email template is way too complicated
Some bloggers feel like their newsletter has to look exactly like their website.
But the easiest way to get subscribers to actually read your content is to strip everything out of your email template and focus on the content and a single call to action.
You don’t need a sidebar in your email template.
You don’t need links to six other things you think the readers might be interested in.
You don’t need to promote everything you do or sell in every email.
Subscribers are much more likely to read an email or click a link if it’s not full of other distractions.
And remember, more than 51 percent of people read their email on a mobile device. So make sure your newsletter template is mobile-friendly and isn’t full of super-tiny-magnifying-glass-sized text.
Luckily, the simpler the email, the more likely it is to be mobile friendly.
Not a programmer? Fear not, non-nerds! Almost every newsletter software program comes with pre-built, mobile-friendly templates to use. All you need to do is plop in your logo and pick colors that match.
6. You don’t keep regular hours
Be mindful of when you send your newsletters.
Even if your posts are published at different times in the day and on different days of the week, you can configure your email software to send at the same date and time each week.
GetResponse did some research in 2013 that suggests Tuesday is the best day for open rates, but Friday gets the best click-through rates.
And since 24 percent of emails are opened within the first hour of sending, the time of day is important. Are you sending when most of your list is asleep? Wrapping up with their work day? Getting ready for bed?
Thankfully most email software tells you the geographic location of your subscribers so you can adjust your email schedule to suit the majority.
But be wary of making too many generalizations. You need to figure out what works best for your list.
Personally, I’ve found I get the highest list engagement on the weekend, so I send at 6:00 a.m. (Pacific time zone) every Sunday (and it gives me a good reason for it to be named The Sunday Dispatches).
7. You assume everyone remembers who you are
People often forget that they signed up for your list.
Or they might receive an email and not realize it’s coming from you.
In either case, they may quickly unsubscribe. They may even report you as a spammer.
So make sure your emails use the same basic branding as your website. Use similar wording, language and tone.
As we’ve already seen, you shouldn’t need a Computer Science degree to customize your email templates, and most email software lets you add your logo and customize the colors without touching any code.
And every email should tell the reader the reason they are receiving it. For example, “You’re getting this email because you signed up at myblog.com. (Thanks for that!)”
Gentle reminders of who you are and why you’re emailing will avoid giving your readers any nasty surprises, and minimize the chances of them unsubscribing.
8. You act like you’re not interested
Most bloggers treat their list as a broadcast-only platform. They even send their emails from an address they don’t even check, like firstname.lastname@example.org. How boring. It also says, “I just don’t care what my audience thinks or has to say.”
If you can foster two-way communication, your mailing list will feel appreciated and heard.
So instead of just blasting out your latest blog posts, send the occasional subscriber-only message too.
Ask your list questions.
Invite their feedback on what you write or create.
Open up a dialog to gain insight into what they’re working on, struggling with or have questions about.
Ask them to submit their own stories and ideas where appropriate.
This not only makes them feel you care about what they think, but it also helps you get ideas for new blog content, new products you could create, new affiliate products you could promote or new services you could offer.
Chris Brogan asks the question of what people are drinking in every email he sends. He’s not collecting marketing data, but he’s trying to stimulate a conversation. Even if you have nothing to say about what you’ve just read, you can probably give an answer to what you happen to be sipping on.
(By the way, Chris has 70,000 people on his list.)
9. You’re overly familiar and it’s a little creepy
For a little while, I would insert the first name field into paragraph text in my newsletter. So right in the middle of a paragraph, I’d mention the subscriber by name, as if I were writing the email just for them.
Some people found it neat and were tricked into thinking the email was just for them. But many others found it to be a creepy way to use information they had provided me.
Needless to say, I stopped that practice.
Just because you know a subscriber’s name doesn’t mean you should use it often. These days, most people see through the cheap trick of newsletter personalization anyway.
If you do use subscriber information like this, make sure your fall-back value (what shows up if they didn’t fill in their name) works. No one wants to read an email that starts, “Dear FIRST NAME.”
10. You grow your list like a jerk
For shame! You might think adding people to your list that didn’t subscribe is the perfect crime, but they’ll realize what you did the minute they get your first email.
It might sound obvious, but you should only add people to your list who have specifically asked to be added.
If someone sends you an email, it doesn’t mean that they want to be on your list.
If someone gives you their business card, it doesn’t mean they want to be your list.
If someone buys something from you, it doesn’t mean they want to be on your list.
And just in case you were wondering, adding someone to your list just because you’re subscribed to theirs is also dirty pool.
Your mailing list numbers are meaningless if you’ve achieved them through shady tactics. Keep your list on the up-and-up by only having people on it that honestly subscribed to it.
This also keeps complaints to a minimum and prevents your email provider flagging you as a possible spammer.
11. You’re way too shy about promoting your list
Simply having your mailing list form as a widget in your sidebar isn’t going to cut it for increasing subscribers. You need to mention, promote and link to your list as often as possible if you want to increase subscription rates.
So think of all the places you can link to your signup landing page:
- Link to it in your email signature.
- Include it on social media profiles.
- Show it after every blog post (and tell people why they should sign up).
You can also add your sign-up URL to tradeshow banners, business cards, and in the byline of any guest posts you write.
In a nutshell, anywhere you can promote yourself, you can also be promoting your mailing list.
People can sign up with a single click from within Twitter and you don’t need to spend a dime on advertising to use them either.
Are you ready to get smarter with your email list?
If you’re serious about building an audience for your blog, an email list is a must.
Sending regular emails to your readers forges a much closer bond with your audience than social media and, post-for-post, it drives more traffic too.
But too many bloggers think getting into email simply means slapping a sign-up form in their sidebar and funneling their latest posts straight to their list.
It’s never that simple.
By avoiding the rookie mistakes laid out in this post, you can get your list working for you and start reaping the rewards you keep hearing about from other bloggers.
So choose a mistake to fix today. Fix another one tomorrow.
And before long, you’ll be the one raving on and on about the importance of email.