Why Your Blog Needs a Mailing List

For many bloggers, myself included, the thought of a mailing list is the furthest thing from their mind when starting out blogging. And many others think of mailing lists as only something you need if you are going to be selling your own products or affiliate products to your subscribers.

This, however, is a false assumption. I would say that anyone who is looking to get into serious blogging should start creating a mailing list as soon as possible. This is why!

Reasons to Create a Mailing List

Here are some great reasons to have a mailing list for your blog, some for even if you are not selling a thing!

1. Announce new additions to your site.

Whether it is a new design, social profile, or new resource page, announcing updates through your newsletter can get your readers excited about visiting your site again!

2. Alert your list when something is awry.

This week, there was a little hiccup in the networks between Cox and GoDaddy – certain people with Cox as an ISP couldn’t see certain GoDaddy sites, including this one and Dofollow. I didn’t know if I was going to have to make an emergency hosting move, but if I did, I would have been able to alert people on my mailing list immediately. It would certainly have come in handy around the time my sites got hacked a few months ago. Fortunately, GoDaddy solved the issue, while demonstrating some seriously good Twitter customer service skills.

3. Let your readers know about your guest blogging or other writing activities.

Sure, there are other ways you can let readers know about your guest posting opportunities by using alternate ways to share the content. But a regular newsletter is a great way to let your readers know about your other content, whether it is on other blogs or on article marketing networks.

4. Help your readers help you.

There are some exciting things that you can be involved in, such as blogging contests and nominations in blogging awards, that your readers would likely support you in if they new about it. A friendly nudge in your mailing list updates can go a long way in getting much needed votes!

5. Inform your readers of special promotions / sales.

If you don’t want to create a blog post about a last minute deal or sale, your mailing list is a great way to send a quick, short update to your subscribers. A list of subscribers to update before Third Tribe changed their monthly rates would have been nice to get the word out.

What to Give Away

If you haven’t thought about how to build an email list, but now you’re tempted, your next thought may be the fact that you don’t have a tangible product, like an eBook, to give away to entice subscribers into opting in.

But wait – what about, instead of a product, you give a service instead.

The product was the main thing that held me up from creating my mailing list, and then one day I thought about the fact that I am always giving out little tidbits of advice to others about their blogs and websites. So I thought, why not offer a free mini-consultation in exchange for opting in for my mailing list.

With some of my readers’ blogs in mind, some free services you could offer include:

  • Web design ideas
  • SEO suggestions
  • Social media strategies
  • Personal development advice
  • Career guidance
  • Home organization tips

Essentially, you offer a small bit of personalized advice – let readers email you with a particular concern or challenge, and give them a simple way to implement (or begin implementing) change.

This approach, needless to say, has been a success so far for me in terms of offering some web design and optimization tips for new subscribers. I get to personally connect with each subscriber. It helps me get to know my subscribers right from the bat, an added bonus when I am working on my newsletter and determining what content they will be most interested in.

It may not be feasible, depending on how fast you get subscribers. Maybe let them know that there will be a bit of a wait period so you can give them quality information, and as you do so, you will be able to compile a large list of general advice that you can eventually bundle up in a report or eBook for the future when things begin to grow at a larger rate.

What it Will Cost

Mailing lists certainly aren’t going to come for free. The service I use is Aweber, which starts at $19 per month for up to 500 subscribers. MailChimp is another popular one, and is free for up to 500 subscribers, but the rates are higher if you go above that compared to Aweber.

And for me, another expense that I was not aware of was the fact that, since you have to put a physical address on all correspondence to your mailing list and I didn’t want to blast out my home address, I had to get a PO Box. Where you get it and what kind of service you want will determine the price – mine is $75 for 3 months because I chose one that also allowed me a street address as opposed to just a PO Box #.

How to Recoup Your Costs

This is where the dreaded words “affiliate products” come into play. They’re not dirty words, promise. The way I see it is if you are using a service or a product that you would recommend even if you didn’t get commission from the sale, why not make some income off of it? Your mailing list can be a place where you can also recommend things that your subscribers will find useful. If you only recommend things that you yourself use and truly find valuable, then your readers will know that they can trust your judgement and that you are not just throwing anything at them to make a buck.

Think about it. Thesis users, for example, really only need to make one theme sale every 1.5 months to even out their mailing list cost. Chances are your website visits will go up because you regularly remind readers about your site and latest posts, giving you the traffic to offer ad space on your sidebar at a higher rate. These are easy ways that you can feel good about to make up your mailing list costs and reap the benefits of keeping in touch with and helping out your readers.

Mailing List Tips

Here are a few things I do when it comes to my newsletter and signup process.

Theme

Remember, your mailing list should carry across the same feeling as your website. Design wise, I keep it simple so that the main content can be read on a mobile device or without the pictures enabled, but I still include my logo and basic color theme so it ties in well with my site.

Content-wise, since my goal is to be informative and helpful to my readers, I want to do the same for my mailing list subscribers. So, just like my posts, my newsletters are lengthier than the average, but I believe it is in a good way.

The Opt-In

One thing I see a lot on websites is an opt-in form with no information about what the subscriber is signing up for. Sometimes this is designed with the thought that a regular visitor to the site automatically knows the kind of content based on the blog itself. But you also want to give new visitors to your site a reason to sign up as well – a short and sweet description of their “free item” or service (if offered) plus a bit on what they will be receiving in your mailings will go a long way in helping people who may not be familiar with your site decide to sign up.

Also, going along these lines, really reconsider the idea of having a pop-up mailing list request. I’m sure the conversion rates for those are higher than those sitting in the sidebars, but it is just not friendly to visitors. Especially if it is their first time to your site and your opt-in form has no information about what they are signing up for. Also, these popups come up for mobile users as well, and some forms are absolutely heinous to try to close out of on a smartphone screen, which may mean you are blocking a first time visitor from seeing the value of your site!

Getting Others to Build Your List For You

Not sure how to get more subscribers to your list? No problem – get others to help you build your list! WordPress plugins like List Eruption by Mark Thompson of Stay on Search allows you to create a unique referral URL for everyone who wants to help you build your list.

Why will people want to help you? Incentives, of course! This plugin will help you setup incentives such as a free eBook to someone who has referred 10 subscribers, or the first person to reach 100 referrals wins a free iPad. The offers you could give to motivate others to help you build your list are endless!

Your Thoughts on Blog Mailing Lists

Do you have, or are thinking about having a mailing list for your site? Are you subscribed to mailing lists from other blogs? What are some other best practices when it comes to blog newsletters and email updates?

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Comments

    • says

      Yes, if you build a good relationship with your subscribers to the point they know that whatever you are selling them is going to be relevant and useful, it can lead to good conversions. It’s just a matter of making sure that you’re not pushing something just to make a profit – you have to really believe it is good for someone before you can sell it and prove it!

  1. says

    I certainly would like to have a mailinglist, I just don’t know for what use – and I’m even in the dark about what to offer users for signing up. I don’t deal with a specific niche so I can’t give an eBook with SEO tips because that will probably not interest all the readers that come for Apple-related articles and news. The same with blogging tips etc.

    Well, hopefully some day I will get an idea and will be able to start a mailing list :)
    Klaus just posted iPhone 4 Not Recommended by Consumer Reports &amp Apple Removing Forum Threads

    • says

      Hmm, when it comes to sites with multiple topics, you might want to consider having different lists. I only have one list, so I didn’t have to think about this, but maybe if the signup form had options so that people could subscribe to mailing list updates only on a particular topic like Apple news or blogging tips.

      One thing you might be able to do is to add a custom field labeled “interest” and then when people subscribe, look at that interest list and split your list into segments. That way you can send blogging updates to just those interested in blogging.

      I’d appreciate a chime in from anyone who has more advanced knowledge on mailing list service usage on whether this would be possible!

  2. says

    I actually started one a few months ago, including giving away an e-booklet, then I stopped promoting it because my job commitments began to take up not only the work day but many evenings.

    I now use FeedMailPro for those who did sign up. FeedMailPro is free for up to 1000 subscribers, then $10/month after that, although it doesn’t have a lot of the advanced features that Aweber does. It does allow for broadcasts though. And – it also requires the address disclosure, so I, too, am paying for a PMB.

    I’m signing up for your mailing list right now Kristi!
    cb just posted We can’t always treat others as WE’d want to be treated

    • says

      Thanks for mentioning the service – I only know about those main two and it’s good to hear that there are other reliable services at great prices. And thanks for signing up! I’ll get your review within the week, once I get caught up on my backlog. :)

  3. says

    Kristi,

    I’m not sure why I am still dragging my feet when it comes to adding a mailing list to my blog. I think it’s partially not having the free giveaway to offer, and partially that I personally don’t like mailing lists much.

    While I know all mailing lists are not spam, I just haven’t been able to get past that feeling when I consider one for my site. Looking at my lists of what I want to add to my blog, a mailing list is the very top item. I’ve long been convinced of its value, but I keep skipping over it to add lesser effective items to my blog.

    Do you ever feel like a spammer sending out to your mailing list? Was this a concern of yours before you started your mailing list? If so, how did you overcome it?

    Brad
    Brad Harmon just posted Why a Closed-on-Sunday Policy is Good Business

    • says

      Great question!

      I have subscribed to a LOT of mailing lists over the past two years to get freebie products and what not, and have really been studying them to see which ones felt like spam (ie. no other purpose but to sell a product) vs. which ones offered valuable information. I am in the experimentation phase, but I feel like mine is a good balance of offering useful information based on what I know about my subscribers, as well as also being able to offer some products and services from affiliates based on the fact that I use them and I know that others will find them useful as well.

      I think for me, that is what separates feeling like a spammer or product pusher vs. feeling like I am giving value to my list – everything I have recommended so far is something that I am using (such as Thesis) or plan to attend (such as the Blog World Expo).

      I also send updates in a designed newsletter as opposed to the text based emails with one link to an affiliate product, which I believe makes it a lot less spammy looking. Plus I don’t use the Aweber link tracking so that people can hover over a link and tell if it is going to a post on my site, a post elsewhere, or an affiliate link for a product – the latter are shortened using my domain, but they are still different from the post links (kikolani.com/product vs. kikolani.com/post.html).

  4. says

    Great read! I am doing number 1 & 2 at the mean time because I don’t really want to bother readers with a lot of emails with no need!

    I remember once I got an email warning about upgrading to WP 3.0 when it was released especially for bloggers who are using Thesis Themes because there were a minor problem, so I immediately forwarded this warning to our readers because the majority of them are actually using Thesis on their blogs, and the good new is I have received “Thank you” emails from three bloggers on the same day, which made me feel great by notify them, I suppose those three guys were about the upgrade :)

    Thank you for sharing this awesome tips Kristi, I think I will extend the use of the email list in the future as I might have some stuff going on, and you post will help me to focus my work!
    Hesham just posted Article Marketing Promotion with Blog Commenting

  5. says

    Perfect timing with this post, Kristi, as I’m in the process of setting up one for my own blog at the minute. I think one of the things I want to do there is offer exclusive content.

    I’ve been messing with platform-specific content as well (so, Facebook exclusives on Facebook page, blog subscriber ebooks, etc), so will have to think on how I want to approach this.

    Cheers again for the great pointers here :)
    Danny Brown just posted Facebook Pisses Off Users Again

    • says

      You actually send out some thoughtful questions that could easily be sent to your subscribers, such as when you do your social media and design reinventions. I could see your mailing list as a great way to generate feedback and insights before you post something on your blog.

  6. says

    As a recipient, I love mailing lists – at least those that I receive valuable information from. Being informed of updates and special offers via a mailing list are much more time efficient than browsing the site for said info.

    I have yet to develop one for my blog as I feel I am still too “new”, but I suppose even a beginner blogger can build a relationship with their visitors via a mailing list.

    • says

      Definitely. One thing I regret about not having created one in the beginning are all of the readers that have since left the blogging world that I have no way to get in touch with. Maybe if they had subscribed way back when, I would have an avenue to contact them.

  7. says

    I think a mailing list is absolutely necessary for both just staying in touch/bringing value to your list and monetizing your blog.

    I know monetizing almost sounds like a dirty word these days with so many people abusing their lists by constant pitches; however, for many of us, this is a primary income source.

    I agree with you, Kristi – as long as you keep a balance between value and products (I keep it at about 80% to 20%), your selling emails are just as welcomed since your list knows you and trusts you to make a good judgment in regards to your offers.

    By the way, I give away a free SEO report on my blog that I wrote and I offer it to anyone else who needs something of value to give to their subscribers.

    Great topic to talk about, Kristi; thanks for your insights.

    Best,
    Ana Hoffman
    Ana just posted 7 Can’t Miss Ways to Kick-Start Better Traffic Conversion

    • says

      Monetizing is a dirty word because of the abuse, you’re absolutely right. I see people send out offers for stuff I know they’re not using – they just do it to get the commissions. That’s why I really feel I have to use something, be using it, or plan to use it in the not to distant future – if it works for me, it’s bound to work for others, because I’m super picky about what I spend my money on and expect great results when I do. I have also bought things that I don’t affiliate for because I know they are not worth it for others.

    • says

      Definitely share your feedback! :) Plus free offers aren’t mandatory – they just entice more subscribers. You can always just have the subscription box up and let your content drive them to subscribe!

  8. says

    Just today, my friend Tony Teegarden was telling me about every bit of mailing lists. I felt sure he may have written this post. Excellent to know the benefits and thank you for tempting me big time! I shall look into this and your advice will come in extremely handy!

  9. says

    Fresh new ideas here. Mailing lists are not just for the money but also can be used in building quality relationships with readers.

    • says

      Exactly. I think that if you build a relationship with your readers in the beginning and promote only the things that you truly believe will help them, that it will make you that much more successful!

  10. says

    I’d go for the option where blog commenters could opt-in to the mailing list through a checkbox below the comment textarea. Since blog commenters are usually interested in your content and provide their email address during blog commenting, it is an quick and ideal way of creating an opt-in mailing list.

    • says

      Funny you should mention that. I bought a plugin that is supposed to do that – just have to get the latest version of it installed and configured correctly. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. says

    The faster bloggers realize that a mailing list is needed to continue the relationship building , the faster they will have more success.

    Mailing lists is just another place to connect, share and yes the evil words, “make money” thru.

    There really is NO negative to starting a list,, the only negative is how you “manage” your list.
    John Paul Aguiar just posted Shoemoney System Weapons Of Marketing Blueprint

    • says

      Very true. People can get a little over-zealous when trying to monetize their lists. Like Ana said, it’s all about balance!

  12. says

    Okay, thanks for the kick in the a$$. I have been dragging my feet on this one and know I have to get it together and start a mailing list.

    Thanks for the shove in the right direction and the excellent tips and ideas. I like the idea of offering a service instead of a product. Gonna have to build on that one.
    Blog Angel a.k.a. Joella just posted iPad Giveaway Contest Win An iPad

    • says

      Yeah, I actually collected emails for about two weeks before I sent out my first mailing. Since I do the reviews, it gave me time to learn more about my subscribers’ interests which really helped me develop the first newsletter. Definitely a plus in the end!

    • says

      I think right away. You may not get that many subscribers at first, but you will give anyone who is excited about your site on their first visit the option to keep up with you. Even if you are sending a newsletter out to 10 people, that’s still 10 people that many not have remember to return to your site otherwise who could be converted into loyal readers, and it will just start to grow from there.

  13. says

    Kristi, a blog mailing list is a great idea and using it for announcements and giveaways almost guarantees traffic. Everybody likes something for free, so why not email it directly to them instead of relying on feed subscribers. Great tips!
    Aaron just posted Free Blogs

    • says

      Thanks, and you’re right! I’m sure that people who subscribe to emails, whether your mailing list or your posts, are much more interested in staying up to date which makes them the ones you really want to cater to if possible.

    • says

      Thanks! Yes, when I couldn’t come up with a product and didn’t want to wait anymore, a service seemed like a good start and has been highly effective!

  14. says

    Ah, a mailing list…

    …another thing on my “to do,” list.

    I really do see the benefits of it – without doubt. Now if only I could stop procrastinating ;)

    How do you find sign ups to the mailing list perform? I’ve friends who have them who say fewer than 2% of their visitors subscribe, while others have anything up to 12%
    Stacey Cavanagh just posted Life in 140 Characters….

  15. says

    HI Kristi,
    A mailing list is absolutely imperative …and has become such a huge part of my blogging experience. I started one just 2 months back..and its so much fun. Yes, its work…cause i am doing it manually through feedburner…but its still fun. The connections you build with the readers is priceless.
    I wanted to ask you if there was any free automated service much like aweber for us people on a tight budget :) Doing it manually is fun but still time consuming….
    Much Love,
    Z~
    p.s. just signed up for your mailing list too :)

    • says

      MailChimp is free for the first 500 subscribers, but after that the pricing is more than Aweber. I think there was one mentioned earlier, FeedMailPro, that might be worth a try – it’s free for the first 1,000 subscribers. And thanks for signing up! I’ll send your review soon! :)

  16. says

    Hey Krisit,

    Nice Post. Awesome points girl. Building list is something that no blogger should miss.
    Thanks for this awesome post kristi. Really fantastic work.

    ~Dev

    • says

      I have seen several people who do newsletters that are really just a listing of their posts for the previous week. Those can be pretty handy too!

  17. says

    Great points you showed here. Mailing lists are not just for the money but also can be used in building quality relationships with readers. I admire those writers who share the best of their knowledge in writing such articles. Keep up the good work and continue inspiring readers.Thank you so much.

    • says

      Well, at least you have it set up… that way when you do find the right way to use it, you’ll be part of the way there.

    • says

      I did it all at once – decided on the product, setup Aweber, got my PO Box, created the form and promoted it. I find that when the mood strikes you, if you do it right away, it doesn’t get put on the back burner later.

  18. says

    Nope, still not sold on a mailing list. I just don’t see a need for it. If my blog goes down I reckon people will know about it before I get the chance to email them, and once it’s up they will find it sooner or later.

    If they want to contact me I have a contact page and if I need to contact them I can get their email address from the comments section or use their contact page.I would perhaps consider a one off price but a monthly subscription just doesn’t cut it.
    Sire just posted Saving Money So You Can Host Your Own Blog

    • says

      Yeah, if you’re not sold on it, it’s definitely not a good idea to make the commitment to the monthly billing. I wasn’t sold on it for a long time until I started finding a reason for it, then it made sense. :)

  19. says

    Hi Kristi,

    I like the fact that you decided to post about the need to have a mailing list. It is so important to build your email list and yet so many bloggers neglect it.

    Not having a product can hold people back and your suggestion to offer a service instead is a good one.

    Thanks for the tip on having the theme for your mailings look like your blog. I’ll have to reflect on it since I decided to use a plain text.

    I guess there are some advantages to both.

    Vance
    Vance just posted Email List Building Ebook- How To Build Email List In Any Market

  20. says

    Where can I find pros and cons of different mailing list providers? I have a Mailchimp account, and know of Aweber and Constant Contact; but know there are many more. Has anyone compiled a chart or list showing why one is good and another is bad? I know I can google this info, but maybe you or one of your readers has first-hand experience?
    Ari Herzog just posted What is Mightier Than the Pen

  21. says

    I have the Feedburner email service, but only about 25 people use it and it just emails my blog posts. I’ve been looking for a good WordPress plugin to run a mailing list on my server, because I don’t want to pay $19 a month for just 500 subscribers. I may have to write a plugin myself or adapt another.

    I’ve always read that email is much better than websites or even social networking. When someone follows me on Twitter, where do I find out about it? My email, not twitter.com. Every website and web service sends emails to its users, and they are usually read and saved rather than closed and deleted.

    I’m not sure if you’re fussy about typos, but I think I found four in your post:

    * First paragraph: “For many bloggers, myself included, the thought of a mailing list is the furthest thing from their mind” — “mind” should be plural.

    * Under #4, “they new about it” should be “they knew about it.”

    * Under “What to Give Away,” the sentence “what about, instead of a product, you give a service instead.” should end with a question mark.

    * Under the same heading “why not offer a free mini-consultation in exchange for opting in for my mailing list.” should also end with a question mark.

    I enjoyed this article!
    Richard X. Thripp just posted Photo- At the Beach