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.
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.
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?