Back in November, I sent out a survey to find out what you, my lovely readers, were interested in learning about.
And after going through all of your responses, I discovered that one thing many of you want to do is learn how to create an email list.
I started my email list after only a few months of blogging, without any real idea of how it was going to help me in the long run. Boy, am I grateful to past Ashlea for making that decision! My email list has been one of the most powerful tools for growing my blog over the past few months.
What I’ve come to realise is that the people that subscribe to my email list are my most loyal readers, and are the people that will engage with my blog the most. They’re the ones that will click links, comment on my posts, and read everything I write from start to finish.
Since these readers know the most about me, I can treat them like a focus group. Their feedback is the best way I can gauge whether I’m doing a good or terrible job of being a blogger.
Does that sound like a valuable resource to you? (I’ll answer for you – yes, yes it does). So if you’re convinced that you need to start an email list, like, right now – here’s how.
How to get started
First, you’ll need a platform to use to take sign ups.
I originally used a WordPress plugin called MailPoet. It was free, and it allowed me to create a list, embed forms on my site for people to sign up, and then create newsletters to send out.
It worked fairly well and it was a good platform to start with, but after a while I felt like I outgrew it. I wanted more control over the design of my email newsletters, and the plugin had a few technical glitches that eventually drove me to change platforms.
So, I decided to change to MailChimp. I originally didn’t want to go down the MailChimp path as it required me to add a physical address to the footer of every email, but I managed to get around it by listing my address as a suburb instead of a street address (shhh, don’t tell).
Now that I’ve used MailChimp for a few months and have finally gotten familiar with all of it’s features, I really like it. It’s more reliable and way easier to use than the MailPoet plugin, and I have much more control over my lists and newsletters (oh and if you’re also thinking of using MailChimp, I highly recommend you check out these tips by Regina as she is an absolute pro).
There are also some other great options – take a look at Twelveskip’s comparison of Aweber vs Madmimi vs MailChimp for a look at another two great platforms.
Where to have your sign up forms
There’s no set rule for where your sign up forms should be – it will depend on the design of your blog as to what will work best.
I’ve had a sign up form in my footer for months, next to an image advertising it. This has worked really well for me as every time someone reads one of my posts to the end, they’ll see the sign up form.
Having a sign up form in my footer is way less intrusive than a pop up (have I mentioned that I freaking hate pop ups?). I’ve also created a dedicated sign up page, which is where people will be directed to if they click on the image in my footer or that I can link to if I decide to advertise it elsewhere (like on social media).
On top of having my sign up form in my footer and on my sign up page, I also have it in my about page because I figure that the people who want to know more about me might also be interested in subscribing to my email newsletter.
It’s a really great idea to have your sign up forms in multiple places so that there’s a higher chance that it gets seen by your readers, though you should try not to overdo it. No-one wants to browse a site that does nothing but shove sign up forms in your face.
Some more options for placement of your sign up forms:
- In your sidebar
- Somewhere on your home page
- In your header
- Your contact page
- Other popular pages on your site
How to encourage people to sign up
People won’t just sign up to your email list for no reason, so you’ll need to encourage them with a great incentive.
The incentive could be anything, but it should be something that your readers will think is valuable.
Since my readers are mostly travel addicts like me, I created a printable travel journal design and offered it as a free gift for people that signed up to my email list. When they sign up and confirm their email, they get directed to a hidden page on my site where they can download the travel journal.
To advertise the free travel journal for subscribers, I created an image for my footer (the one that I showed you earlier) which shows a photo of the travel journal along with a short but bold message encouraging people to sign up.
For a limited time, I also offered a 30 day travel photography challenge. This email challenge took me about 2 months to create (a long time, I know) but it worked great.
I put a link to it in my sidebar and also some links in a few of my old photography-related posts, and this has resulted in a few new sign ups per day – but I’m also finding that my blog is growing along with it too. My pageviews have gone up, and my social media engagement is improving. This challenge seems to be keeping my readers involved and excited about my blog.
The other benefit of offering this challenge as well as the travel journal is that now I have two different ways of encouraging people to sign up to my list.
What can you offer your readers as an incentive to sign up?
- A free printable that you created (maybe some travel art or an inspirational quote)
- A travel-related worksheet or checklist
- An exclusive travel guide or some travel tips
- An e-book or e-guide that you’ve written
Whatever it is, make sure it’s something that people will be excited to receive.
What your newsletters should include
There’s no point getting people to sign up to your email newsletter, and then sending them boring emails – they’ll just unsubscribe straight away.
Many bloggers will send out their newsletter with links to their recent blog posts, and that’s about it. Boring! People want to receive exclusive content, and they want to feel like they get special treatment for being subscribed to your newsletter.
My emails will usually include:
- A short intro, including an overview of what’s been going on recently or a short story
- A small selection of recent posts from my blog (just in case my readers missed them)
- A preview of what’s coming up on the blog, so that my email subscribers are the first to know
- Other exclusive content such as discounts for my store, free downloads, photos that I haven’t shared anywhere else, and previews for my upcoming trips or plans.
What I’m trying to do for my email subscribers is show that I appreciate them by rewarding them with a behind-the-scenes look at my blog.
Of course, this is just my way of doing it. You could offer your subscribers some words of wisdom, secret blog posts, stories that you haven’t told anyone else, or anything, really. As long as you’re encouraging your subscribers to keep coming back.
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