One of the most common questions I hear from new bloggers is, “How do I start email marketing?” Creating a newsletter for your blog is easy and can be a great way to drive traffic and income. In fact, the most financially successful bloggers I know owe it to their “list.” Here is what you need to know to get started.
Starting Your Newsletter
At first, your list is generally small enough for a free or low cost email marketing service, but do keep in mind that as your list grows, you will need to pay for the service. A service will help you avoid getting flagged as spam, simplify the whole process and automate your delivery. Options include MailChimp, Aweber, and Constant Contact and other email newsletter services. You should try them out for free to see what fits your needs.
The easiest way to set up your newsletters is by creating a template and then adding an RSS feed of your blog’s posts, which pulls them into your newsletter. However, no one will read your newsletters unless they contain something far more compelling than a list of titles. Consider offering newsletter readers something your blog readers don’t get. For example, my subscribers get a health news feature and upcoming events. Besides unique content, you can also add:
- Giveaways from around the web that fit your niche
- Weekly “fast” tips, which can come from older posts
- Old posts repurposed for the current season or events
One of the best ways to entice people to sign up is by offering them a “freebie” related to your niche that is sent or activated once they subscribe. Ideas include:
- A tip sheet, white paper or tutorial (“How to Detox your Home”)
- A product guide (“Holiday Gifts for Single Moms”)
- Printables (“Track Your Expenses”)
- Free ebook from your existing content
- Mini-training course
The key is to promote this offer everywhere and to make sure it matches your audience. You can use Canva to create a pretty document, especially if you are writing a tip sheet.
Another idea is to run a niche-related giveaway and make your email subscription the mandatory entry.
Frequency and Timing
Newsletter frequency should match how often you blog, so if you write 3-7 posts per week, weekly is appropriate. However, if you only blog once a week, monthly will do. You can also do special newsletter drops if you have an event or product coming out, like launching a new ebook.
I recommend testing different delivery times. Mondays tend to be a challenge since people are inundated with “start of week” emails, while Fridays have traditionally been said to be the best delivery time. However, this will be determined by the habits of your audience so consider them when selecting a delivery time.
Creating List Engagement
Good list engagement builds a solid reputation for the newsletter sender. Some ways to build great subscriber engagement include:
- A welcome message for new subscribers that sets up their expectations, such as what they can expect in your newsletter and a reminder of where they signed up.
- A clear, unique subject line that will entice them to open it.
- Personalizing the newsletter with their first name and a friendly, “we” voice in the body.
- A top line with engaging content (different from subject) rather than typical “if you don’t see images” message.
According to Elysa Zeitz of Aweber, the average life of an email address is usually only 6 months, so it’s to your benefit to run re-engagement campaigns every few months or so. Send reminder messages to those subscribers who have not opened a newsletter in a while. To re-ignite their interest, you should send your inactive subscribers “last chance” offers and follow up afterward.
List engagement is not just about getting visitors to open your emails or click on your links. Zeitz says engagement is critical because it affects your sender reputation and deliverability. Bounces happen when someone’s inbox is overfull or if their email account is closed. Bounce rates need to be low or your ISP can block you if you continually try to deliver to closed subscribers.
How do you lower bounce rates? You need to delete emails that consistently bounce. At Aweber, a soft bounce gets 3 chances and then is flagged as a hard bounce and removed. Good newsletter services will automatically perform this function for you.
Open Rates vs. Click Rates
Two very important things to track for your newsletter are open and click rates. Open rates tell you how many of the delivered emails were actually opened by subscribers, while click rates measure when a subscriber clicks a link. Both are figured as percentages of all emails that are successfully delivered.
Open rates are usually tracked by an invisible image pixel that is added to the header. They are not 100% accurate, so your provider will often adjust those percentages by factoring in a margin of error.
You should strive for an open rate of 10% or better. It depends on your industry, but I recently was told that my 14% open rates were “unheard of.” I recommend tracking your own open rate over time to improve it. I review emails that have had high open rates to understand why and repeat that formula. Interesting subject lines and better engagement can increase your open rates, however, they can also be improved with:
- Better layout and scanability
- Optimal send times
- Unique content
When I changed my delivery from Monday afternoon to Friday at 9 PM EST, I saw an increase in my open rates of about 2% percent, but keep in mind that the first week or two were bumpy as my readers adjusted to the new delivery time. Consistency is important so don’t over test, but try one change at a time.
Click rates are tracked as the email provider adds tracking information to the URL, and thus may be more accurate. If you do not put a lot of links in your emails, naturally, this will be lower. Of course, you want to increase your click rates so that your newsletters are driving traffic to your site. Here are some ways you can improve your click rates:
- Make sure your links are correct. Sending an incorrect link can turn a user off from clicking your links in the future.
- Avoid using “click here” and just put the title.
- Offer something attractive, like a giveaway or a tutorial on your site, which is a great way to drive traffic.
- Pique a reader’s interest with a title outside the ordinary. Be careful not to mislead your readers.
Monetizing Your Newsletter
Once you start to build your list, you can now monetize it or turn your subscribers into customers. Here are some ideas to get you started. Remember to keep the guidelines of your newsletter service in mind, and to offer full disclosure as you would for any blog post you are writing too.
- Using affiliate links.
As usual, keep these relevant. I promote weekly coupon offers using affiliate links strictly in my newsletter and write up the best saving deals for my niche. I then link to a page with more niche-focused offers.
- Sell or promote an ebook, product or course.
Write an ebook or course around existing content. You can use a small section of that work as a “freebie” and then upsell your customer the full product. Learn how to create your first online workshop.
- Redirect to older content with affiliate links.
Rather than republish an old post, you can redirect newsletter subscribers there, making sure that the post has affiliate links or your products within the content. For example, during my winter holidays, I update and add all my prior gift guides to my newsletter each week.
Email marketing is not just for seasoned bloggers, but for new bloggers as well. It’s easy to start out and jump in, even if your list is still very small, and it can generate a great deal of income once your list grows.