Do you email your blog readers regularly?
Maybe you put ‘set up email newsletter’ on your ‘someday’ list ages ago, but still haven’t done it.
Or maybe you have a newsletter list, but you haven’t sent one in months.
You might think it’s optional – something you can do once you finish everything else on your to-do list.
You even think email is dead (or at least old-fashioned), and that you’re better off building connections through social media. (Which is nothing new, by the way. I was talking about bloggers having similar concerns nine years ago.)
The truth is, email is still one of the best ways (if not the best way) way to connect with your blog’s readers. And if you’re not using it, you really are missing out.
But before I start talking about the benefits of using an email list to connect with your readers, let’s get one misconception out of the way.
Does it Have to be a ‘Newsletter’?
In the blogging world, you’ll hear people talking about “email lists” and “email newsletters” as if they’re synonymous.
You might think of an email newsletter as a weekly content-rich email complete with feature article, links to your recent blog posts, and maybe a round-up of what’s been going on in your niche.
But that’s just one example, and there are plenty of other ways you can run an email list.
Some bloggers send out their newsletter once a month. Others may email irregularly – an email every few days in the run-up to a launch, but otherwise only every month or two.
You might decide to send out your blog posts by email, maybe as a weekly digest like we do on ProBlogger. (I’ll be talking about that, plus other options for your newsletter, in next week’s post.)
Whatever you decide, here are a couple of suggestions:
- Email at a frequency that suits you and your readers.
If they want a weekly newsletter, and you can comfortably manage that, then go ahead. But if you can only manage one a month, then make it a monthly newsletter. There’s no point sending one a weekly newsletter that’s full of careless mistakes because you had to rush to get it finished on time.
- Whatever sort of email list you run, make sure your emails aren’t too infrequent.
If you don’t send an email for six months, many readers (especially ones who’ve just joined) will forget who you are. They may even mark your emails as spam, which can have a serious impact on them being delivered.
Why Emailing Your Readers is So Important
Some bloggers – especially newer bloggers – find it hard to see why emailing readers is so important. To them, bringing in traffic through good SEO or building their social media following makes more sense.
But here are six crucial reasons why email is still important.
#1: Emails Give You Control Over Your Own Traffic
With a big email list, you can easily drive lots of traffic to your posts simply by sending out an email. If you’re relying on Google, you’re competing against lots of other blogs. And if Google decides to change its search algorithm you could lose a lot of traffic very quickly. (This happened to me way back in 2004, which I wrote about a couple of years later.)
Social media isn’t much better. You probably already know that only a fraction of your Facebook page’s followers will actually see any given post. To reach lots of people you need to either “boost” your post (which costs money) or run a paid ad.
But with email you have full control. Even though they can get caught in people’s spam filters, most of them will get through. And even if only 25% of your subscribers open their emails (which isn’t a terrible open rate), they can still drive a lot of traffic to your blog.
#2: Emails are a Great Way to Build Relationships and Engage with Your Readers
Emails feel personal in a way that blog posts rarely achieve. They’re also private. Your readers can reply to you, and you alone – a far cry from a comment that everyone can see.
So when you write your newsletters, try adding a bit of personal information that you wouldn’t share on your blog. Emails are more ephemeral, so they’re a great place to drop in a few words about your life and what’s happening around you. (You can talk about those things on your blog, but the post could be found and read years later.)
For instance, here’s how I started our weekly post round-up back in July:
It’s a hive of activity at ProBlogger HQ today because we’re less than 48 hours from this year’s first ProBlogger event in Brisbane!
I’m excited to meet those of you who are coming along for the day of learning and our first ever mastermind! For the rest of you – here’s our latest blog posts and podcast episode.
Of course, engagement goes both ways, and you can encourage readers to email back. You may find some readers who’ve never commented on your blog, but are very happy to engage with you by email.
#3: Email Drives Sales of Your Products and Services
While social media can be a great place for conversations, it’s typically not a good place for sales. It may help people find out about your blog and connect with you, but email is a great place to ask for the sale. Brad Smith’s post on why social media sales suck (and what to do instead) on AdEspresso explains how you can use social media to get people to subscribe to your email list.
The cost of an email list can be a bit off-putting when you’re starting out. (We’ll be taking a look at the costs involved in a couple of weeks’ time.) But the power of email to drive sales should make it far more worthwhile.
#4: Emails Let You Point Readers to Where You Want Them to Go
Email is a brilliant way to direct readers to where you want them to go. For instance, you can:
- Link to your blog posts. Not just the recent ones, but also posts in your archive readers may have missed or forgotten about.
- Link to your Facebook group, Twitter account, etc. If you’ve set up a new Facebook group your readers might be interested in, you can promote it in your newsletter.
- Link to a survey or poll. This can be a great opportunity to find out more about your readers, and ask them what sort of content they’d like to see more of. I’ve been doing this since 2010, and it’s been an invaluable way to find out what readers want.
#5: Email Lists Let You Target Different Groups of Readers
When you publish a post on your blog, it goes out to everyone who’s subscribed for updates, via RSS or email.
But with an email list you can ‘segment’ the list into smaller groups.
For instance, you might create segments for:
- People who aren’t subscribed to another list you have. This can help you avoid sending too many promotional messages to the same people (e.g. those who have signed up for both your “newsletter” list and your ‘waiting list’ for an ecourse.)
- People who joined your list at a specific point in time – within the past month, more than a year ago, and so on.
- People who joined from a specific page on your website. If you’re using social media ads or guest posting to drive sign-ups, you can target your messages or promotions to each segment’s interests.
- People who haven’t opened your emails recently (or at all).
- People who’ve looked at specific pages on your site, or who’ve bought a particular product.
#6: Email Can Lead Readers on a Journey
You can design a series of emails to take readers on a journey, whether it’s teaching them something new or helping them come to a better place in their life.
It could be something quite straightforward and practical, such as teaching them how to play basic chords on the guitar. Or it could be something more personal and in-depth, such as teaching mindfulness and meditation.
You can use autoresponders to send a sequence of emails – say, one every few days for two weeks. (If you’re not sure what an autoresponder is, I explain what they are and the benefits of using one in this episode of the ProBlogger podcast.)
Most bloggers use an autoresponder at the start of their relationship with a new reader (i.e. when the reader first signs up). But you can also create different lists that readers can opt into separately.
It can be a great way to get readers used to opening your emails (they won’t want to miss a step on the journey), and to link to your blog posts or even paid products and services where appropriate. For example, you could “upsell” the reader on a related ecourse or product at the end of the series.
If you haven’t set up a newsletter yet, or you never saw the value of having one, I hope this post has been helpful. And if you already have a newsletter list, but haven’t sent anything in a while, I hope you now understand how worthwhile emailing your readers can be.
I know it can be easy to focus on a blog at the expense of your newsletter. A blog is more visible and public, which can make posting there more motivating. But your newsletter may be the key to driving greater engagement and, ultimately, more sales.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be covering what your newsletter should include, how you can set it up, and some fixes to common problems. I know the process of creating a newsletter can be a little daunting when you’re starting out, but don’t worry – I’ll be walking you through it all.