Growing a healthy email list is one of the most important things you can do for your blog, for several reasons:
- it's much more reliable than social media (as the algorithms are always changing)
- you (not Mark Zuckerberg) own your email list and so you have complete control over how you can interact with them
- it provides a source of traffic for your blog
- it helps build up trust, loyalty and engagement with your audience
- it's a good way to get the word out about new blog posts
- it lets you build up influence over your audience and is therefore a good asset to add to your media kit when working with brands
- it's the best way to advertise products that you've created - which leads to more revenue
- it lets you capture traffic and convert casual browsers into faithful followers
- it means you can make the most of a 'viral' moment as it's a way to turn all the new visitors into returning visitors.
Plus, it's an incredibly versatile way for you to provide value to your audience. Here are all the different ways we use our Rhian's Recipes email list:
- automatically sending new subscribers a free ebook (more on this below) and a welcome email – sending a good welcome email is a great way to introduce readers to your site and to get to know you. This is a crucial first step in building up your “know, like and trust” factor, which will come in handy when marketing products and increase your influence over your audience which is valuable for working with brands!
- automatically notifying subscriber as soon as a new blog post is published
- getting the word out about our Easy Dinner Recipes Cookbook
- notifying subscribers about updates to the website, such as the introduction of our new online shop
- sending out reader surveys to get feedback about what new products to create
Building a strong email list has been the most important thing we've done, and it’s one of the reasons why we’ve been able to maintain our high percentage of returning visitors (33%), a number that has stayed constant despite our number of pageviews continuously increasing.
However, when you're just starting out, having to think about building up an email subscriber list on top of all the other tasks you need to do can be daunting.
But you must make growing an email list a priority, and it's never too early or late to start.
We've broken down exactly how you can set up an email list from scratch and grow your subscribers in just three easy steps!
Note. This post contains affiliate links, but all the services are ones we use ourselves and have had great results with.
Step 1: Email Marketing Service - MailChimp
First, you'll have to sign up for an email marketing service such as MailChimp. This service stores the email addresses of your subscribers and allows you to send them customisable emails.
How to set up MailChimp
Once you have signed up for MailChimp, you need to start by creating an email list. We have two here at Rhian’s Recipes, one for the main website (recipes etc.) and one for the Blogging Tips section. This is important if your blog is directed towards different types of readers - people who signed up to Rhian’s Recipes expecting vegan recipes may get surprised if we send them emails about website hosting!
After the email list(s) has been put in place, you can schedule emails to send out automatically when you publish new posts. For example, subscribers to our main website are automatically sent new recipes once they are published, and subscribers to our Blogging Tips section are automatically sent any posts that are in the category “blogging tips”.
You can set up an RSS feed email (this means the emails that go out every time a new post is published) by clicking:
- create campaign
- create an email
- share blog updates
We love MailChimp as the interface is simple to use and you can easily customise the look of the emails to fit with your brand’s aesthetic. It has allowed us to customise our main Rhian’s Recipes RSS feed email in the following ways:
- our logo is at the top so readers can see who the email is from with just one glance
- link to social media channels at the bottom
- include an advert for our Easy Dinner Recipes cookbook – having an ad for a product at the bottom of an email is a great way to make sure that your target audience (people who love your content so much they’ve let you into the sanctity of their inbox) is made aware of your product!
MailChimp also includes analytics which will let you see who has subscribed or unsubscribed to your email list, as well as your open and click rates.
MailChimp is completely free for the first 2000 subscribers, which is great if you’re just starting out because it lets you get a feel for the service to see if you like it or not!
Now that you've sorted out the email marketing system, you'll need to to build up your subscribers, which leads us to step 2.
Step 2: Email Sign-Up Forms - OptinMonster
We started out with a sign-up form to our MailChimp email list in a widget on the sidebar, and our email list conversion rates were incredibly low.
We finally got around to signing up for a dedicated email sign-up form service earlier this year, and have never looked back! Just a quick glance at the graph below will convince you that you need to install OptinMonster on your blog!
OptinMonster is one of the most complete and fully-featured email sign-up services available.
Here's how you can get started:
- create a campaign
- choose the campaign type - the “Popup” is probably the best place to start
- choose a template
- start building your campaign with the drag-and-drop builder - don’t forget to integrate the form with your MailChimp list!
Take a look at our sign-up forms as an example.
The customisability of the OptinMonster forms is great, and with a bit of playing around you should be able to generate a form that fits your site’s aesthetic. However, the real magic of OptinMonster is that you can control how and when the form shows up on your website. There are dozens of options, and you can decide on what works best for you, but I’ll go through how we’ve configured our sign-up form to show up on Rhian’s Recipes.
Our email subscriber pop-up shows up in three places:
- Exit detected - when OptinMonster determines that a visitor is about to leave our site, the form pops up. This means that people won’t be distracted by the form while they are reading the content, but will have the opportunity to subscribe for more if they liked it! However, this only works on desktop, not mobile/tablet.
- Inactivity - if a visitor has not interacted with the site for a certain amount of time, the form will show up, which again, ensures that visitors have the opportunity to read the content without distractions.
- MonsterLinks - finally, the form will also show when people click on special links that OptinMonster calls "MonsterLinks". This allows us to have text links to the subscribe pop-up on our about page and subscribe page.
You can also make sure that the sign-up form doesn't appear for visitors who have already subscribed to your email list - you definitely don't want to annoy people who've already signed up!
Using OptinMonster we have developed a healthy email following, and would highly recommend this service! We definitely regret not investing in it earlier, as we’ve missed out on all those people we could have kept had we had it in place sooner.
Remember – traffic and pageviews don’t mean anything if you don’t have a good strategy to convert those people into loyal readers and customers!
Step 3: Offer a free product
The most important part of developing a strong email list, and arguably the only way to ensure people will enter their email addresses into your OptinMonster forms is to offer subscribers a free product in exchange for their email address. With so many email lists out there nowadays, you simply won't be able to convince people to join yours if you don't entice them with a "content upgrade".
A content upgrade basically means a free online product that's related to the content you have on your blog/the content that you'll be sending subscribers by email. Here are just a few examples of content upgrades that will help you grow your email list:
- cheat sheets
- exclusive blog posts
- case studies
On Rhian’s Recipes, we offer a free electronic cookbook with the 20 most popular recipes on the blog to recipe subscribers, and a free ebook called “8 ways to grow your blog without an established audience” to Blogging Tips subscribers. You can do this easily on MailChimp by enabling the “final welcome email”, and attaching your free product as a pdf to this email.
You can also create a dedicated "subscribe" page on your blog, with MonsterLinks to the subscribe pop-up, along with details to persuade visitors to download your content upgrade. You can then use this page to share on social media along with a picture of your content upgrade, which in our case is the ebook cover.
Follow these three simple steps and convert your one-time blog visitors into life-long dedicated email readers!
- Have any questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'm happy to help!
- If you still haven't started your blog, check out our guide about how to start a WordPress blog in 6 easy steps, with step-by-step instructions and screenshot tutorials.
- For more software recommendations, check out our Blogger Toolbox - a complete list of everything you need to run a successful blog!