The Importance of Email Lists for Blogging

There is no hard and fast rule to setting up an email list other than gathering a list of emails from willing participants and providing the audience with what they need. In this article I go into detail of the issues surrounding setting up any email list that you intend to use for blogging and some of the inherent problems a green blogger will have along the way.

The Importance of Email Lists for Blogging

Managing subscription and moreover the act of retention is an element of the marketing mix that many big wig bloggers cite as a critical element to their current success. Many smaller scale bloggers also swear by the power of the mailing list.

So Why Is It SO Important?

Attracting people to your site is hard enough as it is. Keeping those people is even harder.

Capturing your audience is important because your audience may form a small niche of very specific interested parties. If you are able to hold onto that kind of audience member, you can hope to predict the kind of reach your articles, advertising and products might have.

Email subscribers are those audience members who agree to be updated with new information at a time you specify. They are the audience you can rely on more to be receptive to your new content.

But an email subscription audience does more than just read your posts.

The Audience Can Provide Vital Feedback

Email has always been a method whereby concerned citizens can target you individually and let you know something is not working in confidence. There are many instances where a person might prefer to approach you privately to take care of an issue and explain in detail, rather than announce it to all.

You can pass out an audience survey. You might not get a 100% response rate so you may have to re-target those who didn’t respond.

You can include self-promotional material. In so many other locations where you advertise you might come across anger and discontent from those who see you self-promoting on a regular basis. Mailshot is different.

You can cross promote which is another large benefit. Say you’ve been working on a book elsewhere and you have a fair idea that a proportion of your audience might like that item, you can email your list about it. If you segment your audience by filtering those individuals by certain topics they respond to, you can have a higher chance of success in attracting the right people to the right place.

At Sign

Drawbacks With Mailing Lists

There are some notable drawbacks with mailing lists.

Setting up a list can be a science.

The list requires a fair amount of tweaking. It is not advisable to send out too many live environment tests otherwise you will upset your mailing list subscribers.

Getting your audience to initially sign up can be difficult.

With a blog (with the exception of a paid subscription membership) the audience member has no ties. They can dip in and dip out when they like. When a casual passer-by becomes a subscriber their attitudes change. They will have expectations.

 

Concerns for a potential subscriber:

  • Concern 1 Privacy. Will you abide by keeping details private?
  • Concern 2 Frequency. Will you spam me?
  • Concern 3 Quality. Will what you provide in email satisfy me? I.e. Not ads.
  • Concern 4 What’s in it for me. Is there something I get that is more valuable than me just going to your website on a regular basis?
  • Concern 5 Can I easily unsubscribe. Because I’m going to do this for a trial and if I don’t like what I see, I’d like to know that I can drop out whenever I choose.

 

These 5 concerns are commonly what your subscribers will consider before making that decision. In order to cajole the fence sitter, you have to provide information that sets that person at ease.

Your Own Privacy

Believe it or not, email is a two-way street.

As a list owner, you have to display your business address at the foot of each email, which for many bloggers is their home address.

Why Is That Problematic?

For the same reasons that the subscriber doesn’t want to receive spam, you may be targeted to receive unsolicited snail mail.

People know where you live so if you manage to upset someone, they know where to find you. That could have very real problems to you such as stalking, property damage, abuse and identity theft.

Unfortunately it is non-negotiable. By law you are required to provide your address so as to prove that you have no intent to abuse. This issue came about due to the spam that entered people’s inbox considerably during the earlier days of email. Now there are robust measures to track down spam and to prosecute those who make flagrant abuses. Spam still gets through.

Terms of Service

You are bound by rules by the mailing list provider, these rules vary from provider to provider.

Reading the small print is something we commonly overlook but it is worth investigating this from time to time to ensure that you are not making any breaches.

In Terms of Maintenance Fees and ROI

Certain providers are expensive at first. Your ROI or Return On Investment is not guaranteed.

Whilst email is heralded as a major tool, some organisations charge considerable monthly or annual fees even at the basic levels of traffic. It may be difficult to commit to a service where you are uncertain of what capability you have.

Big Wig Bloggers may try to convince you that signing on the dotted line will easily pay you back but it is not guaranteed.

Methods of Attraction Lose Effectiveness Over Time

Often it can be hard to strike on the perfect incentive to encourage subscription. There are certain individuals who you will never reach this way regardless of what you try.

In June, I wrote a guide on how to create free guides. A free guide is a common but effective way that Big Wig Bloggers lure subscribers.

Ebb and Flow

Losing and gaining are uncontrollable elements of your list but there are events that can trigger extremes.

An important thing to consider is that you are not likely to keep everyone happy all of the time.

You can certainly do a better job of providing variety but email list subscribers are an external factor who can be affected by stimuli beyond your control.

Each subscriber is a unique individual.

Segmentation (by means of placing certain readers in categories) can help you manage to a degree but you will have some individuals who don’t conform to the norm.

The only constant in management of mailing lists is unpredictability.

Control is an illusion.

Extreme #1 Something Stupid you Wrote

It happens. People say and do stupid things. Sometimes you might commit the crime in ignorant bliss and other times through choice. The important thing to remember about blogging is that you own every mistake and you have to pick yourself up from it.

The technical phrase in Formula 1 racing is “damage limitation”.

Have a bad start to the race and you could end up at 9th position from 1st. The damage limitation comes in racing back to 3rd. You don’t have the speed to win but land some good points for the rest of the campaign. You know that it was the best you could do from a bad situation.

It may not be obvious what happened and might drive yourself mad trying to discover why internally.

Pro Tip: Ask why they left. You are likely to get an answer from at least one person. It might not be what you want to hear but at least you can keep the rest of your crowd happy by mitigating the damage.

Change might not always be required. You might have to accept that these leaving individuals don’t share the same values you do and in order to stay true to your niche, or your space in that niche, you need to cherish those values.

Extreme #2 Something Epic You Created

This is what everybody wants. Some viral hit or some campaign that worked this time. What is more important is not determining how this flood came through the gate but more how to look after these newcomers.

Then you look at how they arrived and try to replicate that magic formula in work committed in the past and to drafts not yet published. Sounds easy doesn’t it. It’s not.

Extremes aren’t that common. What will occur, if you are pushing out content regularly, is an ebb and flow. Small gains, small losses. People will leave because they have moved on. Some people might join but only stay a short while to see what they can get. Others might have been there a long time, stopped opening emails for months and finally decide to go. Some individuals might unsubscribe-subscribe to get your next free giveaway.

Opt-in

Should not strike fear in your heart but there are many ways to go about it.

The most traditional methods are by either using the sidebar to the left or right of the screen or by adding it to the article template at the foot.

Sidebar & Article Body?

Because they are so obvious and are overlooked by most visitors, they aren’t very conducive to successful signup.

A sidebar signup is more effective if it scrolls with the screen as a reader moves down the page, otherwise by the time the reader has reached the bottom or a point where their interest fades, the signup has already disappeared and they’ll have to take an extra action to scroll to the top (which they don’t).

Footer Opt-ins are only useful if the reader reaches the end. Period. You have to be sure that the article you crafted is a diamond. An additional option is to embed a simpler Opt-in before the fold, the fold being that invisible line where a reader will take their first scroll action to “read more”. The only problem with a before the fold opt-in is that the reader hasn’t read enough yet to decide if you are worth it.

More Invasive Methods of Opt-in

There are some more invasive methods of Opt-in. Some can work better than others, some can damage views. The damage is done in terms of making a negative impression with the individual you invite in. There are some people who take extreme umbrage to adverts. On YouTube, Adblock Plus is so widely used by viewers that YouTube have had to launch YouTube Red to shore up the loss in advertising revenue.

Takeover

This kind of Opt-in is activated almost instantly after the reader has clicked into the website. An Opt-in will be the only window they can click on where the goal option will be highlighted more prominently than the cancel action.

In my view they are annoying and tick me off on most sites where I come across them. They are as welcome as an old pensioner flashing her sagging boobies at me (and as off-putting). You may feel differently, you may defend this type of Opt-in and you are entitled to your opinion. I personally think they suck. In my own dealings with them, they make me far less likely to return to a site where they are in operation because I know I’ll be stopped before I read.

Delayed / Strategic Takeover

Rather than the more blatant big brother, the delayed Opt-in simply works on a preset timer. After 3-5 seconds of reading, the Opt-in will kick in. The strategic version only triggers when a reader has reached a certain point or hovered over a certain element such as the close or back button. The latter option is not so bad – it at least gives the reader a chance to evaluate what’s on offer before being bashed over the head for an email address and inside leg measurement.

Leadpages Popup

Leadpages Popup 2

Why I Dislike These Forms of Opt-in

My personal reason for disliking it is that it feels a bit heavy-handed. Not giving me the time to check out whether I actually like what I’m reading is of concern. I need time to determine whether what you are cooking is tasty or tasteless. Another problem is that if you are already using guilt to try to position me, you are starting off on the wrong foot. I am deeply cynical of the type of salesman who needs to guilt people on “what you are doing wrong”. If we are already doing something wrong, we’ll go find a solution, we don’t need to be reminded of our current ineptitude.

I liken this Opt-in and its variants to the Egyptian shopkeeper routine. They are the kind of person who will sit in the door frame of their shop. It doesn’t welcome you in. More off-putting is the thought of not being able to leave if you don’t want to purchase something. It doesn’t build trust. It definitely builds friction.

These heavy-handed marketing techniques work better for those who already have roaring business. These kinds of operators are looking for readers to be decisive because their time as a supplier is precious, they already have buyers to satisfy so they can afford to be blasé about upsetting some of the little guys and gals along the way. Top tier is where this operator hangs their hat; if you have to ask how much it is, you don’t want to buy it.

Split Testing comes in useful for Opt-ins

It can be useful to determine what design, and words that accompany those designs, move the audience most. Opt-Ins and associated lead pages are big business. One of my over-mentioned Big Wigs, Pat Flynn, has a large amount of money invested in LeadPages. As you can guess from the term “lead”, the system uses set methods of psychologically tried and tested methods to get a passer-by to signup.

Steps To Complete

An important mention is the amount of actions it takes to sign up through an Opt-in. You can have a single action signup which simply accepts the details that someone enters.

A two-step process normally consists of a single button which transports the reader to a different page (hopefully open in a new window) where they fill out their details then submit.

What is important to remember is that the list provider may demand some form of first time authentication such as clicking on a supplied link to the new subscriber’s email account. All of the steps are manual and requires the user to approve the process at the end stage. This process can add additional steps to what was otherwise a simple task.

Options for segmentation can be introduced at this stage so your reader can be entered into a main catch-all type list, then be added to niche interest lists at their own choice. This does mean operating more lists but it can be helpful when providing users with the right information.

So other than sending emails out, what else do I do with my mailing list?

Analysis: Two Types

There are two types of highly valuable analysis you can do with email lists.

The first is through analysing open rates. You can tell what titles are working. Open rates are simply a ratio of emails sent to emails open. Most list suppliers use the terminology of campaigns when talking about lists you setup. A by-product of open rate analysis is telling you who your most engaged subscribers are, which may provide insight on how to better structure your articles to have a wider appeal.

The second analysis type gives you an idea of your marketing makeup. Important criteria including age ranges, genders and other vitals that compose your core readership, will be revealed. You can determine trends that should aid in focusing on specific groups.

The ability to analyse how well your post did and who is reading it is golden because Search Engines aren’t as expedient for certain activities as feeding an audience with what they need to read. You can think of your mailing list as an evergreen tree that will provide views all year around regardless of how you are ranking.

Not everyone is going to read every post every time you create a new entry. Sometimes what you’ve written won’t be what that person is interested in or they are otherwise preoccupied elsewhere and miss it that week. For whatever reason don’t expect everybody to be engaged with you all the time. Open rates aren’t sexy big numbers (unless you are very special or have a tiny group of super fans).

What To Do With Repeat Inactivity?

You will get a cruise ship full of subscribers who have dropped off the reading radar eventually. There are certain ways to deal with the situation and it is your choice at the end of the day but I’d recommend the following:

  • Identify a list of inactive readers (most list providers will give you analytics to generate that list).
  • Place these inactive readers into a new list.
  • Send an email on that list requesting that the reader re-affirms their subscription, set a deadline and request a returned email response.
  • Send out 1 further reminder to those who have not responded before the deadline.
  • When the deadline is reached, terminate/delete all inactive users from the list.

There are different degrees of lurking so it is important to give some readers the benefit of the doubt before you cut them dead. Lurkers aren’t a bad thing because lurking individuals can swing back to the engagement fold if properly stimulated. They may just be busy at the time.

Many individuals may simply either stop because the content has no meaning to them anymore, it gets lost amidst all of the other content they receive on a daily basis or the email address may not be used anymore. Whatever the reason, these inactive readers are now dead to you, in the nicest possible sense. What you will be left with is a hearty serving of engaged readers and a fresh platform to continue.

You can also put together an exit survey which may help simply define what other problems may have led to the reader leaving.

Another Reason To Prune The Inactive

Some list providers charge you for the volume of emails you send and the number of individuals in a list. Therefore, it is a good rule of thumb to keep that list lean and active.

Ways To Improve Your Service

A good way is to see what other people do with their list. Join a few lists to see how your competition layout information. Remember that not everything will work for you in the same way. Each blog is unique. It doesn’t stop you trying a few ideas.

 

In Closing

  • Mailing lists are your window to direct interaction with a collection of your hardcore followers.
  • Mailing lists are valuable because they take a long time to grow but have far more potential to feed direct traffic to your site.
  • Mailing lists should be started earlier rather than later.

 

Share Me Please

I spent a long while on this article for the benefit of humanity. Please share me to the world.

I can be found over at twitter and you can email me directly at headboy [at] blogprefect dot {com}.

 

Image Credit

Featured Image from Pixabay by JackMac34

LeadPages Opt-ins courtesy of Leadpages.net, used for illustrative purposes only.

 

8 Comments The Importance of Email Lists for Blogging

  1. Ahmad Imran

    Jackson, appears that you have done a lot of work for this article, well done, all points are valid and noted. I can not agree more that to attract but more importantly, to keep your audience engaged for a long time is a task and a half.

    Say with a relatively better-doing article you have managed to get 100 subscribers in a day or a week etc. That is half the story.

    But how you keep them loyal and interested over the next 6 months, year or forever, is the main part. Unless you have a robust content and blog strategy in place, it is very likely that your effort is gone in waste.

    With each email to your list, you need think about how will my reader benefit from it and how will it make him/her wait for my next email.

    An art difficult to master but not impossible. Many people have done it and we can too 🙂

    Thanks for a great article.
    Ahmad Imran recently crafted…LG G5 Strengths and Weaknesses – The VerdictMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jackson Davies

      Hi Ahmad,

      Great to hear from you as always!

      Engagement is the right word. Sustained engagement is even more important. Being able to ‘hook’ people for your next batch of content can be difficult to master and I agree with your views on that.

      The example you use of the 100 subscriber article is a good one. Say you mysteriously struck gold on one item but then cannot maintain that, what then happens to those 100 subscribers? Do they start to drop off gently or do they leave in droves? Managing the number you have is important and if you can exceed expectations you should be able to start winning more hearts. Every task gets easier with practice.

      Reply
  2. ayodeji

    Hey Jackson,

    Wow, this is an extremely detailed list. I’m impressed. I’ve pruned my email list before, but I simply deleted inactive subscribers.

    This time around I’m going to try sending a re-affirmation message. That’s a tip I’ve never heard before. Kudos!

    Reply
    1. Jackson Davies

      Hi Ayodeji,

      Great to see your comment! 🙂

      The re-affirmation message should hopefully be a useful tool in combating the slump. Over time your viewers can become side-tracked or unofficially leave but forget to unsubscribe. Often it is better to know who you have in your influence and who is simply lurking. I find this is particular useful if you have a paid for email subscription list service where you get charged per subscriber or per email.

      Best wishes!

      Reply
  3. ayodeji

    Hi Jackson,

    What a detailed and extensive list!This is definitely a go-to guide for email marketing. I’ve pruned my list before, but I never used the re-affirmation message technique, nor had I ever heard of it.

    Will definitely be implementing this next time I do some “spring cleaning,” for my list.

    Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  4. Clay Smith

    Hi there Jackson,

    This is my first time being here, and it feels like home (lol)… Because you cover the topics that I go trough them everyday. I’ll be around here from now on

    Cheers,

    Clay Smith.

    Reply
    1. Jackson Noel Davies

      Hi Clay,

      Thanks for your kind comment. Currently I’m on a short posting break as I’ve been working on my Science Fiction book for the best part of a month but will be returning within the next couple of days. If there is anything in particular you’d like me to cover then be my guest and let me know.

      Best wishes.

      Jackson

      Reply

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