One of the biggest regrets that I hear from experienced bloggers is that they didn't start their email list sooner. Read on to learn all about the email basics for bloggers.
What is Email Marketing?
You've probably heard of email marketing, but if you're new to the blogging world, you may wonder how it applies to blogging. When I first heard the term, I assumed it had to do with all those emails I get from Chipotle and Michael's wanting me to buy things.
Don't focus on that narrow definition of the term “marketing” to mean selling a physical product. It means more than just trying to get me to buy more burritos from Chipotle or more craft supplies from Michael's.
For bloggers, we are selling/marketing our blog posts. We want the email recipients to click over to read what we've written.
Now, there are plenty of bloggers who sell mostly digital products such as templates or ebooks, and they will use their email lists to do so. But most beginning bloggers need an email list to “sell” their blog posts.
Email Marketing Terms
There are some terms you'll hear as you start the process that you need to understand. This is not a comprehensive list, but I wanted to make sure you knew these words. For a more complete list, check out the Pinpointe Marketing Blog.
- Email Service Provider (ESP) – An email service provider manages your email marketing. The company has hardware and software that houses the list of email addresses you've collected and that sends out the emails you create to the people on your list. They also track analytics for you–things such as how many people opened your emails or clicked on the links in those emails.
- Subscriber – A person who willingly gave you their email address knowing that you would be sending them information.
- Unsubscriber – A person who has asked that you no longer send them emails.
- Opt-in or Lead Magnet – These are terms for the free item that you give people in exchange for giving you their email addresses.
For my Cub Scout blog, I give people a guide on how to build their Pinewood Derby car. People who subscribe to Easy Blog School get a printable blogging glossary. My friend Kelly who has a food blog gives folks a free printable shopping list. There are so many options for opt-ins!
- Single and Double Opt-in – A double opt-in is when a person must verify that they actually signed up for your list. Typically, an email will be sent asking the person to confirm that they want to be on your list.
They aren't added until they actually click the confirmation button. A single opt-in will add people immediately after they sign up. Because there are laws that govern email marketing, you always want to use the double opt-in method.
- Open Rate – This is the percentage of emails that were opened compared to the total number sent.
- Bounce Rate – Bounce rate is the percentage of emails that could not be delivered. There are two types of bounces–hard and soft.
A soft bounce is when there is a temporary problem such as a full mailbox or a server that's unavailable. A hard bounce is when there is a permanent problem such as non-existent or invalid email address.
- Welcome Sequence – A welcome sequence is a series of emails that are sent out to welcome a new subscriber. It can be two or three emails or a dozen. The goal is to introduce people to your blog and to let them know what they can find there.
- Broadcast Email – A broadcast email is when you send the same email to everyone on your list at the same time. These can be emails that you write, or they can be from an RSS feed.
- RSS Feed – You can set up your emails so that one will go out whenever you publish a new blog post. I won't go into a lot of details about RSS feeds except to say that that is what triggers those emails to go out.
Why do Bloggers Need an Email List?
Email is one of the easiest ways to reach people who like your content. They've demonstrated this by signing up for your list.
Some of you may be wondering why you need an email list when you get your traffic from social media or organic search.
It's simple. You own and control your list, and it's not subject to those dreaded algorithm changes that we see in organic search or social media.
Some folks have said that with the rise of social media, email marketing is dead. But according to Optin Monster, the statistics tell a totally different story. In fact, the engagement rates for email versus social media, it's a no-brainer–you need to use email to market your blog.
Unfortunately, we've all heard of bloggers whose Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest accounts have been shut down. If you don't have an email list, you have no way of staying in touch with your fans.
What You Need to Start an Email List
A Purpose or a Goal
In my opinion, you need to start by defining what you want to accomplish with your email list. My primary goal has always been to drive traffic to my blogs. A secondary goal is to sell my own products or make some affiliate sales.
Knowing my goal can help me make decisions about what email service provider to choose and what kinds to content to send in my emails.
Email Service Provider
There are a lot of email services out there. Some are very expensive, and some are super cheap. But price shouldn't be the only thing you consider when making your choice.
You'll want to think about issues such as deliverability rate and ease of use.
Email Tool Tester has done some rigorous testing of email deliverability. While their list doesn't include all of services out there, it has most of the big names.
While this post isn't a review of email service providers, I do want to share my experience. I've only used two during my blogging career.
I started with Aweber. After a few years, I decided to check out some other options. I found that I could switch to a lower cost provider that had a more up-to-date interface.
I switched to MailerLite and have been with them for the last 4 years. The service is easy to use, and I've had great customer service experiences with them. And according to Email Tool Tester, they have the best deliverability of any service.
Have they been perfect? No. There have been features that I really wanted, but they don't have. But overall, I have been very pleased with them and have no plans to leave.
One thing to note about MailerLite is that you will need to be approved before you can start using the service. This is to help ensure that their deliverability stays high.
Being a brand new blogger will make the approval process a bit more involved. You'll need to share about your business and what kinds of emails you plan to send to your audience.
I've heard some of my fellow bloggers talk about Flodesk as an alternative to MailerLite for brand new bloggers because they don't have an approval process. Since I haven't used them, I encourage you to do your own research before signing up with them.
Domain Email Address
One thing you absolutely must have before you start your email marketing is a domain email address. For example, my domain email address for this blog is [email protected] It's considered a domain address because it's hosted on a domain that I own.
Compare that to my Gmail address which is [email protected] Which of these email addresses seems to have more credibility? The Gmail address that anyone could have set up, or the domain address that could only have been set up by someone who has access to my domain?
It's not just the reader's impression of how credible you are–email providers look at that too. Because emails coming from those free email accounts are often spam, Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc. may mark the emails you send as spam.
Other Important Considerations
In the email marketing terms that I talked about earlier, I mentioned double opt-in. You want to make sure that's turned on for your account. But why do you need it? According to MailerLite, here's why:
Reduced risk of emailing spam addresses – By adding double opt-in to your forms, the risk of bots making it onto your active subscriber list is massively reduced. By not sending campaigns to bots and spam email addresses, you are protecting your sender reputation.MailerLite
You may hear some people say that it really isn't necessary, but to keep the deliverability of your emails high, make sure you use.
The CAN-SPAM Act requires that you include a “valid physical postal address” which can be your street address, a Post Office box, or a box at a commercial mail receiving agency.
Please DO NOT use your home address. I wish the world were filled with good people, but unfortunately, there are some bad ones in the mix. You don't want one of them showing up at your doorstep because you have your home address in your emails.
I have a P.O. Box at my local post office. I pay $59 for a small box for 6 months, but your rate will vary depending on your location. This works great for me.
Another option is to get a mailbox at a place like the UPS Store. I'm not familiar with their rates, but it's probably worth your time to call and find out.
There are plenty of bloggers who don't put an address in their emails. Or they only put their city and state. Just know that there are penalties for not doing this. According to the CAN-SPAM Act, “each separate email in violation of the law is subject to penalties of up to $43,792.”
I have over 11,000 people on my email list. I would much rather pay $118 a year for a P.O. box than risk having a fine of over $400 million!
How to Get Email Subscribers
The days of people signing up when you say “sign up for my newsletter” are over. Instead, we need to give our readers something of value in exchange for their email address. These are called freebies, lead magnets or opt-ins.
The ideas for lead magnets are almost endless. Here are some high-level categories that you can customize for your niche.
- Resource libraries
- Printable worksheets or coloring pages
- Content upgrades
When I first started Cub Scout Ideas, I had one lead magnet – a guide on how to build the best Pinewood Derby car. But my email list didn't really start taking off until I starting having lead magnets that were specific to one particular post.
For example, I have a blog post about how to conduct a Cub Scout flag ceremony. I created a printable lead magnet that has the ceremony steps listed out. That has been downloaded several thousand times which added several thousand people to my email list.
Make sure your lead magnets provide value to your readers. They don't have to be fancy or super detailed, but they do need to be helpful.
What to Email
Now that you've gotten your email list set up, you're probably wondering what you should email your list. You need to start with your goal for your list.
For new bloggers, that goal will probably be getting more traffic to your site, but eventually you may use your list to sell products–either your own or as an affiliate.
Since my primary goal is to get traffic to my site, I make sure I email my list every time I publish a new post. The easiest way to do this is to set up an RSS feed email. Your email service should have instructions on how to set this up.
But don't forget your existing content! That's a blogger's biggest missed opportunity for email marketing. We may think, “But I've already emailed them once about that post! I don't want my subscribers to get mad about my duplicating my content.”
Let's say you wrote a post last year and emailed it to your subscribers. How many people do you think will actually remember that email?
And don't forget all those new subscribers that you got over the last year. They've never seen an email about that post.
Share those older posts in seasonal or topical emails. Let's say you have several Halloween posts. Write an email with links to all of those posts and send it out at the end of September.
Or maybe you have some posts about camping. Send an email with those links in April or May.
All those cake recipe posts can be emailed out at any time because who doesn't love cake year-round?
When Should I Start Sending Emails?
When the first person signs up for your list! You're probably thinking, “But I don't want to send an email to only one or two people.” Those two people don't know how many others are on your list. If you wait too long, they probably won't even remember that they signed up, so email them now.
Just like writing blog posts, you need to be consistent in emailing. Whether your plan is to email once weekly or once monthly, make sure it goes out. People who don't hear from you in a while are more likely to mark your emails as spam because they don't remember signing up for your list.
What about unsubscribers?
It's easy to be upset about someone unsubscribing from your list, but don't be! It's actually a good thing when people unsubscribe. If they really don't want your content, they won't open your emails which hurts your open rate.
Plus a lot of email service providers charge you for the number of subscribers you have. You don't want to have to pay for a bunch of folks who are never going to open your emails.
You will have people who opt in, get your freebie, and immediately unsubscribe. But I suspect you've probably done that too! I know I have. Again, don't worry about it.
It's better to have a small, highly engaged list than a big list with a low open rate.
When is the best time to start your email list? That would be today! Give all of your readers an opportunity to stay in touch with you and your content.
Don't be one of those bloggers whose biggest regret is not starting that email list when they started blogging.
If you have questions about how to set up your list, leave a comment below, and I'll try my best to help you with it!
What are you waiting for?