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When I got serious about blogging, the first thing I did was sign up for MailChimp (love them!) and start a real email list. Before that, I had only a few followers that were following me via Wordpress.com. When I migrated over to my new site, I had about 100 emails I could take with me.
Yes, your email list is important and you too need to get one up and running if you don’t already. The value of having access to your readers in a more personal way is immense. The people that sign up for your emails are your most wonderful, loyal, engaged readers that want more from you. They are likely to support you when you come out with a new book or product line, and you should of course treat them like the beautiful people that they are (give them special treats and exclusives).
But how do you go from 1 - 100 sign-ups? And from 300 to 1,000 sign-ups? And then double that again? I’ll tell you what I did.
As I mentioned I had about 100 people on my email list when I settled into my new home on the Internet, a re-designed and newly self-hosted blog. I wrote down a few goals for the blog (turns out goals aren’t as much bullshit as I once thought). One was to grow my email list to 1,000 subscribers in one year, or by December 31st.
Amazingly, I reached that goal in less than 3 months and have now had to establish a new goal.
Double Your Email Sign-Ups NOW:
1. Offer Something Useful
For some people who are already famous and well-respected, having a simple “sign up for my newsletter” or “subscribe” will suffice. But for new bloggers looking to establish themselves, it’s imperative that you offer something in return for an email address. The reader is giving you permission to their inbox, and you better give them something useful and worthwhile in exchange.
The easiest thing you can do to improve sign-ups is to offer a free ebook, download, or worksheet in PDF form for people that opt in. This can be as simple as writing a top 10 list, creating a worksheet or printable, or organizing your best blog posts into a cohesive, small eBook (almost like a Best-Of, which is a great intro for new readers to your blog anyway!).
In my case I offered a free e-ZINE. Not a “magazine”, but a “zine” as in punks of the '90s. It is a 25 page hand-illustrated “manifesto” and guide of sorts. People freaking love it. The subject matter is kind of weird, a little taboo, and people really like it. It also gives those who sign up an idea of what I’m all about right from the start (so they aren’t surprised when they see a new blog post about my period or something like that). It’s not your typical eBook (just differentiating it as a zine is pretty effective), and that’s why people want it.
Make sure that what you offer is valuable. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t write some bullshit list or filler material. It should be something you’d be proud to sell, but you’re giving it away for something almost as valuable as cash - an email address.
When I added this Free Zine Download to my front page my email sign-ups increased immediately. Just having something that said “Get the FREE Zine” really helped. It’s one of the first things on my home page (above the fold as they say).
I put a nice picture of the cover (which is hand-illustrated by me) next to the email sign-up and having that visual representation, which should be well-designed and eye-catching, is also important to getting reader’s attention. My zine cover features a drawing I did of a scarab beetle wearing sexy underwear stained with menstrual blood - obviously irresistible to my new visitors :)
I have my system set up in SquareSpace so that when people fill out their email address and confirm subscription, they have automatic access to the PDF download. You can also set this up as an auto responder with MailChimp.
What you need to do:
Decide what you will offer, whether it is an eBook, guide, compilation, or something else (free EP if you’re a musician maybe?). Create it and save it as a PDF. Get it up on your site connected to your email opt-in.
2. Have a better sign-up form that is fun, engaging, and immediately describes it’s usefulness
You need to quickly explain the benefit of signing up right in the opt-in box. Like I said “Sign up now for my newsletter” totally sucks. Why should they? What do they get? What should they expect from your emails once they’ve signed up? Your box shouldn’t just say “subscribe now”, it should sound irresistible.
Better examples include:
“Get my Free Guide when you join our thriving community!”
“Want exclusive tips, weekly love letters, and freebies in your inbox? Hell yeah you do!”
“Learn how to design beautiful websites even if you don’t know how to code!”
“Join the revolution of people banishing boredom and finding excitement in their work”
...the possibilities are endless, but your hook should be UNIQUE to your blog or website, should tell your visitors what to expect in terms of benefits and content, and express your personality and style. See the following:
“Join our secret society of people planning on telling their bosses to go fuck themselves”. You can have that for free.
See how those examples speak to a person’s desires?
3. Make Your Button Awesome
Your opt-in button, the little button the reader must press to submit their email, should reinforce what your sign-up form has promised. It should have personality and a call to action. It should NOT say “submit” , or “sign up”. Yuck. Make it specific to your blog and engaging. Here are a few samples:
“I want that!”
“Yes, I’m ready to build a better blog!”
“Give me that FREE download!”
“Come on in!”
“Join the revolution”
“Get instant access to your free guidebook!”
“Sign me up for the FREE email course”
See? Much better. Some of these are kind of cheesy, but you get the idea. Come up with one that works for your blog’s content and style.
Now that you have something awesome in place to attract leads and opt-ins, you need to get eyes on your page. Make sure you have the first 3 steps completed before looking for increased traffic, or it will be wasted.
4. Write a Series of Guest Posts
You need to contact a few bigger blogs than yours and pitch either your story or a guest post to them. Now that your page is primed for increased sign-ups, you should be seeing a few more emails trickling in from your own traffic. But you want to double your traffic now, so you’ll need a boost from other blogs to help you.
I recommend both offering to write guest posts for a byline and a link, and asking other bloggers to share your new or re-launched blog with their readers (maybe you two work out an exchange or some sort, or a joint-venture). Hopefully you already have some connections to bloggers in your niche that can help cross-promote you. If not, spend a bit of time connecting with others in an authentic way.
Though it can be costly, going to conferences and events is the absolute best way to do this. Even if you can’t really afford it, it’s the best investment you can make. I spent hundreds of dollars of my savings over the first 2 years of blogging (when I was making $0 from that blog) just going to every workshop in my niche that I could. I paid for a few of them, then as I got more recognition I was invited to come for free, but I still spent money on travel. After a while, they start paying you to come to the workshop and teach! It’s a long game but it’s paid for itself a hundred times over in friendship and support.
If you’re not up for workshops right now, connect with other bloggers on social media and email. Link to them on your site and give them a heads up. This process should be pretty organic.
The last thing is just straight up asking someone, cold-calling style. Let them know who you are, what your blog is about, and what awesome content you can write for them as a guest post in exchange for a link back to you.
Busy bloggers need content and a guest post means a bit less work for them, so most are open to it! Be friendly and authentic. And when they say yes write the best damn blog post you possibly can, don’t skimp just because it’s not your blog. Most likely many more people will see it and you need them to WANT MORE from you to click the link to your site. When I write a guest post, my email sign-ups usually increase by 50% - 100% on those days. It’s a very powerful tool.
The other option is asking people to mention your new blog to their readers. If they like you and your story, this will work. You’re not really offering anything besides a story for them to cover or a useful link to share with their followers. Because my first blog and the project it documents is completely weird and unique, I get a lot of people wanting to share it. I’ve had Technorati 100 blogs do stories on my blog, and that will quadruple your email list instantly. Just contact writers you think would be interested in your story or project (this will work better for certain types of blogs) and pitch it. After a while, they will come to you!
Doing guest posts is the best way to get that initial push you need to increase your own presence and thus your email list. If visitors have something to gain by signing up for your updates, they will. Using these techniques I increased my email list from 100 to 1,000 (10X growth) in less than 3 months. Now I’m on track to double it again! It’s not impossible to do, you just have to be smart about it and most importantly always provide value.
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