We always talk about getting more email subscribers as a way to build a sustainable online business.
But, there’s not a lot of point in building that mailing list if none of the subscribers end up opening the emails that you send.
Open rates and click through rates are just as important.
In today’s post I’m going to share a few ways that I’ve tried to help educate my subscribers over the years as a way to increase open rates. Some of them have worked really well.
Let’s take a look.
Some useful ways to educate your subscribers
If you take a little bit of time to tidy up your subscription process you can have a really big impact on the quality of the mailing list that you produce – especially if you make the whole thing as beginner-friendly as possible.
Here are some useful things that you might want to consider adding to your sign up strategy:
1. Pre-sell your list using a landing page
If you look at most blogs you’ll notice that the opt-in forms ask for an email address with only a little bit of explanation as to what happens once they hit enter.
This is great and can work very well, but it can also put people off if your blog is not that well known. In an age of increased web spam, more and more people are being careful about who they give their email address to.
On Blog Tyrant I have switched to a method whereby visitors see a little introduction, but the call to action is aimed at getting them to visit a landing page instead of directly inputting their email address. The advantage here is that you can use the landing page to really sell the benefits of your list, or the giveaway that you’re offering.
It’s worked quite well:
A few other bloggers have reported good results with this method compared with entering in an email address directly. Pat Flynn has a pretty good explanation on how it affected sign ups, but I’ve also noticed that it really helps to increase the open rates of the first few emails as they know what’s coming.
2. Explain the process
The next strategy that works really well is to take the time to explain the subscription process to people who might not be familiar with email sign ups.
It’s good to remember that a lot of the visitors to your blog will be beginners. As bloggers, we often forget that not everyone does this all day every day and, as such, things like mailing lists and free giveaways seem strange and can present a hiccup in the process.
If you’re going with a landing page option as mentioned above, it’s a good idea to specifically explain how the process will work. Tell them the steps involved, what you do with the email, what’s coming up next, what you will and won’t do with their address, etc.
At this stage you might also want to talk to your potential subscribers about how emails can get “lost” in things like Gmail’s tabs. When that all first happened, most bloggers sent out an email or did a blog post that explained how to actually remove those tabs to ensure you see all the good emails.
3. Remind them in the emails that you send
The next thing you might want to try is reminding your subscribers who you are and why they are getting your emails when you do send out a newsletter.
Here’s an example from my my mailing list:
When I send my auto follow up series to new subscribers, I spend the first two paragraphs of the second email reminding people who I am and why they’re getting the email.
The main reason I frame it like this is because some people might be subscribed to multiple lists (especially in my niche) and it’s easy for them to forget which email is which. This (hopefully!) triggers the memory of the free report, subscription process, etc.
4. Use a survey to set expectations
Surveys used to be very popular in the blogging world but have died off lately as people spend more time interacting on social media sites and getting feedback that way.
But they can actually be extremely useful, especially for helping your subscribers feel a sense of “ownership” over the way things work on your blog and with your email content.
For example, I might consider running a survey called The Great Big End of Year Blog Tyrant Survey where I go over aspects of the content that regular readers liked or didn’t like over the year. One of the sections might be about the mailing list – the content, the frequency, the length, format, etc. and what people prefer.
If there is a clear winner for these aspects then switching to reflect that can win a lot of brownie points with your readers, and make it clear as to how the whole thing works.
Surveys have downsides (like people not actually doing what they say) but it can be a very good way to test whether there is something radically different going on in the minds’ of your readers.
5. Send a regular (but not too regular) option for adjustments
I have seen this done a few times and been quite surprised at how well it has worked on me – and that’s saying something because I ignore 90% of the mailing list emails that I receive.
The idea is pretty simple: every now and then you send out an email to your list offering them a revised subscription.
For example, let’s say you email every subscriber whenever you post a new article (like I do), then you might consider emailing people and asking them if they’d prefer to get a weekly or monthly summary of all the articles.
This works especially well if you are a big site that posts frequently and I have seen it implemented successfully on Digital Photography School and many news sites.
I asked Darren Rowse about this:
The main reason we do a digest of articles at the end of each week is so as not to annoy our readers with too many emails. We post twice daily so to email them for every post would get a little much for many of our readers.
We have toyed with an option to get the emails daily but the current system we use doesn’t make it easy for us to do (we’re looking at other options at the moment so may experiment with this).
The other reason I like a weekly email instead of sending more regularly is that we send emails at other times also including an auto-responder sequence to highlight some of our older content but also our launches and promotions. So to send daily ‘new post’ emails on top of those extra ones could get a little too much from a subscriber perspective.
This is definitely something that you might consider running past your audience if you are posting a lot and seeing a low open rate, or one that drops off over time.
6. Use a cat (well… sort of)
The last thing I wanted to talk about is using a fun method to educate your readers when they might not be fully expecting it.
For example, when you subscribe to Blog Tyrant you get redirected to a “thank you page” that has a lot of photos of my cat along with a little explanation about what to expect in your inbox.
I quite often get emails from new subscribers saying that they enjoyed that page, or that they also have a cat that hangs out with them all day while the work. It’s a really nice and informal way to connect with someone in a process that otherwise can be a little stale.
Do you know any stand out examples?
I’d really love to know whether or not you’ve encountered any stand out examples of mailing lists that educate readers in a unique or very effective way. I’m always on the look out for ideas that might work well so please leave a comment below if you can think of anything.
Additionally, if there is anything you’d like me to do differently with the Blog Tyrant mailing list please let me know. I’m happy to change.