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.
37 CommentsJoin in. The comments are closed after 30 days.
Hi Ramsay ! I’ve been subscribed for so long, I haven’t seen your thank you page with CAT photos. Sounds awesome!
I have been wondering BIG TIME about open rates and all that good stuff with my email list. My open rates have dropped but I thought that was because my list was so much bigger.
Soooooo great to know these ideas. I’m TOTALLY going to make the changes and give it a whirl.
Thanks for your awesome tips!
Absolutely having a larger list will affect open rates. I’ve experienced the same. But I think it’s always worth testing to see whether it can be improved.
After your last post about having a thank you page, I went ahead and did one on my site, then I shared it with my group and people liked it.
the only difference is that I don’t have any cat pics to share.. may put some up of my staffy.
Thanks for sharing Ramsay, I enjoy your posts..
Not sure if this relates but on my follow up emails from when I get a new subscriber who is downloading some free checklist or Ebook or whatever, I ask them to let me know that they got it. I get a surprising number of replies to that. Most are short but some include more stuff like how they found my site, how it had helped, etc. I try to reply to all of them in some way to build that trust and community. Just hit 25k subscribers and my products are selling well.
Still stuck on blogger and yes stressful and a big headache to switch. I struggle with techy issues as it is… I’ve been told WP is much harder to navigate ..
Wish I had just started there wouldn’t know any different :/
No need to switch unless you’re finding limitations with your current platform. It works for some people.
Thanks Ramsay… not so far but I keep hearing you should be paying for hosting or blog won’t succeed .. but then hear of bigger bloggers still using it …
If you’re still able to edit the back end enough to do things like split testing, stats tracking, adding functions and features, etc. while getting a very fast load time then there’s no reason to switch yet.
Good post, the knowledge you are sharing through your post is good and worth implemeting.
Enjoyed your post.
Thanks for the great share.
Hi Ramsay, great inspiration!
I include an “opt-in for the montly-only list” in about 50% of my e-mails, especially when promoting something like a webinar.
I send updates to my list once or twice a week, and in busy periods with lots of webinars, I saw a lot of unsubscribes. By offering the possibility of simply opting in to receive a compilation just once a month, my unsubscriberate has decreased really well. I place the opt-in for the monthly-only list as a P.S. just above the unsubscribe link. Since I’m offering so much value to my readers, lots of them prefer a digest over a complete unsubscribe. It’s a good way to stay in touch with people that like you but that consider having too little time.
Legend! That’s the exact type of thing I was hoping to hear about. Thanks for sharing.
Another cool post. I want you to know why do I read your mail. You keep it simple and straight to the point! Also you deliver the content as promised. Thank you.
Glad you enjoyed it!
It looks like, from that first screenshot, that you may be using OptinMonster or LeadPages? Or is it another service? The reason I ask is that I wanted to see which service offered such a comprehensive view of your optins/pages.
Thanks for the info!
Hey Sue! That’s just AWeber. I’m playing around with Sumo Me at the moment but it’s a bit expensive for how much it converts.
I agree about SumoMe’s new plan. Thanks for the answer!
Great tips, as always!
#1 sounds like an interesting option. Actually, I do this in my “thank you page”.
But, you gave me the idea to try this on my website, which is separate from my blog but still has an opt in to my monthly newsletter and see which works better!
#2 many subscribers would find it helpful.
#4 I’ve done already.
The good thing is that my readers like my blog and it’s content.
The bad thing is, they want me to post more regularly and I really don’t have the time to do it!
#5 it’s absolutely necessary for blogs that post frequently.
I usually choose the weekly newsletter – I hate to see my inbox full of unread posts!
#6 I think I’ll unsubscribe and subscribe again to see your cute cat!
Ha ha. Let me know how you find the process!
I did, because I like wasting time with cats!
He has amazing blue eyes!
Are they real? Ha ha!
For a cat lover, it’s a nice surprise! Very clever!
Do you know why I was not the first one to leave a comment?
That’s because I was too busy creating my subcription landing page (https://sportchezsoi.com/abonnement-newsletter-sport-chez-soi) and modifying my optin plugin. Just because I thought your 1st councel about pre-selling my list is totally right.
So, I’ve started my test 15 minutes ago. Let’s see! But I’m totally confident, because I know the value of your tips.
Let me know how it goes. My only suggestion would be to use less blue and red text.
OK. I’ve changed the color. If possible, let me know if you think it’s better.
It’s a great post. I literally enjoyed every word of it. I want to ask something about email newsletter.
How is your experience with plain-text newsletter format?
Actually, I switched from HTML format to plain-text myself, that’s why I’m asking this. I found it great. I followed Pat Flynn’s advice of using a single CTA in the newsletter content and it did work for me.
Looking forward to seeing your reply!
Yep, I agree with Pat. I’ve always found the plain text to work perfectly.
A dog instead of a cat? Maybe only for dog lovers! Haha!
Not the first time someone has suggested this to me! Ha.
Hey! When you will more frequently post animal pics, your blog will turn into a zoo and then zoo people will ask you to publish their elephant’s autobiography!
Timely advice- just when I need it 🙂
I guess for a boost in open rates, a nice strategy would be to share content, within the e-mail, that cannot be seen elsewhere (including the blog).
That way there is more value within each mail, and those who learn to know this will open every single time.
Yeah I need to get back to doing this. I really want to update the initial series that people get to be more fun.
Ah, a survey.. Always keep forgetting to use surveys. Especially when there is a price to win. The survey will be shared with friends and attracting more respondents.
Shall use them in short. Thanks for reminding me about it. 🙂
First of all I like your a name. My self Pavan and started a blog recently. I Love to write about WordPress although I am not a pro. I write what I learn. Coming to my question? I just started i might be getting just 1-5 Visits per day Do I need to have email Subscription from this beginning of time? If No, when is the right time to go for email Subscriptions?
Definitely. Start right away!
I am Your fan from India. I wanted to know Adsense vs Affiliate who us the best??
your thoughts, please.
Hi Sachin. I always prefer affiliates over Adsense because with Adsense people click your site and then leave and you might only have earned a few cents. It’s much better to grow a mailing list and promote your own products or affiliates, in my opinion. Traffic levels don’t matter, it’s more about getting the right traffic for the right product.
Hi Ramsay ,
Useful post for people like me who is started experimenting with email subscriptions . I learned a lot from this post and going to try on my website.