One of the sad facts about blogging is that not everybody likes your stuff.
In fact, some people hate it. Further still, some people decide they hate it after being subscribed for a while and leave you really rude (read: hilarious) exit messages. I’ll get to those later.
In this post I am going to talk about how you can reduce your attrition rate and decrease the amount of people that unsubscribe from your blog. Its an important part of email list marketing.
Why do you need to focus on reducing attrition?
Its pretty self evident but has to be said: you don’t want to go through all the trouble of writing amazing blog posts and developing free content and tools to capture email subscribers only to have them leave because you are making a few silly mistakes with your list.
And that is often what it comes down to – a few silly mistakes.
Lowering your attrition rate (or decreasing your unsubscribe rate) is all part and parcel of building an email list. You’ve got to get them on there but then you have to also keep them happy and loyal.
How to decrease your email list’s unsubscribe rate
Okay so let’s jump into it and take a look at some of the main reasons people unsubscribe from your blog’s email list and then some solutions for these problems. You might notice that a lot of this is about marketing psychology and “getting in the head” of your readers. That is important.
Problem 1: Too many emails
Solution: Make a schedule
Something that a lot of bloggers are guilty of is sending out too many emails within a too short space of time. I do this sometimes because I forget that some people are receiving automatic follow up emails as well as the blog posts.
If you don’t know what an automatic follow up email is you can check out my post on why bloggers should switch to Aweber for their email marketing service. Basically it is a short message that you pre-write and set to go out to each subscriber after a certain number of days. It could also be called a newsletter. The problem arises when that message coincides with another message and people feel bombarded.
Problem 2: Surprise content
Solution: Set expectations early
The second thing that causes a lot of people to unsubscribe from your email list is when they receive content that they didn’t expect. This could come in the form of promotions, blog posts or anything else. It could be totally legitimate content as well but if they didn’t expect to get it you lose the reader.
This is actually one of the primary reasons that people get emails marked as spam in Aweber. I once was told I got marked as spam for sending out the blog updates via email even though I told them it was going to happen.
To overcome all this you need to set expectations early. If you have a blog popup you need to make sure your copy mentions updates. If you have an email sign up page you need to do the same thing. The less surprises the better.
Problem 3: Infrequent schedule
Solution: Coach your readers
One of my biggest faults in the eyes of my readers is that I am unpredictable. It really pisses a lot of people off. I post only when I have something to write about but a lot of people are used to receiving something once or twice a week and get upset when they don’t hear from me in a month.
Even more upsetting though is when they don’t hear from me for a month and then receive three things in a week. I know its bad, and so do my readers.
You need to coach your readers as to how it works on your blog. If you are going to be unpredictable and infrequent make sure you work that in to your branding. Rachelle suggested using Twitter and Facebook to update people about your whereabouts and post-writing progress while you are away. Its a good idea.
Problem 4: No exclusivity
Solution: Develop email-only content and promote it
Another problem that people run in to is when they use their mailing list to just send out blog posts. That is fine if that is all you are telling people is going to happen but if you tell them its a “mailing list” or a “newsletter” you better make sure you have some exclusive content.
As I have written about many times, people need to feel like they are part of a clan. In Danny’s book, Engagement From Scratch!, I talked about how people will always choose a luxury car over a standard car because they want to be part of the club, not because the car is better.
If you want to decrease your unsubscribe rate you need to make sure that the list is exclusive and useful enough for people to want to stick around. If they don’t feel like its special there is no reason for them to be there.
Problem 5: Too broad a focus
Solution: Keep it niche specific
A lot of my email subscribers sign up because they want my short eBook on capturing more email subscribers. And a lot of those people find my free eBook because I wrote about similar topics on my guest posts (a funnel technique I talk about in the full time blogging page).
So, if I then deviate too far from that type of content on my list the subscribers get annoyed. I find that the most successful follow up messages are the ones that really focus in on that subject that got them interested in the first place.
Every time you put something out to that list you need to remind yourself why they signed up and what they are hoping for. Often it is very niche specific.
Some of the most hilarious exit messages from the big bloggers
Okay so everyone who uses Aweber will know that you can set it up so that every time someone unsubscribes from your list you can ask them why they are leaving. I call them exit messages. And these exit messages arrive by email.
This is a great way to stay on top of the mistakes you are making as well as getting a vibe for what people want. But the best thing it does is give you a massive laugh. Or, if you a less thick-skinned, a massive cry.
Today I got an email notice saying that someone had unsubscribed and in the “reasons why” section they had written:
I felt like I was back in high school! I also had someone else say:
I’m still working a job so you are a liar.
It got me thinking that I should ask some of my blogging friends whether they had any funny or super rude exit messages to share. And I got some good ones.
Someone said to Pat from Smart Passive Income:
Why are you following me? Stop sending me emails or I’ll call the police on you.
Diggy from Upgrade Reality had a charming fellow write:
Its all about YOU, you you…sell, sell, sell
But the winner goes to all round nice guy Darren Rowse from Problogger who had a reader say:
Ur ugly bald face needs Hannibalizing
Have you had any good ones?
I’d love to know if you have had any hilarious exit messages as well as whether you have a good unsubscribe rate. What makes people leave your mailing list? Please leave a comment and let me know.
41 CommentsJoin in. The comments are closed after 30 days.
I’m still unsure about how I feel about “email only” content for a newsletter/blog combo.
Sometimes, emails that don’t lead to a blog post just annoy me, but my own preferences might not reflect that of readers.
That’s an interesting idea Gregory. So you think a newsletter should just let you know what’s going on at the blog?
I guess it’s the mindset you have when signing up for a newsletter.
If I sign up for anything at a blog, it’s because I want blog updates.
If the content you’re going to be sending me is THAT good, you would have put it on the blog itself.
Maybe I just have “clear inbox syndrome”, but I often don’t read emails sent to me that don’t link to new blog posts.
But like I said, I should keep my personal preferences set aside when approaching how to do my own newsletters, it seems some people get a love of value from “non-blog” content.
Hmm… Not sure that I entirely agree.
I know one blogger who does “email only” content to subscribers. What he considers “bonus” content. He’ll write a post on how to build a membership site for example, but it’ll be a password protected post. You only get the password if you’re subscribed of course. Other times, it’s just an extended email.
I don’t find the content annoying in the least. In fact, it’s what I opted in for. The expectations were properly set from the beginning.
I always sort of thought it was about the exclusivity – getting something that doesn’t go to the blog. More specific tutorials if you will.
I once wrote a blog post titled: You May Be A Douche.
I published it and later went on to edit it to say: You May Be A Douche If…
However, the email blast had already been sent with the original post title. Anyway, I got 2 un-subscribes and one of them asked “Umm… Why did I get this?”
I later realized I may have sent the wrong message all together with that headline. So I rephrased the post entirely to read: The Unspoken Rules of Online Etiquette – http://www.ricardobueno.com/online-etiquette.
It turned out to be a fairly well received post. But I should have rethought the headline from the very beginning, heh.
I haven’t had anything memorable happen with unsubscribers but I did get hate mail that told me I was going to hell on another of my sites.
Holy crap! What did you do to bring that one on?
I recently moved to mailchimp from feedburner (following your advice – somewhat (I know you recommend aweber). I moved my subscribers and sent them an email letting them know. I got a lady unsubscribe. Her reason .. “I did not ask to be on your list”
Good to know after I have been sending you site updates for a year!
Wow. Sometimes I think people click around the internet blindly.
I’m in a bit of a different situation, as most of my travel blog subscribers are fellow backpackers I met on my trips. I think people are more polite to someone they’ve met in person, compared to a faceless blogger (couldn’t resist a little dig, ha ha!). It’s easier to be rude to someone you don’t know.
The most common negative response I get is silence–when no one replies. I get that though, it’s hard to feel like you’re getting a personal message from a blogger when you think he’s e-mailed a hundred other people.
Humility might play a role as well. I make it a point to write about the bad stuff that happens on my journeys, not just the beautiful girls and magic sunsets. I think my readers appreciate that and are less likely to think I’m an arrogant jerk.
That’s a tough balance, the more I think about it. Readers want a leader, so you need to be authoritative to be credible. But veer too far, and people will want to see you fall.
To put a positive spin on things, you could look at people who unsubscribe as self-selecting themselves out of your fanbase. Saves you the trouble of “cleaning” your list of unresponsive recipients who might later label your e-mails as spam.
P.S. In Firefox, the floating bar with your Facebook Likes and Tweets on the right seems to be partially covered by your e-book opt-in box. I checked in Google Chrome and Opera, and it looks fine. Not sure if it’s just my browser or a Firefox problem.
Oh thanks bro I’ll check it out.
Looks fine over here. Maybe you need an update? Hmmm…
I get a lot of good feedback from readers, but there are some people who dislike me. (Hard to believe because I’m so charming)
Apart from the people who went out and trademarked my business and blog name deliberately, I had another person in my industry call me “to talk reason to me” and offer me referrals if I would “play along more” this was kind of creepy.
Another kind of surprising thing that happened to me on a landlord forum was getting banned for stating that we should copy tenant activist’s modus operandi of emailing all elected officials regardless of political affiliation. There were a lot of angry people that I would dare say such a thing.
All in all I consider myself lucky that I don’t get unsubscribe remarks…possibly. Some things you may be better off not knowing 🙂
You are in a tough industry.
When I emailed Johhny B Truant about all this he wrote back, “If they’re leaving, fuck it.”
Or “You can please some of the people most of the time, but you can’t please all the people all the time.”
(Although you come very close!)
You are about as sweet as it gets. Flattery FTW.
I have unsubscribed from many a list because they have their newsletter set up to send an email for every new post.
I also will unsubscribe if every newsletter is trying to sell me something and has no real value for me.
I don’t have any interesting unsubscribes to share but your examples are hilarious!
Do you reckon it is okay to send out all the blog posts if you make it clear at the point of sign up?
I was inspired to go check my feedburner stats today, and either feedburner is not working properly or I just lost 170 subscribers between yesterday and today…Now that would hurt!
Feedburner is extremely temperamental. Some days I see stats go down several thousand. I think its just a reporting glitch because they come back.
Did you get any click throughs from my link to your name in this post? Can’t imagine it would be huge traffic.
Yep I sure did. I think I’m finally going to break and get Aweber today like you keep saying to.
Also you have great exclusive content you send to your subscribers. I really the ultimate guide to a $50,000 blog I got the other day. Awesomesauce!
Thanks. That’s 50k thing needs work though.
Currently I’m still trying to build up my subscriber list using feedburner. I’ve havn’t been doing a good job. But, i guess when you do eventually have a good subscriber list, people would end up being bored with your content and unsubscribe. It’s a normal thing consider when i was building up my facebook fan page and i kept on posting my content links to facebook and start noticing a few unlike to my facebook page. =/
Yeah that is true. Its tough to keep people stimulated.
Hey man, thanks for featuring me in this article!
Sometimes I get very offensive and insulting comments from “readers” but I just see it in the way that these people have problems in their own lives they are trying to take out on me.
Hence, I’m not bothered by it and just delete them.
I believe if you have nothing constructive to say, don’t say anything at all. (constructive criticism is welcome)
Shut up Diggy you jerk!
Just kidding! Thanks for sharing bro.
Good luck with your site. 2012 is the year of the Dragon. Big year for business!
It’s been interesting to read the comments in this post and see that some people expect the blogger to send all the links to the posts in their email while others don’t want that at all.
LOL – How to please everybody? You can’t. The only thing we can do -IMHO – is to be very clear about what our Newsletter includes.
Still, some people will subscribe but not read what they will get. Some others will forget.
And I’m pretty sure that some people are not reasonable at all and will blame you for their problems.
Like Diggy said, they take it on you.
Great post BT.
Good to see ya!
Hey, sorry you had 2 such nasty exit messages.
What are people like?! They have probably never provided content for an audience themselves, let alone for a demanding subscriber list.
A spontaneous “exit message reply shout feature” would be nice I reckon 😉
From my point of view as a newbie to email marketing it’s good to be reminded that people actually expect you to cater for their specific interests.
I am just in the process of creating my first list content and approached it with a far too wide angle of “What useful stuff can I send to my subscribers” rather than “What do they expect to read about”.
So thanks for getting me back on target. You might have saved me a few “Ughs!” there 😉
I don’t know about you but I’ve had to unsubscribe from interesting blogs in the past simply because I had too much else going on and not because the content wasn’t good. It’s hard not to take an unsubscribe personal though I guess.
Keep the good work up BT!
Thanks for the kind words Sandra.
Good luck with the premier list!
Good point, Sandra. It is difficult to understand a person if you have never been in their place.
I agree that it is too easy for people to forget that the person who puts the thought and effort into sending out emails is still a person, even if they are out there on some far end of cyberspace, so to speak. It would be good for us to take that as a caution, though, to keep in mind that our subscribers are not just a “list”, either, but a group made up of many of our fellow human beings. 🙂
So far I am on the lookout for people who share a passion for my niche that would like to subscribe to my newsletter. This has been good thought material, though. I must be sure to set realistic expectations for my readers.
So, BT, do you believe we should be careful not too offer too much of a variety in our newsletters, even if it applies to the niche? I was planning to have several smaller angles to approach things from to avoid running out of unique content to share. Or maybe that is one of those questions you just have to try and see?…
(By the way, I am still working on those pop-ups. I can see the value that Pop-Up Domination could offer!)
Yeah I think it depends a lot on the niche and what they are expecting. Different angles or sub-niches can often be used to launch a new product or mailing list entirely but if it works on your group then go for it.
Let me know how you go with PopDom.
Recently, I had 1-2 unsubscribes who wrote long paragraphs about how they had no idea why they were on my list and why I was sending them emails. They wrote long angry messages about why they wanted off (even though I send emails fairly infrequently.)
To me it was amusing that they had the time to sit down and write that much instead of just click unsubscribe.
A client of mine got an opt out earlier this year that said:
“I was reading your materials and I had a seizure, I’m no longer interested”
LOL, I got a kick out of that one!
Wow that is pretty harsh! Ha ha.
Hello blog tyrant! In my own opinion you just can’t please everybody every time you make a blog. Some would appreciate it and of course some won’t. Like you mentioned in this article, some people are less thick-skinned. I’m not a blogger, I just enjoy reading blogs. You have a good point when you pointed out the dilemma of bloggers and their corresponding solutions. Bloggers need to realize that some of their readers are a bit sensitive so they should be more considerate in what they say. It is always nice to have a little icing on the cake, but not too much. Sign me up!
Totally agree Kristina. You sound like my kind of reader!