You’re blog is puffing along nicely. You’re consistently publishing high–quality, unique and valuable content, that’s working to grow your connection with your followers, and your number of subscribers is growing steadily. But how do you know if people are reading what you’re writing?
The tips I cover here are about getting your email and blog posts read by your subscribers. If you’re not currently subscribing your followers to an email list I want to spend a minute with why it’s so important.
We see so many authors building their followers on Facebook and Twitter, which has value, but they don’t own those contacts – Facebook and Twitter do. Building your email list is about building an asset you own – your audience. If you haven’t already got an email list, one good reason is that it can keep your website visitors coming back.
Back to the tips.
Notifying your subscribers of new posts
When you’ve published a new post, there are two main ways to notify your followers of new posts.
Notifications can automatically go out via your blog or manually via a campaign in your email software. If the former, your subject line is usually your blog post’s title.
Choosing the automatic option means less work. You just set and forget. Once you hit publish on your article, it automatically gets sent out to your email list.
When automatically notifying your subscribers, you can decide how much of the post the reader will receive in the email notification. They can receive the full article, or just an excerpt that links to your website for the full post.
We generally advise sending an excerpt.
If you’ve got the time, invest in preparing a customised email notification campaign that summarises your article with the benefits of reading it. More on that below.
When you’re sending email notifications of new posts, it’s important to keep your eye on some key metrics.
Key email marketing metrics
Firstly, we’ll spend some time explaining what these metrics mean, then provide some quick tips to get more people reading your articles.
When you look at your email campaign report dashboard in MailChimp or your preferred email software, you'll see a few things:
Lets first acknowledge the last two.
Bounce rate is the number of emails that were rejected by the recipient’s server – basically an unsuccessfully delivered email. There are two types of bounces, hard and soft.
Hard bounce usually means the email inbox does not exist, or the domain does not exist.
Soft bounce means there was a temporary issue with the delivery, and the email program will try again over the next three days.
Unsubscribed shows the number of people that have unsubscribed from your list from the last send. We’ve all unsubscribed from lists before, and when a reader unsubscribes, they usually offers a reason, such as ‘no longer interested’.
So how to reduce readers that unsubscribe?
Optimise your subscription form’s ‘call to action’
Disappointment is about unmet expectations. So set clear expectations in the language of your subscribe form. The heading for your form can be a promise. Tell potential subscribers exactly what will be in the emails you send, as well as how often they should expect to hear from you. Then focus on delivering unique, high-quality content that readers (and Google for that matter) will not only love, but anticipate.
Now, on to improving your email’s engagement.
Opened shows the number of people that supposedly opened your email. Email programs track opens by sending a tiny invisible image along with your email. Then when your reader’s email program fetches the email, it downloads that tiny image, sending a signal to the email program that the email was opened. Pretty clever.
The open count can be a bit unreliable though, if the reader has ‘images turned off’ in their email program, which means the image won’t download and won’t record as a click. But it’s a good start.
Clicks are a more reliable metric and easier confirm. The email program adds their own tracking URL to each of your links, and when clicked, it firstly (and invisibly) directs your reader to the email program to count the click, then instantly sends them off to your regular destination – your blog post.
Running your blog is resource intensive. Planning, interviewing, editing, writing, setting up the email campaign in MailChimp, and then finally sending. With all of this time spent, we obviously want to get our articles read and get the maximum return on investment of our time.
Improving open and click-through rates
You’ve worked hard to get your new subscribers, and for a period of time, they’ll be excited about getting your messages. Here are a few ways to get higher open rates for your emails.
The subject line is make or break. What good is what you write if the email doesn’t even get opened?
One quick tip is to add styling. Add a memorable text-based logo or title to the front of your subject line. If it’s a newsletter type email, it’s also a good idea to distinguish it from a regular ‘every-day’ type email.
Try using brackets or special characters to draw attention to the blog series.
[Blog Series Name] then the regular subject line...
:: Issue 12 :: then the regular subject line...
Don’t worry about your brand or name in your subject, put that in the ‘from’ part of the email.
Jin Wang [Jin & Co.]
Keeping the subject short is critical
When checking email, most people quickly scan subject lines to decide if they’ll open or ignore the email. Don’t make people work to decipher your subject line to work out if they’re interested.
It’s generally advised to keep your subject line to 50 characters or fewer. Or think about it in word count. Subject lines with 6 to 10 words generated approximately 21% open rate, according to an analysis by marketing consultant Madhu Gelati.
A subject line is a promise of what’s inside. Get your sales hat on and boil your article’s benefits down to one key value proposition. ‘What’s in it for me’ the reader is thinking, when weighing up whether or not to click.
Try experimenting with your subject line structure to see what works best.
Getting your email clicked
Now that you’ve got your email opened, you don’t want your reader to stop there. Next is getting the reader to take action.
Add an image
Use a compelling image to entice the reader to click through to the main article. Faces usually perform best. If you’re savvy with image editing apps, try adding the headline or article subject as text in the image. Images also help people share your content.
Add a tailored summary of your content
Slapping an image into your email campaign is a good start, but is it really enough? Think about the environment or context where you email will be received – in your reader’s crowded inbox.
Think of your email as a sales page
Write a short introduction to the topic you’re discussing, or the person you’re interviewing. Often the topic is a problem of some kind, sharing your personal thoughts, or an interesting piece of news. If it’s an interview, perhaps include some of the interviewee’s credentials and how their words can benefit the reader.
Do you run a podcast or vlog?
If you run a podcast or vlog, indicate the length of the episode in minutes, so your reader can fit it into their busy schedule.
Use a bulleted list
A bullet list is another easy way for your subscribers to quickly scan your email for the benefits they’ll receive should they click the link to get your full content.
Use customised notification campaigns to track effectiveness
The other benefit of a customised notification campaign, rather than an automated email from your blog, is that you can track all of the data described above. Opens, clicks, open time of day and most active subscribers. Not only can your email program track all of these stats, but if you’ve got Google Analytics installed you can track engagement once they’ve reached your article, such as how long they spend on the page, or if they visit another page during the visit.
Lastly, don’t forget to include a nice prominent link to your full content, so people know where to click/tap. If using an email list software such as MailChimp, make sure it’s a clickable link, not just your website URL in plain text.
Here’s a summary of my key tips:
- Notify your subscribers of new posts with an excerpt that links to your website, instead of sending the full post
- Monitor open and click rates to maximise the reach of your content
- Optimise your subscription form ‘call to action’, to set a clear expectation, and reduce unsubscriptions
- Keep your subject lines short, try adding styling
- Craft a tailored summary of your post, with bullet lists and an image
- Track the people that do visit your site, to maximise the value of their visit
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If you’re interested in setting up your own email list, to start building an audience list you own, just let me know.