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Content Marketing | Sep 17
Elise Dopson on April 16, 2019 • 14 minute read
A superb way to do that is through email; one-on-one conversations with your most loyal fans and people who’ve opted-in to hear from you.
Sounds great, right? But people are bombarded with subscriptions these days. Sure, but the numbers suggest that readers still want to stay in touch with their favorite brands.
While 36% of respondents to our latest report say they’re converting between 1-5% of visitors to blog/newsletter subscribers, 48% are seeing conversion rates of 11% or greater.
So, how do you get more people visiting your blog to sign up to your email list–and build a community around your blog?
We asked 28 marketers exactly that, and we’re sharing their answers right here.
*Editor’s note: Want an easy way to track and visualize your blog subscriber growth in addition to the number of posts published, top blog posts by views, and more? HubSpot users can download this free template to get started.
How do you think of your newsletter?
You could be sabotaging your own conversion rates if you’re simply viewing it as a way to notify people when you publish new content to your blog.
Ladder‘s Edwin Plotts thinks this mindset is important to getting blog subscribers, which is why he advises to “productize” your newsletter: “What’s the core value of your newsletter? It has to be more than just ‘stay updated’.”
Plotts has reframed Ladders’ newsletter into its own product named “GrowthScience… get new marketing tactics in your inbox”–a tweak that’s helped his team experience conversion rates of 27%, because “most people are sick of being pushed to sign up for another newsletter that clogs your inbox.”
Why should they add your newsletter to the list?
Following Edwin’s advice, Jakub Kliszczak of CrazyCall recommends giving people an incentive to hand over their email address.
Kliszczak says: “The pop-ups have to be relevant to the article that a visitor is currently reading and should offer an incentive – checklist, ebook, cheatsheet – also relevant to the content.”
He’s not the only one recommending incentives, though. Our blogging experts also use the following as sign-up incentives:
“One effective tactic we’ve used to grow our subscriber base is a reward program,” says Matthew Ross of The Slumber Yard. “Essentially, we pick one lucky subscriber a month and send them a gift bundle.”
But, as you might’ve guessed, this strategy comes at a cost: “Typically, the bundle ends up costing us about $300-$500 but we feel the cost is worth the incentive for people to subscribe. The reward program has been a big hit so far.”
The result? Ross says since using the reward program as an incentive to join their blog newsletter, “subscribers are much more engaged with our content.”
“I’d recommend other blog operators implement a similar program to boost excitement.”
“Having downloadable pieces of content that lead visitors into a landing page is one of the best tactics I’ve found most useful in terms of generating blog subscribers,” says Gray Group International‘s Alejandra Melara.
“Give your readers something in return, if it’s a well-thought piece of content that sticks to their buyer’s journey they will gladly share their contact information with you.”
Melara is right: 95% of buyers are willing to share their name, company and email address in return for content–making it a fantastic strategy for getting more blog subscribers.
Best Company‘s McCall Robison seconds that advice: “As part of your email campaign to grow your subscriber list, create an infographic or another type of content you can send to potential subscribers to show them they will get exclusive content if they subscribe.”
As does Chris Marrano of Blue Water Marketing, who has “a number of various eBooks that we have created to work to gain more blog subscriptions. As we’re a digital marketing agency, we have eBooks for all of our services that we use as a CTA to subscribe to our blog.”
…But how can you find which topics to create your exclusive content around?
Adam Rowles of Inbound Marketing Agency shares his strategy:
Everyone likes a freebie.
In fact, exclusive offers are the sole reason why 60% of users sign-up to newsletters.
Maple Holistics’ Nate Masterson recommends capitalizing on this: “Many businesses are now offering customers alternative rewards for their rebates, including coupons, airlines miles, promotional items, and free samples.”
Don’t panic if you don’t have tons of cash to throw at your sign-up efforts.
“Even if you aren’t offering cash, many customers will still be drawn to these offers, as they will feel like they are getting more bang for their buck,” Masterson explains.
We’re always told to write long-form content.
Granted, writing 3,000 words of content is great for your blog’s SEO.
But if people don’t have the time to read it, you could be wasting a huge amount of time writing blog content that isn’t going to be read.
Andrea Moxham of Horseshoe + co. has a smart workaround: “Give your visitors the option to download a PDF version of your long-form blogs to read when it’s more convenient for them. When you recognize a common friction point (lack of time), you show empathy and introduce a solution that’s a win-win for both parties.”
You’ll have a tough time increasing your blog’s conversion rate if people don’t know how to sign-up.
Several of the blogging experts we interviewed said an opt-in form is essential.
The majority of said a subscription bar at the top or bottom of the page is the most effective place:
Bootstrap Business‘ Mike Schiemer is a fan of the subscription bar because “it’s a more subtle and sophisticated way to build your email subscriber list.”
Schiemer uses Hello Bar, but regardless of the tool you’re using, he says “similar products will get real results without compromising UX or SEO.”
The aim of your opt-in form is to make it seen, right?
“A lot of visitors are blind to forms in common places like sidebars and post footers,” says Marc Andre of Vital Dollar, “but if they’re reading a post they’re likely to notice a form that’s right there in the content.
That’s why Andre likes “to have a few different forms and then include the one that is most relevant to the post. This approach brings good visibility without being as disruptive as a popup.”
Accelity Marketing‘s Cass Polzin says their team “use CTAs in our blogs (typically at the end) encouraging people to sign up for our newsletter”–a tactic Polzin says increases their blog conversion rate because “the people who are scrolling all the way to the bottom are demonstrating that they’re truly interested in our content, showing a high-intent from the get-go.”
“A great way to increase your subscription rate is to build an opt-in landing page,” says ExpertSure‘s Ollie Smith.
“The purpose of this page is to convenience people to sign-up to your email list, and so should detail the benefits of subscription, the type of content contained within emails, the frequency of emails which can be expected and bonuses for sign-up.”
Don’t fall into the trap of creating your landing page, and expecting blog readers to stumble upon it naturally.
“Once built, promotion of your new landing page is vital. This can be achieved by directly advertising via social media profiles, driving traffic to the page through paid advertising and even redirecting readers after they have commented on a blog post,” Smith summarizes.
Angelle Erickson of Fisher Unitech says: “One effective tactic to increase blog subscribers is to use pop-ups on your pages to engage visitors but not hinder their experience.”
Erickson uses Hello Bar to do this because the software “allows you to choose from a variety of pop-up types.”
Wojciech Szywalski also uses pop-up forms but adds a twist.
“The most effective tactic in the case of the PressPad blog that increased the blog subscribers list was adjusting the popup trigger time to 30% of the average time users spend on the particular page type.”
Clint Tepe of Nexus Growth Coaching recommends to “offer push notifications as an alternative if your audience is hesitant to provide their email.”
You’re likely concerned about spam here.
You don’t want to push people off your blog if sounds, flashing bars or intrusive pop-ups aren’t allowing them to read your content.
But Tepe explains that “spam isn’t really an issue since the user has to allow notifications, and can unsubscribe at any time.”
Clint says this tactic “allows them to subscribe with a single click, rather than having to fill out a form. You still get to reach them directly, but they don’t have as many privacy concerns.”
“We’ve seen it perform far better than asking for an email with certain websites,” Tepe explains. So much so, they’re “getting about a 15-18% opt-in rate” on their website.
We asked Michael Alexis for Library Jobs‘ best tip to get more blog subscribers: “We continue to use, and see success, with full-page welcome mats.
A welcome mat does what it says on the tin: Welcomes users to your website, with a full-page call to action.
Alexis explains that “to make sure this tactic is effective, we don’t load the dropdown on individual blog or job posts — only on the home page. Users that find our site via search visit a relevant post and when they click the navigation logo or otherwise make their way to the front page they see the welcome mat.”
Summarizing, Alexis says: “Our average subscribe rate over the last 12+ months is 23% — and we see both high open and click-through rates from this list.”
Earlier, we mentioned that you’ll struggle to get more blog subscribers if people don’t know how to sign-up.
And while it’s a good idea to make your opt-in form obvious for new readers, don’t forget about the people who’ve visited before and not seen your sign-up form.
“You’d find it surprising how many people had no idea that they could subscribe to our blog,” says Commusoft‘s Cristina Maria. “We’ve had followers telling us that they thought the only way to find out about the newest articles was to follow social media posts.”
That’s why Maria recommends “to take your most popular blog articles and create social media ads with a link to a subscribe landing page.”
Michele Gourdine of LyntonWeb has also seen success with this tactic: “My most effective tactic to-date has been creating a relevant pdf freebie for my audience and promoting it in targeted Facebook groups and with Facebook ads.”
Let’s pause for a second and evaluate why you’re investing so much time into your blog.
Chances are, it’s to find a group of people interested in the products or services you sell and nurture them into making a purchase.
G2‘s John Thomas Lang thinks that thought process could hinder your attempts to get blog subscribers: “All too often, marketers are focused on the metrics without taking a moment to really focus on the end-users’ needs and what they are hoping to gain from your content.”
Lang recommends to ask:
… because “seeking answers to these questions can manifest in technical opt-in copy, how your exit-intent or fly-in acts on-page and whether or not they stay engaged after they give you their email address.”
Autumn Sullivan of Big Sea also recommends to “keep your blog 100% focused on adding value to your audience’s life.”
“Stop treating your blogs as SEO tools and start thinking of them as articles that folks should actually WANT to read. […] With every new blog idea, ask yourself, “Who does this serve?” If the answer is anyone other than “my audience,” scrap it.”
“Do that, and users will happily subscribe. Just give them a form or a button to do so.”
Conversion rates are defined by calculating the number of people who visit your blog and hand over their email address.
It makes sense that if the people reading your content are highly targeted (and genuinely interested in the content you’re sharing), they’re more likely to opt-in.
“One effective—yet often overlooked—tactic for growing blog subscriptions and gaining returning visitors is content promotion,” explains Cosmitto‘s Emily Laubham–who says “no quality blog should live inside a vacuum.”
“Once your content goes live, work just as hard to get it in front of people as you did to create it. You can share through own social media platforms or even put some money behind boosted posts on social media and digital ads.”
Laubham concludes: “As long as your content is solid, in front of the RIGHT audience, and easy to subscribe to (bottom of the page subscription bar), you’ll see your numbers start to grow.”
Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers echoed the advice we’ve already shared: “You want to show why your visitors should sign up to your blog content. Don’t just say ‘sign up to our blog here’. You want to tell them what they will gain from signing up.”
However, Aufray recommends “you use bullet points. For instance, list the 3 main benefits to be a new blog subscriber,” such as:
Ollie Roddy of Catalyst Marketing Agency thinks you could do this, while also teasing “people about your next piece of content in the intro or end of a piece you just posted, with the caveat that they should “Sign up below to receive it straight to their inbox as soon as it’s published.”
Roddy says: “This works especially well if the next piece links to the one you just posted; you know they’re already interested in the topic, so as long as your next title is intriguing, they’ll be interested in subscribing.”
…But how do you know the type of content your audience like?
Along with in-depth buyer personas, take Survicate‘s Anna Rubkiewicz’s recommendation and “run a reader interest survey among your blog readers. Ask them about the topics they’d like to read about the most and how often they’d like to receive emails.”
The answers to your reader interest survey should guide your entire email strategy once they’ve opted-in.
Here’s Referral Rock‘s Josh Ho explaining how their team put this into practice: “We have a drip email series that is very contextual to what people read on our blog. For example, it’s a 5 email series on learning about referral marketing 101. This naturally has a fit for the blog subscription after the series is complete.”
Regardless of whether your readers vote for a free eBook or discount code for your services, it doesn’t matter.
All that matters is that you’re providing value, as Matthew Engelson of Sagefrog.com summarizes: “All the pop-ups and forms won’t save your blog if you are not being useful to your readers.”
“My favorite tactic for increasing our blog subscribers (and readership) is to co-publish articles with other successful bloggers and startups,” explains Jennifer Chen of Team Building NYC.
“Here’s an example: if you provide HR software and you collaborate with a blogger that writes about remote work, then you can share expertise and both promote to your own audiences. The result, with a strong partnership, should be at least double the readers and subscribers for each of you.”
The best part of Chen’s advice? It’s one the team at Team Building NYC have seen incredible results from.
“We recently used this tactic to publish a post that brought in 550+ new subscribers (vs. less than 50 when we publish solo).”
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