I recommend that every content creator start an email list. So, in this beginner’s guide, I’m covering exactly what you need to know to get started with an email list. Remember, you can also find all of our other beginner’s guides here.
So why use email? Can’t fans just get your content via their favorite RSS reader? Well, yes, but with RSS, you don’t have the oppotuniry to speak to your fans directly, because you don’t have a list of email addresses. All they get is what you post on your blog – and while that’s a great start, if you want to promote products, talk about what’s going on with your site, etc.
Email is also a way to get your audience’s attention, as long as you don’t abuse the power by sending too many emails (especially too many sales emails). While tweets might go unnoticed, emails stand out.
Email List Providers
You can manage an email list manually, but trust me – if you get more than twenty or thirty people signed up (and hopefully you do), manually sending emails is time-consuming. When you send emails manually, you also don’t have access to analytics like you do with a list service provider.
The three most popular email list providers are Aweber, Mail Chimp, and Constant Contact. There are other options as well, which Kevin Muldoon has pretty perfectly outlined in a guest post for Daily Blog Tips. Personally, I use Aweber, but I don’t like them any better or worse than any other services out there. The point is…subscribe to one of these services. It is well worth the money.
Ah, money. So what is this going to cost you? Each services has a difference cost, but in general, you’ll pay depending on the number of subscribers you have. It’s a great model, since as you get more subscribers you should also be making more money.
Getting People to Sign Up
There are several ways to get people to sign up for your mailing list. Start with a sign-up box on your sidebar, but also consider:
- Writing a blog post about your new mailing list or talking about it on your next podcast or in your next video.
- Linking to it at the end of every post/show notes
- Tweeting about it
- Creating a sign-up page on Facebook as one of your tabs
- Offering something for free in exchange for people signing up for your mailing list
Once you have people signed up, you also have to make sure you keep as many of them signed up as possible. Some common mistakes to avoid:
- Not making it clear what people are signing up for – if they receive a lot more emails than they expect to receive, they’ll unsubscribe in a hurry
- Sending too many sales-y emails
- Sending emails that aren’t valuable
- Being inconsistent
- Being too clinical (i.e. not personable enough)
What to Send
So once you start getting people signed up, what do you send?
First, you want to have a welcoming email. This email should include:
- A personal thank you for signing up
- What kind of email content subscribers can expect
- Information on how to unsubscribe
- Contact information
- Links to your blog and social media profiles
After that, you can start sending emails on a regular basis. I recommend sending at least one email a week but no more than three per week unless there’s something special going on. There are two types of emails you can send. In Aweber, they’re called “follow-ups” and “broadcasts,” but the concepts is the same no matter what email system you use.
- Follow-Ups: Emails that are sent to anyone who signs up, based on schedule that starts whenever the person signs up. (For example, the first one might be sent three days after the welcome message, the next three days after that, and so on.) This is evergreen material.
- Broadcasts: Emails that are sent to everyone on your email list at the same time (future subscribers won’t see these messages). Typically, broadcasts are used to announce information like special events on your site, products sales, etc.
Follow-ups can take on several forms. Many people do newsletters, with several pieces of content. Some other ideas include:
- Personal messages to the reader
- Links to archived (but evergreen) posts
- Special content only available to subscribers
Occasionally, you should also send a follow up that is more sales-like in nature, either promoting one of your own products or promoting someone else’s product (using affiliate links). I like to do a ratio of three high-value emails to every one sales email (outside of broadcasts).
A few other tips about sending content to your list and using email services:
- Always include a link to unsubscribe. It’s against spam policies not to do this and most newsletter service providers have it built-in…but make sure the link is noted somewhere so people can unsubscribe if they want.
- If you include affiliate links, make sure you disclose this information using FTC guidelines.
- Most email service providers give you the ability to split test, which allows you to see if you get a higher open rate using one headline or another or if changes in the email make a person more likely to click links included in that email. Use your ability to split test.
- Some advertisers are willing to sponsor emails by placing ads in your newsletter. Again, make sure these relationships are disclosed.
- Look at your stats regularly to see which follow-ups are causing the most unsubscribes. It might be worth changing it this message to prevent even more unsubscribes.
- Also look at your stats regularly to see which follow-ups are getting the most opens and clicks. You want to replicate this success in the future.
- Delete unsubscribed members regularly. These have no purpose, since they no longer get your emails, but some email services count them toward your total number of members, so these will bump up your number for no reason, causing you to pay more.
- You may also want to delete members who don’t open your emails. I don’t do this personally, since they could someday decide to open one, but some people advocate this in order to keep your numbers lower and pay less.
- Your subject line is like a headline – make sure you write something eye-catching that makes people want to open your email.
Even if you aren’t ready to start sending email content to your list, it doesn’t hurt to at least allow people to sign up. You want to capture those leads so that someday when you do have time to maintain a list, you already have a small list to start.
Got questions about email lists? Post them below and I’ll do my best to answer them!