I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the course of my blogging career, but probably my biggest was not establishing a mailing list. Email newsletters are quite possibly the easiest—and most overlooked—way of growing and maintaining your audience. Creating a mailing list is a must for serious writers because lists tap into the one form of “social networking” that is universal: email. Not everyone is on Twitter, not everyone is on Facebook, but you can be assured that everyone who visits your blog has an email address.
But that’s only one of the advantages of creating a mailing list.
Newsletters are necessary for retaining your readers. The majority of people who visit your blog will not become regular readers; they will typically look at whatever they clicked on or were searching for and then leave, never to be seen again. Offering an email newsletter gives you a convenient way of turning casual browsers into clued-in readers, by allowing you to keep in contact with them no matter what happens. To use a marketing catchphrase, an email newsletter will lower your site’s “bounce rate,” encouraging readers to stick around longer, read more of your articles and potentially purchase your products.
Finally, even in the year 2014, email newsletters have a retention rate well above that of Twitter, Facebook and more “modern” methods of connecting with your audience. My Twitter count fluctuates wildly: I see people constantly subscribing, unsubscribing and re-subscribing from it on a daily basis. Before my Facebook page was deleted because of a bullshit “hate speech” complaint, I saw the same thing going on there. However, my email newsletter (which you can sign up for by scrolling to the end of this post, or filling out the form in the sidebar) has been steadily growing since I launched it several months ago, with only a handful of people who’ve unsubscribed.
With that in mind, how do you go about creating your own newsletter? Here’s a quick and easy guide.
1. Sign up with AWeber.
There are two major email list providers you can use: MailChimp and AWeber. Some guys like Victor Pride and Mike @ Danger & Play swear by MailChimp, but I’ve used in the past and found it wanting. I recommend you use AWeber instead.
MailChimp’s entire business model is founded on deceptive marketing: they offer their services for free up until you hit a certain number of subscribers, then imply that you can simply transfer your list over to another provider. What they don’t tell you is that transferring your email list to another company is against the law. The federal CAN-SPAM Act requires anyone who signs up for your list—or is signed up for it—to opt in to the list through a confirmation email, and to opt back in if you transfer the list to another company.
If you attempt to transfer a list from MailChimp to AWeber, you’ll lose anywhere from half to three-quarters of your subscribers because they simply won’t opt back in.
The other major problem with MailChimp is the absurd amount of content you’re not allowed to send in emails, even if you’re a paying subscriber. For example, MailChimp prohibits affiliate marketing. I’m not big on using email newsletters for affiliate marketing (the only time I can remember doing it is when I pasted a link to buy my friend Trevor Blake’s book Confessions of a Failed Egoist and Other Essays in a newsletter), but the mere rule itself annoys me and is indicative of MailChimp’s mindset. A company that has such petty restrictions is almost assuredly run by anal retentive toe-fuckers who spend their free time seeking out ways to ruin your life.
AWeber has no such restrictions, making it perfect for writers and bloggers.
Unlike with MailChimp, AWeber has no free option, but the superior quality of service and freedom they provide is more than worth the cost. Additionally, when it comes to paid plans, AWeber is actually cheaper than MailChimp if you happen to have a large number of subscribers. There’s really no reason not to go with AWeber.
Click here to sign up with AWeber.
2. Install the Magic Action Box plugin for WordPress.
Integrating AWeber with a WordPress blog is a pain in the ass. The native sign-up forms that AWeber gives you look amateurish and ugly, particularly when combined with the sleek, slick web page elements that WordPress features. Save yourself the headache and get the Magic Action Box plugin, which allows you to create visually attractive sign-up forms and automatically place them at the ends of your posts (or elsewhere on your site). I use Magic Action Box, as does Roosh (for both his blog and Return of Kings) and Halfbreed, so you can see the results for yourself.
3. Offer your readers an incentive to sign up to your mailing list.
You can’t just post a sign-up form and expect that people will care: you need to offer something unique that will encourage them to hand over their email addresses. The easiest way to do this is with a free e-book or some similar bonus that is only available through the newsletter. In my case, I offer The Online Hustler Quickstart Guide, a brief e-book on how to start a blog and make money quickly, as a free download for those who sign up for my mailing list. What you offer doesn’t even have to be that original—for example, the “Free Text Messaging Guide” that Roosh offers to Return of Kings email subscribers is actually an excerpt from his book Bang—so long as the only way your readers can get it is by signing up.
4. If you have your own online bookstore, integrate it with AWeber.
One of the easiest ways to increase your book sales is to use your online bookstore to grow your mailing list. If someone buys one of your books, you already know that they’ll be open to buying any books you purchase in the future. In this vein, use e-Junkie to auto-capture the emails of anyone who buys one of your books and send them over to your AWeber newsletter. For example, anyone who purchases a book from MattForneyBooks.com is automatically signed up for my mailing list. This will enable you to increase your sales and your profit.
5. Keep in touch with your subscribers, but don’t overdo it.
Leads are useless if you don’t use them. Once you have people signing up for your mailing list, keep in touch with them by writing a monthly or biweekly newsletter. For example, I send out newsletters every other week with a list of the best articles I’ve published at my blog recently. I also email my subscribers whenever I release a new book or put an existing book on sale. Mike at Danger & Play emails his subscribers whenever he publishes a particularly important post, and Roosh emails Return of Kings subscribers twice monthly with a list of the best recent posts on the site.
However, you cannot abuse your leads.
Flooding your readers’ inboxes with letters will not only turn them off, it could potentially get you banned from AWeber (or whatever mailing list provider you use). Don’t do this. Keep your interactions with your audience frequent but not too frequent so they don’t feel like you’re assaulting them with time-wasting garbage.
This brief guide will set you on the path of increasing your readership and your blog earnings. As always, there’s a lot more than I can cover in a single article, but the basic information here will get you moving. Good luck.
Read Next: How to Create Your Own Online Bookstore
If you liked this post then you’ll like Confessions of an Online Hustler, my 140-page book that teaches you how to create a blog that will make you money. It contains writing and web design tips, strategies for getting readers, and debunks myths perpetuated by online scammers. Click here to learn more.