It's a fact, email newsletters drive a lot of engagement. Both my RSS emails and my bi-weekly newsletters bring traffic and comments to my blogs, and I can track purchases readers made via affiliate links. I know and read a lot about how important email newsletters are, but I also hear a lot of confusion and frustration around newsletters for fashion bloggers: many don't think they have the time to do them, don't think they're important, or just give up too quickly after starting.
First (and easiest), start by creating an rss-to-email newsletter in Mailchimp or a similar service (I use Mailchimp and have for years, so it's the one I'm familiar with). It's free if you have under 500 subscribers, and still pretty affordable if you have more than that, but it's SO MUCH better than free services like Bloglovin' or feedburner in my opinion (although you should still provide those options to your readers). They have great customizable sign-up form widgets and links to make it super-easy for your readers to subscribe (I have a Subscribe page on my blogs and I also put links to subscribe as byline items – under the blog post name next to author name & date).
Mailchimp also has pre-designed templates for all their newsletters, all you have to do is customize them with your site's colors, header and whatever else you please. I like to include a banner ad at the top, and links to older and most popular content including an about picture and snippet at the bottom. I'm not afraid of making my newsletters like a mini version of my blog, with as much information and links as possible.
Which brings me to another oft-asked question about full or partial content in RSS feeds; yes or no?
I am on the side of giving your readers as much information as possible without their having to click through, so I've always been an advocate of full content, even if that means they don't click through to actually visit the blog.
If you've designed your newsletter with an ad or two, and your content is appealing, your readers will engage somehow, maybe by sending you a reply email, clicking on the ad, or leaving a comment. The most important thing at first is that your readers are consuming your content; it won't ALWAYS be so compelling they'll have to click through or leave a comment, but getting it in front of them in the first place is a huge win.
The great thing about the rss-to email newsletter is that you don't have to do anything else – your readers who have subscribed get an email whenever you publish a new post – but never more than once daily. And you can control when they get your email. Test out sending your email at different times of the day and see which one performs the best – then stick with that. Check in every once in a while and look at your stats and see if there's anything you can tweak to make it more appealing. In the beginning, pay particular attention to the open rate, which lets you know how many of your subscribers are actually READING your newsletter.
When you have a bit more time and can be consistent, think about creating a separate newsletter that you send out weekly, or monthly, that contains much more information as well as some exclusive content. This is more time-consuming, but again, you can use a template that will help you populate your newsletter every time, all you have to do is cut & paste. I use a separate sign-up form for my bi-weekly newsletters because it's completely different from the RSS newsletter and most of my readers tend to subscribe to one or the other. Readers who like to read everyday will do the RSS-to-email newsletter and readers who want more of a periodic digest will subscribe to the newsletter. Again, I think it's really important to have as many options available as possible for your readers to consume your content.
Don't Give Up
So you have a newsletter, but no subscribers…how do you get readers to subscribe to your newsletters?
Most importantly, make your subscription links/widgets easy to find (I personally don't like intrusive pop-up subscription boxes, but I know a lot of bloggers have success with those). When you first launch your newsletter(s) write a post about them, take a screenshot and include an image in your post to entice readers to subscribe. Also, share your newsletters via social media. You could host a giveaway as an incentive for signing up for your newsletter, but if you do that, make sure your readers know that you will be adding their email to your newsletter list. And absolutely have a clear “unsubscribe” link on your newsletter so if they want to unsubscribe it is easy to do so.
it takes time to build up a sizable newsletter subscription list – years perhaps – but once you have it, it's gold
Emails are powerful and give you the ability to reach out to your readers on a more “personal” level. If your readers are trusting you with their email address it means they are interested in what you have to say and want to enjoy it on their own time. They also don't want to miss it. Give your lists time to grow, but continue to be consistent, promote your newsletters on your blog & social media, and you will see the payoffs of using an email newsletter to engage with your readers.
[Image credit: Big Big Pixel]