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.
9 Tips for Writing Subject Lines That Get Your Newsletters Opened
Whether you have 10 subscribers or 10,000, the subject line is the gateway to your content. Like the post title, the subject line only has a fraction of a second to capture your reader's attention, and it can make the difference between a successful newsletter and one that gets sent to the trash.
1. Short and sweeet
Email subject lines get cut off after a certain amount of characters depending on what email service your recipients are using. To make sure they get the most important information, make sure your subject lines are no longer than 60 characters. You can make them longer, but put the least important stuff at the end.
2. Identify yourself
Make sure your newsletter recipients know where your email is coming from. Sometimes your name will work if your readers know you by name, other times, it's good to stick to your blog's name. “IFB” gets more opens than “Jennine Jacob.” Maybe I need to do less “behind the scenes” type work. Heh.
4. Earn Trust: make sure your content is relevant
The quickest way to undermine your open rate is to pull crazy tricks to get opens without delivering in your content. Make sure your subject line always reflects the content of your newsletter, and they both reflect the type of content on your blog.
5. Ask a question
Asking a question is a wonderful way to pique someone's curiosity. Your questions can hint that the solutions are in your email, for example:
Is your blog traffic growing fast enough?
Then the content of your newsletter should have either a link leading to where they can find out how to grow blog traffic quickly, or offer those tips directly in the email.
6. Use Power Words
We've talked about power words before, words like “easy” and “free” are compelling words. For example:
DIY Summer Trends You Can Do For Free!
If you publish a lot of DIY's this can get your reader's attention.
7. Offer Exclusive Content
One way to get readers to look forward to your emails (and even drive subscriptions) is to offer content and services not available on your site. We used to run our “Blogger Spotlight” feature in our emails which drove a lot of opens, people looked forward to seeing who would be featured in each newsletter. You could offer deals, downloads, special content you don't offer anywhere else… the sky is the limit!
8. Numbered Lists
I have to tell you the numbered list post thing is like crack. Take the title of this post for example. Time and time again, we get not only better results, but MUCH better results from numbered lists. It's hard to do anything else, but hey, it works.
9. Test with A/B split testing
You can't know what works without testing. One way you can test, is to see how many people open your newsletter, but the most useful tool I have used is A/B split testing. Mailchimp has this with their newsletter service. It sends out two different subject lines to a small portion of your subscription list, then which ever subject line gets the most opens gets sent to the rest of the list. It's great for honing in on what exactly will resonate with your subscribers.
[Image credit: Big Big Pixel]