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Why Email Newsletters Can Improve your Blog

One way that I’ve experimented with to build community and loyalty among readers on my blogs is to offer readers a free regular newsletter.

I’ve found that since started using newsletters that it’s added a new dimension of community to my blogs. Newsletter days have higher traffic for starters and there seems to be a growing relationship between many subscribers and myself. The newsletter isn’t the only reason for this but it’s had an impact.

Interestingly the rise of blogging has actually been the death of some newsletter publishers who have moved to blogging as a medium to communicating with readers and making an income – whilst my preferred medium is definitely blogging I see a number of benefits of combining email newsletters and blogs together as part of a wider web strategy. Let me share a few.

Benefits of using a Newsletter

• Increase Readership – in a sense what readers of your newsletter are doing is giving you permission to promote your blog to them. Whilst you need to be careful that you don’t abuse this trust that they’ve given you but making the newsletter ALL about self promotion it will allow you to generate some traffic back to your blog.

• Promotion of Posts – one of the side benefits of a newsletter is that sometimes the things you highlight in it get picked up by subscribers on their own blogs or sites. I notice here at ProBlogger that when I link to a week old post that had an initial number of links from other blogs on the day I posted that a second round of inbound links often appear after mentioning it in a newsletter. For this reason I also use my newsletters to announce new projects to readers, often given a day or two’s exclusive notice to them before going completely public.

• Build Community – newsletters have the potential to give you readers a little extra that regular readers don’t get. In the process they often feel more included as they catch a glimpse of some privileged information. I’ve included special tips or earnings updates in my newsletter that have not appeared on the wider blog for this reason and often get emails from readers thanking me for sharing them.

• Improve Your Blog - if people are interested enough to sign up for your newsletter – they are often interested enough in you to participate in improving your blog. When I went on holidays in June and needed guest bloggers to help cover my blogging it was my newsletter readers who I first went to to ask if they’d be interested in helping and it was they who mainly signed up even after I made the request a few days later on my blog. I also often get emails with suggestions for my blogs from newsletter readers after I send my weekly email out. I treat readers as investors in my blog and try to act on as many of these suggestions as possible.

• Drive Sales – Whilst I don’t use my newsletters to promote products or affiliate programs – this would be another benefit of using a newsletter. I personally don’t do it because the goal of my newsletter is not to drive sales but to get people involved in my blogging community – to visit and keep visiting my blog – however if you have a more sales driven blog then there would be possibilities here.

• Email is familiar and Easy to Use – blogging is growing in popularity and recognizability but some readers don’t naturally use them. Email is familiar and easy to use for most web users and so to use it as a medium just makes sense.

Tomorrow I’ll continue the focus upon how Email Newsletters can Improve your Blog with a post packed full of tips on how to use Email Newsletters more effectively. In the mean time – tell us what you think about newsletters? Do you use them as a blogger? Do you subscribe to them? Which are the most effective strategies you’ve seen or used?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Athomemama says:

    Two of my sites, one of which is a deals blog, and one of which is not a blog but a traditional diet site, would really benefit from a newsletter. They are community-driven and rely on affiliate links, sponsorship, and traditional pay-per-click revenue.

    My other two blogs and one other traditional site (a blog portal) might benefit in increased hits/readership, but not to the extent the deals blog and diet site would. Of course, if I go to the trouble of setting it up for the first two, I would put an opt-in on all of them.

    As such, I have been looking into this on my own just recently. I’d be interested in what you have to say about the specific ways there are to do it and how you went about starting your list.

  2. I have a blog and recently inherited a related newsletter/email list (http://chiacting.blogspot.com/ and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WaitingPatiently/ respectively). They both cover the same city/industry but different aspects. So far they seem to complement each-other. The blog being a little less topical, and on the newsletter/email list readers can also contribute. This is partly why it seems to be working: when I am not at my computer, others are at theirs and send their messages to the email list. This keeps the information very current (to the minute) and, as you mentioned, in a familiar form, which matters because blog awareness/use in my industry is not very high (most of my blog visitors don’t know it is a blog, they see it only as a website). They also cross promote each-other; blog readers become list readers/writers and list readers/writers become blog readers.

  3. Darren

    Since discovering RSS, I’ve cut down on email subscriptions. My inbox is now reduced to mostly business emails, so I’ve fewer distractions. If I want to catch up on news and blogs, I’ll fire up Bloglines.

    As you pointed out, the value-add is important in convincing people to sign up to a newsletter. And it must be greater than the potential inconvenience and the risk of getting spammed!

    However, I’ve noticed a couple of RSS feeds recently that carry advertisement images – a slightly worrying trend, quickly sorted by unsubscribing from that feed!

  4. Andy says:

    I’ve have a ‘subscribe’ form on my personal site, and have had a few signups which I’ve mailed a few times – interesting you posted this today as I had set a reminder to myself to post another letter, as I’ve got 2 new subscribers in the last few days.

    The way my personal site tends to work is as a springboard to other sites, and my subscribe page does say ‘to get more info on what’s happening on Andy Merrett’s network of sites’ – which means I can then post interesting articles from some of my other sites, without bombarding readers who signed up at andymerrett.co.uk

    This is something I want to invest more energy into. Thanks for the timely post.

  5. With a newsletter, you have to have double opt-ins, full name and address, telphone number etc, masses of compliance with American Can-Spam laws, including washing your list against Michigan and Utah exceptions list (which they charge a lot for) …. is it worth it? I doubt that many newsletter senders know that a lot of them are outside the law and, in the case of Michigan and Utah, could face lengthy prison sentences.

    With RSS, you don’t need autoresponders or compliance with complex laws. And 50% of visitors now understand it.

  6. Neil Camp says:

    I have been considering a newsletter for my sites, but I have been having a ahard time figuring out how to integrate it into my site. Darren, what software do you use for your newsletters? I am a happy subscriber to yours!

  7. Mike Sigers says:

    Thanks Darren.

    I’ve been telling other bloggers to add a list/newsletter/tip sheet to their blogs for a while now.

    We have name gathering mechanisms set up on all nine of our blogs. Not only can we update people, but when we find a must have item, it’s easy to alert our lists.

    It’s also easy to use to drive readers to a “must see” post, whether it’s ours or someone elses. If it’s ours, it’s a sure way to get clicks on the ads and it seems to encourage comments.

  8. tdfb says:

    An interesting perspective Darren. I too would like to know what software you use?

    John – Are the laws you’re referencing applicable to blogs/sites/people that provide opt-in newsletters?

  9. I’m a big proponent of email newsletters. Quite simply, if done correctly (don’t over-saturate, shorter the better and don’t do the hard push) they work.

    Have to remember that as bloggers ourselves we are pretty knowledgable on RSS and utilize them – many non-bloggers are yet to catch onto RSS and are more than happy with email newsletters.

    From my point of view I have a email newsletter subscriber to rss subscriber ratio of 14 to 1 … in other words, every 140 subscribers to my email newsletter I get 1 subscriber to my rss feed.

    I prefer rss but the numbers speak for themselves

  10. Darren – one more request for software details please! What do you use? Have you tried a couple and settled on one?

  11. tdfb: Any newsletter which carries advertising or links to advertising has to meet the Federal laws in the US, plus the State laws, Recently Michigan and Utah introduced draconian legislation to protect children from advertising and just about anything else. Non-compliance can lead to custodial sentences. There are also EU-wide laws which are equally harsh but (unhelpfully) different from the US ones. It’s quite a business these days and frankly not worth the hassle unless you have a lawyer on board. Most of the newsletters I see don’t comply to Can-Spam, nor the EU stuff, and you bet your bottom dollar they haven’t been washed against the Michigan and Utah lists.

  12. Expanding on the above, I’ll put a post on my blog on Wednesday covering the US FTC regulations and the Michigan/Utah child protection laws as they relate to email and newsletters. Find it here. But it won’t be up until Wednesday.

  13. David says:

    Peter, tdfb, Neil,

    If you’re using WordPress, I have written a plugin which will integrate it into PHPList (http://www.phplist.com)

    The plugin is at http://www.funkypenguin.co.za/wp-phplist, and you can see it in action at http://www.inspirationaljournal.com

    I use it successfully to manage my blog / subscriptions, and my email-to-rss ratio is also about 10:1

    - David

  14. SEO UK says:

    Great post :)

    So you don’t make any money from your newsletter at all, it seems strange to hear that most people wouldnt be able to resist?

  15. Email, can also get you in on some spam lists.

    Allen
    Adeo Internet Marketing

  16. Hey Darren,

    Great article! I re-posted it on my site:

    http://www.catswebweave.com/archives/159

    All the best,
    Catherine – Web Weaver

  17. Infomist SEO says:

    Buy emailing New letter more and more people comes to your blog. In this you can gain what you wants.

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