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How 24 Hours of Work Will Send Millions of Readers to My Blog

I have written numerous times about how I use weekly email newsletters to drive significant traffic to my photography site (here’s why newsletters are good and here’s how to use newsletters).

However lately I have started using a second type of newsletter that in time has the potential to send even more traffic. In fact initial testing shows me that it’ll literally send millions of readers over time.

The way I use my normal weekly newsletters is to send an email to my list every Thursday that updates them on the latest posts on the blog and ‘hot threads of conversation’ in the forum.

The second type of newsletter (I’ll call it a ‘special feature‘ newsletter from now on) is quite different.

The idea behind this ‘special feature’ type of newsletter is that it is much more automated than the weekly emails that I send. It takes a little work to set it up – but once you’ve done that you just sit back and watch it do it’s ‘magic’.

Here’s how it works. There are two ways that these special feature emails are different from the weekly updates that I send.

1. The first difference is Topic

These newsletters are not updates of new posts on the blog – but they are much more focused upon a ‘theme’ and point readers to old posts in our archives.

For example – the first of these newsletters focused upon the theme of ‘portrait photography’ (you can view what it is like here). In it I pointed readers to 18 of our best portrait photography posts from the last two years on the blog. I also pointed people to the portrait section of our forum as well as some recommended reading (books) at Amazon. There’s also a ‘recommend to a friend’ invitation – interestingly I have seen it’s been used a few times already).

You can see a what my newsletter looks like here (click to enlarge):

portrait-photography-newsletter.jpg
The idea behind this email is that it brings alive our archives – which are often hidden to new readers of the blog.

2. The second difference is HOW I send the Emails

OK – the real magic of these special feature emails is not the content – but the way that the emails are sent. While weekly emails go out to my list all at once and the benefits from them dies off after a day or two – these special feature emails just keep on giving and giving for months and even years to come. Here’s how:

I use Aweber to send my emails (here’s why I use Aweber). Aweber gives you the ability to send a variety of types of emails. I use their ‘broadcast’ type email for my weekly updates – but for these special feature newsletters I use the ‘autoresponder’ (Aweber also call it a ‘Follow Up’ email) type of email.

Note: Other bloggers that I respect use Get Response to deliver their emails – I’m yet to use it but by all reports it is a feature rich and very reliable option.

An autoresponder is a tool that allows you to send out emails at certain predetermined intervals to people on your list. Let me explain by going back to my portrait photography example:

I set my email not to go out immediately to my list – but for it to go out 2 weeks after subscribers sign up to receive newsletters. This means that if you sign up for my photography newsletter today – that you’ll get the portrait tips newsletter in 14 days time. It also means that anyone who has signed up for my newsletter at any point in the past before 14 days ago got the email immediately.

What this means is that everyone on my list gets the email – but unlike my weekly newsletters which only go out to anyone currently signed up – these special feature newsletters go out to anyone that signs up for my newsletter at any point in the future.

As I’m getting 300 new signups to my newsletter a day at present – this means that my portraits newsletter goes out to my 57,000 current subscribers but will go out to the 110,000 subscribers who sign up in the next 12 months (300 a day)… and hundreds of thousands of others in the years that follow.

The initial tracking that I’ve done is that 86% of those who get these emails are opening them and clicking on at least one link.

But Wait There’s More – Here’s How to Extend the Idea

OK – so I’ve set up this portraits newsletter and the 2 hours that it took me to build it are going to pay off for years to come. But how can I extend this idea further?

My plan is to develop a new special feature newsletter every month. So 30 days after readers receive their Portrait Photography special feature they’ll receive another one – on Travel Photography. 30 days after they get the travel photography one they’ll get one on Exposure/Settings, 30 days later they’ll get one on Composition….. etc

Over a year I’ll have 12 special feature newsletters in place.

Do the sums on this and when they are all in place the amount of people getting special feature emails on a daily basis will be 3600. Add to this the current 57,000 people on my list and over the next few years millions of people will get these newsletters.

If I can achieve the 86% open rate with them – that’ll drive millions of visitors to the blog and forum.

I’d estimate that each of these emails will take me 2 hours to put together – so 12 of them will take me 24 hours. Considering that they’ll continue to drive traffic to the site for years to come – I’d say that this is a pretty good use of time.

Of course this is not just about driving traffic to the blog – it’s also about giving readers value and a service (which builds loyalty and brand) as well as promoting affiliate products in the newsletters (and I could potentially sell advertising in them also). I think this type of newsletter has real potential with affiliate programs as each newsletter is focused upon a single topic and if you can match a good product with that topic in terms of relevancy I suspect conversion will be quite good.

Note: of course the results I’m getting with these newsletters have been the result of me building up a blog for 2 years. I already have a large list of subscribers and a lot of traffic coming to the blog. However the same principles can be applied to a blog with smaller traffic also. If you can sign up 10 new people to your list every day and have 12 monthly newsletters in place – at the end of the year you’ll have a list of 3650 and you’ll be sending out tens of thousands of emails a year.

The key is to start building and communicating with a newsletter list now.

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. Good idea. I’m considering starting a newsletter for my blogs.

  2. TheScrutiniser says:

    ‘millions’?

    That’s some leap of logic, or spin.

  3. Louis Liem says:

    That’s a great feature Aweber is offering! By the way, the link on the sentence “For example – the first of these newsletters focused upon the theme of ‘portrait photography’ (you can view what it is like here)” seems to be missing.

  4. Tim_H says:

    That’s a really cool and innovative idea. I wonder how I could apply it to my comics blog, a setting in which I’m less teaching and more reviewing/reacting/ranting about my subject matter.

  5. Darren this is really good advice!

    I have been experimenting with various ways to get traffic using my email list and what you have outlined is the best way to get traffic that I have found.

    The say “the money is in the list”. Well I think we could also say “the traffic is in the list”.

    One question: Why only do the special feature once a month?

    Why not once a week? Or every other week? This would send even more traffic.

    Just curious.

    Thanks for another fantastic post.


    Nick Stewart

  6. Tim_H says:

    @TheScrutiniser
    I don’t think I’d call it spin so much as extrapolation.

  7. Wow great post Darren! Will definitly be using this for my website!

  8. Newsletters rock – and aweber is the best way to deliver them! I recently sent out affiliate commissions on an info product. One was promoted via a VERY popular blog – the other was promoted by an affiliate who has a blog that is VERY obscure but had a newsletter with hundreds of subscribers.

    The affiliate commission I sent to the newsletter owner was TWICE the size of the affiliate commission I sent to the blog owner.

    Thanks for sharing this Darren!

  9. David Risley says:

    Great idea. @Tim_H, Could be done with a blog on pretty much any topic, I would imagine.

  10. Andrea Hill says:

    Wow, great idea, thank you for sharing.

    The idea of driving people back into the archives is great: too often I think our traffic of “what’s most popular” is more correlated with when it was published than the content itself.

    I also like the idea of using the “follow-up” as a way to set up a series, like a training. The one drawback I see sometimes with blogs is the chronological order: it can be hard to start at the beginning. Using email newsletters in this way can set you on a repeatable series of broadcasts that make sense in a specific order.

    Hmmm.. something to look into, for sure!

  11. Tumblemoose says:

    The key to success in a competitive market and a shrinking global economy is: Value Added

    This pretty much sums up that concept.

    Consider this page bookmarked.

    Cheers

    George

  12. Deceth says:

    I for one welcome our ingenious newsletter overlords.

  13. Young says:

    It’s just a dream.

  14. Bloggeries says:

    Great post! I have a large mailing list that I don’t send newsletters to as often as I should or as detailed as I should. Bookmarked for further reference as I know it is something I should be more actively engaging in.

    Thanks!

  15. I don’t have a newsletter at this point but I can see how this concept can be viral. It’s like you tell 2 friends and they tell 2 friends and they tell 2 friends and so on and so on. Do you do the same feature type newsletter with Problogger?

  16. Toma Bonciu says:

    Hi,

    This really offers a new perspective on what you can do with a newsletter. This can go beyond the classical newsletter and can open new channels of communicating with your readers. Esp if what you send to your readers is something different then just the latest posts on your blog.

    Thank you,
    WebOptimization on Twitter

  17. Great advice once again Darren. Once I can justify the Aweber costs on my blog, I’ll definitely look into this!

  18. James says:

    Sounds good. I really like the sound of the features of Aweber….It’s just hard to decide to take the plunge and start using the service with a small group of recipients for the price that it costs.
    Maybe I need to take the plunge soon!

    James

  19. Jon Haarstad says:

    Fantastic ideas! It brings an automated sense of personal service (an unusual combination) that I can see really adding to the loyalty I’m sure this blog already has. I use a different service for my newsletter…and am wondering if they offer similar functionality.

  20. If you can create high-quality newsletters in two hours, more power to you. I’m guessing it would take the average Joe about 3 days to come up with a decent-looking newsletter that will not be perceived as spam by the readers. That sort of changes the whole math.

    Again, if you can pull it off with 2 hours of work, then maybe that explains why you are #1.

  21. Shafar says:

    Hmmmm… Tough Task :)

  22. Nishu says:

    Hi Darren

    Well-calculated approach and kudos to your efforts and wits.

    best
    nishu

  23. Great ideal. I send out newslettes but it get harder each time to send out one montly and i have thought about the new subscribers- but did not know what to do with them. This is a great ideal. It is on my to do list.

    Thanks,
    Alease

  24. This would seem to work well on blogs that have a good archive of old posts on a certain topic.

    I will have to keep this in mind for when my blog grows in size.

  25. Rahul says:

    Millions is quite a good number. Well if you are projecting it to be in millions then it should be true. We don’t have a newsletter at this point of time.

    @ young: It might be just a dream for us but its is a reality for Darren and problogger.

  26. Avi Marcus says:
  27. PT says:

    Great product, Darren. If anything this taught me I should shoot to have 18 (or maybe just 10) quality themed posts on my own blog so that newsletters like this are possible one day. Nice concept. Good luck with it.

  28. Rohit says:

    That’s why we call you a problogger. A true professional at work. :)

  29. sportsed says:

    Why would that plan equate to millions of readers? The 60, 70 thousand or so who will get the first time-lapsed email will be the same 60 or 70 thou who get each subsequent one.

    It’s not like this plan multiplies the number of people who get your newsletter or see your site. You may see spikes in traffic from these delayed newsletters but not new users.

    Or maybe I’m way off.

  30. Laura Roeder says:

    Fantastic idea, there’s no reason that every blog with at least a year of good content can’t do this. Even if you have content that is timely you could do a “look back” kind of thing. Like here’s everything we said about the election, let’s see if we were right or wrong!

  31. Brian says:

    Wow – this is an amazing system. Thanks for bringing this idea to light. I will absolutely be using this for my Songwriting and Production blog!

    …first I’ll need to find subscribers though ; )

  32. edwingt says:

    Amazing idea, thanks for sharing it with us.
    Always great info in your blog, thanks again.

  33. Bill Parlaman says:

    Darren,

    When someone signs up for your newsletter you said it take 14 days for them to get it correct?

    Do you have any auto responders in the meantime like a thank you letter, what to expect in the coming weeks etc…?

    I’m think you might want to touch your subscribers at least a few times before the newsletter gets to them.

    You know, keep them fresh in their mind?

    Bill
    http://twitter.com/wparlaman

  34. Eric says:

    Yes, it’s so helpful, but we have to contact their CS Reps to order. It’s not free

  35. Guillermo says:

    If I needed a good point to use Aweber, Darren just made it!

    Thanks!

  36. Hmmm! I’ll check this out and get back to you. Would love to sell a few thousand books.

  37. Larry Eiss says:

    This is an excellent idea. I have been a subscriber to both the RSS feed and the newsletter for some time, but because the newsletter simply recaps the posts, I have gained little from it… in fact I’ll have th check, but I may have unsubscribed… hmmm

    The idea of a topical overview of the amazing content on DPS is great! Sign me up!

  38. Awesome. Newsletters are very important in generating more traffic. It’s the same reason why a lot of affiliate marketers use opt-in pages to catch e-mails. The key is to build a relationship with the readers by sending them consistent e-mails with new information. This will ensure that they come back to your site often.

  39. Tom Kulzer says:

    Another great post Darren. Awesome to see you putting our “Welcome” theme html template to such great use.

    Another thing to remember for blogs monetized via Adsense is that every time you get a visitor to come back to your site is another chance they might leave via a topical Adsense click. Each repeat visitor can be incremental increased revenue.

  40. Very tempting because this method has the potential to work really well. But I am just curious , when should a blog include that newsletter section for readers? Should blog wait until it gets a significant amount of visitors to display the newsletter option? Nevertheless, capturing emails this way is very clever since email on the net is like phone off the net.

  41. @david, it can used for anything. darren made a great point the you must give them some value to the newsletter. For example, I write more about personal development and relationships. So I can send out a featured newsletter every month about key personal development tips! Since, i photograph weddings then I can also include photographing the family during the holidays

  42. Jimson Lee says:

    Darren, that 86% open rate is coming from the “Broadcast” emails, right? With Aweber, there is no simple way of tracking the open rates of your “Follow Up” emails. (There is a way – you have to go to your “Leads” and search for all users to see who received what and when.

    This is a great idea. You can use “Blog Broadcast” to produce automated emails of your blog artciles, and then a mid month custom written newsletter using a “Follow Up” email.

    This way, everyone gets everything!

    Kewl.

  43. Jade Craven says:

    Thanks for this post :) I am really enjoying the newsletter case studies and would love to read more about them in future posts.

    i have two main sites and had been toying with setting up a newsletter. I hadn’t even thought about the feature newsletters.

    Please do follow up on this idea :) I would also be interested in seeing this apply in other niches, if any bloggers will be doing their own testing.

  44. Jimson Lee says:

    @Jade – My blog is a Track and Field (Athletics) site and I have two types of newsletters. One is time sensitive news and analysis – these are the Broadcasts. The other is a not time sensitive, like a classic coaching or training tip – these could be “Follow ups”.

    So this strategy would work.

  45. Neil Duckett says:

    What about the percentage of readers that will unsubscribe due to being inundated with more and more ‘special interest’ emails? The odd one here and there is OK but every month getting a big list of links, i’m not so sure. Still i’m sure the growth will outweigh the reduction by 10 fold.

  46. Interesting viewpoint to a newsletter. Great post.

    Looks like I have to look at implementing a newsletter on my site…

  47. Jack Reed says:

    Great idea!

    Just wondering about the newsletters being updated.

    Is there a way to automate updating these newsletters with your latest posts on the particular subject areas?

    That would be a great time saver!

    Thanks again.

  48. uwak says:

    good strategi and modif in newsletter…….great sharing darren, thanks

  49. Hi Darren;

    Brilliant idea!

    I have been using autoresponders for my newsletter for years and it is true that the first edition I send almost always had the highest open rates.

    The trick is to use content that is fresh and timeless (meaning it will not date itself after a few months or years)>

    All my best!

    Mike

  50. Surender says:

    Excellent Topics are covered here.
    Thanks Dareen.