Email is back!
Earlier in the week I mentioned that one of the emerging themes in the monetization sessions at Blog World Expo was the idea of membership sites as a way to make an income from a blog.
The other theme that emerged in a number of the sessions was that many bloggers were placing increased attention on the medium of email as a way to communicate with readers.
Email is back!
Actually email never really went away – but it’s back on the radar of many bloggers after a swing over the last few years away from it in favour of other mediums such as RSS.
RSS feeds are far from being dead as a way to communicate with readers but while some saw the advances in feeds and feed readers as an email killer many entrepreneurial bloggers are now realising that perhaps they should not have given up on email.
I shared on at least one of the panels that I was on at BWE how email on my photography blog is much more effective than RSS on a number of fronts:
1. The Numbers Speak for Themselves
On DPS I currently have a total of 340,784 subscribers. 223,081 of these subscribe via email – 117,703 of them subscribe via RSS. That’s a 2:1(ish) ratio. While this ratio will vary from site to site considerably (depending upon the niche) I’d guess that on most blogs it’d be similar – the exception possibly being sites with a more techy/social media focus.
2. Email Drives Great Traffic
The days I send out Newsletters are the biggest days of traffic on the site. I shared this graphic a few months ago but here’s the traffic to the blog area of my site on newsletter days (it’s pretty obvious which days the newsletters went out):
RSS certainly does drive traffic – however it is less – probably because most people read the content in their feed reader.
3. Email subscribers are monetizing better than other subscribers with onsite advertising
One of the interesting things that also happens on newsletter days is that the rate that people seem to click on ads also seems to go up slightly. This was a surprise to me when I first saw it because I would have thought that subscribers who visit the blog each week would become blind to the ads but the CTR (click through rate) on my AdSense ads goes up on newsletter days. Here’s a quick screen grab of total AdSense revenue on the DPS blog – again you can see the rises for newsletter days.
4. Email Also Monetizes Better with other Income Streams
Not only does AdSense income increase on newsletter days but I’m finding that other monetization strategies also work well in the newsletter. Three come to mind:
- Affiliate promotions have worked really well in newsletter for me. I’ve tested this a number of times by posting a blog post about a product I’m promoting and sending an email about the product. In every instance that I’ve tested it the newsletter wins hands down. The best performing affiliate promotions actually work best where you do a blog post AND an email promotion – but without the email component I find I’m definitely leaving money on the table every time.
- Product Launches - if you have your own product to launch I find that in a similar way to how affiliate promotions work best in emails – so too does selling your own stuff. Again – posting both on your blog and via email (and in other places like twitter) can help increase sales further but email is crucial in driving sales.
- Direct Ad Sales – lastly the few times that I’ve sold ads in my newsletter to direct advertisers I’ve had very good feedback from the advertisers. We ran a big promotion both on our blog and in our newsletter earlier in the year for a big computer brand and the feedback we got was that the campaign was most effective on newsletter day from clicks from within the email.
5. Email is Personal and Builds Community
There is something about a regular email newsletter that just seems to make people feel more connected to you. I find it hard to put my finger why but there’s something about receiving a good email that just seems more powerful than reading a good blog post via an RSS feed. It just seems a little more personal, more special.
Perhaps it is because RSS is generally read in an RSS feed reader where there are hundreds of competing posts to be read or perhaps it is because an email is delivered into an inbox filled with more personal communications or perhaps it is because when someone signs up for an email they have to give you something personal – their address – whereas with RSS they don’t have to reveal anything about themselves.
I’m not sure WHY it is the case – but every week I get people emailing me to thank me for the emails I send them. I’ve never had anyone thank me for my RSS feed….
The newsletters I send do more than drive traffic and make money – they seem to make people feel as though they belong. To get an email someone has to sign up – they become a member of sorts and this is reflected in the emails that they send me that talk about ‘our site’.
6. Email is more Accessible
I only really started to experiment with email because someone in my family asked me how they could get updates from my photography blog. When I told them about RSS they stared back at me with a blank face. I added an email option and they immediately subscribed.
If you only offer RSS as a way to access your site’s information you’re excluding my family member and probably a lot of other people too.
For this reason I advise giving people a variety of ways to get updates whether it be RSS, daily emails, weekly emails, Twitter updates…. whatever is relevant for your audience.
Don’t Forget about RSS
I don’t want this post to be seen as writing off RSS. It’s an amazing technology and is still really important to my own sites. It too drives traffic, makes money, reinforces brand etc – all I guess I’m arguing is that bloggers take a 2nd look at email.
My personal approach is to have multiple points of connection with readers which reinforces what I’m doing on my sites and maximise the impression that I’m able to make upon them.
How I Use Email
Tomorrow I want to continue this focus upon email to talk about how I use email newsletters to achieve some of the above things. While you can set up tools to just automatically send out emails at predefined intervals to those that subscribe to your blog you can actually take it to the next level and set up a system that is much much more effective.
Tomorrow I’ll walk you through the emails that I send to my newsletter list and share with you some of the techniques that I’ve found that work to drive traffic and make money.
UPDATE: part 2 is now live at How I use email newsletters to Drive Traffic and Make Money.