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Traffic Technique 4: Subscriptions

From the marketers’ point of view, subscriptions are a loyalty mechanism—they’re the first technique we’ve looked at that’s most often used to build repeat traffic from people who have already visited your blog, and like it.

dPS subscription options

If they like it so much, why do they need to be reminded to come back? Well, we’re all forgetful—and we know it! By subscribing, we can make sure we never miss a post from our favorite blogs. We stay up to date on all the news, perhaps even becoming part of a community, making friends, and connecting with people.

Subscriptions can take a number of forms, but the three most common are probably these:

  • email newsletters (which, as I’ve mentioned, have been invaluable to me in growing my blogs and making money from them)
  • email autoresponder sequences (for example, a course broken into instalments and emailed weekly)
  • a forum or membership area of your site
  • RSS feeds.

Of course, subscriptions aren’t just for loyal readers—they can also be used to engage brand new readers, which makes this traffic tactic very versatile.

The one thing that you will need, though, if your subscription call to action is going to work, is that the reader has to see it, and to do that, they’ll need to be on your blog.

Your blog: the proof of your subscription’s value

Whether you attract would-be subscribers to your blog through search, content marketing, advertising, or some other technique, it’s important to remember that your blog is the most common reason those people will subscribe.

Sure, they might like what you have to say on Twitter, or enjoy your pins on Pinterest, but they don’t need to subscribe to your blog to stay up-to-date with your news on those platforms. When you think about it, asking a subscriber to add a new subscription to their list—given the plethora of memberships we all have these days—is a pretty big deal. So we need to treat it as such.

As we’ll see in a moment, a subscription is a great opportunity for bloggers to meet audience’s specific, deep needs. That said, if your site doesn’t already deliver on those needs—or their precursors-in some way, you may have trouble gaining those subscribers.

Your first job is elementary: make sure your site looks professional, trustworthy, and responsive to would-be subscribers. Does it reflect their values, interests, and needs? Does it speak to them clearly and directly? Can they see at a glance the kind of value they’ll get from your blog?

If so, you’re onto something.

Your next step is to get that subscription call to action in front of them, and make sure it touches on those needs you’ve already helped them identify. This comes down to copy lines and subscription boxes—but don’t overlook tactics like providing informational pages about your subscription offering, and sample content from the subscriber material, to further entice users.

Remember: you want to make it a no-brainer for them to subscribe. Don’t leave them guessing the value they’ll get from you. In my experience, your best bet is to show it to them.

My latest project, SnapnDeals, is a really simple example. The home page header tells you the site’s purpose—what it offers you. A little scrolling shows you a sample of the details of that offer. And at the page’s bottom, you see this subscribe box.

SnapnDeals signup box

It’s very simple, but as you can see, when you get to the subscription box, there’s no doubt as to what you’ll get in the subscription. The call to action just drives that home.

On the other hand, the dPS site offers two kinds of email newsletters, and we’ve developed a brief informational lightbox to explain the differences between them.

dPS signup box

Within the context provided by the homepage, this information gives a clear idea of what’s included in the subscription.

dPS homepage

For this reason, in-context signup CTAs tend to do very well on my sites. But if you’re having trouble converting readers to subscribers, see our series on conversion optimization for help.

Beyond the signup

Many bloggers focus heavily on getting the subscription. That’s fine—it makes sense—but to grow your list, you really need to deliver consistently outstanding value through the subscription itself.

Moreover, to generate blog traffic from those subscribers, you need to give them no-brainer reasons to click those links you’ve included in the email or RSS feed and come through to your blog, or spend more time clicking around your forums and engaging with the others they find there.

When we look at subscriptions from the blogger’s point of view, that’s what we see: subscription packages give us the opportunity to deliver content that’s really outstanding. It needs to be outstanding to make the subscription worthwhile and meaningful for your readers in the first place. But a subscription offer gives you the chance to get more deeply into topics that are particularly important, deep, complex, or interesting to your readers.

To take this one step further, if you want your subscribed users to actively use that subscription, your subscription material needs to continually reward them for subscribing. It has to anticipate their questions, preempt their needs, and solve problems they don’t even know they have. That sounds like a big challenge, but if you’re the kind of blogger who loves engaging with readers and knows what they want, this will become almost second-nature to you over time.

The easiest way to fulfil those needs is to encourage your subscribers to look at more of your content—through links, cross-references, and ongoing discussions through your posts and in the comments (if you have those turned on). Subscriptions give us a forum to reformulate and recast our existing content by showing readers how it meets needs they weren’t aware of, or, together with other pieces from our blog, provides insight they seek.

Finally, if the subscription is time-limited (for example, your offer is a series of four emails that teach subscribers how to do something), you should really aim to follow it up with something that’s even more compelling at the end of that timeframe. Don’t just let readers languish after the subscription material ends: you have an engaged audience at your fingertips. You could:

  • send them a survey asking for feedback on the subscription
  • up-sell them to a product or service that relates to what they’ve just learned
  • cross-promote another subscription product or offer that may interest them.

Don’t be satisfied with the fact that you know have this person’s email address on your list—keep rewarding them for subscribing with more and more value, and they’ll keep coming back. In this way, those valuable subscribers can form the bedrock of traffic from which you can build new visitor numbers, and traffic growth, upon.

Do you use subscriptions to grow traffic to your blog? Tell us how in the comments.

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. Samuel says:

    Subscriptions are something I really need to dig deep into.

    My blog is now focusing on building the social profiles, which can act as some sort of subscription.

  2. J. Delancy says:

    Nice post. After two months of blogging I got my first subscriber, I don’t know whether to be proud or sad, but for now I’m quite happy about it.

  3. Alan Tay says:

    I use giveaway ebooks for subscription which is what bloggers out there are doing. However I was wondering if giving away something for subscription, will it reduce the quality of subscribers? This is because I realized that my open rate and click rate is pretty low, less than 50% of open rate. What you guys think?

  4. Andy says:

    Having subscribers is great achievement and best way to show that how much your blog is popular and liked by the masses. but getting subscribers is not an easy task from any angle, you have to be very informative and updated for that.

  5. Ehsan Ullah says:

    Hi Darren,

    Thanks for the tips. I’m using social media technique on my blog and it has been 3 months now I’m planning to start email marketing, but don’t know where to start. If you have some good posts or series regarding email marketing or building email list, can you please point here?

  6. As noted above, Getting subscriptions is not easy . However, what seems to work is asking readers to subscribe immediately after reading a great content, and telling them more of such great content will follow…

    I think people won’t mind giving up their emails for great articles. On my blog, thenp subscription slot below articles out Perform those by the side bars. So it means people want more of great content…

    Just asking people to subscribe will attract the question, what for? This question gets answered after they have read good pieces on your blog.

  7. Kathleen says:

    It has been very hard for me to convert Facebook “Likes” to subscribers. Even when I do a post on Facebook explaining how to Subscribe to the blog, (with a screen shot). A lot of readers will click “like” on the post, but still won’t subscribe to the blog.

  8. pradeepf says:

    yeah we are also using subscribe2 plugin for wordpress for building subscriptions for new posts.Helps build loyal readers as well :)

  9. Wade says:

    A new blogger should always learn right away that they need to build a list of subscribers. This is probably one of the most important things that you can learn when you first start to blog. A lot of new bloggers get dollar signs in their head with trying to make money right away.

    In fact, keeping in mind that building your list is the most important thing…why? Because your reader is the most important thing to anyone’s blog! One great thing about having a big list is that you don’t have to rely on search engines traffic all the time to make money. If you have a big list of subscribers then you can give a great product to them.

    Once you do get a list, you shouldn’t give them crap products! Remember, they are you’re most important thing to your blog…give them something that you would use yourself. This way you can tell them about it from your perspective in your email.

  10. I actually just released a brand new 4 day video course in exchange for joining my list, and I’m curious to see how it converts versus the previous offer of “Free Updates” which was working strangely well.

    On day 5 I ask subscribers to email me back and let me know if they were able to set everything up. Subscribers are valuable so it’s important to treat them that way!

    Thanks a bunch,
    -Gabe

  11. Stanley Rao says:

    subscriptions are the ones that play an important role here