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3 Strategies that Brought Me 11,710 Subscribers in Six Months [Case Study]

This guest post is by Mary Jaksch of Write to Done.

Imagine boosting your subscriber count by more than 50.7% in under six months.

You’d like that, wouldn’t you?

Okay, so if your blog has only about 200 subscribers, growing by more than 50% in under six months isn’t a big deal. However, it’s harder to achieve neck-snapping growth on an established blog.

Yet a combination of three booster strategies lifted Write to Done from 23,120 to 34,830 subscribers in under six months.

I’m not talking of becoming a guest-posting machine, like Danny Iny, who fired off 119 guest posts in the last nine months, or of becoming a heroic blogger like Leo Babauta. He kickstarted Zen Habits by writing five posts a week, plus five guest posts (whilst holding down a full-time job and raising a family of six kids). You wonder when these guys found time to sleep…

The number one challenge

Ask any blogger, and they’ll tell you that gaining more subscribers is their number one challenge.

My first blog, Goodlife ZEN, had an initial growth rate of … well, near zero. At the end of the second month I was so desperate, I subscribed my cat Sweetie. That made three subscribers: my son, by best friend, and my cat.

Like many newbie bloggers I asked myself: how can I gain more subscribers?

The root of the problem is that in order to grow your blog, you need traffic. But not just any traffic.

You need resonant traffic. You need the people who visit your blog to resonate with your content.

When I decided to rejuvenate Write to Done—the writers’ blog originally started by Leo Babauta—the challenge I faced was to lift this established blog into a new orbit. A combination of  three booster strategies did the trick.

How to put a rocket under your blog

The booster strategies I’m talking about are simple to implement, don’t take much time and effort, and they work—no matter how big or small your blog may be.

Strategy #1: Run an event on your blog

Running an event on your blog can create a buzz and draw resonant traffic—especially if you involve other bloggers.

I experimented with this strategy early on, when I launched the “Blog with Heart” competition on Goodlife ZEN a couple of years ago. The idea behind this competition was to get other blogs to participate in creating competing lending teams for the microlending charity Kiva.

The blog that raised the most money (relative to its subscriber numbers) was declared the winner. We raised over $16,000 during this campaign and subscriber numbers on Goodlife ZEN rose dramatically.

Later on, I created From Fab to Fit: the Great Fitness Challenge, an event that created a host of new followers.

There are many different kinds of events you can run on a blog. For example, you can run charity drives, competitions, challenges, or projects on your blog.

Another great example is Courtney Carver’s Minimalist Fashion Project 303. When Courtney casually mentioned the idea of a minimalist fashion challenge to me over a late-night cup of coffee in San Francisco,  I got so excited I jumped up and swept my cup off the table! Now Courtney’s blog Be More With Less is booming and the movement has spawned a Facebook page with over  3,300 Likes.

On Write to Done, I was able to utilize a ready-made event: our annual contest, the Top 10 Blogs for Writers. As part of the booster combo, we decided to run the Top 10 Blogs for Writers contest in November and December of 2011, integrating it with the two other booster strategies. We received 2,174 nominations, and traffic came pouring in.

But traffic isn’t enough to grow a subscriber base.

Reader habits have changed on the Net. Subscribing used to be a slow courtship where readers returned to a blog repeatedly before deciding to subscribe.

These days it’s more like speed-dating: you only have a few moments to turn an interested glance into a lasting relationship.

Great content, arresting headlines, and an attractive design used to be enough to grow your blog. But now you need something else to turn a first-time visitor into a subscriber.

Which brings me to the next strategy.

Strategy 2: Offer a subscription reward

If you want to turn visitors into subscribers as soon as they visit your blog, offer them a subscription reward. This could be a report, an ebook, a couple of videos, a short course, an app, or anything else that your readers would find extremely useful.

An easy solution is to compile an ebook from your best posts. This is what we did on Write to Done: we created The (nearly) Ultimate Guide to Better Writing.

You can also create a bundle of free ebooks, videos and podcasts. An example is The Blogger’s Toolbox. Another nifty way to create a subscriber reward is to invite other bloggers to contribute to an ebook.

The delivery method depends on how your subscriptions are set up. If you use an email responder service, like Aweber or Mailchimp, the delivery is pretty straightforward: create a follow-up email that goes out automatically as soon as someone confirms their subscription. The follow-up email should contain a link to a delivery page.

If you use Feedburner for subscriptions, use a plugin called RSS Footer. The plugin will put a link to your delivery page at the bottom of every post delivered by Feedburner, whether it’s by email or by RSS. You’ll need to tell your readers that the link to their freebie will be at the bottom of the next post they receive by email or in their RSS reader.

Strategy 3: Launch a product

Whenever you launch a product on your blog, you generate excitement. The excitement is generated in the run-up to the launch. The key is to foreshadow the arrival of the new product so that your readers look forward to it.

I recently asked Jon Morrow when you should start telling readers about a new product. He said, “Tell them about it as soon as you have the idea!”

Here’s an example of how a launch boosted subscriber numbers: Scott Dinsmore used a product launch to revitalize his blog,  Live Your Legend, with great results. Watch the video of an interview with Corbett Barr where Scott explains how he doubled his readership during the launch.

On Write to Done, we decided to create a launch for our ebook, The (nearly) Ultimate Guide to Better Writing in order to drive traffic to the blog.

How the strategy combo works

We combined three booster strategies: creating an ebook as a subscriber reward, launching the ebook, and running an event. This gave Write to Done the momentum to grow by 50.7% in under six months.

If you want to grow your subscriber numbers dramatically, create a booster campaign in five steps:

  1. Produce the product you want to offer as a subscriber reward.
  2. Plan your event and invite other bloggers to join in.
  3. Get your subscriber reward in place with signup forms and delivery page.
  4. Launch your product.
  5. Run your event.

If you follow these steps, you’ll be able to take advantage of the traffic surge created by your event and the product launch.

Just make sure that your event is in tune with your blog topic so that you generate resonant traffic. This means that  people who swing by your blog will be more likely to turn into subscribers—especially if you offer them a useful product in return for subscribing.

What growth strategies have you tried on your blog? Did they work? Please share them with us in the comments.

Want to improve your writing? Check out Write to Done and enjoy more posts by Mary Jaksch. You’ll also find The Blogger’s Toolbox insanely useful.

About Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above. If you'd like to guest post for ProBlogger check out our Write for ProBlogger page for details about how YOU can share your tips with our community.

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Comments

  1. Now these are some definitely some awesome strategies! I really am going to implement the event one. All I now have to do is find the partners. This is great Mary!

  2. Kumar Gauraw says:

    This is an awesome idea. All the three strategies combined can definitely boost the blog’s subscriber base, I have no doubt. We have tried this option on a couple of our blogs and saw a dramatic increase in subscriber base.

    However, one thing I would like to add is, consistency is also important. What that means is – the cycle of running these events need to be repeated to keep revitalizing the subscriber base.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Samuel says:

    Nice. It is great that this strategy has worked for you.

    I can take certain aspects of this strategy and implement them myself.

    Good work.

    • The key is to take action. Most people just read something like this but don’t take action. I look forward to hearing how you go with this, Samuel.

  4. jared akers says:

    Great list Mary, thanks for sharing. I used the product launch strategy a few months ago when releasing a book and it certainly helped increase my numbers (and thanks to you ;-). But nothing works as well as consistency, hard work, and patience. I’m also working on the “be everywhere” concept (my wife and I’s podcast as an example). It’s hard to know now many people sign up for my list because of it, but it certainly reaches a different audience.

  5. Ehsan Ullah says:

    Thanks for the informative post Mary,

    One question which is rounding in my mind from 2 month is that can I copy some of the posts from my own blog to my E-book?

    I mean can I take some of my posts to put on my E-book?

    • Sure! If you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ll have a treasure-chest of posts to choose from. On Write to Done, we created our eBook “The (nearly) Ultimate Guide to Better Writing’ by collating some of our best posts. New subscribers get the book as a ‘thank you’ for subscribing. We’ll now publish it on Kindle.

      • Ehsan Ullah says:

        But I heard that it is illegal to completely copy thd post from blog to E-book?

        • Jason says:

          Ehsan, if it’s your material on your blog, you can do whatever you want with it. It would be illegal (or at least super shady) to take someone else’s stuff (unless they gave you permission or leave it public like Leo Babauta).

          You’ve got the copyright on your work, so you should be able to do with it what you want!

          -j

  6. Thanks for this strategy.

    The new product idea is very good!!

  7. Wade says:

    These are great tips to build a list. Most people think that making money is the most important thing to do when you start a site…however, they don’t realize that most people want to learn more things when they come to your blog.

    Building your list is important because you don’t have to rely on internet traffic to make money. You’re reader is the most important thing to your site…and so is your list!

  8. Ian Hilton says:

    I really need to implement the event one on my blog. All I have to do is find some partners, have you an good suggestions where i can find some. This is great information Mary!
    Thankyou

  9. Great work on getting such a huge number of email list subscribers. I am curious what is your conversion rate from free email list subscriber to paying clients? I assume you are selling something to the list right? If so what is the process you have employed for selling to the list?

    Thanks

  10. @Wade: I agree- you need to crank up traffic if you want to make money on your blog. A good subscriber base is a great platform to work from.

  11. @ Kumar Gauraw: Your point about consistency is a good one. Once you’ve established an event, you can repeat it every year – and each time the effect on your blog growth will be stronger.

  12. Ishan says:

    Hi Mary,

    These are some nice tips. Learned a lot from this post. Going to try these on my blog next! :)

  13. Mary,
    Thanks for the post. Running a contest is a very effective way of increasing traffic and one that I can attest really works well since I’ve used it to build communities in the past. I think, though, that the key is to use all these elements together or in some combination and, of course, to keep experimenting since every blog and every community is different.

  14. Shane Boyd says:

    Good advice on running an event on your blog. I know that running an event works like gang busters for Facebook, but I never thought about it for my blog. You really got my juices flowing on this one. I’m putting together an event to teach kids how to be entrepreneurs. It’ll be held at our local mall and I’ll sponsors for the event and so on. It’ll be something local and small at first, but I can see it growing. Thanks for the post. You really got me thinking here.

  15. Shane Boyd says:

    Good advice on running an event on your blog. I know that running an event works like gang busters for Facebook, but I never thought about it for my blog. You really got my juices flowing on this one. I’m putting together an event to teach kids how to be entrepreneurs. It’ll be held at our local mall and It’ll sponsors for the event and so on. It’ll be something local and small at first, but I can see it growing. Thanks for the post. You really got me thinking here.

  16. I am not a guest post machine. However, at various time periods when I have time, I do contribute. I even wrote a guest post for problogger a few months ago.

    I don’t mean to sound “lazy” :-). I’ve noticed that guest posting requires less effort and more gain. Specially for a part time blogger. I remember even Leo was working fulling time when he initially got started.

    Of course, what you’ve mentioned here create a more loyal audience and is longer term.

  17. Thanks for this post. You really rocks Mary.

    Please, keep up the good work.

    Regards,
    Ahmed Safwan
    ToStartBlogging.Com

  18. rajkumar says:

    i really appreciate the third tip you shared that to create any event its really very helpful in getting good visitors and subscribers

  19. I understand that these tips can really boost your subscriber base, but I feel they are more effective with a larger audience.

    I ran a mini contest on my previous blog when I had around 300 email subscribers and that blew up to around 700 as a result, but the problem I have now is my low readership.

    I actually just launched a new video training course and only added 1 new subscriber in the last couple days, but with a larger audience it would have been much more effective.

    It’s evergreen, so it will help in the long run and I plan on running some events on my blog in the future!

    Thanks a bunch,
    -Gabe

  20. Erica Lane says:

    Mary, thank you for sharing the concept of resonant traffic. It really makes it easier for one to understand the need to focus on a narrow niche.

  21. What a great post, I just started a blog and I’m looking for ways to build my subscriber list. This post gave me some great ideas! Thanks again.

  22. Thanks for the info on the plugin for feedburner . . . we’re just starting a book launch with a free PDF sample and this is a great way to get the word out to the feedburner subscribers.

  23. Now I really to to consider to organize an event in my blog. Thanks for sharing the case studies . I’ll implenent some all the tips you shared :)

  24. Nicole says:

    Contests definitely help bring in subscribers, but then you have to hope that half of them don’t unsubscribe when it’s over. Of course, most of us (I say us because I subscribe to many sites just for the extra entry too) are too lazy to go through and unsubscribe later, so that often works in our favor. Thanks for the tips!

  25. These are all great ideas because they engage the reader. The most important thing for any blogger is to create great content. Once you have the content then you can take advantage of these ideas to gain subscribers.