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:
- Produce the product you want to offer as a subscriber reward.
- Plan your event and invite other bloggers to join in.
- Get your subscriber reward in place with signup forms and delivery page.
- Launch your product.
- 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.