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How to Get Your First 1,000 Email Subscribers When Nobody Knows You

This is a guest contribution by Marya Jan, blogging coach from Writing Happiness.

What’s the biggest excuse you hear from people who are not getting the results they want from their blogging?

“I don’t know anyone online.”

Not ‘my content might not be good’. Not ‘I don’t a clear idea of what I am doing’. Not ‘I know it takes time and I am learning everything I can’.

None of that. It’s always because they don’t have any connections with the big shots.

Allow me to put up my hand and say this … I have over 1,000 subscribers (multiple times over actually) and I have done this under 18 months of blogging AND without having connections with any famous people.

I did meet Darren Rowse, Sonia Simone, Chris Garrett, Tim Ferris and Annabel Candy at the Problogger Conference in 2011 but I was so new that I was too scared to even introduce myself properly.

I am pretty sure this doesn’t count. So what does? So glad you asked.

If you are someone who has been blogging for a few months, you know how hard it is to attract readers. You spend insane amounts of time creating content but nobody takes you seriously. You hope to get a few shares, but all you hear is dead silence

You might be new-ish but you have quickly realized this reality: Blogging is hard work and sometimes it seems downright cruel..

You know honeymoon period is over

Creating quality content is getting you nowhere (assuming it is high quality) and you need a plan B. And you can’t come up with anything to save your life.

I have another suggestion. I propose that you go back and revisit your plan A. Identify loopholes, see if you could improve things so that you actually don’t need any other plans.

That’s how I did it.

Your first plan might look something like this:

  • Start a blog
  • Pick a topic
  • Identify your audience
  • Create useful content
  • Promote that content
  • Differentiate yourself from others (All of this within 2 weeks)
  • Form relationships with influencers
  • Grow your blog by leaps and bounds

So basically after about two weeks worth of work, you are relying on getting your blog off the ground by befriending people in high places.

Let me tell you, this is not a particularly smart strategy.

Through own my experience and by through coaching other clients (Yes, I am a blogging coach), I have found that most influencers won’t take you seriously unlessyou have some sort of proven record.

Your biggest fan

Image used with permission

Allow me to explain: Influencers are super busy people. They are very, very, very busy people. If you need to earn their attention, you need to prove you are worth it. So in my experience, you can have meaningful relationships with A-list bloggers but it doesn’t happen in the beginning. Not for most of us, anyway.

It takes time and lot of effort BEFORE they notice you. (And nobody will tell you this.)

If you trying to do this too early on, you are going about it in the wrong way. Instead, you should focus your time on your blog just so that you know what you are doing.

You need to do things right enough that you have a 1k subscribers worthy blog so you have the skill and confidence of approaching them properly.

So let’s have a look at the plan again, shall we?

After delivering hundreds of blog reviews and coaching many clients, I have found these to be the primary causes of why people don’t get their first 100 subscribers, let alone 1,000.

1. Poor first Impression 

Your blog looks amateurish, tacky or just plain spammy.

When someone new lands on it for the first time, they get no sense of what the blog is about, who is writing it and if it’s any good. There are too many flashy ads, or too many images, colours, links and tabs competing for attention.  The content doesn’t seem appealing. The headlines are boring, images are of poor quality, and everything is a big chunk of text.

Your blog title doesn’t tell them anything about who you are about and how you can help them. Your visitors are so confused that the only option that makes sense is to leave.

The easiest way to fix this is to make your site clutter free and get rid of all the unnecessary elements adding to the chaos. You want to make it as easy as you can for your readers to navigate.

Most people cram their sidebars with lots of information in order to look like they have been around for a while. That they know what they are doing. Please don’t. Things like tag clouds, categories, search boxes, links to other bloggers aren’t really helpful. Not really.

Don’t stuff your sidebar with ads either. I am guessing you don’t have enough traffic to make any decent money anyway.

2. Unspecified target audience

You are not making it clear who the blog is for. You are not saying to a particular group of people (maybe you aren’t sure who they are?) that this blog is for them.

For instance, let’s say you are a business coach. However this is a very general term. If you don’t make it absolutely clear that you are writing for start-ups, or small business owners, or mid sized business, or executives; you are just confusing your readers.

One great way to make it happen is to say that in your tag line or in a mini author bio that you display on the sidebar. You’ve got to have people saying, ‘Yes, this seems perfect for me.’

 3. Incomplete About page

People are really interested in person behind the blog. They want to know who that creative soul is. They want to like that person. They want to be that person.

A lot of people totally mess this up. Either they talk too much or too little.

Often they present the information in the wrong order. They start off with their story and why they write the blog and then barely touch upon how they can help you. People lose interest.

People want to know who writes this blog but more importantly they want to know why they should care.

Tell them why you are relevant to them, and follow it by your story and other details. And keep it brief.

4. Negative social proof 

One thing that will make the most difference to the number of readers you get is the display of social proof.

When people come to a place where they see others hanging out, they feel confident in making the same choice. For this reason, focus to create content that gets shared, liked and get commented on.

From day one, add credibility building elements to your site. The most popular of them all is the ‘As seen on’ testimonial. You want to land guest posts on popular blogs and then proudly display their logos on your site.

5. No point of difference

This is something that many new bloggers struggle to answer in their earlier days of blogging so I won’t say to worry too much about it. That being said, if you spend some time thinking about what makes you different from the rest, you will find it easier to create content and would be more focused in related tasks.

There are several ways to help make you stand out from the crowd.

Lady Pointing To You

Being you

This is the thing; you are the most unique thing about your blog. There is nobody else just like you, with your point of view, insights and experiences.

The more you accept that and highlight it, the more chances you will have to appeal to those who are truly the right people. So really hone in your voice and bring out that personality of yours for the world to see. People can’t get that anywhere else.

They love the snark in Ashley Ambridge’s voice. They love Danielle Laporte’s soul. They adore Darren Rowse for a kind, down to earth spirit. What’s your secret sauce?

Your purpose

Yes, you are providing solutions to somebody’s problems but why are you doing it, really? What is your big idea? What do you stand for?

Do you believe life is an adventure? Chris Guillebeau

Do you want to show people how work less and play more? Tim Ferris

Do you want people to focus on the essentials? Leo Babauta

Do you want to empower women in business and life? Marie Forleo

Do you want to offer personal development advice for smart people? Steve Palvina

If you believe in something, people will believe in you. Tell them now.

The way you dress

Your design, colours, logo, tag line, images – everything speaks volumes and appeal to a certain kind of person.

Want to attract go getters, how about choosing red or maroon in your theme? How about appealing to gentle, earth loving souls with the light green colour? Inspiration is your game then might soothing blue is what you need.

Your design needs to support your theme, mission and content and make you stronger. Marie Forleo is hip, Mars Dorian is bold, what are you?

Your offer

Your specific market, your content, the needs you solve and the exact solution you provide based on your expertise is often enough to differentiate you from others.

Derek Halpern teaches you marketing based on research findings. Corbett Barr teaches you how to get traffic because he has done it. What have you got on offer?

6. No incentive to sign up

Many new bloggers are finding it super hard to find new readers and to keep old ones also. One reason is because they don’t get them on their list. They don’t place a subscription box in a prominent position and  don’t give them any reason to subscribe.

Shouldn’t the blog itself be good enough reason? Yes, it is, but adding an incentive to your sign up box works really well.

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to just put together some old posts and offer as a freebie. One, nobody cares and even if somebody did, they won’t take you seriously.

But you don’t have to spend days or months creating something. Jon Morrow says the best opt-in offers are those that offer some sort of short cut of doing a task. A cheat sheet of sorts (His Headline Hacks is a great example).

Teach people to do one thing and do it really well. People don’t find long freebies appealing that take too long to read and would take months to implement. A report, mini ebook, white paper or a short webinar works well.

7. Lack of self promotion

Finally people never sign up because they don’t know you exist. You have to actively go out and promote yourself.

Again, you might feel compelled to remind me that that’s why you need relationships with famous bloggers so they can promote you. Let me tell you that is not the only way you can drive traffic to your blog.

You can guest post on mid-sized blogs. Often they don’t publish many guest posts so their audience might be more inclined to follow you. You can create YouTube videos, Slideshare presentations, answer questions in forums such as yahoo answers and Quora.

And no, I am not snubbing social media. But social media does take a while to work, especially if you are new. By all means participate in social media but don’t make it the main focus of your traffic generation efforts.

The point is: you have to promote a lot. Spend 20% of your time creating content for your own blog and the rest on promoting it.

Being smart or talented is not enough to build a successful blog

Then what is? Creating super useful content. Being able to stand out from the rest. And for the right people too. And to be worthy of getting some attention from A-list bloggers. Then you can approach the bloggers you worship. There is a good chance you’ll hear back.

Marya Jan is on a mission to help bloggers get their 1,000 subscribers. She is a blogging coach at Writing Happiness. Grab her free ebook ‘9 New Rules of Blogging – Grow Your Business with Little Traffic, No Connections & Limited Hours. 

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Comments

  1. Sibo says:

    By posting valid contents to popular forums like Warrior Forum and great blogs including ProBlogger, I have seen some growth of traffic to my blog, but I think it will take some some time to see more significant growth, so I try to be as patient as possible.

    Thank you for sharing all the great tips.

  2. Ian A says:

    I’m on my way! Appreciate the pointers Marya. Certainly takes some finess to pull all the pieces together.

  3. pragati says:

    Hey Marya,

    I think you got it all in a nutshell. Especially how much of a struggle new bloggers face and how hard it is to get noticed :). Great content can only reach people with good marketing. Getting over 1k subscribers is no mean feat, though.

    Looking forward to more great posts from you.

    thanks..

  4. shamsudeen says:

    Your point on trying to get the attention of the “BIG” probloggers when you’re nobody is absolutely an important lesson to take home for every new upcoming bloggers.I did make this same mistakes when just starting out, though I was lucky to be told in-time that it won’t work out that way.

    Secondly, You’re also right on spending 20% on your blog and the rest on promoting it. I tell you from experience, no matter how great your blog and the content are, if you don’t promote it, is as good as nothing.

  5. Sam Wit says:

    Very nice blog, customize very well and full of informative information

  6. Great article Marya. I think you have given a very detailed way to reach a large audience for a new blogger.
    I will try to follow some points

  7. Tina N. Phan says:

    This is an excellent post. Exactly what I was looking for at the time.

    I must admit, I was thinking about forming connections with the A list bloggers but I realize that you are right in that they are super busy and I need to prove myself first.

    Now I’m more motivated to work harder to follow what’s in this post. Thanks!

  8. Angele says:

    Great idea, but you need a lot of application and hard work

  9. Denzil says:

    Thanks for a great read. I’ve been blogging now for a couple of weeks only, but through trial and error (most I can identify with in your post), and through reviews and feedback, I’m slowly gaining momentum. The greatest success of my blog so far is the input people are willing to provide. Great content drives audience, and at the same time interacting with them builds a wonderful community.

  10. Cheryl says:

    I started a blog about my travels – with reviews – creative recipes that work for my health nut husband as well as home crafting ideas. I didn’t think people would want to know what I had to say so I didn’t keep up with it and I know it takes a lot of time to build your blog up. Maybe I’l give it another try :

  11. Great advice, Marya! Thanks for giving wonderful tips on how we should brand ourselves. This is useful content not only for blogging, but can be utilized in various social media avenues.

  12. Great article. I agree with the point of difference and ensuring your offer is tailored to the market in a way that excites them.
    Thanks for the great tips will be using these for our blogs shortly!

  13. Good article, my only question/concern is what about blogs that don’t offer advice or how-to’s? What about blogs that are more “entertainment” related. For example, my blog is all over the place. It’s about writing, it’s about mental illness and it’s basically about entertaining people with stories. How do these kinds of blog fare? I have a feeling, not as well as those that offer concrete information or help to their readers. What’s your take? My take is that I don’t want to be just another blog offering advice on writing or another blog that tells people how to do things. There are plenty of these and most that do it far better than I could. However, I believe I have a skill at amusing people and telling a good story in an entertaining way. Do people want to read blogs like that? Or are they only looking for “help”?

  14. johnny says:

    Great article post! That good for SEO backlinks with the images was powerful suggestion to add on.

  15. Jegan says:

    as you said people look for creative soul behind,
    I too looking for the creative soul who written this awesome article,
    Thanks a lot

  16. Dan says:

    Great article. I’m trying to publish a high quality article every 2 or 3 days and post on related blogs.

    How do I go about becoming a guest poster on a blog? Should i keep commenting and ask the blog owner directly or will they approach me?

    Thanks

  17. Esther says:

    Thanks for a great post. So clear and practical.

  18. Theo says:

    Amazing and insightful post to say the least! I’ve been blogging for 6 months and yes it can be tough at times. Maybe i need to work on my message a little more and not to mention promotion. I write about personal development… Appreciate the advice anyway!

  19. Thanks a lot for the great post. It will certainly help me get more email subscribers.

  20. Tammy Eakes says:

    Great tips. I definitely need to do some work on defining why someone would want to subscribe to my blog at http://www.noskinnies.com and making that very obvious to them.

  21. Candi Sparks says:

    Great post Marya. I think this is something that I will read again and again!

  22. Jon Stone says:

    This is definitely getting filed away to return to from time to time. I think one of the biggest things that new bloggers do not realize is just how much work it really is. There is no “If you build it, they will come.” Write, market, promote, network, revise, research, repeat… it’s never ending!

  23. Marya,

    Thanks for breaking it down for us. Getting loyal followers is not an impossible task. It does take time and real work. It is better to have people who genuinely care about what you have to offer. You have definitely summed it up. I look forward to your future posts.

    To your success,
    Stacie Walker

  24. Celia says:

    Thanks for this helpful post. It’s nice to hear that it CAN be done, you just have to work on promoting. Figuring out a promotion plan can be challenging, but each time I read more about it and try it out, the more clear it gets. I am far from being out there as much as I’d like, but at least I have some ideas and direction.

  25. Prajwal says:

    Well, this post really helps newbie blogger like me and your article has enlightened the way on what to achieve and how to achieve. Building a mailing list is always important, so this post really helps.