How to Build Your Blog Using Good Old-Fashioned E-mail


Most people who want to succeed as a blogger do everything they can to increase traffic and build a community. That includes creating solid content, using carefully selected key words, implementing sound SEO, encouraging incoming links, and any other trick in the book that works.

But when it comes to e-mail, too often bloggers just shrug their shoulders. “What does e-mail have to do with my blog?”

A lot.

Bloggers generally like the idea of publishing content and having people drop by to read it. They believe in “pull” marketing. Build it and they will come. That’s fine, but it’s only half the equation. The other half is “push” marketing. And one of the best ways to push is with e-mail.

RSS is popular, but since you can deliver your feed by e-mail, why not encourage more people to subscribe that way? Even better, why not start a free newsletter related to your blog content? Either way, you build a list of addresses you can use to push messages out to your audience to drive blog traffic, sell products, provide services, enroll people in online seminars, or whatever your business model requires.

For example, I help run a blog for a nonprofit political organization. When I first got involved, the site got minimal traffic and didn’t put much emphasis on e-mail. By starting a weekly newsletter and building the list to include thousands of subscribers, site traffic has exploded, with millions of hits a month and steady growth.

So what does it take to start using e-mail to build your blog or online business? Here are a few pointers.

Offer your RSS feed as e-mail.

Some people prefer to use a newsreader, but you’d be surprised how many people will subscribe to your blog by e-mail if you make this an option. If you use FeedBurner, for example, you just cut and paste a different snippet of code to provide a link to the e-mail signup.

Start a simple opt-in e-mail newsletter.

This is a far more powerful way to build an e-mail list. While it’s a bit more work, it provides a means of connecting with people outside of your blog and expanding your reach. Of course, your newsletter must offer valuable content and can’t be purely self-serving. My copywriting and direct marketing newsletter , for example, includes a quote of the month, links to articles on my blog, marketing tips, free subscriptions to business magazines, editorials, and in-depth articles. Your newsletter can be short or long, but to get and keep subscribers, you have to offer real value.

Post a subscription box on your site.

Whether you’re offering your RSS feed by e-mail or a dedicated newsletter, a sign up box where you can enter an e-mail address usually works better than a link to a sign up form on another page. You may want to deemphasize the orange RSS button and highlight the e-mail feed option. If you’re offering a dedicated newsletter, you’ll certainly want to feature a sign up box in a prominent location. The best place is either upper left or upper right, depending on the design of your site.

Encourage subscriptions everywhere.

Don’t make the common mistake of putting a sign up box only on your home page. You never know where a visitor will enter your site. So your box should be featured everywhere. If you have a standard blog design, this shouldn’t be a problem, since your masthead and sidebars will probably be the same on every page and post. But if you use a more elaborate content management system or have a standard HTML site, be sure your subscription offer is on every page, ideally in the same location. You can also include it at the end of blog posts.

Manage your e-mail list efficiently.

Feedburner will show you those who subscribe by e-mail, but it doesn’t give you any tools for using those addresses. So you’ll need to export them in order to do mailings. If you offer a newsletter, you’ll also need a means of managing your list. There are several options out there, including Constant Contact, Aweber, and iContact. The fees are reasonable and each provides simple e-mail tools to track and manage your list and the e-mails you send.

Use your list to drive people to your site.

If your goal is to build blog traffic, use your e-mail to link back to your site. For example, the newsletter I manage for the nonprofit I mentioned lists 8 to 12 posts of the past week with a brief excerpt and a link to the full article. When I look at the site stats, I can see traffic spike when people receive the newsletter and click to the site to read articles.

Send “alerts” or special offers.

You can also use your list to notify people of events, promote affiliate products, offer your personal services, drive traffic to other blogs you run, or whatever you want. Remember, when people subscribe, they’re telling you they want to hear from you about a particular topic. So as long as what you’re sending is relevant, people will usually welcome additional contact from you. A few will opt out with every mailing you send, but if you’re doing everything else right, your subscriptions will always be on the rise.

Avoid spamming.

This is a big no no. Don’t add people to your list if they don’t request it. Give people an easy way to opt out. Make sure your feed or newsletter is designed so people know what it is and who it’s from to keep them from reporting your e-mail as spam. Don’t abuse your list by mailing multiple times a day. It’s e-mail, not Twitter. Spam is a hot button for most people, so go out of your way to avoid doing anything spammy.

There’s a lot more to making e-mail work, but this should get you started. Just remember that while there’s a lot of buzz about how e-mail is a dinosaur and that social networking is the way of the future, take it all with a grain of salt.

E-mail is a powerful tool. It’s not as sophisticated as some of us would like, but it works, virtually everyone uses it, and it will be around for a long time.

About the Author: Dean Rieck is a leading direct marketing copywriter. For more copywriting and selling tips, sign up for Dean’s FREE direct response newsletter or subscribe to the Direct Creative Blog.

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Reader Comments (48)

  1. says

    This is a great post, i started my blog about 5 months ago now, and implemented an opt in not long after. Well now i have a steady list thats growing by hundreds everyday and the list also drives blog traffic by sending info about my new blog posts to my subscribers and asking them to check it out. IT WORKS, and its great to build rapport with subscribers.

    Im looking foward to this year and improving my marketing and blog skills by leaps and bounds.

    If you get time check out what im doing over there. :-)

    Thats for another excellant post!

    Dan Briffa

  2. says

    Thank you for the great tips! It’s perfect timing as I’m in the process of expanding my RSS/email option. I want to offer an email that has added information. I’m going to be using this article a lot over the next few weeks! :)

  3. says

    Just as an aside, I’ve found that e-mail works awesomely for general, everyday folks, but very poorly for geeks/techies. My primary blog is for techies and I’ve pushed the e-mail side several times over the years and the e-mail list count is just under 1% of the feed subscriber count.. after three years! Twitter, on the other hand, takes about 5-7% and that’s within six months 😉

    Not sure why this is. Perhaps techies are more guarded with their e-mail or maybe they find RSS more natural. Unsure. Anyone else see this sort of pattern?

  4. says

    Thank you for this timely and informative post. I launched my blog three months ago and now am planning a related e-newsletter. Until now, I’ve been concentrating on content. I chose Constant Contact and so far am pleased with them. I’m saving your post and will use it in my planning.

  5. says

    great primer on promoting a blog. We’re just getting our feet wet with a new company blog to reach a niche technology audience, and your guide will help me make a case for offering blog subscription by email. Thanks!

  6. says

    There is a lot to learn when setting up a blog that works. I have found that learning one thing at a time and learning it well makes sense.
    I just read a blog that has been up for a couple of months. He felt like he had gotten his writing style down and was moving in the direction he wanted to go. Now he was adding photos to his blog and next we was doing an opt in box.
    I have found that email marketing works a little different in each niche. My sister is in a family niche and she hardly gets any RSS subscribers, but gets a lot coming in on her optin.
    Techies seem to get more from the RSS feed.
    It is a matter of testing what works best for your market.

    I really like the term “push marketing”.


  7. says

    I think too many people miss the importance of push. There is so much of a focus lately on pull that we often forget that we still need to shout our message from the rooftops sometimes. Thanks for these great tips/reminders.

  8. says

    Love this post! I have a blog that’s been live now for a couple of months, with trickle traffic. Question: My web host account included email responder. Can I use that or should I go through something like Aweber?

  9. says

    Very timely – thanks for posting this article. I’ve been looking to increase my blog traffic and had forgotten about the opt in.

  10. says

    Great post

    People tend to forget email when they look at all the new possibilities like Twitter and other social media. Email is still a very strong tool driving traffic to a site or a blog.

  11. says

    Great suggestions here. One’s email signature is also a great additional promotional tool. Every email I send out during the course of my workday has an invitation to “visit my blog” under my email signature. I list the latest post title with a corresponding link. This advertises my blog in a low-key way to a number of people who wouldn’t ordinarily see it.

  12. says

    Thank you for the great tips, Dean! We’re just getting our blog started, so I’ll be sure to keep this post in mind when we’re working on it.

  13. says

    @Peter Cooper: thanks for the perspective, each segment/market should always get consideration as to how to target.

    Dean, good summary. Spam is a tough one and e-mail targeting is something that is not black and white. If possible Dean’s advice should at least be expanded to cover sub-groups of the overall contact list… be choosy as to who you send what and how often.

    Definitely need to provide the “easy” button so that your subscribers feel like she/he has an out (even if she/he doesn’t use it).

    Lastly, what you send in the message is also important -=- just because you sent an e-mail doesn’t mean that the intended recipient saw it. Pay attention to what the lowest common denominator is for e-mail clients (Outlook is probably the pickiest) and structure the message accordingly; that is, don’t use too much HTML and avoid too many images. Nothing worse than having the message blocked or junked, let alone declared as Spam by your recipients.

  14. says

    Thanks for this article, Dean. You just moved my goalposts. It stings a bit, but I must emulate your excellent example if I’m to get fair dinkum. Best regards, P. :)

  15. says

    Thank you for speaking the truth! I immediately went into my marketing system and had my sign up form and newsletter ready to go in minutes! An excellent marketing system makes all the difference! Thanks so much for the info 😉

  16. says

    Email rocks. I couldn’t agree more on push & pull. Email is great for delivering a blog feed, for the readers who prefer it, but it’s also excellent for creating a second more intimate channel and offering lots more goodies to the folks who want them.

  17. says

    I agree with Franklin and Sonia: a second channel, and definitely helps you in the marketing/sales department.

    A huge number of people out there still don’t really know what a blog is, and they sure as hell don’t know what RSS is. Email is key.

    Solid post, Dean.

  18. says

    Thanks for the starting points Dean. I agree that email works. I subscribe to a few and mainly for the bonus content and the ability to converse with the author. Most bloggers respond to email. Any ideas (maybe a follow-up post) on building the newsletter?

  19. says

    Amazing ideas, once again. But I need help! How does just one person (that’s me, CEO of it all) do all these wonderful, impressive, list building things? Especially what I’m not a tech genius? I use WordPress & find it confusing, but imagine it’s all possible…

  20. says

    Feedburner is really easy to use but some don’t know how to use. I do agree that opt in newsletter is the most powerful way to build an e-mail list. Thanks for the great info.

  21. says

    Great post, Dean. I particularly appreciate your emphasis on the “necessary mutuality” of push and pull. This relates, of course, to Sonia’s excellent treatise on the web’s two tribes. Cool Kids love RSS, IMers love email. There need not be a conflict between the two, and you make a compelling and articulate case why they can–or, rather, must–co-exist. Well done!

  22. says

    Good post! Most bloggers ignore email marketing even though it is so simple to put up an optin form on your blog.The most important thing is to offer high quality information and a bonus that makes people want to sign up.

  23. says

    I’ve seen more bloggers use email lately, but not enough! If you can make more money by putting in a bit more effort, or gain more followers, why wouldn’t you?!

  24. Mark says

    Good article, thanks for the insight. So what do you folks recommend for email newsletter software?

  25. says

    This is a great post. I overlooked the idea of E-mail marketing for my site but think you make a great point and will have to look into putting something together.

    I don’t think you can stress enough about the Spam angle. I know a couple “Pro” bloggers who spam like crazy and it turns me off from their site.

    I suspect this is part of Peter Cooper’s problem. Us “nerds” have spend more time with spam and have built up almost an immunity to anything almost spam like.

  26. says

    Thank you for this timely and informative post. I launched my blog three months ago and now am planning a related e-newsletter. Until now, I’ve been concentrating on content. I chose Constant Contact and so far am pleased with them. I’m saving your post and will use it in my planning

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