Four Simple Steps to More Blog Subscribers

Do you know the quickest, simplest way to get more subscribers to your blog?

The answer is to ask them to subscribe, and make it as easy as possible.

Wow. That’s way too obvious, right?

And yet, day in and day out, I see bloggers who not only fail to ask for the subscription, they downright make it difficult to subscribe. I’ve literally had to poke around on some blogs just trying to find a way to get the content delivered.

Most people won’t do that. And I’ve ended up ditching plenty of blogs because it was too much of a hassle.

So, believe it or not, you can gain an advantage over your competition by simply making it easier to subscribe. The successful conversion of visitors to subscribers is in no small part related to simple usability and motivation adjustments.

Here are the basic small changes that will boost your subscriber conversion rate right away:

Make Your Subscription Options a Top Priority

On every single page of Copyblogger, the navigation sidebar starts off with RSS and email subscription options. If a site visitor is familiar with RSS, she can’t help but notice the large standard icon to the right. Even if another visitor hasn’t a clue about feeds, the bright orange button naturally draws the eye over to the right, and down to the prominent black box labeled “email updates” with a nice “subscribe” button.

Given my background in email publishing, there was never any doubt that my primary focus for Copyblogger would be to build a regular subscription-based readership. Because blogging makes publishing so much easier than it was in my ezine days, it has brought many more people into the game. But often bloggers don’t have the subscription mindset that I take for granted due to the history.

In my opinion, there’s too much reliance on search engines and short-term traffic in blogging. You can’t control Google or its ever-shifting SERPs, and you can’t really predict when and how much traffic will come from incoming links.

But your subscriber list is all yours, as long as you treat it right.

Which means you should make you subscription options (both RSS and email are a necessity) a prominent and easily identifiable aspect of your blog. And never forget that your subscriber list is full of people who have trusted you with their valuable attention.

The Fewer Steps to Subscribe, the Better

After making your subscription options a prominent element of your layout, the next most important factor is decreasing the hassle. Reduce the number of steps and the amount of data it takes to complete the subscription process, and fewer people will abandon the subscription, or get distracted by something else.

MarketingExperiments.com performed subscription pathway optimization testing for a free newsletter. By reducing the number of subscription steps by just one, and by limited data collection to first name and email address, the daily subscription rate went up 711%!

There was one other thing Marketing Experiments did to boost subscriptions — they offered a free ebook as an incentive. But that topic deserves its own post, which will be coming shortly.

The reduction in steps and hassle is one of the reasons I swear by Feedburner for RSS subscriptions. While the free service has tons of other valuable features (subscriber stats are crucial), primary benefit number one is a feed landing page that presents feed reader options that allow a simple click subscription process. Compare that to coming across a messy XML page, cutting and pasting the URL, getting to your feed reader, finding the “add feed” button…

You get the point.

Same with email. Copyblogger uses Feedblitz for email updates, and it annoys me slightly that there is an extra step after the email input box. But it doesn’t seem to have adversely affected email subscriptions, so it’s likely not “one step too many”.

Dedicated Subscription Page

This one is short and sweet. Create a static page on your blog that contains both your RSS and email options, something like this.

You’ll need somewhere to send people when you…

Ask for the Subscription

This is where most bloggers are letting subscription opportunities really slip away. If you want someone to perform a certain action in greater numbers than they currently are, you need to ask.

It’s a call to action, and the desired action is a subscription.

Many of the remaining installments in this series will focus on different strategies for asking for the subscription in various contexts. But here’s a simple one that most people just don’t do (and I’ve been lazy about myself lately):

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email or RSS.

If you’re already doing all four of these basic things on your blog, good for you. We’ll be drilling down into some other techniques that may take you to the next level. If you are not in good shape on these four elements, try making adjustments, and see what your results look like. I think you’ll be pleased.

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Comments

  1. Excellent insight as usual, Brian.

  2. It is so obvious after reading your post, I can’t believe I didn’t think of these things myself. THANK YOU!

  3. Great points Brian. I started reading this blog a couple weeks back and continue to enjoy it.

    By the way, I used Feedburner up until a couple days ago, I als tried Squeet. I then switched over to Zookoda after testing them out. Soooo much more you can do, and you can monitor your lists. (I actually just wrote a post on them)

  4. i already added my orange button!

  5. Hey Brian,

    Do you feel Feedblitz is superior to using a service like Aweber ?

    What do you think of their RSS to email service ?

    PS – we use Aweber.

  6. Mike, I love Aweber, but currently use GetResponse for most of my “money” projects.

    I like that Feedblitz integrates with FeedBurner, and let’s me track my stats in one place. But otherwise Aweber, OneShoppingCart and Get Response are the tools of choice for serious Internet marketers in the email autoresponder market.

  7. The way I see your feedburner subscription count increasing every day, this post is worth is weight in e-gold.
    Thatks for pointying to feedblitz. Its cool and for cheapstakes like me, the free part is just too good to resist.

  8. Thanks, Brian, just one more way to make it easy for people: once I added a live link to my feeburner subscription page in my signoff on every post, my sign-up numbers went up right away!

    check it out: http://www.itsnotaboutyourstuff.com

  9. Hey,Brian,Thanks for your RSS picture,that’s really nice!

  10. Hi Brian:

    Thanks for the mention – the extra step is essential to prevent spambots from filling your lists with junk. An email service that doesn’t do this isn’t doing you, the list owner, any favors. We also have an email subscriber count widget (that doubles as a signup link) for those wanting to publicize their email circulation separately.

    FYI, FeedBlitz just introduced blog-powered autoresponders, using the same “freemium” model as the core RSS to mail service. Check it out at http://feedblitz.blogspot.com/2006/05/feedblitz-announces-rss-and-blog.html

  11. Hey Phil… yeah I said only “slightly” annoyed… :) I know it’s a necessary evil.

    Plus, like I said, it’s had no adverse impact on email subscriptions as far as I can tell.

  12. Brian, thanks for the insight, I am making a subscribe page and I am going to send out an email to some people I’ve been wanting to ask to join.

  13. hey, brian. a couple of things, when i started coming here. it was a trully educational experience. i noticed a couple of things recently.

    1.you lost some subscribers

    2.it all gets a bit monotonus sometimes, i mean yeah i know you blog what you know, and you’re voice and all that.. it just seems a bit mechanical.

    and i think in every lawyer there is a bit of an artist, more so in ex lawyers.

    So man, I say lighten up a bit, live a lil on this blog. I know apart from consitant great content. That will keep me coming back.

  14. Hey Ming, thanks for the feedback (I’ve heard that before, so I’ll work on it :)).

    As for subscriber leak, whenever you get a whole bunch of new subscribers at one time (like 500-600 in a week due to some high profile links), you’ll see some people fall out. Happens every time, so it doesn’t bother me.

  15. I don’t know if I agree with you, Ming. I find Brian’s voice very professional yet one-on-one. Yes, I detect the lawyer sometimes, but fortunately there’s no doublespeak here.

    Subscriber count volatility is a normal part of the process.

  16. I’m with you, Raj. Good point. There is a lot of substance here in this blog, but it’s not preachy and it’s surely not textbook. You can find plain old factual data in plenty of places, but it’s so much more digestible when it travels along a smooth path of personality.

    And as to the actual post…yar! Brian, you’re right on the money. As a person who’s spent a lot of time in sales, advertising and fundraising, I’ve learned the hard way that the best way to NOT get money is to never ask for it. Same goes for a subscription or probably any “call to action.”

    Keep it up, Brian! Great to have you.

  17. Great idea, make it easier to subscribe! unfortunately when i put in my email address feedburner says “my email address has previously been unsubscribed” so I needed to confirm something.. ( I dont really know where this came from )

    I tried my other email address, hit submit and got sent back to the same page, over and over asking me to type in the ‘security key’ and submit.. I did that about 3 times, for different keys then I gave up.

    Ironic how I did this after reading a post about making it easy to subscribe. thought you might be interested to hear the feedback! . Cheers

  18. That’s not good, and it’s a Feedblitz issue. I’ll look into it, and won’t hesitate to switch providers if it happens again.

  19. Hello! You’re simply awesome. I enjoyed reading your educational posts because they’ve helped me alot.You’ve opened my eyes to many mistakes I was making in my posting and simple positioning of feeds on my blog.

    A millions thanks!

    Sucess and victory!

  20. Thank you so much Brian. I have already implement your idea in my site. I hope you will give more great idea like this in your post.. Thanks again Brian..

  21. I’ve just implemented all of these tips on my blog — they’re fantastic. Thank you for an excellent article.

  22. Hello Brian. Nice site. I’ve added you to my links (www.fromthepen.com)

    I’d like to share with you and your readers a cool little trick I used to get more people to join the mailing list of a fishing charter company whose web site I created.

    Go to http://www.reelfunsolomons.com and tell me what’s the first thing on the page you notice. If you don’t say the highlighted flashing newsletter signup field, I’d be highly surprised.

    Check the coding if you want to steal it for yourself. If you or your readers don’t know how to hack the code let me know and I’ll help you( I coded HTML for the last 8 years)

    Regards
    Buck