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.