3 Critical Ways to Build Your Blog and Newsletter Audience
In the early 1600’s, a young man by the name of Johann Carolus was trying to build a career for himself and his new family in the bustling city of Strasbourg.
Johann was apprenticed as a bookbinder, working in a print shop.
As an entrepreneur, Johann parlayed his experience and publishing contacts into a newsletter that he copied by hand for a limited number of wealthy clients. Too few, as it turned out, as Carolus was fast falling into debt.
In 1604, Johann and his wife made an investment that not only changed their fortunes, but had a lasting impact on multiple industries for centuries to come.
They bought a printing house. Not just any printing house, but the largest in Strasbourg, containing 3 presses, letters and reams of paper.
That gave the new Carolus Printing House the ability to mass produce Johann’s newsletter and distribute it to a much larger audience - the general public.
The first weekly newspaper ever printed was called Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien, or “Account of all distinguished and commemorable news”.
The newsletter has been around for over 400 years, and for over 400 years publishers have been grappling with questions like:
- What do I include in a newsletter?
- How do I monetize a newsletter?
- How do I grow my audience?
Most of us don’t have the luxury of being first to market like Carolus, or the benefit of a rolodex filled with wealthy subscribers.
We need to grow our audience one subscriber at a time, right?
A healthy, growing list of subscribers means that your blog audience is growing and your monetization potential is increasing!
Each new subscriber that you bring in today is potentially someone who will read more and more of your articles as they come out, vastly increasing the total number of people who see your latest articles.
And each new subscriber is potentially someone who will take advantage of your business’ offers and become a customer.
There are three critical ways that we can and should be growing our subscribers.
You have likely implemented at least one of these methods, but by the end of this article you will not only have an improved understanding of these subscriber growth tactics, you’ll be motivated to get all three operating simultaneously on your blog.
If you haven’t yet started a blog, or aren’t seeing the overall success you’d like, refer to “How To Start A Blog” for a more complete walkthrough.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Critical Email Growth Tactic #1: Newsletter Subscription
We begin with a tactic that might seem obvious at first, yet is so often overlooked, that of the basic Newsletter Subscription.
Simply put, if a reader on your blog wants to subscribe to your newsletter, are you making that easy for him or her?
Ideally, every post and article should have a form or link that clearly communicates that you have a newsletter, and that readers can subscribe to hear more from you in the future.
At the bottom of the Wishpond Blog, and below every article like this one, you’ll find a simple form:
I have something similar on my own blog, and it works great. It’s easy to find and easy for new subscribers to use.
But there’s an even better way to call out the Newsletter Subscription and that’s as an individual post’s Call To Action (CTA).
You are including CTAs in every blog post, aren’t you?
For most of our posts, particularly if we offer a product like Wishpond and have a free trial available, that’s the CTA, and that’s fine.
But what if a “sale” isn’t the most logical next step for a particular article?
That’s when it helps to have a menu of options in your mind as you’re writing and concluding an article so that you can choose the CTA that you think best fits the reader’s frame of mind.
That might include:
- Contact Us
- Try Us (purchase/free trial)
- Read More (link to next article in funnel)
Clearly the first couple are important business drivers, but the last two can be extremely beneficial in the long run as well. You can push readers into another, specific article that will educate them further and take them deeper into your sales funnel.
And if none of the others seem to fit, an invitation within the text of an article to “subscribe to the newsletter for more great content like this” always works!
Make sure that you give readers an easy way to subscribe to your newsletter and you’ll be rewarded with a steady trickle of new subscribers!
But what if you want more than a trickle?
Critical Email Growth Tactic #2: Content Upgrade
That’s where the content upgrade comes in, and it’s my personal favorite of all techniques!
A content upgrade is a digital download that’s “attached” to a relatively normal piece of content.
For instance, we might give you the option to download this entire article as a free PDF so that you could refer to it whenever you needed to.
Other examples of content upgrades include swipe files, worksheets, checklists and more.
For more on content upgrades and to see more examples, check out Wishpond’s “7 Content Upgrade Ideas and Examples that Helped Build 100k Subscriber Lists.”
The beauty of a content upgrade is that it’s usually pretty easy to create. The PDF version of an article is the absolute easiest option. Let’s take this article as an example...
I drafted the article in Google Docs so that it could be easily reviewed and edited by others. Once approved, Wishpond’s team copied the text and graphics and set it up within their CMS as a blog post.
At that point, I could have gone back to the Google Doc and clicked on File -> Download As -> PDF and been done! If I wanted to, I could take the time to add some additional formatting (like custom page footers), or even a cover page so that the file looks great to the reader.
If you really want to craft your PDFs and have a lot of control over where elements are positioned on each page, use James Scherer’s trick of starting with a Google Slide. Change the Page Setup to use a custom 8.5x11 inches and then fill in your content.
You can even use or create a custom template for a consistent background, as I did for my 2018 Blogging Planner. Then just download as PDF as you did before.
Use Canva or your favorite graphic design tool to create an 8.5x11 book cover graphic and save that as a PDF file. When you open your main content PDF, you can insert a page from file and choose that great cover you designed!
Piece of cake.
If this is a new tactic for you, we should cover how you’ll actually deliver the digital download you just created and are about to offer to your site readers.
First, you will need an Email Solution Provider (ESP) like Wishpond to accept and manage the new subscribers you’re going to attract, and deliver the goods.
Within your ESP you will need to set up a List for your subscribers to be a part of, and one or more “List Properties” or tags for your offers.
For instance, you might create a List Property called “Downloads” and then for each new download you set up you’d assign a new variable describing each offer, like “Email-Growth-Article.”
Second, create a new autoresponder email for your download. An autoresponder is simply an email that is automatically sent to folks who ask to receive your download.
Creating an autoresponder starts by deciding what criteria will determine whether someone gets this email. You don’t want to send to all new subscribers - only those who have specifically asked for it.
In this case, the logic is relatively simple: anyone who joins your email list AND has the list property of “Email-Growth-Article” for Downloads. Like this:
Notice that there are quite a few different options that you can employ,
including boolean logic of AND or OR, creating complex and powerful conditions for subscriber activities.
For our purposes though, these two conditions will suffice!
Next, create an email that thanks the new subscriber and provides them with the file they just signed up to receive.
Within the text of the email, use the “Insert File/Image” button to upload your file and create a linked “Download” text for your subscribers to get the file.
Add this to the “actions” step within Wishpond to have it sent when the conditions are met:
The third and final step in the content delivery process then is to create a form that will encourage and accept email subscribers, and place them into the designed list with the designated tag.
For this, go to Campaigns within Wishpond and select Form. You can then choose and modify any template to fit the look and functionality that you need.
Once you’re satisfied with the form, click on Publish and grab the embed code that Wishpond provides to insert your form accordingly within your blog post.
And that’s it! Once you publish that post, readers will see and consider the option to grab the digital download and join your subscriber list!
Johann Carolus would be insanely jealous!
While the next technique we’re going to cover has an amazing subscriber rate, the Content Upgrade is not too shabby, particular when it’s something as simple as a PDF version of the article.
Note that this works best when it’s a long article. I’d advise at least 2000 words to make it worthwhile for the reader to want the PDF.
Critical Email Growth Tactic #3: Gated Content
This is the technique that can bring you tens, even hundreds of new subscribers a day! My own gated content generates about 50 new subscribers a day, and has been doing that for months.
The idea is simple.
Instead of a “content upgrade” that’s a version or resource related to an existing article, the gated content is the article. Or eBook or resource or whatever it is you want to offer.
In order to see anything at all, the reader has to provide their information and get through the gate.
Gated content tends to attract highly-targeted leads, and if positioned correctly, will generate high numbers of leads as I mentioned.
But, that does come at a price. Gated content is expected to be very valuable. Somewhere between the quick content upgrades we were creating earlier, and something someone might actually pay for, like an eBook.
So it should take you some time to create good gated content.
And it’s also something that you’re going to want to make sure is highly focused on your target audience.
For years I offered my site visitors a checklist for promoting blog posts and it did OK… a few new subscribers a day. As that was a Welcome Mat popup that was presented to every single one of 3000+ daily visitors, that was a paltry conversion rate.
But then I did a deep dive into my Google Analytics and noted that all of my most popular, most heavily-trafficked articles were social media related - Facebook in particular.
So I took the time to create a Facebook Resource that wasn’t available in any way otherwise, and began offering that. And my audience loves it.
Here’s just the first few days of 2018, as I have an Event tied to that download so I can see performance within Google Analytics:
Other than requiring more time to create the resource, the rest of the process is much the same as a content upgrade. I like to create a blog post announcing the resource and giving it some context as I get a lot of additional distribution that way.
After that, you can use popups, social media, and paid advertising to funnel and drive traffic into your gated content signup form.
Carefully consider the reasons why a reader would download the content you created and try to anticipate their situation and needs after they’ve received your resource. Ideally, you would add additional emails to be sent to them over time, based upon their decision to download and their expected requirements.
As I said early on, these are techniques that you must have in place, and you should work toward implementing all three.
Over time, your newsletter subscription invitations, multiple content upgrades and multiple gated pieces of content will work together to generate tremendous new lead activity, while you sleep!
While my Facebook Kit is my most popular and most effective offer, I have one other piece of gated content, as well as six other content upgrades working simultaneously, day and night, to build up my subscriber list and my blog’s audience.
The really good news is that, the most of these you do, not only will you be able to crank them out faster, but also have a better sense for what your audience is truly interested in.
Once you have a few under your belt and have achieved some success, create a plan for yourself to create at least one gated piece of content per quarter and two content upgrades.
Combine these techniques with a solid email marketing strategy and sales funnel, and you will set your business up for long term success!
Your next step? Grab a free trial of Wishpond so you can start putting these pieces into place today.
- How to Build an Email List from Scratch (A 5 Step Walkthrough)
- The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know
- The Proven Guide to Monetizing Your Blog (Free Udemy Course)
- A Complete Walkthrough of 5 Vital Email Drip Campaigns (With Examples)
- How to Create an Email List: Leading Marketers Give Their Top Strategies
- 45 Engaging Email Newsletter Templates, Design Tips & Examples For 2018
About the author:
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner, award-winning Blogger, Author, and the Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's, and is active on all of the major social networks. Mike teaches a holistic approach to content marketing.