If you are a blogger, you’ve probably heard that you NEED to build an email list. If you’re not already familiar with list building and email marketing, you probably have a lot of questions. By the end of this guide, I hope that all of your questions will be answered.
Let’s get started!
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy something using one of the links in this article, I may earn a commission, but… It won’t cost you anything extra. Want to learn more about how you can make money blogging with affiliate marketing? Read this…
Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers – A Beginner’s Guide.
What is email marketing?
To put it simply, email marketing is communicating with potential or current customers via email. If you’re a blogger, email marketing consists of emailing your list subscribers. If you’re “blogging as a business,” those subscribers are your current and potential “customers”, just like any business.
I’m a blogger. Why should I care about email marketing?
1. Email is direct – if you send an email to someone, they will receive it, they will most likely see it and there’s a relatively high chance that they will open it and read it. You can’t say the same thing about a Facebook ad, a tweet, or a pin on Pinterest. Email marketing allows you to engage with your audience directly in their inbox with their permission!
2. Email is personal – if someone invited you to email them by giving you their email address, it means they are interested in what you have to offer. This is huge! Why wouldn’t you focus your efforts on communicating directly with people who want to hear from you? With email, people can reply directly to you and ask you questions in a way that is both familiar and safe. Email is a highly effective way of establishing familiarity, trust and connection with your audience.
4. Email is effective – studies show that email marketing is far more effective than other forms of marketing.
5. Email is targeted – there is no other marketing technique that allows you to market directly to people that “signed up” to hear from you in the same way that an email list does.
6. Email is cost effective – there is no other marketing strategy that allows you to reach hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of prospective customers as affordably as email.
7. Email is flexible – you can email your list even if you haven’t posted anything new on your blog. You can email your list about a service, a product, a course, or even as an affiliate for someone else’s product.
8. Email marketing has an ROI of 3800%! Read this post from the Campaign Monitor for this stat and 69 more email marketing stats…
70 email marketing stats every marketer should know
Why do I need an email list if I’m not selling anything?
Well for one thing, not everyone is stopping by your blog every day to see if you’ve posted something new. If you thought they were, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. 😛
An email list gives you a way to let your subscribers know when you have new content on your blog. You can email them and include a preview or an excerpt of new blog posts or just a link. This in turn drives traffic to your blog which is a goal that every blogger has, unless your blog is a just a personal blog.
But, since this blog is focused on “blogging as a business”, I’ll answer from that perspective.
If you have a blog and you’re reading this post, I’ll assume that you are interested in making money with your blog. And assuming that’s true…
- An email list allows you to communicate directly with your readers, in a way that’s just not possible directly on your website or on social media. Readers can ask questions privately. You can survey your readers or ask for feedback.
- An email list allows you to communicate with your readers in a more personal way. No matter how a blog post is written, it will never feel as personal as an email in their inbox.
- So… an email list prepares you with an engaged list of potential buyers when the day does come that you want to sell something whether that be a service, an info product, or even a physical product.
- An email list allows you to get started monetizing your blog with affiliate marketing.
How to get started with email marketing?
You can get started building a list and emailing subscribers in just a few simple steps.
1. Choose an email service provider.
2. Set up opt-in/subscribe forms on your website, both on pages and within posts.
3. Set up welcome emails (confirmation and thank you).
4. Better yet, set up a welcome email sequence.
5. Decide how often you will email your list.
6. Send your first email!
Which email service provider should I use and why?
There are many different email service providers and which one you choose depends on at least two things.
- What features you need
- Your budget vs. price of serviceFeatures to look for include:
- Unlimited emails
- Web forms
- Landing pages
- Customer supportI’ve listed some of the more popular email service providers here for your reference, along with their entry level pricing.
- ActiveCampaign – starts at $9 per month for up to 500 contacts.
- AWeber – plans start at $19 per month up to 500 subscribers. All features, including unlimited emails, included in all plans.
- ConvertKit – plans start at $29 per month for up to 1,000 subscribers.
- MadMimi – plans start at $10 per month for up to 500 subscribers with unlimited emails.
- MailChimp – free up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. However, this plan does NOT include automation workflows. Plans that include automation workflows and unlimited emails start at $10 for up to 500 subscribers.
- MailerLite – free up to 1,000 subscribers and then $10 per month up to 2,500 subscribers.
Also, I recently posted an in-depth comparison of MailChimp, MailerLite and ConvertKit. You can read that post here…
MailerLite vs. MailChimp vs. ConvertKit
What are the most effective ways to get people to opt-in to an email list?
There are many things you can offer your readers to get them to opt-in to your email list. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- A content upgrade such as a checklist or a workbook
- A cheat-sheet or quick reference guide
- A free email course
- A free email challenge
- Templates or swipe files
- Free printables
- Free stock photos
What should your first email be?
Now that you have a good understanding of what email marketing is and why you, a blogger, should start building an email list, you’re probably wondering what to send your list. Some of you may even have a list that you’ve never emailed.
This is a great question and my advice would be to not worry too much about sending your first email and just focus on sending an email, any email. 🙂
The first one will probably be the most difficult. It gets easier with practice. You could start by just sending an email letting your subscribers know about your latest blog post. Separately, you can work on setting up a welcome email sequence for you new subscribers. Keep reading – there will be more on that in in a minute.
If you’re particularly worried about warming up a cold email list, this blog post was helpful to me.
“Remember Us?” How to Warm Up an Email List That Has Gone Cold
And if you want a list of specific ideas, my friend Meera Kothand wrote an epic blog post with 16 email types and 100+ ideas. You can read her post here…
What to send your email list: The beginner’s guide for the clueless blogger
What is an email welcome sequence?
When a reader subscribes to your email list, you can either send a welcome email, or better yet, a welcome email sequence. You can use an automation workflow which you set up through your email service provider to send a series of emails to new subscribers at predetermined intervals.
The advantage of doing this is that you get the opportunity to engage with your new subscriber while they get accustomed to seeing emails from you in their inbox. It’s an effective way to nurture the “relationship” and create a connection. Lack of engagement with subscribers can lead to unsubscribes, particularly if subsequent emails are too sales-y or too infrequent.
What is the difference between an email service provider and marketing automation?
An email service provider allows you to send mass emails and track open rates and clicks. A full blown marketing automation system provides additional features, including advanced lead management and more in-depth marketing analytics. Luckily for bloggers, there are affordable email service providers that provide some marketing automation features, such as the ability to build web forms and landing pages, multi-step email campaigns and segmentation, as well as basic analytics.
How often should I email?
How often you email your list is entirely up to you but once a week is a good place to start. Although like anything, the real answer is “It depends.”
An easy way to get started if you’re extremely uncomfortable emailing your list is to just email whenever you publish a new blog post. But don’t let that limit you.
If you have something valuable to share, whether it be a story, a recommendation, a piece of advice, or even a special offer, go ahead and email your list.
As long as you’re not constantly hard selling your list, your subscribers will be glad to hear from you. If they’re not and they choose to unsubscribe… well that’s okay too. If they’re not interested in your emails, they are probably not “your people.”
What’s the best time of day to send emails?
The short answer? Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. The long answer? It’s not that simple. There’s not one best time and as much as you don’t want to hear this answer… it depends. 🙂
To be perfectly honest, no one can tell you precisely the best time to email. The best thing to do is to see what works best for your list based on your own results. But since you don’t have any results when you’re just getting started, I’ve linked to a helpful blog post from the CoSchedule blog.
What 10 Studies Say About The Best Time To Send Email
Based on the analysis that CoSchedule did of 10 different studies, it would appear that Tuesdays at 10 a.m. would be a good day/time to start with if you’re going to email your list once a week.
How to get people to click links in your emails?
If you are blogging as a business, the point of sending an email to your subscribers is to get them to take an action, such as:
- Driving traffic to your website (e.g. to read your latest blog post)
- Subscribing to your email list (e.g. via a content upgrade)
- Entering a sales funnel for a promoted product or service
- Visiting your store to purchase a physical or info productSo, here are some things you can do to get more clicks on the links you include in your emails:
- Include a clear CTA (call-to-action) button in your email.
- If you include an image in your email, add a link to it.
- Include noticeable text links. For best results, link a phrase rather than a single word.
- Add alt (alternative) text to your call-to-action buttons and images.
- Include at least one clickable text link, image, or call-to-action button above the fold.
- Add social sharing buttons to your email.
- Include your website address in your email footer.
What’s an acceptable open rate, click rate and unsubscribe rate?
You might be wondering what you should expect in terms of the percentage of subscribers that actually open your emails. It’s easy to look at the reports provided by your email service provider and get caught up in wondering why people aren’t opening your emails, whether or not your open rates are “normal” and questioning whether you’re doing it right or not.
According to HubSpot, average B2C (business to consumer) email open rates span from 30.5% to 34.9%, depending on the number of campaigns sent.
They also report that median click rates are highest when 16 to 30 campaigns per month are sent. Companies sending at this frequency had a median click rate of 5.6%.
Although these statistics are not specific to bloggers, they still give a good frame of reference for email marketing in general. You can read more about HubSpot’s benchmark findings in their article here:
What’s a Good Email Open Rate & Click Rate? [Benchmark Data]
Constant Contact publishes average open, click-through, and bounce rates of their customers by industry. These average rates (by industry) provide another point of reference as to what is “typical.”
Average open, click-through, and bounce rates of Constant Contact customers by industry
They also state that if you receive an unsubscribe rate of less than 2%, you’re within industry norms.
Want an easy way to track your email stats? Swipe my email stats tracker by clicking on the image below!
Who regulates email marketing and what are the requirements?
Before you start emailing your subscriber list, it’s important to know that email marketing is regulated. The CAN-SPAM act was signed into law in 2003 by President George W. Bush and established national standards and requirements for the sending of commercial messages.
One thing that is important to know is that you can incur a penalty of up to $16,000 for each email that is in violation of the act. So, educating yourself on the rules is extremely important. Here’s a list of the main requirements.
1. The person or business that initiated the email must be clearly identified.
Do not use false or misleading information. For bloggers, that means that you should send your emails from either your blog name or your own name, depending on what your readers will recognize.
2. The subject line of your email must not be deceptive.
This seems like common sense, but it’s still worth mentioning. It’s important to come up with a creative, captivating and catchy subject line. Just be sure that it’s relevant to the content of the email.
3. If the message that you’re sending is an ad, you must identify it as such.
This is where things get interesting for bloggers. If recipients have previously given you their affirmative consent to get emails from you (i.e. they have subscribed or opted-in to your email list), you don’t have to identify your email as an ad. But… And this is important – that is the ONLY requirements that you are exempt from. All of the other CAN-SPAM requirements are still applicable, so keep reading. 🙂
4. Your email must tell recipients where you are located.
This means that you must provide a valid, physical postal address. This can be your home address if you’re comfortable including it in your emails, a U.S.P.S. post office box or “a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.” If you choose to use your home address, you cannot omit your street number or replace the number and street name with “Online Business”. It must be a valid address.
If you are interested in using a commercial mail receiving agency for your business address, you may want to consider The UPS Store or Viabox. If you decide to go this route, be sure that you’re not just using it as a place to dump your email list. In order to avoid the appearance of fraud, here a couple of things to do.
- Include your address on your website for “general correspondence”
- Submit USPS form 1583 to the mail receiving agency so that the agency can receive mail from the USPS.
5. You must tell recipients how they can opt out of receiving future email from you.
You must provide a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of receiving future emails from you. In the blogging world this is commonly accomplished through an unsubscribe option via an email service provider.
6. Honor all opt-out requests promptly.
The mechanism that allows a recipient to opt-out must be available for 30 days and opt-out requests must be processed within 10 days. You cannot charge a fee, require the recipient to take extra steps, or require any additional personal information beyond an email address.
7. You are responsible for complying with the law, even if you outsource email marketing related tasks.
Even if you hire an individual, like a virtual assistant, or a company, to handle your email marketing, you are still legally responsible to comply with the law. So it is important to monitor what others are doing on your behalf.
The following two articles are extremely helpful and cover all of the above points in more detail. I highly recommend that you read both of these today if you haven’t already.
CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business
Candid answers to CAN-SPAM questions
Other email marketing questions and resources
By now, hopefully I’ve answered most of the questions that you had about email marketing for bloggers. There are a few more questions that I’ve heard in various Facebook groups that are best answered by sharing some of my favorite related articles with you.
What type of subject lines work to get people to open and read?
The three articles below are the best that I’ve found on writing effective and catchy email subject lines.
17 Tips & Best Practices for Writing Catchy Email Subject Lines
The BEST email subject lines: 62 formulas to get your emails read
164 Best Email Subject Lines to Boost Your Email Open Rates (Updated)
What subject lines or keywords should you avoid so your emails are not flagged as spam?
The article linked below contains a comprehensive list of words NOT to include in your email subject lines.
The Ultimate List of Email SPAM Trigger Words
How do I use email marketing as a sales funnel?
Sales funnels are an entirely different subject, but… Email marketing can play an important role in your sales funnels.
A book that was recommended to me as “the only resource you need to learn about sales funnels” was Dotcom Secrets
I’m still reading it but I must say… I felt like I was magically enlightened about this thing called a “sales funnel” after reading just the first few chapters.
Other resources that I would recommend to begin to learn more about sales funnels and the roles of email marketing in sales funnels are:
4 Sales Funnel Examples You Can Learn From
Understanding the Marketing Funnel: 5 Strategies to Improve Your Email Marketing
The Content Marketing Sales Funnel
Recap and my personal recommendations
Get started with list building and email marketing today in 4 easy steps!
1. Choose an email service provider.
2. Set up an opt-in/subscribe form on your website.
3. Set up welcome emails (confirmation and thank you).
4. Send your first email!
Email & Popup Plugin Recommendations:
MailerLite – I personally use and recommend MailerLite for its extensive features, affordable pricing, and excellent customer support. MailerLite has automation workflows (even on the forever free plan), web forms, landing pages, a drag-and-drop editor, free email templates, campaign reports, click maps, A/B split testing, 24/7 chat support and much more!
ConvertPlug – even though you can create web forms directly in MailerLite, I also use ConvertPlug for its advanced popup features. I chose ConvertPlug over Optin Monster and SumoMe because it’s a one time purchase vs. a recurring monthly fee. It’s also about 1/3 the price of Bloom, about a $20 one-time fee for ConvertPlug vs. about $60 for Bloom.
There’s a lot to learn about the “business of blogging” but I hope that this guide has answered all the questions you had about email marketing for bloggers. If so, I’d really love it if you shared this post. If you have other questions, leave me a comment. I’d love to chat!
If you’re also interested in learning about using affiliate marketing to monetize your blog even if you don’t have a product, service, or course to sell be sure to read this post too…
Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers – A Beginner’s Guide
So helpful! This is where I’m at in blogging and I needed this information to help me. Thanks!
Awesome! I’m glad you found it at the right time. ?
I feel like I’m going to be coming back to this post a couple times this week.
How’s it going with your email list, Mackenzie? 🙂
Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful information. Thanks for such an informative blog post.
You are most welcome! And thank YOU for your enthusiasm! Made me smile. 🙂
Great information. I retweeted and saved the link for future reference
I’m so glad to hear that it will be helpful as reference. And thanks for sharing! 🙂
These are great tips for the beginner! Wish I’d had a comprehensive guide like this when I started! 🙂
Thank you, Kristin. That’s exactly what I was hoping for, so it’s great to hear! 🙂
I have an email list. I have a subscription box… That being said, I don’t like to SHOVE it down people’s throats that they should subscribe. I hate seeing pop ups like that myself, so…. Why would I want to do it to other people?
GiGi – I agree. I’m not a big fan of pop-ups — although I’ve heard that they do convert well if used correctly. I’m trying to mainly use related content upgrades for opt-ins, so that people sign up who would naturally be interested in the same topics I email about. Have you considered doing something like that?
One of the most detailed posts on this that I’ve ever seen (and that actually made sense). There’s definitely a few things in here that I can use to improve my email list and marketing strategy.
Dani x | http://www.flourishingfreelancer.com
Wow… what a great post. First of all I LOVE the way you are so up front about affiliate products. I immediately warmed to you with that one simple act!
I really agree that email is direct, can be personal, and should be targeted, but in my inbox I get far to many emails! Email also has the potential To really pee people off! I think email needs to build on a relationship. Also I do think Facebook can be very personal and engaging, and its getting more so with things like Broadcast Live. The big difference I see is that the email goes to the reader, on Facebook the reader has to come to you. Though I guess you can argue with a statistic like 3800%
Your list of things to offer to get emails is VERY helpful for me. As a relatively new blogger (4 posts!) I am keen to build a loyal band of followers from which I can get customers. Currently all they get for visiting my blog is great content! I can see that may not be enough and will certainly now start to produce some free giveaways. Thanks for the steer.
I was surprised to hear that I have to give my physical address on my emails. I did not know that, so I guess you have now saved me from a potentially very high fine! Many thanks. Is that just for US citizens, or does it apply if I send emails to the US from the UK? It is so easy to start blogging and emailing without really knowing all the legal ramifications. I am so glad I found this blog!
I take your point about the social media, and so as soon as I post this comment I shall share your page!
Once again Great post and many thanks
Tony – so glad to hear you learned some new things from the post! Thanks for the awesome feedback! 🙂
Wow! That was unbelievably comprehensive! I am saving this for LOTS of future reference!
Lisa – thank you so much! Happy to hear it was helpful to you. 🙂
What a great summary of the email marketing problem this post has been. Although my list began very small when I once mailed directly using Gmail, I found out the limitations, moved to mailchimp. I could see me riding a roller coaster ever since. I’ve tried a bunch of products in the market since then in the lust for the per of automation and stumbled upon SendX, which suits my requirements and bills just right. Everyone is free to choose their own but, simply having one makes your life so much easier. Thanks again for the post.
Hi, Dan. It really is a journey, isn’t it? Glad you found an email service provider that works for you. I haven’t heard of SendX. Will have to check it out!
Thank you for this! I feel so lost trying to figure this Out! Any suggested reading for content of initial email sequence? Trying to get this email thing figured out before I start really announcing my presence on social media…
This was a very comprehensive blog post. You provided a very good description of what an email list is and why every blogger should have one. In my online journey I actually started email marketing before blogging. My established email list served as a excellent audience to promote my blog posts.
I really enjoyed how you answered some of the common questions around managing an email list. Properly nurturing your email list is a very important aspect of email marketing. Again, loved the post and I can’t wait to read more.
Thank you so much for your kind words, Shawn! I’m interested in how you got people singed up for your list without a blog. 🙂
Thank you for this interesting article. I want to launch my own website and started building the mailchimp account. I did not know that you have to use your own address, that is a real bummer, since I am not a company and cannot afford so many expenses with the blog.
I have two questions for you:
– Do you think it would be wise to wait until I can make money out of blogging and then pay for a PO – or will I lose potential readers if they do not subscribe right from the start?
– Do you have a subscribe button on your site? If yes – it was not very easy to be found; If not – why?
Thank you in advance!
Awesome post! I’m saving this to refer later. Thanks for sharing.