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6 Reasons Why You Need to Consider Email as a Communication Strategy on Your Blog

Email is back!

Earlier in the week I mentioned that one of the emerging themes in the monetization sessions at Blog World Expo was the idea of membership sites as a way to make an income from a blog.

The other theme that emerged in a number of the sessions was that many bloggers were placing increased attention on the medium of email as a way to communicate with readers.

Email is back!

Actually email never really went away – but it’s back on the radar of many bloggers after a swing over the last few years away from it in favour of other mediums such as RSS.

RSS feeds are far from being dead as a way to communicate with readers but while some saw the advances in feeds and feed readers as an email killer many entrepreneurial bloggers are now realising that perhaps they should not have given up on email.

I shared on at least one of the panels that I was on at BWE how email on my photography blog is much more effective than RSS on a number of fronts:

1. The Numbers Speak for Themselves

On DPS I currently have a total of 340,784 subscribers. 223,081 of these subscribe via email – 117,703 of them subscribe via RSS. That’s a 2:1(ish) ratio. While this ratio will vary from site to site considerably (depending upon the niche) I’d guess that on most blogs it’d be similar – the exception possibly being sites with a more techy/social media focus.

2. Email Drives Great Traffic

The days I send out Newsletters are the biggest days of traffic on the site. I shared this graphic a few months ago but here’s the traffic to the blog area of my site on newsletter days (it’s pretty obvious which days the newsletters went out):

dps-blog-newsletter.png

RSS certainly does drive traffic – however it is less – probably because most people read the content in their feed reader.

3. Email subscribers are monetizing better than other subscribers with onsite advertising

One of the interesting things that also happens on newsletter days is that the rate that people seem to click on ads also seems to go up slightly. This was a surprise to me when I first saw it because I would have thought that subscribers who visit the blog each week would become blind to the ads but the CTR (click through rate) on my AdSense ads goes up on newsletter days. Here’s a quick screen grab of total AdSense revenue on the DPS blog – again you can see the rises for newsletter days.

adsense.png

4. Email Also Monetizes Better with other Income Streams

Not only does AdSense income increase on newsletter days but I’m finding that other monetization strategies also work well in the newsletter. Three come to mind:

  • Affiliate promotions have worked really well in newsletter for me. I’ve tested this a number of times by posting a blog post about a product I’m promoting and sending an email about the product. In every instance that I’ve tested it the newsletter wins hands down. The best performing affiliate promotions actually work best where you do a blog post AND an email promotion – but without the email component I find I’m definitely leaving money on the table every time.
  • Product Launches – if you have your own product to launch I find that in a similar way to how affiliate promotions work best in emails – so too does selling your own stuff. Again – posting both on your blog and via email (and in other places like twitter) can help increase sales further but email is crucial in driving sales.
  • Direct Ad Sales – lastly the few times that I’ve sold ads in my newsletter to direct advertisers I’ve had very good feedback from the advertisers. We ran a big promotion both on our blog and in our newsletter earlier in the year for a big computer brand and the feedback we got was that the campaign was most effective on newsletter day from clicks from within the email.

5. Email is Personal and Builds Community

There is something about a regular email newsletter that just seems to make people feel more connected to you. I find it hard to put my finger why but there’s something about receiving a good email that just seems more powerful than reading a good blog post via an RSS feed. It just seems a little more personal, more special.

Perhaps it is because RSS is generally read in an RSS feed reader where there are hundreds of competing posts to be read or perhaps it is because an email is delivered into an inbox filled with more personal communications or perhaps it is because when someone signs up for an email they have to give you something personal – their address – whereas with RSS they don’t have to reveal anything about themselves.

I’m not sure WHY it is the case – but every week I get people emailing me to thank me for the emails I send them. I’ve never had anyone thank me for my RSS feed….

The newsletters I send do more than drive traffic and make money – they seem to make people feel as though they belong. To get an email someone has to sign up – they become a member of sorts and this is reflected in the emails that they send me that talk about ‘our site’.

6. Email is more Accessible

I only really started to experiment with email because someone in my family asked me how they could get updates from my photography blog. When I told them about RSS they stared back at me with a blank face. I added an email option and they immediately subscribed.

If you only offer RSS as a way to access your site’s information you’re excluding my family member and probably a lot of other people too.

For this reason I advise giving people a variety of ways to get updates whether it be RSS, daily emails, weekly emails, Twitter updates…. whatever is relevant for your audience.

Don’t Forget about RSS

I don’t want this post to be seen as writing off RSS. It’s an amazing technology and is still really important to my own sites. It too drives traffic, makes money, reinforces brand etc – all I guess I’m arguing is that bloggers take a 2nd look at email.

My personal approach is to have multiple points of connection with readers which reinforces what I’m doing on my sites and maximise the impression that I’m able to make upon them.

How I Use Email

Tomorrow I want to continue this focus upon email to talk about how I use email newsletters to achieve some of the above things. While you can set up tools to just automatically send out emails at predefined intervals to those that subscribe to your blog you can actually take it to the next level and set up a system that is much much more effective.

Tomorrow I’ll walk you through the emails that I send to my newsletter list and share with you some of the techniques that I’ve found that work to drive traffic and make money.

UPDATE: part 2 is now live at How I use email newsletters to Drive Traffic and Make Money.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Thanks Darren for this post.

    It’s quite confusing because some marketers scream “EMAIL MARKETING IS DEAD-DEAD-DEAD” and it’s hard for us who are not as advance to know what is what.

    This post is quite useful in understanding how to better use email marketing to increase the income from the traffic that visits your blog!

    Great post and information as always!

    Krizia

  2. I agree – email never went away!

    I’ve just started to use Aweber and the automatic blog broadcast to send out newsletters and, yes, there is a spike on my visitors stats whenever I send a newsletter out.

    Looking forward to see how you effectively use email and grab some tips!

    Andrew

  3. Great – I’m looking forward to reading about how you use email. That should be very helpful!

  4. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this topic in the coming days. I’ve yet to incorporate email into my strategy and I’m not sure how to with my site. As usual you make things abundantly clear for us Darren!

  5. Gary Duke says: 10/30/2009 at 1:24 am

    Darren,

    You mentioned in this post (which I receive by RSS) that email recipients often thank you for the newsletter via email, but that you haven’t had a “Thank you” from an RSS subscriber.

    All of your points are well stated, and I loved the post. I look forward to the next post where you said you’ll talk about distributing your blog via email, something I want to consider. I am a relatively new blogger, starting out with monthly posts (Dec ’08), and now weekly (started Oct ’09)

    But, I want to add, I appreciate the RSS feed I receive from you. I have folders set up in my reader for about 20 topics, but the first I read is called my “Priority Reading List”. ProBlogger is definitely one of the items in that priority list.

    Gary Duke

    P.S. You are a role model for me as I try to learn to be an effective blogger.

  6. I already have the feedburner email subscription on my blog, but I don’t have the newsletter option, say 1 time a week send all the posts to subscribers automatically.
    And I would like to have this option but don’t know which tools to use (plugins) on WP blog.
    That is why I’m looking forward for your tomorrows post to see what you’re using and how it can be applied to my site too…

  7. I see the email enthusiasm too. I actually don’t have it set up on my site yet, but when I told a close family friend that she could subscribe via feed her face fell flat. She wanted an email and that was that.

    And Mr. Gary Duke, I didn’t notice the option for making folders and my feeds have been overwhelming.

  8. Hey Darren,

    When you reach someone in their most personal space, they are at their most relaxed and receptive. They are much more likely to embrace your value to them and what you have to say.

    E-mail is the most personal digital space you can reach someone at. If you can get permission and earn their trust in that space, then there is the highest chance of them reading, clicking, buying, and so forth.

    It’s the same way with physical goods. Seeing someone try to give you value and spread their message on the street is nothing compared to getting to know someone that interests you, then inviting them over and them saying the same thing in the comfort and privacy of your home.

    Thanks for the reminder to not forget the power of email,
    Oleg

  9. It’s easy to explain. Only Tech blogs reader people knows about RSS. It’s a difficult concept to learn.

    Email it has been during many years and not ‘tech’ users knows about it.

    Sorry for my English!

    Regards from Nacho López.

  10. Yeah I agree that email is much more personal. RSS is kinda cold in comparison. It’s just that excited feeling you get when you open your inbox! I also think it email might do better than RSS on art blogs like Photography which was mentioned, because art is one of the closest things to a persons heart. Thus something personal like email might go along way with readers. It makes it not only personal to them, but also personal to you as the writer. Being a brand new blogger I’m definitely going to keep this in mind. Thanks a lot!

  11. Earlier I only used to target feed subscriber using RSS feeds and Email subscription was least used by me.. Later on I realize the power of Email marketing and stats showed me people still prefer using email subscription over RSS subscription and I moved to aweber and I’m loving it…

  12. Great point!

    I think it basically comes down to choice. Some people prefer e-mails some RSS feeds.If you give people both and put the right amount of effort into both mediums of communication then you will have your basis covered.

    The reason why e-mail is popular is that people like to keep everything in one place. RSS feeds force to go on a different page and read it elsewhere as opposed to being able to read it right there- in your inbox.

    Inbox itself is a really power tool, which enables you to communicate back to others in a much more meaningful way.

    Once again, it would be great just to have both options just as accessible to give people choice.

    Good luck and thanks for writing!

    Best,
    Tomas

  13. Wow! Darren, those are impressive traffic stats. Would you mind doing a run down on how your traffic has grown over the time of this blog and what have been the defining moments for your growth in traffic. Did you start with zero traffic? How much traffic from organic search.

    Currently I am on around 13,000 uniques per month with around 60% from organic search.

    Maybe you’ve already covered this. Just point me to the post.

    • Mal – I’ve posted some of the stats previously (I’m on the road at the moment so can’t pull the posts in at the moment) but quickly, it started with 0 traffic although I had a previous photography blog that I was able to pull in a few readers from (not a lot). Plus a few more from ProBlogger – but it’s really grow steadily over the last 3 or so years.

      Search Traffic is a good and growing source of traffic but most of the traffic comes from regular readers. Search traffic would be the equal best source – social media (twitter) a good source too.

  14. Jeff H. says: 10/30/2009 at 2:41 am

    I have had a newsletter for my website for nearly 4 years and every time I send it out every two weeks (on either a Monday or Tuesday), it does indeed bring traffic to my web site.

    This is why it is always important to test what WORKS FOR YOU on your web site and not just read and listen to what other internet marketers are saying that email is dead.

    Email dead?? Puuuuullllleassseeee!

    When I finally convert my static web site into a blog (which now looks like early December) I will continue to use an promote my email lists. In addition to my newsletter, I also have over 700 additional email lists for my web site. When combined according to Aweber, I have over 21,000 readers.

    Email is alive and well on the Internet!

  15. Seems to be the theme of the week. I’m really glad you posted thiis because I’m working on my email strategy this week which I’ve neglected for quite some time.

  16. I like email because it gives you really fast feedback on your writing ability. Make people angry, or bore them, or lose their trust by selling too hard, and they unsubscribe fast. You don’t get that kind of feedback on a blog or RSS.

    Right now it’s easier to split test a list as well.

  17. TechCrunch uses feedburner email distribution daily, while SmashingMagazine doesn’t distribute any emails and both blogs have a decent following and a health revenue…so what makes SmashingMagazine survive without a mailing list?

    Feedburner is free of charge, though it’s list is not reusable in any other format except through publishing a blog post. While Eweber & iContact, you can re-use the mailing list in various forms.

    It would be interesting Darren to do a blog post on Feedburner vs. Eweber/iContact…can a blog maintain the use of both Feedburner & Eweber/iContact?

    • Muzi – I think looking at TechCrunch and Smashing Magazine might not be the best examples as both cater for tech savvy audiences – who use RSS.

      Feedburner is great for delivering automated RSS feeds to email but if you want to personalize your updates or send extra newsletters it’s pretty useless – unlike Aweber and iContact (and others).

  18. Looks like the proof is in the stats pudding for e-mail!

    I have been thinking of putting a bigger push on for e-mail. Looking forward to how you spell it out further tomorrow, thanks.

  19. The numbers don’t lie…email is a great monetizer! Can’t wait to see tomorrow’s email tips.

  20. Darren –

    Nothing makes me smile more then reading a post (from a blogger) endorsing the power of email marketing. I’m clearly biased as I work for an Email Service Provider (ESP), but email is far from dead. In fact, most of our peers in the industry continue to see incredible growth.

    I think the section “Email is Personal and Builds Community” is spot on. We’ve been working very closely with Chris Brogan and Jason Falls as they recently launched their email newsletters. Both have a bit of a different style (based on their personalities), but at the end of the day, they are both very personal and “community building.”

    I appreciate you shedding some light on this with your tribe. Speaking of tribes…when does that 3Tribes gig start up?

    (Nice meeting you at Blogworld, albeit briefly).

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

    • thanks DJ – yes it was nice to briefly meet you too.

      I think the personal/community thing is something that most people underestimate – while us bloggers like to think that a blog post is personal, add to it email and something special sometimes happens.

  21. How is it possible? Written on October 30th, 2009 ??
    Is everybody in the future or i´m in the past?

  22. Hem… email is still powerful tool indeed.

  23. Daren, you make a strong argument for email, RSS, and the fact that twitter does not rule the universe. Many provide their twitter account as a contact before their email but this is a bit premature.

    Email is the quickest and easiest form of communication on the internet. It makes sense to use this medium to convey your blog’s message.

  24. Email subscriptions are hard to get if your blog is a gaming blog such as mine is.

    Email are nice ways to get more traffic dont get me wrong but the problem is trying to get more subscribers. Alot people just browse the web all day that and dont think about subscribing that is why if i have a post i know will be popular i say hey consider subscribing via rss feed email google friend conntect follower or keep in touch on twitter.

    My blog gets hundreds of visitors a day but the problem is most of it comes from google and reddit thus leading to a problem because most people who come from that are just browsing around not really looking to buy.

    Im just going to keep building great content and hopefully somthing sparks so i can buy a domain name and start really living off of my blog not 100% but just to where i have a healthy stream of income feeding me daily so i can use it to invest with and reach my lifelong goals of becoming a very wealthy. Anyways that is my 2 cents visit my blog i have been talking about and hope you subscribe

    http://OfficialRTS.blogspot.com/

  25. Although I read this post from my Google Reader I agree that email is effective in reaching people too. A combination of both is awesome…float everyone’s boat.

  26. Thanks ProBlogger. Great article review. You have really proved that email tactics worth spanding time on. I am waiting for “continue”. Thanks

  27. Great post, I am looking forward to the next couple of posts to learn more specifics!

  28. Yeah email is huge, RSS is great for people to stay on top of blog content but certainly email remains essential for providing specific information to your readers that you dont want to fill up the blog with

    The challenge that each person has is to not use it as a form of spam but to further develop the relationships that are being formed through the blog.

  29. It’s not always true.

  30. Email is great if you can build a big list of subscribers.

  31. great, i usually use WP Mass Mail to do that work . . .

  32. Email is definitely a critical element to the success of any online business. If you aren’t capturing the email address of your prospects, then you could be missing out on lots of sells and additional traffic

  33. Very timely post since I am thinking of using email again to promote my blog and some coming products. Im hoping you could discuss the different email tools and its cost in your follow up posts.

  34. Great post Darren! Like a lot of people, I’ve been thinking that email is dead, at least as far as blogging went. But this post has changed my way of thinking.

    I used to have a small monthly email newsletter. Didn’t have a lot of subscribers so I thought it was useless. Now that my blog has grown and matured I might give email another chance.

    I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s post!

  35. Awesome post Darren.

    Email will be more and more value in the future, if you have a great email list you can drive a lot of traffic to any site you want. Traffic equals money.

  36. I’m looking forward to the follow up posts on this.

  37. How great
    Definitely some inspiring stuff and sharing here
    Thanks for the article.

  38. Great article. Email communication is one important component of a complete marketing strategy for business. As a virtual assistant I handle a number of eNewsletters for clients and the response is always fantastic and clients are usually surprised at how good it actually is! Email communication increases brand awareness, increases customer loyalty and referrals. Look forward to more on this topic.

  39. We are waiting Mr Dareen to get the sun rise … so that we can see you again (wooops that was in the tone of a cow boy)

  40. Hey Darren your point is really helpful, email is also one nice source for us for getting traffic. When I make new post on my blog I send email to my blogger friend.

    Right now I also want to inform my all blogger friend that my blog PR increase from 1 to 3. I am so happy for this google reward.

  41. I make a lot more money from email then I do from on site sales. I suppose my niche is a bit different, but still – if anyone thinks email is dead, they just don’t know how to use email in a way that works.

  42. Thank you Darren. It’s a pleasure being part of your community :¬) Look forward to the next post.

  43. I absolutely agree. Email communication is here to stay. I am also earning something small through RSS feeds adsense.

  44. Good piece of advice. Marketers should look internally a lot of times to determine if their initiatives should even be put out to the public. A lot of times marketers get caught up too much in the process they forget to think everything through.

  45. I think email marketing is a great way of retaining all those new visitors to your site. They come and go. They may like to go back. You just need to offer something attractive to them in return for leaving their emails and the rest will be how to deal with this trust.

  46. I agree that we should not forget about the email marketing strategy. Just like you said, it’s like a communication option between you and your readers with a personal touch. Nice post. :)

  47. Yeah, I agree with this post.
    Some emails cam bring traffic for you, but if you make it wrong, then people (or even email provider) will thought it as a spam. So be careful when making a promotional email for your blog.

  48. yes I agree, but we have list or subscriber to do that. “Building list” I think better topic to be talked. I have no list subscriber since I decide to work online, oh my God …

  49. I totally agree!

    Email still rules! More ever, there are many other devices which provide alerts and displays email as soon as they arrive in your inbox like Blackberry.

  50. How do you store all your members? In Aweber?

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