However lately I have started using a second type of newsletter that in time has the potential to send even more traffic. In fact initial testing shows me that it’ll literally send millions of readers over time.
The way I use my normal weekly newsletters is to send an email to my list every Thursday that updates them on the latest posts on the blog and ‘hot threads of conversation’ in the forum.
The second type of newsletter (I’ll call it a ‘special feature‘ newsletter from now on) is quite different.
The idea behind this ‘special feature’ type of newsletter is that it is much more automated than the weekly emails that I send. It takes a little work to set it up – but once you’ve done that you just sit back and watch it do it’s ‘magic’.
Here’s how it works. There are two ways that these special feature emails are different from the weekly updates that I send.
1. The first difference is Topic
These newsletters are not updates of new posts on the blog – but they are much more focused upon a ‘theme’ and point readers to old posts in our archives.
For example – the first of these newsletters focused upon the theme of ‘portrait photography’ (you can view what it is like here). In it I pointed readers to 18 of our best portrait photography posts from the last two years on the blog. I also pointed people to the portrait section of our forum as well as some recommended reading (books) at Amazon. There’s also a ‘recommend to a friend’ invitation – interestingly I have seen it’s been used a few times already).
You can see a what my newsletter looks like here (click to enlarge):
The idea behind this email is that it brings alive our archives – which are often hidden to new readers of the blog.
2. The second difference is HOW I send the Emails
OK – the real magic of these special feature emails is not the content – but the way that the emails are sent. While weekly emails go out to my list all at once and the benefits from them dies off after a day or two – these special feature emails just keep on giving and giving for months and even years to come. Here’s how:
I use Aweber to send my emails (here’s why I use Aweber). Aweber gives you the ability to send a variety of types of emails. I use their ‘broadcast’ type email for my weekly updates – but for these special feature newsletters I use the ‘autoresponder’ (Aweber also call it a ‘Follow Up’ email) type of email.
Note: Other bloggers that I respect use Get Response to deliver their emails – I’m yet to use it but by all reports it is a feature rich and very reliable option.
An autoresponder is a tool that allows you to send out emails at certain predetermined intervals to people on your list. Let me explain by going back to my portrait photography example:
I set my email not to go out immediately to my list – but for it to go out 2 weeks after subscribers sign up to receive newsletters. This means that if you sign up for my photography newsletter today – that you’ll get the portrait tips newsletter in 14 days time. It also means that anyone who has signed up for my newsletter at any point in the past before 14 days ago got the email immediately.
What this means is that everyone on my list gets the email – but unlike my weekly newsletters which only go out to anyone currently signed up – these special feature newsletters go out to anyone that signs up for my newsletter at any point in the future.
As I’m getting 300 new signups to my newsletter a day at present – this means that my portraits newsletter goes out to my 57,000 current subscribers but will go out to the 110,000 subscribers who sign up in the next 12 months (300 a day)… and hundreds of thousands of others in the years that follow.
The initial tracking that I’ve done is that 86% of those who get these emails are opening them and clicking on at least one link.
But Wait There’s More – Here’s How to Extend the Idea
OK – so I’ve set up this portraits newsletter and the 2 hours that it took me to build it are going to pay off for years to come. But how can I extend this idea further?
My plan is to develop a new special feature newsletter every month. So 30 days after readers receive their Portrait Photography special feature they’ll receive another one – on Travel Photography. 30 days after they get the travel photography one they’ll get one on Exposure/Settings, 30 days later they’ll get one on Composition….. etc
Over a year I’ll have 12 special feature newsletters in place.
Do the sums on this and when they are all in place the amount of people getting special feature emails on a daily basis will be 3600. Add to this the current 57,000 people on my list and over the next few years millions of people will get these newsletters.
If I can achieve the 86% open rate with them – that’ll drive millions of visitors to the blog and forum.
I’d estimate that each of these emails will take me 2 hours to put together – so 12 of them will take me 24 hours. Considering that they’ll continue to drive traffic to the site for years to come – I’d say that this is a pretty good use of time.
Of course this is not just about driving traffic to the blog – it’s also about giving readers value and a service (which builds loyalty and brand) as well as promoting affiliate products in the newsletters (and I could potentially sell advertising in them also). I think this type of newsletter has real potential with affiliate programs as each newsletter is focused upon a single topic and if you can match a good product with that topic in terms of relevancy I suspect conversion will be quite good.
Note: of course the results I’m getting with these newsletters have been the result of me building up a blog for 2 years. I already have a large list of subscribers and a lot of traffic coming to the blog. However the same principles can be applied to a blog with smaller traffic also. If you can sign up 10 new people to your list every day and have 12 monthly newsletters in place – at the end of the year you’ll have a list of 3650 and you’ll be sending out tens of thousands of emails a year.
The key is to start building and communicating with a newsletter list now.