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How to Get Your First 1,000 Email Subscribers When Nobody Knows You

Posted By Guest Blogger 4th of May 2013 Blog Promotion 0 Comments

This is a guest contribution by Marya Jan, blogging coach from Writing Happiness.

What’s the biggest excuse you hear from people who are not getting the results they want from their blogging?

“I don’t know anyone online.”

Not ‘my content might not be good’. Not ‘I don’t a clear idea of what I am doing’. Not ‘I know it takes time and I am learning everything I can’.

None of that. It’s always because they don’t have any connections with the big shots.

Allow me to put up my hand and say this … I have over 1,000 subscribers (multiple times over actually) and I have done this under 18 months of blogging AND without having connections with any famous people.

I did meet Darren Rowse, Sonia Simone, Chris Garrett, Tim Ferris and Annabel Candy at the Problogger Conference in 2011 but I was so new that I was too scared to even introduce myself properly.

I am pretty sure this doesn’t count. So what does? So glad you asked.

If you are someone who has been blogging for a few months, you know how hard it is to attract readers. You spend insane amounts of time creating content but nobody takes you seriously. You hope to get a few shares, but all you hear is dead silence

You might be new-ish but you have quickly realized this reality: Blogging is hard work and sometimes it seems downright cruel..

You know honeymoon period is over

Creating quality content is getting you nowhere (assuming it is high quality) and you need a plan B. And you can’t come up with anything to save your life.

I have another suggestion. I propose that you go back and revisit your plan A. Identify loopholes, see if you could improve things so that you actually don’t need any other plans.

That’s how I did it.

Your first plan might look something like this:

  • Start a blog
  • Pick a topic
  • Identify your audience
  • Create useful content
  • Promote that content
  • Differentiate yourself from others (All of this within 2 weeks)
  • Form relationships with influencers
  • Grow your blog by leaps and bounds

So basically after about two weeks worth of work, you are relying on getting your blog off the ground by befriending people in high places.

Let me tell you, this is not a particularly smart strategy.

Through own my experience and by through coaching other clients (Yes, I am a blogging coach), I have found that most influencers won’t take you seriously unlessyou have some sort of proven record.

Your biggest fan

Image used with permission

Allow me to explain: Influencers are super busy people. They are very, very, very busy people. If you need to earn their attention, you need to prove you are worth it. So in my experience, you can have meaningful relationships with A-list bloggers but it doesn’t happen in the beginning. Not for most of us, anyway.

It takes time and lot of effort BEFORE they notice you. (And nobody will tell you this.)

If you trying to do this too early on, you are going about it in the wrong way. Instead, you should focus your time on your blog just so that you know what you are doing.

You need to do things right enough that you have a 1k subscribers worthy blog so you have the skill and confidence of approaching them properly.

So let’s have a look at the plan again, shall we?

After delivering hundreds of blog reviews and coaching many clients, I have found these to be the primary causes of why people don’t get their first 100 subscribers, let alone 1,000.

1. Poor first Impression 

Your blog looks amateurish, tacky or just plain spammy.

When someone new lands on it for the first time, they get no sense of what the blog is about, who is writing it and if it’s any good. There are too many flashy ads, or too many images, colours, links and tabs competing for attention.  The content doesn’t seem appealing. The headlines are boring, images are of poor quality, and everything is a big chunk of text.

Your blog title doesn’t tell them anything about who you are about and how you can help them. Your visitors are so confused that the only option that makes sense is to leave.

The easiest way to fix this is to make your site clutter free and get rid of all the unnecessary elements adding to the chaos. You want to make it as easy as you can for your readers to navigate.

Most people cram their sidebars with lots of information in order to look like they have been around for a while. That they know what they are doing. Please don’t. Things like tag clouds, categories, search boxes, links to other bloggers aren’t really helpful. Not really.

Don’t stuff your sidebar with ads either. I am guessing you don’t have enough traffic to make any decent money anyway.

2. Unspecified target audience

You are not making it clear who the blog is for. You are not saying to a particular group of people (maybe you aren’t sure who they are?) that this blog is for them.

For instance, let’s say you are a business coach. However this is a very general term. If you don’t make it absolutely clear that you are writing for start-ups, or small business owners, or mid sized business, or executives; you are just confusing your readers.

One great way to make it happen is to say that in your tag line or in a mini author bio that you display on the sidebar. You’ve got to have people saying, ‘Yes, this seems perfect for me.’

 3. Incomplete About page

People are really interested in person behind the blog. They want to know who that creative soul is. They want to like that person. They want to be that person.

A lot of people totally mess this up. Either they talk too much or too little.

Often they present the information in the wrong order. They start off with their story and why they write the blog and then barely touch upon how they can help you. People lose interest.

People want to know who writes this blog but more importantly they want to know why they should care.

Tell them why you are relevant to them, and follow it by your story and other details. And keep it brief.

4. Negative social proof 

One thing that will make the most difference to the number of readers you get is the display of social proof.

When people come to a place where they see others hanging out, they feel confident in making the same choice. For this reason, focus to create content that gets shared, liked and get commented on.

From day one, add credibility building elements to your site. The most popular of them all is the ‘As seen on’ testimonial. You want to land guest posts on popular blogs and then proudly display their logos on your site.

5. No point of difference

This is something that many new bloggers struggle to answer in their earlier days of blogging so I won’t say to worry too much about it. That being said, if you spend some time thinking about what makes you different from the rest, you will find it easier to create content and would be more focused in related tasks.

There are several ways to help make you stand out from the crowd.

Lady Pointing To You

Being you

This is the thing; you are the most unique thing about your blog. There is nobody else just like you, with your point of view, insights and experiences.

The more you accept that and highlight it, the more chances you will have to appeal to those who are truly the right people. So really hone in your voice and bring out that personality of yours for the world to see. People can’t get that anywhere else.

They love the snark in Ashley Ambridge’s voice. They love Danielle Laporte’s soul. They adore Darren Rowse for a kind, down to earth spirit. What’s your secret sauce?

Your purpose

Yes, you are providing solutions to somebody’s problems but why are you doing it, really? What is your big idea? What do you stand for?

Do you believe life is an adventure? Chris Guillebeau

Do you want to show people how work less and play more? Tim Ferris

Do you want people to focus on the essentials? Leo Babauta

Do you want to empower women in business and life? Marie Forleo

Do you want to offer personal development advice for smart people? Steve Palvina

If you believe in something, people will believe in you. Tell them now.

The way you dress

Your design, colours, logo, tag line, images – everything speaks volumes and appeal to a certain kind of person.

Want to attract go getters, how about choosing red or maroon in your theme? How about appealing to gentle, earth loving souls with the light green colour? Inspiration is your game then might soothing blue is what you need.

Your design needs to support your theme, mission and content and make you stronger. Marie Forleo is hip, Mars Dorian is bold, what are you?

Your offer

Your specific market, your content, the needs you solve and the exact solution you provide based on your expertise is often enough to differentiate you from others.

Derek Halpern teaches you marketing based on research findings. Corbett Barr teaches you how to get traffic because he has done it. What have you got on offer?

6. No incentive to sign up

Many new bloggers are finding it super hard to find new readers and to keep old ones also. One reason is because they don’t get them on their list. They don’t place a subscription box in a prominent position and  don’t give them any reason to subscribe.

Shouldn’t the blog itself be good enough reason? Yes, it is, but adding an incentive to your sign up box works really well.

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to just put together some old posts and offer as a freebie. One, nobody cares and even if somebody did, they won’t take you seriously.

But you don’t have to spend days or months creating something. Jon Morrow says the best opt-in offers are those that offer some sort of short cut of doing a task. A cheat sheet of sorts (His Headline Hacks is a great example).

Teach people to do one thing and do it really well. People don’t find long freebies appealing that take too long to read and would take months to implement. A report, mini ebook, white paper or a short webinar works well.

7. Lack of self promotion

Finally people never sign up because they don’t know you exist. You have to actively go out and promote yourself.

Again, you might feel compelled to remind me that that’s why you need relationships with famous bloggers so they can promote you. Let me tell you that is not the only way you can drive traffic to your blog.

You can guest post on mid-sized blogs. Often they don’t publish many guest posts so their audience might be more inclined to follow you. You can create YouTube videos, Slideshare presentations, answer questions in forums such as yahoo answers and Quora.

And no, I am not snubbing social media. But social media does take a while to work, especially if you are new. By all means participate in social media but don’t make it the main focus of your traffic generation efforts.

The point is: you have to promote a lot. Spend 20% of your time creating content for your own blog and the rest on promoting it.

Being smart or talented is not enough to build a successful blog

Then what is? Creating super useful content. Being able to stand out from the rest. And for the right people too. And to be worthy of getting some attention from A-list bloggers. Then you can approach the bloggers you worship. There is a good chance you’ll hear back.

Marya Jan is on a mission to help bloggers get their 1,000 subscribers. She is a blogging coach at Writing Happiness. Grab her free ebook ‘9 New Rules of Blogging – Grow Your Business with Little Traffic, No Connections & Limited Hours. 

About Guest Blogger
This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.
  1. I find it’s the same approach that many of us use when facing failure. We quit instead of adjust our methods. This often proves tragic because in many instances, there is nothing profoundly wrong with plan A, it simply needs a few tweaks here and there. This would be better than abandoning the plan altogether and starting something completely new. Nice post!

  2. Awesome advice, I will definitely be using these tips as I grow my own blog! Definitely agree with the spammy looking ads all over the place. Everyone seems so quick to try and make a few dollars that they don’t realize that they are turning away their audience before they even become hooked.

  3. Marya, Thanks for this informative and detailed post. Blogging is not as easy as we are made to believe before coming into the field.

    However, blogging can be easier if you identify your target audience on time and have foreknowledge of how things are done in the blogging arena. The moment you are able to figure out things from the outset, everything falls into place.

    Nobody cares about who you are and what happens to you; nobody is ready to do the promotion for you. You have to promote yourself; but the moment you become a force to reckon with, everyone becomes attracted to you. You must therefore make use of the right forums, the right authority blogs, the best social media networks, etc to create awareness about yourself and then you will have a following.

    Usually, newbies make the mistake of trying to make their blogs look superb but end up making it messy by adding too many widgets, plugins, banners, etc. But as time goes by, they realise their mistakes and tidy up things by themselves.

    • “Nobody cares about who you are and what happens to you; nobody is ready to do the promotion for you. You have to promote yourself; but the moment you become a force to reckon with, everyone becomes attracted to you”.

      Hear, hear!

  4. Too right Marya,

    Keep on writing quality content to show what you’re made of, learn by studying top blogs such as this one and keep tweaking your own blog over and over again until it looks right and gives readers something of value.

    You’ll also probably have to accept that, while doing this, you’ll be darning your socks and driving around in an old banger.

    Then one day the time may come when you’re ready to mix it up with the big boys.

  5. thanks for the information.
    When visitors visit our site, they don’t really care who we are. They only care with what we wrote and what contents we wrote about, not the author.
    So it’s small possiblity when visitors subscribe because who we are.
    They will subscribe to our articles because of the articles themselves.
    Thanks for the tips anyway.
    Really interesting

  6. I’m not familiar when it comes to this topic but I know it is very important that’s why I keep on reading and researching about this to learned something more about this. It really helps us a lot. Thank you for sharing some useful information to us! I have a blog also, You can find it at Movers in Santa Clara

  7. Thanks for sharing Marya. I think there should be more blogging coaches to help people start up online.

    Many people still think they can do it themselves and end up like Efoghor Joseph said, with a messy blog which can get overwhelming to tidy up sometimes.

    Marya’s point 5 is very important and bloggers should focus more on that, then progress is made quickly. Especially on the Purpose . . .

  8. Hi Marya, thanks for the inciting post. As a beginner, I have been reading a lot on how to improve my site and I must confess, it’s been a struggle identifying my target audience since I blog about recent global issues.

    Also, could please shed more light on when to place an advert on one’s blog? I read one of Darren’s post where he said if I plan on monetizing my blog later, I might as well place ads on the site from the onset. Truly, I’m not making any money from my blog yet ($2 so far…yay me!) but I don’t want readers to get used to an ad-free blog now and I later switch things up.

    I’m bookmarking this post, I need to read it over again. Thanks again for sharing.

  9. Persistence, persistence, persistence Marya. Love the tips!

    Create and connect daily. Never hesitate to create more than the average blogger to stand out in a big way. Publish once or more daily and build relationships with powerful influencers from within your niche to reach your heady subscriber numbers.


  10. I want to say a big thank you for this wonderful post. One major problem I see newbies making is them thinking that they do not need to make any financial investment to startup because is online biz.

  11. Persistence and consistency is key. You have to be in it for the long haul.

  12. Great info and tips… very useful especially for me as the beginner…

    Keep writing good post!! Enjoy it so much…

  13. Thanks heaps for this great post. I am quite new for blogging and truly thankful for your advice.

  14. Hi Marya,

    Great post – like always…

    For blogging success – the phenomenon of blogging is amazingly organized work.

  15. It seems it is true, if we look amateurish blog, tacky and less tidy. This will make the visitors feel uncomfortable so they will not be long in our blog and certainly it never makes them want to subscribe.
    I think my blog is still chaotic and far from well, I’ll soon fix it and thank you for this explanation :)

  16. For doing anything in proper way you must be consistent so this article is very good for doing things in such a way. Thanks for sharing this article.

  17. Great post Marya, as always useful and full of good advices. I had to print it for further reference as there are so many points to ponder.

    I’ve found a kind of funny point though: Influencers and A-bloggers are surely that busy since having a blog isn’t something, whatever those selling courses and such say, that can be done in spare time, not for long anyway. But being so busy isn’t also a contradiction with living the life you want, free and happy escaping the rat race writing posts from Caribbean shores?

    Someone works a lot, spends a lot of money, learns as much as he can to create a successful blog and then it’s only the beginning because he must work more than ever to remain on the top of the mountain, it seems exchanging a slavery for another.

    If you’re not an influencer you won’t make that money from a blog, but to get there and remain successful you have to work more than you’ve done before. Which is rat race living.

    Well, freedom has a price. :)

  18. Great post Marya – Not only is your post informational it is also inspirational. I still have some work to do before my own blog gets anywhere close to becoming successful.

    The tips you have given us here are amazing and should be read by all (especially newbies) who are looking for the right way to start and become successful bloggers.

  19. Nancy says: 05/05/2013 at 1:04 am

    Marya, this is such valuable advice, and not just for beginners. Intermediate, even advanced, bloggers should touch base with these principles periodically.

    One thing I’d add under first impression (and second, third, fourth…): Grammatical errors. Those include usage, spelling, and punctuation. Add proofreading errors like obvious typos, and missing words. They can impact credibility a lot. Even some tip-top blogs have these errors…

    I tell people: If you don’t have time to proofread at least three times, slowly, you’re not ready to publish. And if you’re a blog owner, assuming a guest post is ready to go can be dangerous. It’s your credibility and respect, too.

  20. This is great post.
    I am new blogger, searching for new ideas.That Post will help me lot.
    Thanks Marya for sharing this Great Article. I have Enjoyed it…

  21. Nice post. I’ve been blogging a bit over a year and although I haven’t created oodles of followers, I’m satisfied with the slow-growth path I’m taking. I agree with all of your points. I adhere to most and still have future work on a couple.

  22. Great advice that I need to follow. I’m in the process of switching my blog over to WordPress and need revamping. Thanks for the kick in the pants.

  23. Even these steps take time. First 1000 subscriptions are really hard to achieve. What worked for me is: offering giveaways and asking users to subscribe. When I started asking users to subscribe then I saw noticeable new subscribers coming each day. You have to tell users that why and how this subscription will give them some sort of benefit. Nice post. Thanks!

  24. Great information – I will be sure to implement your ideas especially since I’m in the process of moving my blog from Blogger to WordPress. I’ve found that my content has swayed slightly and I need to get back on track.

    Thank you for all this information, I appreciate it.

  25. I am at the point where I am taking a step back and redefining my blog. I left my home page stating what I was doing, just so readers can be aware as to the reason why the blog is not active at that moment (I am taking a little bit of a break while I switch themes, define what I want the blog to be about, and start stacking up blog posts and podcasts so I can spend more time marketing). I think it is essential to occasionally step back and do this to ensure that one can better develop themselves if they feel it is necessary.

    • Hi Mike,

      Put up a landing page with an email opt-in form. This will work a lot better than just letting people arrive on your Home Page.

      Hot tip: Include this question on your landing page: “What [your niche] problems are you struggling with currently?”

      Add: Let me know now.

      Then: ask them to enter their email in the opt-in box for your personal solution to their problem.

      Not only will this help you to increase subscribers to your list, it will give you a powerful insight into how to redefine your blog to make it a Number 1 go-to resource for your readers.

  26. Love these ideas, first impression is important to everybody to make it not too bad and there are always new people that’s just know you. Most new bloggers try to imitate popular blogs but there is a mistake that you mentioned which if you put search box, ads or etc for readers. There is a big chance that readers will get away from you just because you don’t have enough information for readers to solve their problems.

  27. This post is a good one and informative. In my experience, the only effective way to get subscribers, specially in a mailing list is to offer them something in exchange for their subscription (e.g. free ebooks) . Unless you are a superstar and your fans worship you, then maybe you don’t need to offer them anything.

  28. I’d like to thank you for sharing this post. I struggle to get subscribers for my blog. I hope these tips will help me. As you have said, “First impression is the best impression!” I should learn to give the first impression as the best one!

    Thanks for the share!

  29. Great post! So true, especially the idea of the first impression. I’m starting this new blog, and I’m not so sure whether I should look for a premium wordpress theme to make a better impression. I like the free ones that WordPress gives you – they’re simple and clean (although not really fancy).

  30. Great post. It’s always encouraging to hear, time and time again on this blog and in other places, that if you blog on a topic you really enjoy talking about, it’ll be rewarding even if you don’t get the high traffic you want in the beginning. I have very low traffic but I love writing and thinking about literature so it’s not so bad.

    It’s funny if you think about this too–all too often, we treat a lot of the online exposure-building we have to do as work. We have to get on forums. We have to stay up on topics. So, in other words, part of your job as a blogger is to research things you’re interested in and surf the web? That’s not so bad at the end of the day, is it?

  31. I actually had a crappy design, idea and goal with my blog by the time I had 2 months writing for it. By the time I reached a year, I fixed the latter, but still lacked of a decent design and general idea. It had the “multitopic”-baby-blog syndrome (?).

    Anyway, two years and I had to (for real), make a long pause on writing (it was a live or die, matter, so to say…). I used that time to make a good “relaunch”, stating the real idea of the blog, the goal. Explaining what YOU, as a reader could find in its content and well…

    Not basing myself on these mmm tips… I did all of this. Guess what? I doubled my usual visitors on a couple of days!

    Yet, that’s too little to say from a blog with relatively just a few visits.

    PS. At the end, the readers are what matter, not necessarily the visitors; am I right?

  32. Marya, Thanks for this informative and detailed post. Blogging is not as easy as we are made to believe before coming into the field.And the point 5 is very important and bloggers should focus more on that, then progress is made quickly. . . .

  33. Hi Marya,

    First of all, THANK YOU for the post! Jesus! I just started up my website and at times, I have no idea where to start especially with the hectic life etc!

    I wish you could be in Malaysia and I will definitely go for your courses! :)

    Okay enough of now. Take care and god speed!

  34. Hey Marya..very nice post..i’m new to blogging and i think this post will really help me..thanks for the great information..

  35. I have the same experience: 2 months ago I added a nice theme to my blog and an incentive (a free ebook) to my newsletter signup process. It went from around 2-3 subscribers / month to around 100 subscribers / month!

  36. Hi Marya! Congrats on a superb post and it’s so good to hear of your success.

    Your points about how important promotion is for getting subscribers, and about letting people know who you are; being yourself so that people can connect and find an affinity; something about you that they can
    identify with, are essential points for success.

    It’s promotion that brings success.

    But to make any promotion work for your blog, you have to know what you’re blogging about.

    That’s the key a lot of people forget.

  37. I haven’t had any luck getting e-mail subscribers. Get a ton of hits, but not a lot of subscribers.

  38. Thank you for this post! Traffic to my website has increased incredibly since I commited to blogging regularly. I am not lead capturing nearly this level of traffic so I will continue to work on my lead generation offer. Great tips shared here to help keep me motivated – thanks again!

  39. Hi Marya,

    An excellent post which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I have a list of over 7K and now but I wish I had your guidance when I first started out! Life would have been much easier with a learning curve of less than 2 years.


    Sanj Modha.

  40. Great article.. I’m also have the problem to get subscriber as I’m nobody ..
    It is great to learn about it from your post

  41. First impression is very important and blog design is critical to keep our readers stay as well as its loading speed :-)

  42. Very inetresting article to read and grab some tips from it… The first thing which is required by a new blogger is a fan following/subscribers for their blog to give it a kick start… Thanks for this post MARYA JAN

  43. Blogging is not an overnight business and is not as easy as we think. It needs lot of struggle and hard work before anyone gets 1000 subscribers without even knowing who he is. So in order to start a successful blog I think we need to do lot of ground work with the design, niche and store of few killer articles and resources to give to the people who subscribe.

    Thanks for the wonderful points you have share I have lot of work now to do with my blog.

  44. Good post. Probably the top key for me is to properly identify your audience and then provide content for the audience. Then of course the content has to be high quality and useful

    Thanks again!

  45. This is truly a great article. Some people really underestimate the impact of an about page and/or social proof. One of the most important aspects, in my opinion, is to integrate anything social media related (such as reviews). Doing so won’t just impact future visitors but will also be shared among the “friends” or “connections” of that reviewer.

  46. This is a wonderful article that give practical examples on how to take action. I appreciate what you present and look forward to implementing it.

    God Bless

  47. And, here I thought it was important at 1st to focus more on getting good search engine rankings, before asking people indirectly for their e-mail addresses so they can subscribe to my site. I’ll try this again to see how much smoother I am this time around. Thanks, Darren! :-)

  48. Great article Marya, social content promotion is one thing that any blogger or SEO must never forget. Information spreads fast in social media and it generates leads at the same time. A content that engage and requires interaction to readers is what everybody else wants. Content needs to be planned strategically for it is not an overnight success.

  49. Thanks for the tips. I have created a blog 10 months ago and not exceeding followers than 200. I hope your tips will help out.

  50. Great Post Marya , building a list is building a real business and that’s what lot of people ignore

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