In late 2014, Amy Lynn Andrews shared the story behind her super-popular email blogging tips roundup The Useletter, and totally-trimmed down blog: their simplicity is a breath of fresh air in a cacophony of online noise.
If you’ve been blogging for long, you’ve no doubt heard of Amy Lynn Andrews.
Plain-language blogging tips, tricks, and tutorials are Amy’s game. And while everyone gets louder and brighter on the internet in order to catch your attention, Amy is whispering. And it works.
I wanted to know how the simple life made a difference to her blogging experience – if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed with all we’re supposed to do and use and read and be as bloggers, I hope this is useful to you. Slim down, pare back, focus on your priorities. Amy would want you to!
I asked Amy how she settled on her very different style of newsletter (and was reminded again how important an email list is):
“I wanted to reduce my dependence on other sources of blog traffic, like search, social media and referrals. I also liked the idea of permission-based marketing which gives me the power to go to my readers instead of waiting for them to come to me. In a nutshell, an email list was a more controllable digital asset for me,” she says.
“Once I decided to go in this direction, I knew I needed to stand out. Everyone is building a list these days; my emails had to be super valuable. I chose to leverage the reputation I had already built on my blog, which is the provider of helpful tutorials and in-plain-English content. I decided to focus on quick, bite-sized tips in my emails. I called it The Useletter because they are tips you can use.”
So did this simple template evolve over time, or was it planned from the outset?
“The basic, (mostly) text-only format has always been the same and it suits me well for 3 reasons: I like quick tips, I struggle to write blog posts and I’m lazy when it comes to including images. :)
“It was also somewhat inspired by NextDraft, the wildly popular daily news roundup written by Dave Pell.”
So what gets a coveted spot in The Useletter? How does Amy decide what’s most important?
“I love to learn and my favorite online pastime is hunting for useful information. The internet is full of impressive people who share amazing tips and tricks. Whenever I come across something that makes me think, “Hey, that’s a great idea!” or “Oh, that’s handy!” I file it away to be included in The Useletter.
“I follow dozens of blogs and newsletters. I read ebooks, magazines, books and anything else I can download or put on my Kindle. I’m a huge fan of podcasts. Videos and webinars are often great sources of information too. Basically, anytime someone is talking about blogging or online business, I take note!
“Most of my reading material is funneled through Feedly where I categorize it according to my main topics. If it makes the cut as I scan through, it gets saved in Evernote, my holding tank for The Useletter tips. (Here’s how I use my editorial calendar.)”
Simplicity Gets Results
“I think the simplicity works because it’s a little unexpected for an email. I’ve tried to format it in a way that people can quickly glean what they want. And I do my best to include a variety of actionable tips that doesn’t require reading a whole blog post to get the main nugget.”
It’s not only The Useletter that is frill-free: Amy’s website has been streamlined to make the most important things the focus and set aside all else. How has that worked for her?
“I’m still experimenting with it, but yes, it did [improve The Useletter signup rates]. However, I’ve debated about switching it back, simply because I frustrate myself when I go to my site to lookup a post and I have to click through the home page first.”
So simplicity is a theme for her. But why?
“I appreciate simplicity in my own life. The more I’m online, the more complicated it feels. There’s just too much – too many graphics, too many apps, too many choices, too many ads, too many social media options. There’s too much vying for our attention. Simplicity makes life breathable.” [Tweet that!]
Simple Advice for Bloggers
Observe, listen and respond – to the people, not the gurus. Over the last few years, one of the clear messages I’ve heard from internet users is they’re suffering from information overload. They can’t keep up. And yet, bloggers and online business owners continue to churn out content at an astounding rate (I’m guilty too!). There’s nothing magical about simplicity, it’s just that simplicity is an antidote to a common pain point.
Practice the art of empathy. Put yourself in your readers’ shoes. What would they appreciate? How can you help them? When it comes to online communication, email is intimate. Treat your subscribers with respect and they’ll stick with you for the long haul. Do your subscribers really want your email? Would you?” [Tweet that too!]
Simple Advice for Email Signup Rates
You can’t create sign ups, but you can create enticing content. Let the usefulness of your emails speak for themselves and others will eventually start promoting for you. Of course you can make your sign up form clear and conspicuous or offer a great lead magnet (i.e. freebie), but in my experience, word of mouth is a whole lot more effective.
After that, make your subscribers hesitant to unsubscribe, lest they miss out on what you’re going to send next!”
Wise words! I know I’ve been yearning for more simplicity in my blogging – I want to get to the heart of sharing something without sacrificing too much time and energy to do so. How about you? Feeling the pull to do more, be more? I’d love to chat in the comments!
Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more (so much more!) at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama (cat pictures welcome).