Everything You Need to Know About Getting Started with Email

Have people been telling you for years that you need to create an email list for your blog? Is it time to finally bite the bullet?

Let’s talk about email – how to get started, email providers, types of messages, opt-ins, and sequences or auto-responders.

When it comes to choosing an email provider, start simple You don’t need all the bells and whistles.

Get subscribers used to hearing from you. Send a simple email message once a week or so to keep in touch with readers.

The more useful and actionable the message, the better. Readers will look forward to receiving them from you.

Once you have an email provider, you can start collecting email addresses of new subscribers. Grow your email list fast by using an opt-in, exit popup, sign-up form or incentive.

While opt-ins can be good, some subscribers will sign up just to get whatever freebie you’re offering rather than what comes later. To increase engagement, make opt-ins related to what comes next: ongoing emails, increased engagement, long-term opens, and reduced annoyance.

Email sequences and auto-responders to set up: exclusive content, best posts, affiliate promotions, product promotions, surveys and asking questions.

Being able to segment your audience, and then deliver auto-responders based on their needs or situations, is very powerful.

Email serves as a win-win-win for you, your blog, and your subscribers.

Links and Resources for What You Should Know about Getting Started with Email:

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Hi there and welcome to episode 251 of The ProBlogger Podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind problogger.com, a blog, podcast, event, job boards, series of ebooks, and courses all designed to help you to grow a profitable blog. You can learn more about what we do at ProBlogger at problogger.com.

In today’s episode, I want to talk about email. In particular, I want to answer three questions that I got from some of our Facebook group on the topic of email. The questions are coming from Marco, Lisa, and Lia. Marco asks some questions about getting started, choosing an email provider, and what to send in those initial emails. Lisa asked about tips for opt-ins to get more people to sign up. Lia asked about the sequence of emails that you might want to set up as an autoresponder afterwards.

The questions do progress a little bit from the easier, beginner ones through to something a little bit more intermediate. You can find today’s show notes and there’s going to be plenty of extra reading for you. I’ve got some resources for you as well. You can find those show notes at problogger.com/podcast/251 and I will recommend that you get a problogger.com/members and that’s where you can get some downloadable resources, one of which is relevant for today’s show.

There are six worksheets and guides that we’ve got there, they’re completely free. You just have to give us your email address and we’ll send them and log in through to you so you can access those and the new ones that we will be adding in there as well.

Again, that’s problogger.com/members and that’s just a member’s area that we’ve got set up for you completely free. You will see our courses there as well, some of which are free and some of which are paid but that’s where you’ll be able to get the download, relevant to today’s show.

Let’s get in to the question from Marco. Thanks for your question Marco. Marco wrote, “After years of hearing I should be using email, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and start an email list but I have some starter questions. Firstly, which service should I use? I know you get what you pay for but how much is too much for someone just starting out? Number two, what emails should I send? Any tips to help me get going?”

A few thoughts for you Marco, it is a big topic so I will be referring you to listen to a few other podcast and to get that download that I mentioned before because a lot of ideas covered in those. I did some podcast—I think it was back in episode 66—I did a series on 10 Things You Can Do Today and then it’s going to payoff for the long term. I did three episodes in that series about emails.

Number 68, episode 68 is about getting subscribers. Number 69 is about keeping subscribers and number 70 is about autoresponders, which will be relevant for Lia’s question later as well. Listen to those podcast. I’ll link to them in the show notes.

Also there’s that download, the download in our member’s area at problogger.com/members is a comparison of email providers. In that we look at the most common email providers and the ones that we recommend and which level they’re best suited to. That’s going to answer some of your questions. I do recommend you to dig into those. The other advice I give you, Marco is to start simple and this really is advice that I want to give to Lisa and Lia as well.

You don’t have to complicate things with email. Email can get very complicated and there are levels of complexity that are worth adding on but when you’re starting out, don’t over complicate it. Start simple. You don’t have to have all the bells and whistles from day one. You will see people writing guides to using pop-ups, opt-ins, segmenting lists, and all these things and they’re all great. They’re all things that you can learn but it’s so important if you’re in the situation that Marco is in—you haven’t yet started—sign up for a simple email provider. In our downloadable guide, we mention a few.

MailChimp is one that many of our readers used to get started. I think they have a free a plan to start out with, for a certain level. ConvertKit is another one, it’s probably a step up from MailChimp. I think, it’s great for beginners and again, I think MailChimp has an account for up to 2000 subscribers. It can be free to start but you are going to end up paying for all of these. ConvertKit does have a little bit more power to it.

The one that we use is Drip and whilst I’m in love with Drip. I highly recommend it for anyone who’s a bit more advance, who’s already got a list, and who wants to start segmenting and doing some of these more complicated things. I think Drip might be a little bit of overkill for someone like Marco who’s just starting out, unless you want to get really serious from day one. They’re the three of the ones that we can pay. We also have used AWeber for years as well and I think from memory, they have a bit of free services as well. Right at our little downloadable guide at problogger.com/members, you will see the features of each of them and the plans as well.

Keep it simple. Sign up for something. They all have forms that you can put into your sidebar, or on your blog, or in a blog post that begin to help you collect emails. That is the first thing you need to do. You need to sign up and then you need to have a form somewhere in your site—the more prominent the better—and to start collecting the emails. That is the key and the third part is start sending some emails. Even if you’ve only got one subscriber, start getting into the habit of sending regular emails.

There were things you can do to add complexity, to add a bit more strategy into what you do but start with the signing up, starting to collect emails, and starting to send an email every now and again to warm up your list. That’s the bare essentials and then you can begin to experiment with using different types of emails, sending different types of emails, and collecting subscribers in new ways and there are some ways to grow your list a little bit faster.

If you want two starting points in terms of next steps, once you are setup, I would encourage you to think about an opt-in and we’re going to talk more about that in answering Lisa’s question next. This is where you offer something in exchange for the email address. The other thing you might want to begin to experiment with is new ways of displaying your signup form.

Most people will put their signup form in their side bar. That’s the first place that most blogger will put it and that’s a good spot. People will sign up there but there are other ways of being a little bit more aggressive with that on putting, positioning the email form in places that people are more likely to respond to.

The most aggressive one is the popup. This is where you come to a site and they ask you immediately or maybe after 20 seconds to sign up. This will get you more, you may not feel comfortable with that though. Perhaps, a better first step would be an exit popup and this is something a lot of bloggers are getting quite good success of light. This where instead of interrupting people as they arrive on your site, you interrupt them when they go to leave your site. That is still maybe a little bit aggressive for some of you but it might be a good first step. I think using that exit popup in conjunction with an opt-in, offering someone who’s leaving your site a gift—an opt-in can be a good strategy.

In terms of sending your emails, Marco ask, “What should I send?” Again, keep it simple. You can add to this. You will change this probably over time but the key is to send something on a regularly basis, that is useful and that is really where it needs to start. It’s going to be something that is going to give the people receiving your email a quick win and that maybe simply, “Here’s a link to the new post on my site this week.” That’s typically what we do with The ProBlogger email that we send out ProBlogger Plus.

I send out a weekly email and it’s really a list of our new content. “Here’s our latest blog post, here’s our latest podcast, here’s my latest video, and here’s something to think about—I might include a quote or I might include some further reading or something else.” That is all I send. I send it on a weekly basis so that my readers get used to hearing from me and I try and make it useful. All of the contents we produce has an outcome, has a win for our audience. That is something you could do.

The other option that I see some people doing is sending out just an extra piece of content in the email itself. You might want to try a few paragraphs, “Here’s something I’ve learned this week.” And that email in and of itself becomes useful. Of course, there are other ways of sending emails as well and we’re going to talk about some of those in the moment with autoresponders but Marco, can I really encourage you, get started.

Just sign up for one of those. You can always change emails service providers later. You can take your email addresses and put them in a new one later. You don’t want to be changing that too much but it’s totally fine to start it with one and then as you grow up, as your list gets bigger, as you learn how to use email better you can always change later on. Again, just head out to problogger.com/members to grab that download.

Lisa’s question. Lisa asked about opt-ins and ways of collecting email addresses which flows on nicely from Marco’s questions. She says, “Hi Darren, you recommend adding sign up forms to a blog sites, do you recommend it offering an incentive to sign up? I know people are inundated with emails how best to entrust them into their email box.”

Asking here about incentivizing the signup and essentially here what you’re asking people to do is to give their email address in exchange for something. Opt-ins, I think can be really good. I was actually very light to doing opt-ins though because I was always a little bit worried with opt-ins that people are going to give you their email address just to get the thing and not for what comes next. I guess, discontinuation of why they signed up and what they’re going to get in the long term. It was something that I was probably a little awkward about.

One of the things I would encourage you to think about when you’re creating your opt-in is to make that transition from the opt-in to the next emails as seamless as possible. What can you create as an opt-in that you can then do some follow up on that makes the benefits of the opt-in flow even longer? This actually will mean that people want to get the next emails as well.

Don’t just think about the opt-in. Think about what you want to do with your lists in the long term and how an opt-in could be the first step in that sequence of emails that you might want to send. This is where Lisa’s question flows in nicely, in the moment and that is about continuing that relationship.

You want to continue that relationship and you might send a weekly email like I’ve just mentioned to Marco but what other sequence of emails can you flow into that as well. Think about the opt-in in terms of the beginning of a journey, part of the process, and also think about ways that you can then update that opt-in as well.

One of the best opt-ins that we’ve had at ProBlogger is one that you can see. If you go at problogger.com/ideas, you will get our landing page there for an opt-in we created with 180 blog post to ideas. The idea of that is that we wanted to give people a quick win, help you to come up with ideas for your blog, and we wanted to deliver them over time.

We originally rolled that opt-in out as six emails over six months. That kept people subscribed and also showed them that we’ve got lots of content for you here and the emails that all flowed from the original opt-in as well. That is one thing that you might want to be factoring in to your decision. Opt-ins do work but they don’t work brilliantly if the opt-in doesn’t reply to what comes next so make it that flow.

The other thing that I see people debate when it comes to opt-ins is how big to make them. Probably, 90% of people that I see teaching about opt-in say, “Deliver a quick win with your opt-in.” You want to give away something that people, if they take action on it will get a quick win within 10 minutes of receiving it.

Our 180 blog post ideas that delivers that quick win, you sign up for our ideas and you get the first email within a minute or two and this 30 ideas for your blog. That’s a quick win. That was relatively easy to create that opt-in and that’s great. That maybe one topic of opt-in that you might want to do but I actually wonder whether that type of opt-in is going to work in the long run as much as it used to because so many people, offering this little free downloadable things.

“Here’s a list of tools that you could use, here’s a list of ideas, here’s a list of…” and it becomes this little ebooks or this little PDFs. It’s so easy to create them and they do work to an extent but what impact do they actually have on your reader. Is there an opportunity to go a little bit deeper and to create something that is more useful to them because, let’s face it, we’ve all got probably, a hard drive full of things that we downloaded on the internet that we never actually really go back to and use.

The thing that we’ve been trying on ProBlogger this year is to create an opt-in that is a lot bigger and a lot more useful, and that’s going to be life changing in some way. The opt-in that we created at the start of this year was our Start A Blog Course. If you have enrolled in our Start A Blog Course, you know it’s a chunky opt-in, it is huge. There’s a lot of content.

It took us months of months, of months, of months to create and it goes against all of the advice that people say—deliver a quick win—but we have seen the people who signed up for that course have stayed with us as readers and as listeners. They are grateful to us, and they’re engaged, and it has shown us the power of creating something for free in exchange for an email address.

All what we’re really getting out of that is an email address and maybe a little bit of affiliating come as well from some of the things we recommend. About in exchange for that email address we’re getting an engaged, thankful reader, subscriber who is taking action on the emails who is sending as well. That’s the other thing that you might want to consider doing as well.

I would probably say, go for the quick opt-in first if you are just starting out at this. Think about that but having the long run, what you could add that is a bit bigger, that’s a little bit more powerful, that’s going to change someone’s life and make them really grateful for receiving the thing that you create for them. The other thing that we’ve been trying on ProBlogger is something I mentioned earlier on this podcast—that’s we’ve created a members area.

Again, problogger.com/members. We’ve actually created six opt-ins that are all housed in that one place and you could also access the Start A Blog Course there as well. What we are doing is creating a login area on ProBlogger where we keep our opt-ins because we have now multiple opt-ins.

We’ve got our 6 Months of Blog Post Ideas, we’ve got How to Create an Avatar for the reader of your blog, How to find readers for your blog? We’ve got a worksheet on that, and a variety of other ones including that comparison of an email service providers. We’ve got now this collection of them and we decided that we’re going to create a space where they all sit together, where people can log in and grab them and any future ones that we’re adding as well.

In a sense, we created this little membership area as an opt-in as well and whilst we haven’t really promoted this in great detail yet, it’s something that will roll up more and more and we’ll begin to promote more. Particularly, using exit pop ups. That’s something that we want to do. We want to—as people leave ProBlogger—actually offer them the free membership and these free downloads.

It is something that we’ll roll up more and more of but it’s something that I think, even in the limit of promotion that we’ve done of it can work quite well, that maybe something else that you might want to try as well.

Let’s finish out with looking at Lia’s question. Lia asked, “We setup a top 10 tips PDF giveaway.” She’s created an opt-in. “And we setup ConvertKit. Can you give us some examples of good email sequences that we can setup?” Lia, I would highly recommend that you go on this into the episode that I mentioned earlier. It was episode 70 and that’s about 8 Ways to Use Autoresponders to Drive Traffic and Increase Your Blogging Income. That does outline eight different types of sequences of emails that you can send out.

There’s a variety of things that mentioned there, let me just mention a few types of things that you might want to include in your sequence but really, I guess the big thing that I would encourage you to do is to think about where do you want to lead your readers to with the email sequence. Do you want to turn them from a subscriber into a customer? Do you want to turn them from subscriber into an attender of one of your event? Do you just want to use that sequence to get more eyeballs on your site because maybe you’re monetizing with advertising? Are you wanting them to buy an affiliate product?

There’s a variety of things that you might wanting to do with your reader and it’s really important to understand what the goal is of having a subscriber. A lot of it will come down to the model that you have on your site. If you’re selling something, if you’re selling a service, if you’re selling an event, if you’re just trying to build your profile, if you’re trying to get people to buy book, whatever it might be. Nail that first. I think that’s the most important thing and then you can just design as sequence of emails that has the potential to take someone from being a first-time subscriber who doesn’t really know who you are—put yourself in their position. What is going to stop them from becoming what you want them to become.

The other thing to consider of course is what benefit they are going to get from being a subscriber as well. It’s not just about how them—being a subscriber—is going to benefit you. Are they going to become a customer of you, give you your money but what are they going to get out of that list as well. Then designing content that has win-win undertakes your reader from a problem they have to a benefit that they receive but also taking them from cold subscriber to actually responding to the call to action that you’ve got as well.

Think carefully about those two things and then I reckon even as you think about those two things you begin to see opportunities as well.

A lot people in their emails, autoresponders will do things like send out extra exclusive contents. A sequence of case studies, or a sequence of tutorials that you can’t get on the blog, A sequence of emails that answer frequently asked questions that tackle pain-points or that tackle the gains that subscribers want. Extra exclusive content is one thing that you can potentially do there.

The other thing that you might want to do is even think about putting together a little mini course. The email is actually form a course and that’s essentially how we used to run 31 Days to Build A Better Blog and that worked quite well. People are signing up for something that’s going to take them on a journey and in a sense that becomes the opt-in as well.

Maybe that is after your top 10 tips PDF giveaway. Maybe you should follow that up with, “Here’s another 10 things tips that are relevant to you but we’re going to deliver them as 10 emails over the next 10 days or over the next 10 weeks.” You transition your readers from getting this free thing—the PDF—into an experience. We’re going to train you now. We’re going to take this further and may even be that you take those 10 tips from the PDF and go deeper into each of them in the next 10 emails. The PDF might become the blueprint and then the emails becomes the unpacking of the blueprint. There’s a variety of ways that you can do.

What I was talking about earlier really is give them something that’s a quick win but also relate to the emails that follow after that. Other people will use their email sequences to highlight the best content in their archives. We do this from time to time on Digital Photography School. We have a little email sequence that once every month for two we send out an email automatically that just highlights his 10 portrait photography tips that you may have missed as a new subscriber to our site or his 10 landscape photography tips. Those emails are just about trying to get people over to our site.

Other people will include calls to action in their email sequences. Calls to action to buy affiliate products, or to buy your products, or that offer gift codes, or something along those lines. Another really good thing to do early on your sequence is to survey your audience or at least ask a question. Ask some questions to your audience to find out who they are.

I’ve mentioned on this podcast before, Caz and Craig make pages from their y Travel blog and their first email sequence asks their new subscriber what is your goal for travel? They’ve got a travel blog. What’s your dream and then what’s holding you back from your dream? And they actually ask their subscribers to hit reply on the email and answer those two questions. That opens up a conversation with their subscribers. It gives them insight into who is subscribing. What are their pain-points? What are their dreams? And then they follow up with an email sequence of answering the problems.

They now having received hundreds, if not, thousands of emails back that most people have the same things holding them back from their dreams. They’ve created an email sequence that removes those pain-points or that gives tips on how to make the dreams come true. That might be another way that you can go about creating your auto responder as well.

There’s a lot of different ways. Keep it simple though. This is the thing I was telling to Marco, Lia, and Lisa is try to keep what you do as simple as possible, particularly when you’re just starting out. You don’t have to have all the bells and whistles when you first start out. The key is to start. Start collecting the emails, optimize that way that you collect those emails once you’re setup, and then start emailing. It’s so important.

People get stuck on each of those three points. Some people get stuck because they don’t sign up for an email provider, then they can’t do anything else. Some people get stuck because they don’t actually call people to subscribe. They’ve got the email provider set up but they’re not actually doing anything to get these subscribers. Some people get stuck because they never send any emails and they’re collecting new addresses every day and they never send an email out. On most people, they’re getting stuck in one of those three points and if you’re at those points I encourage you to take action today. Either sign up, get going with your email collection, optimize your collection of emails, and then start sending your emails. It’s just so important.

I hope some of that has helped answer up Marco, Lisa, and Lia’s questions and others of you I know if someone’s asking those questions, other people will be as well. I hope they’ve helped. I would love to hear any other questions you’ve got on the topic of email or anything else over in our Facebook group. Just search for ProBlogger community on Facebook. You’ll find our group or you can hit reply on any of the emails that I send you each week from ProBlogger Plus and that will come back to me or one of my team and I consider those questions for future podcast as well.

Lastly, hit over to problogger.com/members where you can grab those downloads and if you haven’t started a blog yet as well, check out The Start A Blog Course which will see the link as well once you’re signed in to the member’s area. Thanks for listening. Talk to you next week on The ProBlogger Podcast.

Lastly, don’t forget you can grab today’s show notes at problogger.com/podcast/251 with our all the downloads mentioned today as well as all the further listening to other episodes about email.

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