Note: you can listen to this episode above or load it up in iTunes.

How to Use Autoresponders to Fast Track Engagement & Profit

Today’s episode is part 5 of the new ‘Today, Not Someday’ podcast series. The focus is actioning your ‘someday’ list, the things you’ve always wanted to do to improve your blog but have struggled to make happen. For details about how the series works, check out episode one here. Part 2 was about why you should sell a product on your blog (and how to do it). Part 3 was about how to increase your subscriber numbers for your email list. Part 4 was about how to get readers excited to join and stay on your email list.

The focus of today’s episode is how to use auto responders to drive traffic and profit with your blog.

Kuwaiti Traffic by Johny Costa on

In This Episode

You can listen to today’s episode above or in iTunes or Stitcher (where we’d also LOVE to get your reviews on those platforms if you have a moment). In today’s episode:

  • What is an Autoresponder?
  • Why you should use autoresponders on your blog
  • Tools you can use to create autoresponders
  • 9 types of emails you can use autoresponders for on your blog
  • How to create successful, engaging autoresponders
  • How often to schedule autoresponder emails
  • What other types of emails you should send to support your autoresponders
  • Challenge – set up an autoresponder for your blog

Further Reading and Resources for How to Use Autoresponders to Fast Track Engagement

Other episodes in the Today, Not Someday Series:

Tools you can use to create autoresponders:

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Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view
Hi there and welcome to episode 70 of the ProBlogger podcast where today, we’re going to talk about autoresponders. Something that many of us have on their someday list but we don’t get around to ever setting up. Today, I want to talk about what an autoresponder is, why you should set one up, and give you some practical tips on how to do it. This is part of our “today, not someday” series of podcasts, a series where we are walking through some of those things that we never quite get around to doing, that have the potential to bring a lot of life and profit to our blogs.

You can find today’s show notes at, where you’ll also find some information about our show’s sponsor, Edgar. You can find more information from Edgar at It is a tool that I’ve used really successfully over the last year. This brought a lot of life to my social media strategy and I’ll talk more about that at the end of this podcast, but for now, let’s get into today’s show.

Today, we’re going to talk about autoresponders as part of our series of things that you can do today, invest a little time in today that will pay off for the long term on your blog. An autoresponder certainly fits into that case. Autoresponders are tools that you really do need to spend a little bit of time investing in in the day to day when you’re setting them up, but they actually become quite passive. Once you set them up, they continue to work for you for as long as you allow them to continue to run.

In the last two episodes of this year’s podcast, episode 68 and 69, we’ve talked about email. Episode 68 was about setting up an email list and optimizing the number of sign-ups that you get to that list. Episode 69, we were talking about opt-ins and lead generator options, creating some interval way to get subscribers.

Today, I want to talk about how to actually deliver some content through that. One of the ways that you can get content out to these subscribers is through an autoresponder. I don’t want to spend a whole heap of time talking about what an autoresponder is because I’ve written about this previously, I know many of you already understand that. I will put some links in today’s show notes to give you some basic information on them.

Really quickly, an autoresponder is a tool that most email service providers do offer. They often go by different names, though, so on Mailchimp, they talk about them as automation workflows. AWeber just recently changed to talking about them as campaigns. An autoresponder is really just a sequence of emails that you set up ahead of time that will be sent to anyone who subscribes to your list. There are more complicated ways that you can do that, but at its most simple, you set up a series of emails to go out at predetermined intervals to a user who subscribes to your list. That’s the most simple way of explaining it.

Once someone subscribes today, they’ll get asked to confirm their subscription and on doing that they set off a chain of emails and you can separate those emails by a certain amount of days. Every seven days or every 30 days, or you might do different amounts of time between different emails. You could do them daily if you want. I’ll talk about some of the alternatives of timing later.

What you put in these emails will depend upon your goals. I’m going to give you some suggestions on the types of content you might want to use. The great thing about an autoresponder is that while they take some time to set up—you’re going to need to write the emails and put them into the autoresponder queue—they continue to be sent out to your subscribers forever. For as long as you leave those emails in the queue.

I know the emails that I put into my autoresponder several years ago have been sent out every day since to new subscribers who are at different stages of the sequence. It really does pay off, it’s a very powerful tool. Some of the benefits you probably already are hearing and thinking about as you’re listening to me talk, but let me just run through just a few, a handful of benefits.

Firstly, they’re great at helping your new subscribers, people who don’t really know much about you. It helps them to get on board with what you’re on about. You can use an autoresponder sequence to help people to understand who you are. To show them that you’ve got something valuable to say, to build some credibility with your audience, to help them to understand your site and help them to get engaged with your site.

They’re also really good for keeping your list warm. I think I mentioned this in a couple of episodes ago that there’s no point in having an email list, collecting emails unless you’re communicating with them. If you don’t communicate with them regularly, they go cold and they forget that they’ve subscribed, and they wonder who you are and why you’re sending them emails when you do send them. An autoresponder, setting up a sequence of emails can take a little bit of the pressure off of having to always be emailing your list to keep them warm. You can keep them warm by setting up a sequence of emails ahead of time.

Of course, they’re really great for driving traffic to your blog which is something as bloggers we’re interested in. They’re also great for helping you to build relationships with your readers. Helping them to feel like they know, like, and trust you, but they’re also great for sales. If you have a product to sell—we’ve talked about that recently on the podcast, too—or a service to offer, they can help to make those sales to ultimately build your brand.

Let’s talk a little bit about the types of emails that you might want to set up in your autoresponder. This will partly depend upon your goals. I would encourage you to think really carefully about what it is that you’re trying to achieve with your blog. But if you’re clear on that, hopefully, you’ll begin to already have some ideas about things that you could do in your autoresponder.

Some bloggers set up multiple autoresponders and I’m not going to talk about that today. That’s getting a little bit more complicated. Most bloggers have what I would describe as a general autoresponder that all new subscribers get into the queue often. For the sake of this podcast, that’s what I’m going to be talking about today. We may do another podcast in future episodes that are a little bit more advanced. A typical autoresponder sequence, that is something that you’re going to send to all of your new subscribers will probably have some of these types of emails in the sequence

Firstly, you probably always want to have some kind of a welcome email or you may actually have a series of welcome emails that take subscribers through different parts of your site. A typical welcome email might tell your subscribers who you are and what you do, what your site’s about, maybe share your story in some way. You probably don’t want to put a whole heap in that first one, you don’t want to overwhelm them. Really it’s about building that relationship with your readers.

I sometimes find adding a story in there can work quite well if you write in that personal tone. For example, on Digital Photography School, my welcome email is not a story because it’s not a personally branded site. Rather it takes my readers through the site and actually introduces them to the fact that we’ve got a forum, and we’ve got some social media accounts, and talks about what they’re going to get from being a subscriber.

Another thing that’s often really good to include in one of your emails as well, actually say, “You’re going to hear from us on a weekly basis,” or, “You’re going to hear once a month.” Actually give them some expectation on what they’re going to get which helps to build some anticipation of your next email. Your welcome email should be part of that autoresponder.

Some other types of things you might want to include might be highlighting some of your evergreen contents. On our Digital Photography School autoresponder, we have a series of emails that go out, I think they go out every 30 or so days, that introduce our subscribers to some of our content in our archives that they would’ve missed. They’ve just come on as a subscriber, they haven’t traveled with us for the years that we’ve been creating content and so introduces them to some of the themes of the site.

We have an email that goes out, I think it’s in the first few weeks that they’ve been a subscriber, that basically gives them the best of content on the topic of composition. They get introduced to a whole heap of different articles that are in our archives. Articles that I chose because they performed well in the past and they have really good information. It’s basically a list of those best articles. You can highlight your best evergreen content.

This serves a couple of purposes. One, it drives traffic. I know for a fact that some of those articles get traffic every single day from people getting that particular email but also shows your readers that you’ve got a lot of content in your archives, that perhaps you’re a credible source of information and someone to pay attention to can really impress them.

Another thing you might want to do which is a little bit different to that but still taps into some of that evergreen content you might have in your archives is to actually instead of sending out a list of links, you might actually take one of your old best posts and put it in the email itself. Some people really appreciate not having to click links and go and visit your site. If you’ve got a really good article that you’ve already written, perhaps not an overly long one, you could actually put a copy of that in the email itself and actually use that as content for your subscriber. They’re types of emails that I would be popping into a sequence and you might have once a month an ever-growing article that goes out.

Another type of email you might want to include perhaps in the early stages of an email sequence is an email that introduces your subscribers to your social media presence and what you do in the different social media networks that you’re involved in. To try and get that secondary point of connection with your subscribers.

Another thing that we do in our sequence of emails on Digital Photography School is to send out an invitation to participate in a survey. Now we don’t do this until they’ve been subscribed for about three months. We send out just a really short email as part of the sequence that thanks them for being a subscriber but then invites them to take this survey so we can understand who they are a bit more.

This does a couple of things. One, it shows our subscribers that we’re interested in them and that we base our content upon their feedback. Two, this survey is just golden information. It has six or seven different questions in it. Some of them are gathering a bit of demographic information, where our subscribers are, what level of photographer they’re at, that type of information. There’s an open-ended question in that survey that asks them what their problems are, what their questions are, and what they like us to write content on. The information that they give us in that survey is gold. If we ever run out of things to write about, we go into our survey and just look at the questions people ask in that particular survey response.

Another type of email that you might want to consider adding into your sequence is pointing people to some sort of a community activity. If you have a blog post that just generates really good discussion, you might want to point people to that, or if you have a forum area. You might want to have an email in your sequence that just points people to the forum and it encourages them to sign up to that. Sending people to community’s really great because it builds social proof and it shows people that you have other readers. It’s not just them that you’re talking to but there’s this whole community there and that can be a very powerful thing.

Other types of emails that you might want to send would be more sales-related ones. If you have a product that you sell, an ebook or a course, or a physical product, you could actually build into your autoresponder sequence an email that offers that product at a discount or that promotes that product in some way. This is effectively like doing a little mini launch of your product every day forever. Just say you have that set up 60 days after someone becomes a subscriber, it might be the fifth email that they get in the sequence. They’re warmed up, they’ve been seeing some of your evergreen content, they feel welcomed, they’ve engaged in the community on your blog, and then you send them a coupon code to your ebook and they get that sort of 60 days in.

If you’re getting subscribers every day to your newsletter, that means every day someone’s getting that offer made to them. You’ll find, over time, that the sales that you get from those types of sales emails actually do add up quite a bit. I know that every day someone’s getting an offer through an autoresponder email that I set up years ago on my blogs and it’s paying off today.

You could do a similar thing with an affiliate promotion. You might want to promote somebody else’s product as an affiliate. You might want to do a deal with that particular person, say there’s someone else, another blogger in your niche who has an ebook. Ask them if they’d be willing for you to send out a coupon code to your subscribers as part of your autoresponder sequence. You just need to make sure that that coupon code is valid forever because people are going to continue to get that email for a long time.

There’s a whole heap of other things that you could do as part of an email sequence. You could set up emails that are case studies that are results of research that you’ve done, all kinds of stuff. Pretty much any kind of blog post that you’ve written you could repurpose that into an autoresponder email.

A few other tips that you might want to think through as you think about the types of content to put into your autoresponder sequence. Firstly, the content really needs to be evergreen. People are going to continue to get that email for as long as you keep it in your sequence. If you’ve got something that’s more news-related or more timely that something is going to date, you probably don’t want to include that as an autoresponder email. You might want to send that out as a single one-off email to your whole list or a segment of your list.

Ultimately, your autoresponder needs to be evergreen and it needs to focus upon your reader and their needs. While you might want to have lots of sales emails as part of your autoresponder, people aren’t going to respond very well to those sales emails if they don’t feel like they’re getting some value from you and the other emails that you send. You want to get the balance right between selling and delivering real value to your particular readers. This really comes down to understanding who your readers are, what their problems are, and delivering content in your email that’s going to take people on a journey and bring about change in their life in some ways.

A simple exercise that you might want to do is to actually identify the change that you’re trying to bring to your subscribers and actually break down how to bring that change. I’ve used this example before but the change I’m trying to bring on Digital Photography School is I want to give my readers creative control of their cameras. I want to get them out of automatic mode and to have full control of their cameras. The emails that we send as part of our autoresponder try to help our readers to achieve that outcome. We send them emails on composition, we send them emails on how to get creative control of their cameras and how to understand exposure, how to hold their camera.

We actually take our readers on a journey, so hopefully, by the end of them being subscribed to our newsletter, they’re actually going to learn photography. If they do that, they’re going to be much more open to those sales-type emails that we will send from time to time in the mix. Think about the change you’re trying to bring and map out a sequence of emails that are going to help to bring that about.

The other thing that you might want to think about is the state that your readers are in as they view you. How do they actually see you when they subscribe to your email? The chances are that when someone subscribes to your email list, they might be kind of interested in your topic but they may not know who you are. They might be even suspicious about your intentions, they might be unsure about whether you’re someone that they should be listening to. They might be unsure about how to use your site, they may be unaware of your past history, the past content that you’ve created.

Actually put yourself in the shoes of a subscriber and the type of suspicions or the type of questions, the type of view that they have of you. Actually, try and move people along not only in the topic that you’re writing about but the state and their view of you. You want to take people from being maybe a bit suspicious and standoff-ish of you to being someone who actually knows who you are. Someone who likes you, someone who trusts you, someone who’s a customer of you, someone who’s an evangelist for you.

That’s ultimately where we want to take people. How could you design a sequence of emails that actually helps them along in that journey of feeling closer to you? If people do business with people that they know, like, and trust, how could your email sequence move people along that?

What I’m trying to get you to think through here is your first email, probably you don’t want to come across as too salesy. You want it to be something more about building trust, building credibility. Then your next emails, maybe it’s more introducing them to the type of things that you’ve got on your site. Helping them to understand how to use the site.

Again, this builds trust and likeability. It’s about just trying to lead your readers along that journey and not going too fast with the emails that you send. Now, there are different approaches to this and I’ve heard other people say that they just start with the sales email and it works for them. I’m a little bit more gentle with the type of emails that I send.

The last thing I want to briefly touch on is how often should you schedule emails. I get that question a lot and what other emails should you be sending. I’ve already mentioned that autoresponders are just one type of email that you can send. The other type again gets called different things with different email service providers, but AWeber calls them broadcasts. These are where you manually set up an email to go to your full list or a segment of it. You may just want to target particular types of people who may be subscribed at a certain time or that have clicked on previous links, but that’s getting a little bit more complicated. Here, these are emails that you send out to your whole list, let’s just say.

For me at Digital Photography School, once we have an autoresponder set up, we also send out a weekly newsletter. These are things that I manually set up every Thursday and send to our whole list. These have our latest blog posts and other timely updates. Again, sometimes it’s got evergreen content in it but this is not an email that I want to send out again and again and again, I just want to send it out once to my list.

Now I also send out other emails when we launch a product. This is another type of email that I send out to my list. You can already see here, I’ve got our newsletter, I’ve got product launches when we do a new product, and then I’ve got autoresponders. You want to get the balance right here between keeping your list warm, sending out regular emails, and not overwhelming your list with too many emails.

The different tools will help you in spreading your emails out a little bit, so AWeber, who we use on Digital Photography School, I send out our broadcasts, our newsletters on Thursdays. It goes out the same time every week. I send out product announcement type emails always on Tuesdays, so I know there’s a couple of days. Then our autoresponders, AWeber allows you to choose which day of the week that they can be delivered on.

I block out Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday because I don’t want to be sending out emails three days in a row. I don’t want my readers going, “This guy just keeps sending me emails.” Typically, those autoresponder emails usually go out sometimes on Mondays but usually Saturday, Sunday, or Friday. Just to spread them out a little bit. Use those types of tools and think about how often am I going to be sending out the extra emails that are not part of the autoresponder.

I would encourage you to try and send out emails at least every 30 days just to keep your list warm, but not too much more than twice a week. You probably really don’t want to go more than twice a week. It may be that if you’re doing a big product launch, you may actually want to pause your autoresponder and some of the tools will allow you to do that if you feel like you’re going to be sending out a couple of emails in a week about a product launch. You probably don’t want to be sending out autoresponders during that week as well. The different tools will allow you to do that.

The other thing that you might want to consider is using an autoresponder as part of an opt-in. Yesterday, in the last episode, we talked about using opt-ins, so getting people to subscribe to your list by giving them a free ebook. One of the alternatives that you could give them is a free seven-day course that you deliver via an autoresponder. This is a really effective way of getting people not only onto your list but getting them engaged with your emails which is something I talked about in the last episode.

If you’re a photography site like us, you might set up an opt-in where readers who subscribe to you get the seven days of emails. Just short seven emails that are just really good basic tips on how to use a camera. This is actually something we’re considering doing for Digital Photography School. Then at the end of the seven days, they don’t get daily emails after that because they might just be a bit overwhelming but you might then set up every 30 days they get just an extra tip that continues to keep them engaged in some way.

My challenge today is for you to set up an autoresponder, to get it off your someday list, and to actually get it on to your today list. If you don’t have an autoresponder yet, map out a sequence of emails. You may only want to map out the first 5 or 10 emails; don’t go too far. You can add to your autoresponder later by adding in extra emails to it and I would encourage you to do that.

If you’ve already got an autoresponder, my challenge to you today is to do a bit of an audit of it. Is it up to date? Are you sending out emails that are dated, that look bad, or that have out of date of information? Are those emails converting? Maybe dig into your stats and actually work out which are the ones that get all the clicks, which are the ones that generate sales, and which are the ones that maybe people are unsubscribing after they get it. That’s a really good one to check out. If you’ve already got an autoresponder, should you be adding some new emails into it? Should you be extending that in some way?

These are the types of things that are often on people’s someday list. Whether you’re sending out for the first time or whether you are doing an audit of your existing autoresponder, I challenge you, today you spend on your autoresponder.

Just let me finish this story. A few years ago, I was out on a walk and I realized I’d let my autoresponder list. I hadn’t really looked at it for a while. I’d set up about 12 emails in my list and those 12 emails went out over about a nine-month period. New subscribers were getting these autoresponders for about nine months and then there were no more autoresponders going out. They were just then, at that point, getting newsletters.

I was like, “That’s okay on some levels, I send out newsletters every week so my readers will be feeling engaged but maybe I should be adding in a few more emails.” I came home for my list and I decided to add to my autoresponder list by just simply doing an offer to my readers on one of my ebooks. I added that extra email to my autoresponder. Over the next week that email began to go out to my readers.

I actually looked at the results of that one email that I sent. It took me an hour, maybe an hour-and-a-half to write the email and to add it to the autoresponder. That one email generated tens of thousands of dollars over the next 12 months. It was a small thing that I did today, or I did on that day, that continued to pay off over the long haul.

What are you going to do today that’s going to get something off your someday list and on to your today list? I would love to hear what you are going to do as a result of this podcast. You can let us know on Twitter or on Instagram if you want to do it visually using the hashtag #TodayNotSomeday. This is the hashtag we’re using for this series of podcasts and there’s been some great engagement on it already, #TodayNotSomeday. The other place that you can let us know what action you’re going to take (and this series is all about action), is on our show notes at, where you can leave a comment and encourage your fellow listeners with the things that you are doing today, not someday.

Also on today’s show notes, you will find a little bit of information about our sponsor of this series, Edgar. You can find more information on them at where they’ve got a great little offer for ProBlogger podcast listeners to get a free month trial of this tool that I’ve been using since January of this year, that really has changed the way that I’ve approached social media.

I’ve seen so much more engagement on my Twitter accounts, particularly on both the ProBlogger Twitter account and also the Digital Photography School one where I’ve been using Edgar. I’m also using it to drive one of my Facebook pages and it’s saved me so much time by using it. You can check that out at and there’ll be a bit of information on today’s show notes as well.

I look forward to chatting with you in the next episode of the ProBlogger podcast episode 71.

How did you go with today’s episode?

Do you already have an autoresponder? Will you start one today? I’d love to hear about what you decide to set up for your blog and how it works for you in the comments below.

The hashtag I’ll be using to talk about this journey on social media is #TodayNotSomeday and I encourage you to share your journey too, using the same hashtag.

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