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

How I Increased the Subscriber Rate on My Blogs by 80-1000%

Today’s episode is the second 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 dot it).

The focus of today’s episode is about why and how you should have a good system to allow people to subscribe to your email list. I have spent lots of time over the years experimenting with different ways to let readers subscribe across my blogs. I share the technique I use that increased my email list subscribers by over 100% so you can use it on your blog.

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:

  • Why I started using email as a way to communicate with my readers
  • Why email is a valuable communication tool for your blog
  • The 3 keys to increasing the subscriber numbers on your email list
  • An invitation to complete a challenge to improve your blog
  • 5 things you should test in your email list sign ups
  • The tool that has increased my email list sign ups by more than 100%

Further Reading and Resources for How to Increase Your Email List Subscribers By 100% Today

The email list providers that I use:

SumoMe, the email list tool I use for pop up and Welcome Mat subscription forms (and a SPECIAL OFFER)

The great thing about SumoMe is that:

  • It allows you to test different types of popups, hello bars etc. in combination
  • You can target people coming from different sources of traffic with different tools, different CTAs, different frequency of seeing the tools etc.

I’ve seen between 80%-1000% increases in subscribers on every site I’ve tested it on.

Check out the increases in subscribers I’ve seen to a couple of my sites. First Digital Photography School.

Next – here’s the increase in subscribers here on the ProBlogger Podcast show notes page.

My wife even saw a 1000% increase in her subscribers on her blog!

The feature I specifically mention working very well for me on my blogs (and being responsible for these increases in subscribers) is the ‘Welcome Mat’. SumoMe has a special offer for ProBlogger readers, a free month of ‘Welcome Mat Pro’, which is pretty amazing! Access the special offer here

Other episodes in the Today, Not Someday Series:

Update: check out Part 3 which continues the theme of growing your subscriber numbers by creating an opt-in for your blog.

Meet my new friend, Edgar (and a SPECIAL OFFER)

I’d like to welcome a new sponsor to the ProBlogger podcast for the duration of this 10 part series, my friend ‘Edgar‘.

Edgar is a tool I’ve been using since January of this year that does exactly what this series is about. It enables you to make the work you do on social media keep paying off for the long term. You put a little work into Edgar today by adding social media updates highlighting the great content in your blog’s archives and Edgar goes to work to share them to your followers not just once but by queuing your updates to keep delivering to into the future.

The team at Edgar have put together a special deal for ProBlogger readers which gives you a free one month trial. Sign up for it at

As promised in today’s podcast – here’s a video of how I use it:

If watching videos isn’t your thing – here’s a blog post I wrote on how I use Edgar.

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript

Welcome to episode 68 of the ProBlogger podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind ProBlogger, a blog designed to help you to achieve great heights with your blogging and to build sustainable blogs that change the world.

Welcome to episode 68 of the ProBlogger podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind ProBlogger, a blog designed to help you to achieve great heights with your blogging and to build sustainable blogs that change the world.

Today is the third part of an ongoing series that we’ve got running on this podcast for the month of December where we’re looking at things that you can do on your blog today that are going to pay off for the future of your blog. These are 10 things that often we put off because they do take a little bit of work but we really shouldn’t be putting off these things because they have the potential to pay off tomorrow and the next week and for months and years to come.

You can go back and listen to the introduction of this series in episode 66, and in the last episode, episode 67, you can listen to the first challenge that I gave to create a product. I have seen a few of you already sharing on Twitter using the #todaynotsomeday, the products that you’ve decided to create. Good on you for doing it. I look forward to seeing more of your hash tagged tweets and Instagram.

I want to thank Edgar for sponsoring this podcast series. Edgar is a tool that I use to help me manage my social media and make the tweets and the Facebook updates that I do today pay off for the future as well. You can check them out

If there’s one challenge that I would prioritize overall the others in this series, it is today’s. It is all about getting people to subscribe to your email list. Whether you’ve got one or not, this is relevant for you because it is something that you need to pay attention to when you first set up your email list but also pay attention to over time. I’m going to give you some real and practical tips that you can do today to increase the percentage of people coming to your blog that end up signing for your email list.

First, I want to talk a little bit about the why of setting up an email list. I first set up an email list on my blogs back in 2007 when I started Digital Photography School which is my main blog today. At that time, bloggers were all trying to get people to subscribe to their RSS feeds. Huge, big, orange buttons were being plastered all over blogs everywhere, “Subscribe to my feed. Subscribe to my feed.” It was going to be the email killer–RSS was. It was being touted as the biggest technology to hit the internet and whilst it still exists today, it’s not really anywhere near as big as what everyone thought it would be.

The reason I started an email list which was quite unusual for a blogger back then was because of my dad. My dad was an aspiring photographer and he wanted to subscribe to my Digital Photography School blog, but he just did not understand RSS. I went over to his house, I set up an RSS feed reader for him and said, “Dad, all you need to do is check this piece of software every day and it will give you the latest posts on the blog.” Of course, I went back two weeks later, and he hadn’t looked at the RSS reader at all. The only thing he used the web for really was email and so I decided I am going to set up a way for him to subscribe to my blog using email.

I set up this little newsletter. I said, “I’ll send out a weekly email of just our latest posts, just the list of links to our latest posts.” I thought, “Whilst I’m doing this for my dad maybe I should just publicise it on the blog,” and so I put it up on the subscribe page of my blog as a secondary way to subscribe to the blog. I had no idea that what I was doing there was probably the best thing I’ve ever done on my blogs. Today, hardly anyone subscribes to our RSS feed. There are a few thousand people who subscribe probably in those early days but today we have close to 900,000 email subscribers. Thank you, dad! I really appreciate your lack of technological know-how because you changed my blog.

So, why email? I’ve kind of answered this already. It’s a very familiar and used everyday technology. Most people check their email every day. While there have been many technologies over the years that was supposed to kill email, RSS being one of it, Facebook being another, and I even remember an article in the old days about how Myspace was going to kill email, most of them have come and gone or at least have not killed email. One of the things I love about email is that it pretty much gets through all the time to the people who subscribe and who you send the email to. Occasionally, they do get filtered as spam but unlike things like Facebook, emails get through. Your Facebook updates get filtered in Facebook’s algorithm and increasingly I think we’ll see that on other social networks as well.

Another great thing about emails, it’s not temporary or fleeting like social updates can be. If you tweet now, five minutes later your tweet is highly unlikely to be seen by anyone. If you Facebook now, in a couple of hours’ time, it’s probably not going to be seen either. If I email right now, you will check your inbox for the next 24 hours or so and probably see it and perhaps even longer.

I like email because it drives a lot of traffic to our blog; it’s one of the highest referrers of traffic to Digital Photography School. It is fantastic for selling whether it be affiliate products or your own products that you would have developed yesterday as a result of the last podcast episode. We find that about 90%-95% of the sales of our eBooks and courses come from the emails we send even though we also update on our blog and social media.

Interestingly, I noticed that the AdSense ads that we run on our site were able to track which traffic makes the most and you guessed it, this traffic we send via our email list tends to convert better without AdSense ads than any other kind of traffic as well. Email is good for driving people to pretty much anything you want them to see whether it be a particular blog post or whether it be to a community area of your blog as well so you can use it to deepen reader engagement. Ultimately, it is just good for building a brand. If you send out regular, useful emails to your subscribers they are going to feel like they know you. If it’s good stuff that you are sending them, they will begin to like you and trust you which is good for you and the business that you’re building.

The keys though with using email well are rather three of them. Firstly, you want to keep your list warm which means that you need to send regular emails. If you just get subscribers but don’t send anything out people will forget that they have subscribed–so you need to keep your list warm. Number two you need to add value wherever you can and not just use it for selling. This is really a key in a lot of bloggers who have this list and they only ever use them to sell stuff. That’s a pretty fast way to annoy your subscribers. I guess the other key that I want to focus on in the rest of this podcast is that for an email list to work you need to get people on it. You need to get them to subscribe.

Here is my challenge for you today—it’s to do one or both of two things. Firstly, if you haven’t yet got an email list and I know every time I talk to a roomful of bloggers, over half the people in the room do not have one. If you are among them, please, please sign up with an email provider. I highly recommend one of two, there are others out there which are great as well, but I use Mailchimp and I use Aweber. I’ve got links in the show notes which give you little deals as well. Mailchimp will give you a $30 free credit if you sign up using our link and Aweber will give a 30-day free trial. You can get those in the show notes today. I am an affiliate for them, but I am also a paying user of both services and I use them in different ways on my different sites.

If you haven’t yet got an email list, please sign up for one of those providers or another one and get collecting emails. It’s so important that you do it even if your blog is brand new. Those early readers can be particularly powerful because they will have travelled the full journey with you so hook them in, get them subscribed in some way. Please, while I am talking about email providers, don’t just send your email newsletter from your Gmail account. That is going to get you in all kinds of bother and trouble. Use a service, invest a little. It doesn’t cost that much to get going with those sorts of services.

If you have already got an email list or if you have just gone away and signed up for a service and now have one, the challenge that I’ve got for you today is to think about the way you’re collecting emails and to I guess do a bit of an audit about how you are collecting emails and start thinking about how you could improve the way that you collect emails. There are a lot of different ways to get signups for your list and you will find that each will convert differently. It will partly depend on all kinds of factors. The calls to action that you use, the words and the visuals around your calls to action, the positioning of your calls to action on your site and the method of delivering those calls to action as well. There are all kinds of different ways of doing that but I want to suggest six or seven different things that you should be testing and you should be considering when getting those calls to action to subscribe to your email up on to your blog.

First, a few quick tips. I think it is always really helpful when you are trying to get subscribers in whatever method you choose to state the benefit of subscribing to your list. What will your subscribers get? Now, here I’m not just saying, “You will get an email every week.” That’s a fact. But what are they actually going to benefit from by subscribing? We have tested all kinds of benefits on our Digital Photography site. Things like, “You will take better photos if you subscribe. You will get creative control of your camera. You will develop confidence in your photography,” all kinds of benefits. They’re the type of the benefits that you should be putting around your calls to action—become a better whatever it might be that you are treating people to do. It’s really important that you test the different calls to action that you have. Think about the benefits of what it is that people are going to get when they subscribe.

Number two, try out some kind of an incentive to subscribe. Now, the benefits of subscribing on an incentive in and of themselves but you can also offer something free as an incentive to subscribe. I’ve long resisted doing this on my blogs, but I’ve also seen the benefits of it more recently of having something that people get when they subscribe. The reason I resisted for so long was that I had heard stories of people giving away free things to get the subscribers and then they get subscribers who don’t really convert because they’re not really interested in the list itself and what you’re going to provide in an ongoing way. But if you think carefully about the opt-in that you offer it can convert very well. I am not going to talk a whole heap about this in this particular episode because I am planning a future one on it, but it might be something that you consider working on as a result of today’s challenge.

A third area that you might want to think about testing particularly is the different colors and visuals that you use in your calls to action. One of the tests that I did in the early days of my blog was to test a variety of pictures around my calls to action. I had a design, I put together some really beautiful pop-up kind of calls to action. They’re really smooth designs. I was going to test them against each other, but I also decided to test one of my own.

Now, I am no designer and when I saw my pop-up next to the designers, I almost did not run my own test because I was embarrassed. My design was not as smooth, but it was a bit cleaner, it was a bit simpler, and probably was a bit ugly as well which may have caught people’s attention. I thought the designer’s pop-ups were going to win hands down when I tested them against each other and so I ran some split tests.

I had four versions of the pop-up showing every four rotations. You had one in four chances of seeing mine and one in four chances of seeing each of the other three from the designers. Of course, you know, mine one, it was 30% higher converting than the designers. It’s really important to test your designs. Test the different buttons on your pop-ups and your calls to action, test the different colors, test different photos, test photos versus icons, test bullet points, test the way your calls to action look. It can make a big, big difference.

I am going to give you some tools that will help you to test these types of things in a moment. Probably the number one thing that I would say has impacted the sign-up rate on my blogs is testing different methods of collecting the emails. This is getting into some sort of controversial areas now because people have different opinions on how aggressive you should be in collecting emails. But I want to put it out then that sometimes it is worth going a little bit beyond what you are comfortable with or what you think might be the best option to at least test to see how things work on your site. Let me tell you the story of how I began to do this.

Originally, I used to have my calls to action in a little box in my sidebar of my blog. This is on Digital Photography School in the early days just after dad convinced me to have an email newsletter. This little box just had a, “Put your email address here to get our newsletter,” type call to action. Not really well thought through. It got me 30 to 40 subscribers every day which I thought was amazing. I was like, “This is fantastic.” I could see that that was going to grow into the thousands of subscribers but after a year of doing that I decided to test using a pop-up that appeared on my site 30 seconds after people arrived. You have seen them I’m sure. You arrive on the site. The content kind of gets a little bit blacked out or opaque around the edges so you can still see the content and this pop-up invites you to subscribe.

The pop-up is an aggressive and intrusive way to try and get a subscriber. I was kind of worried when I first started using it that it was going to impact my traffic. I thought that my bounce rate would be affected, that people would view less pages per time on my site and that people would just get angry and go away and start abusing me. Here is what happened. Subscribers went up from 30-40 per day to 300-350 subscribers per day.

There is a pretty clear benefit of having a pop-up but what about the traffic. Well, the stats proved that traffic didn’t change at all. In fact, in the weeks that followed traffic went up because I was slowly sending my newsletters to more and more people. Bounce rate did not alter a single bit. All of those complaints that I thought I was going to get from my readers, I think I would probably get one every couple of months at the most. Things didn’t really change except my subscriber rate significantly rose.

I had my pop-up set so that it only ever showed to people once ever. I used a cookie that just said if they have seen it before do not show it again so it was not as aggressive as it could have been. I know a lot of people have pop-ups appear every time you arrive on their site even after you have subscribed but even at that rate of only showing the pop-up once ever it worked. For many years this was all I really used on Digital Photography School and my other blogs, a pop-up. In fact, I did not actually use it on ProBlogger for many years because I thought ProBlogger readers might get even more angry than Digital Photography School but I kind of regret that now because I would have seen significantly more subscribers over the years.

A pop-up tool is pretty easy to set up. If you sign up for Mailchimp or Aweber, they have a tool built in but there are some other tools available and I have tested a number of them over the last year. The one that we used today is SumoMe. I’ll have a link to an offer that they have got on at the moment in the show notes today. I will tell you about that in a moment but SumoMe do give you a variety of different methods of getting subscribers and I have tested a number of them.

Firstly, you can install a hello bar. A hello bar is the little strip that you see at the top of a site when you arrive at it and the strip kind of follows you down the page and you can use it for all kinds of things. You can use it as a call to action, to buy a product or you can put an invitation to subscribe and you can subscribe right in the hello bar. I don’t find that the hello bar converts at a really high rate, but it is a nice little thing to have as a secondary subscribing place on your site. You could use it in conjunction with any of the other methods that I am about to talk about.

Another option that you can use with SumoMe and some of the other suppliers that have these tools out there is what is called the exit pop-up. The exit pop-up is similar to the pop-up that I described before, in that it pops up and sort of blacks out the rest of the screen, but it happens only at the end of a visit. Rather than it happening as soon as someone arrives on your site or delayed by 10 or 20 or 30 seconds, you can have it show when someone’s cursor is about to close down the window so you can be confident at this point that they are about to leave your site and hopefully have had a good experience of it.

I tested the exit pop-up on ProBlogger, it was the first ever pop-up that I did put on to ProBlogger. Previous to using the exit pop-up, I had a reasonable subscriber rate from sidebar, invitations, the hello bar, and a couple of other spots on the site but when I used the exit pop-up, my subscriber numbers went up by 100%. Yup! I doubled my subscriber numbers overnight with that exit pop-up. Again, it is a little bit aggressive but perhaps not as aggressive as the greeting pop-up.

The other option that we have been testing moreover the last month or so on both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School and my wife’s blog and the podcast site because it’s working so well is what SumoMe calls the welcome mat. This is what we’re using if you go to any of my sites you will see it. Although if you have seen it before you would not see it again because we have it set that it shouldn’t show again. If you do want to see it, you can head to or but go there in an incognito browser and you should see it.

Basically, the welcome mat loads the content on your site and then pushes down that content and the welcome mat itself takes over the whole screen and in a fairly big font, you will see an invitation to subscribe. You can actually use the welcome mat for other purposes as well—to point people to a product or to introduce yourself or something else but we are using it largely to get subscribers. Again, it is a little bit more aggressive than some of the other options out there but the way that it operates is very smooth and quite elegant, I think. At least I think it’s more elegant than a pop-up and it converts better too.

On ProBlogger we have been testing it on the ProBlogger blog and we saw 100% increase from the exit pop-up which was already 100% increase from what we were previously doing so it was significantly better. I have been using the welcome mat over on Digital Photography School too and it is a 120% increase than our previous pop-up. I’ve been using it on my wife’s blog. She did not have a pop-up previously. She only had an invitation to subscribe in her sidebar and her sign up increase has been 1000%. We’ve seen the same kind of increase, 1000% on the ProBlogger podcast where previously we have just been using a sidebar-hello bar combination. You can see here that on all of my sites we have seen at least 100% increase by using the welcome mat option.

SumoMe does have an offer for you at the moment running for ProBlogger readers. I will link to that from our show notes today. It gives you basically their welcome mat feature for free for a month. They’re Pro version of the welcome mat so you can test it for yourself. Again, we are an affiliate for that product but as with all our affiliate promotions, we’re paid up users of it as well. I have been using it now for several months.

The great thing about SumoMe is that it does allow you to test all of these different types of pop-ups and hello bars in combination as well and this is pretty cool to target people coming from different traffic sources. This is something I would highly recommend that you do and there are other tools around apart from SumoMe that do it.

Basically, you can have the welcome mat show for people coming from Google but not people coming from Facebook. If you think the people coming from Facebook are your regular readers or you could say that you don’t want the welcome mat to show for people coming from your email list or direct traffic. There are different ways that you can target different types of people with different messaging. There are all kinds of things you could experiment with there.

The next thing I’ll encourage you to test is calls to action in your blog posts–in the content itself. I’m kind of amazed how little I see this being talked about and being done by bloggers but one of the most effective ways I found to grow my list is to simply ask my readers to become subscribers in the content that I produce. This is particularly effective when you are doing a series of blog posts. When you are doing something that might last a week or something that might be once a month for six months, the same type of post over and over again having a call to action to subscribe in those types of posts works very well because you’re building anticipation.

For example, in Digital Photography School, once a month or so we will do a week-long series of posts. We did a week-long series of post on macro photography last year and in every post that we wrote over the week, we just had a simple line of the start from the editor saying that this was part of a series and to get the rest of the series subscribed to the newsletter and you get emailed and that worked really well. I think that was the first time that we’ve done that type of approach at the start of those articles of the series and our subscriber numbers that week were something like 50% higher than a normal week so test that one out. Build some anticipation with a series of blog posts and see how it works.

Another good place to put calls to action in your content on any hot post that you might have in your archives. Most bloggers have at least one post that gets a lot of traffic from Google. Google just ranks up really well and it gets a lot of traffic so they’re the types of posts that you should be perhaps a little bit more aggressive with. I mean the people are just coming from Google anyway and typically they will be gone again and never come back. You might as well be a little bit more aggressive and at the top of your post put a call to action to subscribe. You may want to even include a graphic that does that.

Likewise any key page on your site, it might be your about page, it might be your contact page, any page that is getting traffic, they are pages that you could be a little bit more aggressive with your calls to action to subscribe. Of course, if you are building, creating content on any other platform like Periscope or podcasts or YouTube, you should be including calls to action in those pieces of content too. I find in probably every second or third Periscope episode that I do I mention my newsletter and give people a URL they can go and subscribe with.

I think I might leave it at that. There are five or six different areas that you could go away and work on as part of today’s challenge, but I really would encourage you to do a bit of an audit. What are you currently doing to get subscribers for your list? How is it working? What test could you run? Just choose one test that might be a new tool, it might be a new call to action in terms of the words, it might be changing the color or design, it might be creating a series of blog posts that you put a call to action in the content itself, or going back to some of those old hot posts and put in calls to action there.

I’d love to hear what you are going to do today on this particular challenge. You can let me know on Twitter just tweet me @problogger with #todaynotsomeday with what you’re going to do. This is one of those things that you should probably return to every now and again to do some new testing on. It’s very important to do this. If you can increase your subscriber numbers by 10%, 20%, 30% that adds up in massive ways over the next week, month, year, decade, it really does add up so keep coming back to this type of challenge.

You can sign up to my newsletter, if you haven’t already, over I want to thank our sponsor of today’s podcast, Edgar. I have talked about Edgar in the last couple of episodes. That is a tool that I have used to help me to bring in new energy and increase the conversions that I experienced in my social media. But one of the great ways that you can see Edgar in action is via a video that I created and posted on the ProBlogger blog a couple of days ago now. I am going to link to that video in today’s show notes.

If you go to, you will see this video where I walk you through in a ScreenFlow video exactly what I do with my social media. You will get really familiar with the Edgar tool there so check out the video over on today’s show notes I hope you find today’s challenge useful. I look forward to chatting with you in episode 69 of the ProBlogger podcast.

How did you go with today’s episode?

Do you already have an email list? Will you start one today? If you already have an email list, what strategies are working best to convert people into signing up? I’d love to hear from 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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