It isn’t complicated to learn how to conquer email marketing as a blogger. In fact, the process of growing your email list, nurturing it, and sending emails packed full of value is pretty enjoyable if you hone your email marketing skills. You will need to perform split testing and routine maintenance on your list to master email marketing and reach your readers truly. I’ll guide you through the best email marketing practices so that your blog can turn into a lead-generating machine.
How Email Marketing Works for Bloggers
To get people on your email list, you first need to offer something in return. Typically, you offer a freebie, called a lead magnet, in exchange for your reader’s email address. If you don’t have enough people coming to your blog, it will take a while to grow your email list, so learn how to promote and market your blog to gain an audience.
Once you get subscribers on your email list, send emails with value on a regular basis. Occasionally, these emails should also include offers to make a purchase. You will also need to trim your list so that only engaged subscribers remain periodically.
Why Emails Matter More Than Page Views
I am about to let you in on a little secret: You absolutely can make money blogging without a lot of page views. After blogging for 14 years, I know this because my page views are nowhere near what one might consider a lot. Yet, I make a full-time income blogging and have for many years. I managed to do this because I have a carefully curated email list full of raving fans.
One hundred thousand page views on your blog will not matter if nobody buys anything. Similarly, if you have 10,000 people on your email list and they don’t buy anything, you’re wasting your hard-earned money paying for an email provider to keep your emails. Sure, page views are important (why create content if no one reads it?), but a list of potential leads is more important.
What you need is a list full of people who buy almost everything you offer. You need to provide great content regularly and actually ask people to buy from you to do this. I teach my coaching clients to make about $1 per email on their email list every month. If they’re not making that, the list isn’t curated enough, or they aren’t offering the right product. For example, if 200 people aren’t opening your emails in over two months—it might be time to cut them loose.
Push vs. Pull Content
I like to think about my blog’s content in two different ways: push and pull. Your pull content draws in the reader who is your specific audience. Pull content is consumer-led. It’s content that the reader is seeking answers on, so they find your site. Let’s say you’re having a baby, so you spend the next nine months searching for everything baby-related on Pinterest and Google. You’ve also joined lots of Facebook groups dedicated to parents who are due the same month you are.
These are examples of “pull” content—you, as a reader, have specifically sought out these things. As a blogger, you need to consistently create content to fulfill your readers’ “pull” content need. Study what topics your readers want to learn about and fulfill the answer.
The next type of content I think about as a blogger is push content, which is brand-led. So using the same reader example as above, you sign up for Sweet Pea Baby Planner’s email list during those nine months. Each week, you get helpful information from its newsletter. Occasionally, you also receive offers to make purchases. You also sometimes see its ads for baby-related products.
This is an example of push content—you weren’t necessarily looking specifically for that email, but the site that sent it knew what you might be interested in reading or buying. Instead, this company advertised to you and asked you to take action (any action). As the blogger, this is you putting your product and brand in front of the right reader, who is hopefully now a subscriber on your email list.
Examples of Push vs. Pull Content
Search Engine Optimization
Email Marketing Terms You Should Know
In order to properly measure your blog’s email marketing success, you have to know what numbers to work with. Below are a few definitions you should know as well as email marketing benchmarks across all industries. Note that your email marketing provider will compile your analytics for you; it’s just up to you to understand what these terms mean.
- List Size: The total number of emails on your list.
- Click-Through Rate: If you have a link within the contents of your email, the click-through rate is the percentage of clicks to any given link. CTR calculates based on the number of emails sent.
- Open Rate: This is the number of people who open your emails, including people who open only to unsubscribe.
- Click-To-Open Rate: Similar to click-through rate, except you calculate based on the number of emails opened instead of emails sent. This is a far more accurate picture of how well your content converts.
- Bounce Rate: If you send an email to a subscriber and the email is undeliverable, such as when there’s a mistyped or deleted email account, this adds to your bounce rate.
- Unsubscribe Rate: People will unsubscribe from your emails, no matter how amazing your content is.
Average Email Marketing Benchmarks*
*These numbers may vary based on the blog niche
**As determined by Campaign Monitor’s analysis of 30 billion emails sent in 2019
Email Marketing Providers for Bloggers
An email marketing provider is a service that collects and stores your subscriber’s data. This is also where you’ll send your emails from and view how your campaigns perform using the analytics above as benchmarks. Many providers choose from, but we’ve picked a few below that are favorites among bloggers. To see more choices, check out our email marketing software reviews.
- ConvertKit: Many bloggers, myself included, use ConvertKit because it’s an email marketing provider for bloggers by bloggers. For a long time, newer bloggers weren’t ready to use the service because of the expense—it was $29 for the lowest tiered package. Now, ConvertKit has a free option for up to 500 subscribers.
- Mailchimp: Mailchimp is another popular option for new bloggers because of its free package of up to 2,000 subscribers. After that, the package is only $9.99 for up to 50,000 subscribers.
- Constant Contact: While there isn’t a free option with Constant Contact, you can get started for as little as $20 per month. This option is best for bloggers who want to promote specific campaigns like events and surveys.
How to Grow Your Blog’s Email List
Growing your list takes time and effort. It’s not a destination you reach. Instead, it’s a journey. You are continuously finding new ways to promote your list, nurture it, and, sometimes, cull it. For now, let’s focus on ways you can grow your blog’s email list.
Most of these methods classify as lead magnets or freebies: You give something in exchange for your reader’s email address. I also have a pretty exhaustive list of 38 ways to grow your list using lead magnets, so be sure to take a look at it.
Most people will create a dedicated landing page that speaks specifically to the lead magnet offered. This is simply a page without a menu on it, and the only thing your reader needs to do is sign up for the freebie.
A webinar is basically a presentation you give online to educate or inform. To get people to your webinar, you will usually use social media to promote it. To attend the webinar, a user must provide their email address. This helps you build curated subscribers to your email list. Teach two to three lessons during the webinar, so it lasts about an hour, with room to promote a paid offer at the end. Typically, the first few rounds you do of the same presentation are live.
After you’ve perfected the webinar, you can make it “evergreen,” which simply means you continually promote the same replay of the webinar in curated email campaigns or on your site. This helps you earn recurring revenue from your webinar without you having to redo the webinar each time.
Social Media & Ads
You do not have to master every social media platform, but you should have a presence on the big ones—Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Not only can you use your platform to share your most recent blog posts and behind-the-scenes of your work, but it’s a great place to share lead magnets.
Consider running ads to the lead magnet once you have a lead magnet that receives good feedback from your followers. I’m a fan of Facebook ads in particular because my audience is there, but yours might be on another social media platform. I’ve also used Pinterest ads to gain traction on a lead magnet too. Pinterest ads are a popular choice because they’re much cheaper than Facebook and Instagram ads. I can give a new lead magnet traction for as little as $5 in ad spend.
With Pinterest, it’s not unusual to use just a little ad spend to gain visibility on a lead magnet and then use the platform’s natural virality to gain even more subscribers. It builds momentum over time—a lot like trying to roll a snowball down a hill. When a user sees the ad, they click on it and go to a landing page specifically for that lead magnet. Once there, they provide their email in exchange for the freebie.
On Facebook and Instagram, I will run ads to any post that gets decent engagement. This is what I call my social barometer—if people who already like my stuff will engage with this post, I can attract more people like them by running ads to it using a lookalike audience. This simply targets my ads toward people who already interact with my stuff.
I also really enjoy running Pinterest ads simply because they’re much cheaper than Facebook and Instagram ads. I can give a new lead magnet traction for as little as $5 in ad spend.
Hold a contest or giveaway for people who join your email list. The key to successfully implementing this promotion is to make it hyper-relevant to your specific niche. For example, if you give an Amazon gift card a giveaway, you will attract everyone and their grandma to enter. This often leads to mass unsubscribes once the giveaway is over, or worse—people forget they signed up, and when they receive their first newsletter, they mark it as spam.
If you’re a homesteading blogger, you can give away a composter or even a dozen hatching eggs. DIY bloggers can give cut lists and blueprints for a farmhouse table to everyone who provides their email, and one lucky winner will receive an actual table. A popular tool to use for giveaways on your blog is Rafflecopter. The last giveaway I did for my blog earned me 700 new subscribers in about a week.
People love quizzes—whether the quiz is meaningful or just for entertainment. Below you’ll find a GIF that shows the results from a quiz on the website; I Will Teach You To Be Rich. I will show you how powerful your quiz results can be for the reader of your blog.
A page with customized recommendations displays after a reader takes the quiz and enters their name and email address. Not only does this help grow your email list, but it provides tremendous value to the reader because they know exactly what steps to take next. Plus, many of these recommendations are monetizable, which gives you the chance to earn money through your email collecting efforts.
Create your quiz using a program like Interact Quiz Builder and insert the quiz throughout relevant blog posts. Canva also just unveiled quiz templates to help draw design inspiration from.
A challenge via email adds a nice competitive element for your new subscribers and helps draw in new subscribers. The vast majority of challenges that bloggers run are free or very low cost for a reader to participate in. Typically, a challenge runs for less than a week and usually promises one specific result in that period of time.
A fitness blogger might have a weeklong weight loss challenge with daily live videos and a meal plan. A DIY blogger can do a week of handmade Christmas gifts as a challenge.
How to Nurture Your New Subscribers
Once you get a subscriber to your email list, your work is just beginning. You want to build a relationship with your reader so that a year from now, they are still engaged and eager to open your emails. To do this, you will set up what’s called a nurture sequence or a set of welcome/onboarding emails. Sometimes, people refer to this as drip marketing. This series of emails sent more frequently than your regular emails, is designed to warm up your new subscriber.
Business starts with relationships. Skipping to the sale prematurely causes you to miss the opportunity to connect with people, learn about them, and understand what they desire. Think of your nurture sequence like courting someone—before you ask a reader to marry you (ask them to make a purchase), you have to date for a while, right? A nurture sequence can absolutely transform your list’s potential.
The Nurture Sequence
The key to creating an irresistible welcome/nurture sequence is to make it relevant to why the reader came to you in the first place. We already know that the reader signed up for a lead magnet to get on your list, so this sequence must relate to that specific lead magnet. This means that you will likely have several different welcome sequences running simultaneously to coincide with its lead magnet.
If someone signs up for a new lead magnet you offer and they’re already a subscriber, your email marketing provider should be set up so that this person doesn’t go through a welcome sequence again. Instead, they should just receive the lead magnet. You will need to consult with your provider for details on how to set this up.
The First Email in a Nurture Sequence
The first email they receive for brand-new subscribers must be what they asked for: the lead magnet. In this email containing your freebie, send an email introducing you, your business, any resources you offer, and an opportunity for the reader to respond to the email with how you can best serve them. At this point, I also let the subscriber know I’ll email them the following day to see if they’ve taken action on the lead magnet and if there are any questions.
The Second Email in a Nurture Sequence
The following day, follow through on what you promised: ask if the subscriber took action. Give a little insight for those who might be stuck, or for those who’ve completed your lead magnet—what they can do next. I also like to include a little more about me and why I do what I do in this email. My goal is to motivate, uplift, and inspire the subscriber in this email.
The Third Email in a Nurture Sequence
On the third day, I want to provide even more value. This is usually in the form of another related freebie. I also ask the subscriber their own goals and give a button for them to click on pertaining to that specific goal.
For example, I might ask subscribers if their goal is to start a new business or scale their current business. When a reader clicks on the appropriate button, my email provider adds them to a list dedicated to their goals. This way, all of my future emails are super relevant to where they’re at in their journey.
What to Send Subscribers After Nurturing Them
When your new subscriber completes their nurture sequence, add these subscribers to your ongoing general email list. Typically, you’ll send things like newsletters, event invites, and product offers to this list. You can even segment this list by the reader’s goals so the copy you write in your email speaks directly to that person.
- Newsletters: When you send newsletters to your list, it typically goes to your entire list rather than a small, segmented section of it. These newsletters get sent on a systematic basis—usually weekly or biweekly. Include your latest blog posts, tips, tricks, and inspiration in these newsletters.
- Event invites: Whether you’re hosting a live event in-person or a virtual one, invite your list to any events you host. You can charge for the event or even offer it for free to subscribers.
- Product offers: Your offers might include things like courses, physical goods, e-books, and coaching services. You do not want to send an offer every time you email your list otherwise they’re likely to unsubscribe. I will usually only send offers 10-20% of the time.
- Trigger emails: If a subscriber added your product to their shopping cart but didn’t actually complete the purchase, you can send a trigger email. This automatically sends an email after 24 hours encouraging the subscriber to complete their purchase. You can also send a trigger email so many days after they receive a product so they can review it.
How to Increase Your Email Open Rates
You have spent a lot of time growing your email list, but how do you actually get people to open your emails? A few tricks you can try include culling your list, segmenting subscribers, mastering your subject lines.
- Cull your list: If people don’t open your emails, it costs you money and increases the likelihood of your emails going to spam folders. I discuss more about performing maintenance on your list in the next section.
- Segment your subscribers: People open emails that are relevant to them, so segmenting your list by shared attributes like goals, interests, and locations makes it easy to send customized, relevant emails. Learn more about segmenting your emails.
- Split test: You can split test subject lines, the name you send from, time sent, as well as the content of your emails by sending different versions of each to sections of your list. The rest of your list then receives the best performing test. Most email providers have this feature built-in and call it A/B testing.
- Perfect your subject lines: While clickbait subject lines work, it can upset your subscribers and cause them to unsubscribe. Keep the language friendly, conversational, and give just enough to pique their interest. Using numbers in the subject line also prove to increase opens.
- Send emails at the right time: After you conduct split testing, you will know the most optimal time to send emails. The best time will vary across niches, but generally speaking—weekdays do better than weekends according to both Mailchimp and Experian.
- Experiment with re-sending to unopens: Most email providers give you the option of resending your email to people who haven’t opened the first email. I don’t typically recommend doing this on the same day, but it might not hurt to re-send the following day to unopens.
According to Mailchimp, email open rates decrease starting Thursdays and pick back up come Monday.
How to Perform Maintenance on Your Email List
As your list grows, you want to perform maintenance on your email list. Namely, weeding out people who don’t even look at your emails. I know what you’re thinking: Don’t I want to grow my list? Why would I delete people from it?
There are a few reasons to reduce the number of people on your email list:
- It helps keep your emails out of spam folders. If people open your emails, it lets email providers know you share content people actually want to read. When a subscriber engages with your emails, email providers’ algorithms give your emails the best seat in the house: the top of a reader’s email (or, the primary inbox—depending on which provider the subscriber uses).
- The more emails on your list, the more you’ll pay to your email provider every month. If you have just shy of 200,000 emails on your list, you will pay around $1,200 per month with ConvertKit, and $1,100 per month with Mailchimp. That’s a lot to pay if a good chunk of your list doesn’t open your emails.
- A carefully curated email list increases open rates, click-through rates, and click-to-open rates. When your list is hyper-focused on only those interested in hearing from you, it’s much easier to measure how well your campaigns do. This is harder to do when you send an email to 10,000 people and 5,000 of those people never, ever engage.
Now that I’ve convinced you why it’s so important to keep your email list maintained, let’s dig into how actually to do this. There are a couple of options to prune your email list. The method you choose depends on the frequency in which you send emails. As a blogger, you probably fit into one of two camps:
- Camp A: You send emails quite infrequently. Occasionally, you go through a streak where you send emails regularly, but by and large, it’s pretty inconsistent.
- Camp B: You send emails regularly to your list—just like clockwork.
For bloggers in Camp A, you want to trim your email list based on the number of emails a subscriber hasn’t engaged with. For example, let’s say you’ve sent out five emails in the last six months or so. Tell your email provider to delete any subscriber that hasn’t engaged with the last five emails. I call this count-based trimming.
For bloggers in Camp B, you’ve probably sent over 20 emails in six months. You will perform what I call time-based trimming. Tell your email provider to delete subscribers who don’t engage over a while (no less than 30 days).
Most email providers allow you to trim your list easily using either the count-based or time-based trimming method. For smaller email providers, you may need to do this manually.
Allow Subscribers to Re-engage
You might be thinking … wait, shouldn’t I send a last chance email? What if the subscriber wants to stay on my list and promises to start opening my emails? I’m glad you asked. You absolutely should send an email letting subscribers know you will remove them if they don’t engage.
The email you send to warn your subscriber doesn’t need to be fancy. In fact, the email can be as simple as:
“Subject Line: Are we breaking up?
It’s been a while since you’ve opened any of my emails. I don’t want to keep emailing you if you don’t want to hear from me.
Click here if you still want to hear from me. If you don’t, then just ignore this email and I’ll take care of the rest. No hard feelings!
Some companies and bloggers will even give an incentive for subscribers to stick around, like a coupon or access to a free workshop.
Growing your email list is something that takes time. You can have a carefully curated list full of subscribers who eat up every word you say with the right strategy. Plus, these subscribers will feel like they’re part of your inner circle and are more likely to buy just about anything you recommend.
To email your subscribers, you need an email marketing provider you can depend on.