Whether you’ve launched a blog to support an established, existing business, or your blog is a crucial marketing tool for your brand-new start-up, the first few weeks and months can be one of the most difficult times.
The milestone of 1,000 subscribers – a great basis for effective marketing – is one that a lot of bloggers focus on, and even fixate on. Yet, in the early days after starting a blog when you might only gain one new subscriber a day (on a good day), that 1,000 mark can seem a very long way off.
Here’s how you can get there:
Note: This post is aimed at bloggers who are focusing on email subscribers, rather than RSS subscribers. Many of the tips apply to boosting RSS subscribers too, though.
#1: Write Blog Posts that Attract Readers, Shares, and Links
While this might sound a bit obvious, it’s something that’s easy to overlook when you’re concentrating on boosting your visitors-to-subscribers conversion rate: your blog content needs to be impressive.
That means providing useful information that people want to read – not thinly-disguised marketing posts about how great your company is. Take a look at your most recent posts, and ask yourself whether you would read them, if you came across them on someone else’s blog. Would you share them on Twitter? Would you link to them from your blog?
If not, you need to invest more resources into your content. That might mean spending more time planning, researching, and writing posts, or it might mean delegating some of this work to others (e.g. freelancers, or your employees).
#2: Offer Visitors an Incentive for Subscribing
One of the best ways to get people to subscribe to your blog is to offer them something valuable in exchange. After all, they’re handing over their email address – and their time and attention certainly have value.
Your incentive could be almost anything you like, but you might think about:
- A special discount that’s only available to subscribers, which could be on a specific product or on everything in your store.
- A .pdf download – anything from a full-length book to a quick tips document that answers readers’ most burning questions.
- An audio interview with someone prominent (or at least interesting!) in your industry.
- A video tutorial helping your audience to tackle a particular task or problem.
For more ideas, see 4 Irresistible Giveaways To Quickly Grow Your Email List.
#3: Build Your Blogging Networking of Peers
When you want to grow fast, it’s tempting to look straight to the biggest names in your topic area – bloggers who’ve been around for years, and who’ve built up a following of tens or hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
While these bloggers can indeed be valuable allies (we’ll come to that in #4), they’re not the best people to try to network with when you’re starting out. They’re almost certainly very busy and inundated with requests from other bloggers just like you.
Instead, look for your blogging peers – other people with similar companies who, like you, are near the start of their blogging journey. They might already have 1,000 or 2,000 subscribers, but probably won’t have many more. They’re likely to be much more receptive to partnering with you – perhaps to link to one another’s blog posts on an occasional basis, or to retweet posts.
#4: Write Guest Posts for Larger, Related Blogs
Of course, you don’t want to ignore the power of big blogs altogether. A brilliant way to collaborate with these established sites is to offer them a guest post – a piece of content that you write for free. When you guest post, you get a “bio” at the end of the post where you can promote your blog or product(s).
Most large blogs welcome guest posters (and have clear guidelines that you should read and follow before submitting your piece). From the host blogger’s point of view, they’re getting free content from someone who knows their industry well; from your point of view, you’re getting free, effective advertising to a large and on-topic audience.
#5: Make it Easy and Simple to Subscribe
This might sound obvious, but (judging by a fair few blogs out there), it’s easily overlooked: if visitors never notice your optin form, or find it confusing, they won’t subscribe.
Make life as easy as possible for your visitors. Don’t bury your form at the bottom of your “About” page or deep down in your sidebar or in your footer. Instead:
- Have a clear, attractive (see #7) sidebar optin form visible on every post and page of your blog. Your email service provider (a company such as Aweber, MailChimp or Constant Contact) will provide some default options, but you can find out how to create a customized one with OptinMonster here.
- Use other types of form too – a lightbox is one of the highest-converting. (A lightbox is a type of popup. OptinMonster lets you create lightboxes that only appear when visitors are about to leave – so it won’t annoy people who are deep in the middle of reading a blog post.)
- Keep forms simple and clear. The more information you ask for, the more your subscription rates will drop. (Do you really need first name and last name, or would first name do?)
#6: Include Content Upgrades Within Posts
If you’ve been blogging for a few weeks or months, you’ll already have quite a few past posts – and some of these may be receiving significant traffic (perhaps from search engines, social media sites, or even a guest post bio). Make sure you capitalize on this, using content upgrades.
This means offering the reader a related resource, which they receive when they sign up by email. The resource should be on the same topic as the post, but go into more depth in some way. Simply pick the top two or three posts on your site (the ones receiving the most traffic), create a related resource, and add a link into the post – Brian Dean of Backlinko has a great guide to this here.
If you’re using OptinMonster, the manual click option lets you create links like this easily and quickly – each one can load a different popup, depending on what resource and call to action you want to provide (there’s a tutorial here).
#7: Have a Professional-Looking Design
Like it or not, we all judge books by their covers – and websites by their design. How your website looks gives visitors an instant, split-second impression of how professional and reputable your company is … or isn’t.
If you’re using a generic blog template, or one that you’ve cobbled together with perhaps more enthusiasm than design skill, then it’s unlikely to be creating a good impression. If your site design is dated and doesn’t display correctly on newer browsers, that’s a big problem too.
Investing a bit of money in a new design – even if that’s simply a premium WordPress theme – can make a big difference. And making sure your optin forms are also well designed, rather than default ones plonked on the page, will help encourage visitors to fill them in.
#8: Offer Visitors the Chance to Subscribe Before They Leave
Let’s say a visitor comes to your blog, perhaps after clicking a link in the bio of one of your guest posts, and they read a couple of posts. They’ve found what they needed, so they move to close the browser tab.
You’ve lost them, right? Not necessarily! This is a brilliant opportunity to offer them the chance to subscribe (they may have missed the sign-up forms that are visible on the page). A lightbox that pops up when they show “exit intent” – moving their mouse to close that browser window – lets you draw their attention to your great optin offer (see #2).
This is also a great solution if you’re worried that a lightbox might annoy your blog readers. If it only appears when visitors are leaving anyway, you’ve got nothing to lose.
#9: Track Conversion Rates So You Can Make Improvements
Finally, if you want to reach 1,000 subscribers as quickly as possible, you need to make sure that what you’re doing is effective. This means tracking how each of your optin forms is converting, and making tweaks to improve conversion rates.
For instance, you might have initially decided to create a sidebar form that blends naturally with your overall design – but it’s not converting well.
Once you know this, you could try changing the design so the form stands out – using contrasting, brighter colors, for instance. You might find that this simple change results in a huge difference in your conversion rate.
Even if 1,000 subscribers seems a long way off right now, you can and will get there. Just take it a step at a time and be conscious and deliberate about what you’re doing to attract visitors and convert them to subscribers. Good luck!