Note: That headline is not a typo. My mailing list at Pocket Changed has increased fourfold from the end of 2011 to the writing of this post (March 22nd). Keep reading this post to find out the six exact strategies I used to do so.
If you’ve been blogging for a while, you should know about the power of building your mailing list.
Social media followers and RSS subscribers are great, but until you harness the personal connection you can have by communicating through someone’s inbox your influence online will suffer.
Just like Derek Halpern talked about in our latest interview, you need to be growing an email list.
Sure, you could try to promote everything you do passively by mentioning your latest content on your different outlets on the web.
But, compare the results from hoping that people will click through all the noise to when you can send an email to thousands of people and reach their inboxes in seconds. Now that is power.
In this post I’ll outline the exact six step strategy I used to quadruple my mailing list in less than three months on Pocket Changed.
(If you are unfamiliar with what a mailing list is or are looking to set-up your own list, read the post about why we use Aweber as our mailing list host.)
Action #1: Refresh Your Site Design
Be honest with yourself. Your website could use a design refresh.
Updating your website to the latest design trends used for online web apps like Google+ or Gmail will make your website feel new and fresh. Try using a simple color palette and a lot of white space.
If your website looks old and stale, people won’t want to subscribe to it.
This is why we use a simple and straight forward design here at Think Traffic and why I have continually worked to keep Pocket Changed clean and clear of clutter.
Strapped for cash but still want a strong design? Follow the step-by-step fundamentals in the subscriber only guide in our Traffic Toolbox: 5 Easy Design Enhancements to Make Your Site More Magnetic.
Homework Assignment #1: Refresh your design by simplifying it and decrease the amount of clutter (ads, badges, blogrolls).
Action #2: Optimize Your Subscription Forms
You want to use flashing arrows or pop-ups to trick people into giving you their email address? Sorry, the results are in and people hate pop-ups.
Just a simple phrase like “Get Free Updates” and then a spot for someone to place their email address is all you really need. But, how can you know exactly what these forms should say?
One of the best things you can do to optimize your subscription forms is to A-B test them.
If you are using Aweber all you have to do is create two web forms with different copywriting. You could use a different headline (Get Free Updates vs. Get Our Newsletter), a different call-to-action (Join 2,500 monthly readers vs. Welcome to the Revolution), or a different phrase on the button (Get Updates! vs. Subscribe). Get creative with your A-B testing.
Once you’ve created the different forms to try, under the list of web forms there is a section called ‘Split Tests’.
Create a new split test and just set the percent of the time you want each form to show (for two use 50%-50%, for three use 33%-33%-34%, etc.). Next, paste the A-B code where you would be pasting the web form code normally.
After a week or so go back and see which forms performed the best. You can keep A-B testing with more options at that point or just pick whichever one is performing the best.
Homework Assignment #2: Go set-up an A-B test of your sign-up forms.
Action #3: Simplify Your About Page
Your about page is the single most important page on your entire website. When someone new comes to your website the thing they are most likely to click on is your about page.
This is the exact reason why you want to make your about page stand out.
- Section 1: Tell people why your site is different.
- Subscription Box 1.
- Section 2: Tell people who you are.
- Subscription Box 2.
- Section 3: Show social proof through testimonials/”featured on”.
- Subscription Box 3.
Keep each section to a single screen, remove sidebars, include relevant photos, and focus the visitor’s attention on why they should care about your site. People will appreciate the straightforward nature of the page and won’t get bored reading your life story.
If you have an awesome video about yourself you should include it on this page too, but only if it is short and above average.
Homework Assignment #3: Go re-write and simplify your about page.
Action #4: Create Multiple Pieces of Epic Content
Now that you’ve updated your design, optimized your sign-up forms, and simplified your about page it is time to get some huge traffic by writing epic shit.
Instead of worrying about the amount of times a week you update your blog, focus on creating some pillar content that gets shared hundreds of times.
When was the last time you spent 5 to 10 hours creating a single blog post?
In January and February I put together four blog posts that each took that long to create and I got a response 10 times larger than my regular posts.
Look specifically at the sharable naming convention I used for the titles below. Also, the tallies to the right equal how many times they have each been shared on Twitter + Facebook + Google Plus + LinkedIn at the time of writing this post.
- 14 Priceless Lessons I Learned From One Year of Non-Stop Blogging (176)
- 35 Cubicle Renegades to Watch in 2012 (311)
- 22 Quick Actions You Can Take Today To Avoid Unemployment Forever (207)
- 20 Must-Read Books: The Cubicle Renegade’s Essential Library (92)
These four posts alone doubled my mailing list.
Homework Assignment #4: Go write an epic post.
Action #5: Feature A Ton of Interesting People You Actually Know (And Some You Don’t)
One surefire way to get people to share your content is to write about them. Obviously you’ll want to do this in a geniune manner, but giving other people props is an excellent way to get on their radar too. People you already know will end up sharing it 90% of the time. That is free publicity.
For example, in my post 35 Cubicle Renegades to Watch in 2012 I linked mostly to people that I had already met in person or online, but I also linked to some people I hadn’t met. This post helped me open the door for that first introduction.
The power of flattery should not be abused though. Don’t just link to 100 people hoping that they’ll notice you.
For this post I sat down for each and everyone of the 35 people featured in that post and did in-depth research about what they were currently working on and up to next. I had to do this because there simply is not enough time in the day to read everyone’s blog and social media updates.
Do you think if I would have just pulled some text from their Twitter profile or their about pages that they would have seen how meticulous I was about including them in my list? What if I didn’t include any anecdotes about my personal experiences with them?
Homework Assignment #5: Feature people on your blog in a genuine way.
Action #6: Have A Subscriber Bonus
The last thing I did to triple my mailing list at Pocket Changed in three months was to release my first manifesto last week as a subscriber bonus.
I chose not to release an eBook that was just filled with life stories and fluff. I made it all about actions you can take to start earning more money from your business or side hustle.
Too specific for a manifesto? Perhaps, but I wanted to show that when I create something special for my mailing list it will lead to actual, realistic, and tangible results. Not just the feeling of “oh, that was nice” after they read it.
We are doing the same thing here at Think Traffic with the Traffic Toolbox. There are five subscriber bonus in there that we could easily charge hundreds of dollars for. (If you want to see what free bonuses I’m talking about just click here.)
Creating your manifesto, sign-up bonuses, or ebook doesn’t have to be that complicated either. If you have no design background you can just type up a simple word document and save it as a PDF. Boom. eBook.
If you want to get a little fancier, you can use Adobe InDesign to make a multiple page book like I did for my Get Paid Manifesto or Corbett did for his manifesto: 18 Months, 2 Blogs, Six Figures. Then, just include the eBook as a sign-up bonus for your subscribers and launch it.
If you just want to make a single page manifesto outlying the values and principles of your website you can create one in Adobe Photoshop like we did for the Expert Enough Manifesto and then just include a sign-up form in the post.
Homework Assignment #6: Create a Manifesto or Free eBook for your site.
If you’ve made it this far, start working through the six actions above. You’ll not only grow your mailing list, but people will start to realize how serious you are about this whole “blogging thing”.
What was your biggest takeaway from this post? Which action are you going to do first?
- Caleb Wojcik