Should bloggers send an email newsletter?

Four years ago … about a month or so in from starting Styling You and this blog … I was at a networking function, downing a glass of wine and talking geekery to a former work colleague.

This former work colleague has many talents – one of which is applying contact to school books. It’s a true story that every January I would bring in to the office my children’s new school books. In exchange for a few freebie beauty products, she would take the mountainous pile home, returning them a few days later to my smiling and gratuitous face. I may or may not have then passed off her bubble-free-contact skills as my own. I am a bad mother ;)

The day she left to start her own PR business was devastating. For me. Not for her. Let’s just say that I quickly discovered those ready-made plastic sleeves …

I digress ;)

At this function, it turned out that my Contact Angel had recently secured the licence to an email newsletter marketing system. It was a version of the Vision 6 email system. She was extolling the virtues of building an email database and sending out a regular email to let readers and potential customers know that I was alive and styling.

I liked the sound of it, signed up the next day and appreciated greatly that she came to my home office and stepped me through the set-up, design and send process.

About two years ago I out-grew this system. It was at the same time that I was noticing other newsletters land in my inbox. Newsletters that really impressed me with their layout and content. One in particular – published weekly by Clare Lancaster from Women In Business – inspired me to not only take my then monthly email newsletters to weekly but to also re-frame how I presented the blog content in that newsletter.

Clare knows her stuff so seeing her use MailChimp was a good enough endorsement for me to choose that as my email newsletter platform. She’s also a strong advocate of using regular email newsletters as part of your online marketing strategy.

… let’s talk about that for a bit, shall we?

Should bloggers send an email newsletter?

Should bloggers send an email newsletter?

You might be reading this and thinking, why would I spend time putting together an email newsletter? How will that help my blog? How will that help me build my readership? Won’t people just delete them?

And you know what?

It’s ok to have those thoughts because I’ve had them many times over the past four years. But every time I start to wonder if they have a place in my blog marketing, all I have to do is check my blog’s stats on the day that my email newsletter goes out. I am immediately silenced of such thoughts.

Without exception, there is a spike in visitor numbers. And not just on the post I’ve published on the blog that day … on posts that are up to six days old. These were click-throughs from readers who weren’t visiting my blog except for these weekly inbox “prompts” to do so.

I think sometimes as bloggers we forget that everyday people are not living and breathing online social media as much as we are.

Yes, as bloggers, we might all have our Google Readers and get annoyed if someone doesn’t have an RSS subscription option BUT and it’s a big BUT.

We cannot tell our readers – current or potential – HOW they should follow us. 

Our readers are not just other bloggers.

We cannot assume that they are on Twitter (they’re probably not) or Facebook (mind you if they are on social media that’s where they’ll probably be). We should offer every possible avenue for them to follow our blog so they can choose the one that best fits their life – not ours!

And yes, the email subscription is just one avenue.

It’s true. Not everyone on your database will read your monthly/weekly/daily offering. Many will delete without so much as a cursory glance. People will unsubscribe. New readers will subscribe.

But play your email marketing right and you’ll continue to build that email subscriber database.

When I first started I had an email database of about 150 people, made up of friends, family, business and PR contacts from my life as a journalist. Today there are more than 7000 signed up to the Styling You database. This is still very much small fry when compared with the likes of ProBlogger but it’s significant growth for me.

In time – and with consistency – it is possible to end up with a database that is another “selling point” should you wish to work with brands. Or it will be a list of ready-made customers should you produce a product such as an e-book … or even open an online store.

Where to begin?

Creating my MailChimp account and setting my template was straight forward.

I already had a pre-designed banner from my previous email newsletter and once I imported that, MailChimp automatically matched fonts and colours to suit.

I had decided on the columns I wanted for the content (my right hand side is available for banner advertising).

The great thing is once you’ve created one, the next one and the one after that is super easy because you replicate your template and then just change the text to suit what you’re talking about in that edition.

You can also easily create a sign-up form that integrates the email subscription into your blog, so it appears like this.

All the required anti-spam legislation is met – in fact a newsletter will not send if you have not included the “unsubscribe” button.

And the good news? MailChimp is free for up to 2000 subscribers.

And you can download the MailChimp app to track subscribes and check reports from MailChimp sends on your phone or tablet.

email newsletters

Email newsletter tips

1. Just do it. Start today. The sooner you have that subscription form up on your blog, the sooner you can start building your email database.

2. Like a blogging schedule, work out how often you can consistently send out a newsletter to your readers. Consistency is the key here. Once a month should be the minimum that you send otherwise it’s too long between memory jolts. But whatever schedule you come up with, aim to publish at the same time (if daily), same day (if weekly) and same date (if monthly).

3. Keep your email newsletter short and to the point. The aim is to get subscribers to click through to your blog so entice them with an image, with a headline or with a tease about the content you have waiting for them.

4. Keep the look of your email newsletter consistent. It’s about branding so make sure it works in with your blog’s branding.

5. Email newsletter systems provide stats reports from every email send. Check these each week as they will show how many people opened the email – often this is tied back to the subject headline you’ve included. It will also show, of those who have opened the email, what they are clicking through to on your blog. What topics/posts are getting them more excited? This will help you plan future content on your blog and how you position it in your newsletter.

This is by no means a definitive guide to email newsletters for your blog. For anyone who’s looking to turn their blog into a business or use their blog as a springboard to an income where you are selling products, then get started today.

Examples

Here is a link to Women in Business’ latest email newsletter. And here is a link to mine. And the other newsletter pictured above is by Annabel Candy. She sends an email each time that a blog post is published on her blog, Successful Blogging.

Another email newsletter system that is highly recommended in blogging and internet marketing circles is AWeber. I’ve never used it so am not qualified to comment. Maybe you have? Maybe you have chosen it over MailChimp for particular reasons? If so, please let us know!

Do you blog? Do you have an email newsletter? Is it something that’s been in the too-hard, why do I need it basket? If you do send out an email newsletter, can you please share a link to it in the comments section below so we have more examples?

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Share your blogging know-how

Thanks so much to everyone who plays along with my Saturday blogging linky. Sharing your blogging knowledge with other bloggers and potential bloggers really is how this blogging world best goes round. It’s a bit like having a mini online conference here every week.

Remember if you want to join in, just add your link below. The link needs to be to a post ABOUT BLOGGING (all others will be deleted). Please fill in the box where it says “name” like this: BLOG NAME: Blog post title. That way your blog gets a plug and if you include the title of your post, you’ll attract readers interested in the topic.


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  • http://twitter.com/mickdavidson mick davidson

    Nikki,
    Thanks for taking the time to share what you’ve learnt. As a relatively new person to this blogging lark, I find that it takes ages to find out this sort of thing using trial and error. It’s very generous of you to remove the pain of finding out the hard way. I’m not sure if I’m ready for newsletters yet, I’m still at the point of having guest bloggers, but it’s a great idea and one that I now have enough info to start experimenting with.
    Cheers.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Great idea – and also if you at least offer it on your blog from the start, you are building your email database base.

  • http://twitter.com/Seana_Smith Seana Smith

    I use Mailchimp to see out a weekly email with tasters and links to all the week’s posts. Am finding that my email gets too full when I sign up to blogs that send out daily blog posts – too much! I don’t want to overwhelm the readers so think the weekly one is much better. Wish more people would do it as then I’d subscribe to more blogs.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      As a blogger, I only follow blogs via RSS and into my Google Reader Seana … my reader is there for me to look at when I’m ready to.

  • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

    Thanks Andrea – sorry, just fished your comment out of spam. Great to hear that it works for you too!

  • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

    Sorry Clare just found your comment in spam and approved! I know you can’t – you’re the reason I take the email database so seriously!

  • http://www.getinthehotspot.com/ Annabel, Get In The Hot Spot

    Oh Nikki,

    I was reading this with great interest because newsletters are a bit of a bug bear for me (more on that later!) I read all your posts with great interest anyway, even if they’re about something that really shouldn’t interest me, but newsletters are the perfect topic for me. So I skipped over the photos and got a lovely surprise to see my name mentioned and (scrolling back up) a shot of my newsletter:) Thank you. I really appreciate that.

    So my bug bear is that it seems we bloggers really need two newsletters. One that sends every time the blog is updates (as mine does) and one that sends weekly with a round up of all posts.

    I think the weekly one like yours is probably more valuable. I am one of your subscribers who jumps straight to your blog from your newsletter. Although today I was reading over lunch in my RSS reader.

    I have put off creating a weekly newsletter because it takes time but I bet you only spend an hour putting yours together? Am I right? And this is something you can also get an assistant to do if you’re too busy.

    So I need to get on to it.

    What I’m dreaming of is a newsletter that will automatically generate itself. I’m serious. You’d just chose to send weekly/fortnightly then it would look at all the posts published over that period, take the meta description and a photo and whack the newsletter out without you lifting a finger. How hard can it be and why hasn’t anyone organised it yet? Or maybe they have and I haven’t found it.

    Thank you for the renewed determination to have a weekly newsletter though. I am currently making small blog updates on both my blogs but maybe when that is done and school hols are over I will get on to it. I’m sure it will be one of those things that aren’t as hard as they sound once I actually start doing it!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Hahaha … I thought you’d find that little link eventually. I don’t do the daily option as I’ve come too far down the track with my subscribers – originally they signed up for a monthly newsletter and now it’s weekly. I’d have to email and ask them to opt in to daily … which I guess I could do but I think at the moment the weekly is good. It’s aimed at people who really don’t follow my blog any other way.

      And you’re right – it does take me under and hour to compile and it is something I could out-source. And yes, how cool would it to have a program that does it all for you … except, I think it needs that personal touch … that intro … they saying hello to readers.

  • Jo Macdermott

    Hi Nikki

    I use and recommend http://www.campaignmonitor.com/

    In my business (on behalf of my clients) I get to use other cloud based email marketing programs which include Mail Chimp, Aweber and Constant Contact and Mail Chimp is certainly the closest competitor to Campaign Monitor – but I still prefer Campaign Monitor. It’s super easy to use, very reasonably priced and doesnt include any branding at the bottom – which as a marketer is VERY annoying – why be forced to promote another business when I am paying for the service?

    And better still – Campaign Monitor is an aussie company based out of Sydney.

    Jump on board – I say :)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks for the recommendation – a free option for up to 2000 subscribers is still pretty hard to beat for a lot of bloggers and small businesses.

      • http://www.getinthehotspot.com/ Annabel, Get In The Hot Spot

        And I think we MailChimp users have the option to “turn off” their branding at the bottom of the newletter too.

  • http://twitter.com/Pretty_Fluffy Serena Faber Nelson

    Fabulous, fabulous post Nikki! I always ummed and ahhed over having a newsletter and whether it was worth it as a blogger – but the points you’ve raised show it is absolutely is. I started a monthly newsletter a few months ago, but you’ve inspired me to take it to the next level. Thank you!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Hi Serena I’m glad – I truly do have those thoughts about whether it’s necessary then I look at the stats!

  • http://twitter.com/Footprintsmag Janet Camilleri

    Love Mailchimp! I’ve had a monthly e-newsletter (we call it Footprints FOCUS) for Footprints magazine for years, but only switched to Mailchimp earlier this year. I love that it has all the stats, and how simple and stylish it looks. Much better than Yahoo Groups which I was using before.
    I know that the Footprints FOCUS ezine is a valuable marketing tool for our magazine – although I always make sure it gives readers “something for nothing”. Hopefully they like it enough to click through to our blog, & even sign up for our quarterly print magazine. And they do! As you say, I always notice the spike in activity the week after an ezine has gone out.
    And I love the stats and how you can track everything so easily with Mailchimp. As you can see, I am a very satisfied customer ;-)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Great to hear that from someone else who uses MailChimp Janet … has been a great tool for me!

  • http://www.sugercoatit.com/ Melissa Walker Horn

    Right. This is it. I am determined to make this work for me. I have mail chimp, it sends my subscribe by email posts and I have a newsletter list. Sure it’s small, but it’s there. What a waste. Post noted. Expect me in your inbox soon.

    Wait. you subscribe, right? :P

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      So, so impressed Melissa! And I follow your blog via RSS – I don’t generally sign up to blogger email subs as I’d prefer catching up more regularly. That’s the thing really … it’s offering everything to suit different people.

  • http://twitter.com/suburp nikki

    i like the possibility to chose how to follow a blog (or a blogger – sometimes i find it easier to just losely connect via twitter). I sign up per email only to blogs I really do not want to miss. linking up as i have been overwhelmed this week by a few things that bother me regularly on (new) blogs. (and that I want to fix on mine…!)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I will mostly follow bloggers through my Google Reader – it works for me – but I get that it doesn’t for many others.

  • Lisa Mckenzie

    I like the weekly newsletter sent by email because it is a nice personal touch to your daily blog and not yours but other blogs I read I may not log on everyday, so If I get the newsletter in my emails I will have a read ,Yours I read daily ,so Yes I think you should send it, a lot of people don’t have time to read a daily blog so it is a gentle reminder to do so if they want to.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks Lisa – that’s great feedback and I love that you stop by every day!

  • beautyholicsanonymous

    I’ve been thinking about creating newsletters for my blog for the last 6 months. I don’t know why I keep putting it off. I put the question out there on my blog months ago on wether people would subscribe, and I received mixed responses. But you know what, Nikki? You’re right. I cannot assume how people read my blog. Cannot assume that they’re on Google Reader, etc.

    I’m going to get this done once and for all. Thanks for the “kick in my bum” :)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Very true – we can’t assume. I never used to have Bloglovin’ on mine but got a few people saying that’s the only way they follow blogs. I figured if there was a few people bothered to email me, then there’d me more just clicking away because I don’t offer that. Same with email. Good luck!

  • Lisa

    Sorry that was supposed to say ” waiting for me” typing & holding babies don’t mix!

  • Lisa

    Thanks Nikki for featuring this post for us. Clare Lancaster is another blogger I subscribe to as well-a great source of inspiration. I also like having subscribed to weekly newsletters rather than every blog post: it’s like a mini blog or magazine waiting for m. I will definately be getting onto making up a newsletter. Thanks for the advice

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      That’s good feedback Lisa – I think everyone operates differently so it’s important I offer all ways to follow – glad the enews is one of them!

  • Tonya, The Crafty Mummy

    Hi Nikki,
    I use Aweber for my email newsletter. I send it once a week with links to all my week’s posts with pictures, plus some extra links and an item from my store.

    What I also do through Aweber is have a couple of automatic emails that get sent to people who sign up to my newsletter after set periods of time. I have plans to set up more of these – when I find a few spare hours!

    I like the stats in Aweber where I can see how many people opened and clicked my newsletter – interesting stuff!

    I was originally using the email within Feedburner but it kept sending out random extra emails so I switched. Aweber is well worth the little money it costs me each month.
    Tonya

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks Tonya, MailChimp also has the stats you need plus auto-responders. I’m yet to get to the bottom of why one is supposedly better than the other?! Or perhaps it doesn’t matter.

      • http://www.getinthehotspot.com/ Annabel, Get In The Hot Spot

        I hate to sound cynical but I think many people recommend Aweber because it has a better affiliate program so they get paid for that. (MailChimp’s affiliate program is hopeless).

        • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

          Not cynical Annabel – I hadn’t looked into that side of things so maybe that’s why people love Aweber.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KrishnaEverson Krishna Everson

    Great post Nikki. It’s important people realise that email is far from dead, and is a wonderful way to remain connected with loyal followers who have elected to be in your ‘inner circle’ by providing you with their email address. Email still has much more clout than social media, so it’s an important that it’s in the mix. Love your work!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks Krishna and I love your points – I really think they we forget that not everyone is social media savvy. Important to offer all ways to follow and yes is a huge connection if they provide their email address.

  • http://www.redcliffestyle.com/ Rachel from Redcliffe Style

    I love this post!! I have been considering a newsletter and now you have convinced me. Rachel x

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Brilliant Rachel!