Think of all of the blogs you’ve visited over the past few months. Do you remember the URLs of all the interesting ones? Probably not. To create a loyal readership, it’s important to provide your blog visitors with a way to subscribe. Most commonly, you’ll see a form in a blog’s sidebar where you can enter your email address to subscribe. Once you get your readers’ email addresses, you should send them regular communications so they keep coming back to your blog for more.
Up to late 2012, I would have recommended FeedBurner as an RSS tool. FeedBurner was a free RSS tool that let you collect email addresses and automatically send subscribers emails every time you would publish a blog post.
However, FeedBurner was purchased by Google in 2006, and in late 2012, Google shut down FeedBurner’s API. It is now said that FeedBurner will soon disappear completely. So I’m not going to have you go through the hassle of setting it up just to see it disappear in a few months.
FeedBlitz is the most equivalent service to Feedburner. However, it’s not free — you pay by number of email subscribers, and if you have over 1,000 subscribers that’s already $30 per month. And you can only send RSS emails — no other types of emails. If you’re a blogger or solopreneur on a limited budget, it’s just not worth that kind of money to only be able to send one type of email that you can’t even customize.
That’s why I recommend using an Email Service Provider (ESP) called AWeber to manage all of your blog’s email marketing, including your RSS subscription emails. AWeber is $1 for the first month, and $19 per month thereafter for up to 500 subscribers — and you can use it to manage all of your email marketing, not just your blog subscription emails. It’s used by many top bloggers today.
Here’s how to create blog subscription emails with AWeber
1. Set up an AWeber account
Click here to go to AWeber’s homepage and click the Sign Up for Just $1 link. Register for your account by entering your contact and credit card information. Upon completing registration, you’ll be sent an email with your username and password, and then you can get started.
2. Create a list for your blog subscribers
The first thing you should do is create a list for your blog subscribers. Anyone who fills out the a subscription form on your blog sidebar will be added to this list, and then you’ll create a blog broadcast email to automatically send to this list.
First, click on My Lists in the top navigation.
Deactivate any default lists in there – we’re going to start fresh. Then click Create a New List.
Enter the basic information for your list:
- List Name – Your list name must be unique to all lists other AWeber users have created, so enter your ideal name (one word) and choose from one of the suggestions below.
- List Description – This description will be visible on your emails’ unsubscribe page, so make it something that your readers will understand.
- “From” Name – Whenever you receive an email, it is sent by someone – a coworker, a friend, etc. When you send an email, it’s sent from your name. Choose what you want the “from” name to be on any emails you send to this list. It could be your blog or company name, but I would recommend using a person’s name, which provides a much more personal experience for the recipient.
- Address – This will be the email address the emails appear to be coming from. If you do not already have an email address with your domain, such as firstname.lastname@example.org, you should set one up with your hosting provider.
In the second section of this page, you can choose to receive an email notification whenever you get a new subscriber. This can be fun and exciting at first, but as you get more and more, you’ll just be clogging your own inbox. It’s up to you. When you’re done, click Save Settings.
On the next page, complete the Company Branding section by entering your company name, website URL, your desired email signature, and uploading your logo on the right.
You can skip everything else on the page. Scroll down to the bottom and click Save Settings.
3. Customize your confirmation message
On the next page, you need to customize your confirmation message. This is the email that new subscribers will immediately receive, asking them to confirm their subscription.
First customize the subject line however you’d like. You can choose from a few pre-written options in the drop-down menu, but I recommend using a custom subject line that includes your blog name so that people instantly recognize that the email is from you.
Next, customize the messaging above the opt-in link. Keep this short and sweet, and encourage people to confirm the subscription. If you’re asking for first name in your subscription form, place your cursor after “Hello,” click the Insert Field drop-down menu, and select !firstname. If you are only asking for email address in your form, then leave the greeting as-is.
Lastly, customize the closing of your email.
Then scroll down to section 3: Success Page. You can create a very simple page on your blog that says “Thank you for confirming your subscription! You will start receiving our blog updates soon.” Enter the URL of this simple page in the Confirmation Success Page URL space. Then click Save Settings.
4. Create your blog broadcast email
A blog broadcast email is an email that will be sent to your blog subscribers automatically every time you publish a blog post. In AWeber you can customize this email more than you ever could with Feedburner or Feedblitz. You can also choose to send a digest after a certain amount of time has passed, or a certain amount of blog posts have been published. This is useful if you blog multiple times per day or week and are worried about overwhelming your readers.
In this example, I’m going to show you how to create an email for every blog post that you publish. Before you get started, make sure that your new subscriber list is selected when you create the blog broadcast email. You can see this in the drop-down menu at the top of the screen.
Go to Messages > Blog Broadcast in the top navigation.
Click Create a New Blog Broadcast.
Enter the URL of your RSS feed. In most cases, this will be http://yourblog.com/rss.
Next, choose a template. I would recommend choosing one that is as simple as possible and go light on customizations to ensure that it is compatible with most email clients. I personally chose BigFoot (maroon/white).
Click Load Template.
Then customize this template however you’d like, keeping the dynamic RSS tokens in place. These will automatically be replaced with text from your most recent blog post, eliminating the need for you to ever send these emails manually. Here’s what I ended up with after customizing this template:
Here it’s easy to see the benefits of using AWeber. In all of your emails, you can include a call-to-action leading to a product you’re selling, an offer you’re promoting, or an article you especially want people to see. You can also edit this email every once in a while to update the offer.
Also notice that after you chose a template, the Subject Line was automatically customized by AWeber to dynamically populate your blog title in this space. You don’t need to modify anything here.
Once you’re finished customizing your email, scroll down to the send settings. Here you can modify:
- Send time – This is the time of day your emails will automatically be sent. Emails sent at the beginning of the day (around 9am) and during the afternoon lull (around 3pm) get the highest click-through rates.
- How often – If you don’t want to send an email every time you publish an article, you can modify the settings here. Whatever you choose, click the checkbox Send Automatically.
- Track clicks – This will let you measure your click-through rates, so you can optimize your email and see how the performance increases or decreases over time. This setting is on by default.
- Social media sharing – This posts your feed automatically on your Twitter feed and Facebook profile. Leave this turned off – we’ll cover social sharing in week #4
5. Test your email
When you’re finished modifying these settings, click Save Blog Broadcast at the bottom of this page. On the next page, click Test next to your email. You should always, always test your emails to make sure they actually look good when being sent.
6. Create a form for your site
Now you need to create a way for your readers to subscribe to your blog by adding a subscription form to your blog sidebar. AWeber provides several templates for you to use and customize, so this step is pretty simple.
First click Web Forms in the top navigation.
Then click Create a New Web Form.
Next, scroll through the templates and choose one that you like. Once you select a template, you can customize any part of it by clicking on that element in the workspace below. You may also want to display a counter to show off the number of subscribers that you have. To do this, simply click the Counter button above the templates. When you’re finished making customizations, click Save Web Form.
On the next page, name your form and then elect to have the thank you page open in a new window. You don’t need to change anything else on this page.
On the next page, click Save Web Form.
Then take a look at your blog and make sure the form is showing up correctly.
Test your form using a personal email address to go through the entire flow and make sure that you are added to your RSS subscriber list.