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8 Reasons I use Newsletters & the benefits they bring
Before I go any further - let me say that I'm not talking about RSS to email newsletters that simply convert your RSS feed into emails. I'm talking about building a list of subscribers who get a weekly or monthly (or some other period) purpose written newsletter. It might point people to your blog and posts you've written but it's purpose written and often includes other material exclusive to newsletter subscribers.
1. Newsletters create Loyalty
The majority of your blogs readers never come back.
The sad reality is that despite our best efforts, there's a lot of passing through traffic on most blogs. People arrive from a search engine, another blog or website or a social media site - they stay for a few moments, consume what they can and then move on.
Unless you find a way to ‘hook' people into returning to your blog the majority of your readers won't return. It's not that they don't want to or that your site is bad - they just forget and/or have no means to remind themselves of your blog.
A newsletter is a way of giving those people who arrive on your blog a way to opt in to being reminded to come back to your blog. The same can be said for RSS but a newsletter reaches a different crowd to RSS (more on this below).
2. Newsletters Develop Relationships and Trust
After two years of sending weekly newsletters to my readership at DPS I'm now starting to get some interesting interactions from subscribers. They're emailing me like they'd email a friend. What I'm finding is that the weekly newsletters (in which I've got a photo of myself and share the occasional snippets from my life including the birth of children, trips I'm taking, things that I'm doing) are making me very familiar to my subscribers. They seem to feel like they ‘know me'. It's difficult to explain but I guess when you get as many emails from someone as these people get from me - they really do ‘know me' (at least on some levels). Not only do emails build relationships and intimacy with your readership - they build trust. My newsletter subscribers respond to affiliate promotions much more than my normal blog readers. They seem to follow the recommendations that I make and try the things I suggest. RSS and just blogging can build relationships and trust also - but I suspect adding email newsletters into the mix adds to it.
3. Newsletters Drive Page Views/Traffic
My biggest traffic days are those that I send out newsletters. I use newsletters to highlight new posts on the blog and key discussions in the forum that I run. The more helpful and topical the posts and discussions the more traffic the links in the newsletter drives.
Interestingly - if you need an ‘explosive' burst of traffic to a particular post a newsletter can be great for this. For example:
* if you're launching a new product or service and want to kick it off well - do it with a newsletter as well as a blog post * if you're launching a new affiliate campaign - do it the same day you send a newsletter * if you're wanting a post to do well on a social bookmarking site like Digg - put a digg button on the post and a few minutes later send out your newsletter pointing people at the post.
These sudden bursts of traffic can really help build momentum around the projects that you're starting.
4. Newsletters are Familiar
Most of your readers don't know what RSS is and unless you offer them an email subscription option they are unlikely to 'subscribe'. While RSS awareness is growing, some research shows that it's slowing and even peaking in it's use. I personally feel it'll continue to grow and be utilized by people (even when they don't know they're using the technology) but email will continue (at least in the short term) to be one of the most used forms of communication on the planet.
This is a little dependent upon your topic and audience. Some of your readerships will be more tech savvy (and RSS familiar) than others and in those cases email newsletters may not be quite as effective - but I suspect in most niches offering a newsletter will be effective.
5. Newsletters Build a Core Community and Enhance Reader Engagement
One word that keeps coming up as I interact with my newsletter subscribers is ‘membership'. I don't use the word but have noticed increasingly that subscribers refer to themselves as ‘members' or as having signed up for ‘membership'. I find it interesting that these subscribers don't see themselves as just receiving an email (as a subscriber) but as having joined something or being a member of a community.
I guess signing up for something is a reader showing some level of participation and commitment to a site - by doing so they're investing something in your blog and feel like participants.
I use the words ‘core community' above because I find that those who subscribe to a newsletter are often among the most loyal and committed members of your blog's community. These are people who want the inside word on your site and are telling you that they want to know what's going on as soon as they can. They've given you permission to contact them - as a result they're a powerful group of people to know and be able to communicate to (and they can actually help you grow your blog further as they can be effective evangelists for you).
6. Newsletters can Track and Target Groups of Readers
Using a tool like Aweber to run your newsletter gives you access to all kinds of interesting tools, stats and opportunities. You can track which links in your post get the most clicks (this can be used as a form of research into what readers respond to) but you can also segment readers into different groups and target them with individual messages.
* You can send special newsletters just to new subscribers - for example you could send an email every month just to those who've signed up in that time highlighting key posts in your archives. * You can track who clicks on affiliate links in your posts and send them emails with special offers * You can send special emails just to subscribers who never open emails (testing subject lines with different strategies in them)
Really the sky is the limit as to what you can test and how you can target readers.
7. Newsletters help build Momentum
I use my newsletter not only for promotion of content and affiliate products but to build a sense of momentum on my blog. Every few weeks on my photography blog I'll give subscribers a little extra insight into milestones that we've reached as a community, mentions we've had in mainstream media, new features that we're adding etc. In this way I give those subscribed a sense that they're a part of something that is growing and exciting.
I find that as I do this that readers respond very well and give me feedback on how they've been helping the site to grow (by promoting it to their friends).
8. Newsletters Open Up Possibilities for Monetization
Newsletters open up another avenue for profit for those of you developing online businesses.
I've already mentioned numerous times that newsletters can be effective when it comes to affiliate programs - but they can also be good when it comes to advertising revenue.
Selling ad space in our newsletter can be quite lucrative when you build up your readership. I've found that advertisers can be willing to pay quite good CPM rates because they know a newsletter subscriber base are usually pretty committed and loyal readers (and very focused around a niche too).