Anyone who's been blogging for a substantial length of time can tell you how important it is to have a large and flourishing e-mail list. Most website owners use daily traffic as the main metric of a site's success, but there are other factors you should consider.
The great thing about an e-mail list is that it will always be there. If you need to take a two month hiatus from blogging, your traffic might die down, but the second you publish an article all of your subscribers will receive an email that you're back.
Site traffic can be volatile; Google's search algorithm updates can cripple your site for seemingly no reason and you'll be left with little recourse. It's important to realize the advantage of diversifying the ways readers can access your site. If you wait until something happens, it will be too late.
If you were investing for retirement, would you put all your money into one stock? There are a lot of former Enron employees who might tell you this is a bad idea! Similarly with your website, you don't want to rely on any single method for attracting traffic. If you get most of your daily views from search engines, you may be relying too heavily on this one method.
In fact, most search engine visitors may never even come back, when was the last time you Googled something and ended up subscribing to the site? Once you do start attracting repeat visitors, you need an effective strategy to convert them into subscribers.
Any time a reader makes an interaction with your blog they become an engaged reader. Most readers won't take the time to comment or leave feedback on sites they visit so when they do, you need to be ready to capitalize. I use a plugin called Max Blog Press Subscribers Magnet to convert commenters into subscribers. The unique thing about this plugin is that it will auto fill the commenter's name and/or e-mail into the subscription widget after a comment, so all they have to do is one click and they'll be subscribed.
Most well read blogs get a lot of comments and these should show you that a reader is truly interested in your blog. But like a shark that smells blood, you need to pull out all the stops to turn these commenters into subscribers. After a comment is left, you can also use a re-direct page to thank the reader for commenting and invite them to subscribe or follow you on social media.
My last point of attack on a commenter will be a couple days later. I like to use a plugin called Thank Me Later that will send an e-mail to all commenters. In the e-mail you can say thanks, ask them to subscribe again or invite them back to your site. I send the e-mail 1-2 days after they've commented so that my site is still fresh in their head but maybe they forgot about it and it reminds them to come on back.
Everyone hates pop-ups right? But believe it or not, they have been shown effective in getting subscriptions. The thing with pop-ups though is you need to know who to target with your pop-ups. A first time visitor won't want to see a pop-up the second they logon to your site. They will quickly close it and become a perturbed reader. I like to use plugins that allow me to customize when I can show the pop-up and how often.
One great plugin for pop-up customization is Wordpress Popup Scheduler. There are lots of great plugins available, but no matter what plugin you use, make sure that you can customize what the pop-up looks like and when the pop-up will show up. Use google analytics to see what the average visit duration is and set your pop-up to appear at that time or a little before. That way, over 50% of your engaged readers will see a subscription pop-up. If they like the content after a minute's worth of reading, they may be more willing to subscribe.
Finally, I also like to use a pop-up subscription on a second, third or fourth visit. Most readers who come back to your blog obviously enjoy your content so they make for good subscription targets.
A lot of popular blogs are moving away from pop-ups to less obtrusive methods like colorful hello bars at the top or bottom of the screen. I actually prefer this method since it creates the same effect, but is barely noticeable to repeat viewers. It's a fine line you have to walk since you don't want to annoy your current subscribers but you want to do everything you can to attract new ones.
Whatever methods you end up using to convert readers into subscribers, make sure that it's a strategy you're actively researching and staying on top of. Your site becomes more valuable with a large email list since you have a base of readers that will always be there for you. It can also open up options like email marketing and affiliate newsletters if you're looking to monetize your site.
If you've been in the game for a while, you know that traffic can be temperamental. It can go down for no reason and you don't want to be stuck with a website you've poured your heart and soul into with no one reading. Subscribers matter so don't be afraid to explore new plugins and try out different widgets to do everything you can to increase your readership.
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