Just over a year ago, we all said a final farewell to Google Reader. It was how I consumed almost all of the content I read, so sitting at my desk, tears were shed. Black was worn. A memorial service was planned, but not carried out, since I realized this actually was not the end of the world.
Although I did end up finding a different RSS reader that I really loved (I’m looking at you, Feedly), around this time I started to really see the value in blog newsletters.
A year later, I actually really prefer subscribing to blogs via email instead of through an RSS reader, both as a blogger and a reader.
As a blogger, I think RSS-to-email campaigns using email marketing software is the best option for reasons I’ll go into in a few minutes. With a good email design, strong form placement, and good promotional tactics, the possibilities are endless.
1. People Are Obsessed With Their Inboxes
Show of hands, please. How many of you keep your email open all day? A lot of you, I thought so. How many of you treat your inbox like it’s sacred? Buy it toys and tools like a beloved pet? Just me? Moving on…
But really, email is a huge part of our lives. It’s the largest social network (and don’t you dare try to tell me it’s not a social network). Just take a look at these stats:
- 91% of consumers check their email at least once per day (source).
- As of 2013, there are 3.6 billion email accounts (source).
- That’s expected to grow to 4.3 billion by the end of 2016 (source).
One of the reasons I use email more than an RSS reader now is because the new blog posts reach me in a place I’m already spending time. One day of forgetting to log in to Feedly would turn into two, and so on and so on. Then I logged in and there were thousands of blog posts waiting for me.
But I’m already checking my inbox for a multitude of other reasons. So the blog posts are there, too, and I read one or two at a time when I have a few spare minutes.
One of the most important parts of any kind of marketing is going to where your customers are already hanging out. For almost everyone, that’s email.
2. RSS Newsletters Are Easy and Affordable
As long as you choose the right email marketing service, setting up a newsletter for your blog posts will be a snap. I set up the newsletter for my personal blog using MailChimp in half an hour, and now it automatically emails my subscribers for me whenever I post something new. Most other services that offer an RSS campaign option should be just as easy.
You just enter the RSS feed the ESP should grab content from, set up options like the ‘From’ name and subject line, and design the email, usually in a simple drag-and-drop editor.
How can you get better than that? Oh yeah, the prices. I mentioned MailChimp earlier. If you have less than 2,000 subscribers and don’t need their more advanced features, it’s free. From there, plans start at $10/month.
Another email service provider that’s especially great for bloggers is Mad Mimi. They’re very similar to MailChimp in both price points and features, although a little more basic. But more basic might be even better for email marketing beginners. A third option that I’ve heard great things about, but haven’t used myself, is AWeber. It’s a bit more money, but it’s still pretty cheap and has an RSS-to-email feature.
3. Emails Won’t Be Passed Over As Easily As Social Posts
Data says the half-life of your tweet is anywhere between five minutes and two hours. Facebook is constantly adjusting their news feed algorithms, so who knows how many people will see your next post?
Inboxes are nowhere near as fickle as our favorite social networks.
When your latest blog post lands in a reader’s inbox, it stays there until they do something about it. While that doesn’t guarantee they’ll open it, click the post, and eat up the whole thing every time, they’re definitely more likely to at least notice it if you email it straight to them instead of hoping they see your post in their timeline or News Feed.
Unlike the other places where readers are now spending their time, they control their inbox. They delete your email, unsubscribe from their list, etc. Aside from deliverability issues and spam filters, there isn’t a middle-man (or platform) to go through. Your message goes directly to the receiver for them to see, instead of hoping they notice it.
You can even use features of your email marketing software to give your readers even more control. For example, you can create one list segment that receives an email as soon as any new post goes out, and one for readers who choose to receive a weekly or daily digest of all new posts. Or you can let them choose which topics or categories on your blog they get emails about. With one of the ESPs mentioned in my last point, this won’t even be difficult. No techy skills required.
4. It’s Completely Measurable
Analytics for RSS are…like “analytics lite.” For someone overwhelmed by numbers and graphs, that might be fine. A lot of RSS analytics only go as far as number of subscribers and views.
RSS has been around since about 1995 and personally, I feel like most feed stats are still stuck back in the 90’s.
Email service providers like the ones I mentioned earlier tell you SO much more. You almost feel stalkerish (in a good way). You can see the names and emails of every subscriber, and sometimes even their social media profiles. You can see exactly which subscribers opened each email and when. You see what links they clicked on, your open rate over time, if people forwarded your email, and more.
It’s crazy, and kind of makes you feel like a creeper when you’re looking at John Smith’s sender profile and wondering why he didn’t like your latest post enough to open it (“How can I make you happy, John?!?!”), but it’s really awesome at the same time.
Because analytics are key to education and improvement.
5. They Build Community
There’s more of a sense of loyalty with email subscribers than there is for RSS. Like I said earlier, people get attached to their email address. Giving it to you is a pretty big deal. It feels more like joining an exclusive club than being added to a long, impersonal list.
And since you have their email addresses in your ESP and they’ve already agreed to receive emails from you, why not give them more than the blog posts anyone can see by going to your website?
Show them how much you appreciate them handing over something personal by thanking them. Write stuff just for your email subscribers. This can be a newsletter, some curated content, or secret blog posts only they can see. Make them feel super special.
Of course, understand that some of your subscribers may want only blog posts. So before you start sending them monthly newsletters filled with love and helpful advice, give them a heads up. Send an email letting them know you’re about to start sending additional emails and give them a choice: blog posts only or everything. Then use your ESP’s segmentation features to make sure people only get the stuff they want to.
And remember, with great power comes great responsibility.
Do you send out a newsletter for you blog? How has it helped?