I have spoken before about the importance of building your email subscribers if you run any form of website. With a mailing list you can connect directly with your most loyal readers and let them know about any goings on with your website such as competitions, money off coupons, sales, important blog posts - and the list goes on. I have been building a list here on WPLift for over a year now and have many thousands of subscribers.
In this post I will talk a little bit about tactics to increase your subscribers and then go into some more technical details and look at some services and plugins that I recommend.
Why Build a list ?
So why does everyone always go on about the importance of building a list ?
Building your social media profiles is seen as essential if you want to build your network and help your content spread virally but the truth is, email subscribers are a lot more responsive than social media followers. It's easy to miss a tweet or a facebook update as there is so much noise in those channels but email sticks out more - its more personal and because that person has taken the trouble to opt in to your list they are more likely to read it. Imagine if your site took a hit in a Google update and your traffic slowed - with a healthy sized list, you could still reach a lot of readers, you are not so depend on the site itself.
I see a lot of sites putting importance on building their social media accounts - Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and so on and their email subscription form is tucked away. I made this mistake on the last version of WPLift - I had those badges prominantly displayed and my form underneath. As you can see from this new design - I still have those shown in the header but with less emphasis and the thing that is given most importance is my newsletter signup. I have also drawn more attention to it by making it stick when you scroll down ( this only happens on desktop view, it behaves normally on phones and tablets ). Since I made this change my signups have increased greatly and Im building my newsletter at a much faster rate now.
If you'd like to learn more about email signup placement, see this post by Derek Halpern who is somewhat of an expert in building email lists.
So, you have your signup in place - the next thing to do is offer some form of incentive to give people a reason to join. Currently the incentive to join WPLift is the newsletter I put together each week - this includes a short intro from me, our recent posts and then I pick a few news worthy items from the last week. A mini version of WPMail.me if you like. To really boost this to the next level though, a better form of incentive is to give away something exclusive to newsletter subscribers. This could be something like an eBook, a WordPress theme, a special report, some free graphics or anything else you can deliver digitally and is relevant to your audience.
Storing Your List
I wont go in to huge detail here about services which will store and send your list for you as I comprehensively covered it before in this post. The three most popular options are Aweber ( which I use on WPLift ), Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor.
Plugins to Increase Subscribers
After you have chosen your list provider you will need to place some signup forms on your site - there are a few places you can do this. I recommend at least a sidebar signup and some form of popup / overlay plugin. You can also think about placing signup forms on your about page, at the foot of each post and offering a check box near the comments form so people can opt in there as well. Ultimately where you place the forms will depend on your site layout but it's important to do some tests and determine what works for your site.
Let's take a look at some plugins to help boost your subscribers.
Pippity - Popup Plugin
The most dramatic way you can increase subscribers is to use a plugin which generates a popup overlaid on your site which people have to close to continue reading. It sounds a bit intrusive but there are some settings you can use to make it less so. I recommend the Pippity plugin which I use here on WPLift, you can read the guide to it I wrote here for more details. You can choose to show the popup on the second page view, delay it and when a user closes it, decide how long before they see it again - I have it set to 30 days. These make it less annoying - I can't imagine how bad it would be to show it on every page view - A sure way to drive away repeat visitors.
Aweber Web Form Plugin
If you use Aweber then their official plugin is an easy way to add signup forms to your site. You simply add your list's code to the settings and then you can add forms using widgets wherever you like. The feature I really like is the check box it can add to your comments form saying "Signup for our newsletter" - this is a brilliant idea as people are filling out their name and email anyway - why not have it add them to your list at the same time ? You have the option to have the box pre-checked or not but I wouldn't recommend that.
Another place you can utillise to increase subscribers is a bar at the top of the page - made popular by the Hello Bar this is also a very effective way to capture a reader's attention. Whether you want to display a message or the signup form directly then you can use the free Viper Bar plugin, created by Glen Alls0p from Viperchill.
Yet another good plugin by Yoast, Comment Redirect allows you to redirect users who just made their first comment to a page of your choosing. As that person has taken their first action on your site, by displaying a page with your newsletter signup they have a higher likelihood of carrying out this action. Outspoken Media detail how they use it to good effect in this post.
So hopefully this post might have inspired you to start taking your list building a bit more seriously and might have given you an idea for boosting those signups. Some of the best ideas were created by "thinking outside the box" - the first person to use the overlay or header bar must have been shocked at the difference it made. So what other ideas are there that haven;t been utilised yet ? Get your thinking cap on and let us know in the comments if you have any successful tools or techniques that I haven't mentioned.