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5 tips for increasing blog subscribers

Wednesday, February 4, 2009
In my ongoing quest to create more awareness about The Mom Entrepreneur and build my blog subscriber list, I started doing research to learn what additional strategies I should employ.

In Google, I searched for "how to build blog subscribers". Not surprisingly, some of the people I respect the most in the industry came up in the first couple of positions. Experts such as Darren Rowse at ProBlogger (74,000+ subscribers), Brian Clark at Copyblogger (50,000+ subscribers) and Chris Brogan (17,000+ subscribers).

I think if you are going to try to perfect something, you should learn from the best.

Based on what I have learned from reading articles written by these experts, I have decided that the following 5 tips are a great place for bloggers to start in order to prepare their blog for converting more readers to subscribers.

1. Make it easy for readers to subscribe. Brian Clark encourages bloggers to make it as easy as possible for readers to subscribe. Offer both RSS and email subscription options. Have the logos for each prominently displayed on your blog. Eliminate any unnecessary steps to obtaining a subscription.

He advises that Feedburner has one of the more simpler sign up processes. You should also encourage readers to subscribe by including a message at the end of each blog post: "If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email or RSS". This post would then link to a landing page where readers could easily subscribe.

2. Consider eliminating the word subscribe. I also came across some great advice from JohnTP who suggests that you do not use the word "subscribe" and offer an explanation for what an RSS feed is.

JohnTP discovered that when he asked readers to "subscribe via email", many people thought he was asking for money for sending something via email. The word subscription traditionally refers to "the right to receive a periodical for a sum paid, usually for an agreed number of issues".

He encourages you to educate your readers about RSS by putting up a page explaining about it and then linking to it next to your "subscribe via RSS" link. Similar to what ProBlogger does. My suggestion would be to link to an authoritative source such as Wikipedia's definition of RSS for further explanation.

So how do we make it clear to our visitors that we don’t charge money for subscribing? By removing the word "subscribe". This can be done by simply changing the text in the HTML code generated by Feedburner. You could also say "join our online community" or some other wording that would easily be understood by your target market. This would then still link to Feedburner or any other RSS service you use. If you offer tips, advice, resources or anything else through your blog, then say that below.

3. Stay focused on your niche. Having great content is key, but it is no longer enough. Always keep your target audience in mind when writing blog posts. The Mom Entrepreneur offers tips, advice and resources for balancing motherhood and running a company. I am a mom entrepreneur and I write about topics I feel are important to my readers. I also survey the members of The Mom Entrepreneur Online Support Group in order to have a clear understanding of issues that are important to them.

Create an editorial calendar to help you stay focused on content and give your readers a clear picture of what they can expect to read.

Darren Rowse offers this great tidbit of information: "I am sure there are numerous reasons why people subscribe to a blog's feed - however in most cases the simple truth is that they subscribe for one obvious yet powerful reason - they think that the blog might produce content that they’ll want to know about at some point in the future."

If you truly understand your target market then you will have insight into what they want to know about now and in the future.

Chris Brogan advises varying the length of your content. Make your text punchy. Use short sentences, small words. Be willing to break a few grammatical rules, if only for effect. He also suggests using visuals in your posts to draw attention. Ask questions, offer tips and invite the reader to engage you.

4. Offer them something they really want. I have been looking for a way to offer a tips sheet as a thank you to readers when they subscribe to my blog. When doing this research, I finally found a way to do it.

Feedblitz offers email autoresoponders, which can include a link to an offer, as a built in feature. However, after a 30-day free trial it looks like they charge a monthly fee for their service, which is based on the number of subscribers.

In Feedburner under the "publicize" tab, under "email subscriptions" go to "communication preferences". In the "confirmation email body" change the generic message offered by Feedburner to something customized.

In my new message, I include a link and an offer to join The Mom Entrepreneur Online Support Group. Once developed, I will also be adding a link to a tips sheet PDF that can be downloaded when readers subscribe. They will receive this autoresponder message when they subscribe via email.

The only catch is that the email from Feedburner containing this customized message is the one that asks them to confirm their subscription. It is possible that people may just click off to the free offer and not complete the subscription process.

For readers who subscribe in a feed, Brian Clark suggests using the free Feedvertising plugin if you have a WordPress blog. This option is not currently available for any other platform. Since Feedvertising links only show up in the feed (and not in the post), only feed subscribers will see the link and have access to the bonus offer.

5. Make your blog fun and informative. Nothing is more boring to visit than a blog with dull colors and no brand. Before officially launching your blog to your target market, take the time to create a look and feel that is inviting and engaging.

Widgetize the site with buttons and icons that offer something of value to your target market. For instance, The Mom Entrepreneur offers a Kraft Foods Recipe Finder widget. We include badges and links to other blogs we feel would benefit our readers to be connected to.

We also offer an Amazon Recommended Reading list, which includes story and business book suggestions.

The Mom Entrepreneur will be working over the next few weeks to implement these strategies. These steps ensure that when readers visit a blog they can easily "join" or "subscribe". Once I have completed these steps, I will offer additional ideas for reaching out into online communities and attracting more readers to your blog.

What other initial steps would you suggest for preparing your blog? Would love to hear your comments.