One of the key ways to build your author platform is by creating a mailing list of your greatest fans. But if you’re still feeling your way with list-building, here are five mistakes to avoid at all costs.
1. Making it too difficult to sign-up
Make sure visitors can clearly see your mailing list sign-up box. Experiment with both the location and design of your subscription box. A combination of eye-catching graphic and headline / description offering a clear benefit to would-be subscribers usually works best.
Don’t be afraid to have multiple places to sign up. It might seem like overkill, but it really works. Good locations include in or near the site header, the top of your blog sidebar and at the end of blog posts.
Make sure your sign-up box appears at least once on every page of your site so that no matter how they get there, your visitors will see your subscription box.
2. Not experimenting with dynamic sign-up forms
If everybody hates popups, how come so many sites use them? Because they (usually) work. In this blog post, the author reports that pop-ups converted over 14% of his blog visitors.
To lessen the potential irritation, use the settings on your popup software / plugin wisely. For example, you can show the popup only after the visitor has been on your site for a certain amount of time, only on a second page view, or at particular intervals, such as once per fortnight or per month.
If you’re really set against popups, you can also try a “slideup box”, which is a box that slides into view after a visitor has read a certain percentage of the page. This type of dynamic sign-up form has the bonus of attracting people who are enjoying your content.
You might like these two free mailing list plugins:
3. Your mailing list isn’t “double opt-in”
Double opt-in means new users have to click a confirmation link in an email that’s sent to them when they subscribed. It’s considered best practice among email marketing experts (and is a requirement of most mailing list providers) because it means subscribers can’t be added to a list without their consent. It also weeds out incorrectly-typed email addresses.
If you’re adding contacts from sources like your personal email contact list or your LinkedIn contacts, make sure users will get a double opt-in confirmation email – otherwise there’s a risk they’ll hit the Spam button. Too many spam reports will get you into hot water with your mailing list provider and may lead to your sending address being blacklisted as a spam source.
4. Boring subject lines
Think about how you decide to deal with an email. It’s generally the subject line that most helps you decide to read, delete or ignore an email.
Bland or confusing subject lines lead to unread messages.
Be clear, pique curiosity and keep it fairly short (50 characters or less is a good guide). Put yourself in your reader’s shoes and spell out why they should open and read your email. Remember that because people tend to scan subject lines at high speed, short and to the point usually works best.
5. Not measuring your success
There are two key statistics to keep on eye on to grow your mailing list: open rates and click-through rates. The open rate is the percentage of people who open your message; the click-through rate (sometimes just called click rate) is the number of people who click at least one link within your message. A good mailing list provider will provide these reports within the dashboard of your account.
Make a note of whether these numbers change if you send your email on different days or different times of the day. As with subject lines and subscription boxes, experimenting with sending times can dramatically improve your results. In most cases, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the best days to send a mailing list but it’s always worth testing to see when you get your best response.
Building a responsive list of readers is a process of trial and error, so be prepared to change things around to get optimum results.