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If you're a blogger wanting to make money by selling your products and services, by now you've probably heard all the reasons why you should create an email list for your blog.
While I won't go into the rhyme or reason today, I do want to share with you some awesome results I've had recently with doubling (or close to) my open rates for 3 out of 4 of my most recent email newsletters sent in 2017.
I'm also a little nervous about this post, as for the first time on my blog I'm sharing some of my real stats for you to see. I never normally like do this because I don't like to use numbers and stats to 'reel ya' in' as it can seem like sensationalism, but if you like having this visibility into my stats let me know, okay?
Okay. So without further ado, here's the five factors that helped me double my blog's email open rates in 2017.
#1 I switched email service providers
I've been using Mailchimp for my email marketing since 2013. I've never had a problem using it personally and recommending it to clients and new bloggers as it's quite user-friendly for new bloggers, and also offers a free entry-level plan. However, despite using it, it didn't totally excite me and isn't something I'd rave about (sidebar: totally just said about as 'abooot' in my head. Oh, Canada. Too much HIMYM!).
I had no concrete plans to switch my email service provider, but there were aspects of Mailchimp that were starting to bug me like my email open rates (more on that below) and list duplication for content upgrades, which was getting messy and costly. I'd been doing a lot of research on Convertkit* because I'd been hearing so much about it (powerful affiliate marketing campaign, right there ;))
I ended up switching to Convertkit* at the beginning of January, and frankly, I now can't believe I didn't do it sooner.
Why I switched
I'd been getting kinda frustrated with my email open rates if I'm honest; It's an important stat to me because it tells me whether I'm connecting with people and/or providing meaningful content, which is important to me.
However, before I closed my business for a year in 2015, my average email open rate had plummeted from 40% - 60% to about 20% and dropping, and if I'm honest, I took it kinda personally and wallowed for a while, Gilmore Girls style 😂😂😂. Anyhow, there were a few factors at play in this rate drop, including:
- Switching my niche from health to blogging in 2014 - Obviously a big one, as not all existing subscribers were interested in blogging, but the drop in open rate happened quite a few months after this change which tells me it wasn't solely responsible
- Having a larger email list - It's quite natural for your open rates to drop when your email list grows, as mine had
- Losing touch with what my readers wanted - At that point I was feeling a bit stuck for content ideas and not doing all I could to provide content my readers wanted
However, despite these factors I also I couldn't help but feel that an additional factor might be that many of my emails weren't even reaching people's inboxes. Though I couldn't prove it, it's been on my mind since then.
Interestingly, after my switch I now feel like I can confirm my suspicions were correct in some shape or form. The day after switching to CK I sent my first email broadcast, and was pretty gobsmacked to see my email open rate jump from a recent average of 18-23% (a low of 18% for sales emails, and a high of 23% for regular emails) to 29.5% with the first CK-sent email. That was an immediate increase of 6.5% just from switching to Convertkit. At first you might chalk up as a fluke, however it didn't stop there (more on that later).
Honestly I'm not 100% sure on this, but I have to guess that perhaps due to it being a newer service, the CK servers either:
- Help your emails reach more of your audience's inbox because less customers = less emails marked as spam on servers, or
- Send your emails to the main inbox rather than 'promotions' tab in Gmail, helping them get opened and read.
My main hesitation in switching was the price, as it's more per month with CK than what I was paying for Mailchimp and I like to keep my expenses low. However because of the results I've experienced and power of the features, I now feel confident that this investment will pay itself off quickly because it makes it so much easier to both accelerate my email community growth and connect more effectively with readers and leap to a new level of open-rate success. I actually think in a way, Mailchimp was stunting my growth.
This is both helpful from a mindset perspective, as I feel more confident in my ability to grow and reach my community only, and it's beneficial from a business and profit perspective, as it means when I share product and service offers, I'm able to reach more of my audience each time.
#2 I Resend my broadcasts
This is powerful stuff, amigos. I stumbled across this Convertkit feature by accident, a few days after sending my first broadcast (you know, the one that got a 6.5% higher open-rate than usual).
Essentially, there's a really easy option to resend a broadcast (or email) to everyone who didn't open your original email after the initial send. I've tried this on all but one of my newsletters sent with Convertkit so far, and it boosts the open rate of that particular campaign by approx 7-10%.
You can see an example of this in the screenshot above; My first email had an open-rate of 34.7% (um, woah - but that's now become pretty normal and is a great rate for my list size!) and after resending to those who didn't open the first broadcast, the second email (sent to less people) had an open rate of 10.8%, which took the total open rate for that email from 34.7% to 41.4%.
How awesome is that?
What I like about this feature is that the second email only sends to people who have definitely not opened the first email, so you're giving people who either missed it or weren't as hooked by the initial subject line (I change it for the 2nd send - more on that below) another chance to read your email.
I usually wait at least a few days before I resend to give people time to read the original, and in this case, the second email was sent 5 days later so I know by then, the chances of it being opened by those who hadn't read it were slim to none.
This becomes especially valuable for important broadcasts with critical information, or when selling products and services. 6.7% more people reading each broadcast purely from resending it to those who didn't open the first time 'round can make a huge difference in product or service sales, especially the greater your email community grows.
It's probably possible to do this with Mailchimp too. There's no feature that makes it easy to do at the push of a button, but I'm sure you'd be able to figure out a way if you want to incorporate this strategy to help boost your email open rates.
#3 I Found my sweet spot
Now, features that re-send emails to bump your stats are golden, however what's even more important is making content so great and helpful that your readers actually hang out to open your emails!
With practice, time and getting in tune with what your readers want, you're going to get closer to finding your content sweet spot: that place where your passion and your audience's interests and desires overlap.
There's no point me sharing blog posts about dogs every week, even though I love dogs. My audience didn't sign up to my mailing list to hear about my obsession with Chi Chis, they want to hear about blogging. Similarly, there's no point me sharing blog posts that are kinda what my audience are interested in... but not really.
I needed to find that intersection of my passions, and what my audience wants to learn. To do that, I got in-sync (not N-SYNC). Both surveys via email and Instagram are great places to learn more about what your audience is interested in, and ask for content feedback and suggestions, and this is how I found out more about what my audience want.
After I developed a passion for photography, my interest in Instagram quickly followed. I figured out how to crack the Instagram code and began building a thriving community on the platform. And luckily for me, this seems to be a sweet spot: Instagram's a platform I love to hang out on and I also love to teach others to use it too. Readers of my blog and survey respondents tend to respond really well to Instagram too.
How to find your sweet spot:
- On a sheet of paper, create two columns. Title column #1 'My passions' and column #2 'Audience interests'
- In column #1 make a list of everything you love about your blog and business, and the topics you'd love to explore further
- In column #2: Put your finding from your audience research, To do this research, ask your audience questions on Instagram and conduct surveys for your existing mailing list. If you don't yet have an audience, stalk relevant Facebook groups to start - read the threads and pick up on people's most common questions
- Finally: Look for the common factors in both columns #1 and #2, and you've found your sweet spot.
This exercise will really help boost your blog, because people can sense when you're totally digging what you're doing - and go figure, they're attracted to it. If your passions collide with topics that your audience really want more info on, then you've struck a content goldmine.
#4 I Test and change email subject lines
I mentioned in point #2 that I resend my broadcasts a second time to those who didn't open the first broadcast. While I'm not doing a true AB test here,* I assume that among the reasons people don't open an email the first time might be that the original subject headline doesn't catch their attention.
When I resend a second email to subscribers who didn't open version #1, I always change the subject headline as an attempt to capture the reader's attention. In general, the second send always has a lower open rate (as a % so far, on average it's half of the first open rate %), however this change might mean readers open an email that they'd otherwise passed off as uninteresting.
At this point I don't have enough data to really make out any patterns to see if there's a noticeable difference in the formats of my email subject headlines, but I plan to continue to use this info in the future to keep an eye out for trends. For the most part, I feel that changing the subject of the email does help catch the eyes of more readers the second time it gets sent, resulting in a higher overall open rate.
*(A true AB or split test would involve sending out two emails, same content but each with a different title. One title goes to half of my email list (chosen randomly) and the other goes to the other half. I then look at the results to see which title gets a higher open rate, then use that info to notice the evident trends and patterns in emails that get a higher open rate to help me write more effective titles in the future. I don't typically do this, though it can be very powerful if data is your thing.)
#5 I choose a spoF
Errr Hayley, what the bleep's a SPoF? Glad you asked - SPoF is my made-up acronym for Single Point of Focus. And I do this for (almost) every email I send. Rather than having a long and winding email with loads of different places for readers to click, 9/10 times I now send emails with a single intention: Either to send readers to a blog post, or to a product page.
Most of my emails are about my latest blog posts, so I usually add email writing to my bog-post workflow. After I write a post, I write a quick and friendly email with a few compelling points that drives readers through to the blog post where all the juicy content is.
While I used to write a lot more in my emails than I do now, I do still aim to keep them friendly and personable, as my intention is to convey that I'm friendly and approachable, and I want readers to feel encouraged to connect with me. Usually I'll open with a paragraph with a bit of chat about what I'm up to in my life, then find a way to segue this into content about what's on the blog.
I don't clutter the email with links to other blogs, or even my services (much anymore), and I've also completely stripped my emails back to a no-template format, so it looks like it's coming more from a friend rather than visually signalling 'I'm a piece of marketing' (sidebar: I do also wonder if removing images from my emails is also contributing to more people receiving my emails).
Here's an example of one of my most recent emails, if you're curious what they look like.
So this friends, is how I've doubled my email open rate of late.
But enough about me, how about you? Got any Q's on email and open rates? I'm here all day ;)
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.