Everybody wants more visitors to their Web site.
The past two installments of this series discussed how
you can list your sites in search engines and how keywording your site can affect your search
engine placement. So, if you did all that, now the number
of visitors to your site should be increasing. But how
do you keep those visitors coming back? One way is
to provide lots of great new information and create
an opt-in mailing list or e-zine to spread the word.
Unlike spam, which blindly sends e-mail to people
who don't necessarily want it, with an opt-in list
people choose to receive e-mail from you.
Some people will tell you that having a mailing list
is a waste of time for a business site. I (and many
other marketers) disagree. Here are a few reasons why
an e-zine is a good idea:
- If someone asks to be added to your mailing
list, there are probably interested in you, your site,
or the topic of the site. You now have a
targeted list of people who may be interested in what you have
to say or offer in your mailers.
- A mailing list gives you a chance to show
through your articles that you are an expert
in the field or subject of your Web site. Readers will e-mail
questions to you which will eventually turn into
sales because they'll trust you know what you are
talking about! Your articles give you credibility.
- Finally, you can transcribe the articles you
write into Web pages, and put them on your site.
This new ever-changing content keeps your site
interesting. And you can keyword the pages and
register them with the search engines causing even
more traffic to flow to your site.
To get into the opt-in mailing world you need to
do quite a bit of prep work. To start an e-zine, you
need to do the following:
- Make pages that advertise the fact you are
running a e-zine. You should include topics,
issues, mailing frequency, ad rates (and limitations),
and so on.
- Be able to write articles on the topic of your
e-zine so people know you actually know what you are talking about.
- Be able to attract subscribers to your e-zine.
Let's face it, without subscribers, you have no
mailing list or ad dollars.
- Get your pages listed in the search engines,
and more importantly, listed in the e-zine and
- Decide how you want people to subscribe,
either through your Web page, using a listserver, or
by automatically "opting in" people who place
a classified listing or download information.
- Determine how you will accept "guest articles"
(if you decide to).
- Find other e-zine and newsletters to swap
ads with to increase your exposure and subscriber base.
- Figure out your advertising rates and how
many ads you plan to have per issue.
That's a lot to think about, but a little planning
up front will help make startup go a lot more
smoothly. After you think about these issues, do some
research on the various software options out there. Some
hosting companies include list software with your
site package (or it can be added on for a fee). Other
options include buying list management software,
using your own e-mail software, or signing up with a
free service like Yahoo Groups. Each has advantages
and disadvantages, so consider your options carefully.
After you know how you'll get your list out to
your subscribers, you need to create a page that
tells people about your opt-in list. Your page should
include how often subscribers will receive the
e-zine and what it will be about. You also should tell
them whether or not you will include "specials" (i.e.,
ads) in your e-zine, and of course, give them a way to
subscribe. The page also should include a sample to
help entice visitors to subscribe.
After you have your page set up, you need
articles, or content. I recommend that you write your own
articles because it helps make you an
expert/authority on the subject of your site. If you aren't a
writer, however, you can find lots of sites on the
Internet that offer content you may be able to use and
some of it is free. Most sites and authors do have
restrictions however. They'll let you use their articles
as long as you also publish their bio/signature file.
Finding subscribers is probably one of the hardest
(or easiest) things to do, depending on your
perspective. There are many places you can advertise the fact
you have a mailing list. I think it is best to begin
small and build from there. Once you have the software
or service for your mailing list ready to go, just add
a "How to subscribe" link on all of your Web
pages. This link should be displayed in plain view,
and make it really easy for people to subscribe.
Within a week or 2 (depending on your Web site traffic) you should start getting subscribers. If
you have a list of your past customers and their e-mail
addresses, you might send them an e-mail telling
them you now have a mailing list and what it's about.
Explain why it will be to their benefit to subscribe.
You can find lots of sites where you can get
your mailing list "listed." Just do a few searches for
mailing lists or e-zines in your favorite search
engine. Listing your mailing list on these sites is a good
way to attract more subscribers.
Get creative! Write an article about your area of
business or expertise. Make a "Subscriber Special"
page and advertise a discount on a product or service
you offer that is only available to your subscribers.
(In other words, create a page with no outside links
it's only for subscribers who read your newsletter).
Running an e-zine can be fun and
profitable. But creating a list is only the beginning. Now you
have deadlines to meet to keep your subscribers
happy. One thing I have come to understand from the
hundreds of e-zines that fail each year is that most
of these failures are due to only a few things.
E-zine owners might call them "problems," but I think
in reality they are not. Most failures are caused
because of the publishers inability to manage and market
the e-zine correctly. Here's the basic list of
"problems" and how to solve them:
- Lack of commitment. Tell your subscribers
how often you plan to send them e-mail and then
mail out when you say you will! If you can't manage
a weekly schedule, go for monthly instead to start with. And spend the time it takes to really
work on your e-zine!
- Lack of advertisers and subscribers. If you
sell ads in your mailer, keep the ads pertinent to
your mailing list subject. Readers won't appreciate
irrelevant ads. A newsletter with nothing but ads will kill your subscriber base. Make sure that
you offer a good article in your newsletter. Don't make it strictly an advertising soap-box for
you and your advertisers. Your subscribers will
catch on to that in a second and your list size will
drop by at least 50 percent almost overnight!
- Lack of content (articles). This one should be
obvious. Bad or low content results in a lot of "unsubscribes." Make the e-zine good.
- Poor list management and ISP complaints.
Get to know your ISP and learn about all the
technical ins and outs. No one cares more about
your list than you do!
Note that lack of commitment is number one on the list. New e-zines are started every week, and
most fail not because they are "bad" ideas, but because
of a lack of commitment from the publisher. You're probably saying "What's he talking about,
commitment? It's an e-zine, not a marriage!" But
guess what? If you want it to work, it is like a marriage,
you have to work at the relationship almost
Once you have everything in place for your
e-zine and are ready to accept subscribers and
advertisers, that portion of your website has to be treated like
its own domain. To get known, you have to work at promotion every day. The best thing you can do
is spend the time it takes to get your e-zine listed
everywhere you can as soon as you can.