The Automated vs Manual Email Debate

Debating between automated and manual emails.

Email marketing falls into two categories: automated or manual. Some bloggers insist one is better than the other, sparking the great email debate. What really matters is:

  1. Your preference in how the emails are sent.

  2. The expectations you have set for your subscribers.

Do you want to be hands on and manually send out each email or would you prefer to allow your email to run automatically? Are your subscribers expecting updates from your site only or an insider look at content not available to the public?

You may be strictly one or the other, or possibly a hybrid of both. Let’s take a look to see how each category works.

Automated Emails and RSS

Automated emails, commonly referred to as RSS emails, automatically send new updates from your website to your mailing list, using your RSS feed. These updates can be scheduled to mail soon after a new post goes live, or at a set time each day, each week or even each month. The more you post between sending times determines how many posts will appear in your email.

The good thing about automated emails is they are just that — automatic. Design your template, set your sending schedule and your mailing provider, such as FeedBlitz, takes care of the rest. You can focus on posting content to your blog assured your email marketing is being handled. Automated emails are a great way to stay in consistent communication with your subscribers as long as you’re posting to your blog consistently.

With this category of emails, however, you won’t be able to personally touch each email that is sent. While you can easily insert a subscriber’s first name and add an introductory sentence to your template to personalize the emails a bit more, some bloggers prefer to hand-craft an intro paragraph or insert commentary on individual posts. Revisiting our points mentioned above, it depends on what expectations you’ve set for your subscribers.

The Skinny on Manual Emails

Manual emails, on the other hand, offer you greater control when it comes to exclusive content and sending time. Starting with either your email template or a blank email, you add the content and choose whether to send right away or schedule for another day.

Many bloggers enjoy manual emails as it offers a chance to be more candid and personal with subscribers than what they feel is appropriate for a blog post. This also gives your subscribers the opportunity to receive something extra that blog readers won’t see.. As mentioned before, this hits on what expectations you have set for your subscribers. Did you promise exclusive content not available to everyone else? Then manual emails will be the way to deliver on your promise.

Now, say you want to send a manual email with a personalized note along with content from your website? FeedBlitz can assist you in this process. We curate the content, you choose which posts to send, the order to send them, the ability to add a note at the top (or bottom) then send or schedule.

A potential downside to manual emails as opposed to automated emails is the time invested in each email. It’s not running on an automatic machine so you’ll need to be more disciplined to carve out time in your schedule to send emails on a consistent basis.

Do what works for your subscribers.

The debate amongst bloggers as to which category of email is better — automatic or manual — isn’t going away anytime soon. There are pros and cons for both! Good news is you don’t actually have to choose. You can if you’d like, but many bloggers opt for a combination of the two. Automatic emails for the blog content and manual emails for exclusive updates or weekly summary emails.

The key is finding what works for you in meeting your subscribers’ expectations. If you’re unsure, simply ask your subscribers. If you’d like to test the waters, adding a second category of email, we suggest creating a duplicate mailing list and letting your subscribers know about this addition in the first mailing. This way they have the opportunity to unsubscribe to the new updates only if preferred.

Adding a second mailing can be just the next step you need in your email marketing journey. If you have any questions when it comes to the two categories of emails or anything email marketing-related, send our team an email at support@feedblitz.com. You can also chat, check out our Help Forum, or give us a call at 1.877.692.5489. Our Support and Sales Desk is available Monday – Friday from 9 am to 5 pm EST.

How to Start Using FeedBlitz if You’re Not a Techie (It’s Easy!)

Kate Finley Today’s guest post is by Kate Finley.

Since starting my Paleo blog back in August, I’ve shared hundreds of posts and developed a consistent following. I didn’t start out with grandiose ideas of blogging or ambitions to create a blog with tons of followers. However, after just 10 months of blogging, my blog now gets around 5,000 unique visitors per month.

After realizing that I had developed a solid following, and that my posts were driving a lot of search engine traffic, I knew I had to reassess goals for the future of my blog. A big factor in this realization was when I noticed that although my site traffic was steadily increasing, my email subscribers were not. So, I started to dig in to find out what I could be doing better, and set some solid goals for growth. [Read more...]

Making the Most of FeedBlitz: Modified Feeds and AutoCast

Every second Thursday we’re going to be highlight some of the incredible ways that FeedBlitz can help you with your community building and sharing of content. Today, we follow up on Tuesday’s post on integrating third party content and walk you through creating category specific feeds. As well, we explore using AutoCast, an extension of FeedBlitz’s RSS feed management services for bloggers, podcasters and online publishers, to migrate your iTunes feeds to FeedBlitz without losing your audience.

Dicing Feeds with RSS Tag and Category Filters

One of the great things about a FeedBlitz RSS feed is that you can do more with it than simply share the feed URL. You can use filters to modify what the feed shows to subscribers. This enables you to create category-specific feeds automatically, which can then be used to create category-specific mailings.

You do this using path modifiers, /tag/ and /not/, to pick what you want in or out, respectively. If we use the FeedBlitz News RSS feed as an example (feeds.feedblitz.com/feedblitz), they could be used like this:

All posts tagged “FeedBlitz” only: feeds.feedblitz.com/feedblitz/tag/feedblitz

All posts except testimonials: feeds.feedblitz.com/feedblitz/not/testimonials

You can have multiple /tag/ and /not/ modifiers in a single feed URL. If you have multiple modifiers they are an OR, not an AND, i.e. All posts matching ANY of the selections will be included in the criteria.

Why is this useful? Because now you can use these feeds to create category specific content that can be served to a web site via an RSS widget, and create custom mailing content for niche audiences. Or, if you want to avoid syndicating some articles beyond your web site, you can restrict what’s publicly available via RSS.

These filters work on both your feed’s tags and categories, which FeedBlitz consolidates into a single “keyword” list, against which the filters are then applied. So a post will appear in RSS feed with the filter /tag/happy if it is either tagged “happy” or in the “happy” category.

FeedBlitz AutoCast

FeedBlitz AutoCast is the extension of FeedBlitz’s RSS feed management services. Ideal for producers seeking a FeedBurner alternative, FeedBlitz’s AutoCast enables publishers using the old FeedBurner SmartCast service to switch. It also delivers value “ metrics, monetization and migration “ for new podcasters seeking to take advantage of content distribution from services and tools like Apple iTunes.

If you’re switching your podcast RSS to FeedBlitz, AutoCast has a vital feature to enable you to migrate your iTunes feeds to FeedBlitz without losing your audience. FeedBlitz’s AutoCast can optionally insert the iTunes <itunes:newfeed-url> tag to an RSS feed, redirecting iTunes to the podcast source’s new location. This enables simpler migration of iTunes subscriptions both to and from FeedBlitz, ensuring that you can be assured your audience won’t be “trapped” at FeedBlitz like they might have been before.

When FeedBlitz detects that the FeedBurner SmartCast service is active during a FeedBurner migration, FeedBlitz AutoCast is automatically enabled (since February 18, 2013). Moreover, any feed can be podcast-enabled from the FeedBlitz RSS feed’s settings page.

iTunes New Feed Tag Insertion

Possibly the most important function in FeedBlitz’s podcast feed capabilities, especially from a FeedBurner migration perspective, FeedBlitz AutoCast adds the required element to your podcast feed so iTunes can seamlessly transition all subscribers to the new feed source without having to lose a single audience member.

Podcast files are linked into RSS feeds using “enclosure” elements. When AutoCast is enabled, FeedBlitz tracks enclosure accesses separately from other links within the post, reporting them as downloads (D/Ls in the reports pages). It’s entirely possible, depending on the nature of the subscriber’s podcast app, that other links and tracking from the post will not be available to subscribers. Tracking downloads separately shows you the true reach of your content.

No Podcast?

No podcast? No problem! With AutoCast switched on, FeedBlitz will find any audio, video, or flash file that you link to in the post and create an enclosure from it if one isn’t already there.

AutoCast also allows you to set up to five iTunes category / subcategory combinations to be defined for the feed, making it more likely that iTunes and other podcast app users will find your podcast when searching for something new to follow.

There are many iTunes specific fields that can be optionally added to a podcast RSS feed. If they’re not already there, FeedBlitz will create them automatically from the other tags in your feed. This creates a richer subscriber experience when browsing your podcast.

Any RSS feed can be followed via email or in an RSS aggregator / reader “ and that’s true for podcast feeds too. FeedBlitz now adds a relevant audio, video or other icon to the post’s content in RSS and email to highlight podcast elements that might otherwise be missed by a non-podcast feed subscriber.

And there you have it. With all the chatter lately about FeedBurner’s possible (future) demise, I hope we’ve shown you a few reasons why FeedBlitz could easily – and efficiently – become your community building and content sharing choice.

Making the Most of FeedBlitz: Integrating Third Party Content

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my vacation – and what came before it – has helped me realize that it’s time for some changes. And change is good. We’re going to be introducing some new content here on the blog, including webinars, guest bloggers, and more. One thing I wanted to do is have a set day where we share some of the great insights from our guides and manuals. You can download them fully, but if you prefer, follow along every other Thursday for highlights.

Now, I recognize that today isn’t Thursday. It’s Tuesday. But in the spirit of change, we wanted to get you started with two installments this week. So come on back this Thursday, and every Thursday thereafter, to learn more about what Feedblitz can do for your organization.

So, you’ve either already switched to FeedBlitz, or are considering it. The big question will be “ where to begin? And that is a question only you can answer, I’m afraid. You will know your audience, your site and your business much better than us, after all. We’re here to help facilitate your switch, and provide you with all the information you need to get started, and keep moving forward.

FeedBlitz Flexibility

One of the great things about FeedBlitz’s RSS feed functionality is how flexible it is. Which, of course, is one of the challenges: There’s a lot to figure out, and it can be daunting!

Which brings me to splicing and dicing (well, splicing actually “ dicing is in the next chapter on). Splicing is the process of merging other content into your main feed so that what your subscribers end up with is more than just your source feed.

Accessed via the “Add Other Feeds” button from your RSS feed’s home page, you can add content from your other social media channels to your feed, or incorporate any other RSS feed into your posts. You can therefore enrich the RSS subscriber’s experience by merging multiple content feeds into one.

Merge and Cross-Promote

For social networks, all you have to do is identify your account. For example, my YouTube channel is at youtube.com/phollows. To include my YouTube channel’s feed into the FeedBlitz RSS feed, I simply enter “phollows” in the box next to the YouTube icon on that screen. It’s the same idea for all the other social networks too. For any arbitrary third party RSS feed, simply specify the RSS feed URL in the “Service ID” field on the form. It’s a great way to merge and cross-promote different blogs into a single feed, for example.

The drop down on the right tells you how you want the posts inserted into the main feed. A daily list that pulls all the content from the relevant feed, a daily summary that is a bulleted list of titles only, or by merging the third party content into your feed in chronological order.

Now, sometimes feeds can get very large. FeedBurner would simply give up when that happens, but instead FeedBlitz will include all new posts up to the RSS feed size limit we impose. If that content consists entirely of spliced in third party content, FeedBlitz extends the feed until at least one of the “main” feed’s posts has been included.

And that’s that! Watch this space on Thursday, and every other Thursday to come, for more on making the most of your FeedBlitz account.