One Blog, Many Lists, Much Success

How to Increase Engagement with a Multi-List Strategy for Your Blog

In this issue of List Building for Bloggers you will learn:

  • How multiple lists can help you attract and retain subscribers;
  • The benefits of multiple delivery schedules;
  • Content focus;
  • A quick “how-to” for FeedBlitz users.

[This is the twelfth article in the List Building for Bloggers series “ Click here to read all the recent #LBB posts]

Multiple lists from a single blog?  You bet! It’s a great idea, and if you’re using automation to send your mailings it won’t cost you any more time and effort to manage once you’re set up.

There are two core ways you can use multiple lists to increase engagement in your readership. These ways are:

  • Different mailing schedules;
  • Focused content.

Both will help you grow your and retain your audience, but they address different needs.

Multiple Mailing Schedules

When and how often to mail your readership can be the source of much angst in the email marketing community. Many people spend (and maybe waste) a lot of time and energy trying to find the right date and time to send out a blast to get the best results.

For content marketers (i.e. us, bloggers), I say that the best approach is not to get down to this level of detail. There are much more important and valuable things that you can do with your blog and your time. You will be more productive creating great content on your blog, building your community, doing some SEO, guest posting etc. rather than spending hours in reports worrying whether it’s better to mail out Tuesdays at 10am or Friday evenings after work. Focus instead on getting better results from your mailings by writing better headlines, compelling calls to actions, or adding an autoresponder.

That said, though, what you can do (and should definitely consider) is have your subscribers tell you how often they want to be emailed. That way your mailing schedule best matches their expectations and you’re more likely to keep them for longer. Corollary: you’re also much less likely to lose them because they feel swamped by too many emails from your blog or updates that are too slow.

This is where having multiple lists, each with a different delivery schedule, comes in really handy. You can offer a “Fast” subscription, which sends out a mail every time you post. For some people that will be great. For others, though, this will be way too much information and aggravating. Enter the next list, powered by the same blog: A daily digest.  Same content, just delivered once a day.  You might even offer a weekly wrap as well for those who want to stay in touch but for whom even a daily missive would be burdensome. You could perhaps adjust the slower lists to use abridged content if you typically have a lot of posts each week, just to keep the email down to a reasonable size.

All you have to do is offer the subscriber the choice at sign up time. They self-select into the appropriate list and they’re done. They get what they want when they want it; you get happy subscribers who don’t become frustrated by too many updates, or news that isn’t timely enough for them.

Focused Content

The other core use of multiple lists is to focus the content so that every mailing is relevant to the subscribers. Most blogging systems these days will offer category pages, where all the posts sharing the same category or tag can be viewed at once; it’s great for search and its great for visitors to see all the related posts in a single place.

You can do the same with your mailing lists too. For example, Elise at Simply Recipes has a “recipes only” email list accessible here, as opposed to her main list which is all the posts – not just recipes – on her food blog. Like Elise, you can offer focused content based on what your readers want. There may be fewer updates going out to a more focused list, but you’ll get better engagement with its subscribers with each mailing.

On the other end of the spectrum, Money Saving Mom has over a hundred lists. The site uses both content and scheduling differences. They’re all powered by the same blog, but she gives her visitors a lot of choice in terms of choosing when they want an update and what they want to get. Result? Stellar list growth. See her subscription form page here; it’s really quite the marvel.

Best Practice in Action

Since I’m drawing attention to Money Saving Mom, her site uses a combination of techniques to grow her mailing lists. It’s a fantastic example of how to quickly fire up subscriber acquisition. Use it as inspiration for your list growth, no matter what field you’re working in or how large (or small) your lists are now.

Let’s take a look:

  • There’s a financial incentive (sweepstakes) above the main banner for the main mailing list;
  • “Subscribe for free updates” call to action in the right side bar for a menu of all lists;
  • Autoresponders and custom landing pages driving traffic back to the site.

Dynamic and User Generated Lists

The challenge with offering different content lists have one disadvantage: They require you, the blogger, to know (or to make intelligent decisions about) the different content you should be offering. Sometimes that’s hard to do, and as your site grows you may forget to update the mailing lists to include your new posts. What to do?

Well, with luck, your email service has an API that you can use to let the users create their own lists on the fly. You can then, with a little back end or client side scripting, have the subscription form on any one page offer an automatic subscription to that page’s tags. You can do the same for search functions too. That way you can ensure that the content is always relevant – the subscriber picked it themselves!

For FeedBlitz Users

FeedBlitz makes creating additional mailing lists from a single source easy, so if you’re also a FeedBlitz user read on to see how to set up multiple lists for your blog in just a few steps.

The easiest way to create multiple mailing lists is to start with your main list that you’re happy with. Then go to Newsletters – Settings – Advanced Template Editor and make that template your Master Template. That means that all other lists you then make will use the same design as your main list by default, which gives you great brand consistency and saves a whole boat-load of time.

Then clone the list via Newsletters – Settings – Clone. It creates a copy of the list and its settings, but does not copy subscribers. If you’re creating a new delivery schedule, pick the new schedule you want as part of the cloning process. It’s that easy.

If you want to create focused content specific lists, again clone the mailing. Then go to Newsletters – Settings – Content Settings for your new clone, and either:

a) Add tag filters to include / exclude categories from the mailing; or

b) Change the article source URL to be the category RSS feed for the content.

Don’t forget to change the title of the mailing to match the content, and you’re done.

If you want to get all techie and use the API, head over here to the Knowledge Base for the documentation – you need to use the publisher ID parameter to link the subscription to your account.

Finally, freshly minted mailing lists in hand, you need to update your forms to offer your new alternatives. Since most sites are not offering hundreds of different choices, FeedBlitz can create a form for you that automatically updates itself as you add new lists. Go to Newsletters – Forms – Subscription Forms and, from the right hand side of options, choose “all public” as the lists to include. Update your site with the code and that’s that. (If you want to exclude a list from the automatic form, mark it as private at Newsletters – Settings – Content Settings – The Basics).

Next Up

More advanced topics: Segmentation, personalization and custom fields.

About List Building For Bloggers #LBB

Written by Phil Hollows, the FeedBlitz Founder and CEO, List Building for Bloggers (#LBB) is a series of posts to help you make the most of your blogging by harnessing the power and capabilities of email, the universal social network, with your bog and social media communications. No matter whether you’re a novice or a more advanced blogger, there will be something for you to learn, apply and benefit from in this series. Click here to read more about #LBB

P.S. If you think your friends or followers would find this series valuable, please retweet on Twitter or “Like” on Facebook using the buttons below. Don’t forget to use the #LBB hashtag when you do. Thank you! And if you have a comment, contribution or something else to say, please comment too. 🙂