How to Monetize Your Blog: Building Your Subscriber List
Recently we talked about monetizing your blog without driving your readers crazy. We discussed some of the more annoying ways to make money blogging, including through pushing ads and promoting affiliate programs.
Cashing in on Your Unique Products
Again, as we mentioned previously, offering products to your digital audience is a reliable way to earn a sustainable blog income – even while you sleep. But getting to the point where you’re ready to cash in on the buying potential of your audience takes far longer than it does to get through Google’s AdSense screenings and so forth.
The foundation of your blog’s marketplace is your subscriber list. And that’s what we’re going to talk about in this post. Why should you build a subscriber list? How does social media factor into the equation? What should you expect from your subscribers? Most importantly: what should you deliver to your subscribers?
Let’s get started.
Unpacking the Basics of a Subscriber List
You’re probably familiar with the concept of a subscriber list and what it does. If you’ve ever shopped anywhere online, you’re likely a subscriber to quite a few shop lists. And if you’re a person who admires other people’s blogs, you’ve probably got a good number of bloggy subscriptions going, too.
The basic concept of a blog subscription is similar to that of a magazine subscription of yore. You sign up for a newsletter or catalog you’d like to see, and get it delivered at some frequency to your inbox.
Of course, as a blog owner, you’re the one providing the subscription products, which – unlike a magazine subscription – are free at the outset. Unless you’re running a newspaper with a digital audience, you can’t expect your subscribers to pay for your content.
On the flip side, just because your subscribers don’t have to cross a paywall to access your content, that doesn’t mean you can slap random content together and send it off at whatever frequency you please. Nor does it mean that you can simply ignore them altogether.
A well-curated subscription list involves give and take from both sides. Your subscribers provide you with something very valuable: their email addresses. It may seem trite, but consider the fact that there are a lot of other sites and companies that are trolling for the very information you get when someone fills out your subscriber form. (By the way, you are not going to sell your subscribers’ information to earn a hunk of cash. That is not what we’re promoting here.)
In return, you owe your subscribers good content. This can be content you develop yourself, or it can be any other content that you feel is valuable for your audience. Often, bloggers and brands develop regular newsletters that provide their subscribers with dependable information delivered to their inbox on a regular basis. (We’ll cover some more concrete ways you can do this in future posts.)
Developing Your Audience
As a business owner, – again, even if your blog is simply to supplement small expenses – it’s important to consider your audience as you build your subscriber list. Your subscriber list is ultimately going to be built from your most loyal audience members, and maybe your mom. In order to attract these loyal readers to your subscription list, you have to know your audience.
There is some disagreement over where to attract your audience and get them to stick around to read each of your latest updates. Email and social media are both effective places to reach new people, but the way you reach audience members on separate platforms varies significantly.
While social media is trendy and fun, it’s not always the most reliable way to reach your intended audience – especially if your audience isn’t comprised wholly of Gen Z’ers who spend a good portion of their time checking their social media activity. Additionally, though social media companies would like to convince you that the connections facilitated between your brand and the social users you’d like to reach on their platforms are the most valuable connections, they’re not. This isn’t to say that there isn’t a time or place for building your blog’s social media presence or purchasing ad space on Facebook, but social media marketing shouldn’t be your primary avenue for audience connection.
There are a few reasons why email marketing is still important, even in a world dominated by social media. First, everyone has an email address (ok… almost everyone). Not everyone has a Facebook. Or Twitter, Snapchat, and so forth.
Second, email communication is more personal than social media interaction. When you send someone an email, you use their name, and usually include relevant information they’d probably be interested in seeing. You don’t use your email list to send pictures of your Tuesday night sushi dinner and cat memes.
It’s easy for someone to see a social media notification and keep scrolling without interacting for a second with your brand. It’s far less easy for someone to click open on an email that you send and not think about your brand for even a moment. Sure, there’s the challenge of getting people to open your emails in the first place, but chances are, if someone has taken the time to sign up for your list they want to see your emails.
Which brings us back to the main idea: email subscribers are your most loyal audience members. They want to see your content. That’s why they subscribe. And that’s why you want to do your part to keep them happy and engaged.
Turning Your Subscribers Into Paying Customers
Maybe you started your blog without much of an intent on monetizing it, and have only recently begun to explore the idea. Or perhaps you’ve always viewed your blog as a way to better represent your ideas and products online. Whatever your reasoning, your subscriber list is the ticket to accomplishing your blog monetization goals.
Even if you never ask your subscribers to purchase a product from you or your site, your email subscription list is a far more valuable tool than other metrics, like pageviews, when you seek sponsorship by larger advertisers or even go to sell your blog. Again, while we absolutely don’t recommend exploiting your subscriber list by selling email addresses (this is also, incidentally, not legally advisable), there are circumstances where a robust subscriber list is an important aspect of what your brand represents.
If you do decide to sell physical or intellectual products from your blog, you absolutely need a committed subscriber base in order to see success from such a venture. Just as you wouldn’t open a physical store without advertising locally and building interest among the demographics you’d expect to shop there, you shouldn’t offer paid online content without having an audience that’s likely to buy in.
We’re going to be discussing the types of blog products that bloggers around the world rely upon for earning a serious income. But getting excited about blog products means absolutely nothing if you don’t have anyone to see and purchase your awesome content.
A solid subscriber list (generally a few thousand or more subscribers, though this can vary dependent on your niche) will almost certainly purchase the ebooks, ecourses, and other content that you have to offer. Conversion rates among committed subscribers – again, if they’ve subscribed, they’re committed – are far higher than you can expect among the followers you may attract on social media.
Filling out a subscription form is a type of active engagement. Clicking a like or follow button is passive engagement. You should expect this fact to influence which audience members are more likely to buy, and which will simply keep scrolling.
Wrapping it Up
If you haven’t started building a subscriber list yet, it’s never too late. There are plenty of free services available to help you get started with welcome emails, newsletters, and so forth – we like Mail Chimp.
In our next post, we’re going to look at how email campaigns can attract new subscribers to your list, and what content you might want to consider using for this type of product. Good written content is absolutely essential to building your brand and making money online. You can start with your blog itself, but adding value through additional content is how you transform your blog’s revenue stream from a coffee supplement to paying your overhead expenses.
If you’d like to see how your blog content is performing, and whether your content attracts new followers via simple SEO, contact us for a free website evaluation where we’ll walk you through your strengths and weaknesses, and help you to develop an action plan for building a stronger site that’ll attract even more viewers – and hopefully help you build that subscriber list while you’re at it!
This post is part two in our series on monetizing your blog. You can read part one: Monetizing Your Blog Without Driving Your Readers Crazy here.
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