Why you should collect email addresses on your blog

I was flicking through Twitter a while back and saw a link to a post that looked interesting. So I clicked on it.

It was a blog post written by a newish business consultancy. I liked the article. I wanted to hear more from these people. So I started looking for a way to sign up for emails.

Nothing. No signup form. No RSS feed. Not even a casual ‘Follow us on…’.

It made me wonder why these guys were investing time in publishing blog posts at all.

Businesses blog for traffic, not art

Lots of bloggers write for the love of writing. Or for the love of their audience. But if you’re a business, you’re probably investing time in a blog to attract visitors to your website.

For this young consultancy, that part was working well. They wrote a post, it got shared, I clicked on the link to their site, read the post…

Then what?

I didn’t want to buy anything. I didn’t want a job right at that moment. I did want to hear from this consultancy again, but there wasn't a way to do that. So I left.

Traffic without action is just noise

The only thing I could have done was share the post on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn.

That’s not a bad suggestion. If I shared it, the post reaches a wider audience and draws in more visitors.

But as there's no way to connect with those visitors, it's not actually helping this consultancy grow. When I do need some consulting, I might remember them. But I'm more likely to remember them if I'm hearing from them regularly and seeing their great articles in my inbox.

Whenever you write a blog, think about what you want readers to DO

Generally, people only read stuff they're interested in.

We search for articles or click on links because we’re interested in learning about a topic. And quite often, we’re trying to learn about a subject because we need help.

Sometimes your article is all the help we need. But you don’t want the blog post to solve everyone’s problems. Otherwise, there's nothing left to sell.

The idea is that at least some readers will get to the end and think, “That was great, but I think I need more help”, or "I understand how that might solve my problem, but I'm nervous about starting on my own". And then they'll call you (if you’re something like a coach or consultant). Or buy your awesome product (if you’re a retailer).

Stop being so British. Sell stuff.

Your reader needs help. You sell help, in the form of products or services.

So your suggested action for readers might be:

Need more help? Get in touch...


Need more help? Take a look at these great products…

You might be thinking "It’s a blog in a shop, or on a personal training site, so it's obvious! They will just know to buy stuff/call me."

Nope. Not how it works.

Let’s assume I landed on your post via Google or Facebook. And your post is well-written and nicely laid out. And you use a reasonably modern blog platform that looks as classy as anything published by Condé Nast.

How will I spot the difference between your site and a magazine?

If you have something to sell, you need to say so.

What about the folks who aren’t ready to buy?

A ‘buy it now’ suggestion at the end of the post takes care of readers who need help right now.

But what if they are just interested in this vague general area?

A lot of blog visitors aren’t quite ready to buy. They're just researching the topic, or planning a DIY solution.

If they were looking to hire a Wordpress developer, for instance, they’d probably be searching for ‘cheap Wordpress developers’ or ‘Wordpress developer in London’. Not ‘how to fix Wordpress plugin conflicts’ or whatever you wrote about in your post.

For these visitors, you should aim to start building a relationship for the future. So that when they’re ready to buy, you’re the person they turn to.

And so you get a bit more time to convince them some outside help would be useful. That burning the midnight oil to fix that Wordpress nightmare isn't worth it, and they should call you instead.

To start that relationship you need their email

This isn’t hard to do. You just need to put a signup box on your blog. Footers are good. Or maybe the sidebar. You can even use a popup - though please read my post on email address popups first!

Some businesses don't need to try any harder than that. If you have a great product and enthusiastic customers, they will happily sign up for your newsletters.

Other businesses might need to try a bit hard. Think about what you can offer your reader, in exchange for their email address.

How about:

  • A report or ebook - more detail about the topic
  • A template, checklist or pattern - something practical
  • A short course - a chance for them to sample your teaching style
  • A free trial - good if you sell software or other subscription services
  • A discount - very popular with retailers

But in my example of the shy consultancy from the start of this post, the value item I wanted was simply ‘more like this’. Sometimes the convenience of having fresh articles delivered to your inbox is worth giving up your email for.

Don’t just slap it on a list. Organise it!

Pretty much all decent email software lets you group subscribers. Some use multiple lists; some offer tags; some call them segments.

When you capture an email, use your lists/tags/segments to put it with other subscribers interested in the same topic. Then, when you come to run an event or promotion on that topic, you can easily find the emails of people likely to be interested.

For example, I post articles about both UX design and project management. I have different freebies for each of these topics. If the post is about user research, I will add my user journey template, not my project timeline template.

When someone downloads my user journey template, they go on the UX list. Project timeline template downloaders go on the project management list.

This means that when I create paid products aimed at people interested in user research, I can offer them to people I know are likely to want to buy them.

Pick the right email tool for the job

If you’re still managing your newsletter in a Google Sheet, you’re making your life unnecessarily tough. Grouping and tagging and targeting will be tedious. And you’ll miss out on lots of useful information about who opened your emails and clicked on links.

If your needs are simple, start with MailChimp. It’s free to get started and pretty cheap as you grow. It also integrates with lots of commerce platforms, so it’s great if you run any kind of online store.

If you’re in an information business - like consulting, coaching, or teaching courses - then you’re likely to offer things like mini ebooks, templates, or email courses as your signup incentives. Trying to manage this in MailChimp drove me to despair, which is why I switched to ConvertKit. It’s not free, but if it means spending more time with clients and less time messing about with your email settings, you probably won’t begrudge the expense.

If you have a list, email it occasionally.

I’ve met so many business owners who have a lovely website complete with email signup box, a great product and a bunch of enthusiastic customers who hand over emails without needing any particular enticement.

And then nothing happens.

If people want to hear from you, send them something. Nothing fancy. Maybe a summer and Christmas newsletter. To remind them that you’re still there and you haven’t gone bust.

Even the busiest owner can manage that. Surely?

If not, do get in touch. I can probably help!

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and buy the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use myself and believe will add value to my readers.