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Don’t Use Public URL Shortening Links in Emails

spam-score-analyzerIn my spare time, I run a scotch whiskey enthusiasts blog called Scotch Addict.

One of the fun things about whiskey and spirits is that the age of a whiskey is important, so it always gets mentioned. Most aged whiskies worth mentioning fall between 10 and 18… which to a computer makes it sound like I’m talking about teenagers. (and not in a good way)

Well, when you publish a link, sometimes it has 12yo or 18yo in it and that has the potential to get your email marked as spam.

So occasionally I use redirects to take the year out of the link when I do my emails. I usually use a redirect on Scotch Addict but one day I was feeling lazy and went to bit.ly, a popular URL shortening service.

Big mistake. As it turns out, Bit.ly is Spamhous DBL (domain block list) because bit.ly is popular with spammers as well. (check if your domain is in there)

If you use a bit.ly link in your email, there’s a higher than average chance the message will get marked as spam.

It’s as simple as that.

teenager-2.4Aweber has a tool that scans your email with SpamAssassin, a popular spam detection tool, and will give you a spam score. Anything under 5 is OK, by using a bit.ly link, my spam score jumped to 10. Mentioning a teenager only bumped it up to a 2.4. That’s how bad including a public URL shortening link is!

Don’t be lazy, don’t use a public shortening link. If you need to use a redirect, install a plugin (I use Pretty Link Lite, I’ve heard good things about ThirstyAffiliates too but never used it) and take a few extra steps to do it right.

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Maintain an Active Email List by Trimming Inactive Subscribers

Everyone always says the money is in the list, right?

For years, I was enamored by folks talking about how large their lists were. People would boast lists of 10,000 or 100,000 or more.

A large list isn’t always better than a small list.

In fact, it’s been said that having just 1,000 raving fans is all you need to build a sustainable business.

Not 10,000 or 100,000 – “just” 1,000 true fans.

Is your list 10,000 true fans or a collection of 10,000 emails of people who might like you? Of people who aren’t sure how they got on the list?

Your goal should be getting a list of those 1,000 true fans and trimming the rest. The ones who aren’t true fans are simply costing you money and getting in the way.

If you have a two thousand member list, it’ll cost you $15/mo on MailChimp (to send unlimited emails), $29/month on AWeber, $60/month on Constant Contact, and $59/mo on Campaign Monitor. That’s hundreds of dollars a year, which gets to be expensive if all you’re doing is sending a few blog posts and hoping it generates some revenue.

The tip that many experts don’t tell you is that you need to keep your list tidy. Active. Valuable.

Trim it of the folks who are indifferent!

Being able to say you have a large list might boost your ego but it can do little to move your blog’s bottom line, which is what matters.

The easiest way to maintain an active email list is to get rid of the folks who aren’t even opening your emails. A subscriber that doesn’t open any of your emails is not a subscriber, they’re dead weight and that dead weight is costing you money and messing up your statistics.

You need to cull your newsletter subscribe list.

How to Trim your Newsletter Subscriber List

Culling your list is a two step process.

First, you need to make sure they really aren’t opening any of your emails. Sometimes a loyal subscriber is reading your emails, but it’s just not being reported back to your email provider. To solve this problem, I create a segment of Inactive Subscribers, send them a quick email that asks them to reply if they want to remain on the list.

For the segment of Inactive Subscribers, I simply search for people who haven’t opened an email in three months.

Then I send them this simple email:

Subject: One quick question…
Hi,
Do you wish to continue getting emails from Microblogger? I noticed you haven’t opened any in a while and I wanted to make sure you still wanted them. If you do, please reply and I’ll make sure you still get them.

Thanks!
Jim

If someone replies, I make sure they keep getting emails.

Step two is pretty simple. After a week, I delete those inactive email addresses from my list. If they don’t open the emails, there is zero chance they want to keep getting them. I can do both of us a favor by removing them from the list. Right before I remove them, I send them this brief email too.

Subject: You’ve been unsubscribed
Hi,
I noticed you weren’t interested in receiving anymore emails from me so I unsubscribed you from the list. If this was a mistake, you can resubscribe here:
[link to subscription page]

Thanks!
Jim

That’s it!

It might hurt to just delete a bunch of emails, addresses you worked so hard to get in the first place, but remember that these people aren’t even opening your emails. They’re not really subscribed… they just inflate your numbers and your monthly bill.

2 Comments

A Ridiculously Simple Tip to Increase Newsletter Subscriptions

Credit: slackorama

Credit: slackorama

Ten years ago, you could build a blog entirely on search engine traffic. Bargaineering, and subsequently me and my family, feasted on great Google rankings that persisted for years.

Today, many bloggers feast on great social media channels like Pinterest. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but one thing is certain – you can’t trust your business in the hands of someone else.

When your business relies on another business, that’s a huge risk.

Fortunately, there’s a way to turn the unpredictable traffic sources (Google, social media) into a predictable one (email). If you haven’t yet started with email, you should, these five tips on how to get more email subscribers will help.

Today’s tip is ridiculously simple and resulted in a double digit increase in the number of newsletter subscribers.

Email Unconfirmed Subscribers

It’s that simple.

I took a quick peek at the Microblogger email list.

In the last 30 days, we’ve added about three hundred subscribers and of those, 83 were unconfirmed.

That’s over 25%.

A quarter of the people who have asked to join my email list are not getting the confirmation email and clicking on the link!

I checked another site I had, Scotch Addict, and the number was not much different (40%!). My numbers are relatively small, so the percentages might be skewed, but I asked around and the lowest I found were around 10-12%. Some were as high as 40-50%. No one had under 10% unconfirmed.

Why not go single opt-in? I think double opt-in improves the quality of your list because it confirms the person really does want your emails and can get them. All things equal, you want a larger list. But double opt-in is a safer bet. (that said, there’s nothing inherently wrong with single opt-in either)

Is This Legal?

I’m not a lawyer but I believe it is, per CAN-SPAM rules. I only have the email address because the visitor put it into an opt-in box, so they’ve already initiated a relationship and now I’m just following up. I only email once.

I Wait Two Days, Then I Email

I do a search with two parameters:

  • Confirmed? is Not Confirmed
  • Date Added date is before [Two days ago]

Why two days? I looked at my verification times:
verification-times

95% of subscribers confirmed within 2 days. Interestingly enough, a little over 80% confirmed within 45 minutes. Another 15% would confirm over the next 47 hours and 15 minutes. After that, once you excluded people I emailed using this strategy, we had maybe a handful of stragglers.

The reality is that if they don’t confirm within 2 days, they’re likely not going to and either the email is in spam, it never made it, or they deleted it because they didn’t know it was from me.

In practice, I email on Fridays and simply pull the email addresses added since the last blast’s time frame.

Results: ~23% subscription rate

It’s arguably a small sample size but about a quarter of the people I email will re-submit their information on the new post and finally get on the list. On some blasts I get only 10%.

Some of them told me that their emails were going into spam. My guess was that the word addict was tripping up spam filters (since taking out addict, I saw an increase in confirmation percentages on their own).

What do I send?

In the beginning, when only a handful of emails trickled in each day, I could email them individually from my Gmail account. Nowadays, that’s not feasible. I use a bulk email sender, SendBlaster (free), to create a new list each week and send out my reconfirmation email, which looks like this:

Hi,
You recently signed up to receive emails from Scotch Addict but it appears you didn’t confirm, says the people who are in charge of that sort of thing. Did you change your mind or did the email not make it through? Here’s a post that might help troubleshoot: (and a way to resubmit your subscription request):
http://scotchaddict.com/unconfirmed

Thanks!

That’s it!

4 Comments

Save Money by Deleting Unsubscribed Emails

Are you using Aweber?

Do you have a lot of unsubscribed emails on any of your list?

If so, they might be costing you money.

Actually, they’re definitely costing you money, the question is just how much.

Aweber’s pricing is based on the total number of subscribers, which includes unsubscribed emails. That means if you have 500 subscribers and 5 unsubscribed, your total is 505. Those extra 5 unsubscribed emails pushes you into a higher pricing tier which will cost you an extra $10 over the base $19 per month.

How to delete your unsubscribed emails from your list
It’s easy, log into your account and find Manage Subscribers within the Subscribers drop down menu.

Aweber Manage Subscribers

One of the Filters to the left is for Unsubscribed, click on that to reveal the list.

Aweber Delete Unsubscribers

Check them all, Delete, and you’re all set.

What if I’m not on Aweber?
Check to see how your provider calculates its pricing. Some charge you for unsubscribed emails, some don’t.

For example, if you’re on Mailchimp, you don’t need to do this because unsubscribed emails are not counted towards your total. They use a different pricing scheme that calculates your peak total and uses that to determine your cost.

Would I ever want to keep unsubscribed emails?
I can’t think of a reason but if you are unsure, you can always export it and save the file somewhere safe.

No one wants to pay an extra $10 or $20 for nothing, so remember to periodically go into your lists and delete all the people who foolishly unsubscribed.

How many emails did you delete?

6 Comments

5 Ways to Get More Email Subscribers

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, both are world famous soccer stars, each made over $50 million last year.

Aaron Rodgers, Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, pocketed $40 million.

Kobe Bryant, shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, earned over thirty million dollars.

Do you know why those athletes get paid millions each year to play their sport?

It’s all about reach.

Soccer stadiums, especially at the top levels, can fit nearly a hundred thousand each (Barcelona’s Camp Nou seats 99,354 and Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu seats 81,044). Lambeau Field, where Aaron Rodgers plays 8 games a year, seats 80,978. And the Staples Center, home of the LA Lakers, hosts 35 games and can seat 18,118.

Those athletes are getting paid top dollar because they’re good at what they do and they make the team better. A better team means a more energized fan base. A more energized fan base means they buy more tickets, watch more games on TV, and buy more apparel and other branded equipment.

A great player gets you more fans and more fans means more revenue. They expand the reach of the team.

What does this have to do with you, the blogger?

You get visitors coming to your site from all types of sources. From search engines like Google and Bing, social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, or from media appearances like radio or TV, or maybe you write a lot of guest posts and get lots of referral traffic.

That’s all well and good, but once they come to your page, how do you get them back? Once you’ve done the work and generated the interest, how do you capture information about that visitor so you can reach out again?

The answer is email.

Getting a subscriber is about turning a casual visitor into a regular one. It means you don’t have to do the work of getting them again if you can keep them around.

This guide shares the five most effective ways (with a bonus tip at the end) to gain new email subscribers from the traffic you already have.

Popup or Feature box

There are two things you can do to immediately increase the number of subscribers to your email list and the two things make up the first two tips of this ebook.

The number one most effective way to increase your rate of email signups is to use a popup of some kind. It can be a pop-up like a lightbox or you can use what’s known as a feature box.

Lightbox

Lightbox on Microblogger

Lightbox on Microblogger

A lightbox is just a pop-up where the rest of the page is dimmed. Most email providers will have functionality to create one or you can use a third-party tool such as OptInMonster, LeadPages, or OptinSkin.

When implementing your pop-up, test delaying it a few seconds to see how it impacts signup rates.
DIYNatural went from 25 new email signups a day to 200-250 with a simple email popup:

Feature Box

Derek Halpern of Social Triggers uses a feature box.

Derek Halpern of Social Triggers uses a feature box.


A feature box is simply a big box at the top of every single page that asks the visitor for their email. You can think of it as a popup that doesn’t popup, it’s at the top of the page.

He has a large one on the homepage but uses this smaller version at the top of every individual post.
social-triggers-small-strip

You get the benefit of the lightbox without the jarring pop-up effect.

For what it’s worth, Derek Halpern uses both a feature box and a lightbox.

Opt-in Bribe

Creating an opt-in bribe is the second most effective thing you can do to increase your newsletter subscription rate. Asking someone to join your list because you’re awesome is nice but giving them something, as a reward (or a bribe) is even more effective.

What should you offer as a bribe?
Make it valuable – It has to be really good if you want those people to stick around. You want readers to see that first bribe and think to themselves: “I want more. This person is good and I want to make sure I always get his or her stuff.”

Make it actionable – As an expert in a subject, you are in a position to translate theory and ideas into action. Use that knowledge to help the reader make that leap.

For example, I can tell you that you need to create an opt-in bribe that’s valuable and actionable – but what does that mean? It means you need to take ideas and give the reader steps they can take right now to execute.

I will tell you how to come up with a bribe now.

We will create two bribes. The first one is temporary, something to put in place so you have something to offer today while you build a better one, your “permanent” bribe.

The Temporary Bribe
What is your blog about? Do you have a blog post (or blog posts you can put together) that captures what someone should learn whenever they visit your blog?

On Bargaineering, there was one post that did exceptionally well (100 Money Saving Tips) and I turned it into a PDF and offered it as an opt-in bribe.

Do you have a resource that you currently offer for free, such as a printable guide or a spreadsheet? Offer it up as a gift for subscribers.

Have you done an interview or a presentation that has immense value? Offer that.

The key is to find something you already have, repackage it as a gift, and offer it to new subscribers.

It’s irrelevant that the resource is available already. New visitors aren’t going to know about it unless you publicize it prominent on your site and that’s not the point. If it has value, people will want it.

The Permanent Bribe
The permanent bribe is something you should create from scratch that is both valuable and actionable. It does not have to be big or expensive or “epic.” It simply needs to be something unavailable anywhere else and irresistible.

I won’t be able to give you general advice on what will work for your site but here are a few examples:

  • Preneurmarketing.com – An audiobook (note the use of a feature box!) for first time visitors, it cycles to other promotions as you reload. He also swaps it out with a link to 7leversreport.com where he offers a 39-page “report,” which is a separate email list.
  • Firecracker Communications – Look in the sidebar, she is offering a 5-step formula, which psychologically seems better than an “ebook” and the self-priced retail value cements that idea.

If you start doing your own research, you will start to read about what works and what doesn’t. My suggestion is to test it yourself before jumping to any conclusions.

The worst case scenario is that you build something that falls flat. If that happens, just build something else and throw that first failure into a “toolbox” which you throw in for free.

Add a Form after the Post or on an About Page

After they’ve read your stuff, give them a way to read more. At the end of your posts, make sure you offer your readers a way to keep getting your content.

From Bargaineering:
bargaineering-after-post-form

From ViperChill:
viperchill-share-this

What’s the logic? They’ve read your stuff to the end, it’s good, they want more. Ask them for an email (and social media love)

I also make sure to include one on the “About Page” because the same logic applies. If they want to know more about you, it’s because they care and show an interest. Give them a way to connect to you.

You will find that these two areas will have the highest conversion rates.

Split Test (within reason)

I’m a huge fan of split testing but it only works if you have the traffic and are willing to try big bold changes. Here are the top five things I’d test:

  • The Optin Bribe
  • Emotional Appeal of The Ask – appeal logically, emotionally; highlight a transformation; make a big promise, incremental promise.
  • The Bullet Points – Emphasize benefits not features, “what’s in it for me”
  • Images – Try book covers, CDs, people, awards, banners
  • The Button – Adjust color and/or text. Color should be high contrast so it’s easy to find and for text, use action verbs and emphasize speed and ease

How do you split test easily? I like to use OptinMonster, which handles the lightbox popup. I usually only run one test, usually a big one, and then let it do its thing.

If you don’t have enough traffic to reach a statistically significant result within a few weeks, just go with your gut and focus on just the big things like the bribe and the emotional appeal of the ask.

If your split testing tool doesn’t offer a way to calculate statistic significance, use this easy tool from User Effect.

Make a Special Landing Page

If you make special appearance on a podcast or a guest post somewhere, make a specific landing page for that audience. You likely downloaded this page from that special landing page.

What do you offer on that landing page? I recommend creating a targeted bribe that expands on whatever you talked about on the podcast or wrote about in the guest post.

For example, I talked about how to get more email signups on the Fincon podcast and this guide focuses on just that very topic. It goes into much greater detail with examples you can use.

Here’s an example of a customized landing page from Paula Pant of Afford Anything from when she appeared on Entrepreneur on Fire:
affordanything-fire-page

It doesn’t have branding, which I recommend, but it is targeted to that audience. One benefit of not branding is that you can reuse this landing page any time you appear on a site talking about entrepreneurship.

Bonus Tip – Delay the Lightbox

Sometimes you’ll test something and it won’t show anything special.

You can still learn from it.

I tested a delay on Scotch Addict on the optin, a 1 second delay vs. a 15 second delay.

  • 1 second delay – 36,465 impressions, 0.8% conversions
  • 15 second delay – 15,828 impressions, 0.8% conversions

I chose 15 seconds because average visit duration on the site is 1 minute, 15 seconds. I didn’t want to get too long and felt 30 seconds might be too long. (I would later test at 25 seconds and saw no drop off in conversions, just to see)

Sometimes no result is a good result. It tells me that I can delay the lightbox popup by 15 seconds and it won’t impact my conversion rate. It’s an aesthetic improvement with no downside.

Summary

I hope these six tips are helpful for you in turning some of your casual visitors into subscribers you can reach over and over again.

Is there a useful tip you’ve used from this list? Have you seen outsized results? Let me know in the comments!