As you begin your journey as a Christian blogger, you will eventually get around to the part of building an email list. While this might seem like such an overwhelming (additional) thing to have to deal with among the million other things you need to be doing to grow your blog ministry, having a plan is the most important step!
Most Christian bloggers just throw a subscribe button or box onto their site and hope for the best – then get frustrated when no one subscribes. Others create random optins that aren't well thought out (and get the same results).
Building an email list of interested and engaged subscribers requires a solid plan! But don't worry – I'm going to give you some tips for creating a plan that works for you and your particular Christian blog ministry.
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Email List Building for Christian Bloggers
Email list building is often a difficult part step for many Christian bloggers – but it shouldn't be! By creating a solid strategy that is focused around your audience, you'll be able to get them to subscribe so you can connect with them on a more personal level through regular emails.
It is important to remember that most people are bombarded with so much spam in their email every day so you must respect the time if they allow you to be there. Having a solid plan helps you stay focused on respecting that time by only sending them valuable tips and encouragement.
DON'T be that annoying blogger who is literally sending them emails every single day! I know there are some marketing strategists that will disagree with this but this strategy isn't the best approach when dealing with a Christian community. I have unsubscribed to so many lists because they didn't respect the boundaries of what is polite and what is just downright annoying!
Why Do I Need an Email List
What exactly is the purpose of having readers subscribe to an email list?
In reality, I would say that not everyone actually needs to have a subscriber list. I would first ask what the exact goal you have for your site and how are subscribers going to help you achieve that goal?
- For those who plan to monetize, having an email list can drastically increase sales conversions. Having an email list can also help you to boost the number of sessions to your site, which can also help boost ad revenue.
- For those that don't monetize, figure out what exactly is your goal as it pertains to have a list of subscribers to whom you'll send emails to.
If you aren't monetizing your site, an email list can simply help you connect on a deeper level with your target audience so you can better serve them through your content. When you send out emails, you are having a direct conversation with them and can really get personal, ask questions, offer more detailed advice or encouragement.
Having an email list is also a way to encourage your readers to share your content with others.
Steps for Getting Started
If you are just getting started (like you are literally getting ready to launch your site), these tips will help you in building your list from the start. If you've been blogging for a bit and are just now getting around to focusing on growing your subscriber list, you can still work through these steps.
The important thing to remember is that each of these steps needs your full attention and focus. Don't just throw some stuff together and call it a day!
If you are working on building your email list, I'm hoping you have fully worked through defining your target audience. Knowing your target audience will truly help you in not just building your list, but in keeping them engaged through the emails you'll be sending them.
1 – Have a Plan for Sending Emails
When should you start collecting email addresses?
Ok, I've taken a lot of courses from different “email marketing strategists” and most of them say “Don't wait! Get their email addresses right away!”.
While getting connected right away IS important, this connection won't last long if you don't have a plan in place.
The biggest mistake I see most Christian bloggers make in trying to build an engaged subscriber list is that they have no actual plan in place. This plan must include
- a schedule for sending emails
- a plan for what you will be sending them
Imagine you are single and you meet a guy and he asks for your number. I'm guessing you are sort of expecting that he will call you in the next day or so, right? But what if you don't hear from him for like a few weeks, a month, or longer? When he finally does call, you are like “who is this?”
When a reader gives you their email address, you need to connect with them right away and have a plan for being consistent in your communication with them. How often you email them will vary between bloggers but the point is that you DO email them on a regular schedule.
As for what you will send them, you need to have a plan for that as well. Don't just wake up on Mondays and think “Hmmm, what should I send my subscribers today?” What you send them will be the deciding factor on whether they remain a subscriber so make sure that you are honoring the time you get to spend in the Inbox.
What you send them will all depend on your target audience and the purpose of your blog in helping them. If you think of your blog posts as a small snippet of helpful information that gets them to subscribe, your emails should be a more intimate conversation with them where you offer additional help or support.
2 – Create a Welcome Email or Sequence
A welcome email can be a single email or a sequence of emails spread out over several days. The purpose of a welcome email sequence is to make that initial connection with them after they've subscribed.
Your welcome email should thank them for joining your community, let them know a little more about you and why you created the community, how often and when they can expect to get emails from you, and a general idea of the kind of emails you'll be sending them.
For my blogging tips email sequence, I have a series of 3 separate emails that go out a day apart. Each one thanks them again for joining the community. I also use this as an opportunity to send them links to the most foundational blogging tutorial posts that are for the beginning blogger. They also get the password to my subscriber printables library where they can download graphics and other things to use on their blogs.
This is also a good opportunity to offer them something that is exclusive to your subscribers such as the password to any restricted content or other freebies they might find useful and helpful. Just remember – what you send them MUST be in-line with the general nature of your blog. If you haven't really created any “goodies” to offer them just yet, just use this welcome email to let them know of what is to come.
Your welcome email or email sequence should be automated. That means that when a reader subscribes, it will automatically be sent out. If you aren't sure how to set this up, check the documentation for your particular email provider (MailerLite, ConvertKit, etc) because each one is set up differently.
3 – Create a Killer Optin for Your Readers
I'd say one of the most common email list-building questions I get is about what kind of optins to create for your readers to get them to subscribe. Unfortunately, this question doesn't come with a concrete answer. What you create to offer YOUR readers will vary from what others are creating for theirs.
This is why it is so crucial that you define your target audience and do the research to find out what they are needing most as it pertains to your blog. So many Christian bloggers fail to build their list simply because they are offering things their readers don't need or want.
You need to create something that can add value to their life and that they just can't wait to get their hands on. Something specifically for your audience that helps them as it relates to the purpose of your ministry.
It could be a handy checklist. It could be a 30-day Bible reading plan with printable Scripture memorization cards. It could be a printable prayer journal with prompts. It could be…. It could be…
It has to be for YOUR target audience!
If you are struggling to come up with ideas, you can read this list of content upgrade ideas to see if any of them could be tailored to meet your audiences' needs. You might also consider List by Number from Suzy Whitford. This course significantly helped me figure out the best optins for my audience and how to deliver them to my subscribers.
4 – Create and Connect the Form on Your Blog
Now that you have your welcome sequence set up and have a great optin to entice readers into subscribing, it is time to create the form and add it to your site. There are several ways to add subscription forms to your blog and you should have multiple opportunities for them to join the list.
- Above Content Widget – Depending on your theme, you may have the ability to add a subscription for at the top of your page just before the blog feed. If so, this is a high-conversion area to offer your optin. This area is the first thing they'll see before scrolling through the blog feed and other content. This area is also the first thing they'll see when viewing from a mobile device.
- Sidebar Widget – Having a subscribe form or button on your sidebar is also a great idea. Just keep in mind that this should be in addition to other forms because sidebar content displayed at the very bottom on mobile devices so mobile readers may not even see it.
- Pop-Up – Pop-ups are great when used correctly. Disable them for mobile viewers because they often aren't mobile responsive. You should also ensure they only display once on the initial entry page and not on every page a reader clicks through to read as this can be very annoying and distracting. These can be set to pop up after a certain amount of time or when there is exit intent by the reader.
- Slider – A slider form “slides” in, usually in the bottom right of the page (on desktop) after the reader has been on the page for a pre-determined amount of time. These should also be checked for mobile-responsiveness.
- In-Post Form – These are forms that are embedded either between paragraphs or at the end of a post. These often get a higher conversion than the sidebar and popup forms.
- Hello Bar – This is a slim bar that displays either across the top or bottom of the page. The space to write actual words is limited so a powerful call to action is needed to entice readers into signing up.
It is important that you enable the “double optin” feature for all subscribe forms. This will require that they go check their email and “click to confirm” before actually being added to your list. Yes, this requires them to take an additional step, but if they are willing to do that, they are more likely to truly engage with your future emails.
This is important for being in compliance with GDPR, and it also reduces spam subscribers. Remember, most email platforms require you to pay based on the number of subscribers that you have. You don't want to be paying for spam!
When you first set up an email automation sequence or first add a new form to your site, be sure to check it to make sure it works correctly! The best way is to have a trusted friend or fellow blogger subscribe to test it. You can always remove them after you've made sure all is working correctly.
5 – Connect with Your Readers!
Now that you have everything set up, you want to be ready to start sending your regular planned email as soon as you get a subscriber – even if it is just one person! Being consistent with sending out regular emails lets your audience know that you are engaged with them. This email should be something they look forward to each week!
This is where you talk to them in a more personal and non-formal way to connect with them beyond the blog posts. Consistency is key!
If you are struggling with how to get them to actually open and read the email, start with these email subject lines/writing prompts for Christian bloggers.
Then just use your voice and personality in talking to them in the email (write how you talk).
6 – Dealing with Unsubscribers
One of the hardest things to deal with (mentally) is to see that people have unsubscribed from your list. While this may be disappointing, don't take it personally. The truth is that many people will optin just to get the freebie you are offering and will unsubscribe shortly after. This is just part of the blogging game that you'll need to accept. I know you put hard work into creating your optin but you can't force people to stay connected with you!
Instead, focus on those who stay. Focus on sending emails that add value to their life. Focus on creating new things to offer them that aren't used as an optin but are created exclusively for those already on your list.
If, however, you are noticing a huge amount of unsubscribers after sending out your regular emails, you might want to evaluate what you are sending them. Having a few here and there leave is normal but if you notice a significant number leaving, this could be an indication that your emails aren't helpful. You could ask a friend or trusted fellow blogger to take a look and see if they can find any issues with your emails.
What if I Have a List That I've Let Go Cold
So if you've been collecting emails but haven't yet really started engaging with them, all is not lost! Honestly, I think this is where most bloggers fall so you can totally revive that list.
The first step would be to send out an email to your current list to see if they are still interested in getting your emails. You can do this by sending out a series of emails
- To apologize for the absence and let them know you are going to be more consistent from now on and if they aren't interested, they can click the unsubscribe button to be removed.
- To offer a really great new optin that you created (this would have been created to GET new subscribers but you also can offer it to those already on your list).
Be sure to resend each one to all that didn't open the first (this function is available with most paid email providers). Give it a few days then check your open stats. At this point, you can go in an delete all who didn't open any of the emails in this campaign. Be (mentally) prepared to delete a good portion of your list because the truth is that most will have lost interest after not hearing from you in so long (or ever).
Now you can start fresh with this new, condensed list and start being regular with sending your weekly emails.