You probably know all too well by now that content creation is a very necessary function of successful inbound marketing. And for the inbound marketers who embrace that, a business blog is one of the most reliable and effective platforms for publishing much of the content they create.
But if you’ve been consistently blogging for a while, you probably have all the business blogging basics down pat. So wouldn’t it be great if you could take your blogging to the next level, scaling the impact of your blog so it makes an even bigger, better, and more powerful dent in your marketing results?
Enter the concept of 'blog marketing,' which refers not to using a blog to market your business, but instead to implementing a marketing strategy to grow and scale the impact of your blog. In other words, marketing for your blog. There are three critical steps to blog marketing: 1) getting your blog discovered by new visitors, 2) converting those visitors into dedicated subscribers, and 3) leveraging your blog evangelists to share your content and attract brand new audiences.
So let's say you've worked through step number 1, and you've got a good amount of blog traffic flowing. How can you get those folks to stick around and keep coming back so they become avid readers and fans of your blog content? With step number 2: by converting those visitors into subscribers! In this article, we’ll give you some great tips for turning those casual visitors into valuable, dedicated blog subscribers.
1) Blog Frequently (and Make Sure It's High Quality)
First things first: frequency matters. How can you expect visitors to subscribe to your content if you rarely or infrequently publish anything for them to come back to? You wouldn’t exactly be making the strongest case for subscription. If you really want to scale your blog, you need to make a commitment to boosting your blogging frequency. According to an internal study of HubSpot customers, businesses that blog more than once per week add new blog subscribers at twice the rate of businesses that blog just once per month.
Yes, frequency matters -- so work your way up. If you’re currently blogging once a month, work your way up to once a week. If you blog once a week, work your way up to a few times a week. Truthfully, the most successful blogs publish content daily -- or multiple times a day.
Keep in mind, however, that a boost in frequency can't come with a decrease in quality. Your new visitors won't be enticed to subscribe if they don't find your content to be worthy of their attention. And with all the crappy content out there, you can't afford mediocrity if you want to win over those new visitors. For more on creating high-quality content, here's how to tell if your content is actually valuable, and here are eight instant ways to improve your content's quality if it's not.
2) Encourage Blog Subscription (Particularly Email)
If you want people to subscribe, encourage blog subscription! Sounds simple right? But it's amazing how often I have to hunt through a blog's homepage to find where in the heck to subscribe. Make it easy for visitors to subscribe -- put your subscribe module above the fold on your sidebar, and display it prominently.
Also notice how I mentioned you should emphasize email subscription. Remember, there are two ways your visitors can subscribe to your blog -- via RSS, and via email. Both are valuable, but email subscription can have a much bigger impact than RSS subscription. Email boosts traffic to your blog, since subscribers get emailed whenever new content gets published (compared to RSS, which subscribers have to manually check on their own).
In fact, 14% of our monthly traffic to the HubSpot blog comes from email. And to tie this all back to the importance of blogging frequency, in that same study of HubSpot customers we mentioned earlier, we learned that businesses that blog more than once per week generate 9x more blog email traffic than businesses that blog just once per month. Convinced that you should put more of an effort into generating email subscribers yet?
Tips for Encouraging Subscription
One great tip for encouraging blog subscription is to use social proof to show new visitors just how popular your blog is among their peers. If you have impressive traffic or subscriber numbers, consider showcasing those. Something as simple as "Join more than 1,000 [insert persona]s who already subscribe!" can help you convert those visitors who may be on the fence.
Another smart way to incentivize blog subscription is through the use of free offers. Check out how HubSpot partner IMPACT Branding & Design does it on its blog. They provide a little something extra for new subscribers by also providing a free ebook (something usually reserved for visitors who complete a much longer form):
3) Promote Blog Subscription With Smart Calls-to-Action (CTAs)
Be more “in your face” about converting your blog visitors into subscribers by creating subscriber CTAs and placing them directly within each of your blog articles. Don’t worry -- they don’t have to replace your articles’ lead-gen CTAs; just insert your blog subscription CTA as a secondary CTA directly below the one you’re using for lead generation (like we've done at the bottom of this very post!). Here's what I mean:
If you’re worried about it impacting the clickthrough rate (CTR) on your lead-gen CTA, just keep a close eye on your CTA analytics. When we implemented this on the HubSpot blog, we didn’t notice any dip in CTR on our lead-gen CTAs, but you should always test for yourself.
And Make Them Smart!
Here's the thing: If a visitor is already subscribed to your blog, it doesn't really make sense to continue displaying your subscribe CTAs to them, now does it? These people are already subscribed, and it's a much better, more contextual use of your blog's real estate to show off that lead gen CTA front and center -- by itself. So how do you make sure you're only showing your subscribe CTAs to visitors who aren't yet subscribed? Technology, my friends ... technology. I like to call these CTAs "magic CTAs," because sometimes they're invisible :)
To create these "magic" CTAs, you are, however, at the mercy of your software. They're powered by dynamic content, so you'll need marketing software with this type of functionality. (Note: HubSpot customers can use a combination of the new HubSpot Blog COS and Smart CTAs to create these. You can find instructions about how to set them up in this blog post.)
Where appropriate, use your blog subscription CTAs on other pages of your website as well to give visitors a low-commitment conversion alternative. You might also consider adding your blog subscription CTAs to other Smart CTA groups to allow you to automatically customize which CTAs get shown to users in different lifecycle stages or based on specific list criteria.
4) Create a Blog Subscription Landing Page
Now that you've got all these great subscribe CTAs, you need somewhere to point them to. Sure, you already have your subscribe module on your blog’s homepage (at least you do now after our second tip, right?). But if you start promoting subscription to your blog via other marketing channels like social media and email (more on that later), it will start to get a bit complicated to direct visitors to that module. You'd have to say something like this:
“Go to blog.hubspot.com, and ... see that little field on the top, right-hand side of the blog? Enter your email address there to subscribe.”
That isn’t exactly the optimal way to promote blog subscription, is it? And can you imagine trying to fit that into a 140-character update for Twitter? Furthermore, you'd be adding a lot of friction to the conversion process, meaning you’re guaranteed to lose out on some valuable subscribers along the way.
So what’s a more effective way to convert blog visitors into subscribers? Think … you know the answer. It’s the same way you convert website visitors into leads. That's right -- a landing page!
Create a blog subscription landing page to convert those blog discoverers into dedicated blog subscribers. This will become the heart and soul of your blog subscriber conversion efforts, allowing you to more easily promote blog subscription through your other marketing assets. So instead of that convoluted message directing people to the little module on your blog’s homepage, you can just link your CTAs directly to your landing page and say things like, “Visit http://blog.hubspot.com/subscribe to subscribe to the HubSpot Marketing Blog!” in your social media and email promotions. So much simpler, right?
Tips for Optimizing Your Subscribe Landing Page
Optimize your subscription page using the same best practices you would for any other landing page on your website. Include descriptive headers/subheaders that capture visitors’ attention and summarizes what they’ll get, demonstrate the value of subscribing in your landing page copy, include a high-quality image, and emphasize email subscription by placing the form above the fold. You can also incorporate other elements -- like social proof -- to help boost conversion rates. Speaking of boosting conversion rates, don’t be afraid to do some A/B testing like you would for any other landing page (here's a great article on landing page A/B testing to get you started).
Last but now least, if your blogging software gives you the option, offer your prospective subscribers frequency options so they can choose how much (or how little) email they want to receive for their blog notifications. (HubSpot Customers: If you're using the new Blog COS, you can provide instant, daily, weekly, and monthly email frequency options to your subscribers.)
5) Add a Blog Opt-In Check Box to Your Landing Pages
I'm really excited to share this tip with you, because it caused us to increase our blog subscribers by 128% in just 3 months' time. I kid you not. And all we did was add a new check box field to all our landing page forms so people could subscribe to our blog with just one click. Here's what I mean:
If your blogging software is integrated with the rest of your marketing software, this trick is very easy to implement. At the simplest level, you need to have control over the fields on your landing page forms as well as the ability to export a list of people who opt in to your blog through these forms so you can add them to your blog subscriber list. And HubSpot users who use the new HubSpot COS (note: this will not work on HubSpot's legacy CMS), will be able to easily start boosting their email subscribers with this little trick without any manual maintenance once it's set up. To learn how to set it up, we have detailed instructions in this blog post. Check 'em out!
Just keep in mind that the new blog subscribers you generate through these landing page check boxes won't impact new lead generation directly. Because these people are subscribing to your blog because they're filling out forms for your lead gen offers, they're already leads. However, they do have the potential to increase the readership and help you reach new audiences through mechanisms like social sharing and email forwarding. You'll also benefit from using your free blog content as a way to nurture existing leads.
6) Do Some Email Marketing
In addition to promoting blog subscription through social media and CTAs on your website, email marketing can serve as another effective channel for driving blog subscriptions. Here are two great email marketing methods through which to promote blog subscription:
In a Dedicated Send
Promote blog subscription to different segments of contacts in your marketing database. Tailor the messaging and language you use in your dedicated send to the interests and needs of that segment. For example, you could segment your list by people who recently converted on a particular offer, and promote subscription by providing examples of articles related to topic of the offer they downloaded as a way to demonstrate the value of subscribing.
Within Lead Nurturing Workflows
Not every email within your lead nurturing workflows needs to promote a lead gen offer. Switch it up by featuring some of your big hit blog articles targeted at the types of people you’re emailing in your segmented workflows.
In what other ways can you turn your casual blog readers into dedicated subscribers? Share your tactics in the comments!
And to learn about the other critical steps to blog marketing that can help you increase the reach and ROI of your business blog, download our ebook, How to Grow & Scale Your Business Blog.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in October 2012 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.