Step-by-step tutorial, with screenshots, for setting up an email subscription form on your blog, plus thoughts on the ethical practice of handling subscriptions.
I’ve been wafting rather philosophically on this blog over the past four weeks, so I thought it was time that I write another techie article. Today’s post is a straight-ahead ‘how to’ article for setting up a subscription box on your blog using Feedburner. While many of you might already have subscriptions set up for your blog, hopefully you will find a few bits of information you might not have known before. And, of course, even though it’s a techie day, I’ll be looking at subscriptions in a ‘7 Graces’ context, so we’ll remember why we’re doing it in the first place.
Understanding the Different Relationships with Our Audience
Back in December 2013, I wrote an article called Email Marketing and Subscriptions – Do We Still Need Them? That article sparked a lot of discussion. It was obvious that the topic of email marketing can stir up a lot of emotions (mostly anger and irritation). But, from the business owner’s point of view, the question becomes, ‘If I have no mailing list, how do I communicate with my contacts?’ These days, most people are either added to a mailing list because they’ve purchased something, or because they’ve requested some sort of free download, such as an eBook, audio or special report. It takes a certain amount of personal ‘commitment’ to agree to surrender our email address to a mailing list, and many of us will unsubscribe if the person on whose mailing list we’ve landed exploits their connection with us by trying to push things on us we didn’t ask for. For example, I recently bought some nutritional supplements online and now I’m getting daily high-pressure sales letters from them, in the ‘guise’ of offering me more information about health and wellness. The only reason I haven’t unsubscribed yet is because I haven’t received my delivery from them, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’m going to unsubscribe the minute I get the parcel, and I will not be ordering from them again, even if their product turns out to be fantastic. It’s disappointing.
In the world of blogging, however, there is a markedly different attitude and expectation around subscriptions. As blogs are (typically) not ‘sales letters’ but information articles, people subscribe to them because they genuinely want to receive the content on an ongoing basis (as opposed to the ‘one-off’ relationship we might have when we sign up for a free download, as mentioned above). Our blog subscribers have a vested interest in the subject matter we have to offer them. Thus, our relationship with them is markedly different to the relationship we have with the people on our mailing list.
However, in the article Email Marketing and Subscriptions – Do We Still Need Them?, I also talked about the idea of ‘loyal blog readers’ versus ‘blog subscribers’. The fact is that, in this era of social media, many of our most loyal readers do NOT opt to subscribe to our blogs for the simple reason that they don’t need to. They know they’ll hear about your latest blogs via your updates on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+. On this site for example, a relatively small percentage of our readers actually subscribe, yet we know we have tens of thousands of unique visitors every month who visit here hundreds of thousands of times.
Nonetheless, I still believe one of the clearest signs that your readers are truly interested in your work is that they subscribe to your blog. That’s why I think it’s important to 1) make your articles compelling enough that people will WANT to subscribe and 2) make it dirt-simple for them to do so. This article will show you how to do this using my favourite application for this purpose – Feedburner.
RSS, Feeds, Syndication and Pings
Before we begin, I just want to explain a few terms. The term ‘RSS’ is usually said to mean ‘really simple syndication’ (although I have seen other explanations). Every blog has an ‘RSS’ or, more accurately, an ‘RSS feed’ or simply ‘feed’. Your blog’s ‘feed’ is essentially an alert system that ‘syndicates’ your content. Think of ‘syndication’ as a kind of wire-service, such as reporters have used to send top stories, and other content, to newspapers and media for decades. Similarly, your blog’s RSS feed ‘syndicates’ your latest content, but instead of going to media outlets, it goes to services like Google, Yahoo, AOL, and many other content directories. These services are sent a ‘ping’ whenever you publish new content on your site. In addition to your blog being ‘pinged’ to Google, etc., many online networks allow you to import your RSS feed, enabling their visitors to read your blog posts on their network. Lastly, you can also ‘burn’ your RSS feed so readers can subscribe to it and receive your blog updates via email.
Getting Set Up on Feedburner
To set up a proper ‘feed’ for your blog, you need to ‘burn’ one. Feedburner is a free, open source service (now owned by Google) that can do this for you. To access it, you need to have already set up a Google account (typically a Gmail account). To ‘burn your feed’, first be sure you’re logged in as the Google user you’d like to associate with the feed from your blog, and then go to http://feedburner.com and follow the instructions. Really, it’s just a matter of entering your blog’s web address (URL). If more than one feed option appears, chose the one to the main blog (you might see another feed for comments, for example; you don’t want that one). Don’t check the box that says ‘I am a podcaster’ (unless your feed is specifically for a podcast).
Once you burn your feed, click through all the introductory stuff (say ‘yes’ to all the analytics), and eventually, you land on a page with 4 tabs at the top that looks like this:
Click the tab that says ‘Publicize’.
Then, on the left-hand side of the screen, click the link that says ‘Email Subscriptions’. Follow the instructions in this screenshot:
Next, keep Feedburner open, and open the dashboard to your blog in another tab in your browser. Then, go to ‘Appearance > Widgets’ and paste the HTML form code into a text widget in the primary widget area of your blog. Be sure to put this widget at the TOP of your other widgets:
Now, go to the main page of your blog and make sure the widget is visible on your site. If you’ve done it correctly, this is what you’ll see:
Once that’s done, go BACK to Feedburner and set your ‘Communication Preferences’, ‘Email Branding’ and ‘Delivery Options’. The instructions are pretty straightforward.
FINALLY, TEST YOUR FORM by subscribing to your own feed. A ‘captcha’ window should pop up to make sure you’re a human and not an automated ‘phishing’ bot. Shortly after you subscribe, a confirmation email will arrive asking you to verify your email address. BE SURE to click the confirmation link. Then, pay attention the next time you publish something new on your blog, and check that you receive an update around the time you have set in the ‘Delivery Options’.
Here’s an article from Google with more info: https://support.google.com/feedburner/answer/78982?hl=en
Other Fun Things You Can Set Up On Feedburner to Give Oomph to Your Blog
- In ‘Publicize’ – Activate ‘Pingshot’ so various web-based feed reading services will be notified when you publish a new article.
- In ‘Publicize’ – Activate ‘Socialize’ and connect your Twitter account. This will send out a Tweet to your followers when you publish a new article.
- In ‘Optimize’ – Activate ‘Feedflare’ and choose different sharing options (they’ll appear at the end of your posts when people receive them via email) to encourage them to share the post with others.
- In ‘Optimize – Activate ‘Browser Friendly’ to ensure your feed is compatible with different browsers (when people view it on a reader).
- You can also export your contacts to a CSV file – Feasibly, you could import this list into your main database, but be mindful that this is NOT what these people signed up for, and you may end up losing subscribers if you try to ‘alter the contract’ you have with them.
I’ve seen many bloggers use their home page to drive people onto their main mailing list, instead of their blog subscription. They imagine that this will make it easier to ‘sell’ to them. But if people come to your blog for great content, and you immediately turn around and try to sell to them through email marketing, you are likely to lose them quickly. What’s worse is that they are unlikely to come back to your blog again in the future. To me, it is blogging – not email marketing – that brings us closer to our audience. To lose that connection with them simply because we’re hawking our latest affiliate promotion is the worst thing we could possibly do. Thus, when blogging, always be aware of (and honour) the relationship you have with your blog readers, and give them what they came for – your valuable content.
If you believe that blogging is important to the new paradigm of marketing, and you want to develop ethical systems to use blogging to spread your visionary message, I’d just like to let you know that I’ve got a new book coming out later in 2014 called The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. If you’d like to receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project. I promise I won’t try to sell you anything or send you anything but the update (unless you happen to be on one of our other lists, of course).
And finally, if you like this blog, feel free to subscribe. But even if you don’t, stay connected via Twitter or our Facebook community, so you’ll be amongst the first to know when new content comes out. We publish 2-3 times a week.
14th January 2014
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)