Subscribers are the bread and butter of popular websites. Your subscriber base is made up of the people who hang on your every word and look to you as a frequent source of information. They’re what I like to call your “most vital visitors.”
Gaining more of these people is how you organically grow. Sure, you can draw new users that don’t yet know you from search, social, and advertising, but if they don’t opt-in for your future updates, your efforts will be far less effective than they could be.
I’ve had a wide array of experiences – from building small blogs into heavily trafficked sites, to optimizing enterprise-sized sites and increasing their monthly traffic. In both cases, a huge factor was having a list of people that have opted-in to receive email updates, push notifications, and so forth. These are the people who subscribed to content and are interested in everything we created.
Your most vital visitors are the ones who matter most, as they not only want your content, but they’ll eventually become loyal to you and begin to spread word of your content through the Web, organically.
I think about all the sites and products I’m subscribed to that provide me great content regularly – and some sites are so good, I just have to add them to my growing list.
All of this had me thinking about what it is that these sites are doing right. So, I came up with a list of five easy things you should do on your site to not miss a beat on getting new subscribers, along with the metrics that will help.
1. Use analytics to clean up your site templates to just the critical actions that matter
Many popular sites have tons of features, links, widgets, add-ons, plugins, and so on, but I find myself quickly subscribing to the ones that take the “less is more” approach. What I mean by this is, it’s hard to ignore a call to action like “Subscribe to not miss additional updates” when it’s the only action, alongside unmissable and unique content.
Bonus tip: A/B test different calls to action to find the language and placement that work for you. Also, if you do nothing else, be sure to use event tracking on your subscribe options so you can measure calls to action in analytics.
2. Clearly define your content strategy and use data to replicate past successes
In a world of infinite content, it’s actually what you don’t publish that defines your site. Everything you do publish needs to be exceptional.
If you post a link round-up, do so in a unique way. Post a response to a popular story that’s currently making the rounds, but add value to that story. Filter out any random ideas and write on what’s left – the gold content. Your site will quickly find itself in the category of exceptional, rather than average.
Data should be your guiding light here. Look at the content reports in your analytics package of choice, and it’ll be clear what’s working and what’s not. Dial up the winners and stop creating the losers.
3. Conduct some competitive intelligence to ensure your approach is unique
Sites and brands are already talking about literally every subject, so you’d be hard pressed to come up with something brand new. While I’m not saying that creating totally original content can’t be done, you should also add an interesting narrative to a subject already presented; even one that is already popular.
There are many competitive intelligence tools that exist, and combined with some research in search and social you can quickly ensure what you’re doing is uniquely valuable. You can also use benchmark reports in your analytics as another measure of how you stack up.
4. Focus on niches that matter
Create content about a variety of things and even go off-beat once in a while. However, most of the blogs I’m subscribed to, I’m subscribed to for a reason – it’s because they are niches in their content. I subscribe to brands for specific content. If I want a variety of posts and topics, I’ll head to a local news website or one of the larger brands of media.
Find your niche, and while you can definitely play around within a scope of content, be sure to not let that scope get too wide. That can potentially ruin an otherwise great site. Use tools like Google Trends in order to find out where demand exists.
5. Give your users a reason to want more
People want to subscribe to something that they can look forward to daily. Your content is your blog’s best marketing resource to attract subscribers and new users. Good content is enough to make people want to subscribe and is reason enough to want more of that content.
Additional ways you can do this are by developing a series of posts on a subject, continuing to add fresh content and writing articles that are inspiring daily. Your content should be so good, that each morsel of it will leave users wanting more.
To sum up
All these tactics should add up to building a subscriber list that is active and engaged, as well as increasingly positive loyalty metrics for your brand and content.
*Article and homepage images via Shutterstock and Flickr.
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