By Brian Massey published July 26, 2010

How to Create an Email Newsletter From Your Blog

If you believe that your prospects don’t want to receive email from you, then you are missing a huge opportunity. HubSpot looked at data from 605 business blogs and found that they got 12 times more email subscribers than RSS subscribers on average.

What your prospects don’t want is promotional email that only talks about you and your products. They want you to educate them, entertain them or both.

So, where can you find a regular source of content that is educational, entertaining and easy to produce? Look no further than your blog. If your blog isn’t educational and entertaining, what’s the point of having one?

Here are five steps to turn your blog into an engaging email newsletter for your prospects and customers.

Step 1: Start with a blog

Your company blog is a powerful marketing tool. It is also a way to generate content that is less product-focused and more entertaining than your crafted marketing messages. It may be the most engaging content on your site.

If you blog infrequently or your content is little more than product status information, then the strategy I’m discussing may not work for you.

However, if you use your blog to educate the marketplace on your industry, it will probably make a great email newsletter.

Step 2: Select an RSS-to-e-mail service

The pixie dust in this strategy is the RSS-to-e-mail service.

An RSS-to-e-mail service watches your blog’s RSS feed. When it sees a new post on your blog, it pulls the content from the feed, drops it into a template and e-mails it off to your subscribers.

Most services accept subscriptions from visitors, verify their email address, and manage opt-outs for you. Once you’ve set it up, it is relatively hands-free.

You should select an email service that provides more than blog alerts, such as Feedburner. You want to choose a service that will let you brand your newsletter using a customized template.

Many email service providers (ESPs), such as MailChimp and Aweber offer an RSS-to-email feature that provides customizable templates. If you’re already using an ESP, check to see if they provide this capability.

I use a service called Feedblitz, a very inexpensive service that gives me control over my email template and has many delivery options.

Step 3: Create your email template

Start with one of the service’s standard templates if available. Consider a two-column layout with the “body” on the left and a “promotional” column on the right.

Most of these services will allow you to send a snippet of the post, or “teaser,” requiring the reader to click through for the whole post. I recommend that you put the entire content of your posts in the email. Your goal is to direct visitors to specific offers on your site, not to blog posts.

Use the right column for promotional offers, directing the reader to a landing page on your site. This is a great way to advertise a white paper, upcoming webinar, or demo.

Step 4: Invite subscribers

Now you just need to give your prospects a way to join.

  • Place a subscription form (provided by the RSS-to-email service) on your blog in the top part of the page and at the bottom.
  • Add a subscription form and a subscription page to your web site.
  • Include a link to your subscription page in your email signature.
  • Send an email to your existing opt-in lists giving them reasons to subscribe to your newsletter.
  • Regularly tell your social networks that the newsletter is available to them.

All of these will work to build your e-mail list.

Step 5: Select your frequency

There are two decisions to be made when considering frequency:

  • Frequency of your eNewsletter
  • Frequency of blog posts

Most of these services allow you to set the frequency of your emails. They follow these rules:

  1. If nothing has been posted to the blog since the last one sent, then nothing is sent.
  2. If more than one story has been posted to the blog since the last eNewsletter, all are included. A story index can be constructed automatically for the eNewsletter.

Consider sending your eNewsletter once per week. This means that you need to write at least one blog post per week.

Watch your unsubscribe rates. An unsubscribe rate of greater than 2% may mean you’re sending too frequently, or the content isn’t relevant. Err on the side of sending more often. Most businesses don’t send frequently enough.

With a blog-to-eNewsletter strategy, you’re reaching a targeted, opt-in audience on a regular basis with a variety of content as you blog. That makes your business look smart and keeps you in your prospects’ minds.

What other questions do you have about this strategy, or what other ideas can you provide our readers? Share them in the comments below!

Are your email marketing efforts feeling a bit sluggish? Let our 7-Minute Email Marketing Workout show you how to get your subscribers’ hearts pumping again.

Author: Brian Massey

Brian Massey calls himself a Conversion Scientist and he has the lab coat to prove it. “Conversion” is the process of converting Web traffic to leads and sales, and his practice, Conversion Sciences, brings these disciplines to businesses of all sizes. Brian is a dynamic speaker, presenting before corporations, universities, and at national conferences. He is the author of the The Conversion Scientist, and is a columnist for ClickZ.com and Search Engine Land. Follow me on Twitter @bmassey.

Other posts by Brian Massey

  • http://www.postadvertising.com Jon Thomas

    Great advice Brian. I've been looking to do something like this, so your post is quite timely. Thanks.

    Jon Thomas
    http://www.twitter.com/Story_Jon

  • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

    Jon, Glad the article was helpful. I took a quick look at your blog (http://www.postadvertising.com/) and you've already got a stream of very relevant content that would support a twice-monthly newsletter, if not weekly. I love your writing style and think it would lend itself very well to email.

    Thanks for the comment.

    Brian Massey
    http://ConversionScientist.com

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Brian,

    I wish I had this column last week when I was working through this very project. I'm so glad to read your advice and have picked up a few extra tips, especially on inviting subscribers. I worried about frequency but am glad to see your advice that more is better.

    One indicator I had that it was time to institute an email newsletter of my blog was readers asking for an email delivery of my posts. It didn't click with me right away. While on vacation I realised I wasn't surfing at all but I was still checking my email. It was a light bulb moment for me.

    I've included a blog by email example in my current post, too.

    Sarah

  • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

    As a writer, you have a leg up on creating emails (blog posts) that are interesting, entertaining and relevant. BTW, If you didn't ask for an Address, title and organisation in your form, you'd get more subscribers. http://www.globalcopywriting.com/subscribe/

    Brian
    http://ConversionScientist.com

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Right you are, Brian. I fixed that problem in a West Australian minute. (5 WA minutes = 1 NY minute.) That's another good reminder we all need to trawl our own sites on a regular basis. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/dannygutknecht dannygutknecht

    Good stuff brian.. We should chat soon..

  • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

    Thanks, Danny.

  • bradfuffluff

    How do services like this actually convert your rss-to-email? Is there some fancy code for taking the RSS/XML and converting it to HTML that will work in an email. I would like to be able to do this on my own if possible so I have maximum control of the design.

    • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

      Bradfuffluff,

      There is a code for taking the RSS/XML and converting it to HTML that will work in an email, but it isn’t really fancy. In feefblitz, the tag

      inserts the HTML from my feed into an email template. In MailChimp, the tag is

      *|RSS:POSTS_FULL|*

      If you don’t know HTML, you will find this part of the process more difficult than inserting the titles, text and links from your feed.

      Brian

  • Tom

    Contactology offers this service, and it’s particularly powerful for publishers and daily deals sites. Draw readers back to your offers with newsletter emails populated — and sent — automatically with fresh content. When creating an email campaign select ‘from URL’ and input a URL, XML, or RSS link to pull content from. The content populates a premade template, and the newsletters send themselves.

    http://www.contactology.com/publishers/