One of the best things you can do to grow your audience as a blogger is to have a mailing list.
Instead of having people stumble upon your blog only to leave and perhaps never return after an initial visit, the idea is to capture their email addresses (with their consent, of course), so that you can continue to update them whenever you publish new content.
Converting as much of your web traffic into to subscribers becomes a crucial strategy to succeed with your blog, especially now that RSS users are becoming a rarer breed.
You’ll want to sign up with a mailing list management service such as Aweber or Mailchimp and embed (or at least link to) your sign up form on your site. You can see mine in the sidebar, and here is a link to the standalone signup form.
In order to entice as many visitors as possible to sign up with your blog mailing list, you’ll want to offer up a worthwhile freebie to potential new subscribers. This freebie is sometimes called a lead magnet.
It should be something that is appealing to your visitors. Something that provides value to them. After all, you’re asking them to provide you with their personal information in exchange for such.
At the moment, I don’t have any such freebies available on my sites, but creating them is definitely on my to-do list for all of my blogs.  It’s that important.
There are a few common lead magnets that bloggers use:
- Courses 
- Videos and screencasts
- Reports / White papers / Blueprints
- Resource guides
- Coupon (discount) codes
It might be tempting to think that the more effort you put into your freebie, the more signups you’ll obtain. The common experience among digital marketers, however, disproves that.
It’s more about providing value and soliciting curiosity in your readers than the size of the gift. No need to go overboard. If you create a 250 page PDF as your lead magnet, you might be surprised to see that it doesn’t work as well as you hoped it would.
The reason for this is quite simple. People are busy. You’re essentially asking your readers to commit to reading a full-sized book. And they may or may not get the value that you put in it, and the weeks or months you spent writing it.
It turns out that the best bang for the buck in this regard is offering resource guides. They take little time to create and tend to really capture the visitor’s attention. An example of a resource guide for a fitness blog might be a one page PDF file titled, “Top 5 Apps Used by Elite Athletes”. 
Creating resource guides requires little effort, but will immediately draw new signups. Since you’re not spending months creating a lead magnet, you can focus more on your blog content (to draw more visitors to convert to subscribers), as well as possibly creating multiple freebies.
You could, for example, develop a different freebie for each category within your blog, and then entice people to sign up for your site’s newsletter by promising the most appropriate freebie within a given article (depending on the category that it belongs to).
Your articles on exercise could use the aforementioned type of guide, while your weight loss articles could use a different one that was oriented more towards diet and/or nutrition. Perhaps, “10 Superfoods for People Who Are Dieting”.
No matter what you choose to provide your readers with, go through the trouble of creating at least one enticing freebie. And if you simply are not able to do so right now, then at least make sure that you have a signup form on your site, so as to start building your subscriber base.
You can always add the freebie at a later stage to sweeten the pot for your new and existing readers alike.
- For Technical Blogging, I’ve been toying with the idea of making the first three chapters of my book available to people who sign up for the mailing list, but it’s not set in stone yet. My logic behind the idea is that it provides value, doesn’t require extra time (or much time) for me to produce, and it could help to further entice people to consider buying the whole book. Obviously, if you don’t have a book this is not applicable to your blog. ↩
- I’m a big fan of courses that are delivered over the span of a few different emails. They make the email address collecting side of things feel less like a bribe and more as a necessary part of the process required to deliver your appealing content. ↩
- Humans have a natural tendency to believe that the sorts of tools that are used by successful people will also lead them to their own success. ↩
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