This post is one of many posts about growing your email list and making email a priority. If you want to see them ALL, you can bookmark this page as a resource.
For years as a blogger, everything was all about traffic. I am not an obsessive stats-checker, but whenever I did head into my blog dashboard or Google Analytics, I LOVED seeing those numbers jump. I still do.
But along the way, I realized some hard lessons: TRAFFIC IS FLEETING.
It only takes one algorithm shift to tank your pageviews. And, if you are relying on your pageviews for revenue, to tank your INCOME.
My Biggest Traffic Month Didn’t Matter
In June 2015 I had a post go viral that helped push me to over 100k pageviews on my Kirsten Oliphant lifestyle blog.
I have arrived! I thought.
I loved seeing the numbers climb up, even though the big jumps leveled off after a few days. About half my 100k pageviews were from the viral post on Facebook and the other half from the typical traffic I had been having to that time from Pinterest.
The next month, I had no viral posts. And Pinterest changed an algorithm. I went from celebrating to worrying as my traffic continued to dip the next month. And the next.
Soon, I was at a quarter of my viral-post-month’s pageviews, even though I had changed nothing as far as my own actions.
When I got my check from the company running ads on my site (Mediavine, whom I HIGHLY recommend), it was more than usual for that big month, but not crazy big.
When I checked my stats to see how many subscribers I gained for that jump in pageviews, it was more than a typical month, but not crazy more.
That viral month made almost NO impact on anything that mattered. Except, of course, I could now SAY that I had over 100k pageviews. One time. Yay?
Blog Traffic vs Email Subscribers: A Comparison
Even though I didn’t gain a ton of subscribers that month (which was mostly due to me not optimizing my site or having a great freebie), checking the graphs of my traffic and my email side by side looked like this:
The first thing to note is that I really SHOULD have had a bigger jump in subscribers than I did that month with all the traffic. If you see a jump in traffic and not a relative jump in subscribers, you need to take a hard look at your site and your email offers. You likely need to work on your forms or the freebie(s) you offer.
The second thing to note is the consistency of email. In some ways this graph compares apples to oranges. I’m showing you how many pageviews I had per month in blue and how many subscribers TOTAL I had in yellow. If I were to put a comparison of growth percentage per month, that would look different.
But I chose to compare traffic vs total subscribers on purpose. Each month, your blog resets. The traffic count begins again.
With your email list, you DO NOT START AT ZERO each month. You keep growing. So while your traffic fluctuates, your email subscribers should be going up. And up. (The only exception is when I do a cleaning of cold subscribers.)
When Pinterest changes its algorithm (or Facebook does or Google updates), your traffic changes. You don’t get to ride the coattails of a 100k pageviews month.
When Pinterest changes its algorithm (or Facebook does or Google updates), your email subscribers don’t change. You may get LESS subscribers since your site has less traffic. But you may NOT, since list growth isn’t just about your blog traffic.
Why Your Email List Matters More Than Pageviews
Are you starting to get the picture? I hope so, though I’ll admit it took me a bit to convert over to having a list-growth vs pageviews mindset.
After seeing the huge downturn in traffic after my best month ever, I decided to stop putting so much weight into pageviews. Instead, I started focusing on my list. Big time.
I had just started the Create If Writing podcast and put my full efforts not into growing my traffic on this site (though I DID work on that), but into email subscribers.
As a result, I have almost 5,000 email subscribers on the Create If Writing list. And my traffic on this site last month? UNDER 5,000 pageviews.
This totally flips the way I used to look at traffic and how my other site functioned. I had lots of traffic and few subscribers.
To grow my Create If Writing email list that way, I had to be creative in my list-growth techniques. (I’ll share more about that in a later post!) But these numbers show that you do NOT have to chase pageviews to grow subscribers. In fact, you don’t have to have tons of traffic on your blog to grow your list.
THIS IS A GAME CHANGER. And may help you breathe a sigh of relief.
Why You Should Focus on Your Email List
Here are a few more reasons why list growth trumps traffic for me every time.
- Other platforms are not YOURS.
I interviewed Paul Jarvis on the Create If Writing podcast and he compared social media platforms to a playground. Whenever Facebook wants, it can take the ball and go home. You don’t make the rules. You don’t control the games or how other people behave or whether or not you have to pay to play.
Increasingly, you DO have to pay to play. Our search engines and our social media platforms are ALL in the hands of someone else. But email ALONE is something you can deliver directly to someone’s personal space.
YOUR INBOX HAS NO ALGORITHM.
(Yes, if you are on gmail, there are tabs now. But that isn’t every inbox, plus even if your email lands in the promotional tab, it doesn’t disappear. More on this in the next point.)
You have been invited into a more personal space. If you can learn to love and utilize your list well, you will be ahead of all those people trying to game the system with other platforms. Because just when you figure out what works on Facebook, the algorithm changes again and you’re sitting on the sidelines of the game.
- Email is PERSONAL.
When people see your post on Facebook (which these days is like a flying unicorn with two heads), it’s because they have gone to Facebook and Facebook has allowed it. If they see your content on Pinterest, they have gone to Pinterest and the algorithm has decided to share your pin that day.
When you send an email, it goes right to someone’s inbox. It is right next to that email from Susan’s mom.
Clicking like on Facebook is no biggie because anyone knows you might not ever see content from that page. Following on Twitter is not a big deal because Tweets are only relevant for 18 seconds. Subscribing to an email list is DIFFERENT.
Giving away an email address is another stage of a relationship. It’s like the equivalent of having that DTR talk (that’s Define The Relationship) with someone you’re interested in and saying, “Let’s stop just flirting and be IN a relationship.”
Signing up for an email list is much more of a commitment. It takes your relationship to a different level and gives you a level of access that is simply not available on Twitter or Facebook.
- In a crowded space, not as many people are taking advantage of email.
I’ve been blogging since 2007 and have seen blogging evolve completely. When I first started, no one used social media to share posts. You simply wrote a blog post and knew that your people would come find it. Your readers would type in the name of your blog to see what was new on the home page.
Totally different world, right?
We are now in the age of over totally saturated social media and blogs as businesses. I see a lot of entrepreneurs using email well. But I do NOT see a lot of bloggers or writers utilizing email. I see a LOT of missed opportunities and a huge wide-open space. It’s growing, but still under-utilized.
While other people are chasing pageviews from Facebook’s algorithm and spending time deleting pins or scheduling shares at just the right time, you can be doing something far more effective: directly emailing your posts to the people who have already said they want to be in a relationship with you.
But What about Your Blog Itself?
For most people, the main thing is the blog or website. It IS a great central hub where people can find you and see where else they can connect. But I want to argue that email trumps even your blog.
Here’s a story from Pat Flynn to illustrate this. (You can read his full, long story on his site!)
Two years ago, Pat Flynn’s dedicated server crashed. An outside attack on his site shut down Smart Passive Income and his other affiliate sites. TOTALLY. DOWN. For a full week no one could see Smart Passive Income or any of his blogs. He could not log into the back end. Nothing.
It took a week to get everything straightened out. Based on his normal income reports and stats, this glitch cost him a cool $12,000.
(Yeah, I know: this is probably not what you or I would lose if our sites went down for a week.)
But you can’t account for things like people coming to your site for the first time to find nothing. Even dedicated readers are fickle and might just sort of forget to keep checking back after three days of your site showing a “server unavailable” message.
Here is what Pat said about the experience:
“…When I think about this, the blog could have been wiped out and erased from existence, and I still would have been okay thanks to my email list. Worst case scenario, I could easily set up a new site somewhere else and just let my subscribers know, and I’d be back up and running in no time.”
People will still continue to use social media. Even if you have your list all set, you will too.
But when those platforms and even organic Google search aren’t working well, you will have a much more permanent connection to your list.
How permanent? You OWN your email list and can literally print out a CSV file of all those emails and hold them in your hands. Name another platform that can do that!
Final thought: NO ONE EVER SAYS, “I’m so glad I waited to start my email list!”
Start today. Take it seriously. Realize that when Facebook make you pay for ANY reach and your blog server catches on fire (okay, THAT’S unlikely), you will still have the most important thing of all:
Okay, Email is Awesome! What NOW?
I’m not saying that traffic, your social media, and your blog itself are not important. I simply want to make the point that your email list is MORE important than all of these.
So…what do you do about it?
Here are a few actionable things that you can do RIGHT NOW to start making your list better.
START A LIST.
If you’ve done that already, I want you to consider what you’re doing with your list. Sit down with a pen and paper or something like Google Docs and Evernote if you like that better and really think about what you want to send, why you want to use email (like: your overarching goals), and what kind of incentives you can use to get people on your list.
If you want more resources and training, I have a free resource for you! It’s called the Free Email Course and it will help you outline some of the most major parts of your email list.
You can also join my private Facebook group, Email Questions Answered, where there is a totally safe space to ask any question. If I don’t have the answer, I’ll track it down.
Questions? Ideas? Thoughts? Post them in the comments! I’d love to hear them!