Most visitors to your site land up because they found your site on google or they clicked a link you placed somewhere.
They come, they see, they leave and they forget about your site.
If the post they came in for interested them, there is a good chance that they would be interested in other posts that you would make.
Giving the visitors an option to subscribe to an email from your site is an excellent way of keeping them updated as soon as you post something.
There are several options, paid and free. There are also self-hosted options and out-sourced options. Among the paid options are MailChimp, Feedblitz and AWeber. These services don’t come cheap, costing more than $100 for 10,000 subscribers.
The free email options do the job as well, if not better than the paid ones. The only advantage of the paid options is that you can choose multiple templates, different types of signup forms, have email analytics etc.
Free Email Options:
Among the free options are “Feedburner”, Google Groups” and “Yahoo Groups”. In all, you get a subscription form that you can place at a strategic place on your site. The visitor enters his mail, gets a confirmation mail that he clicks on and gets opted in.
There is an advantage and a disadvantage in the Groups vs. Feedburner.
The advantage of groups is that it acts like a forum with (if enabled) the members being able to participate and send emails to the group. This works well when you have a tightly knit group of people interested in a specialized topic.
The other advantage of Groups is that, as an administrator, you can send emails as soon as, and as frequently, as you want. So, say, you have a breaking news post on an event that has gripped the nation. Being able to send an email now is far more valuable that being compelled to send the mail after several hours.
However, this can also become a disadvantage because you have to manually send the emails. On the other hand, Feedburner grabs the RSS Feed and automatically sends out an email at the time chosen by you. You have to just post in the normal way and can rest assured that Feedburner will tell your subscribers about it.
The advantages of Feedburner are:
(i) It collects the email addresses of the visitors;
(ii) It automatically sends emails to the confirmed subscribers at the prescribed time;
(iii) The emails rarely land up in the spam box of the recipient because Feedburner is whitelisted by every email provider.
Self-hosted Email Options:
A self-host option is PHPList. The advantage is that you collect the email addresses and you customize the email template and add html markup, graphics etc and you can send the emails as and when you please.
The disadvantage is that it involves a lot of work configuring the programme and also consumes a lot of resources. Most webhosts have a limit on the number of emails you can send. Yahoo Small Business has a ridiculous limit of 250 emails in 24 hours! Others like BlueHost have a limit of 500 mails in 1 hour. However, if you have a large list of subscribers, it could take several hours to send one email to the entire list.
The other disadvantage of a self-hosted email option is that a large number of mails will land up in the recipient’s spam box and may never get seen. This is because the host recognizes them as having come from a mass-mail and dumps them there unless they get whitelisted by the recipient.
Another self-host option is the WordPress plugin called “Email newsletter”. However, this will suffer the same problems as PHPList.
How to create a Pop-Up Box with the email subscription box:
To grab the visitors attention, you can have a pop-up box appear gently when the page opens.
To not annoy the visitor, make sure the pop-up box appears only once in the session and can be dismissed by clicking anywhere on the page.
There are several pop-up box plugins available for wordpress. The one I liked is the “Modal Dialog” plugin. It lets you customize several aspects of the box. Just grab the subscription code from Feedburner, enter it into the Modal Dialog box, customize it and you are good to go.