Note: this was originally published in July 2014 and has been updated as best practices change, software companies adjust, and I gain new firsthand experience. 🙂 It also contains affiliate links.
But from a marketing standpoint, RSS ain’t so hot. We’re in an age where tracking and analytics are going crazy, but the data available for RSS subscribers is stuck in the past.
Email marketing isn’t just for big businesses sending newsletters promoting themselves anymore. Over the past year or two, we’ve seen startups, bloggers, media companies, and more dive head first into email strategy. And I love it!
It doesn’t matter what kind of blog you have – lifestyle, photo-based, business, or otherwise. It doesn’t matter if you’re blogging on behalf of a company or for yourself. If you have marketing metrics to track, email is more useful to you than RSS.
So what do you do instead? Push email subscriptions.
5 reasons your blog needs an email list
That link above is a post I wrote years ago about why bloggers should push email subscriptions over RSS subscription and start growing their email lists. And it’s only become more important since then. Let’s review:
- People are obsessed with their inboxes: they pay much more attention to the individual items that come through their inbox than their Facebook news feed or Twitter timeline.
- RSS newsletters are too easy & affordable to ignore: RSS newsletters, which we’ll talk about below, are the most basic form of blog email marketing, and they’re so easy that you have no excuses not to use them. If you do nothing else with email, you can do that. Plus, you could easily do it for free, so it’s no more expensive than RSS.
- Emails are more noticeable: reach on social media sucks ass. It just does. And while most people’s inboxes are pretty out of control, it’s still so much better. Go to someone’s inbox for a chance of actually getting seen.
- It’s totally measurable: RSS is an old technology, and it has metrics to match. With feeds, it can be hard to learn enough to make data-driven decisions that are usually so easy with today’s marketing technology.
- They build community: email is still considered a pretty personal medium. You can build a closer connection with your readers through email – where they can reply privately and confidentially
So clearly, you need an awesome email marketing provider.
There are some fancy choices out there – ones that are more marketing automation for growing a business than growing a blog.
The first time I’ve logged into apps like HubSpot, InfusionSoft, and Marketo for day jobs and freelance clients, I’m not gonna lie – it was like a religious experience for me. So many things to do, so many awesome things. 🤓
But they’re not for you – or even me. Not yet, at least.
If you’re just looking to send out new content like blog posts and newsletters, or deliver content upgrades, you don’t need something fancy.
I’m a big proponent of not using tools that are too big for your britches. Yes, you might need fancy stuff later, but there’s no point in having it there now.
You’ll likely pay more than you need to, the advanced features may make other stuff confusing, and you want to focus on what you are doing now, not what you might do later.
There are probably thousands of email service providers (ESPs) that offer RSS-to-email features (what you’ll need to set up an automatic blog campaign), and weighing the pros and cons of each is no doubt daunting.
I know I’m not an expert, but I have tried about everything, so here are my three choices that I think you should seriously consider when you’re first starting your blog:
Reasons why it’s awesome:
- Awesome monkey mascot.
- It’s free until you hit 2,000 subscribers, and still cheap after that.
- It took me about 15 minutes to get a basic RSS-to-email campaign up and running.
- It has a ton of integrations – easily put sign-up forms on WordPress sites, Facebook pages, mobile apps, heck, even on Twitter with a Twitter card
- Awesome monkey mascot
This is the only service I’ve extensively used for RSS-to-email, because I’ve frankly never had a reason to try anything else. They’re awesome.
Plus, out of the “beginner tools,” MailChimp scales the best by far. You won’t need to switch to something else as soon as you’re list really starts going. While you can easily keep things simple at first, it also has a really decent list of advanced email marketing features, too.
For example, you can create custom fields, tag subscribers, segment your list, and deliver content upgrades. It’s soooo much more than a newsletter tool!
Note: To learn eeeeverything MailChimp has to offer, I highly suggest my friend Paul’s Chimp Essentials ecourse! I had been using MailChimp for years when I took it, and still found tons of new ways to use it!
2. Mad Mimi
Mad Mimi is a simple solution that’s best if you’re only sending out blog content, in my opinion. It’s also your best option if you’re not super tech-savvy and want a really simple way to email people your blog posts.
Reasons why it’s awesome:
- Even simpler than Mailchimp, so you can set up a campaign in even less time.
- They also have a free plan.
- Another long list of integration partners.
- Perfect for beginners.
Now, the “perfect for beginners” part can be a con if you’re not a beginner. Mad Mimi feels like a tool for beginners only, whereas MailChimp is good for beginner, intermediate, and even some advanced bloggers.
In Mad Mimi, there’s basically one layout option, which led me to switch back to MailChimp like 15 minutes after signing up to take it for a test drive. I lurve me some options, even though I’m indecisive to my core. 😉
But if you really don’t want to be bothered with trying out and testing different designs, Mad Mimi is probably your best bet.
So, I could list a ton of other ESPs that offer free plans, but I’m not going to. Because their features aren’t optimal for bloggers as much as AWeber is. If you’re primarily using email marketing to deliver blog content, an RSS-to-email feature is going to be pretty darn important.
Reasons why it’s awesome:
- Your first month is just $1, and for smaller lists it’s just $19/month after that, which is still cheaper than most paid plans.
- RSS newsletter feature. Once again, this is really important for the purposes we’re talking about.
- Their auto-responder feature can be used to expose new subscribers to older content.
- Lots of RSS campaign customization options.
- I can’t speak to campaign setup time, but it seems really easy from watching the demo.
- It includes automation features for when you’re ready to step up your game.