I’ve been writing the #SEOForLunch newsletter for over four years. It’s been a passion project of mine that until last year I simply let grow organically. Let’s be honest, top-notch content helps you retain your subscriber base, but you want your list of subscribers to grow to justify the effort and time going into generating the content. I’m going to show you a few tactics I’ve discovered that helped me grow my list that you don’t read about every single day online.
Before we jump to the successful tactics, let’s cover two that didn’t work (for me).
Paid Social Ads
Get in front of your audience and they will sign up, right? Wrong. I’m not a paid media wiz by any means but for my newsletter, my audience is incredibly aware of paid advertising and they won’t easily be sold to. I spent hundreds of dollars on various ads with VERY LOW ROI. I quickly determined that paid ads weren’t going to be a scalable solution for the audience I’m targeting.
Here in Minnesota, we have a local search association called MNSearch. Each year, hundreds of local search professionals, developers and marketers alike get together for the MNSearch Summit. I worked with the board of directors to include the #SEOForLunch as an official sponsor. At the end of the conference, I had ~5 signups. It’s an amazing conference and I love having my brand associated with this group but it wasn’t the boost in signups that I hoped for. I’ll be sponsoring again in 2021 but have much more realistic ROI expectations.
Three Tactics That ACTUALLY Helped Build My Subscriber List
Once I recognized that the easy “pay to play” options weren’t going to work I had to get a bit creative if I wanted to grow my newsletter. Below are three tactics that to date have shown significantly more ROI then what I received from the attempts mentions previously.
Chrome Plugin Confirmation Conversions
Two years ago, one of my favorite SEO chrome plugins completely disappeared without notice. I didn’t realize how much I relied on it until it was gone. After a few months of suffering, I decided that I was going to re-create the plugin and make it even better. The result, Inspect Canonical.
Since this plugin was valuable for me, I decided to give it away to anyone else who might find it valuable. When someone adds the extension to their Chrome browser, they are redirected to my website confirmation page. On this page, the user gets more information on the extension and has direct access to me if they have questions.
It occurred to me one day that since users that download the extension would also be qualified subscribers for the newsletter, I should add a strong CTA on the landing page. The below screenshot now shows you the new experience.
The result, roughly 5% of those who download the chrome plugin have also signed up for the newsletter. Not a flood of new subscribers but it does bring in a steady flow of signups as the extension continues to grow.
Piggy Backing Off Top Ranking Content
Ideally, we would all rank for our [core offering + newsletter] type keywords. In my situation, I’m not anticipating knocking off Moz and their top 10 newsletter anytime soon, if ever. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t piggyback off some of the sites that are capturing traffic from SEO newsletter related queries. In fact, one blog post ranks pretty well for a plethora of keywords that are relevant to my newsletter. Using SEMRush’s traffic trends and top organic keyword reports, I was able to confirm the traffic to this post is from the keywords I coveted.
I reached out to the owner of the post and introduced them to my newsletter. I had coincidentally linked to them a few times in previous issues and pointed that out to them as well. I then asked if they would consider adding my newsletter to their post, they agreed. WIN!
As a result, I capture a few sign-ups each week piggybacking off the traffic they get organically. Again, this tactic isn’t sending droves of new subscribers but this strategy can easily scale as you identify more of these opportunities. It’s also interesting to note that my newsletter is listed in the middle of the post which is long. I suspect those listed higher up on the post see an even higher conversion rate.
Word of mouth (and stickers!)
Remember at the beginning of this post I mentioned that great content is what really helps with scaling your newsletter growth? It’s cliché but very true. However, most people aren’t leveraging their existing subscribers – your biggest advocates!
Don’t be afraid to ask your readers to share your newsletter. You would be surprised how many already are and will continue with a little nudge or incentive. My biggest ROI has come from stickers. At any point, I’ll send out dozens of #SEOForLunch stickers to my subscribers.
As you can see above, I encourage folks to rock the sticker on their laptops. Across two agencies, my teams and even clients have sported these stickers. It gives additional visibility to the newsletter and is a fun ice breaker for when you’re in meetings.
While my measurement plan on this tactic isn’t perfect, I’m confident that word of mouth and these stickers drive the lion’s share of new subscribers to my list. My subscribers are amazing and always provide great feedback to make the newsletter better each week. They are amazing advocates for sharing the newsletter with friends, co-workers, and even clients. Hand’s down the best ROI to date.