Over the last few months, I’ve been analyzing the subscriber numbers to my three surviving gardening blogs/websites and I have to say it’s been an eduction.
Turns out that a subscriber in your mind is not necessarily a subscriber in their mind – particularly when it comes to older, more established blogs.
Here’s the data that’s hurting you.
People often don’t unsubscribe. They either mark your updates as spam or they simply don’t read it – automatically deleting them unless the headline catches their attention. And everybody has several email addresses and newsletters are often sent to email addresses that are seldom read – it’s the read-it-when-I-have-a-minute email account. 😉
Aweber, the company I use to run my site updates gives me a ton of data on every mailing contrary to the one most of you use (Feedburner)
One of the interesting things they tell me is what percentage of people identify my email as spam every week (over time this number can add up to an amazing figure) instead of unsubscribing. From the reader’s point of view, there’s no difference. Your updates simply disappear. From your point of view, there’s a heck of a difference as the more readers marking your stuff as spam, the more likely the spam-filters will begin to automatically mark you as spam at the server level. Aweber works at the ISP level to ensure that doesn’t happen with its customers.
But if you’re been around for a bit, you understand “open rate” but for folks who have just started, the open-rate is the percentage of people who actually open and read your update. And no, it’s not 100% unless it’s your first month sending things out. After that, it starts to drop and typically, the older the list, the lower the open rate.
Three months ago, I had 20,000 readers. I identified readers who hadn’t opened the feeds in the last two years. Sent them a special note asking them to “do nothing” if they wanted to stay on the list but unsubscribe if they wanted to leave. So if they opened the email and did nothing, they’d stay on the list. If they didn’t open the mail or unsubscribed, then they would be off the list.
The long and short of it is that I worked my way back by six months increments, tossed in a special email to yahoo addresses because of the number who were going to disappear (yahoo being a favorite newsletter address) in their upgrade to clean up my list.
As a result of this, I cut my list in half down to 10,000 subscribers. Open rates skyrocketed – if you get it, you tend to open it. And from my point of view, that’s a good thing.
And my list is no longer lying to me. It’s a clean list and I know how many people read every post, every update on my site.
The size of the list isn’t important, it’s the responsiveness of the list that’s critical and what you’re working for.
The gardening publishing world doesn’t seem concerned about this kind of thing. Most of you count a subscriber as a subscriber no matter whether these folks read it or not.
Too bad, because it’s costing you in the long run.