Because I want to focus most of my time on writing, I have a team member, Michelle, who focuses on the technical wizardry that makes this blog work. I asked her to do some research and let me know how she thought we could best drive more signups. Her response was so good, I couldn’t keep it to myself.

This post is both a case study in what type of people you need on your team, and what you can do with your blog to drive more people to subscribe. Regardless of what else you do with marketing your blog, you want to get people to subscribe to get your posts via email. This is better than Twitter/Facebook/Google+ followers, better than RSS subscribers, better than anything else because once that post goes live, those email subscribers get the email, many of them read your post, and they start sharing it on social media, linking to it from their websites, and you get all those SEO benefits and it’s a beautiful thing.

With this blog we’ve had some challenges with rankings, and with traffic. We’re still digging into it, but it appears it may not be the frequency of posting at all, but a technical issue that goes beyond the obvious and is going to take us a little time to sort out. But if something good has come out of this, it has been that we’ve been exploring many other options beside ranking well to drive traffic to this blog. Here’s what Michelle came up with.

I have been thinking about for a few days and looking at other websites suggestions for maximizing subscriptions and other than SEO and other techniques irrelevant to the design, what I have found is pretty much what we have been discussing. We need a better description of what is going on and what this blog is about, we need lots of subscribe buttons (which we have), prominent subscribe buttons (have). But there are a couple of things mentioned that we aren’t doing. Here’s a list of a few things SEVERAL websites mention, but I’ll just link to one article per item:

1) Dedicated subscription page. Many sites reference the fact that mobile users don’t want to type in that tiny little input field, no matter how prominent. So, instead of wrecking your site by displaying some HUGE input field on your home page, you can create a dedicated subscription page and direct users to it. I think this is a really nice option. I think you should still keep some of the quick subscribe boxes but in some areas we can direct them to the subscription page with a big box. Read a little about this here (number 4).

2) Popups. Ok, I realize this is not really optimal – read on anyway. I know how much you, I and other millions of people hate popups. But according to several resources, they work very well. Especially if they are timed correctly. This guy did some studying and found some interesting statistics.

However, if we were to even consider a popup, I think it needs to be completely noninvasive. Have you seen the small ones that slide out of the side of the page after you have reached a certain point in the document? Like this one (scroll about halfway down the page). This popout is too large but what if something small and eye catching slides out after the user scrolled to a certain point in the page?

Also notice the bar at the top of this blog’s site? This is one way we could make use of the dedicated blog page instead of a input box.

3) Clear description of what is going on. You and I have discussed this, I think I know of a way we can implement it without ruining your website. Go over to your website and re-size the window until you get the search bar to drop under the navigation. Here we have your header and now a grey bar that is displayed underneath your header. What if we made use of this grey bar on full screens too, but on full screens it would contain a sentence or so about what what this blog is about. Like a little tagline similar to your current tagline on Forbes “I write about startups, Hong Kong, and online marketing.”

That’s what I found for increasing subscriptions from a UX perspective. But, I also came across another couple interesting techniques people use to get subscribers. Figured you’d be interested.

1) Start a series, pick your topic write part 1 and tell people to come back next week for part 2. Remind them to subscribe in order to not miss part 2 and 3.

2) Offer something, I know you are not selling anything. So offer 1 of 2 things, exclusive subscription only content. Which you and I will have to figure out how to handle that. But I think I read about a plugin that writes content exclusively to your feed, so the member would either HAVE to be receiving emails or checking your RSS to ever see this content. Or write up a 10 page article on how you got started and offer it or a preview of it.
Think about some of the website techniques and let’s discuss which ones you want to try.

When I get a response from a team member like this, the first thing I think is “Good heavens, we’ve got to keep Michelle happy.” I’m grateful to be able to work with people who can take a task like this and own it. I especially appreciate that Michelle isn’t just a yes-woman, but she’s even pushing me to do something she knows I don’t like (popups). But because she knows that, she came up with a way to do it that she thinks will get the job done, and that I might be willing to try out. And then she even gave me some extra ideas.

We are going to try all of these ideas out, and more. Will they work? They’ve worked for many other people. I’ll let you know how it goes for us here.

Have you employed any of these techniques for getting more subscribers on your blog? What has worked? What hasn’t?