Setting Up a Mailing List.
If you want people to come to your website more than once then you need to remind them, from time to time, that you exist and give them the latest news about what's changed and what's been updated. One of the best ways to do this is to collect email addresses and use them to create a mailing list. But how do you collect these email addresses and how do you send out emails to so many people all at once?
Collecting the Email Addresses.
Collecting email addresses is easier than you might think. People on the web are used to typing their email addresses in a lot, and usually have an email address to use for this purpose. In most cases, if you ask for an email address as a condition of accessing something interesting sounding people won't really mind giving it to you.
One way of doing this is to simply include a box on each page – unobtrusive and not really calling attention to itself – that gives your visitors the option to sign up to your newsletter. Somewhat counter-intuitively, it is often better to make mailing list sign-up entirely voluntary, as this means you will get a smaller list but it will only have the most enthusiastic people on it.
Basically, it's a trade-off between forcing as many people as possible to sign up or just marketing to the most eager people. Your strategy should usually be decided by how many people you plan to send out emails to and what kind of response rate you seem to be getting.
What to Write in Your Mailing List Emails.
If you want people to read the emails you send to them then they can't just be the latest dull news about your technical website features that no-one even cares about. You need to provide information and updates that are useful and relevant to the person who's going to be opening that email.
If you just write in corporate speak and don't say anything that's going to be useful to real people then your email is going to be going straight into their junk mail. You should take some time over your emails. Make them something that their recipients are going to want to keep and refer to more than once – often-updated, time-sensitive information is best, if you have access to it.
Apart from that, make sure to include links to the latest things on your website, as well as a few older things that are still popular. If you sell anything, you should work in a link, but don't be too obvious about it – a good way of doing things is to include a tip or two with potential uses for a certain product (making them look like they are intended for people who already own the product), sparking the reader's curiosity enough to click through and consider buying it.
The Technical Side.
Once you've got a mailing list and you've written the first email you want to send to it, the next step is to set up the technical side of things. Just how do you think those emails are going to get sent out? Surprisingly enough, you can just use a normal email program like Outlook, if you paste all the email addresses into it. If you do this, though, you need to make sure that you use the Bcc (blind carbon copy) field for the addresses, to avoid sending out a copy of the mailing list to everyone on it.
Alternatively, there are specialist programs you can get that are devoted to bulk mail. Because spam is such a big industry, companies producing such programs tend to be shady – stay away from anything that advertises itself on the basis of how many emails it can send in a minute – but if you look around, you should be able to find something that meets your needs.
There are even web-based solutions that avoid you having to install any programs or send any email from your computer, avoiding the risk that you might get blacklisted somehow for sending out too many emails in too short a time. If you can find a reasonably-priced one, then they're often the ideal solution, allowing you to manage your lists directly and send out emails easily. Make sure to do a few trial runs with smaller numbers of people before you commit yourself to anything, though.