Why You Should Add E-mail Subscription Service to Your Blog

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If you have a blog, you should offer visitors a way to subscribe to new posts via e-mail. This means they can receive new posts via e-mail without having to visit your blog.

You should offer this whether your blog is frequently updated or rarely updated—but especially if it’s rarely updated. Why?

  • It’s a good and valuable service to provide for readers who don’t want to miss your posts.
  • It’s a free service you can provide.
  • The services are automated and hands-off; you don’t have to manually subscribe or unsubscribe readers. It happens all by itself. (Each e-mail comes with instructions in the footer on how to unsubscribe.)
  • You’re keeping ahold of readers in a more personal way. A high number of e-mail subscribers can be just as important and impressive as your monthly visits—plus it shows a dedicated and involved readership.

Implementing an e-mail subscription form or widget is easy if you use a popular blogging service. It’s a little more complicated if you host your own site, but still easy. Here’s how to do it.


Wordpress e-mail subscription

Go to the “widgets” area of your WordPress.com dashboard and look for the “Follow Blog Via Email” widget (shown above). Customize it and add the widget to your sidebars, footers, or wherever else you think it makes sense to display it on your site. I recommend you display it alongside every individual blog post.


Blogger e-mail subscription

Go the “Design” tab, where you can add and arrange your page elements. You want to “add a gadget,” and look for the “Follow by email” option. Blogger will automatically set up a Feedburner account for you to handle the e-mail subscription service (which is awesome).

Self-hosted WordPress sites (and others)

To get started, set up a Feedburner account. This is a free Google service, and you needn’t know anything technical to get started. (Feedburner also covers you on RSS feeds if needed, but that’s a different post.)

If you’re running a self-hosted WordPress site, your WordPress theme may have a specific place for you to input Feedburner information as part of the design and setup. If not, and you’re unsure how to integrate Feedburner, read these helpful instructions.

After that point, it’s mostly an issue of making people aware, on your site, that an e-mail subscription is available. Here’s how to grab the code you can place on your site (from your Feedburner dashboard):

Feedburner e-mail code

Go to your Publicize tab, click on “E-mail Subscriptions,” then look for Subscription Form Code and Subscription Link Code. For my site, I use only a subscription link (look to my righthand sidebar, on the right).

Once you’ve publicized the form or link to subscribe via e-mail, you’re done.

Then you get to watch people sign up! Feedburner offers analytics on how things are going.

Feedburner stats

One final suggestion for your e-mail delivery:

  • If using Feedburner, customize the subject line. I recommend each e-mail show your new blog post title, not just your site name. This option is under Publicize > E-mail Subscriptions > E-mail Branding.

Customize e-mail subject line

Here’s the code you can copy and paste. Just use your site name, not my name!

Jane Friedman | ${latestItemTitle}

There are many other ways you can customize the e-mails sent from Feedburner. Unfortunately, the Feedburner system isn’t the most intuitive or easy to use. The persistent, however, are rewarded. For more step-by-step information on setting up Feedburner and customizing it, here’s a helpful series from Eli Rose.

Do you have tips for using Feedburner? Or overall tips for e-mail subscriptions? I hope you’ll share in the comments.


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Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. From 2001–2010 she worked at Writer's Digest, where she ultimately became publisher; more recently, she was an editor at the Virginia Quarterly Review, where she led digital strategy. Jane currently teaches writing and publishing at the University of Virginia and is a columnist for Publishers Weekly. The Great Courses just released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (2017). Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.
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  1. Thanks for the tips on Feedburner, using this now on my wordpress.com blog. Think it offers more options for people than the wordpress default one

    Thanks again

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  2. Thanks for this helpful overview. I’ve also really liked MailChimp’s offerings so far. The advantage they have is that you can use an RSS-powered campaign but still set how often emails get sent. (With Feedburner, emails are sent every day if there are new items.) You can also do a lot of customizing of the layout and content for the messages. The other advantage is that when people subscribe, they are subscribing to a list, and through MailChimp you can send custom messages to that list besides just the automatic/RSS messages. This could be handy for sending a special notice about events, releases, etc.

  3. Are you able to read minds? Top of my list today in the process of getting my new blog up and running is to get a Feedburner account, and to get the subscription process working. Thank you for this excellent (and eerily timely) assistance!

  4. Great info, Jane. I learned something about Feedburner, thanks!

    Automatic recently released the Jetpack plug-in for self-hosted WordPress installations. It offers most of the extras you get from hosting through WordPress, including easy email subscriptions. 

  5. Jane, thanks a lot—I hadn’t see the code on how to have your post title, not merely your blog name, appear in the mail’s subject line. An easy fix, thanks to you.

  6. YES YES, a thousand times YES.  As part of my declutter life campaign I got rid of my feed reader because I had too many blogs and not enough time.  There have been other blogs that I wanted to subscribe to but there was no email option and…guess what.  I didn’t subscribe and now I’ve forgotten them.   This is so important.

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  8. I’ve been wondering if this is a feature I should add to my blog.  Thanks for the post, advice and instructions!

  9. A friend (Laurie Gray) passed along these tips. I thought I had added my widget to my WordPress blog but had not. Did it quickly! I thought having a reader click thru my website was better for my numbers than allowing them to read posts via email, but your statement about this convinced me to add followers too. I met you once at Midwest Writers Workshop in Muncie IN. You’re very helpful. Thanks! Kayleen Reusser www. KayleenR.com

  10. Great post Jane, I had already set this up on my blog but you made it very clear why it’s such a good idea. I did it because I like getting blogs by email.

  11. Jane,
    Is thre a way to key Feedburner (or anything else) to a blog category alone, and not the site in general?  See, I’ve broken one of the cardinal rules (cheeky me) and my blog has two different streams: writerly goodness (as I call it) and training (’cause that’s my day job, and I’m really kind of keen on it).  Whatever else my blog is or isn’t it’s reflective of me and my interests, and they sometimes overlap …  In any case, I’d like to offer the option for followers to subscribe to either one master category or the other, so if both of my interests aren’t theirs, they can get what they want … and it’s all good. 
    I’ve been holding off putting up a subscription service for this reason.
    Let me know what words of wisdom you have for the neophyte (only on WP since November).

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  14. Thank you for the information about feedburner.  I was not aware of it until now.  All of this is still very new to me and I appreciate the information you are sharing here.

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  19. Thank you Jane.

    I am chinese, before i use qq list to collect subscribers. It can support 50k subscribers and free. But it is in chinese so can not support my another website which is English.

    I search this Email subscription service for one month and now i find it . Thank you!!

    But because Google just stop service for Google Reader. So do you think Google will Stop service for feedburner maybe one year latter. What can i do if it happens?

    • Indeed. I recommend going to MailChimp or Campaign Monitor if Feedburner should close—but they’re not free beyond 2,000 names. I don’t know of any competing service—something like Feedburner—that IS free.

  20. I found your blog by accident, and it’s a serendipity. I need help with both writing and setting up my blog.

    My blog is on WordPress. org and is hosted by HostGator. My immediate problem is adding the ‘follow blog via email’ widget, as described above, in the 2012 Theme. There isn’t one. Can one be added? Or do I have to change theme’s, which I believe will be a lot of work. Thanks for being here.

    • “Follow blog via e-mail” is a WordPress.com widget that isn’t immediately available to self-hosted WordPress users (regardless of theme). However, you can add that functionality back if you install the Jetpack plug-in.

      • Hi Jane, I found your blog post by internet research about email blog subscriptions. I have followed your instructions to set up a feedburner feed on my Weebly blog. I subscribed to my own feed, as I’ve been told by a number of friends, and this morning posted my first blog after adding feedburner. I didn’t get an email about the new blog post.

        I’ve looked on help and found out: my blog isn’t > 512k, the HTML code was pasted correctly into my blog editor to make the email subscribe box on the R hand side. But I still don’t get any emails. Do you have any idea what I’m doing wrong please? Any help would be much appreciated.


        Liam Livings

        • 1. When you login into Feedburner, and refer to your e-mail subscriber list, is your e-mail address on it? (You can download this list to check.)

          2. Are you sure that e-mail subscriptions in Feedburner are enabled? I believe the default is “off.”

          3. If you go to your Feedburner URL (where your live feed is displayed and people can subscribe), do your posts display normally?

          4. Have you checked your spam folder to make sure the e-mail is not being marked as junk?

          5. I would ask a friend to subscribe via e-mail, and see if they receive it, to double-check it’s not a problem with your own e-mail service.

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  23. I’m super confused by subscriptions, from a blogger’s point of view (vs subscriber). Is there a reason I’d want both RSS (linked like a social icon, for instance) AND a custom newsletter?? I personally hate RSS feeds and don’t use them myself, so I haven’t even tried to put one on my blog. But I love custom newsletters, so I’m finally preparing to implement one, and am pretty sure I’m going to use MailChimp. Thoughts? Advice? Thanks!

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