Two Hour Blogger

On Marketing and Writing

5 Sure-fire Ways to Boost Your Email Subscribers

image of a rocket

Explosive traffic. It’s cool and all …

But what would you accomplish with beaucoups of traffic?

Although smashing a thousand hits can make you feel groovy, what’s left when the traffic’s gone?

If your site ain’t ready, nothin’.

But if you know the right steps, it isn’t tricky converting traffic into faithful readers and customers. To learn how, you need a mentor: someone who’s been through the fiery battles and knows what works. I know just the man.

They call him Derek Halpern.

I’ve kept it a secret, but Derek’s taught me everything I know about the Internet. How did I hear about Buzz Marketing (the best book you’ll ever read on marketing)? Derek. How did I optimize my email list? Derek. How did I build my first thousand subscribers so fast? Derek.

Derek’s the man.

Have you seen Social Triggers? That’s his blog. Signing up will be the easiest, smartest thing you do this week.

Okay, let’s get down to brass tacks. What has Derek taught me that will help your blog?

1. Get Rid of Every Social Media Link On Your Site

I forgot to tell you he’s radical.

When you display your Twitter and Facebook links in your sidebar, you’re kicking people off your site. This is dumb because email subscriptions are far more valuable than Twitter followers.

Instead, you should capture the email address and then promote social media to your list.

Your sidebar should have ONE call to action – to subscribe. I made this change at Two Hour Blogger and immediately saw a 43% subscription increase.

As Derek would say, “This works, heh.”

2. Add a Subscription Box to the End of Each Post

He’s got no scruples demanding the subscription early and often.

When readers finish an article, they’re looking for the next step. If you leave it to them, they’ll close the page. Instead, you should ask for a subscription. Jeff Goins has written an excellent article explaining how a subscription box boosted his subscription rate. I can’t tell you how many people have used mine.

Get one.

3. Bump the Font Size, Up Cooler Images, & Spread It Out

He firmly believes you shouldn’t need glasses to read Social Triggers. The font is the most readable you’ll find anywhere this side of Zen Habits.

You’ve learned that better images increase traffic. Derek picks the best images, and I challenge you to do the same.

See how everything’s clear? There’s room to think over there, man. You should give your readers more elbow room. Dudes like that.

4. Beef Your About Page

All right, he partly stole this from Copyblogger, but great minds think alike.

The Social Triggers About page has three signup forms. The About page is your site’s most popular page; you don’t want to flush such a ripe opportunity. Sell your blog’s benefits and offer the subscription.

5. Introduce a Featured Box

I saved the best for last.

Derek’s proven that an above-the-fold, full-width opt-in box puts your list on overdrive. I ignored this technique until he did it at DIYThemes: they saw a 51.7% signup increase. Now I’m doing it, and let me tell you, it works.

If you’re unsure how to implement this, here’s how to do it in Thesis; if you’re using Genesis, leave a comment and I’ll fill you in; if you aren’t using either … start. :)

Do This Stuff Right Now

Derek teaches these things at Social Triggers but it’s hilarious: some readers promise they’ll “immediately” change their blog but never do. Don’t make me laugh!

You don’t want to do that.

The #1 Thing Your Can Do for Your Business Today


I make a living building and maintaining websites for small business owners. What is the one thing all of my clients have in common? Find out.

46 Replies

  1. Off topic, I know… but I really like your website’s design. It looks good.

    I don’t think people get complemented enough when they do something good (most people only voice complaints, not complements), so here you go :)

    Get me posting on my own blog again and I’ll give you more praise (seems hard to find the time and energy to do it… could be due to having a full time job and trying to start a company at the same time).

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      I design Web sites for a living, so it better look good.

      1. Really? Contract work, or for someone? I might need someone relatively soon, and I like the style here.

        1. Martyn Chamberlin

          It’s all freelance, man. I’d love to help.

    2. Hi Jason,

      Martyn rocks when it comes to web design. He’s good, knows his way around WordPress, and to top it off, he’s an artist. If you like his style here, you’ll like his work, and I can vouch for his reliability 100%.

      p.s. For the record, Martyn did not pay me to write this. Instead, I pay him to design for me. Hmmm . . . maybe I should take something out of his next check . . . :)

      1. Martyn Chamberlin

        Oh no! Wait a minute! haha

  2. “You should give your readers more elbow room. Dudes like that.”

    News flash …

    Dudettes like that, too. πŸ˜‰

    1. As a matter of fact, I’m sure that “dudettes” do like it as well. In Why We Buy by Paco Underhill, he talks about the butt brush theory which explains that women in stores will leave if they are brushed from behind. The lesson is to keep enough distance between clothing displays so that women don’t get crowded, brushed, and then leave.

      Maybe this has some kind of application similar to what Martyn is discussing here. Yes?

      1. Martyn Chamberlin

        Absolutely man. Nobody likes their hip grazed.

        Sounds like an interesting book. On a 1 to 10 scale, with Linchpin being 1 and Buzz Marketing being 10, how good a read is it?

        1. With Linchpin as a definite 1 and Buzz a scorching 10, Why We Buy is a 9.5. It’s foundational for retail marketing and priceless for research methods. I also haven’t read the new version which contains internet content, so that may bump up the value.

          I’ll put it like this: Prior to Buzz Marketing, Why We Buy was number one on my marketing book list. In case that’s not enough for you, I’ve heard Derek Halpern reference it before . . .

          1. Martyn Chamberlin

            Oh man you’ve totally sold me.

  3. Just checked out “Buzz Marketing”.

    Cool sub-title: “Get People to Talk about Your Stuff”

    Table of contents has the most creative and compelling chapter titles I’ve seen in a coon’s age! :)

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      You won’t fall asleep reading Buzz Marketing, no doubt about it.

      Re: dudettes – my computer puts a red line under that one. Sure it’s a real word? Lol.

      1. :) Well, “dudette” a real word according to the Urban Dictionary. LOL

    2. Buzz Marketing is totally where it’s at. It knocks the socks off of traditional marketing methods and should be required reading for anyone in marketing.

      1. That’s why I recommend everyone read it :-)

        1. Hey Derek – your book sounds like a winner to me.

          It’s pretty tough, in my estimation, to find a book about marketing that isn’t loaded and laced with all the same old rhetoric you can harvest by heading to your search bar.

          I appreciate someone with a fresher, more unconventional approach and, most importantly, someone who’s actually BEEN in the trenches.

  4. Nice post. I can’t wait until I get my iMac back from the repair shop so I can try some of these on it.

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      You still haven’t picked your birthday present either.

  5. Please tell me your secret for the full width opt-in box for Genesis. Many thanks.

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      Glad someone asked! πŸ˜€

      Create a “featured.php” file and add the file to your child theme’s directory.

      Then in your child theme’s functions.php, add this:

      add_action('genesis_before_content', 'include_home_box');
      function include_home_box() {
      if ( is_home() )

      Any HTML you add in the featured.php file will appear after the nav, but before the content. Make it pretty with CSS and you’re off to the races.

      Simple enough?

      1. Ah, was looking for this, thanks!

        Out of pure curiosity, what made you choose the Genesis Framework over some of it’s competitors?

        I see that you are a Copyblogger reader, was there something about the framework that made you choose it over say, Thesis?

        1. Martyn Chamberlin

          Genesis or Thesis? That’s the question.

          I’ve built several sites on Thesis – it’s a good theme.

          The Genesis Framework is easier to work with because there’s only one style sheet. You can empty it and you’re left with raw HTML – which means you’re in complete control.

          Thesis boasts of 3 style sheets, which means there’s gobs of CSS you have to override. And quite frankly, that’s inefficient in both development time and loading speed.

  6. Derek, thanks for recommending Buzz Marketing to Martyn, who recommended it to me. It was a great book! Very enjoyable to read and invaluable for business.

    These are all useful suggestions. My sidebar is currently undergoing surgery, so I’ll be thinking of them. I like the idea of the feature box…hmm…

    Is Linchpin the worst book ever? I thought it was written by Godin? Seth GODin.

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      I actually liked Linchpin; but Joseph didn’t, so I knew he could relate to my scale.

      No, we both agree it could have been more concise. Not all Godin is created equal.

  7. I still can’t get over the ‘remove all your social media buttons’ advice. I shared this on Denise Wakeman’s blog as well. Sure, it makes sense to funnel your blog for your email list, but i would still like to follow you on Twitter and Facebook. So I could retweet or share easily some of the great content you guys produce. You really make it hard for me to follow you since I can not find the buttons on the site.

    Again, I definitely get the point ( even think it’s brilliant :) but still, I wouldn’t mind a button here and there :).

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      You’ve missed the point. Emails are more valuable than Facebook likes and Twitter followers.

      You’re wanting to follow me on Twitter? Give me your email first. πŸ˜‰

      1. Maybe. But sometimes I prefer following someone on Twitter a while to see what she’s up to, before opting in on an email list. I know how valuable emails are from experience. Still, I get a lot of subscribers exactly through Twitter and Facebook.

        1. Martyn Chamberlin

          Yes, and I get a lot of Facebook likes exactly through my email list. πŸ˜‰

  8. Martin, I have to say that I’m a little fearful of trying out tactic #1, even though I have more newsletter subscribers than I do Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn or Facebook followers.

    I get really good engagement on Facebook and sometimes more comments there than on my blog, so I don’t want to limit that stream, especially for newcomers.

    What about putting those SM links on my “About” or “Start Here” page instead?

    Let’s see what happens.

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      Personally, I prefer the comments on the blog and not Facebook. We don’t own the Facebook domain like we own our blogs.

      Just depends on the results you’re looking for. If you want more emails, get rid of them. If you want more Facebook likes, promote that instead.

  9. Hey Martin,

    I just did what you asked in the e-mail… i put this into my facebook update… and i even put a little comment on it… and then, out of no-where, it had a comment from you.. how’d that happen???

    Sheer brilliance… love your work, keep it up.


    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      Strange! Maybe somebody’s impersonating me. I don’t recall leaving a comment. Got a link?

  10. This is a major important tip! To promote only one thing and focus on the email form.

    But I have a question, wouldn’t it be better to use 1 email form instead of 3 on the about page, because it might be overwhelming and confuse the readers, they often say less is more and one is better than many, what do you think about this?

    Oh and thanks for your Genesis code from above πŸ˜€

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      I’m not sure, Harrison. You may not want three, but I’d say two are better than one. It seems to work nicely for me.

  11. Thanks for adding tons of value to my blog =) I love the tip for a Genesis featured box!

  12. Hello. I’ve only just come across this blog and, as I’m considering setting one up in the near future, am finding it very useful!

    I was hoping you could clarify something for me. Obviously when someone goes through the subscribe process you collect their email address. When you write a new blog post do you also have to write an email telling your list that you’ve written a new post, or is that process automated in some way? How does it work on this site? Right now I’m trying to work out the best way to approach this so I’m as prepared as I can be before I start.

    1. Martyn Chamberlin

      Hey Sarah! Here are my suggestions.

      (1) Read this article I’ve written at Problogger explaining how to set up RSS-driven email campaigns in Mailchimp and AWeber.

      (2) See how I do it (You’re already subscribed by email, I see ;)).

      1. Thanks for the quick reply! Yes, I am subscribed, and I’ll look out for your next update. Using a feed to automate emails sounds pretty cool, that’s something I’ve not come across before. I’ll look into that with my current email marketing provider. But, to be honest, I don’t think I’d mind manually creating the email each time if it’s not possible to automate it with them. They make the process so easy and, as the blog post is written, creating the email won’t take too much time.

        Thanks again!

        1. Martyn Chamberlin

          Most shrewd marketers I know end up doing some of it manually anyway (Derek Halpern, for instance).

          Even if your email marketing service supports automatic broadcasts, it’s smart tweaking it a bit. Emails are more informal and less graphic-intensive than blogs – at least when they’re done right.

  13. Hi Martyn
    I might give this Featured Box thing a try – I’ve had a read over at Brian’s site and he sets it out in easy steps.

    “Derek’s proven that an above-the-fold, full-width opt-in box puts your list on overdrive.”
    Sounds good to me.

    BTW – good to see you’re on Genesis – I’ve still got to make the move.
    Currently on Elegant Themes – looks good but so slow!

  14. Martyn Chamberlin

    Overdrive is the truth! A large percentage of my opt-ins come from my opt-in box. You should totally check it out, Keith.

    Elegant Themes are certainly elegant … but you can do everything just as easily in Genesis (if you know what you’re doing) and it loads so much faster. I’d definitely encourage a switch.

  15. Hey Martyn, I’m running my blog on the Standard Theme and would like to experiment with a featured subscription box on my home page and also a subscription box at the end of each post. I’ve tried some plugins that just look like crap. Any tips?

  16. I have no knowledge of coding a form and I want to create a Featured Box. I have all the code in place for a featured box running on Genesis.

    I just need to design a form like Derek’s that will integrate with MailChimp. Where can I find someone or code for a form set up like his?

  17. Great advice, social triggers is one of my favorite blogs to read right now. I am in the process of adding the feature box to my own blog! I also like the tip on promoting social media sites to your list and just keeping the opt-in form.

  18. Just a quick question, Why I can’t see optin form in this blog?