Google 'SEO' and you'll find a multitude of technical tips on how to improve your website's search ranking. But you won't often find much about how your mailing list can help too. Let's look at the hidden relationship between SEO and email marketing.
We divide SEO into three key areas:
- On-page SEO: all the things you do to your content to improve its chances of appearing in search results – adding the right keywords in your copy, using headers and page titles correctly, and so on.
- Off-page SEO: sourcing backlinks to your website from other sites (every quality backlink you get, essentially counts as a “vote” for your content).
- Technical SEO: configuring the technical aspects of your website, so that it conforms to search engine guidelines (for example, ensuring that it loads quickly, works across devices, contains an XML sitemap, etc.).
Yet, to boost your site’s search ranking, you can use other techniques that don’t fit into these three categories.
A good example is social sharing. Google says that its algorithms don’t consider social shares (or followers) when working out where to place your site in search results. But still, there is a correlation between the number of shares a piece of content receives and its position in search results. Pages with a huge number of shares usually perform better.
There are quite a few reasons why social shares can boost search rankings, but a simple one is that they dramatically increase the number of people reading your content. This, in turn, increases the number of people who end up creating a link to your site from theirs (a backlink).
Search engines take backlinks into account. In fact, they are vital in determining how well a site performs in search. Social sharing, in a roundabout or indirect way, gets you more backlinks – the reason why you see so many “share this” icons plastered all over websites.
Email marketing is another one of these “peripheral” tactics you can use to increase the number of backlinks to your website – and thus its ranking. But unlike social sharing, it’s often completely overlooked.
In this post, I’m going to drill down into how you can use a mailing list and newsletters to boost the position of your content in search results.
Email list size and SEO
Just as Google doesn’t take the size of your social media following directly into account when ranking your website in search, it’s not going to take a look at the size of your contact list (in fact it can’t!). It also won’t conclude that because yours is bigger than your key competitor’s, your site should rank higher in search.
However, size does matter, and here’s why: the bigger your mailing list, the more people you can drive to your content via newsletters. The more people you drive, the greater the chance of some of them
- creating a backlink to it (a direct impact on search results)
- sharing it on social media (an indirect impact on search ranking).
The people who went to the trouble of signing up to your email list are likely to be the most engaged consumers of your content. And by extension, to create those valuable backlinks to it (or share it on social media).
The question is: how do you build a large mailing list?
How to grow a mailing list
The secret to mailing list growth usually lies in two things:
- getting a lot of visitors to your website,
- creating heavily optimized web pages to convert these visitors to subscribers.
As for driving large quantities of traffic to your site, this will usually boil down to how well you’ve optimized your site for search engines (you’ll find some simple tips on increasing the visibility of your site in search results here).
Another option is to use online advertising to generate large levels of traffic – if your budget permits.
Whatever way you go about attaining your website visitors, you’ll be missing a trick if you don’t ensure that as many of them as possible sign up to your mailing list.
There are several tactics you should use to convert visitors to subscribers:
- Ensure every page has a mailing list form prominently displayed on it. For blog posts, you could even consider using two forms – one on the side, and one at the bottom of the post.
- Spell out the benefits of subscribing to your email list above each signup form. Make it clear that your visitors will get valuable content, resources, or tools if they sign up to your mailing list.
- Include a subscribe link in your main navigation which leads to a “join our mailing list” page.
- Use landing pages for advertising campaigns. If you’re investing in online ads to grow your email list, it’s usually best to use a dedicated landing page – a squeeze page – rather than pointing users to one of your standard web pages. Squeeze pages eliminate distraction and focus people only on the task of completing an online form. Use A/B testing – test different versions of landing pages against another to see which generates the most email signup rates.
Send newsletters with SEO in mind
Once you’re capturing subscribers onto your mailing list effectively, it’s time to send newsletters to them in a way that actively improves your site’s position in search results.
Show off your content
More often than not, business owners view newsletters as a way to sell stuff – to highlight special offers, new products, and so on. This is all very well and good, and an important use of an email list, but if you focus exclusively on using newsletters this way, you are missing an SEO opportunity.
While it’s fine to send newsletters which promote your goods and services periodically, you also need to focus on using newsletters to promote your content – all the blog posts, infographics and free web tools that you have published on your website to attract visitors.
Ideally, you should identify the most valuable content on your site and plan an email communications cycle which drives people to it.
Automate the messages
The good news is that you can use automated emails, called autoresponders, to manage this process for you. Apps like GetResponse allow you to set these up so that every time somebody joins your mailing list, they will automatically start receiving newsletters – at intervals of your choosing – which direct people to your most important pieces of content.
You can go a step further with autoresponders by using marketing automation to send particular pieces of content to the subscribers who are most likely to appreciate it.
For example, if you run a website about cars, you could use marketing automation to send articles about Audis to people who signed up in the Audi reviews section of your site; articles about Toyotas to people who signed up in the Toyota section – and so on.
You’ll get the most engaged people you can eyeballing the content that is most relevant to them. This is a key aim of all SEO work because the more people consume and enjoy your content, the greater the chance of backlinks being created to it. And more backlinks, as we know, means better search rankings.
And speaking of backlinks…
Encourage creating backlinks
A major part of SEO is backlink outreach – contacting people who run websites and blogs to get them to link from their content to yours.
It’s easy to forget that you can use your own mailing list for this very purpose.
If you are in the fortunate position of having thousands of subscribers on your mailing lists, and a large number of quality posts on your site, why not encourage your most loyal followers to help you with your backlink building efforts?
In the newsletters to my subscribers, I come right out and say it:
Here’s a link to a post you might find relevant to your business. If you enjoy it, it would be great if you could consider creating a link to it on your website or blog.
Now, not everybody on your mailing list will have a website, but a proportion of your subscribers will. Even if only a small number of these site owners create a backlink to your site, this can have a highly beneficial impact on your search results.
Encourage social sharing
It almost goes without saying at this point that it’s a good idea to encourage people to share your newsletters – or their content – on social media.
Most email marketing apps let you add social sharing icons to your newsletters easily enough, and some also allow you to connect your social profiles to the app so that your newsletters are automatically published on your social profiles as soon as they are broadcast.
And it doesn’t hurt to include a “please share on social media” call to action in your newsletter either.
To sum this all up
- Getting backlinks is crucial to improving your site’s position in search.
- You can use email marketing to significantly increase the number of visitors to your website.
- The more email subscribers you have on your mailing list, the bigger the likelihood of backlinks to your site.
- Make sure you have mailing list signup forms placed prominently on your website.
- Spell out the benefits of joining the mailing list to your site visitors.
- Create clutter and link-free landing pages to capture your visitors’ details, as they tend to convert better than standard web pages.
- Use your mailing list to promote not just your goods and services, but your content, too. (Autoresponders automate this process.)
- In your email newsletters, explicitly ask people to create backlinks to the content you are sharing.
- Encourage social sharing of the articles featured in your newsletter.
I hope you find these tips useful – and good luck with using your mailing list to improve your search results!