Every experienced blogger and online publisher knows the importance of building a relationship with their readers.

Two of the most important tools for enabling publishers to proactively reach their readers are email newsletters and RSS feeds. 

But which should you use? Or should you use both? If both, how should they be used?

Defining Email Newsletters and RSS Feeds

Before I proceed I will quickly define what email newsletters and RSS feeds are.

Email Newsletter – An email newsletter is a discreet, targeted email, which is intended to send news, information and alerts to its recipients on a regular basis. Recipients should have signed up (or opted-in) to receive the emails.


RSS Feed – RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. An RSS feed allows a website visitor to sign-up to be notified when new content is added to a website or blog. Notification is usually via a feed aggregator or feed reader. Many people use these technologies without knowing they are doing so because the capability is built into their browser or personalised home page.


Which Should You Use?


I recommend using both an email newsletter and an RSS feed on your website.

Every internet user understands email and how email newsletters work. By offering one on your website, you will be providing an option that all your visitors will understand.

Despite RSS having been around for many years less than 7% of internet users use it. It is still perceived as being a geeky and complicated technology. However those that do use RSS, usually prefer it to receiving email newsletters.

By offering both services you give your visitors choice and you should increase the total number of sign-ups.


Misuse of Newsletters


The title ‘newsletter’ describes what a newsletter should be!

It should be an email that provides interesting and useful news to the recipient.

However more often than not, a newsletter becomes an advertisement. Companies forget about the news and cram them full of product information, offers and company announcements.

A newsletter should be a tool for building a relationship and the strong relationship should result in revenue generation. Newsletter marketing should be a two step sales process; build trust and then based on this trust recommend products or services that meet a need.

Therefore think of an email newsletter as a means of delivering quality content which builds your authority, a strong relationship and trust. It should not be an advertisement with a bit of news on the side.


Using RSS Feeds


Similarly, people sign up to RSS feeds to receive useful content

They do not want an endless stream of company announcements and promotions. Ensure that most the content being distributed by your feed is informative, relevant and interesting.

Think carefully before publishing posts that will be distributed via your RSS feed. Ask yourself whether they will be well received or irritate the recipient.


The Objective of Both Email Newsletters and RSS Feeds


Email newsletters and RSS feeds have a short-term, medium-term and a long-term objective.

The short-term objective is to get recipients to visit your website. Both newsletters and RSS feeds should have article headlines and teasers with a link back to your site. You should encourage readers to return to your site as frequently as possible so they feel part of your community. 

The medium term objective is to establish you and your site as a trusted authority in your area of expertise. Readers should look forward to receiving information from you because they know it will be useful, honest and accurate.

The long term objective is to gain an ongoing revenue stream from each member of your loyal audience. Revenues can come from advertising, affiliate marketing, selling products or services, subscription to premium content or from selling offline events, such as webinars, workshops or consultancy.


In Summary

To maximise your potential to build relationships with your visitors you should offer both an email newsletter and an RSS feed.

The primary objective of both content delivery methods should be to build a strong relationship and trust.

Only once trust is established should you focus on monetising the relationship.