[AMA] Growing a newsletter and a blog to 2K subscribers and 100K visitors in 2 months
Hey everyone! πŸ‘‹ I left Google two years ago to start my own thing, and I'm currently dedicating my time to build products and write content that help makers be happier and healthier while getting things done. Some of my projects include a Chrome extension that reminds you to take mindful breaks, and an online magazine for makers. I'm also a part-time neuroscience student, a certified mental health first aider, and a self-taught coder. Everything I work on is more or less at the intersection of neuroscience and entrepreneurship. 🧠 I just launched my newsletter on Product Hunt today and wanted to take that opportunity to answer any questions you may have about growing an email list. I'm far from being an expert but I've experimented quite a bit with various ways to get traffic and convert it to new subscribers. I've started writing Maker Mind in July and it has grown to 2,300 subscribers and almost 100K visitors, all organically. In my spare time, I like reading (How to Change your Mind by Michael Pollan and The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben are my latest favorites), exploring new countries, trying new wines, eating cheese, and spending time with friends and family. AMA!
posted by Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Comments (49)
Abadesi
Founder & CEO, Hustle Crew
Wow this growth is incredible! Can you tell us what role data plays in improving your newsletter? How much do you tweak things like subject lines, length of the newsletter, how you create links etc, in order to improve open rates and click throughs?
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@abadesi Thank you! I'm trying to keep it simple and focus mostly on open rate, click rate, and subscriber growth rate. I do experiment with little things to see how it impacts all of these. For example, I noticed that adding an emoji at the end of the subject line has a significant impact. (a positive one!) Also, adding a short description of what links are about has helped to increase the overall click rate. People like to have a sneak peek! πŸ‘€
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Abadesi
Founder & CEO, Hustle Crew
@anthilemoon Great tips! I'll experiment with emoji in the subject line, too
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Lea Jovy (was Woodward)Intimacy as a superpower.
@abadesi @anthilemoon Love the emoji tip, gonna have to have a play with that too!
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Sharon BlattContent & Email Marketing
@abadesi @anthilemoon Thanks for the tips! What do you mean by description of the link? Where do you get new subscribers ?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@fashion_hacks I mean describing what the links are about rather than just listing them in the newsletter. And I mostly get new subscribers from Twitter, Facebook Groups and Hacker News.
Rahul ChowdhuryMaking Airtyper at https://airtyper.com
How do you get your first visitors while starting a blog? Also, what inspired you to learn coding?
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@rahulchowdhury At the very beginning, I didn't have much visitors and it was quite depressing. But I decided to keep on writing consistently. Every time I write an article, I post it on Twitter, Hacker News, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Most of the time, I get a few visitors, but sometimes an article really strikes a chord and gets re-shared tons by people who read it. This is how I got most of my visitors. Regarding coding, I had a bad experience with a first startup where I paired up with a technical co-founder I didn't know well from before. It didn't work out. I decided to learn how to code so I could either build stuff myself, or pair up with someone because I really enjoyed working with them, and not because I was desperate for their help! Turns out, learning how to code is actually fun, so that's an added bonus 😊 Thanks for the thoughtful questions!
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How do you decide which content to write on? Are focusing on SEO at the moment?
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@meetchopra Great questions! I basically always take notes as I go about my day. I often interrupt people because they said something interesting to make a quick note of it πŸ˜… So I take notes while I read stuff, chat with people, work, etc. And I'm not specifically focusing on SEO because I want to grow the newsletter by writing content I care about, but I do use a SEO plugin for Wordpress called Yoast which helps me optimise my articles (making sure the title is not too long, adding relevant descriptions to images, etc.)
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Lea Jovy (was Woodward)Intimacy as a superpower.
Awesome growth! I'd love to hear a breakdown summary of (a) The strategies that have worked best for you to gain subscribers, starting from scratch and (b) The tactics that have helped you tweak/adjust those strategies.
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@leajovy Thank you! Strategies that worked best: β€’ Writing consistently: it's a lot of work but I post a new article every week day β€’ Posting on Twitter and HackerNews: sometimes articles go viral and this is where I get most of my growth from at the moment, but the SEO juice is real too and growing β€’ Asking for feedback: I often ask people what they'd like me to write about, so it helps having great content aligned with what my audience wants Small tweaks: β€’ I add an emoji at the end of every subject line, it's silly but it does help with open rates β€’ Adding an exit-intent popup on the website, I find these annoying but they do work very well, got 400 out of 2,300 subscribers from these I hope that helps! :)
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Lea Jovy (was Woodward)Intimacy as a superpower.
@anthilemoon Awesome, thanks so much for sharing that...so impressed by the article every week day. "Writing consistently" – I've known (and done) this for years. Then I got swayed by those ads which ask why you're still creating content, sharing on social media blah blah blah when there's a much smarter way (DOH! I know!)...then fortunately my logical brain kicked in again! Love the emoji tip, definitely going to try that. Thanks, Anne-Laure :)
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@leajovy Thanks, Lea! And there are probably many different ways to grow a blog, but I think writing consistently is the best way to grow an engaged audience. Even if it takes more work! Thanks so much for your thoughtful questions :)
Al Chen
Solutions Architect at Coda.io
@leajovy @anthilemoon What is an "exit-intent popup?" Is it a popup that shows up X number of seconds after you've been on the page?
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philipptemmelProduct Designer | creativerly.com
@anthilemoon @alchen I think it is a pop up that shows, when you intent to leave the site. So if you are moving your cursor to the back-button or you want to close the window or the whole browser, you will see the popup. 😊
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Louis Nicholls
Founder, Javascript Believer
Hi @anthilemoon, big fan of the newsletter. Do you have plans to monetise it in some way? If so, how? Also, I really like how you describe yourself as being at the intersection of neuroscience and entrepreneurship. In my experience, a lot of opportunity (and value) can be found in being an expert in two very different fields. Did you factor that into your decision to start Maker Mind? (vs working on other projects)
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@louisnicholls_ Thank you! I plan on monetising with paid content such as ebooks and courses. I may have a paid subscription in the future with exclusive, more in-depth articles so I can generate MRR. And I did! These are the two topics I most care about and it's easy for me to come up with content because I spend so much time studying neuroscience and managing my business. Thanks for the thoughtful questions!
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Graeme
Making Prototypr.io and Letter πŸ’Œ
this is amazing, how much of the success in growth do you think owes to strategy/tactics versus just producing content you are passionate about?
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@graeme_fulton Great question! I think producing content I'm genuinely passionate about is a big factor. People can tell if you're just trying to play the SEO game.
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Graeme
Making Prototypr.io and Letter πŸ’Œ
@anthilemoon just what I thought! Thanks!
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Alex Edmondshttps://baib-podcast.com
Have you experimented with putting the emoji at the beginning of the subject line at all?
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@supremerumham I haven't! I should probably see if it changes anything!
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John YarbroughHead of Communications @Lifesize
First, thanks for doing this. I wasn't familiar with your newsletter previously, but I love the concept - just signed up. How do you measure what is/isn't working with your audience? Obviously data is part of the equation, but I was curious if you actively solicit feedback as well? If so, how do you balance what data suggests people like vs what people tell you they like (assuming there are differences)?
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@jyarbrough Thanks so much for signing up! I do actively solicit feedback. In each edition I remind people that I love receiving feedback and suggestions. Sometimes people write back just to say they enjoyed it, sometimes to suggest a paper I missed, sometimes to give feedback and ideas. To be honest, I find this more helpful than raw data. I mostly use data to test small tweaks, such as the subject line format or when I send the newsletter. For the content itself, I talk to people. Thanks for the thoughtful questions!
Ivaylo DurmonskiDocumenting lessons from big book.
@anthilemoon Incredible growth! Can you share more tips about how you were able to grow from 0 to 100 K visitors per month? This is the thing I'm mostly struggling :(
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@ivaylo_durmonski Thank you! Just want to clarify that it's 100K visitors in two months. :) β€’ Writing consistently: it's a lot of work but I post a new article every week day β€’ Posting on Twitter and HackerNews: sometimes articles go viral and this is where I get most of my growth from at the moment, but the SEO juice is real too and growing β€’ Asking for feedback: I often ask people what they'd like me to write about, so it helps having great content aligned with what my audience wants I hope that helps!
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Ivaylo DurmonskiDocumenting lessons from big book.
@anthilemoon Thanks for the info! Well, I'm probably missing something. I'm doing the same thing for around 1 year and I'm not even near 100K in two months. I have around 160 posts - 2000 words each. Will keep writing.
Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@ivaylo_durmonski Where do you promote your articles after you've published them?
Ivaylo DurmonskiDocumenting lessons from big book.
@anthilemoon Hacker News and a couple of press release websites.
Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@ivaylo_durmonski Maybe you should pick one channel where you have more control, such as Twitter, and try and grow your audience there. HN and PR sites rely heavily on virality.
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Al Chen
Solutions Architect at Coda.io
So awesome to to see your newsletter on PH today! I know a few people have asked about SEO and you've answered it hasn't been a big priority yet in terms of writing about specific keywords. Up to now, which keywords have ranked well for you for the blog?
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@alchen Hey Al! My top keywords for the past month are: β€’ the mind explained β€’ mental models β€’ time anxiety β€’ netflix mind documentary β€’ jomo β€’ neuroscience and procrastination β€’ psychology I hope that helps!
Al Chen
Solutions Architect at Coda.io
@anthilemoon Super interesting keywords!
In one of your comments you mentioned: Adding an exit-intent popup on the website, I find these annoying but they do work very well, got 400 out of 2,300 subscribers from these. how do you do this?
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@thriftandstyles I use a Wordpress plugin called MailMunch. I use the free option. But there are other options such as Sumo and Optinmonster.
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Amandine FLACHSStealth founder | EPG producer and host
Love to read your answers here, this is so inspiring! Many of the points made here also resonate with the recent audio piece you did on the importance on writing more. Thanks for sharing.
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
JDaniel RicherNo code maker
What are some tips for coming up with ideas to write about every day? What is your consumption/creation ratio?
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@jdaniel_richer Oh my I wrote a lot about this but can't seem to be able to link to my articles. Regarding generating ideas, I basically always take notes as I go about my day. I often interrupt people because they said something interesting to make a quick note of it πŸ˜… So I take notes while I read stuff, chat with people, work, etc.
Hi Anne-Laure, Your growth is amazing. Just recently saw your tweet with subscribers from last week and this week side to side. Wow! The question I have is about Hacker News. I think a lot of my audience hangs out there but I'm not part of the community. And I'm a bit reserved about going there without being part of the community and start posting my stuff there. Having said there, what are your guidelines about posting on Hacker News? Are you and active member of community there besides posting your articles? Thanks, Alex
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@alex_martynov Hey Alex! I'm absolutely not part of the community either. I never comment on anything except to support friends who post their stuff there. I just systematically post my articles there and sometimes one of them will take off. To give you an idea, out of 50 articles I wrote so far, 4 of them have made it to the home page. Just make sure you post stuff that's interesting and not blatantly promotional. Just do it, nothing to lose. :)
@anthilemoon Thanks for the answer and for the encouragement as well :)
AyshwaryaContent Strategist
@anthilemoon Thank you so much for sharing! <3 I use emojis in my subject lines and they seem to do well. Your tips are quite inspiring and I'll use them on my data newsletter too.
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Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Founder, Ness Labs
@ayswarrya Thank you so much for reading! <3