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Introducing Embedded Subscription Forms

Monday, November 17, 2008

One of the challenges of using third party services on your site is that when a visitor needs to have a meaningful interaction with that service, they're transported away from your site and onto that service's site. Often the point of adding a third party service, widget or script is to add value to your own offering, but all too often the first thing these services want to do is take those visitors (and their advertising revenue potential) and park those visitors where the plug-in vendor's value is increased, not yours. Great for them, but for you? Not so much.

FeedBlitz was just the same (in a way) too. When the visitor starts the subscription process, we take them to pages on our site (or on your subdomain on our site) to go through the mandatory image verification and dual opt-in processes. Now, because FeedBlitz isn't a social network the way MySpace or Facebook are, once the subscription has been confirmed most subscribers don't interact with us ever again (which is a business challenge for us, sure, but good for you). At least once the subscription process has completed we're not competing with you for your subscriber's eyeballs.

Many publishers want to keep visitors on their sites throughout the subscription process, and (up to now) the only way to achieve that was to use the FeedBlitz API, which most bloggers simply don't want to deal with. You've got to be a developer to make it work. But the goal nevertheless remains valuable: keeping visitors on your site makes the process less jarring for potential subscribers, and keeps them where you, our clients, want them.

So I'm delighted to announce an API-free embedded email subscription form that allows you to keep your subscribers on your site while they go through the initial subscription forms. It's a little more complex to set up than our standard forms, but OTOH it's no more complex than adding a Google search form or third party commenting service to your site, which many, many bloggers have easily achieved. You certainly don't have to be an engineer to make this work.

So here's how it's done. Log in to FeedBlitz.com and click Newsletters - Forms - Subscription Forms (pick the appropriate newsletter if you have to from the drop down in the menu bar). Choose the "framed" option from the place where you want the subscription results to appear and follow the three steps. Once done, you'll end up with a form for your sidebar that looks like every other FeedBlitz form, but which takes the visitor to a page on your site instead of ours (we're still serving the page and ensuring email marketing best practice compliance on your behalf, of course, but it's seamless for the average visitor).

As well as providing the embedded subscription landing page, you can also simply direct users to go to directly your subscription results page on your site. It can recognize that the visitor didn't come from our form and, when that happens, it simply presents a blank subscription form instead to kick-start the subscription process. So you won't lose people who start at the "wrong" place.

At a very personal, philosophical level, it makes me doubly happy to make this work available as a way to deliver our email marketing and subscription services more easily to our publishers in situ. Why? Because, for what it's worth, I very much dislike "walled garden" services, which is one of the reasons I really don't like places like Facebook where you have to add in to them rather than the other way around (I also think they offer precious little value for site owners and publishers, but that's another rant for another day). To paraphrase Reagan, the markets ultimately tear down these walls. Case in point: Compare the deeply closed, proprietary and controlled nature of AOL 10-15 years ago and AOL now - a collection of web sites and web services - for a prime example of that process at work. Making FeedBlitz more easily available lowers our walls even further, and that's a step in the right direction for all.

So give it a try and let us know what you think!

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I haven't been posting monthly updates for a while, but I noticed today that we've just passed over 70,000 active publishers on the service (which makes us about ~1/3 the size of Constant Contact from a publisher-base perspective), serving nearly 6.5 million active subscriptions. The latest metrics are at the foot of the left hand side bar on the home page at www.feedblitz.com

Thanks, all!


FeedBlitz 3.0

Monday, November 03, 2008

Today we introduced the first significant FeedBlitz facelift in over two years. We’ve changed three core aspects of the service:

  • Redesigned user interface (UI);
  • New enterprise private label features for corporate email marketers;
  • Surveys.

With these changes, FeedBlitz is not only easy enough to be set up quickly by bloggers, but also powerful enough to handle the most sophisticated email marketing campaigns.

All new features are available via the new UI, but if you had bookmarked older URLs, fret not – they’ll still work. They may do something a little different now, but then if that’s the case you’ll be able to get where you need to very quickly thanks to the new UI.

A quick look, then, at these new changes in a little more detail.

Upgraded User Interface

One of the most common themes in the comments we received from the publisher survey is that, while FeedBlitz is easy to use once it’s set up, navigating the web site was hard, or confusing, and, well, it was just tough to figure out where to go if you had to do something.

Message received. Our user interface (U.I.) goals were simple:

  • Make it much easier to navigate around;
  • Make some of the richness of FeedBlitz more visible while reducing confusion;
  • Keep everything still FeedBlitz-y.

Done, done and done. The UI is now a much more traditional tab- or folder-based interface, with simple options to pick from under each tab. The pop-up menus are gone, baby, gone, which has the additional benefit of making the site much more approachable for the visually impaired, whose screen-readers sometimes struggled with the script and style-based menu system.

So, for example, the “Newsletter Center” is simply the “Newsletters” tab. Easy – no hunting around the popup menus and or hunting around the dashboard for the link. Pretty obvious where to go, and the internal navigation is, I think, much better too. The tabs allow us to elevate FeedBlitz’s autoresponder capabilities, and to finally separate out our advertising and earnings features.

Enterprise Private Label Features

Corporate marketers looking for the simpler, easy to manage approach FeedBlitz uniquely brings, now get a section to themselves. FeedBlitz now offers dedicated email servers, compliance footer customization, the ability to send subscriber notification data to online scripts, and more. The combination of these features means that corporate clients can create a private label (or white label) version of FeedBlitz, ensuring that their brand is all that’s seen but can still take advantage of our excellent deliverability, automated distribution, custom branding and self-service subscriber management.

This feature set evolved out of some custom development work that we did earlier this year for an online media service. So we’re also making our professional services available for custom feature additions and integration as part of our Enterprise feature set.


Well, voting is very much on everyone’s mind this week, and so the other new capability we’ve added is (are?) surveys. Basically, we’ve extended the existing custom field / registration features into standalone polls. You can ask your visitors to vote - or complete a survey for more in-depth research – without their having to subscribe to your list.

For bloggers, we have the “Quick Poll” – just type in your question, type in the answer you’ll allow, and you’re done! You get a poll, the links and widgets to add to email or your web site, and in seconds you’re up and running.

Like custom fields, surveys feature:

  • Required and optional fields;
  • Free form and constrained data;
  • Multiple user-interface elements.

In addition, surveys add multiple privacy elements. You can make the survey public – so anyone can participate – through various privacy settings so that only your subscribers can take the survey (so your survey can be a tool to encourage subscription). You can even make it secret, so only the people you choose to send it to know it’s there.

The results of a survey also have controllable privacy – you can have a public poll but limit the results to subscribers, or a private poll but make the results public. Lots of flexibility and it’s entirely up to you how you use it.

No matter what the privacy settings, the results are only available in summary form to other people. Only the survey owner can see the detail, such as the subscriber’s address and what they actually answered for each question. And that's the beauty of integrating the survey with your database - you get detailed results, not just on what the results are, but on who gave the response (assuming FeedBlitz can tell). You can then market to and communicate with them based on their response.

So... here's a quick poll for you! Tell us what you think.


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