This post is based on episode 147 of the ProBlogger podcast.
Is email starting to suck up all your time?
Dealing with emails can be a challenge at the best of times. But when you have a blog, and your traffic is starting to grow, it can quickly get out of hand. (I get thousands of emails every week.)
So this week I’d like to share some tips that have helped me deal with email quickly and efficiently.
Note: I use Gmail, and so I’ll be talking about it throughout this post. But most (if not all) of these tips can be applied to other email systems.
1. Canned responses
If you keep getting asked the same questions, then you should think about setting up canned responses. These are templates you can create beforehand and have on standby so you can quickly post a reply.
I have canned responses set up for things such as:
- PR pitches
- guest post pitches
- SEO pitches (people wanting us to link to their site).
Gmail makes it pretty easy to set up these templates. But most email systems will let you create similar templates. And if yours doesn’t, just create a Word document with all your responses, and then copy and paste the relevant response into your reply.
2. FAQ page
Another way to deal with these questions is to create a specific page that provides all the answers – the frequently asked questions (FAQ) page.
I have an FAQ on ProBlogger that answers the questions I get asked most often. We then link to it on our contact form, and encourage everyone to check it first before sending us their question.
Of course, not everyone uses our contact form to send emails. And those who do don’t always read the FAQ. But it has reduced the number of emails we get. And our readers get the answer they want quickly without having to wait for my reply.
3. Contact form
Speaking of contact forms, they can be another great to reduce the amount of email you have to deal with.
As well as having fields for the person’s name, email address and message, contact forms can contain other fields you can use to help you direct your emails to the right person (or at the very least the right folder in your email system).
For example, the contact form on Digital Photography School has a Select a subject field with four options:
- I have a question about a product
- I have a bug or problem to report
- I’d like to advertise on dPS
- Something else.
Depending on which option they choose, the email will automatically be routed to:
- our customer support team (options 1 and 4)
- our tech support person (option 2)
- our partnership team (option 3).
You can also suggest that the reader ask their question on one of your social media channels, and provide links to them all.
In any case, you should let them know whether you’re likely to respond, and how long it will take if you do. It’s important to manage their expectations so they won’t be disappointed.
4. Extra help
As you may have noticed, I have a team of people to help me with all my emails. And after looking after them all myself for eight or so years, it’s one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made.
The number of emails I received really ramped up when we started selling ebooks on Digital Photography School. Whenever we launched a new ebook we’d get emails from people who wanted to know:
- what an ebook was
- how to download and open them
- whether the product was for them
- how to make a payment through PayPal with their credit card
- how to get a refund.
As you can imagine, answering these questions took my focus away from marketing the products and developing new ones. So we hired people who could deal with all those questions.
Another smart move was to start using a tool called Zendesk. It means everyone who asks a question gets a ticket, and our customer support team can quickly bring up all the emails relating to a particular problem to see if it has been solved.
5. Email filters
One of the reasons I switched to Gmail in the first place was because it allowed me to set up filters.
Back then my index was being swamped with social media messages. Unlike today, there was no way to limit how many of them you received or how frequently. And so one of the first things I did was to set up filters so they were automatically moved from my inbox into specific folders.
These days I also have a lot of filters set up for product sales. I like to keep a record of every email I get when I sell an ebook to serve my customers. I love it when I get an email or a message from someone saying, “Hey, I bought this ebook way back when. I’ve lost it. Can I get it again?” I like being able to quickly check whether they bought it so I can send it to them again.
I also get a lot of receipts that I need to keep for tax purposes but don’t really need to see until then. So I have another filter set up that moves them to a folder and marks them as being read.
And of course, by combining the options you offer in your contact form and filters in your email system, you can potentially deal with a lot of issues automatically.
As a blogger, you’ve probably subscribed to a lot of different newsletters to help you keep up with what’s going on in your niche. But while subscribing to them is usually pretty straightforward, unsubscribing can be a lot more difficult.
And so rather than go through the drama of unsubscribing we just keep putting up with them landing in our inbox.
Which is why I now use a toll called Unroll.Me. It scans my inbox and shows me all the newsletter I’m currently subscribed to. It then lets me unsubscribe to those I no longer need. And rather than having to unsubscribe to each one individually, it lets me unsubscribe in bulk.
I can also roll up the ones I do want to receive into a daily digest, which is great if a particular subscription list is really active.
The other tool I use within Gmail is Boomerang. It’s a Chrome extension that lets me do a couple of things that I find really useful. (It can also do a lot more, so it’s worth checking out.)
The first thing it lets me do is resend emails I’ve received at a time that’s more convenient. For example, I can ask it to resend emails I receive late at night at 9am the next morning so they’ll be sitting at the top of my inbox rather than buried under 50 other emails.
It also lets me send my emails at a specific time. If you answer some emails while working late, people might look at when you replied and think that’s when you usually work.
And that can set a very bad precedent.
But with Boomerang I can tell it to wait until 9am the next day before actually sending the email. And so even though I answered it late at night it looks as if I replied in the morning during normal working hours.
I hope these tips can help you keep your email under control. Do you have any other tips you’d like to share? Please let us know about them in the comments.
Photo by Pau Casals on Unsplash