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11 Newsletter Platforms & How They Work

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11 Newsletter Platforms & How They Work

Traditional media companies have struggled in the digital age.

As more people opt out of physical formats like newspapers and magazines, some employment numbers in the industry have steadily declined.

But out of this, new opportunities have arisen, including the birth of email newsletter subscriptions.

Substack, a foremost name in this field, was founded in 2017 and quickly became a game changer for online content creators.

With a user-friendly interface and robust functionality, it allows writers and creators to publish and monetize branded web content via monthly subscriptions.

A minimal amount of moderation and publishing guidelines provide creators with a somewhat unprecedented level of freedom, while also giving them total ownership over content, mailing lists, and intellectual properties.

An all-in-one publishing platform, it offers everything from community-building advice to legal support.

As for its pricing structure, Substack charges publishers 10% of gross revenue, plus a processing fee.

While it’s easy to start, some creators have found Substack’s features limiting.

With that in mind, we’ve created a list of Substack alternatives to consider if that platform isn’t serving your needs how you had hoped.

1. Write.as

With a clean design and interface, Write.as offers content creators and publishers a custom domain, a wide range of support, and built-in RSS in an ad-free platform that focuses heavily on privacy and security.

Pricing:

  • Pro – $72/year or $9/month.
  • Small publisher support – $400/year or $45/month.
  • Submission management – $144/year + base subscription.

Small publisher support provides priority support, live chat, and consulting services.

Users can also add submission management to either plan to simplify submission gathering and publishing.

If you want to be extremely creative, this may not be your best platform, as features are limited.

For one thing, it only offers three different fonts: Serif, sans-serif, and monospace.

However, because it is an open-source platform, tech-savvy users can customize it to suit their own needs.

2. Ghost

Ghost is another open-source platform from which you can run your media business, send newsletters, manage subscribers, and publish gated content.

Cleanly designed, it has built-in SEO tools and plugins that simplify content optimization and integrate with numerous apps.

Pricing:

  • Basic – $348/year or $36/month.
  • Standard – $948/year or $99/month.
  • Business – $2,388/year or $249/month.

As for Ghost’s drawbacks: It offers limited opportunities for monetization outside of monthly subscription plans.

3. Patreon

Providing a variety of ways for you to provide exclusive content to paid subscribers, Patreon allows you to build direct connections with your audience.

Used by musicians, podcasters, video creators, and writers, it provides more options for revenue.

Creators can make their own subscription tiers with different content available at each level.

For Patreon’s pricing, it’s free to use, but charges creators 5%–12% of gross revenue, plus a payment processing fee.

4. Letterdrop

Newsletter and blog publishing platform Letterdrop integrates into your marketing CMS and was designed to help grow traffic.

Newsletter creators can earn money through subscriptions, sponsorships, or paid content for other publications.

Letterdrop stands out from other platforms due to its content workflow, content calendar, and approval process.

It allows you to rank content ideas based on your objectives and their SEO potential, making it easiest to decide what to write about.

Content can be published via blog or SEO-optimized newsletters. Creators are provided with analytics to help track performance.

Pricing:

  • Small business – $1,188/year or $119/month.
  • Growth – $3,588/year or $349/month.

5. Steemit

Steemit combines blogging with social media and cryptocurrency.

A voting system similar to Reddit’s allows users to earn a share of revenues from its own cryptocurrency.

The first social media and blogging site built on blockchain, content earns money by increasing engagement.

Content creators, curators, and commenters can all get paid.

It currently has over 1.2 million users and is part of the Tron network.

Steemit is not the easiest platform to get started on.

Building a reputation and increasing engagement can be a slow process if your content does not go viral.

Also, it pays out in STEEM cryptocurrency, which is $.25 to the dollar at the time of writing.

6. Medium

Medium is a popular blogging and digital publishing platform.

It has nearly 100 million monthly readers and is free to use.

Used by both fledging writers with no experience and media publications, its Partner Program pays writers with more than 100 followers based on article read time.

It has a curated newsletter feature that allows creators to content to subscribers. And both the publishing and newsletter features are free to use.

7. Revue

Part of the Twitter network, Revue makes it easy for newsletter creators to distribute content and get paid.

With a business model built on curation, it includes a high-quality newsletter editor with useful features like a browser extension that makes it easy to add articles from the web to your newsletter.

You stay in control of your audience and can grow your following using Twitter.

Analytics give you insights into engagement, click rates, and opens.

A free option is available, but you must have a premium plan for monetization. Revue charges 5% of revenue, plus a processing fee.

8. HubPages

Using a revenue-sharing model, HubPages monetizes user-generated content.

While it’s not as popular as Medium, it has built-in monetization, in which creators earn money based on article views.

These are then factored into a formula to determine a piece’s contribution to paid advertisement success.

HubPages is very intuitive and free to use.

It also includes options for free or premium professional editing services.

9. Buttondown

Billing itself as the easiest way to build, launch and grow a newsletter, Buttondown has a clean design and interface.

It includes built-in tools for editing and proofreading content to prevent embarrassing typos.

It has ample third-party integrations and makes setting up paid newsletter subscriptions easy, even for the technologically challenged.

You can set tags on emails and subscribers to segment and specialize your audience as needed.

Pricing is dependent on subscribers:

  • Free (0-100 subscribers) – $0/month.
  • Basic (101-1000 subscribers) – $9/month.
  • Standard (1001-5000 subscribers) – $29/month.
  • Professional (5001-10,000 subscribers) – $79/month.

Newsletters with more than 10,000 subscribers or those run by non-profits are eligible for discounts.

10. TinyLetter

TinyLetter lets creators quickly make and share newsletters.

With a generated URL, they can be shared across social networks to help expand subscriber lists.

Part of the MailChimp network, it was designed to help individuals send personalized newsletters.

A throwback to the earliest days of blogging, it doesn’t have the flashiest functionality.

That said, if you’re just looking for a simple way to send out simple email newsletters, it’s a good choice.

A free version is available for creators, but with a limit, as users can only add “up to 5,000 subscribers into [their] TinyLetter account.

11. MailerLite

MailerLite gives creators a software framework that allows you to add automation, analytics, and pop-ups with drag-and-drop functionality.

You can also edit or add your own HTML and rich text.

It has good template selection, a landing page editor, detailed analytics, and marketing tools like A/B testing, surveys, and segmentation.

MailerLite allows you to earn income via newsletter subscriptions or direct digital product sales in your emails and landing pages.

Pricing:

  • Free (12,000 monthly emails, 1 user) – $0/month.
  • Growing business (unlimited monthly emails, 3 users) – $120/year or $9/month.
  • Advanced (unlimited monthly emails, unlimited users) – $252/year or $19/month.

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Why Now’s The Time To Adopt Schema Markup

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Why Now's The Time To Adopt Schema Markup

There is no better time for organizations to prioritize Schema Markup.

Why is that so, you might ask?

First of all, Schema Markup (aka structured data) is not new.

Google has been awarding sites that implement structured data with rich results. If you haven’t taken advantage of rich results in search, it’s time to gain a higher click-through rate from these visual features in search.

Secondly, now that search is primarily driven by AI, helping search engines understand your content is more important than ever.

Schema Markup allows your organization to clearly articulate what your content means and how it relates to other things on your website.

The final reason to adopt Schema Markup is that, when done correctly, you can build a content knowledge graph, which is a critical enabler in the age of generative AI. Let’s dig in.

Schema Markup For Rich Results

Schema.org has been around since 2011. Back then, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex worked together to create the standardized Schema.org vocabulary to enable website owners to translate their content to be understood by search engines.

Since then, Google has incentivized websites to implement Schema Markup by awarding rich results to websites with certain types of markup and eligible content.

Websites that achieve these rich results tend to see higher click-through rates from the search engine results page.

In fact, Schema Markup is one of the most well-documented SEO tactics that Google tells you to do. With so many things in SEO that are backward-engineered, this one is straightforward and highly recommended.

You might have delayed implementing Schema Markup due to the lack of applicable rich results for your website. That might have been true at one point, but I’ve been doing Schema Markup since 2013, and the number of rich results available is growing.

Even though Google deprecated how-to rich results and changed the eligibility of FAQ rich results in August 2023, it introduced six new rich results in the months following – the most new rich results introduced in a year!

These rich results include vehicle listing, course info, profile page, discussion forum, organization, vacation rental, and product variants.

There are now 35 rich results that you can use to stand out in search, and they apply to a wide range of industries such as healthcare, finance, and tech.

Here are some widely applicable rich results you should consider utilizing:

  • Breadcrumb.
  • Product.
  • Reviews.
  • JobPosting.
  • Video.
  • Profile Page.
  • Organization.

With so many opportunities to take control of how you appear in search, it’s surprising that more websites haven’t adopted it.

A statistic from Web Data Commons’ October 2023 Extractions Report showed that only 50% of pages had structured data.

Of the pages with JSON-LD markup, these were the top types of entities found.

  • http://schema.org/ListItem (2,341,592,788 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/ImageObject (1,429,942,067 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/Organization (907,701,098 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/BreadcrumbList (817,464,472 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/WebSite (712,198,821 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/WebPage (691,208,528 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/Offer (623,956,111 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/SearchAction (614,892,152 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/Person (582,460,344 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/EntryPoint (502,883,892 Entities)

(Source: October 2023 Web Data Commons Report)

Most of the types on the list are related to the rich results mentioned above.

For example, ListItem and BreadcrumbList are required for the Breadcrumb Rich Result, SearchAction is required for Sitelink Search Box, and Offer is required for the Product Rich Result.

This tells us that most websites are using Schema Markup for rich results.

Even though these Schema.org types can help your site achieve rich results and stand out in search, they don’t necessarily tell search engines what each page is about in detail and help your site be more semantic.

Help AI Search Engines Understand Your Content

Have you ever seen your competitor’s sites using specific Schema.org Types that are not found in Google’s structured data documentation (i.e. MedicalClinic, IndividualPhysician, Service, etc)?

The Schema.org vocabulary has over 800 types and properties to help websites explain what the page is about. However, Google’s structured data features only require a small subset of these properties for websites to be eligible for a rich result.

Many websites that solely implement Schema Markup to get rich results tend to be less descriptive with their Schema Markup.

AI search engines now look at the meaning and intent behind your content to provide users with more relevant search results.

Therefore, organizations that want to stay ahead should use more specific Schema.org types and leverage appropriate properties to help search engines better understand and contextualize their content. You can be descriptive with your content while still achieving rich results.

For example, each type (e.g. Article, Person, etc.) in the Schema.org vocabulary has 40 or more properties to describe the entity.

The properties are there to help you fully describe what the page is about and how it relates to other things on your website and the web. In essence, it’s asking you to describe the entity or topic of the page semantically.

The word ‘semantic’ is about understanding the meaning of language.

Note that the word “understanding” is part of the definition. Funny enough, in October 2023, John Mueller at Google released a Search Update video. In this six-minute video, he leads with an update on Schema Markup.

For the first time, Mueller described Schema Markup as “a code you can add to your web pages, which search engines can use to better understand the content. ”

While Mueller has historically spoken a lot about Schema Markup, he typically talked about it in the context of rich result eligibility. So, why the change?

This shift in thinking about Schema Markup for enhanced search engine understanding makes sense. With AI’s growing role and influence in search, we need to make it easy for search engines to consume and understand the content.

Take Control Of AI By Shaping Your Data With Schema Markup

Now, if being understood and standing out in search is not a good enough reason to get started, then doing it to help your enterprise take control of your content and prepare it for artificial intelligence is.

In February 2024, Gartner published a report on “30 Emerging Technologies That Will Guide Your Business Decisions,”  highlighting generative AI and knowledge graphs as critical emerging technologies companies should invest in within the next 0-1 years.

Knowledge graphs are collections of relationships between entities defined using a standardized vocabulary that enables new knowledge to be gained by way of inferencing.

Good news! When you implement Schema Markup to define and connect the entities on your site, you are creating a content knowledge graph for your organization.

Thus, your organization gains a critical enabler for generative AI adoption while reaping its SEO benefits.

Learn more about building content knowledge graphs in my article, Extending Your Schema Markup From Rich Results to Knowledge Graphs.

We can also look at other experts in the knowledge graph field to understand the urgency of implementing Schema Markup.

In his LinkedIn post, Tony Seale, Knowledge Graph Architect at UBS in the UK, said,

“AI does not need to happen to you; organizations can shape AI by shaping their data.

It is a choice: We can allow all data to be absorbed into huge ‘data gravity wells’ or we can create a network of networks, each of us connecting and consolidating our data.”

The “networks of networks” Seale refers to is the concept of knowledge graphs – the same knowledge graph that can be built from your web data using semantic Schema Markup.”

The AI revolution has only just begun, and there is no better time than now to shape your data, starting with your web content through the implementation of Schema Markup.

Use Schema Markup As The Catalyst For AI

In today’s digital landscape, organizations must invest in new technology to keep pace with the evolution of AI and search.

Whether your goal is to stand out on the SERP or ensure your content is understood as intended by Google and other search engines, the time to implement Schema Markup is now.

With Schema Markup, SEO pros can become heroes, enabling generative AI adoption through content knowledge graphs while delivering tangible benefits, such as increased click-through rates and improved search visibility.

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


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