Top 10 Tips for Great Newsletters

Alex Mastrianni

I recently presented a webinar for an audience that is brand new to email marketing where I shared my top 10 tips for great enewsletters. As email marketers, we always get caught up in new trends, hot topics, and the latest buzzwords, but revisiting the basics every now and then is never a bad idea, so I thought I’d share my tips with you on the blog. What are your best tips for people who are just getting started in email marketing? Here are mine.

1. Keep it short.

My first tip for a great newsletter is to keep it short. We recommend that you keep your newsletters to three to four scrolls. You send out newsletters because you have great information to share, but, you don’t need to dump all of your information into one email. If you are finding that it’s hard to condense all of your information down, try using a table of contents, so people can see all the stories that are included in your email right at the top and go directly to the one they’re interested in. If your newsletter is too long and they get tired of scrolling, they might miss something great at the bottom.  We also recommend bullets to condense text. They’re easier to read then sentences as people can just breeze right through them. You could also try summarizing your stories and linking off to your website where a full story can be shared. One of our clients – Visit Loudoun – did just that and saw their engagement rates skyrocket by 514%!

2. Watch your images.

My next tip is to be careful with your images. Imagery is obviously eye-catching and draws a reader in when used properly, but when it’s not, it can be very harmful. We recommend a ratio of 70 percent text to 30 percent images to also help with getting through spam filters. Something you never want to do is make your email an entire image – that could be a red flag for spam filters. If you’re are going to use images – and you should! – make sure that your images include alt tags.

3. Test, test, and test again!

The next tip is to test, test, and just when you think you’re done testing, test again! Before you send, you’ll want to test to see how your email renders. We have a really cool tool in Informz called the Virtual Inbox that will run your email through 20+ email clients to see how it renders. You’re also going to want to test that hyperlinks are linking to the right spot, and if you’ve used personalization, that it’s coming through properly. I do some of the email marketing at Informz for our marketing department, and I know how frustrating it is and how much it stinks when you think you’ve got a really great email going out there and something doesn’t work like it was supposed to. You want to avoid that as much as you can! When you get to advanced testing, that’s where the fun begins. Try using A/B split testing to see how different subject lines perform, or test if an email performs better if it’s personalized versus if it’s not personalized. The possibilities are really endless here.

4. Preference management forms are essential.

Preference management is KEY when it comes to great email marketing and it can really improve your newsletter engagement rates when done properly. When you ask your subscribers what kind of information they want to receive, how often they want to hear from you, and you’re both on the same page, you really set yourself up for a great relationship going forward. Collecting this type of data from your subscribers is so beneficial.

5. Make it to the inbox without deliverability issues.

Think about how much time you probably spend creating content and putting together an email. It could be hours! Now imagine that that email doesn’t even make it to your readers inboxes because it doesn’t make it through spam filters. Here are just a few ways to avoid that. Only send to people you know – I just discussed that subscription form, and that will help tremendously.  Including an unsubscribe link is actually required by can-spam laws. In order to be compliant, you must included both an unsubscribe link, so people have the option to back out of your list if they no longer wish to hear from you, and a physical mailing address is required as well. Asking subscribers to add you to their address book is another idea for ensuring receipt of your newsletters. Don’t forget to avoid spammy words like “free,””discounts,” and using symbols like excessive dollar signs. Again here you’ll want to watch your text to image ratio.

6. Subject lines matter.

Next, subject lines. A subject line is a first impression, and we suggest that you spend a lot of time – nearly 50 percent of the mailing creation process  — on crafting your best subject line. Character count is now more important than ever, because of the emergence of mobile usage for reading emails. We suggest less than 50 characters if you’re on a PC and less than 30 for mobile. That includes spaces! If you’re struggling to think of a subject line, start with a topic-based subject line. Take what you think the most popular news item in your newsletter is – the one that you think most people will be interested in – and structure your subject line around that. Also remember that the more clear you can be, the better. While you might want to be creative here, remember that clarity trumps creativity. Subject lines are a great area to test to see what works best for your audience. Maybe they’re into direct and straightforward subject lines, or maybe they like quirky ones. You’ll never know until you test!

7. Measure your success.

You must pay attention to your reports. You might be wondering, “how is that really going to help my newsletters?” But hear me out! Analyzing your reports isn’t just about looking at the past, but it’s about planning for the future. Look at your reports to see what topics are most popular to help you plan future content. What links or areas of the template were most clicked on? Emulate the design of those in your next newsletter. Your reports can also answer some of your marketing questions. If you send your newsletter on a different day of the week every week, take a look at the cumulative results and see which day and time performed best when you’re scheduling your next newsletter. Reports are so important for measuring your success and moving forward.

8. Design.

Ok, let’s talk design tips. Email design is SO IMPORTANT! Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned email marketer, it’s never a bad idea to keep it simple. Make sure your logo is in the top left of your newsletter, so recipients immediately know who the email is from. You’ll want the colors of your newsletter to mimic your branding, so at a glance, readers can get a feel for your branding. If you’re going with a two column layout, keep your sidebar to the right. As far as width goes, stick we recommend the width to be no larger than 650 pixels.

We actually release an annual email marketing benchmark report, and for the first time this year, we’ve seen mobile email readership surpass desktop email readership. If you know how your audience is reading your emails – or you have an idea – you need to be cognizant of those mobile readers. For mobile-friendly emails, we recommend that you keep your email to one column, so readers don’t have to scroll left to right, use are larger font that’s easy-to-read, and have lots of whitespace around your links so they’re easily clickable. You’re designing for a fingertip now – not a mouse!

9. Get social.

My second-to-last tip is all about social media. I’m sure most if not all of you have social media accounts, and incorporating social media with your email efforts is a great way to promote both your email list and your social accounts. Make sure you’re linking to your social media sites in your enewsletter, whether you’re just promoting that you have a page, or promote friends and followers to share your stories. It’s also a good idea to post your newsletter on your social sites and encourage signups this way. Some people might like you on Facebook, but not be on your email list, and this would be a great way to promote awareness for your enewsletter.

10. Relevancy rules.

My final tip — and this may seem obvious — is to be relevant. Relevancy really rules when it comes to email marketing. True relevancy is achieved when what you want to say overlaps with what your readers are really interested in. If something is rendering kind of funky or an image isn’t showing up, or your subject line isn’t the greatest – if your readers know that you regularly send RELEVANT information that they’re interested in, they’ll open  and read your email. Keep that in mind every time you’re sitting down to draft your enewsletter.

Whew – overwhelmed yet? There are lots of intricacies with email marketing, but take it slow and don’t forget that we’re here to help you become a pro email marketer!

About the Author
Alex Mastrianni

As the Marketing Manager at Informz, Alex drives the development and implementation of our content marketing plan and marketing campaigns. Outside of work, Alex is a pop culture junkie, ice cream fanatic, and semi-pro vacation planner.

  • Thanks very much Alex! I am in the process of starting a newsletter and this is just the sort of info I was looking for. Many thanks.