By Amanda MacArthur • 04/19/2011
Design email newsletters that are easy to read, share and use
Your email subscribers aren’t cash machines, they’re humans. How often do you feel good after opening an email newsletter that tries to sell you every step of the way? Probably never, because unlike promotional emails, the characteristics of an email newsletter that’s editorially based needs to give your subscribers at least one good take-away every day, or they will unsubscribe.
Beyond that, they want to be able to share your article, contact you and unsubscribe easily. If you don’t design email newsletters with simple access to functions like these, you will frustrate and alienate your subscribers.
The most successful email newsletters that keep their customers happy (aka keep them on the list longer) follow these simple guidelines.
1. Design email newsletters with an easy to find/use unsubscribe link.
Not only is it against CAN-SPAM regulations to omit your unsubscribe button, but making the button prominent actually makes subscribers feel more secure. It also keeps people from hitting the “spam” button and getting you blacklisted from important email domains.
2. Keep your social media profile buttons at the top of your email newsletter.
Yes, the goal of your email newsletter is to drive people back to your site, not to external sites. However, if you can get them subscribed to your social media feeds early, then you don’t need to worry about them if they subscribe to your email list. Some people just prefer to get their information out of a fire hose.
Social media also allows you to repeat yourself. So while you can’t send a duplicate email newsletter out three times a day, you can re-post the same link to your articles as many times a day as you want. So yes, you want to make those social media links prominent.
3. Let email newsletter subscribers share whatever is in the email.
In addition to providing links to your social media profiles, you also want to give subscribers the ability to share the articles in your email newsletters. This may or may not mean including “tweet this” and “share this” buttons but it definitely means including the good ‘ol fashioned “forward to a friend” link.
4. Use responsive email design.
You have no idea how or where subscribers will read your email newsletter, so design it to bend and fold however any device wants it to. The best way we have found to do this is to design for a smart phone. The will ensure it works on all platforms.
5. Provide a hyperlink to an HTML version.
This offers a physical permalink to copy and paste to your email newsletter. If someone wants to write or link to your article, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for them to find the original home of that content.
6. Offer email newsletter subscribers ways to adjust their account.
Make sure you have a link for them to update their subscription settings, change their email address, switch to your weekly list – or perhaps a different segmented list if you publish on many topics.
7. Make it easy for them to contact you.
Your email subscribers will want to contact you for a variety of reasons. At times, it may be because they can’t get the unsubscribe link to work. Other times it could be because they want permission to republish one of your articles. More importantly, they may want to learn more about you, or a product you sell. Make sure you have a section for them to contact you, and include your mailing address, phone number and links to your social media accounts.
Oh and here’s a bonus #8 for you: Make your email newsletters worth opening. According to a study by eMarketer, 61% of people who subscribe to sites like Groupon say that they open all of their “daily deal” emails. It’s because the email provides the subscriber with a benefit. Your email newsletter should do the same.
What are your pet peeves and best practices? Let us know in the comments.
This article was originally published in 2011 and is updated frequently.
Posted in Audience Development Strategy