Create an email newsletter that aligns your editorial content with your promotional message while serving the needs of your readers
This week we have a boatload of best practices for email newsletter publishers that we’ve compiled based on our research. While there’s a total of sixteen, we’re going to take it easy and start with just the first eight. Stay tuned for the final eight which we’ll be posting on Wednesday.
1. Research and define the needs of your online audience.
Assumptions are only helpful as a starting point. You must know with certainty what your users are doing online and tailor the content of your email newsletter to address audience interests.
2. Align your email newsletter strategy with the goals of your online publishing business.
You should be able to clearly justify and defend the business purpose behind every email newsletter you send and every item in these emails.
A great example is The Wall Street Journal website, whose business goals are very clear: to sell subscriptions.
The WSJ email newsletter gives readers a taste of their content. It doesn’t take long before you find yourself wanting more — and willing to pay for it.
3. Integrate email sign-up with site registration.
There should be a different user experience depending on whether you are a known user or an unknown user.
A lot of websites have email signups independent from website logins. But on the Johns Hopkins Health Alerts site, registration occurs within the content management system, which is then mirrored to the email system. The website then knows to stop asking if you want to sign up for their email newsletter because you’ve already subscribed.
4. Require double opt-in.
Research indicates that the email subscribers who double opt-in have a 17 percent greater lifetime value simply because they double opt-in. The act of getting them to open their email client to look for the confirming email and respond — before they can download your free report — causes those who double opt-in to be worth 17 percent more in customer lifetime value.
Additionally, by using the double opt-in process, you’ve managed to get many of them to whitelist you with their email provider — another good outcome.
Of 100 people who sign up for your free email newsletter, about 75 percent will double opt-in.
5. Send a welcome email.
Remind your new subscribers that they signed up for your email newsletter. Thank them for signing up, remind them how often they’ll receive emails from you, and make it personal.
The welcome letter should use the subscriber’s name and might point to helpful sections of your site. If you have a segmented list, and your user chose “rose gardening”, you might want to point towards “rose gardening” tips, videos etc.
6. Upsell to a paid product in your welcome email
While you have your new email subscriber’s attention, don’t waste the opportunity. Within your welcome email letter, in the right navigation or at the bottom, provide a text ad or small display advertisement for a related, best-selling, paid product.
The point of this email is not to sell a product, so it shouldn’t be the topic of your welcome letter. A casual mention should suffice. Remember, this is the new subscriber’s first interaction with you, so make a good impression.
7. Add your email newsletter name to the subject line.
For maximum deliverability and high open rates, consistently start your email subject line with the name of your email newsletter and follow it with the topic, e.g. “Mequoda Daily: Secret Source of Email Subject Lines Revealed.”
The evidence is undeniable that adding your name to an email newsletter adds credibility. Forrester Research says that adding a company name to the subject line can increase open rates by up 60 percent over a subject line without branding. Subject lines that inform subscribers of what’s in the email are clearly the winners.
8. Keep off of spam filter lists and conform to standard whitelist guidelines.
Software programs like Spam Assassin, an open-source project of the Apache Software Foundation, run each email message through hundreds of tests that analyze headers, text, and HTML coding, and check domains and IP addresses against block lists and filtering databases.
For maximum deliverability and high open rates, observe that Spam Assassin punished the following:
- The subject line is all capital letters.
- The message date is 12 to 24 hours before the receive date.
- The domain in the sender line doesn’t match the domain in the “received” line in the headers.
- The subject contains “As Seen.”
- The subject starts with “Free.”
- The message has bad MIME encoding in the header.
- The message is 90 percent to 100 percent HTML.
- The HTML font size is large.
- The message mentions Oprah Winfrey with an exclamation mark.
- “Remove” appears in a URL.
Want to learn the remaining eight best practices for Email Newsletter Publishers? Check back on Wednesday when we cover the best times to send emails, promotion vs. editorial ratios, white-listing and more.
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