Introducing Our Mequoda Email Newsletter Scorecard

10 Guidelines for Designing Effective Email Newsletters

While success or failure of an email newsletter should be directly tied to bottom line goals (like sales, revenue, etc.), there are some things that can help—or hurt—a newsletter’s chances of achieving those goals.

We’ve developed 10 guidelines for designing an effective email newsletter that we will use to analyze the email newsletters of successful B2B and B2C publishers.

As with Mequoda’s other scorecards (landing page scorecard and website design scorecard), the goal is to use these guidelines to improve your own email newsletter and to analyze those of your competitors.

These are the 10 guidelines for designing an effective email newsletter:

  1. Delivery
  2. From Line
  3. Subject Line
  4. The Preview Pane
  5. First Screen
  6. Look and Feel
  7. Content and Tools of Engagement
  8. Business Goals
  9. Footer
  10. Other

A perfect grade would be a score of 4 in each of the 10 categories. So:

40 = A
30 = B
20 = C
10 = D

The reviewer will look at 3 to 5 issues of an email newsletter before completing the scorecard. The goal of these reviews is to educate readers on standards and best practices and to provide constructive feedback—not to criticize.

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1. Delivery

  • The email newsletter is delivered to the inbox.
  • The email newsletter includes a prominently placed white list request.
  • The email newsletter is sent at regular intervals.
  • The email newsletter is delivered to the inbox at an appropriate day/time.

2. From Line

  • The email newsletter from line clearly identifies the sender.
  • The email newsletter from line is instantly recognizable to subscribers.
  • The email newsletter contains both a display and an actual from address.
  • The email newsletter from addresses are consistent from send to send.

3. Subject Line

  • The email newsletter subject line is engaging and benefit-oriented.
  • The email newsletter subject line features something unique in the current issue.
  • The email newsletter subject line places the most important information first, so that it’s not missed by readers
  • The email newsletter subject line doesn’t sound “spammy.”

4. The Preview Pane

  • The email newsletter preview pane includes a recognizable logo (or in the case of a text newsletter, a brand or company name) in a prominent position.
  • The email newsletter preview pane includes a strong, benefit-oriented headline or title to help pull readers in.
  • The email newsletter preview pane includes a link to view the email online.
  • The email newsletter preview pane would engage the reader and pull them in even if the images were blocked.

5. First Screen

  • The email newsletter includes an engaging opening paragraph specific to this issue.
  • The email newsletter comes from a “real person” or group.
  • The email newsletter includes a table of contents specific to this issue.
  • The email newsletter table of contents includes links, either to each item in the email newsletter or to the full text on a Website.

6. Look and Feel

  • The email newsletter has a design that’s engaging to the eye and draws the reader in.
  • The email newsletter has a design that’s consistent with the sender’s Website/landing pages.
  • The email newsletter uses images responsibly and judiciously, to add to the reader’s experience, not detract from it.
  • The email newsletter is easy to skim, with short paragraphs, bullet points and white space.

7. Content and Tools of Engagement

  • The email newsletter provides benefit-oriented content that is written in an engaging manner.
  • The email newsletter includes engagement tools for readers, things like surveys, polls, links to discussion boards and ways to provide feedback to or communication with the editors.
  • The email newsletter follows the 60/40 rule, with at least 60% of the content being editorial and no more than 40% being promotional.
  • The email newsletter is a manageable length to read online—2 to 3 printed pages.

8. Business Goals

  • The email newsletter has a clear, recognizable business goal.
  • The email newsletter content supports this business goal 100%.
  • The email newsletter includes multiple calls to action.
  • The email newsletter calls to action are effective but not “pushy.”

9. Footer

  • The email newsletter includes a mechanism to allow readers to unsubscribe.
  • The email newsletter provides a link to a subscription management page where subscribers can update their email address or change their preferences.
  • The email newsletter includes a U.S. Postal Service address for your company.
  • The email newsletter includes a copyright notice to protect your intellectual property.

10. Other

  • The email newsletter is delivered on a schedule consistent with what subscribers were told at sign-up.
  • The email newsletter content fulfills the expectations set for the readers at sign-up.
  • The email newsletter includes a “forward to a friend” call to action to encourage viral marketing.
  • The email newsletter includes a mechanism allowing those who receive a copy from a friend to subscribe.
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