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Creating an Effective Web Marketing Newsletter

Like everything else in web marketing, creating a good newsletter can take more time than you expect. Allow a learning curve, starting out with a slower schedule than you might eventually adopt.

Your newsletter must comply with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and its updates. Some states have additional antispam laws. In spite of laws and better filtering software, the amount of spam that reaches users’ mailboxes hasn’t leveled off. Spammers seem to find new ways to evade the filters as fast as the filters are improved. Commercial newsletter services require you to meet CAN-SPAM requirements to retain their own viability.

The From and Subject lines are the key to increasing the open rate for your newsletter — in particular:

  • Don't forget branding. Include your name, company, product, and service (whatever readers will most recognize as your brand) in either the From or Subject line. After the From line is established, use it consistently.

  • Entice the subscriber. Insert in the Subject line a benefit or another reason for opening the message. You’re more likely to receive a response to an e-mail titled November Savings from Your Company than one titled Monthly News from Your Company. Of course, a good offer always works, such as 2 for 1 Dinner Coupon.

  • Be honest. Don’t trick people into opening your e-mail with a misleading Subject line.

    An accurate Subject line is a legal requirement.

  • Create a sense of urgency. Incorporate time-dependent phrases or other words of urgency to encourage opening your newsletter promptly, such as the name of the month or terms such as this week, now, important recall notice, or exclusive offer.

  • Don't overdo it. Avoid using punctuation in the Subject line, especially exclamation points. Don’t use all capital letters either; they trigger spam filters.

  • Keep it short. Limit the Subject line to 50 characters, including spaces. Restrict most newsletters to no more than two scrolling pages.

The length of your newsletter may vary according to its purpose and audience. An informational newsletter, for example, might be longer than one designed to drive customers to your site to buy. Place an internally linked table of contents at the top of a long newsletter to direct readers directly to articles of interest.

Try to use a headline that grabs attention. Just as with your website, you have only a few seconds to catch your reader’s attention and answer the question “What’s in it for me?” Users who skim their e-mail in a preview pane might see only several inches of material on the screen. Keep the most important information at the top, before any scrolling is needed. In other words, shorter is better.

When putting together your newsletter, follow the same design and writing principles that you would use for a page on your website, as described in this list:

  • Emphasize your brand. Consistently include your logo or header graphic, or both elements, for branding purposes.

  • Use small photos. Be sure to resize your photos for the web so that they download quickly.

  • Accommodate subscribers who use text-only e-mail. Provide vivid descriptions as alternatives to photos, because users might suppress image delivery in e-mail.

  • Provide relevant content. Match your content to your audience. You may see better results if you segment a large address list and send somewhat different versions of your newsletter based on interest area or past purchase history than if you try to make one newsletter do everything.

Use teaser lines or incomplete paragraphs with links to the appropriate pages of your website. This strategy is far better than putting too much information in the newsletter. In fact, your newsletter should have at least 20 assorted links to your site, some of which are for content or products and some of which are for best practice functions.

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