20 Newsletter Tips to Make Your eNewsletter Great (Part 2)

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Last week in Part 1 of this article we published the first ten of twenty newsletter tips.  Have you started implementing any of them?

We did.  Seriously…

We took some of our own advice and Friday morning published our newly redesigned webmaster newsletter.  The results blew away my expectations – almost 40% of readers clicked at least one link in the newsletter.  I think that’s pretty awesome.

In this article we continue with newsletter tips 11-20, tips which can really improve the effectiveness of your newsletter.

11) Format text for the web. Most online content gets skimmed.  That means it’s important to break text up into short chunks.  Use short paragraphs, bold headings, bullet points, and link to places where the reader can take action or get more information.

12) Include images. Pictures can really help to engage readers much more than text-only messages.  This is another tip we’ve taken to heart here at OCC.  Prior to this month our announcements and blog notifications were text-only.  We hope you’ve found the new HTML versions to be much more engaging.  Most newsletter software/services include a WYSIWYG editor that makes formatting text and images fairly easy.

13) Get a proofreader. You’d be surprised at how much better your newsletters will be if you have someone proof them for spelling, grammar, and clarity.  I need to take my own advice on this one.

14) Test. Send your eNewsletter to yourself before you distribute it.  It’s a good idea to create accounts with some of the more popular email services (Gmail, Hotmail, YahooMail) and view the message in each account plus perhaps Outlook and Thunderbird if possible.  It may not be necessary to test every newsletter in every email tool, but at least test the first one in as many as possible and then test each subsequent newsletter by sending it to your primary email account.

15) Automate the subscribe/unsubscribe processes. If you send out an eNewsletter via email and people have to email you to get added/removed from the distribution list or update their email address, save yourself the hassle by using some newsletter or mailing list software.  There are quite a few options available: open source (free) software like phpList, newsletter services like Constant Contact (for monthly fee), OCC’s NE1 Website Builder has an eNewsletter module included with Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze accounts, and we also have a newsletter component available for the custom websites we design.

16) Prominently feature the newsletter on your site. For many websites, an eNewsletter is the only means available to remind a person to come back to the website.  If a person subscribes, they could become a regular visitor.  If not, it may be one look and gone, never to return again.  If possible, put a “subscribe” box “above the fold” on every page of your website.

17) Archive online. Posting an archive of each issue online accomplishes at least 3 things.  First, it gives people who are considering subscribing the opportunity to see an example of what they’ll be receiving.  Second, it gives people who are not subscribed access to the information contained in past newsletters.  Third, it may help your website’s search rankings, and the newsletters themselves may come up in the search rankings and draw new visitors to your site.  Many newsletter services/software automatically create an archive.  Our NE1 and Custom CMS Express newsletter modules do.

18) Comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. It’s petty much common sense/common courtesy and not particularly burdensome.  Don’t deceive, include your postal address in every newsletter, include unsubscribe instructions, and unsubscribe people when they ask. (CAN-SPAM Act summary)

19) Learn from others. Subscribe to newsletters similar to yours.  If your newsletter is for a church or school, that should be pretty easy.  If your newsletter is for your business, subscribe to your competitors’ newsletters.

20) Track your stats. Most newsletter services/software include the ability to track the number of people who view each issue and the number of people who click each link.  Statistics can be very useful in helping you determine if your newsletters are getting caught in spam/bulk email filters.  They can help you see if certain subject lines result in more subscribers actually reading the newsletter.  They can also tell you which links get the most clicks, indicating which sections of your newsletter are most popular.

What are your thoughts on these tips?  Got any newsletter tips of your own?

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    About the author

    Paul Steinbrueck

    Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.