Most people begin their adventures in the world of email newsletters by sending out very casual emails. After a while, they start noticing a lot of articles online about email newsletters. Much of that information is confusing and overwhelming. Some if it contains information about the languages used to create the email, such as HTML and CSS. That information isn’t too helpful if you’re just doing the writing and handling other non-technical decisions.
So let’s make this simple…
1. Use headlines
Note how I’m using 12 headlines in this post. This is one method of drawing your reader to specific information. It also makes it easy for your readers to access the information. So break up your newsletter into various sentences and paragraphs that lead with a headline.
2. Keep the email short
Just like on the web, people scan their emails too. Few read an email thoroughly. To ensure that your email is actually being read, keep it simple. Stick to the highlights.
3. Limit choice of fonts
Many of the fonts on your computer are not on everyone else’s. Thus, if you decide to use fancy fonts, odds are good no one will see it. It’s a bit of a waste of time. Further, getting too fancy with the fonts can distract from the message or make a page too busy. Stick with one or two fonts and work with those. For variety, you can use bold, larger and smaller font sizes, color and italics to make one font have a variety of looks. Also, using too many fonts tends to look amateurish. Sticking to one or two gives your newsletter a polished look.
4. Use columns for layout
As with web pages, no one likes to scroll. If you are trying to keep the newsletter short, try a 2 column layout.
5. Have an Unsubscribe link in the email
Make it easy for people to unsubscribe. Some may not remember subscribing to your newsletter. Or maybe they have too much email and are trying to pare down their subscriptions. Whatever the case, make unsubscribing easy. Being nice to your audience will help them think nicely of you and maybe they’ll want to come back later. Additionally, this link adds some credibility to your organization and its newsletter. Just make sure the link does actually provide a means for the user to easily unsubscribe (such as taking them to a web page with a form to enter their email address).
6. Put links in the email to your website
Every has a lot of information they want to convey to their audience. For those situations where you have lengthy articles, put in a sentence or two and then a link to your website with more details. This encourages them to return to your site. These links have a three-fold purpose:
- It encourages people to go to your site (one of the purposes of a newsletter)
- It keep the file size of your email small and a fast download
- It keeps your newsletter easy to scan and thus more attractive to your readers
7. Don’t attach files, especially large ones, to your newsletters
People tend to get irked when they have to wait for a large email to download. Don’t irk your audience. Also, many ISPs and webmail providers place limits on the size of incoming emails. So your mail may not even arrive at the destination if it is too large. Due to fear of computer viruses, many people won’t open any kind of attachment. If you absolutely MUST send an attachment, use a PDF file. There are many free and cheap PDF makers out there. Just keep the file size under 2MB (the cutoff for many, although not all, ISPs). Bear in mind that PDFs are not generally accessible either, so visually impaired users that need screen readers will have no idea what you sent them.
8. Have another version of your newsletter available on your website
At the top of your newsletter, add some text along the lines of: “Can’t read this email? Read the newsletter on our website.”. Then have that text link to a page that is a web version of the newsletter. This is good for situations where an individual’s email chokes on your formatting or the text is too small for those with poor vision.
9. Use graphics wisely
Use images sparingly. Your best bet is to have your newsletter link to images on your website. However, the mail client will still need time to download those images. That could take a while if you have too many and/or very large images. Also, some email programs have settings which automatically block images in emails. Not everyone in your audience knows how to disable those settings.
10. Test your newsletter in multiple email clients
As you create your email newsletter, and once completed, view it in as many mail programs as possible. There are a lot of mail programs you can install for free to test on, such as Thunderbird. Also, don’t forget popular free mail sites such as Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo!. You may spend some time tweaking your newsletter to get it looking nice on as many email clients as possible. Just don’t get married to the idea that it should look exactly the same on all platforms. It won’t. Just make sure it looks presentable and then send it to your mailing list
11. Never buy mailing lists
I can’t say this often enough or loud enough: never ever purchase an email list. Ignore the nonsense the salesperson is giving you about the legalities of it. It may be legal, but its still spam since those people did not sign up with you directly. Your web host and/or ISP WILL shut you down. And it IS legal for them to do so. You could be blacklisted. Just don’t go there. Also, get to know the The CAN-SPAM Act.
12. Sign up with a newsletter service
Don’t try and send hundreds of emails through the email program on your computer. You’ll find yourself blocked. Web hosts and ISPs only allot so many resources for email. Newsletter activity is frequently well beyond those limits. If your list begins with 25 or so subscribers, that’s fine. As the list grows, its time to go to a paid service. Sorry, there aren’t really many free ones anymore, if any. Email marketing is big business! Check out sites such as the ever-popular Constant Contact, or just run a search using the terms “email newsletter service”.