Why Use Email
How to do them correctly.
Email newsletters let you
maintain a relationship with your customers and
supporters that has residual value far beyond their
visits to your website.
Email newsletters are an
ideal website compliment because they answer a different
They keep customers
informed and in touch with your organization.
can be timed to help your readers
take advantage at the right time.
Email newsletters are
They require little
technology. You can get a great
email list management program like MailList King
Your customers and prospects will
appreciate hearing from you if you create good
newsletters that aren't too long, are well written
and if you don't send them too often.
If you don't have a
newsletter, then publishing one is probably the
single-highest return on investment action you can take
to improve your online activities. If you do have a
newsletter, then improving it will likely make it
several times more valuable.
Newsletters have one more benefit: they are the best way
to free your website from dependence on search engines.
In the long run, this is one of the most important
strategic challenges facing web marketers.
KISS: Keep it short,
If you want to write the next great
American novel, don't to it in your email newsletter.
Usability testing shows that the average
reading life of most email newsletters is 51 seconds.
Reading is not really the right word for most
newsletters. Research shows that only about 19
percent of newsletters are completely read.
Scan-ability of the message content is
key. Forget the tiny text. Headlines in
14-18 point san serif fonts like Verdana of Helvetica
(this page is Verdana), body copy at least 10 point.
Use bold and bullets appropriately to emphasize
Introductions are wasted copy - get to
the point. Research shows that about 67 percent of
email newsletter readers totally skip over intro copy
looking for the meat of the subject.
Usability research shows that the most
common email newsletter's recommendation is "keep it
Email Subject & Content Headers
One of the most challenging parts of
writing good email newsletters is getting your
recipients to open them rather than send them off to the
junk folder or click the delete key.
A consistent email subject line is
important for reader recognition, followed by something
important for the current edition. A recent
example for one of my clients:
Hypatia Beauty News - Win A FREE
Gift for Your Mom for Mother's Day
Newsletters must be designed to
facilitate scanning. Readers' dominant mode of
dealing with email newsletters is to skim them.
Sometimes, users simply skim the headlines to get an
update or overview of what's going on in the
newsletter's target area.
Good content headers in the body of the
email are key.
Designing for users who scan rather than read is
essential for a newsletter's survival. Scan-ability is
important for websites as well, but it's about 50% more
important for newsletters. Newsletters must be
designed to let users quickly grasp each issue's content
and zero in on specifics. Content and writing styles
must support readers who read only part of the material.
Content & Usability
Newsletters must be current and timely.
What makes newsletter valuable to your readers?
Work-related news and activities.
Prices and sales
New products, services and
Personal interests and hobbies
Events, deadlines, and important
Newsletters must be relevant today and
address the user's specific needs in the moment.
What can you do for me now is the key issue.
Newsletters can also build relationships with readers,
and because it's so easy for readers to ignore
individual editions, newsletters can have some leeway.
The key is for a newsletter to be predictably relevant
at particular times. During periods in which a
newsletter isn't relevant to users, they can simply
ignore it rather than unsubscribing.
Keep the content short and relevant.
Make hyperlinks back to your website intuitive
underscored hyperlink blue. Don't make them guess
- remember - you have less than 60 seconds attention
from the average reader.
Keep the email file size small.
Rather than embedding images, create the newsletter in
your website and call the images to the newsletter page
through absolute hyperlinks to your website.
Many newsletters don't necessarily need
There are other advantages to putting
the newsletter in your website. You have a new
page of content. The page might get a search
ranking. You can use the information as a resource
for new clients. Refer them to your previous
newsletters that have relevant content.
Make It Easy to
Make a subscription link or signup form
obvious on every page of your website. Offer to
show them your previous email newsletters as an example
Getting people to sign up for regular
newsletters remains the ultimate way to maintain a
Readers should be able to subscribe to a newsletter in
less than a minute. The more information you ask
for, the less likely you are to get a subscribe.
Research shows that the success rate for subscribing to
newsletters was 81 percent several years ago. A
success rate of 81% implies that a newsletter with 5,000
subscribers could gain an additional 1,170 subscribers a
year by improving the usability of the subscription
If you are asking for more than just the
email address, make your subscription form compatible
with Google and other browser toolbar autofill.
If you are doing email newsletters and
are in the USA, make sure you follow the rules below
which are law.
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Look at MailList King as a great way to manage your
email list and automate or semi-automate the process.
The CAN-SPAM Act:
Requirements for Commercial Emailers In The USA
The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling
the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing
Act) establishes requirements for those who send
commercial email, spells out penalties for spammers and
companies whose products are advertised in spam if they
violate the law, and gives consumers the right to ask
emailers to stop spamming them.
The law, which became effective January
1, 2004, covers email whose primary purpose is
advertising or promoting a commercial product or
service, including content on a Web site. A
"transactional or relationship message" – email that
facilitates an agreed-upon transaction or updates a
customer in an existing business relationship – may not
contain false or misleading routing information, but
otherwise is exempt from most provisions of the CAN-SPAM
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the
USA's consumer protection agency, is authorized to
enforce the CAN-SPAM Act. CAN-SPAM also gives the
Department of Justice (DOJ) the authority to enforce its
criminal sanctions. Other federal and state agencies can
enforce the law against organizations under their
jurisdiction, and companies that provide Internet access
may sue violators, as well.
What the Law Requires
Here's a rundown of the law's main
It bans false or misleading header
information. Your email's "From," "To," and routing
information – including the originating domain name
and email address – must be accurate and identify
the person who initiated the email.
It prohibits deceptive subject
lines. The subject line cannot mislead the recipient
about the contents or subject matter of the message.
It requires that your email give
recipients an opt-out method. You must provide a
return email address or another Internet-based
response mechanism that allows a recipient to ask
you not to send future email messages to that email
address, and you must honor the requests. You may
create a "menu" of choices to allow a recipient to
opt out of certain types of messages, but you must
include the option to end any commercial messages
from the sender.
Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be
able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days
after you send your commercial email. When you receive
an opt-out request, the law gives you 10 business days
to stop sending email to the requestor's email address.
You cannot help another entity send
email to that address, or have another entity send email
on your behalf to that address.
Finally, it's illegal for you to sell or
transfer the email addresses of people who choose not to
receive your email, even in the form of a mailing list,
unless you transfer the addresses so another entity can
comply with the law.
It requires that commercial email be
identified as an advertisement and include the sender's
valid physical postal address. Your message must contain
clear and conspicuous notice that the message is an
advertisement or solicitation and that the recipient can
opt out of receiving more commercial email from you. It
also must include your valid physical postal address.
Each violation of the above provisions
is subject to fines of up to $11,000. Deceptive
commercial email also is subject to laws banning false
or misleading advertising.
Additional fines are provided for commercial emailers
who not only violate the rules described above, but
"harvest" email addresses from Web
sites or Web services that have published a notice
prohibiting the transfer of email addresses for the
purpose of sending email
Generate email addresses using a
"dictionary attack" – combining names, letters, or
numbers into multiple permutations.
Use scripts or other automated ways
to register for multiple email or user accounts to
send commercial email
Relay emails through a computer or
network without permission – for example, by taking
advantage of open relays or open proxies without
The law allows the DOJ to seek criminal
penalties, including imprisonment, for commercial
emailers who do – or conspire to:
Use another computer without
authorization and send commercial email from or
Use a computer to relay or
retransmit multiple commercial email messages to
deceive or mislead recipients or an Internet access
service about the origin of the message
Falsify header information in
multiple email messages and initiate the
transmission of such messages
Register for multiple email accounts
or domain names using information that falsifies the
identity of the actual registrant
Falsely represent themselves as
owners of multiple Internet Protocol addresses that
are used to send commercial email messages.
See the FTC Web site at
www.ftc.gov/spam for updates on implementation of
the CAN-SPAM Act.
The FTC maintains a consumer complaint
database of violations of the laws that the FTC
enforces. Consumers can submit complaints online at
and forward unwanted commercial email to the FTC at