You’ve crafted an irresistible lead magnet, your subscribers are slowly but surely starting to increase and now it’s time to send out your newsletter!
The only problem?
You feel completely overwhelmed at the thought of writing your newsletter and sending it to your subscribers each and every week. Getting email subscribers is half the battle—keeping those subscribers engaged and on your list is a whole other task.
So today, I’m going to walk you through a list of email best practices. You’re going to learn everything you need to create quality newsletters your subscribers will be delighted to read!
Best practices for subscriber signups
The moment someone signs up for your email list you should have a system in place to help you avoid spam traps and attract higher-quality subscribers. High-quality subscribers will be more likely to open your emails and become paying customers.
1. Use double opt-in
A double opt-in is the quickest way to weed out low-quality subscribers.
Here’s how a double opt-in works.
When someone first signs up for your newsletter, they will be prompted to confirm their email address before they are added to your list of subscribers.
Here is an example from Jeremy, with Counterweight Creative:
When the reader clicks the yellow “confirm your subscription” button above, they are added to Jeremy’s email list.
And what happens if they don’t confirm their email?
Well, they won’t be added to your email list.
You might wonder why you’d want a mechanism that lowers your overall subscribers.
By clicking the confirmation button above, your reader is:
- Confirming they signed up for your list purposefully
- Indicating their desire to receive your future emails
- Verifying their email address so you can be sure it’s not going to bounce (double opt-in reduces bounce rate by 48.3%)
Double opt-ins also increase the open rate by 144%! Your list quality is much more important than the quantity.
In ConvertKit, you can see precisely how many unconfirmed subscribers you have.
I currently have over 7,200 unconfirmed subscribers I’ve gained over the years. Had I not turned on my double opt-in, I would have been paying for thousands of incorrect email addresses and people who weren’t particularly excited to receive my content.
Build a loyal community with newsletters
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2. Be honest
To avoid people immediately unsubscribing, make sure the lead magnet you deliver is exactly as advertised.
If you are going to promise a 50% off coupon to your online shop as your lead magnet but only send over a code for 20% off, you can probably assume most subscribers will choose to unsubscribe.
In fact, 45% of consumers wouldn’t trust a brand if the business acts unethically. Trust can take lots of time to build up but is incredibly easy to lose.
Best practices for newsletter design
You don’t need to be a graphic designer to create and design punchy newsletters. These email newsletter design best practices will help make sure your newsletters are clean and visually appealing.
1. Pay attention to your subject line
We’re told not to judge a book by its cover but I can guarantee your subscribers are judging your email newsletters by their subject lines.
The subject line is often the first piece of your newsletter your audience will see. 47% of people will open your newsletter based on the subject line alone.
If it’s not compelling, they’ll quickly forget about it and move onto the next email.
A click-worthy subject line:
- Contains essential information near the front so it doesn’t get cut off on smaller devices
- Piques curiosity and compels your reader to open your newsletter
Mark Schaefer’s subject lines are great because they help give me an idea of what type of content is inside. They are concise without being too short and they also make me feel curious enough to open the email:
You can use CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to help you create your subject lines. In the image below, I’ve tested the headline “how to instantly improve your subject lines” and was given a score of 74 out of 100 with some useful tips for improvement.
Ideally, you should create two subject lines and A/B test each one.
To A/B test your subject line, you’ll need to send out two newsletters, one with subject line A and the other with subject line B, to a small segment of your subscribers.
After some time (usually a few hours), you’ll want to see which subject line results in the most opens.
Whichever subject line had more opens should be sent out to your remaining subscribers.
All you need to do is enter both of your subject lines when writing your email newsletter:
After you send your newsletter out, ConvertKit will send each subject line to a random sample of recipients on your email list.
After four hours, ConvertKit will declare a winning subject line based on whichever one has the most opens. Your newsletter will be automatically sent to the remaining subscribers with the winning line.
A/B testing your subject lines will help you be confident that your open rates will remain as high as possible!
2. Optimize for different devices
Your audience will use many different devices to read your newsletter.
To be sure your newsletter will look great no matter what device it’s read on, you’ll want to do a quick test. 46% of people read emails on their mobile devices. If you aren’t testing your newsletter on different devices, you are doing a disservice to your readers and your business.
The fastest way to test how your email newsletter will appear on different screen sizes is to send yourself a test email and use Chrome DevTools.
First, send yourself a test email and open it from the Chrome browser.
Next, use the shortcut “Shift+Ctrl+i” (Windows) or “Command+Option+i” (Mac) to bring up your options.
Now, you’ll want to click “Toggle device toolbar”.
Click on “Responsive” to access the dropdown menu and choose which device you’d like to emulate.
Another way to test your newsletter for different screen sizes is to resize your browser window.
Resizing your window will help you understand how your content will appear on small devices.
Here are two things to keep in mind:
- Make sure you have enough white space on smaller screens, so your newsletter isn’t an overwhelming text block.
- Your images should be distinguishable on both small and large screens—if your media looks funky when shrunk down, you may want to replace or remove it.
3. Limit the media
Pictures, videos and GIFs are fun ways to engage your audience—but when it comes to email newsletter best practices, less is more.
Embedded videos, in particular, should be left out of your emails entirely. Video files are quite large and can cause your email to bounce.
A workaround is to screenshot your video and include a link for your reader to watch the video externally, just like Ben with Biddyco has done:
You also want to be mindful of the images you include in your emails:
- Do they contain any critical information that will be lost if they don’t load?
- Are they challenging to view on small screens?
- Do they overpower the call-to-action of the email?
If you answer yes to any of the above questions, you should revisit and rethink your images.
4. Use alt text for your images
Speaking about images, what happens if, for some reason, they don’t load or your user is unable to see them?
Here’s where alt text is handy!
Alt text is the text screen readers read aloud and shows if your images don’t load.
Take this image on my website, for example:
Globally, 2.2 billion people have impaired vision. By adding alt text to your email newsletter images you provide an inclusive experience for your readers.
5. Consider the readability
Have you ever tried to read a piece of content with great information, but you couldn’t seem to make it to the end?
Poor readability is likely the culprit!
The way we enjoy reading content online differs vastly from the way we read offline (think books or research papers).
For online content, readers enjoy short paragraphs and digestible copy.
Jonathan Gebauer’s email (below) hits the above points. Take a look at how easy it is to read. Notice how important information jumps out at you.
You can achieve this in your newsletters by making sure you have:
- Bullet lists to organize list-type data
- Paragraphs that are 1-3 sentences long
- Bold/italicized text to emphasize important information
- Headers dividing up long content into suitable sections
- Contrast for your call-to-action (such as links that differ in color from your body text)
- Web-safe fonts so your readers can view your email exactly how you designed it without needing to download obscure fonts that may not be pre-installed on their devices
Lastly, take the time to do a quick spelling and grammar check. Grammarly is a freemium app you can use to check your newsletters before hitting send.
6. Write enticing preview text
After your subject line, your preview text is valuable real estate you shouldn’t ignore!
The preview text is what your recipients see after the subject line. It gives a glimpse inside your newsletter and the best part? You can customize your preview text to say whatever you’d like.
Here’s an example of some preview text that hasn’t been set:
Usually, unless otherwise specified, the first line of your email becomes your preview text.
I don’t know about you, but the above text doesn’t engage me, and unless you are setting your preview text, you risk sending emails that show something similar to our example.
Here’s is an email where I’ve set the preview text:
You can add the following HTML code (courtesy of Elizabeth Goddard) to the top of your email and set your preview text:
<span class=”preheader” style=”color: transparent; display: none !important; width: 0; height: 0; visibility: hidden;”>PREVIEW TEXT GOES HERE</span>
Best practices for sending your newsletter
It can be completely nerve-wracking to hit the “send” button on your newsletters each week.
Let’s discuss ways to deliver high-quality and engaging newsletters (and keep you from becoming a ball of nerves every week!)
1. Send exclusive and personalized content
Your subscribers’ inboxes are overflowing as it is. If you want to stand out (which I know you do), you will need to identify your unique selling proposition.
What makes you different from everybody else, and how can you convey your value through your newsletters?
Each newsletter you send should aim to provide valuable and exclusive content personalized to each reader; otherwise, there isn’t any incentive to stay on your email list.
There are many different emails you can send to engage your audience, including:
- Special offers
- Blog post recaps
- Loyalty emails
- Behind-the-scenes or exclusive looks into your business
Jasmine Allen sent an exclusive code to her newsletter subscribers for an increased discount to her eCommerce store.
These small perks can make a huge difference to keep your subscribers interested in your newsletters.
The secret to higher converting emails is email segmentation.
Email segmentation is grouping your subscribers into smaller segments based on specific attributes.
For example, if you’re a DIY blogger your subscribers might be other crafters who take an interest in your projects.
But from there, you can break down (or segment) your list further such as:
- Child-friendly crafters
- Home decor DIYers
After segmenting your email list, you can begin to craft and send personalized content to each segment.
Hubspot found marketers who use segmentation see a 760% increase in revenue compared to those who don’t.
At ConvertKit, our tags and segments help you effortlessly segment your subscribers so you can increase conversions and sales!
2. Test different times to send
Just as there’s the best time to post to Instagram and other social media platforms, there are good and bad times to send out your emails.
CoSchedule found the best time to send emails was:
#1 Tuesday, #2 Thursday, #3 Wednesday
10 am, 8 pm, 2 pm, 6 am
You can also dive into your website analytics to understand when your audience is online.
Take the screenshot below, for example:
We can see a dropoff in traffic around 10:00 pm. When I compare this to other days, I see a similar trend.
This indicates my audience is not online at that time. However, between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm my traffic is quite active!
Using your website traffic as a starting point can help you test and find the ideal time to send your newsletters.
3. Plan and schedule
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but your subscribers will likely forget about you if you aren’t consistently showing up in their inboxes.
Inboxes are busier than ever.
The average American worker sends and receives around 126 emails per day.
It’s easy to get lost in the mix and unless you are consistent with sending your email newsletters, your subscribers can quickly forget who you are and why they signed up to receive your newsletters in the first place.
Kate with Real Food RN specifies on her landing page how often she’ll email her subscribers:
You can also take it a step further and specify what day of the week you’ll email your list.
A consistent email newsletter will help subscribers identify you and build a strong connection with your brand.
4. Avoid spam filters
After spending months growing your email list and perfecting your email newsletter strategy, the last thing you want is for your newsletter to go to the dreaded spam folder.
Spam folders are usually for poor-quality content, but if you aren’t careful, your emails could unwittingly end up in the spam wasteland.
The first way you can avoid spam filters is to remove spam trigger words from your emails, such as:
- Excessive symbols or emojis (think “!!!!!” or “$$$”)
- “Order now”
- “Weight loss”
The list of spam trigger words is long, but it doesn’t mean you should completely ban these words from your emails.
For example, the word “winner” might be necessary if you are holding a giveaway.
Spam filters are good at detecting when you’re authentically using words and when you’re using them in a spammy way.
Next, make sure your unsubscribe link is visible. An email with no way to unsubscribe is not only irritating, it’s illegal. Your audience will trust you more if your unsubscribe link is easy to spot.
I also like to include a little blurb in my email’s footer reminding my subscribers why they are on my list:
“You are receiving this email because you signed up at Dana Nicole Designs.”
While I’d like to assume my audience will remember me, I know they’ve got a lot going on in their lives and I want to make it as easy as possible for them to identify why they are on my email list.
If you want to check your email’s spam score, use Mail Tester to grade a test email and identify improvements.
5. Use your analytics
Designing your emails and connecting with your potential customers is exciting.
But staring at a screen full of numbers?
Not so thrilling…
Even though email marketing metrics aren’t the most thrilling, your analytics contain powerful information and when you learn to use them properly, you can supercharge your email marketing strategy.
A few important metrics to pay attention to are:
- Open rate
- Click rate
- Deliverability rate
- Conversion rate
- Unsubscribe rate
For example, a high unsubscribe rate might indicate a disconnect with the content you send out versus your initial lead magnet.
On the other hand, a high click rate could mean your audience loves your content.
6. Re-engage or remove cold subscribers
We define a cold subscriber as anyone who hasn't opened or clicked an email in the last 90 days and has been subscribed for at least 30 days.
Unengaged subscribers are less likely to convert and might even cost you money to keep on your list.
If someone isn’t engaging with your newsletters, you have two choices:
- Try to re-engage them
- Remove them off your list
With ConvertKit, you can easily prune cold subscribers by first re-engaging with them and removing those who don’t take action from your re-engagement email.
Take my email below:
I use the above email as my attempt to re-engage any cold subscribers. If they don’t click the link, I remove them—no hard feelings!
Create a newsletter your audience will love
Sending out your email newsletter doesn’t need to be overwhelming or scary.
The above email newsletter best practices will help you increase conversions and build a strong connection with your readers. You will be confident your emails remain spam-free and provide valuable content!
ConvertKit’s suite of tools will equip you with everything you need to attract quality subscribers, design visually-appealing newsletters and knock your email marketing out of the park.