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How many newsletters do you subscribe to? I personally receive more than 10 and usually read every single one.
That’s a lot of information to read through — most of them are daily newsletters — so what keeps me coming back?
The email newsletters I stick with offer bite-sized bits of information, include useful links, have a consistent voice, and usually are infused with some humor or distinct personality.
With the right newsletter, a publication can build a loyal reader base, increase engagement, and boost traffic to its website.
Let’s break down some of the most important elements of a successful newsletter.
Craft a Strong Subject Line
Getting readers to open the email is the first hurdle you must overcome every time you send a newsletter to subscribers. According to GetResponse, an email marketing platform, newsletters have an average 20.48% open rate.
The subject line is the first piece of the newsletter people see and may be what decides whether they open it; it’s a critical piece of a successful email strategy.
For a strong subject line, keep character count in mind. Many readers will be viewing emails on mobile devices (with smaller screens), so optimize your subject lines for this space. Keep the length in check and let subscribers know quickly what they can expect in the newsletter.
- Tell a story: Writing a subject line to appeal to readers’ emotions – inspiration, excitement, humor, etc. – can be an effective way to drive them to open the email.
- Create a sense of urgency: Are you offering prizes for subscriber referrals? How about taking down the paywall for a limited amount of time? Offers with a short lifespan encourage readers to open the newsletter now, because the deal won’t be around forever.
- Include breaking news: Words like “urgent,” “breaking,” and “alert” draw eyes and pique readers’ interest.
- Stimulate curiosity: You don’t have to give it all away in the subject line. Tease the information and encourage readers to open the newsletter for all the details. Morning Brew, for example, does a great job of making readers curious about the news – recent subject lines read “Ugh” and "It got worse." Atlantic 57, another one of my favorites, effectively teases information: “What's LinkedIn's secret to engagement?” was a recent header.
Make it personal
Include things like birthdays (like theSkimm), individual feedback, and reader responses to let subscribers know you are listening.
User generated content is an important part of the news gathering process, so why shouldn’t it also be a part of regular communication to subscribers? Ask an Expert sections, advice columns, etc. can also be effective ways to help readers feel connected to the newsletter and your brand.
Readers love lists – maybe that’s why you clicked on this post?
If you have top posts for the day, week, or month, include them in a list format. Can a story be broken down into a bulleted list? Give it a try.
This structure embraces readers’ tendency to scan the text, keeping them on the page longer and allowing you to draw their attention to important information.
Show off your personality
You are in subscribers’ inboxes regularly, so build a relationship. Readers want to get to know you and you can help them do that by injecting your personality into your writing. Morning Brew’s Retail Brew edition is a good example of this.
If you’re working with a group of writers, take time to profile each contributor to help readers feel a bond with the team. Subscribers want to know that humans, not robots, are creating the newsletter.
Include Calls to Action
Recommended reading, surveys (like these ones), etc. are great ways to get readers to move beyond the newsletter and engage with the content.
Instead of using weaker call-to-action words like "click here," try being more direct and get creative with your wording. Phrases like "Sign up for free," "Try product xyz now," or "Check out this example" can be more effective at prompting a response from readers.
It may go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: People love to win things. I personally never win things, but I hear this is the case.
Newsletters like theSkimm and Morning Brew offer swag, trips, and other items to readers who refer enough new subscribers. This method helps both to grow their readership and strengthen bonds with existing subscribers.
Don’t forget about visuals
Emails work similarly to a webpage – most readers will scan it rather than read word for word. People’s eyes are drawn to images and videos and they make it easy for readers to scan. The formatting of text and visual elements isn’t something to overlook when putting together a newsletter.
Axios’ Media Trends newsletter is a great example of this. The weekly recap of industry news includes original graphics as well as charts and graphs to help break down data.
Once you’ve crafted a strong subject line to entice readers to open your email newsletter, there are several elements that you can include to keep them reading.
- Present them with an action to take, like a poll, external link, or video.
- Embrace the natural tendency of most readers to scan the content — make it easy for them by breaking up the text, highlighting key details, and including multimedia assets.
- Don’t be afraid to write with personality. Readers want a newsletter that’s clearly written by humans, not robots.
Have you found other tactics that improved your newsletter engagement? Tweet us @BeyondBylines.
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