Newsletters are a powerful source of information, and every individual and industry has their favorites. For some, it’s all about news roundups, such as the daily emails from The New York Times, The Washington Post, or The Skimm. Foodies lean towards regular missives from Food52 or America’s Test Kitchen. Simply put, no matter your interest, there’s an email for you. But what happens behind those newsletters? What makes one more popular than another?
Great newsletters are easy to digest, well formatted, timely, and fit within a set of established KPIs – and they can facilitate serious click-throughs. And if your business is making newsletters, you need to master all of these and more if you’re going to rise above the competition.
Concision As Concept
One reason people love newsletters is that they serve to pare down the vast amounts of information out there. The Skimm, for example, provides a conversational daily news briefing that’s easy to understand and helps to contextualize the news found in the assembled links. By keeping things colloquial, The Skimm has earned over 4 million subscribers since it launched in 2012.
For in-house newsletters, rather than aggregators, brevity looks a little different. It means honing precise, impactful copy with minimal introductory matter, and getting promptly to your CTA. Readers don’t want to wade through your anecdotes and filler to get to the point. If they had time for that, they wouldn’t be subscribing to newsletters.
Anytime you perform a business operation, whether it’s creating a newsletter or running a sale, you need sufficient data to help you determine whether you’re on the right track. That’s why you need to emphasize analytics.
There are a number of different types of analytics and SEO frameworks you can apply to your newsletter, but the first and most important piece of data is your opening rate. It’s not helpful if you have millions of subscribers but most of them don’t open your mailings. From there, the next step is to measure your click-through rate. Click-throughs are the first step towards conversion for sales-oriented newsletters, while for round-ups, click-throughs tend to determine profitability. It’s not enough for subscribers to read your newsletter if they don’t engage.
Get The Timing Right
How often should you send a newsletter? Too often and subscribers will unsubscribe because you’re an annoyance, not often enough and they won’t connect with your content or might prioritize other resources. And worst of all, if you publish irregularly, then you aren’t a reliable source of information. In that case, your information ceases to be timely and readers will be forced to turn to more consistent newsletters.
The right sending rate, then, varies by the topic of your newsletter. In quickly changing markets, frequent emails are a must; that’s why Coinzy, a newsletter devoted to cryptocurrency, publishes twice a day. For other topics, that would be too often, but with the rapid changes in currency prices and new currencies appearing all the time, it’s necessary. For news, once a day might be best, while a non-profit organization might send out an update every 4 to 6 weeks. You need to gauge the pace of your industry and base your mailing frequency on that.
Finally, it may seem superficial but formatting is one of the most important parts of a good newsletter, which is why you should A/B test your format. In general, you want your emails to be as clean as any website would be, easy to read with tidy headers, compelling subject lines, and easy to identify links. If your newsletter looks cluttered or like something circa 1998, you won’t be viewed as an authority, no matter how strong your content is.
A great newsletter makes it so that readers don’t need to go any further for vital information, but it will make them want to click through and dig deeper. So keep it short and sweet and then keep an eye on the data. The numbers will let you know when you’ve got the formula right.