While there’s no doubt that you almost certainly need some sort of email newsletter to promote a site, blog, product or service online, there’s a great deal of nervousness and hand-wringing as to how it should be done.
The reason is because email newsletters, in the mind of many, border all-too-closely to spam and other unsolicited email. Though email newsletters, if done well, can be a great benefit to the recipient as well as the sender, a poorly-done newsletter can actually damage your reputation and unsell your site or product.
Unfortunately, the difference between a newsletter your subscribers look forward to getting and one they toss in the spam folder is often a minor one. But by simply following these best practices, you can help ensure your newsletter serves as a positive, routine contact for your subscribers and not as a recurring annoyance.
1. Clarity Before Subscription
Far too many newsletter subscription pitches fail to include what is actually in the newsletter. Why should the reader subscribe? What will they be getting? And how often will they be getting it?
Not only are better-informed readers more likely to sign up for your newsletter, but they’re more likely to stay as they know what they are getting into. Compare that to subscribers that are surprised at the volume or content of your newsletter and either unsubscribe immediately or begin to junk your emails.
2. Double Opt-In Only
Every email address on your subscriber list should be obtained through a double opt-in process only. This means that they have requested a subscription on your site (or some other means) and then confirmed that with an email sent to their account.
Email lists that don’t use double opt-in are simply too prone to abuse as anyone can sign up anyone else. This, in turn, puts your newsletters in the hands of those who never really wanted it, turning what should be a legitimate mailing into spam.
Always remember spam is in the eye of the beholder so it’s important to make sure the recipient won’t see it that way.
3. Send at the Best Time
One of the most common ways for your emails to be treated as spam is to have them appear in an inbox filled with other spam letters.
Though there is no single best time to send your newsletters, you typically want to do so when your readers are active on their computer but not too busy.
For example, if you reach out to a business audience, the ideal time might be right after the morning email clean out but before lunch. Likewise, if your audience primarily checks email at home, it might be early evening, shortly after they get home from work.
Understand your audience and learn the best time to send your newsletters to them. You can even further segment this by requesting additional information from your subscribers and then target different readers at different times for maximum benefit.
4. Easy Unsubscribe
It’s a sad truth that, of all of your subscribers, some 91% are going to want to eventually leave your email newsletter (PDF). It’s just part of the life-cycle of an email newsletter.
Making this part of the process is critical to not angering your readers. After all, just because someone is unsubscribing from your newsletter does not mean they won’t purchase your product, read your site or otherwise participate in your community, it just means they no longer want that particular element and and it’s best to not upset them lest they leave completely.
Furthermore, the easier it is to leave, the less likely readers are to mark your newsletters as spam and the less likely they are going to be filtered out for others.
In short, a clear exit helps everyone out.
All in all, there is no reason to be too nervous about newsletter marketing. Though it can be risky if done poorly, if you operate with good faith, make sure people know what they are subscribing to and let them leave when they want, the risk is fairly minor.
While it might mean putting the brakes somewhat on your lists’ growth and being a bit more careful with how you use it, a well-built and well-maintained list is, in the long run, worth far more than one most merely toss into the spam folder.
Best of all, it creates something people look forward to getting and eagerly open, meaning they are a willing audience. That, in turn, is something that almost every advertiser dreams of.
This guest post is written by Lior Levine, a marketing consultant for a web hosting company that provides a list of the top 10 website hosting companies available online. Lior also consults for an international company that provides innovative new cancer treatments.