What makes a successful email newsletter? That’s the million-dollar question that digital publishers are working hard to figure out. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to the underlying principles behind improving email newsletter engagement.
First things first, let’s talk about why email newsletter engagement is so important. Email marketing has become a central component of the digital publisher’s monetization strategy. In addition to selling advertising within their email newsletters, publishers also rely on email newsletter engagement in order to promote stories and other profit-making initiatives.
But having a newsletter that’s sent out at periodic intervals is no longer enough for guaranteed success. With so much competition in the news and media marketplace, publishers have to make sure that their newsletters are designed in a way that promotes email newsletter engagement.
The definition of online engagement can vary, but for the purposes of this article, let’s assume that engagement means converting prospects to readers, or converting casual readers into loyal subscribers. Some publishers measure engagement in “likes” or shares, while other measure engagement based on how many times readers click on the links in their email newsletters.
Engaged readers are more likely to become paying subscribers and tell their friends about the stories they’ve read. That’s why promoting engagement among newsletter subscribers is so important.
With that in mind, here are five of the best tactics for improving email newsletter engagement.
- Use a distinctive voice. There was a time when publishers thought an email newsletter should just be a collection of links to stories from the previous day or week. Not anymore. With so much competition, publishers are pulling out all the stops to make their email newsletters pop. Using a distinctive voice—ideally, with the same tone as the publication itself—gives newsletters a personality and makes people want to open each email to see what the new edition might bring.
- Create an incentive for engaging. Incentives work, plain and simple. People want to feel like they are being rewarded for their efforts, even if those efforts are as simple as opening an email newsletter. One of the simplest ways to incentivize readers to subscribe and read your weekly newsletters is to include an exclusive coupon in each newsletter. As your email newsletter engagement improves, advertisers will jump on the opportunity to have their own coupons included. Just make sure that the coupons you’re publishing are exclusive to the newsletter, since that’s what’s going to be in the incentive here for people to open up your email newsletters each week.
- Invite contributions. Readers can be a valuable source of information. Shift the paradigm and get readers more involved in the news production process by inviting them to contribute to your newsletter. Reader contributions could come in the form of guest posts, photo submissions, or even just news tips. Another option is to publish the best website comment of the week in the email newsletter. This strategy encourages readers to read news stories to the end, comment on their favorites, and then open each newsletter to see if their comments were included.
- Make targeted editions. Email newsletters that are focused on a certain topic have high open rates and click-through rates. With that in mind, we recommend that publishers segment their subscriber lists and send email newsletters focused on specific topics. Buzzfeed has been a pioneer in this strategy. The media company sends out separate newsletters for almost every vertical under its umbrella, including food, health, and lifestyle content. Some readers may sign up for all of the newsletter editions, others may sign up for just one. In any case, email newsletter engagement is sure to be higher because subscribers have indicated a clear interest in the topic.
- Optimize the send time. What influence does the time of day, or day of the week, an email is sent have on open rates and click-through rates? We recommend that you start testing today to find the answer to that question. Email marketing automation platforms like MailChimp, and many others, have developed send time optimization features that test what time of day readers are most likely to engage with email content. Try out a few of these tools until you’re confident that your email newsletters are being sent out at the ideal time for peak engagement.
Interested in learning even more strategies for improving email newsletter engagement? Check in with one of our experts to learn which small tweaks could lead to major improvements for your own publication.