Nine-in-10 marketers use email to engage audiences, and more than half (58%) plan to allocate more budget to email marketing this year. The strength of email as a marketing channel can be largely attributed to the strong return on investment (ROI) — email had a median ROI of 122%, which is 4x higher than other marketing formats. For publishers who aren’t seeing a strong ROI, one reason why could have to do with email newsletter design.
Delivery rates, open rates, and click-through rates are determined not just by the sender and the content, but by how that content is presented within an email newsletter. With 55% of emails now being opened on mobile devices, publishers have to take design issues like single-column layouts and shorter images into consideration to ensure their newsletters are viewable across the spectrum of mobile phones and tablets.
Here are 10 of the most important email newsletter design strategies for online publishers.
1. Stack content in a single column.
The best email templates on mobile feature stackable content. Rather than having a right sidebar, which might look fine on desktop, but can present problems for people reading on their smartphones and tablets, publishers should switch to a single column design with a thin width, so that content resizes easily on any device.
2. Include a clear call-to-action.
Brevity is key. Newsletters with a clear call-to-action near the top of the email are easier for people to read on mobile devices. Whether the goal is to quickly update readers on a breaking story or direct them back to a specific landing page, there should be a clear link or button near the top of the email newsletter that’s easy for readers to follow.
3. Use a table of contents.
Publishers with an abundance of content in their newsletters should consider adding a table of contents to the preview pane. The table of contents will enable readers to jump to the section of the newsletter, or article within the newsletter, that they’re most interested in reading.
4. Choose the right font.
The smallest font size that a publisher should use in an email newsletter is 14pt for the body and 22pt for headlines. Going even larger is ideal. In addition to choosing the right size, it’s also important to use contrasting colors, like black text on a white background. Many people turn down the brightness on their smartphones, which makes it difficult to read text that doesn’t contract against the background.
5. Keep content in proportion.
While it can be tempting to stuff email newsletters with promotional offers and ads, having too much paid content will turn subscribers off. From an email newsletter design perspective, the general rule of thumb is to strike a 60%/40% balance between editorial and paid content.
6. Optimize images for mobile.
High-quality images can make or break an email newsletter design. Current recommendations are for publishers to create unique images specifically for mobile subscribers, as opposed to resizing images to fit on mobile screens. Creating key images at 2x the size they’ll actually display will make the image look crisp on an iPhone or iPad display.
7. …Or forego images altogether.
Are images essential to getting the message across? If not, consider eliminating them altogether. Having one to three images in an email is ideal from a mobile design perspective. Many Android platforms turn off images by default, so a newsletter that relies too heavily on pictures and graphics could end up looking like a ghost town if all the images are blocked.
8. Include image alt tags.
If an image is blocked and it fails to load, then the alt text will let readers know what is supposed to be there. Adding alt text to images is a dead simple strategy that can improve the way readers interact with a newsletter.
9. Add elements that encourage sharing.
Readers can’t share an email newsletter if they don’t know how. Adding links to social media profiles and clear buttons that readers can click to quickly share the newsletter with their own contacts via email, Twitter, or Facebook will lead to an uptick in subscribers. These icons should be placed in the footer of the email.
10. Keep it simple.
When it comes to email newsletter design, simple is better. Readers are busy, and most don’t have time to scroll through embellishments and flourishes that serve no real purpose. For local publishers, the ideal newsletter design puts a focus on the editorial content rather than the graphic elements.