How to Create an Online Newsletter

Posted on January 30, 2018 | Updated on March 1, 2021

Despite the rising prominence of mobile and social media phasing out traditional marketing channels, email marketing is here to stay. Email marketing, especially utilizing an online newsletter, is becoming increasingly popular, especially thanks to smartphones, which allow users and audiences to check their incoming emails anywhere, anytime.

In fact, mobile is the dominant email client by as much as 56 percent over desktop and web. It’s crucial, therefore, to not just deliver an email campaign, but to make sure it’s legible for mobile and desktop audiences alike.

But how do you accomplish such a thing? Creating an online newsletter or email campaign is relatively straightforward, especially when you use modern tools such as MailChimp. No doubt, you already have the basics down pat. What are some tips to fine-tune the process, however? What formatting and design specifications are crucial to a successful campaign?

Avoid Horizontal Scroll Bars

Because you want your online newsletter to be convenient for both mobile and desktop users, you must eliminate the possibility of horizontal scrollbars. Vertical scrollbars are fine. Touch users can swipe or enable gestures to browse the page. Desktop users can use a mouse scroll or various hotkeys. Horizontal scroll bars, however, break up the flow of reading. When content is off-screen, and users have to pause their eye scan to scroll to the right or left, it’s tedious.

You can avoid this design flaw by using a fixed-width newsletter template, primarily from 500 to 600 pixels wide. Do not use fluid, liquid or elastic layouts — there’s a difference. You’ll also want to be sure you put the most important information — or promotional offers — in the top 300 to 500 pixels. Many refer to this space as “above the fold,” or where the first scroll segment is located.

Lose the Sales Hype and Marketing Speech

By the time your customers receive the online newsletter, they’re already invested in your company or brand. They’ve likely willingly provided their personal or business email to receive updates from you. There’s no need to layer the newsletter or copy with sales and marketing hype. In fact, it’s better if you treat your newsletter audience as trusted friends, as opposed to customers.

To liken this to sales, imagine yourself as a door-to-door salesman. You’ve already delivered your initial pitch and piqued the homeowner’s interest, and they’ve allowed you to step into their home for a more personal conversation.

Similarly, your newsletter subscribers have already invited you into their inbox and offered you their time. Don’t abuse their trust by throwing a bunch of marketing and sales jargon their way, which will most likely scare them off.

One of the best ways to establish a rapport with your audience is to offer exclusive deals, discounts, promotions and even news. “Hey, did you know X product is coming out in two weeks, and you can get it before anyone else?”

This approach presents an air of exclusivity and value, and makes your subscribers feel important when compared to your average customer or website visitor.

Keep It Brief

Regardless of whether your audience is reading via desktop or mobile, no one wants to open an email and see a gigantic wall of text and content. Keep any messages or content you deliver brief and to the point.

Want to know the average length of time a person spends reading newsletters? It’s 51 seconds. That’s exactly how much time you have to get your point across, catch your audience’s interest and earn back your investment.

Be Reliable, Consistent and Trustworthy

Don’t be flaky. It’s not professional, it’s not convenient for your audience — and it is not conducive to building trust. Pick an appropriate schedule — be it daily, weekly or monthly — and stick to it no matter what. Furthermore, be clear and honest about your schedule so your customers and subscribers know when to expect a newsletter.

According to Nielsen, “69 percent of users […] look forward to receiving at least one newsletter, and most [say] a newsletter [is] part of their routine.”

Be Open and Responsive

Yes, it will be challenging to keep up with your audience as it grows, but never use a “do-not-reply” address in the “from” line of your email newsletter. Why? Well, would you enjoy talking to friends or colleagues who give you no opportunity to respond or ask questions? It’s just not possible to have a truly open and engaging conversation with someone like that, and the same is true of a brand or business.

If you do opt to send the newsletter from an unmonitored email address for whatever reason, make sure you provide your audience with an alternative contact channel, be it social media, IM or something else. This approach also invites feedback from your audience. This is an incredibly useful way to gain additional insights for future campaigns.

Offer an Opt-Out Option

Losing a reader stinks, but it happens. However, you should always make sure your readers have the option to cancel their subscription. In fact, the federal CAN-SPAM act of 2003 mandates any email sent for business purposes must include a conspicuous way for recipients to opt out, and that senders must promptly honor opt-out requests.

Making it difficult to opt out is not only frustrating for your readers, but could also land you in hot water. Just don’t do it.

Keep It Unique

If you follow these tips, you’ll have no problem delivering a compelling and successful online newsletter to your subscribers. But there’s one final piece of advice you’ll want to follow, which should also permeate throughout your entire email process: Create a newsletter that stands out from the noise.

Remember, you’re competing with dozens — maybe even hundreds — of other agencies, brands and retailers. They’re all trying to capture just a few moments of your audience’s time. Use a title and subject line that screams “open me now.” Grab their attention right away with an attractive, yet informative, header and opening content.

Creating a killer online newsletter people look forward to receiving is possible if you follow these steps. Ready for inspiration? Check out these real-world newsletters from brands like Buzzfeed, Uber, BirchBox, Stitcher and more.

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