It doesn’t matter what the ‘gurus’ say. There’s no one-size-fits-all for newsletters. Even in the same industry, two newsletters will return different outcomes for the same content, wording, or CTA’s.
If you want to improve your newsletter continuously – both the value you give to your subscribers and the ROI you are getting yourself – you need to test different variables.
Start by running these tests on your newsletter:
1. Run A/B tests on the subject line
For every newsletter I send out, I write two different headlines. Almost every newsletter provider allows you to do this when creating a new newsletter issue.
Mailerlite (the service I’m using) will send each of the two headlines to 25% of my list. After a few hours, the winning headline will be sent out to the remaining 50%. There’s usually a 3-6% higher open rate on the winning one.
A few ideas for how A/B tests for your newsletter subject line:
- Long vs. short
- Questions vs. statement
- With emoji vs. without emoji
- Long vs. short
- With vs. without personalization (first name)
- ALL CAPS vs. Capitalize Each Word
By making a habit out of always writing two subject lines, you can quickly improve your open rates by a few percent.
2. Test your preheader text
The preheader is what shows up right after the subject line in your reader’s email client. While not all newsletter services let you change this, you should take control if you have the option. The preheader is valuable real estate. If you don’t write it yourself, the risk is significant you’ll end up with something like “View in browser…” which is not the best use of this space.
If the subject line is the chapter title in a book, the preheader is the very first paragraph. Both have the same job: to make people read the following line. Use it to move people into the actual newsletter.
Try different versions. Make it play with your subject line. Use emojis. Keep in mind, though; the subject line needs to be able to stand alone, as not all email clients will show the preheader text.
3. Experiment with the length of your content
Let’s debunk a very persistent myth right away; writing lengthy emails is NOT a bad thing. Some people love to read long emails, and it is a great format for long-form content.
I’ve been writing long-form content to my mailing list for almost a decade, and it is working great. So don’t be afraid to test different lengths and formats for your emails.
Some audiences will love a 2000 word email, while others enjoy the curated (“Here are the 10 best resources from last week in tech”) kind of content.
The second-best way to know which one is working the best is to use links when testing this. For curated content, it is easy. For long-format content – make sure to put a few links close to the end of the text. If people click those, it means they’ve stuck with you for most of the text.
The best way to know what works is to ask. Either as a question in the email itself (“Hey, I’m trying a new format today, reply and let me know what you think”), as a poll, or by reaching out personally to your most enthusiastic readers through email or on social media.
4. Text vs. visual emails
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should! Today, an email can have almost the same visual and interactive content as a blog post.
I prefer emails with fewer visuals and designs. Some people love when everything is happening at once. You won’t know what your audience likes until you’ve tested it.
In the same way, as you A/B test a subject line, you can test the entire newsletter content. Create two separate newsletters with the same message – but remove as much of the visuals and formatting as possible in one of them. If possible, go with just Rich Text formatting.
Send it out, and see which email is getting the most clicks.
5. Test different versions for you FROM line.
Brand names are often easier to remember than personal names. I often suggest that my SaaS clients use a “Firstname from Brandname” format in the “From” line.
The first name is a great way to be more personal. The brand name is excellent to give context and make it easier to remember who you are receiving the email from.
Pro-tip: If you want people to notice you even more in a crowded inbox – include the same emoji at the beginning of your Subject line. I always include my magnet emoji 🧲 which is another signal for people that enjoyed my previous emails.
6. Tweak your Call-to-Actions
It doesn’t matter if you write awesome emails if your readers don’t take action. Your CTA’s are what will help you achieve your goals faster – or at all.
Here’s something most SaaS businesses forget: each link you put in your newsletter is a call-to-action. You invite the reader to do something with each link you include. This is why I always suggest you put the most important CTA at the top of your newsletter.
Using text-only emails with few or no other links is a powerful way to make as many as possible to click your primary call-to-action.
How you write your call to action is also essential. It is easy to get sucked into the buzzword quicksand and write like a robot.
In my experience, using a friendly and human tone is often more efficient.
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