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11 Best Practices for Building Newsletters that People Actually Read

We are all obsessed with email campaigns — planning, scheduling, or sending one or the other campaign now and then. As marketers, planning and sending email campaigns is a part of the “hustle”.

Still, everyone keeps discussing and looking for email marketing newsletter best practices. 

It’s not bad to strive for excellence.

Newsletters (or broadcasts) have been on the marketing scene for more than a decade or two. And they’re an amazing medium to increase engagement, build a brand, create a personal connection and reach your audience directly. 

Publishing email newsletters have an open rate of 18.76%. Compared to average email open rates (16%), newsletters give marketers an edge to connect with the audience. 

If you build a personal connection, you may even see higher open rates and even better results: 

The good thing — publishing a newsletter isn’t the monopoly of a news/media house anymore. Every business is a media company in itself, and starting a newsletter can be a great way to grow in 2022. 

Further reading: How Morning Brew Makes $13M From Email Marketing

Today, there are millions of independent publishers sharing insights with their audience via Substack or other similar services. 

But why spend so much time on building a newsletter audience, you’d think. Because it pays to be a regular publisher. 

According to Lenfest Institute, newsletter subscribers who read 5+ articles a month or is a part of an email newsletter list is more likely to convert into a paid subscriber. A win for freemium SaaS products.  

Before you get all hyped up, here are some best practices that will help you run the perfect growth engine via an email newsletter. 

General email newsletter best practices 

1. Build a newsletter around a theme

Publishing a newsletter seems like fun (and rewarding) in the beginning. 

But before you take the plunge (and secretly dream of ruling the world), ask yourself an important question:

Do you need a newsletter?

Most of the time, brands just need automated trigger emails or updates. Think about it for a moment and move forward if all the following answers are ‘Yes’

  • Are you looking to share regular updates via emails?
  • Are you planning to send routine offers? 
  • Do you plan to share regular product updates?  

If you’re just thinking of launching a newsletter for the above, you should stop. Because all these can be simplified with an automated email sequence. 

A real email newsletter should be built around a theme — something that is beyond promotional goals and can portray your authority. 

Look at any successful newsletter creator. They all build a newsletter around a common theme — freelancing, SaaS marketing, SEO, content, etc. 

You should also build a newsletter around a common theme that stays intact, beyond your product/growth goals. 

A focused theme acts as a subscriber magnet — people who are passionate about the 

“theme” would spread the word. 

A strong theme topped by an authentic personality would make people think of you first whenever they think of anything around your theme. 

Take the example of Jay Acunzo’s newsletter. He shares tips and ideas about building powerful brands. His editions are always around things that help entrepreneurs build memorable brands. Anything else is a distraction. 

Keeping your newsletter around a theme helps solve two problems: 

  • Subscribers would have an idea about what to expect even before subscribing, leading to lower unsubscription rates
  • You won’t turn off your people by beating around the bush (or sharing a completely different thing every week) 

Being simple and clear is an asset in 2022. When you build a newsletter around a theme, you’re in for clarity — something audiences love. 

2. Plan for special days and holidays

No matter how good a planner you are, you’ll always be stretched just before the holidays. 

Just like you build a social media calendar, it’s nice to have a newsletter calendar specifically for the holidays (and special days). Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter are generally peak shopping seasons (and an excellent marketing opportunity).

If you’re a SaaS marketer, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and similar events will give you a lot to look after. 

Thematic drip campaigns and thoughtfully-planned behavioral mails around the holiday season can make you a much-loved brand/newsletter creator (and a much-loved marketer in the eyes of your boss).  

Thanksgiving email by Bonobos. Source: SwipeFile 

3. Make it shareable

Newsletters are fun. No doubt about that. 

But won’t it be more fun if you see your subscribers sharing your editions all over social media? 

Dream Come True Yes GIF by The Bachelorette

Well, if you want to grow fast (without persistent requests), you should make your newsletter socially shareable. 

First of all, you need to add social share buttons in your newsletter. 

Though most of your readers would ignore such social share buttons, few loyal subscribers would spread out the word — making your newsletter visible (and discoverable) on social media. 

You should also add your newsletter archive links in your email signatures, blog posts, etc. This will give your growth a much-needed impetus. 


Pro Tip: Give readers a reason to share your newsletter  

Why should someone share your thoughts on their social media? Well, you’re not the first to question the idea. But, if you give your subscribers a pretty good reason to share, they’d do it without even asking.  

One great way is to engage your readers in your creation process. Make your newsletter inclusive — curate must-read blog links, people to follow, tweets to look at, etc. in your newsletter editions. 

Featuring other creators develops an instant share-ability to any content form. Other creators would love a shoutout and would share it with their audience. 

4. Set up communication preferences

Complying with GDPR and similar privacy laws is no longer a luxury (or an add-on). You can’t just keep exploiting user data for emails. Neither can you bombard your email subscribers day in and day out (even when they permitted you to send them emails). 

Relevancy is a BIG responsibility in 2022.

Setting up a communication preferences page and segmenting your audience (more on this later in the blog) will help reduce the load on your shoulders. 

Communication preferences (and a categorized audience) will help you increase relevance and reduce the unsubscription rate. 

A dedicated communication preference page would help your subscribers to opt-out of any one of the categories, at will. 

Run multiple campaigns (or themes) in your newsletters? Give them a heads up and ask what they’re interested in. 

Facing an increasing number of unsubscribes? Set up a preferences tab on the unsubscribe page. Whenever someone clicks “Unsubscribe”, they should get a choice to opt-out from one or all categories of emails. 

Giving total control to your audience would help you go a long way in succeeding as a newsletter creator. 

Encharge helps you set communication preferences and categorize emails based on topics. You can use default categories like Product Updates, Promotional Emails, Weekly Emails, etc., or create your own categories based on your goals. 

Deliverability best practices 

5. Use a memorable sender’s name

Suppose you meet two different people at the bar on a weekend. 

The first one spends a couple of hours with you, gives you a good laugh with all his stories, but forgets to tell you his name or contact number.

The second one, along with sharing his stories and ideas, introduces himself properly — tells you his name and what he does for a living. 

 Even if you had a good time with the first one, you’d probably forget him in 3 weeks (or sooner). The reason — he forgot to make himself memorable by giving you his name. 

Human brains have a lot to process on an everyday basis and an identifier (like a name) helps our memory. The same is the case with emails, too. 

Having a memorable sender name is no longer a choice. If you want subscribers to open your emails, stand out in a cluttered inbox, build trust, and form a connection, you need a credible sender’s name.

While planning your first newsletter, you should give some thought to the sender’s name. Here are a few tips for a memorable sender’s name:

  • Should be instantly recognizable 
  • Should invoke emotion or connection 
  • Should not be deceiving 
  • Should be human (and not generic like info, communication, marketing, etc.)
from name email address examples.

There’s no study or specific criteria on the sender’s name but if you have a strong personal brand (or have an employee with a large social media following and reach), probably you should start a newsletter with his/her name.

Sender name ideas 

  • <First Name> @ <Brand/Website>
  • <First Name> from <Brand> 
  • Team <Brand Name>
  • Your friend from <Brand> 

Remember, the sender’s name is the first thing anyone would see when they receive your email. Make the opportunity count. 

Don’t forget to A/B test a couple of sender’s names before sticking out to the perfect one.

People (and ISPs) recognize the same sender name and attach a reputation to it. To avoid deliverability issues, don’t change it soon. 

6. Maintain consistency (no surprises or shocks) 

Managing a newsletter is a serious job and your subscribers won’t appreciate you barging in their mailboxes anytime you want. 

Running a newsletter is more like being in a committed relationship — you will have to give it time. And by time, don’t think you could spare an evening here or a morning there.

A surprise email out of nowhere once every blue moon would do more harm than benefit you as a creator. Your subscribers will keep wondering why they subscribed in the first place. 

If you want to utilize email as a medium, you should be serious about consistency. Set a schedule and stick to it — weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. 

Regular commitment would give you direction and would also increase your credibility in the eyes of readers as well as the ISPs, too. 

Modern ISPs (and spam filters) catch emails by the cadence. If you send emails to thousands of subscribers in a week, then go silent for months, you’d probably be flagged as spammy. 

But if you keep sending regular emails to a steadily growing list, your emails would be seen as ‘business as usual’, which is a good thing in 2022. 

7. Nail your timings

There’s a time for everything and everything should happen at the right time. 

For email newsletters, the quote sums up pretty much a lot (when it comes to deliverability). 

According to HubSpot’s research

  • Tuesdays are the best days to send an email — slightly higher open rates 
  • Mails sent on 11:00 am EST report a higher open rate 

You can plan your newsletters on Tuesday’s but nailing the timing is generally a personal thing. Every campaign, creator, and audience set is different. You can’t just nail your timing by following generic reports or data. 

The best way to find out the best time to send an email is to A/B test your emails. Your goal should be to gather enough data to conclude the best time to send an email to your audience. 

Here are some ideas to help you nail your newsletter timings: 

  • Segment your audience based on the time zone they’re active in and send them an email early in the morning (Follow the sun)
  • Send your emails at “off” timings. Instead of sending them at 11.00 am, 11.30 am, 11.45 am, try sending them at 11.06 am, 11.43 am and record the results. 
  • Think of a send-time optimization sequence for your newsletter campaigns. Your audience should receive the email when they are most responsive. Tracking your audience’s behavior and planning behavioral mails would help you find the best times to send the email. 

Content and copy best practices 

8. Use curiosity gap in subject lines 

Do you know the one emotion that has driven every adventure, experiment, and evolution in human history? 

It’s curiosity. 

Humankind’s curiosity has taken us to the moon, and beyond, literally has the power to turn your campaigns around, too. 

320 million emails are exchanged daily. Source: Statista 

If you want to stand out (and win at the email game), you need to start leveraging people’s insatiable curiosity to your advantage. 

Your subscribers and readers decide which email to open (or ignore) based on the subject line. If your subject line isn’t captivating (and piques interest), you’ll be lost in an infinite abyss (from where there is no coming back). Worse even, you can even unsubscribe if your subject lines aren’t interesting or relevant to them. 

Oscar Wilde said once — the public has an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what’s worth knowing! 

This innate desire to be curious can be a blessing for you as a newsletter creator or email marketer. But how do you leverage curiosity in subject lines? Well, here are two ideas to help you get started: 

Information gap

Curiosity is built up when the human mind is focused on what’s missing rather than what’s present in front of our eyes.

If you want your readers to be curious, create subject lines that present an information gap. This would compel the reader to click on your mail to discover what’s inside. 

Mind you, it’s not about being clickbaity but inciting human’s innate curiosity streak. Take this example from CoSchedule: 

The subject line here would make anyone curious — what’s inside for me? The email body satiates curiosity by sharing an exclusive offer (and bonus) on CoSchedule’s Headline Studio’s subscription. 

Classic information gaps make a reader think more about what he/she doesn’t know and motivates them to click and see what’s inside. 

Intrigue 

Do you love teasers? Well, who doesn’t? 

Remember how Marvel teases us all with a post-credits scene that makes us wait for anything (and everything) through the year(s). 

You can apply the same principle to your subject lines by creating intrigue in the minds of your subscribers. 

Tease them with just enough information, but don’t give everything away in your subject line. 

Look at the following example: 

Abhijeet in his Lazy Newsletter has cleverly used ‘intrigue’ as a tool to make his reader curious about which night he is talking about and what about it is so special to write a piece on. This would prompt his subscriber to look inside to find he is talking about the year 2021 that passed by. This edition is his yearly review. The perfect closure to the intriguing subject line. 

Need some inspiration or a helping hand? Use our free subject line generator tool for creating stellar (and intriguing) headlines fast. 

9. Focus on Microcopy 

Don’t you love it when someone makes little cute gestures to make you smile? 

Well, who doesn’t? 

Your potential subscribers love the little things, too. And if you want to make them loyal subscribers, you should focus on being witty, cheerful, and make others smile through your microcopy. 

Internet users don’t sign up like they used to do, five years back. They see mailing lists as an invitation to spam. 

Your microcopy — CTAs, form headers, pop-ups, and landing page copy should be reassuring. At the same time, it should portray the value they’d receive. 

For example, if you have a newsletter around best productivity hacks, you should probably tell them how many hours they’d save every month by reading your tips. 

Your CTAs should also be focused on what more they can do with the same amount of time in their hands. But microcopy shouldn’t just be limited to CTAs. 

You can use your wit and wisdom (and quirkiness) to make people feel comfortable about giving you their email. Take Simple Steps Code for example. 

Their microcopy talks straight to the visitor and asks a simple question with the potential investment (10 seconds) and a reassuring postscript below the button that tells them that their mail is safe. 

Another example of an interesting microcopy can be seen on Marie Forleo’s website. The popup microcopy — “Get excited about your inbox again” is a great way to portray that there is something magical on the other side. 

Audience management best practices

10. Segment your audience 

Segmentation is every email marketer’s best friend. More than a best practice, segmentation has turned into a necessity now. 

Segmentation gives you enviable superpowers to stay highly relevant. By dividing your subscribers into small groups, you can achieve three goals — relevance, targeting, and optimization. 

You can segment your lists based on their demography, personal attributes, preferences, and behavior. And then use the segments to send hyper-personal emails that induce a positive response — higher open rates, happy users, and more. 

Segmentation can give an amazing boost to your engagement. Take the example of GrooveHQ. Before segmenting their email lists, they had a poor trial-to-customer conversion. Every trial customer was in the same email list — irrespective of their behavior. 

Groove planned to improve their game by sending hyper-targeted emails based on trial users’ behavior and activity. 

The users who signed up but didn’t log in (or use the product) for a while would get the following email:

On the other hand, the users who used the product right away would receive a different email — personalized and supportive. The email feels like a personalized note with a demo video sharing the features (and benefits) of using the product. 

Segmenting can help with a change in the tone (and CTAs) for email marketing.. According to Alex Turnbell from Groove, segmentation is the difference between sending something your users like and something they love. Segmentation brings back the level of personalization and one-on-one conversation that people love (and email campaigns lack). 

Encharge allows you to start with user segmentation by giving you multiple options to segment your lists based on your automation and engagement goals. 

11. Use double opt-in 

There are many ways to collect emails. But if relevance is your motto, double opt-in subscriptions should be your go-to solution. 

A double opt-in ensures that any user who signs up for your newsletter is highly interested in your content. 

Since double opt-in requires a secondary action (in the form of confirmation), you can be sure that you would be heard in the future. 

But won’t it reduce my active subscriptions? Some would ask. 

Andrew Bosoni from Zero to Marketing newsletter shares his insights on how to make double opt-in work in your favor using smart subject lines. 

“My list uses double opt-in: every time someone signups, they receive a confirmation email with a link they need to click to be added to the list — a best practice to maintain high deliverability.

But I hated to see how many pending subscribers hadn’t confirmed their subscription. Roughly 40% of signups never made it onto the list.

I realized the real reason people weren’t clicking the link was that they weren’t opening the email in the first place. 

The default line was “Confirm your subscription”. I added two simple words: “Action required.”

That simple change cut my pending subscribers in half – from 40% to 20% and I went from getting 60 confirmed subscriptions out of every 100 signups to 80 confirmed subs out of every 100 signups – > 30% increase.” 

Topping up double opt-in with clever microcopy, and creative subject lines would help you kill multiple birds with a single stone and help you succeed as a newsletter creator in 2022. 

Pro tip: Learn how to create a double opt-in campaign in Encharge 

Email newsletter best practices roundup 

If you’re struggling with:Follow these tips:
High Unsubscription Rates– Build around a common theme.
– Segment your audience 
– Use communication preferences
Subscriber Growth– Make your newsletters socially shareable
– Feature other creators in your emails
– Set up public pages on social media
Open Rates– Use a memorable sender’s name
– Spend more time on writing better subject lines
– Utilize curiosity gaps Improve email preheaders
Spam Scores– Follow a consistent cadence.
– Improve deliverability by relying on legit tools (and providers)   
Low Engagement– Categorize your subscribers
– Use double opt-ins

Final words

Yup! That’s it from my side. Now, go, rule the world with your very own email newsletter and build your newsletter empire in 2022. 

And if you’re stuck at the next subject line, don’t forget to check out our Free AI subject line generator and you won’t have to worry about open rates like before. 

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