3 Ways to Retain & Grow Newsletter Readership
When it comes to email marketing, publishers and online media groups rely on this channel more than most businesses to attract audiences to their content. The larger and more engaged the subscriber base, the higher the ad revenue; it’s no secret that digital publishers must make newsletters enticing to drive readership and website visits. Despite social media and apps trending heavily among online media sources, the growth in mobile readership hasn’t negatively impacted email’s effectiveness. In fact, TechCrunch reported that 75% of Gmail’s 900 million users access their accounts on their mobile devices, and Movable Ink reported that 48% of emails from publisher, entertainment, and media verticals are opened on mobile devices. Stats like these prove that email is as effective as ever, which is why digital publishers should prioritize newsletters in their marketing efforts to help attract visitors and retain subscribers.
Email marketing solutions have made it easier to create templates, incorporate content, and analyze performance, but marketing automation tools have gone even further to enhance email marketing processes in terms of efficiency and lead generation. Digital publishers both large and small now have the opportunity to take advantage of such tools to easily create and send newsletters, then analyze and track their subscribers’ engagements to improve performance, drive website visits, and increase ad revenue.
In working with our online publishing clients, I’ve seen the challenges faced in this industry to increase subscriber-bases, create compelling content, and manage lists. Since we are focused on serving small- and medium-sized businesses, efficiency and reliable delivery are common themes among a lot of publishing and media groups we serve. The first step is to find the right marketing tools for your outlet to not just build and send newsletters, but also to provide the audience analysis needed to improve web traffic and retain subscriptions. Once the right tools are in place, publishers should focus on these three areas to retain subscribers and boost online audiences.
First, you must have a strategy in place to grow subscribers, in addition to retaining them. Email addresses and interests change frequently, so it’s critical to constantly build your email list. And just in case you’re tempted, purchasing addresses is no way to build your list and can instantly flag you as an unreputable sender in spam filters. However, there are some quick and simple tactics that make it easy to build your list of opted-in recipients:
- Make it easy for your current subscribers to share your content with other people. Your newsletters should include options to share content via social media channels and email at the click of a button.
- Newsletter subscription sign-up boxes should be prominently placed throughout your website, especially on pages hyperlinked within your newsletter.
- Consider gating content pieces that are more in-depth and exclusive, requiring an email sign-up to continue reading.
Email newsletter success depends on deliverability. Return Path reported that 22 percent of marketing emails (sent with permission) never reach subscribers’ eyes. What a waste! If your newsletter isn’t reaching your audience, then it might as well be non-existent. Avoid spam filters by reviewing your content and excluding phrases that are common spam triggers, like “discount” and “free,” along with currency symbols and punctuation overload. Email providers work hard to keep their customers happy and have tools in place to pick up on sales-y and spam-y content before it even hits your reader’s priority inbox. By getting familiar with the anti-spam law, you can prevent spam filters from killing your deliverability. Spam rules require including the following in newsletters:
- An obvious unsubscribe link
- A truthful and accurate subject line
- The street address of the company sending the email
Future deliverability rates are also impacted when people hit the spam button. Minimize that chance by ensuring content is highly relevant to their interests. Also, make it easy to unsubscribe – people often resort to the “Mark as Spam” button when the unsubscribe link is hidden or the process takes too many steps.
Once you’ve implemented these rules, run a quick deliverability test like this one from MXtools or with your own marketing automation solution to make sure you’re ready to send, send, send.
Measure Performance, Improve and Repeat
For businesses that rely and thrive on website performance and engagement, you’re likely measuring and reporting on your audiences’ interactions with your website content. The same processes should also apply to newsletters. Ideally, newsletter success is considered around the following metrics:
- 95% deliverability or above
- 15-25% open rate
- 3% click through rate or above
The exact numbers will vary by industry, customer demographic, list size, how targeted the email was towards a particular list, and more, so consider the numbers above as broad benchmarks.
If your metrics aren’t within these brackets at a minimum, try reformatting your newsletter and testing out different content pieces and subject lines against each other to determine which options perform best. A key trait of the best performing newsletters is the inclusion of dynamic content that adds a personal touch. By keeping in tune with your audience preferences -- like what types of content they are clicking on and which pages they stay on the longest -- you can create audience segments and tailor newsletters to individual topic preferences, locations, and other demographics.
No matter how targeted or broad your audience, an effective newsletter can help online publishers and media outlets significantly increase their reach -- and ad revenue. It is important to treat newsletters as an essential extension of your site by constantly checking content accuracy, deliverability, and performance metrics to make continual improvements. At the end of the day, successful newsletters serve as great touch points with your audiences, increase your credibility as a preferred content source, and give readers a gentle nudge back to your website.
Nate Kristy’s B2B, SaaS, and services marketing expertise stems from over 15 years of industry experience in leadership and marketing development. As vice president of marketing for Automational, Kristy manages the marketing strategy, messaging and lead generation initiatives for the small business marketing and sales solution.