Email Newsletters: Improving Opens, Click-Throughs, and Conversions

Most email newsletter editors face the same problems at one time or another. In fact, the difficulties with the newsletter usually fall into one of three general and equally important categories: not enough subscribers open the email from their inbox, too few who do open the newsletter click through to the website itself, and the resulting number of website visitors who become buyers of the advertised products and services is disappointing.

If any of these problems sound familiar, you are not alone. In fact, you are in very good company. Even the large subscriber base newsletters suffer from the same roadblocks as yours.

The good news is there are many low cost and highly effective methods to improve in all three areas. In fact, even an improvement in only one area will see a noticeable increase in overall profits. Of course, there is no need to stop at making things better in only one area of your newsletter campaign, when there are proven techniques to help in all of them.

The number of subscribers who actually open and read the newsletter instead of deleting it or dismissing it as spam can be increased. Simply having a person open your message in the first place will result in more sales now and in the future. Getting past the gatekeepers in your recipients’ email programs — and their delete buttons — will pay off in increased sales for your online business.

Increasing the level of click-throughs to your website’s landing page will ramp up your sales levels very nicely. As more subscribers read your sales message and find the value in your online offers, your sales volumes will improve dramatically.

Half the battle is getting the person to click from their newsletter to your website. An offer has to be very enticing to get their mouse clicked over to your landing page and abandon the rest of their email. A properly set up newsletter can do just that for your online customers.

Once the email recipient clicks the mouse and lands at your site there must be well written sales copy, a direct call to action, and ease and security of purchase. Develop instant trust in you and your site — along with interest in an offer that they can’t refuse — and your newsletter’s landing page can be one of the major cash cows of your website. Don’t treat this interior page as trivial. Your sales volume can be elevated immensely by treating it well.

Be certain to test all changes to every aspect of the email newsletter. Leave nothing to chance, as the only way you can be sure which changes were helpful, harmful, or simply neutral, is to examine your records very carefully. Let the numbers be your guide — and the numbers in your bank account will grow as a result.

{mospagebreak title=Making a hit with your opening act}

The first step to a successful email newsletter campaign is getting the subscriber to read your newsletter. That means having the title line clicked upon, and the email opened. Of course, if life were that simple there would be few problems left to solve.

Fortunately, you can get more recipients to open and read your newsletter. You just have to make it interesting and useful for them to do so. You have to grab the recipient’s attention immediately. The means to that goal is writing a great headline.

The headline could be the single most important part of the entire email newsletter. Without an attention grabbing headline, the email will simply be deleted as unimportant. Make certain the headline fits into a standard email headline area. Use no more characters than will fit.

Spend at least as much time on writing the overall headline as you do on creating the rest of the newsletter combined. I can’t stress that fact enough. If no one opens the email, no one will take any action, and there will be no resulting sales at all.

Be sure to test the headlines too. Send a pre-sample to a random group of recipients and chart the percentage of openings. A low open rate should warn you to rewrite the failed headline. It’s better to have a small test group of emails rejected by subscribers than to have the entire campaign turn into a failure. Testing pays in saved money and more sales.

Check your email “from” section. Not all email programs display the same “from” name. Some will only display the email address itself. Like headlines, there will is a need to be careful with the sender name. If your company name is well known, use it. If your personal name is better known to your recipients, use that identity. Be sure to have an email address that covers your choice to accommodate email programs that do not provide options. The goal is to avoid deletions as a spammer.

{mospagebreak title=Speaking of Spam}

Speaking of spam, be sure to avoid key spam filter words in your headline and in the content of the email itself. When making an offer, appeal to the emotions, but avoid the obvious spam words. While you know your email contains useful and interesting information, a spam program does not. Be careful in your choice of wording. A single spam complaint could get your Internet service provider (ISP) to cancel your service. Examples of spam words include references to bulk mail, “free” (there’s no such thing as a free lunch), and repeating the same words over and over again. If you can, have someone whose mail-server has SpamAssasin installed to test your newsletter and see how high your spam point count is.

[Editor’s note: We actually had a similar issue with the Developer Shed newsletter some time ago. Our SpamAssasin point count was up to 10.62. After looking at the SpamAssasin report, we removed such phrases as “Free,” “Get Paid,” reduced the HTML to content ratio, and removed the “?subject=Title” additions to emails. After that, we reduced our spam-point count to under 2.5, which stopped the ***SPAM*** header from being added to the title of our newsletter message.]

Keep your list clean. Don’t send email newsletters to those who don’t want to receive them. If a subscriber requests removal, do so promptly. There is no reason to keep anyone on your list who doesn’t want to remain. Be professional and remove their name. Also, be sure to remove any names where the email address is no longer working. Give a “bounced” or returned email another chance or two, then remove the name. It will do wonders for your opening percentages and for your reputation as a professional business person. Don’t let yourself be labeled as a spammer.

Track your opens using a number of good, common email newsletter programs like Outlook, Outlook Express, Mozilla mail, Thunderbird, and Eudora. Keep in mind that HTML newsletters are always easier to track than plain text. Not all newsletters services can track opens of plain text. (Watch out for that when you consider your email providers!) Tracking the number of opens in addition to the other parts of the process is important to your success.

{mospagebreak title=Improving the Click Through Rates}

Having your subscribers open their email newsletter is only one part of the equation. Getting the recipient to read the articles, consider your special offers, and click on the link to your website is another matter entirely. With some care and attention, a higher percentage of your subscribers will click through to the landing page than ever before.

When your email newsletter is opened, be sure the issue’s highlights appear above the fold. In other words, the most important information about the main articles and the special offers must be seen on the computer screen without any downward scrolling required.

Many of your readers simply will not scroll the page. Due to their many time restraints, they want to read the important parts in the form of secondary headlines, immediately. If they have to scroll, they will abandon or delete the newsletter completely. If the headlines for the articles and the offers are enticing enough, even the most time pressed recipients will read them. To ensure that they continue to read your newsletter with each new edition, make absolutely certain it’s worth their while.

A newsletter consisting only of sales copy will not gain many click-throughs. At least 80% of the newsletter must consist of useful information on the topic. With helpful copy, the reader will scroll downward to read it. At that time, sales offers can be judiciously introduced.

Write the special offer in a must buy now format. Use limited time offers, and provide special bonuses if the reader acts now. Place an easy to understand call to action right in the copy and a clickable link. That special offer and link can placed in one or two other places further down the page to capture those who need more information. Make it easy to click through to your site.

Be sure to test the clicks of each link. Separate landing pages on the website for each live link in the newsletter will provide that very useful information. Special coding for each of the links, recordable in visitor logs, will also work well and may gain more advantage than separate landing pages. Try both approaches, and test for the most effective technique best suited for your mailing list members.

{mospagebreak title=Converting Subscribers to Customers}

In the end, it all comes down to converting the newsletter readers into paying customers and clients for your company’s goods and services. Fortunately, there are some powerful ways to turn those clickers into buyers.

Each newsletter subscriber who clicks on a live link in the body of the newsletter itself should be taken directly to a dedicated landing page. That page should only be concerned with completing the purchase of the offer itself. Other offers will only confuse the buyers, and should be reserved for other pages, leaving the landing page as a unique sales vehicle.

Keep the design of the landing page consistent with the overall design scheme of the newsletter and of the website. Consistency and no surprises will boost the conversion rate. Be certain to test different forms of the landing page to determine the most effective version. Not all landing pages are created equal, nor will they get the same results.

Repeat the offer that was presented in the newsletter, reassuring the potential purchaser that they made the right choice by clicking to the page. Since you have already helped them through one action toward becoming a customer, give them a few more careful nudges as well.

Within the landing page sales copy, create some live links at crucial points, asking for the sale by suggesting specific action that should be taken. Be sure to restate the benefits of the purchase to ensure the customer continues with the purchase. Repeat any guarantees to provide further assurances of confidence in the product. One click should then take the buyer to the order page of the shopping cart. Don’t require more than one click to prevent abandonment. Make it easy to complete the purchase form, by pre-checking off the item, and having it already printed into the order line.

Reassure the buyer their credit card information will always be entirely secure, and keep that promise. After all, the moment of requesting the credit card number is a moment of truth, and you want the customer to feel confident in paying for the product or service.

Following the purchase, a nice thank you page that recaps the benefits of the purchase will often prevent buyer’s remorse and disappointments. Keeping the needs of the customer first and foremost will ensure a strong conversion rate.


Your email newsletter can be a valuable source of online revenue and profits for your business. Make certain that the subscribers open the email in the first place, by using a powerful attention grabbing headline, and avoiding any spam filters.

To get the email recipients to click through to purchase the item or service offered, keep the highlights above the fold. Provide good information to keep them reading, and make them an offer they can’t resist clicking to find out how to buy it. When the potential customer lands in your website, make it easy for them to buy. Make the purchase easy and secure, and offer your thanks and reassurances of the value of their purchase.

Keep testing and comparing every part of your newsletter’s effectiveness. Compare the results with the previous example, using a good tracking program, and make constant improvements. Study and apply the results.

By using these simple techniques, your email newsletter will yield more value to your business than ever before.

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