5 ways to write an e-newsletter people will read

Only 19 percent of people read an entire email newsletter. To avoid losing your customers’ attention and business, follow these foolproof tips.

I recently researched email newsletters for a client, and I came across some interesting statistics published by Jakob Nielsen in this blog post. Although the post is a few years old, the stats still hold true. Nielsen made an eye tracking heat map based on data he collected from people reading an email newsletter, and broke down where they looked the most (red) and the least (blue).

As you can see below, people stuck to the left of the online newsletter, read the headline, and lost interest as they scrolled down.

Here’s what else he found:

People spend an average of 51 seconds reading your newsletter, though “reading” is a bit of a misnomer because they actually skim it—only 19 percent of people read an entire newsletter. It gets worse: Skimmers don’t even skim the whole newsletter. 35 percent of the time, they skim only parts of the newsletter. And, almost no one reads the introduction. OK, 33 percent do, but you might as well skip it.

I think an email newsletter is still a valid way to keep in touch with your customers and prospective customers—and to network in general—but based on this information, you are probably making a bunch of mistakes. No biggie, they are easy to fix.

1. Keep it short

If you learn nothing else, remember this: Keep your newsletter short. Include three articles at most, all of which should be short, or else you are wasting your time writing stuff that no one will read. You need to focus on publishing information that your readers will find useful and interesting. Case in point: My favorite newsletter arrives once a week, and it contains one short article that is always worth reading.

2. Skip the intro

Intros to newsletters are basically little previews of the newsletter, right? Well, if your newsletter is short, your readers don’t need you to tell them what to expect. As the above statistics show, they’re going to skim the headlines anyway. It’s far better to focus on the headlines and content.

3. Focus on headlines If you want to grab your readers’ attention and actually tempt them to read something in the newsletter, write compelling headlines. Quick tips, a numbered list of the top whatever, must-haves and can’t miss lists, etc., grab attention.

4. Keep the best information on top

Put your most interesting or useful article at the top of the newsletter so people will be more likely to read it. If you want your readers to take action on something, like sign up for a webinar, put that information at the beginning. Keep more general industry news at the bottom.

5. Include images

Readers are always drawn to images—especially of people—which you can see by looking at the heat map. Include high-quality images that relate to what you are writing about, and not for the sake of visual interest alone.

Monika Jansen is president of Jansen Communications. She is also editor at Tech Cocktail and a blogger at Network Solutions’ Grow Smart Business and Solutions are Power. This article is reproduced with permission of Network Solutions, LLC. 2009 Network Solutions, LLC. All rights reserved. This post first appeared on Ragan.com in July 2011.

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