Best Practices for Effective Email Newsletter Formats

UnknownAn effective email campaign should promote your brand’s reliability and trustworthiness. Your email newsletter’s format is part of your brand. It’s how your customers recognize you and trust that the email they’re about to open is interesting, relevant, and not a virus.

When designing your layout, consider these tips:

  1. Before you write anything, choose your layout. It should look universal, professional, but not overshadow your message.
  2. The top headline should include the logo, the name of the company, and title of the newsletter. Buttons for social media should be near the header, or at least above the fold.
  3. Your big story goes just below the headline. Minor stories go down the right column and under the fold. An image should accompany each piece, even if no one will see it. Use CGI tables as image placeholders.
  4. The footer is the header’s bookend. You can place your unsubscribe link here.
  5. As with all text, don’t put a pale unsubscribe link text over a photo; if  they photo doesn’t load, they won’t see your unsubscribe link and mark you as spam.

Form Versus Function

Designing for the web is difficult due to the constraints of HTML — specific as a paint roller — and CSS, which puts you in more control of more boxes. Adding to the difficulty in designing email is that everyone has customized their own inbox to block or show certain aspects to save them time, effort, or protect their computer from viruses.

Some best practices to get your email read are:

  1. Assume your images won’t be seen. Use CSS to create placeholder boxes and write relevant alt text for the 60% of people who block images in webmail.
  2. Create a web version of the newsletter and add a link to it at the very top of the newsletter (above the header) with a phrase like “Having trouble reading this email?” Hopefully this will catch the deleter’s eye when your style sheets aren’t loading and your images are broken.
  3. Your ESP should provide you with style sheets that will load a mobile version of your email when it’s viewed on a mobile device. Use them. It may be tedious, but most users don’t want to tilt, pinch, and squint to view your email.
  4. Increasingly, people using Outlook and similar programs view all of their mail in the preview pane. This half-sized version of the full email screen pops out and allows for a quick view of the email without taking the time to load the rest. You literally have seconds to grab your reader, since she can delete even quicker than she can preview.
  5. The full Outlook email pane is 600 pixels wide, but the horizontal preview pane is a quarter of the top of that. The vertical preview pane is about 2/3 the left side of the full email. Solution? Put your important bits, or your lead, in the top right and middle left.

Always remember to test your templates. They may not work on every device, so you may want to reconsider that enormous image that may be blocked on webmail, unscrollable in the preview pane of Outlook, and make your email unviewable on a Blackberry.

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