Common email newsletter mistakes

by Martin Reed on 31 March 2007 in Articles

Yesterday I wrote about the value of email newsletters and how you should use them to strengthen your community and encourage return visits. Today I want to talk about common email newsletter mistakes – mistakes which are all too common and can actually be more damaging to your site than not having a newsletter campaign at all.

Common newsletter mistake #1 – Not having permission to send emails

Never, ever, ever send email newsletters to your users unless they have given you their permission to do so. As I mentioned in a previous article, trust is an important factor in building an online community. If you email your members without their permission they will see your contact as spam, regardless of the quality of your email’s content. This will anger your users and could even make them want to leave your community as they will no longer trust you with their contact information. This is hardly the way to encourage user loyalty to your website.

Common newsletter mistake #2 – Hiding unsubscribe options

Your users may absolutely love your community, but may not want to receive email newsletters. This could be for a variety of reasons – none of which are any of your business! If a member wants to stop receiving your newsletters, you must make it easy for them to do so. An unsubscribe link should be included in the footer of each newsletter you send, and there should also be a link on your site for users to be able to opt out of email communications. Make it clear how users can unsubscribe – this will increase the level of trust your members have with you, even if they are not actually interested in unsubscribing.

Common newsletter mistake #3 – Sending newsletters too frequently

This is always a hard one to judge – just how often should you be sending those email newsletters? I would say once a month should be frequent enough to keep your users updated but not overwhelmed, but this depends entirely on your community. Some communities may be based on a subject area which is constantly changing, and your members may expect frequent updates (perhaps weekly). An easy way of determining the optimal frequency of email newsletters is to ask your members! I am amazed by the number of administrators who do not actually ask their members what they want!

Common newsletter mistake #4 – Your newsletter contains no content!

Have you ever received an email newsletter that at first you thought was a random spam message? You open the email and see loads of affiliate links and ads, but no content? Perhaps there is so little content you have no idea what the newsletter is in relation to? Personally I have received emails like this before, and it is a big mistake on the part of the sender.

Only send a newsletter if you have something to say! Again, this is a good reason why it may be a good idea to send out monthly newsletters – it is pretty safe to say you will have something to actually talk about over the course of a month!

Ensure the newsletter contains your site’s branding – this could be the graphical elements you use, your logo, the colours of your site, even the writing style of your site. You want the recipient of your email to know immediately who the email is from. This will ensure they pay attention to the email and actually read its content!

Common newsletter mistake #5 – Not keeping your subscriber list updated

There is no point sending emails to accounts that no longer exist, or are invalid. Ensure you keep your newsletter list up to date. As well as removing users who no longer wish to receive mailings from you, be sure to remove email addresses that are bouncing your emails. ‘Mailbox not found’ and ‘User does not exist’ email addresses can be removed immediately. ‘Mailbox full’ errors can be noted and removed if the error repeats itself over time.

By keeping your subscriber list maintained you will save yourself bandwidth costs in sending out emails, and be abiding to standard good practice. There are billions of emails out there that are a waste of system resources – don’t contribute to the problem!

These are just my own personal opinions of common email newsletter mistakes. Have I missed some that you feel to be important? If so, please mention them in the comments section below!

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Rate Books August 22, 2007 at 6:14 pm

Thanks for the tips, I am about to start my first newsletter for my site. I am hoping that it will get people to come back to the site. It is easy for me to forget that I have even signed up for a site if I don’t have an email from them.

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 24, 2007 at 12:11 pm

Rate Books – I am glad you found the article useful. So many people fail to actually use their email database – it seems crazy to spend the time and effort needed to build up a list, only to never use it! Make sure you don’t make the same mistake!

abbigliamento October 1, 2007 at 11:43 pm

Very interesting article Martin, i like it, thank you!

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 3, 2007 at 8:23 pm

abbigliamento – Thanks for your kind comment. Do you send email newsletters to customers?

Andrew October 4, 2007 at 8:21 pm

I’m starting to do an email newsletter. I do a free English teaching website with podcasts and videos. Since my users aren’t native English speakers, I was thinking of doing shorter but more frequent emails. Something like 3 times a week I explain one slang term or something like that. Is that really too many? Also, I’ve got a huge list of people’s emails. I think it would take too long to ask everyone so I was just going to start by mailing everyone and letting them unsubscribe. I was also thinking of getting people to forward these newsletters to their friends who are also studying English. Is this a good idea in your opinion?

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 6, 2007 at 1:43 pm

Andrew – For me, receiving a newsletter three times a week would be too much. Once a week is about as frequent as I would be comfortable with. The Just Chat newsletter only goes out every couple of months, which I think is spot on. It ensure we always have something valuable to say, and gets people eager to read the next edition.

How did you get the list of people’s emails? You should only ever email people if you have their express permission to do so. I agree with your plan to include an unsubscribe link – this should be present in every email you send.

Including a ‘Forward’ link in a newsletter is also a good idea, and is something I do with the Just Chat newsletter.

segnala sito October 27, 2007 at 6:14 pm

Sending e-mail to visitors it’s really important because you receive huge traffic on your website with this.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 29, 2007 at 8:15 pm

segnala sito – You can receive good return traffic, as long as you run your newsletter campaigns effectively. If you make mistakes, you may actually alienate your members and damage your website’s traffic and reputation.

San Diego Personal Injury Attorney November 16, 2007 at 10:10 am

Newsletter mistake #3 depends so much on your list. Tellman Knudson has some huge lists that he emails almost every day with promotions, but he is still one of the most successful internet marketers.

Martin Reed - Blog Author November 16, 2007 at 6:55 pm

San Diego – I agree that frequency of emails does depends on your list and the expectations they have. If people are aware they will be receiving daily emails (for example for time limited offers), then that’s fine. An updated on every new post made on your forum sent every day would be a little too much, though.

It’s all about being sensible and finding the right balance for your own members.

Web Fred February 19, 2008 at 1:36 am

There’s a few good thing here. The problem is that even when you have content and the newsletter is wanted you can still run into alot of problems, typicaqlly with outlook. I found a good post about common Outlook errors in newsletter campaigns explaining how to prevent issues client-side -

Also, I think tracking is really important in detecting errors with newsletters.

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 20, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Fred – Thanks for your comment and the link; I am sure many of this blog’s readers will find it of interest.

Go Public May 6, 2008 at 5:21 pm

I was just working on setting up a new autoresponder series, and working with a new list… so I did some searches and found this post. Perfect timing!

Small tips like this help businesses grow and keep money flowing into our pockets because we can learn from the mistakes of others. Thanks for the pointers.

Martin Reed - Blog Author May 12, 2008 at 7:40 pm

Public – Thanks for your kind comment; I am glad you enjoyed the article.

OC Web Design July 1, 2008 at 7:19 pm

Yeah I’ve made the mistake of sending emails too frequently before with certain lists. It really depends on the market and the responsiveness of the list. Some good marketers email their list every day, and it works for them because they are offering value… mainly those in the internet marketing niche do this quite a bit, but some lists are so responsive that it’s ok to do… you have build trust and add value for your subscribers, and you can blast them out like crazy. lol

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 17, 2008 at 1:32 am

OC – More important is who are you emailing and where did you get their emails from? I would never email someone without their prior permission. I would never buy mailing lists from a third party, and I would certainly never contact my subscribers every single day!

George March 1, 2009 at 5:05 pm

I am yet to send my first email newsletter (don’t have too many visitors on the site in order to start doing something like that) but I would add a couple of – in my view – imporatnt points:
— The emails one sends as a newsletter should be interesting. They should make reader want to visit the website to read more. At some point I was receiving a news summary emails and every time I simply had to visit their website because the titles were very intriguing and fascinating.
— Email format should be determined by the user at the time of subscribing to it. If a user doesn’t want HTML format, it should not be forced on him or her. For example, I prefer the simple text – I don’t need fancy pictures. If I would like to see those, I’ll visit the website. The newsletter is first of all about the news and only then about the fancy stuff.