Why It Might Be Time to Rethink Your Email Newsletter Strategy

Want more people to visit your site and read your blog posts?

(That’s a rhetorical question. We kind of assume that you do.)

Sure, creating great content is your priority numero uno. Sharing it on social media should be an integral part of every content marketing strategy, too. But one of the most important parts of the whole getting-more-visitors equation is also one of the easiest to overlook!

Sharing your posts in a newsletter can make a massive difference in your traffic – IF you optimize it carefully.

Just take a look at what happens to our own blog traffic every single time we send a newsletter:

Graph showing traffic increase


Effectively promoting your content makes a much bigger difference than just creating the content itself – and a compelling newsletter can drive the people most interested in what you have to say straight to your website.

Still, it’s more than a matter of just stuffing some links into an email and hoping for the best.

There are a few key things you can keep an eye on to improve your email newsletter – and those improvements can mean a lot more traffic to your website.

The first is to make sure you’re segmenting your audience to account for things like list decay, which can throw your tests WAY off – we wrote about that one here.

The second is to consistently test your subject lines, so you can find trends in what interests your readers. We wrote about that one here.

The third is to optimize what’s actually included in your newsletter – and that’s what we’re focusing on right now!

When it comes to your newsletter, how much stuff is too much?

In the past, we’ve showcased different types of content that you can choose from when writing a newsletter – but how do you know if you’re overdoing it?

Let’s take a look – including a peek at what happened when we changed the format of our own weekly newsletter!

The actual purpose of your newsletter

The simplest solution to all of this is to work backwards.

Your newsletter exists to do two things:

  1. Provide value to its subscribers
  2. Provide value to your business

(We know that sounds a little broad, but bear with us for a sec.)

Providing value to your business can mean a lot of things, but considering that your newsletter is part of a content marketing strategy, “value” probably translates to getting people to read your content.

(And when they read it, they share it, and it compels them to take other actions, and it helps them get to know, like, and trust you, and so on and so forth – but that’s all stuff that happens later.)

Your newsletter’s specific value to you is in getting subscribers to click through to that content in the first place, and it does that not only by providing something valuable to those subscribers, but by presenting it in an effective way.

Here’s an example.

Help Scout runs one of the best blogs about customer support you’ll ever find, and their newsletter’s role in driving traffic to that blog is pretty clear.

Take a look at this sample:

Help Scout newsletter

Not a lot there, right?

Keeping it simple and focused makes its purpose clear, and eliminates distractions that could get in the way of subscribers making it all the way to the Help Scout blog.

(Basically, this thing is a traffic-driving machine.)

Before we look at some more examples, though, you might be wondering – how much of a difference can too much stuff actually make?

Doesn’t including more stuff in your newsletter just give its readers more options, and more value?

What happened when we simplified OUR newsletter

If you’re already one of our 100k+ subscribers, you know that our newsletter looks a little something like this:

MeetEdgar Newsletter

(And if you’re not, here’s that link to sign up again.)

Pretty simple, right?

A few links to our most recent blog posts, starting with the most recent, and a couple links at the bottom to some of our favorite reads elsewhere on the Internet that week.

Our newsletter didn’t always look like that, though.

Here’s what it looked like back around mid-2016:

MeetEdgar newsletter circa 2016

So much color!

So much stuff!

You’ve got a three-paragraph introduction to a blog post, then ANOTHER multi-paragraph introduction to a blog post that is also an actionable tip-of-the-week, then a testimonial from one of our users, AND a link to a business book we recommend!


On the one hand, a busy, beefed-up newsletter like that might seem like it’s providing a lot of unique value – but on the other, it might be getting in its own way by offering too much, both aesthetically and content-wise.

This is actually something that restaurants know a lot about.

When you offer too many options, it can make people feel stressed or paralyzed – and that makes it tempting for them to just not choose any of them.

Lots of restaurants actually limit the number of options on their menus so that their guests have a better experience – and the psychology of it works!

We dug into our newsletter performance data to show you how this looks in content marketing.

MailChimp – the service we use for most of our marketing emails, including our newsletter – breaks down average open and click rates by industry. If you use MailChimp yourself, you can also see up-to-date averages in the report for any given email you’ve sent:

Click Rate report

(This is extremely important – average open and click rates can vary drastically by industry, so you want to make sure you’re comparing yourself to the right cohort!)

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at how revamping our own newsletter – and significantly simplifying it – affected its performance.

From November 2017 through April 2018, our newsletter met or exceeded our industry’s average click rate 74% of the time.

In 2016, prior to our newsletter’s redesign, it met or exceeded our industry’s average click rate only 30% of the time.

Changing our newsletter meant taking a lot of stuff out, but it also meant that the stuff we left in was a lot more appealing to our subscribers – and making our newsletter more valuable for them makes it more valuable for us, too!

Of course, determining how simple is simple enough – or even too simple – is all up to you.

Because what works for one newsletter might not for another!

Here are a few examples of newsletters from other brands to show you what we mean:

How different brands approach their newsletters

Like we talked about in this blog post, you have a lot of options when you’re choosing what to include in a newsletter.

And even if you just keep things as straightforward as possible – like in that Help Scout example from before – there are different approaches you can take!

Here’s an example from Product Hunt:

Product Hunt newsletter

Just like the other examples we’ve seen, this newsletter reserves the top section for promoting something with a lot of appeal for its readers (and even includes significantly more information about that post than the others did about theirs).

Past that section, it includes a few additional links for people who may be extra curious about what’s new, but that content is far down enough that it doesn’t distract from the newsletter’s main highlight.

Here’s another example, this time from Social Media Examiner:

Social Media Examiner newsletter

Super simple, right?

No frills, fancy formatting, or distractions – just a couple of plain-text links with just enough information to stoke your curiosity.

It goes to show that an effective newsletter doesn’t have to be complex – and in some cases, the less complex, the better!

If you feel like your newsletter’s usefulness has peaked, and especially if it’s not as high as you think it should be, changing it up might make a big difference.

Don’t be afraid to try something drastically different – even if it feels like you’re doing a lot less!


When it comes to email newsletter strategy, one aspect that demands attention is newsletter personalization. With the power of newsletter personalization, you can create an immersive and unforgettable experience for your subscribers. Whether it’s addressing them by their name, recommending products based on their browsing history, or sending birthday surprises, personalization is the secret sauce that will make your newsletters pop! One tool that can assist you in achieving this level of personalization is Rasa.io. With its AI technology, Rasa.io analyzes subscriber data to deliver customized content that resonates with each individual.

What’s YOUR newsletter look like?

You’ve seen what happened to our newsletter when we simplified – but what’s YOUR newsletter look like?

Do you go the simple-and-straightforward route, or does your audience respond well to something a little beefier?

When’s the last time you changed your newsletter strategy?

Share your own story (and a link to where our readers can sign up for your newsletter!) in the comments below!

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  • deb

    This is a great question. Thanks you have put into words a lot of questions that have been on my mind. My newsletter is very unpredictable – depends a lot on my time and mood. It is a bit of a show and tell table that gives my readers a snap shot of interesting discoveries I’ve made in the culture sector. I’m trying to solve the fact that I’m from the UK but my public are world wide. Some are academics so used to a high standard of writing. Others are from different arts forms so each month it is impossible for me to hit all quarters – yet so far people have stayed with it.

    I’ve had some great feedback for the ones where I was particularly inspired and sharing things close to my heart that maybe weren’t in every day view e.g. a singer from Argentinean not so well known abroad. I also got work ghost writing the newsletter of the theatre company of some colleagues off the back of my newsletter. However all in all I feel like I have way to many links and so sometimes my click rate is very low. So I’m going to take your advice and start with taking out some links e.g. the share buttons I think are too much. Here is a copy – all feedback and sign in’s welcomed. The aim is to keep people inspired and thinking about their involvement in the arts and culture, their creativity and their potential. I am not always clear, insightful or productive but I’m always looking for new solutions to be those things and help my coaching clients achieve the same.


  • This is rally helpful. I made a lot of changes to the way I send out emails because of the new GDPR changes. I have a list of people who only want offers, another list of people who only want the newsletters, and of course some want both. This post is perfect timing for me. I’ve noticed my offers do well and they are always short and to the point. 1 clear action. The newletter was super long and packed with high value information. I had a good open rate but not a single click so far (sent 5 days ago). Definitely a lesson to be learned there. Thanks.

    • Tom VanBuren

      Thanks, Wendy! Sounds like you’re definitely moving in the right direction by segmenting the different types of people you’re emailing. Changing up your newsletter content could be a fun experiment!

  • Rebekah Parr

    We definitely noticed that simpler is better over at http://www.newhorizonsmktg.com. One week, we included only 1 featured item at the top of the newsletter rather than the usual 2-4. Our click rate that week was higher than all the other weeks that year. I think people like knowing what they’re supposed to do. With only one option, it was easy – I’m supposed to click this! I love your restaurant menu comparison, too.

    • Tom VanBuren

      That’s a fascinating example – thanks for sharing it! Sounds like you’re definitely onto something, and it’s really interesting to see how effective it can be to simplify even to that extent!

  • mtrombley1

    I am a very small business (just starting out) and I am using my website and newsletter to get sales in my Printable/Digital Download Party site. I am not getting a ton of subscribers so any information will help. You can look at my website and sign up right here: http://www.grinandprint.com I have a blog, I add free printables, and I offer advice for my customers on how they can use my printables for their parties or events. My website also links to my Etsy shop so you can purchase things from their too. My newsletter and blog post goes out once a week. It’s not easy doing everything by myself. I am loving it though. I would love advice from someone who knows what they are doing. When you go to my site I have an light box that appears so you can subscribe. Thanks so much!

    • Tom VanBuren

      Thanks for sharing this – and congratulations on everything you’ve already accomplished! Keep that momentum!

  • We have a pretty dense newsletter but I’ve been cleaning it up and we get great feedback (although we are getting unsubscribes which is a result of a lack of funneling people into the newsletter when they come in through one of our various outlets).

    Our open rate is a lot higher than the industry standard and remains consistent, which is awesome.

    We send a weekly newsletter for writers and authors in the clean and Christian market – SeriousWriter.com.

  • Daniel

    I agree that probably most of the time simplified is better.

    I used to really like The Next Web newsletters, they were fairly short, clear and quick to scan. Now they changed it so much (even call it “TNW’s Big Spam”) that I don’t like it at all. Too much stuff is going on their newsletters. It seems that even quality drop.

  • Wendy Pitts Reeves

    This is fascinating to me. I do believe that in today’s information-soaked world, we are hungry for anything that is simple, clear, easy to take in. And I’ve already simplified my newsletter to a single article, with no more than an intro, a photo, and a link to read the rest of the post. But I really like the Help Scout example above even more so – and I’m tempted to try that. Hmmmm…..

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