Why It Might Be Time to Rethink Your Email Newsletter Strategy

Written by Laura Roeder

On May 8, 2018

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

(You can subscribe to it right here, by the way.)

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!

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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