I get many compliments on my newsletter, and every so often I’m asked how I create my email newsletter (Ezine). It’s not as tough as you might think.
In a nutshell, an HTML newsletter is a web page that is transmitted via some email broadcasting service. Because this format incorporates graphics and color, HTML newsletters are more attention-getting than plain text newsletters. Overall, when compared to a plain text newsletter, HTML newsletters:
–Have a higher click-through rate (more readers click on the links contained within your newsletter that link back to your site, affiliate program, or sales offers)
–Permit you to track your open rate (determine how many readers actually open your email newsletter)
–Help you continue to establish your brand in front of your readers, as it may carry the same look as your website or other marketing materials you may use
–Are read more often than plain text newsletters because of the eye-catching graphics
Here are 10 steps you can follow to make the creation of your email newsletter quick and easy:
1. Select your newsletter distribution service.
Many small business owners start their newsletters by choosing to send them out via their email program (Outlook). When their list begins to grow to several hundred subscribers or more, this task begins to overwhelm them. The dangers you face by choosing to send your email newsletter out through your email program are two-fold:
a. Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) can shut you down if you send out an excessive amount of email each day. If you exceed the daily limit of outgoing emails established by your ISP, they will brand you a spammer and shut down your account, many times without warning and without any ability to reinstate your account.
b. When you start to get a larger number of subscribers, you’ll begin to get emails asking you to remove them from the list (yes, it happens to us all!) or to change their email address or requesting your latest newsletter issue. Get 10-15 of these emails per day and you’ll soon end up spending all of your time managing your list.
There are a number of distribution options available in various price ranges. If you plan on designing an ezine template yourself using an HTML editor, I recommend aWeber.com, which offers sequential autoresponders in addition to being able to send out your email newsletter. If you don’t want to learn HTML and want to use a template-driven system in which all you have to do is cut and paste your text, I recommend ConstantContact.com. Both of these services offer automatic subscriber management (where subscribers can go in and change their email address or take themselves off a list) as well as the ability to customize your opt-in and thank you pages.
2. Determine your software needs.
There are several heavy duty website design and HTML editing programs out there to help you design your newsletter template. If all you plan to do is create a newsletter, there’s no need to spend lots of money. I recommend that you try this easy-to-use HTML editor found at CoffeeCup.com. If you’re really interested in web design, I recommend you purchase DreamWeaver, which has a steep learning curve but will serve you well over the long-term.
3. Create your newsletter template.
Your template will probably be a simple table format that incorporates your logo and a few other graphics. Your newsletter should not exceed 600 pixels in width, as you want to ensure that your readers won’t have to scroll across the screen to read your newsletter. And, in the case of HTML newsletter, size does matter. A newsletter that is large in size (greater than 25 MB) is tough to deliver through many email systems. Less than 20 KB is optimal for greatest chance of delivery to your subscribers.
4. Link all graphics to the full graphic URL.
In order for an image to display, it must be hosted on a website. Some distribution programs, like Constant Contact, will host images on their server. However, if you’re creating your email newsletter from scratch, you need to tell the newsletter distribution program the full URL that will help it locate the image. So, for example, in your website design program, you might see an image URL listed as …images/yourimage.jpg. In an email newsletter, the full path of the image URL needs to be indicated, as in www.yourwebsite.com/newletter/images/yourimage.jpg in order for the image to display. So, be sure that any images your paste into your newsletter are also uploaded to your website, and check to see that the full URL for the image is listed in the image properties of your graphic. If you need an FTP program to help you upload images or pages to your hosting account, I recommend CuteFTP.com.
5. Create the content in a plain text editor program.
Have you ever gotten a newsletter and it’s filled with funny characters like “youÃ¢Â€Â™ll”? If you create the text of your newsletter in MS Word and try and cut and paste it into your HTML editor, many times you’ll bring unwanted Word formatting in the text. Consequently, when you send out your newsletter, it appears in your subscriber’s email client with the funny characters indicated above. In many cases, the punctuation in Word (quotation marks and apostrophes, in particular) are the culprits. To ensure that you’ve created ASCII text (the most basic, format-free text), you’ll want to compose your articles in a plain text editor program, like Notepad, found on computers with Windows operating systems.
6. Finalize your newsletter content.
Open your newsletter template and cut and paste your new content into this edition. Save this edition on your hard drive with a different file name than your template so that you don’t overwrite your template. If you want to create a newsletter archive, you’ll also want to upload the newsletter to your website. Check your content for typos, punctuation mistakes, and grammar mistakes.
7. Spam check your ezine.
Some distribution services have this feature built into their broadcast service and will evaluate the content, colors, images, etc. of your email broadcast and point out if there are any attributes of your broadcast that might be caught in sp*am filters. If your service doesn’t offer this feature, you can run both the body and subject line of your broadcast through this fr*ee evaluation service: http://spamcheck.sitesell.com/. Some subject line sp*am triggers include; all caps, exclamation marks, or the word “fr*ee”. If you have a score of 5 or higher, you’ll need to change the problem components of your broadcast.
8. Upload the ezine.
In most cases, this means you need to copy and paste the HTML coding from your editor into your broadcast program.
9. Use personalization.
When a subject line of an email contains your first name, doesn’t that quickly grab your attention? If your broadcast service permits you to personalize either the subject line of your broadcast or the content of your broadcast, take advantage of this feature and use it! This is an easy strategy to increase your newsletter’s open rate.
10. Send out a test broadcast.
To ensure that your content displays like you think it will, send yourself a test copy to yourself. I also send test copies to my AOL, Hotmail, Google, and Yahoo addresses, as many of my subscribers have those addresses. Evaluate your test copy and make any corrections or adjustments needed.
Now that you’ve completed these steps, you’re ready to send your broadcast.
An HTML newsletter that is published regularly is a great “stay-in-touch” marketing mechanism. Showcase your expertise and begin your newsletter today!