9 Newsletter best practices (including a step-by-step checklist)

Newsletter best practices
9 actionable email newsletter best practice tips
1Capture email addresses effectively
2Focus on your email campaign goals
3Craft a catchy email subject line
4Choose your words wisely
5Design beautiful emails
6Make your newsletter content easy to digest
7Leverage color psychology
8Use a powerful call to action (CTA)
9Test, analyze, tweak, repeat
Final thoughts

Keeping in touch with customers and leads is essential for encouraging both new conversions and retention. One of the ways marketers do this is by sending out email newsletters.

With around 333 billion emails sent per day, how can you make sure you’re putting marketing effort into sending a truly valuable newsletter that won’t just get buried in the inbox – or worse, sent to spam folders?

To craft a winning email newsletter, optimize email deliverability and maximize the value your readers get from your efforts, you need to follow the best practices of email marketing specialists.

In this article, we discuss the email marketing tips and strategies you can employ to grow your email list, increase your newsletter and email open rates, optimize for click-through rates and conversions and enjoy greater profitability from your newsletters.

9 actionable email newsletter best practice tips

Here, we’ll give you nine tips you can start using immediately to start generating more income from your newsletter subscriber list.

If you’re looking for information on how to get started, check out our guide to creating a newsletter.

1. Capture email addresses effectively

In order to start creating a list of email subscribers that show interest in your newsletter, your website visitors or social media followers will have to willingly offer their email addresses to you.

Many businesses pop up a signup form on a landing page and wait for the subscribers to roll in. That worked in the early days of email newsletters, but now, subscribers are far more reluctant to sacrifice that inbox space without good reason.

To compel subscribers to hand over their contact information and opt in to a regular email from you, you’ll want to tell them all the value you have to offer up front.

Take inspiration from Damp, an ecommerce winemaker that tells readers exactly what they get when they subscribe.

Damp Newsletter Example

Notice also that Damp doesn’t ask for extra details, such as first and last name or phone number. For Damp’s newsletter purposes (a brand awareness play to stay top of mind), only the email is necessary.

When it comes to newsletter best practices, make your sign-up forms as simple and obstacle-free as possible.

2. Focus on your email campaign goals

It’s important to know what you want to achieve with your newsletters and to set expectations for your readers. Whatever the goal, have it crystal clear before crafting your emails.

Your email marketing campaign goals might be to increase retention or increase conversions of a particular product. Either goal will look completely different when it comes to how you shape your newsletter.

For example, a newsletter focusing on retention will want to showcase the value your product brings to customers’ lives, the benefits they’re getting, relevant content about how to use it more often, etc.

A newsletter aiming to increase conversions for a particular software add-on will release content around using that product or the customer need that’s linked to it.

Likewise, you’ll want to make sure your email newsletter campaigns are aligned with your customers’ goals.

Your subscribers sign up to receive regular emails from your company to get real value, so you’ll want to make sure every campaign delivers on that.

3. Craft a catchy email subject line

People tend to open your newsletters based on the subject line. It’s only a few words, but it will determine whether your campaign will be a success or a flop.

Follow these tips to optimize your subject lines:

  • Keep them short (Return Path recommends no more than 30 characters due to the limitations of mobile device displays)

  • Make them stand out with emojis and attention-grabbing copy

  • Avoid clickbait titles and spam words

  • Test different subject lines to see what resonates with your audiences (e.g. front-loading topic words or leading with intrigue)

  • Segment audiences to add personalization elements, such as names or locations

All in all, treat your subject line as the most important part of the email. Your success depends on it.

4. Choose your words wisely

Talk in your readers’ language, refer to their problems in an empathetic way and offer the solutions without coming off as salesy. Your delivery and how it feels to your reader is essential in boosting your email engagement metrics.

Here are some basic guidelines on how to create interesting content:

  • Use storytelling to engage your audience. Tell them about your week (or month) and give them behind-the-scenes tales.

  • Share thought-provoking ideas to encourage responses and start conversations. This will help build a community and trust among your subscribers.

  • Give your subscribers free value to show them that you care (e.g. insider tips, subscriber-only content or peeks into your process)

All this is aimed at nurturing your list, providing value beyond your product and building your authority in the niche you are serving.

5. Design beautiful emails

While arguably your email copy is the most important element of a successful newsletter, your email newsletter design can take it to new levels.

Aesthetic formatting can make emails more pleasant to read and add to your newsletter’s professionalism.

You don’t have to overthink it. It can be as simple as pulling feature images from the content you already have on your website.

This is what Resy does, for example:

Resy newsletter Example

If your branding is particularly visual or you sell visually pleasing products, you can make images or gifs a feature of your newsletter. Match your types of content to both your brand and your audience’s preferences.

Design is a big feature of WeTransfer’s brand, so they replicate this in their newsletter:

WeTransger Newsletter Example

Play around with colors, layouts, images and fonts. Choose a style that fits your brand and follow design best practices to ensure it’s also optimized for every device.

6. Make your newsletter content easy to digest

Most people will not take the time to actually read every word you write, which is why the way you present email content is vital.

The majority of readers simply scan through the content to find reference points on something that may interest them.

While a good design and a “compact” form of content add to it, there are a few more things that make an email easier to navigate:

  • Guide your readers to the most important parts of your newsletter. Use images, headlines and CTA buttons to grab their attention.

  • Use white space around copy to break up blocks of text.

  • Play with email width. Keep in mind that email service providers like Gmail don’t show background color at widths wider than 640px.

  • Use images to make your content more memorable.

  • Check spelling and grammar. Errors won’t add to your credibility, so always have someone else read through your email or use software to check for mistakes.

  • Insert a footer. You need to include an unsubscribe link and a company address to comply with current GDPR regulations. Most companies add this to their email footer.

Let’s look at a newsletter example by Starbucks. The mega coffee brand uses sections with different colored backgrounds and headers to separate the content into blocks.

Starbucks Newsletter Example

Starbucks keeps the copy to a minimum but delivers the message with clarity: new and popular products have been released.

The design is inviting, guiding readers to instantly make a choice between two options, take up the offer or read further down to see what else is new at their favorite coffee shop.

7. Leverage color psychology

Color is a powerful marketing tool when it comes to setting the tone of your message. It has the potential to evoke an emotional response, which can be good or bad for your message.

Reds, yellows and oranges can add warmth to your message. Blues, purples and black will make your email feel cooler.

Here are some of the ways color can influence how we feel:

  • Red is associated with warnings, alerts and anger (in Western countries).

  • Yellow can mean friendliness and joy.

  • Green is usually linked to growth, nature and vitality.

  • Blue is often a business-like color.

You can use color to increase your brand’s recognition by up to 80%, which explains why all of the large brands have such a distinct color palette.

When you think of Starbucks, you think of green. Coca-cola, red.

Consider what colors you want to pull from your brand colors when designing your email newsletter.

For example, your brand colors might be black, white and neon green. You could use all three in your email newsletter, or emphasize just one or two.

Reason Studios has a dark branding on their website:

Reason newsletter Example

But they emphasize the yellow color in their emails:

Reason Studios Yellow

What kind of emotions and thoughts would you like to evoke in your newsletter? Choose the right color to create an email marketing strategy that serves you best.

8. Use a powerful call to action (CTA)

Call-to-action button (CTA) buttons are critical points of your email. The goal of your content should lead the reader to click the button – and you can have more than one.

There are many things you can customize (size, color, shape, copy, etc.) but the most important aspect to consider is the placement of your CTA button.

Placing it too early runs the risk of your subscribers not yet being convinced to click. Place it too late and they might not scroll far enough to see it.

Here are some tips to help you with creating a compelling CTA:

  • Choose the anchor text or button copy that speaks to your customer while also using your brand’s tone of voice (e.g. “Read more” vs “Head to the blog!”)

  • Create a sense of urgency by making any offers time-bound (e.g. “Enter the one-day sale”)

  • Use action verbs to bring your point across, such as “read”, “learn”, “shop”, etc.

  • Use contrasting colors to make your CTA stand out

  • Make it large enough for everyone to see (particularly on mobile)

You can create compelling CTA buttons in most drag-and-drop email builders, such as Campaigns by Pipedrive.

To make things even simpler, you can choose your design from pre-existing email templates and adjust them to your needs.

9. Test, analyze, tweak, repeat

When it comes to newsletter marketing, what sets the best apart from the rest is knowing what works for the target audience and doubling down on that.

The only way to objectively know what works is by measuring and comparing metrics, like conversion rates and open rates, between different types of email.

A/B testing plays an essential role in any email newsletter campaign because it helps marketers compare different newsletter templates with varied subject lines, preheaders, layouts and design elements. You can then identify which have the most significant impact on the subscriber list.

You can also send a test email to a small segment of your subscribers before sending it out to the rest of your email list. This way you can see if your email needs any tweaks before the wider audience sees it.

Final thoughts

Making an effective email newsletter is both a science and an art. Using these email newsletter best practices, you can start to build and nurture an audience that sees your brand as valuable and authoritative. Over time, you’ll nurture your email list into repeat customers.

Driving business growth