Focus your email newsletter

Expand on, but don’t exceed, the subject line

When a Toyota dealership wrapped up its car-maintenance-and-new-models e-zine with information about getting more protein into your diet, subscribers were surprised.

Focus your email newsletter

3 keys to e-zine success 1) Focus. 2) Focus. 3) Focus. Hew to your subject line: Subscribers don’t want you veering off on different topics.  Image by Chase Clark

They’d signed up for the car information, but not the diet advice. And since when was their dealer an expert in nutrition?

Learn a system for writing emails that get opened, clicked and read ….

That’s one of the most interesting findings among the Nielsen Nielsen Norman Group’s 199 usability guidelines for e-zines and email blasts:

Focus your e-zine. Don’t give subscribers any extra bonus material. They don’t want it.

Indeed, the most highly rated newsletters in NNG’s usability studies all contained highly focused content with no extraneous information. Users don’t want extraneous irrelevant information to get in the way of relevant, targeted information they can use.

To give subscribers what they’re looking for:

1. Focus on your area of expertise. If you’re sending out a car dealership e-zine, tell me about cars. I don’t want to hear about your grandchildren, your vacations or your high-protein diet.

2. Cover a single topic. Subscribers in Nielsen Norman Group studies often felt overwhelmed by the number of topics in email newsletters. They preferred newsletters to focus on one story or offer short, focused snippets of information on each topic.

3. Hew to the subject line. ClimateNexus.org sent out an e-zine with the subject line: “Planet’s Cool New Agreement, Navy’s Biggest RE Buy, and More.”

With an emphasis on and More: The message itself included links to 105 stories.

“The newsletter contained a number of news stories that were not encompassed by the subject,” a subscriber kvetched to NNG researchers. “The amount of content was overwhelming. I would prefer a shorter, more curated list. I feel like the subject line opens up the door for them to take the email anywhere.”

So drop the and more. E-zine subscribers want relevant, targeted information wrapped up in a pithy subject line. If a story doesn’t hew to that subject line, take it out.

What techniques do you use to focus your e-zines?

Inside the Inbox - Ann Wylie's email-writing workshop on Nov. 7-8 in D.C.

Get opened, read and clicked through Learn more best practices for writing email newsletters, invites and eblasts that get the word out. Join me at Inside the Inbox, our email-writing workshop, on Nov. 7-8 in D.C.

Save $100 when you register by Oct. 6.

“Makes me want to go back and revise everything I’ve done in the past three years.”
— Blythe Campbell, director, communications and marketing, NANA Development Corp.