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Half it in size. Then half it again.

October 16, 2015 - Mike

I’m sitting looking at my inbox. It’s a bit full – I’ve been away for a week. I’ve done a bunch of culling but in there are three newsletters catching my eye, all from museums or museum related people.

Out of interest, I just pasted each one into http://wordcounttools.com.

They average 1,400 words each.

Here’s my mental response:

There are two things at play here.

  1. Your email newsletter is probably your single most important bit of marketing collateral. Having a gazillion followers on Twitter or likes on Facebook is great, and maintaining that social dialogue is absolutely key, but it’s transient in nature. These little snippets float past, with a tiny little half-life.
  2. People don’t read on the web or in their inbox. They skim. This is why I spend a lot of time talking about the inverted content pyramid (see our recently updated writing for the web guide) – providing little bits of content which give a sense of what’s underneath without people having to invest the time to actually read in long form.

If you collide these two thoughts you end up with something quite useful:

  1. Write short – really short – really, really short – newsletters which have little, skimmable snippets of text and maybe a few images to cheer things up.
  2. Have a “read more” link against each piece of text which takes people off to the web if they’re interested
  3. Put the bulk of the content on your website – on a single page if you can with local anchors (sometimes called “bookmarks“) so people get scrolled to the bit they’ve just clicked on or on multiple pages if that’s where the content originated from.
  4. Make sure your stats software and mailing list software can give you some useful analytics about who clicked what.

Sometimes there is quite a lot of confusion about why to use both Google Analytics AND MailChimp (or whatever your software is) to measure the responses to your newsletter. Generally, your mailing list software can give you data on what people clicked on, when they clicked it and even who clicked something. Google Analytics can then be set up (via campaigns) to show you the users onward journey – so you can ask questions like “are people who come to our site via our newsletter more likely to do X?”.

Having shorter, more succinct newsletters written like this and then encouraging people to click therefore does two important things: first, people will be more likely to read it in the first place (which is presumably a motivation, given the time you’ve spent writing it..) and second, you get really powerful analytics about what they are interested in if they are motivated enough to follow through to your site. And if they aren’t clicking through, you also need to know why and to adapt accordingly.

I’ve written too much. 455 words. Off to edit.

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