Golden newsletter rule: First things first!

I had a look at my newsletter results lately. For example, I wondered how link position (top vs. bottom) affects click rates for certain links. Do people only click on what they can see directly in the preview pane, or do they also scroll down to the bottom to find more juice? A heat map sheds some light on this.

First, here’s the info-graphical representation of what I found:

click heatmap of my newsletter

Intro: My weekly email picks newsletter

If you don’t know the “weekly email picks” newsletter: It’s really long. Every Friday at 5 pm, I recommend around 30 to 35 articles in it. Those are readings, which I stumbled across and which I found shareworthy. Everything is well tagged and categorized and it’s easy to find more on specific topics.

The design on the other hand is shabby, I know. However, content is king. And most subscribers seem to appreciate the straight forward approach, because it’s the quickest way to stay tuned. In fact, half of the latest voters even rated it with 9 or 10 on a scale from 1 to 10 (!):

Newsletter ratings

(How to read a box plot)

15% of links = 37% of clicks

Let’s come back to the heat map. I suspected something like that; but then again, I was astonished when I saw the blank numbers: The top five links accounted for more than every third click on average. In addition, more than half of all clicks resulted from just the first nine links.

The problem with the result is: Many subscribers probably missed the most interesting news. That is because the links are not ordered by importance, but by their time and date of entry. The first five (or nine) links, which get the most clicks, don’t represent the biggest news of the last week. They represent my latest adds to the database.

Lesson: First things first

Now, before you shake your head and tell me: “Well then… change it for god’s sake. Order the links by popularity or something.” Sure, you do many nifty things. As every link is described in several ways, you could even produce a learning newsletter – an intelligent one that serves peoples individual preferences better with every click they make. Like Flavorpill does, or – even more elegant – like Hotmail did (pdf).

But hey, I am not making any money with it. And until now, it’s not much work to set up the next issue either. It costs me no more than 30 minutes per week. I got to scan all email marketing related content anyway. It should stay that way. (I mean the effort thing, not necessarily the money thing. ;-) ..)

But if there was revenue depending on those emails, if I e.g. drove subscribers to my shop, I’d surely think twice about what I say within the first 400 height pixels. Don’t expect people to scroll down and look into the numerous offers you got. They will not find out for themselves, what may be interesting to them. Email doesn’t work that way.

Instead, provide them directly and to the point with answer to their questions. Some of which will always come up. Four very important questions of your subscribers are:

  1. Who are you, who is writing me?
  2. Why are you contacting me, now?
  3. What exactly do you want me to do?
  4. Why should I invest my time and do it?

Answers to those questions must go first. That’s exactly what this comic here means. (I drew another one in German language for /


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3 Responses to Golden newsletter rule: First things first!

  1. Golden newsletter rule: First things first! via @LukeAnker

  2. Pingback: Tabbed Gmail doesn’t affect click rates

  3. Pingback: Subscriber Feedback: Learnings from Unsubscribe Reasons

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