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Newsletter Strategies

What's the block?



8:42 pm on Dec 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I maintain two newsletters in very diverse industries, each with about 1000 opt-in subscribers.

These are quality newsletetrs.
Un-subscriptions rates are extremely low.

I'm sending HTML newsletters.
I use ezinedirector to monitor their performance.

Of biggest concern is that between 70% and 80% of the newsletters I send out are never opened, and it's getting worse over time.

I'd like to know why, how to find out why, and what to do about it.

My guess is that SPAM filters are blocking content.
Is that right?

I tried learning about Yahoo's SPAM filter, but can't see any information on how it decides what is SPAM, so I can't work around it.

If I go double opt-in, I'll at least know that people who finally subscribe, at least got ONE email from me.

What is the smart thinking on this? I don't apepar to have any.


11:48 pm on Dec 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

How are you detecting that someone opened your newsletter? From what I've seen this is normally done by having some sort of an image tracker that detects when the newsletter is displayed.

The issue might be that a lot of mail programs (outlook, etc) are not displaying images by default, so someone might be reading your newsletter without displaying the images, thereby throwing off the open count. I do this all the time.

Do you track people clicking through to links in the newsletter? That might be a better indicator, or at least give you some sense of how it is performing. If clickthrough rates are close to opens, you can probably be pretty sure than more people are reading the newsletter than the open stats indicate.


1:01 am on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hi Jon and thanks for your time.

I'm using ezinedirector.com to monitor newsletters.
They simply report VIEWS an UNIQUE VIEWS. I guesss they use web beacons, but I don't know.

I've seen that the likes of Yahoo disable image display.

Yes, I track links clicked - the total is always tiny.
With a thousand newsletter, 200 oddd will be read and I might get 20 clicks and ONE WEBSITE visit.

So it's a mystery - the only certainty is that my newsletters appear to be a massive waste of time.



2:49 am on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

One possibility it that people may just put in a rule routing it to the bit bucket rather than taking the time to unsubscribe.


3:12 am on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jtara is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

1. There is no reliable way to detect whether a user has received your newsletter. The only way to do it is to insert an image that is retrieved from a website, and then keep track of whether or not the image was hit by the user. (The URL can encode the user ID...)

Users are getting increasingly aware and wary of this, and many use their browser option to "not download images". There is usually an option of retrieving them individually if the user really, really wants to see the images.

As a result, most HTML newsletter emails now include any images that they want the user to see inline, rather than having them retrieved from a server. If they also include a beacon, the publisher has to understand that it's hit-or-miss, and there's no way they are going to get an accurate count.

2. Most email newsletters are never read. I know that I read very few. Unless they get really abusive, it's usually easier to simply ignore them than to unsubscribe, block them, or shut them off if using a disposable email address service.

I try to subscribe only to stuff that I am interested in, and then I have my email client put them in a separate folder for each source. Every now and then I look in on the folder. That might be every few newsletters that I receive. But, frankly, they usually just wind-up accumulating unread.

Frankly, I think your expectations are unrealistic, and your mailing-list vendor has sold you a bill of goods. There's no reason to panic, you're not doing anything wrong. This is just the way it is, and I assure you that everybody else is experiencing the same thing.


5:50 am on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jtara is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

many use their browser option to "not download images"

Er, I meant "email client option"...

I switched mine a couple of months ago. I notice that most of my newsletters do have viewable images, thus my conclusion that most newsletters have switched to inline images.

For the ones that use online images - I don't miss them, and have only been tempted a couple of times to use the "download images" button.


10:29 am on Dec 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks Guys,

I know how image beacons work and I know that many webmail systems default to not downloading images. So perhaps far more than the 20% being reported read are actually read.

However, unique clicks from a 1,000 subscriber newsletter is 50, so - as a way of getting action - it isn't! At least, not the way I do it.

Is email marketing really dead? All the greats do it. Maybe I just do it badly.

HOw do you reach your customers - is it all search engines and Web 2.0?


10:59 am on Dec 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I think a 20% open rate is really pretty good. I just checked the open rate (using web beacons) for our newsletter and found that it was quite a bit less than that -- but it's still an effective tool. We sell product on the back of every newsletter we send out.

What would be interesting for you to do is to monitor the exact list of who opens. While the average may remain at about 20% I'll bet that it's not the same 20%. There are a couple of newsletters I subscribe to that interest me but I don't have time to read every issue. I don't want to unsubscribe so most of them just get binned, but occasionally I get an interesting subject line and I'll read that.

As has already been mentioned your open rate will be higher because not everyone will load images. That means you should check that you have a readable plain text version, and that the newsletter still displays ok without images.

I would worry less about spam and more about subject lines and content. If you have short, interesting and relevant subject lines you'll get more opens. Include a call to action if you can, though don't go overboard or you will get spam filtered. If you google for "spam checker" there are a couple of tools that you feed your email into and they check whether it's spam or not (though I don't know how effective they really are).

Another good way to check spam filters is to set up a gmail, hotmail and yahoo email accounts and send yourself the newsletter. Yahoo at least operates a blanket filter, does it go straight to the junk folder? (You can also check to see if the content displays correctly with these email provides, something that can be problematic.)


11:06 am on Dec 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Karmatar, thanks for this - it's very useful. Interesting subject lines is a great one. I use Outlook at the preview pane is on, so I see the contents always. But of course, many use webmail or for other reasons - don't see the subject line. Mine are always the same - "Your XYZ Newlsetetr" - What a lost opportunity! So thanks for that insight.

And thanks also for the ida of setting up recipient accounts.

Very generous. Thanks and have a great week.



4:28 pm on Dec 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I outsourced our newsletter to Feedburner. It is free, and they worry about the delivery rates...

With the ever-changing landscape of email and spam technologies, it was not a business I had the time or expertise to deal with... =)


6:24 pm on Dec 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jtara is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Just came across this: there's a name for the phenomena of opt-in email that is never read: BACN.



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