Working overtime to get readers to open newsletters
Many newsletter publishers believe in “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” So they send their newsletters a second time and maybe even a third. Whether or not this is a good thing has yet to surface.
Spam has driven many publishers to take this step, as legitimate email newsletters get diverted to the trash bin without ever seeing their readers. Some publishers send an HTML newsletter and then follow a few days later with a text version or a link and message saying, “The newest issue of so ‘n so is out. Click on the link to read it.” A few publishers — like us at InternetVIZ — do a second send, but only to subscribers who didn’t open the email from the first delivery.
When I get two emails from the same publisher referring to the same issue, it annoys me. But I realize spam has pushed publishers to this point. If you do send your newsletter out a second time, use the following approaches for a better open rate and to keep your readers coming back.
Fiddling with spam filters
I think most of us can agree that we get enough waste in our email boxes without adding repeat emails. Even the best spam filters work about 95 percent of the time. Any tighter than that and the email you want to read gets junked. At least 300 emails find their way into my junk folder on a daily basis.
For the filtering to work properly, my spam filter must be loose enough so that “real emails” get through and stay in my inbox. In reading about various spam services and applications, I’ve learned that using a service like Cloudmark catches about 95 percent of the stuff. For the rest, I manually use the “block spam” button to get rid of it. This balance works for me and only takes me a few minutes per day to maintain.
When I started managing spam with a new application, I checked the spam folder to ensure nothing valuable got through. After a little time passed, I stopped looking because it was too much work. Any messages that make it into the filter folder get wiped for good. Without a doubt, I miss some messages and can only hope that nothing critical slipped through. Many people use this approach, as they’re tired of digging through garbage for a golden needle.
Watching out for bad keywords
Unlike most newsletter publishers, InternetVIZ‘s motivation to do second sends does not stem from avoiding spam filters, but to increase the open rate. That makes a subtle but powerful difference.
We dodge spam filters by not sending emails that aren’t relevant to our readers’ professional lives. Any time our newsletters are trapped in the garbage bin, they have too many HTML tags or the wrong color. However, we suspect that most emails aren’t filtered because of those reasons but because of key words like “free” or “click here,” buying questions in the subject line or weird “from” email addresses, which are good to avoid.
Sending seconds to everyone
At InternetVIZ, we dislike sending out the same newsletter twice to all readers. It’s better to resend only to the readers who haven’t opened your newsletter yet. So we focus primarily on the content and writing subject lines that don’t get confused with spam subject lines. We never send the “second send” to those who opened our newsletter the first time.
The person who opens it on the second send as opposed to the first hasn’t seen the email before. Thus, he or she has no idea this is a second send unless it’s sitting somewhere in the mailbox unopened — but that’s rarely the case. The beauty of this process is that second sends increase our open rates between 15 and 35 percent without aggravating anyone.
If it works for us, it can work for you. Know how the filters work, focus on content, send a second one to those who didn’t open the first one — and you can’t lose.
Updated December 15, 2005: MarketingSherpa posted a case study on this topic.