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Top 13 tips to creating a professional looking newsletter

Last Update: Friday, September 26, 2003.

In this article I show you my top 13 tips on how to create professional looking newsletters.

1. Design Scannable Newsletters

According to recent study by usability expert, Jakob Nielsen, about 50 percent of readers skimmed or partly read the newsletters. Only 23 percent of readers read the newsletters all the way through. The remaining 27 percent were never opened.

So make the text easy to scan by:

  • using short paragraphs
  • using bullet points
  • including plenty of white spacing between topics
  • highlighting topics with uppercase or bold text in HTML newsletters

2. Insert Line Breaks

Improve the readability of your newsletter by formatting it with hard line breaks at 60/65/70 characters per line. You can use a text editor, such as TextPad, and set it to insert hard carriage returns at the end of each 65-character line.

3. Include Newsletter Title In The Subject Field

Include your newsletter title at the beginning of the subject field. This will help the reader differentiate your newsletter from junk emails. It will also allow them to filter your newsletter into a separate folder with the use of filters.

4. Make Your Subject Field Sell!

Advertise the most enticing story of each issue in the subject field. You literally have seconds to grab the readers attention, so make it count.

5. Include A Table Of Content

Include a table of contents at the top of the newsletter. This will allow readers to scan the topics to see if anything in the newsletter catches their interest.

6. Fix Long Links

Long hyperlinks may be broken when you format emails using hard line breaks at 60/65/70 characters per line.

To fix this problem, deselect word wrap after you have inserted the carriage returns. Then manually edit the links to ensure they are on one line. When the email is sent, a link may still wrap onto two lines. But now it will be clickable.

7. Avoid Spam Filters That Flag The "Unsubscribe" Word

Do not use the word "unsubscribe" in your removal notice. A number of spam filters flag emails containing that particular word as possible spam. The reason is many spammers now offer "unsubscribe" functions that don't actually do anything.

8. Avoid Spam Filters That Flag Chain Letters

Some spam filters are flagging emails that asks readers to forward the newsletter on as chain letters.

Avoid using the word "forward" and any of the following words in the same sentence, "all, anyone, every, friends, many, others, people." Instead of "forward," try using "pass," "share," or "send."

9. Reduce Remove Request Emails

There are two methods to reducing the number of remove email requests from your subscribers:

  • Include a removal notice at the top and bottom of the email.
  • Place the bottom removal request at the very bottom of the email, rather than a few paragraphs from the bottom.

10. Design User-Friendly HTML Newsletters

Most people use an 800x600 screen resolution, but the email preview pane is usually much smaller than the full screen. So format your HTML table widths at 500-600 pixels at the most. Better still, use a relative (percentage) width table, which will allow your newsletter to be resized when viewed in different sized windows.

11. Create AOL Friendly HTML Newsletters

AOL try to protect their users by eliminating potential security hazards. As such, AOL email clients do not support the following HTML objects:

  • ActiveX
  • Audio
  • External Style Sheets
  • Frames and IFrames
  • Java
  • Meta Refresh
  • Scripts: JavaScript, Perl, VBScript, etc.
  • Tooltips
  • Video

In addition, the following HTML tags are the only ones supported by AOL email clients:

  • Big: Big
  • Body: Body
  • Bold: B
  • Break: BR
  • Center: Center
  • Font: Font
  • Header: H1, H2, H3
  • Hyperlink: A
  • Italics: I
  • Paragraph: P
  • Small: Small
  • Strong: Strong
  • Subscript: Sub
  • Underline: U

12. Include AOL Clickable Links

AOL users can't click standard hyperlinks or email links. For links to work in AOL email clients, you must format them using HTML. This is why you sometimes see both standard and HTML formatted links.

For example:

<a href="http://www.Mikes-Marketing-Tools.com">AOL Link</a>
<a href="http://www.Mikes-Marketing-Tools.com">AOL Users Click Here</a>

<a href="mailto:joe@anysite.com">joe@anysite.com</a>

13. Spell Check Your Writing

Last but not least, always spell check your newsletter. Text editors, such as TextPad, include a spell check function.

If yours doesn't, then copy and paste the text into Microsoft Word (assuming you have it). Make sure you have the "Check spelling as you type" option switched on.

To set this, select "Options" under the "Tools" in the top menu bar. Then select the "Spelling & Grammar" tab. Under "Spelling" check the "Check spelling as you type" check box and click "OK." Word will underline all of the words that contain spelling errors.

Alternatively, check your spelling using SpellOnLine, a free online spell checker. It offers an English, French, Italian, Portugese and Spanish dictionary. You can even use it to spell check web pages.

About the author
Michael Wong is a respected internet marketing and SEO expert. He is the author of a leading search engine optimization guide, numerous marketing tips, and reviews of marketing tools and ecommerce software.

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