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Tips for Dealing with The Tough E-Zine Challenges

By Aug 03, 2006

As far as we know, there are no degree programs for how to create e-mail newsletters. But it’s an art that should be studied.

In their eagerness to get their sales message across, many firms ignore basic design and technical rules.

Here are some e-mail tips from Geoff Smith, managing director of online product develop for Prism Business Media, the publisher of this e-zine.

The top challenges:

1. Preview Panes

The preview pane is critical. Nearly half of all e-mail users look at the first few lines to decided if they want to continue reading. A third read the whole message.

Factors that influence preview pane readership:

*Sender name/address – 60%

*Subject line – 54%

*Headline – 53%

*Teaser copy – 30%

Remember the following if you want to make optimal use of the preview pane:

*The most valuable real estate is the top two-to-four inches of your e-mails, or approximately 300 pixels.

*Since most preview panes are horizontal, a wider message ensures more visible content.

*Subject lines and the top of the e-mail must be complimentary and work together—but not the same thing.

*Include actionable links and the most critical information at the top of the e-mail.

2. Design

*Avoid large graphics in the top 300 pixels.

*View e-mails with graphics blocked or missing to see how it impacts design.

*Use HTML text in place of graphical text.

*Use ALT text or captions with images, so if graphic is blocked user can still see text.

3. Subject Lines

*Create a hook within subject lines—make someone curious so they’re more likely to open.

*Support the call to action in subject lines.

4. E-Mail Copy

*Write copy with design requirements in mind.

*Optimize for 700 px width (10 words per line is preferred width for online readers).

*No more than three sentences to a paragraph.

*Know the approximate size (H X W) of any embedded images to avoid text wrapping issues (i.e., one word on a given line).

*Insert embedded (inside paragraphs) links throughout—the more the better.

*Hotline words in addition to URLs.

*Avoid overuse of “click here.”

*Put the call to action at the top.

5. Landing Page Optimization

*Get rid of the clutter. MarketingSherpa reports that you have “0-8 seconds to convince visitors this page is for them and them alone.”

*Less scrolling is better—no scrolling is best.

*66% of experienced marketers are increasing the use of campaign-specific landing pages.

6. Technical Considerations

*Inboxes will accept e-mail up to 100k.

*E-mail creative should be no wider than 700 pixels.

*Only inline style sheets or regular HTML should be used to format text.

*Do not use JavaScript since most e-mail clients will not accept it.

*Forms are not recommended, but can be used if the mailing doesn’t include AOL or Hotmail users. Even then, the form should be very basic and not employ JavaScript.

*Creative can be coded using colspans, but it is recommended you use a stacked table structure since it is more stable across all e-mail clients.

*Only Outlook can accept a Flash e-mail, so do not use it across all e-mail clients.