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Building email newsletters
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Posted by Steffi Lewis on 22/09/2011
I've been writing a new module for sblogit.com so that our clients can drop email notifications in to their subscribers inboxes as an additional marketing tool to sharing on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I've learned quite a lot, so here's some stuff you may like to know ...
Our clients blog every week (sometimes twice or thee times a week) and it was important to me to find additional ways to share their new posts with their contact networks and get their posts seen.
Why? Well, Although we all love Social Networks, the speed of news feeds these days means that only a small portion of our contacts get to see something we share so we can find ourselves re-sharing the same stuff more and more, in the hope that other people see it. This causes news feeds to move even quicker, and if you're not careful, people will hide your stuff, or even worse, unfriend you because you're spamming their feeds.
What's the alternative then? It's simple ... good old fashioned email. Providing it can get through those ever more paranoid spam filters, it'll sit in someone's inbox, waiting to be read. And then regardless of whether it's hours or days later, your lovely new post gets read and you get a visit to your blog. They may also forward it on if you ask nicely!
So our new mailing list module sends out a very pretty HTML mailer, branded to their blog, each time they post something new. If they're blogging more that once a week, then we can build in more than one post and then we call it a weekly newsletter!
So for all you developers out there, here's a few things I've learned ...
Use tables for positioning
Don't use an external stylesheet. Inline styling only!
Always include a Text only version with every HTML mailer
Send it to your own Outlook, Hotmail and Google mail accounts first
Test it using Spam Checkers and aim for a score of less than 1
Always include a 'view in browser' link at the top
Always include an 'unsubscribe' option at the bottom
All links and included images should start with http:// and not rely on local referencing
Refrain from using common spam words and phrases
Don't use too much punctuation. !!! is definitely out and so is "s p a c i n g" dodgy words
The aim is to get it looking the same in every mail client, whether that is web based or, like Outlook, on your own computer. Different mail systems support different inline styles, so for example, you can have a coloured background in Outlook and GoogleMail, you'll only see white in Hotmail. Outlook doesn't support borders whereas the other two do! Don't get me started on font support on the iPad! I'm hopeful iOS5 will improve that.
It's simply a case of trial and error. You could drive yourself mad trying to get it exactly the same on every single one, but you're going to hit your project deadline sooner or later, so in most cases 'good enough' will have to do. Also, I can't stress more highly the importance of on-line spam checkers. Many of them, such as IsNotSpan and SwiftPage let you send them your mailer then they'll return a score for you! How cool is that?
I'm really pleased with what I've created. It's now integrated into www.sblogit.com and this website, so once I've finished testing it, i'll be rolling out to my other clients' blogs so they can use it too.
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