How does the Internet view your newsletter? Is it marked as spam or quality content? While some of that depends on your email provider, some is based on your newsletter’s format and content. In this episode, Chris and Gena list the three elements that will quickly get your newsletter marked as spam.
- Episode 5 – How We TRIPLED Our Email Open Rates
- Writing Moments – Write with us and give your writing momentum!
Episode 26 Transcription:
[00:00:13].870] - Chris Hey, Gena, it's time for the Writing Momentum podcast. Are you ready? [00:00:17].830] - Gena I'm so ready. Let's go. [00:00:20].230] - Chris Hey, if you love writing, hey, we do too. And that's why we're here. That's why we're talking about writing today. And actually, today we're talking about an aspect of marketing with your writing, and that is your email newsletter, right? [00:00:31].530] - Gena Yes. We are talking about how to keep Google happy with your author newsletter. And this is important because we're titling it how to keep Google happy, because that's really the most common provider. But we're really talking about how to keep the Internet in general happy. [00:00:50].970] - Chris Yeah, we're talking about email service providers happy. So when we talk about Google, we're talking about Gmail. And so whatever way that people are receiving your newsletter, you want to keep those services happy and to let them know that what you're sending out is not spam, that it should be delivered so that people can find it, open it, and enjoy your newsletter. And so this is something that we've actually dug into quite a bit over the past year. We've learned a lot about newsletters. If you've been subscribed to our newsletter for any length of time over writingmomentum.com, you know that it has changed quite a bit over the last year. And the reason is, is because of what we've learned. And we've actually tripled our email open rates. If you haven't heard us talk about that, we did so on episode five. So go back and find that one. It's a really good one. And we share some of the secrets that we discovered as to how we could open up and get so much better email open rates, which means you're connecting with people and you're getting them to open and find out about what you're doing. [00:01:53].550] - Chris You're able to talk to them and then hopefully get them to respond back, because that's what a lot of this is about, is getting those responses back and talking to one another. [00:02:01].940] - Gena And here's the thing about newsletters, and we talk about this. I'm sure we talked about this in episode five. I'm sure we talk about this in a lot of our episodes. But your email newsletter, your email list, this list as an author, this is gold for you, because these are names of people who have signed up for your list. They have signed up to say, yeah, I want to hear from you. I want to hear what you have to say. I want to hear about your new projects. I want to hear what you think. I want to hear about your new blogs. Even if you don't have a book yet, you can still start connecting with people and letting them know what your message is, whether you're fiction whether you're nonfiction, whether you're traditional, whether you're independent, it doesn't matter. These are people that want to hear from you. So this list is what you own. You're not having to pay for it. And these are people who really want to hear, they've raised their hands and say, yeah, let me know. [00:02:58].620] - Chris Yeah. And each one of these, because they are people, it's really about building relationships that's the big kind of take away, I think, that we've had, is realizing that sometimes when we talk about an email list, it just becomes this nebulous thing out there. But really, these are people that are kind of your tribe, people that you all have the same interest and you're building a relationship together. And that's why our email list has become very valuable to us, because we feel like, hey, these are people that we just really get to connect with, and again, that we have relationships with. And so, yeah, we love you all on our email list. If you're not on our email list, go writingmomentum.com. We'd love to have you. [00:03:40].220] - Gena Yeah. And what we're talking about today are ways that Google and the Internet, they look at the newsletters that you're sending out, the emails that you're sending out, they look at those and there's not a live person they're looking to see, oh, this is good, this is good content. This is a real thing. This isn't spam. They have algorithms. They have computer systems that are going through these emails and looking for different indicators that this is a valuable content that you're adding. And so what we're talking about today are some triggers that we have learned. These are triggers that tell Google or the email service providers whether the email or the newsletter is valuable or not. [00:04:25].870] - Chris Yes. So one of the first triggers like that is that we recommend using limited graphics, okay? Almost all of us, when we first get an email program, whether we're working with Mailer Light or ConvertKit or MailChimp or something like that, they've always got these really cool templates, right? And they've got all kinds of graphics and images on them, and it makes you look like JCPenney or Target or Kohls or some big corporation like that when you send out emails. And so we all try those because they're so neat looking. But the truth is, those can kind of make you look more spammy, right? The big corporations can use them because they've got a lot to fight spam with. But for the rest of us, over an abundance of graphics without being there for a specific purpose can work against you. So we have personally found ourselves using a lot less graphics and just a lot more text, just talking to people, just putting our message in text. And we'll still include a graphic once in a while, right? But it's there intentionally. For instance, in one of our recent newsletters, we talked about our writing spaces and when we did that, we took a picture of our writing space to show you where we write, and that picture was in there for a reason. [00:05:43].690] - Chris So that was a reason to include a picture, but otherwise we don't include many pictures at all. [00:05:49].120] - Gena Yes. And when we're talking about these triggers, I do want to make it clear these are not just Chris's, in my opinion. [00:05:56].550] - Chris Right. [00:05:56].950] - Gena This is what we have learned from attending workshops, from talking to other writers, other business people. So these really are this isn't just something that Chris and I are pulling out of our hat. These are what we have been told. But it's also what we've seen has worked. Because let me tell you, when we were first doing our newsletter, I was going in and spending a lot of time making it look pretty because, hey, I'm a creative person and I want it to look pretty. And then I kind of learned by attending different webinars and different hearing from different people speak on the subject, I started learning oh, wait, that is telling people that I'm a spammer, potential spammer. That I'm a potential spammer. So I need to dial back on that. And the good news is that it makes it a lot easier. [00:06:57].290] - Chris She needs to spend hours getting our newsletter ready, and now we can do it in a lot less time. [00:07:02].420] - Gena A lot less time. [00:07:03].490] - Chris The other thing we limit, in addition to graphics, are fonts and links. So of course I recommend you just use one font, right. Choose something Arial or something or Times New Roman and just use that throughout your newsletter. And if you have your logo or something like that, you can have another font there. But other than that, you want to limit your fonts. You don't want to have a bunch of different stuff because that looks spammy. You can, of course, use some emojis if you're an emoji kind of person. We do once in a while. Again, very limited. Yes, a good word. Yes. It's always intentionally and then links are super intentional, aren't they? [00:07:37].280] - Gena Yes, links are very intentional. And when you're producing your newsletter, your author newsletter, you really want to have one call to action. What is the purpose that you are sending out this newsletter, and they call it a CTA, a call to action. What is the main reason? So you don't want to be sending people in your newsletter off to all these other sites. You want to be intentional about what you're doing. And so you're saying, okay, maybe in this newsletter I want them to see my social media accounts, so maybe that's where you're sending them. Maybe I want to share a blog post that I created or that I wrote. You want to do that? Or maybe I want to let them know about a new release of a book. And that's the call to action. The point is, you have one singular call to action occasionally you might have two. If there's a secondary one, it's real simple, but you want to have definitely one major one. And so that's what the links should link to, because when you start adding a lot of links, that is an indicator to Google that you are a potential spammer. [00:08:43].820] - Chris Yeah, could be spam again. And they look for that kind of thing. So there are exceptions, of course, to all of these things, but for the most part, always look for that one. Again, it comes down to intention. What's the intentional reason you're sending the newsletter and then do that? The next big thing we learned that keeps Google happy is do not, whatever you do, send your email to resend it, rather to non openers. Some people also call this a reflex campaign. If you sign up for Mailer Light or MailChimp or one of those, they almost always have this little box on there. When you send out a newsletter that says, yes, I want to also resend it a second time to the people who didn't open it the first time. Right. Resend to non openers. [00:09:26].600] - Gena And how this works is usually it's about 24 to 48 hours after you send out your newsletter. That's when your provider will say, oh well, there's all these inboxes that didn't open this email, so we're going to resend it again 24, 48 hours after the fact. And we did this, we've worked for organizations that do this. But the fact is what that is, is to Google it's looking out, you're sending out duplicate content, so you're sending out the first email and then 24-48 hours later you're sending out the same email again. And that looks like spam. [00:10:10].670] - Chris And it's sending it out the second email goes out to a weaker list. Right. Because the people who are the most excited about your emails already opened it in the first email, so it's not getting sent to them. So the second one is going out to a weaker list and it makes it look like, again, kind of like spam. And props to our friend Liz Wilcox who taught us about this, and it just really opened our eyes to realize, yeah, that's not a good thing. She has all these great steps to back that up. Yeah. [00:10:37].820] - Gena And it really does dilute your list. So, to give you an idea, if you're sending out to if your email list is about 1000 people and the first time you send out your email, you get a 20%, 30% open rate, so you get 30%, then 300 people have opened that email. That means you're resending to that other 700. For Google that looks like you're spamming them. And for your people it may also look like, hey, I didn't want this the first time, why am I getting this again? [00:11:16].080] - Chris You're likely to get people to unsubscribe and say you're sending spam, so you don't want that. [00:11:20].770] - Gena So you don't want that. Now here is a big one that is super hard to do. Our next tip for this is dealing with dead emails or cold emails. [00:11:32].740] - Chris Yeah, these are people who have not opened or clicked links on your emails in usually about three to six months time. What you want to do as hard as this is, it's like performing surgery. You need to delete those emails off your list, roll them off your list, and that's super hard to do. We did this. It cut our list in half. Okay? This email list that we had worked so hard to gain all these names for it, to try and build up the names of people who raised their hands and said, yes, we like what you're doing. We found out that about half of them had raised their hands, but they weren't engaging at all. Right? They weren't even opening some of the emails. And so we had to come to this decision that, you know what, we need to cut those names off the list. And it's so hard to do well. [00:12:21].080] - Gena And I will say one thing that we did do, which maybe we need to cover this in another podcast, is we send out what's called an engagement series, re engagement series. So to those people, we segmented out that list that we had not heard from or had not opened our list in three to six months, however long it was. And we sent an email just to that group and said, hey, you used to want to get our emails. Because if you do, click this link. Remember that singular call to action, click this link here. Let us know that you want or reply to this email. Let us know. We did get a few people that went ahead and reengaged. [00:13:01].600] - Chris We've got a few. But I will tell you, if I were to do it over again, I don't even know if I would do that because so few reengaged that it almost wasn't worth risking our reputation of sending out more emails to people who weren't already opening them. So if I did it over again, I would probably say, if they haven't even opened emails, don't even ask. Just take them off the list. And then if they've opened but not click and maybe ask them. [00:13:28].540] - Gena Okay. Yeah, well, good things to think about. So when we're talking about how to keep Google happy with your author newsletter, we've talked about limiting your graphics, limiting your fonts, limiting your links within your email, intention, intention and intention, being very intentional with those. Don't resend to non-openers. Don't use that reflex campaign and get rid of those dead emails. You can choose whether it's three to six months, whatever the length of time you think is appropriate, but don't resend to them. Keep your list clean. And what you will see is you will see your open rates jump. So if you're getting a 20 30% open rate, you clean up that list, it is very likely you're going to see 50 40, 50, 60% exactly. [00:14:24].730] - Chris Now, part of the reason we share things like this is because our feeling is we're all in this together, right? There is plenty of room in the market for all of us to get published and have email lists and to sell our books and to help one another. And one of the ways that we like to help other writers is by working together. And we do that through what we call Writing Moments. These are times when we get together with other writers from all around the world and we write together. We get together on Zoom, we'll have 15 minutes of training and then 45 minutes of writing on our individual projects together. Very intentional. It's a way to stay accountable and it's a way to get stuff done. Some of the people who've already been in Writing Moments, they have said, wow, it's amazing how much we are getting done when we get together. Otherwise we just wouldn't have even done. We wouldn't have even had that time. [00:15:19].440] - Gena Yes, well, and I am using Writing Moments for my passion project, the thing that I'm really wanting to see come to life. And let me tell you, I am making even more progress on it because I'm setting these times aside. [00:15:32].080] - Chris That's what's kind of cool about doing Writing Moments like this, is that even for those of us who are full time freelance writers or maybe you've got other projects to do, this is a great way to set aside, put on your calendar a time when you can say, I'm going to work on something I'm really passionate about, something that otherwise I just know I would never get around to. And because we're working on it together and it's on our calendar, it does, it just tends to keep us right in that mode. So if you want to learn more about that, go. writingmoments.com. It's got all the information about how it works when we meet, see if the schedule works for you. And if it doesn't, go ahead and send us an email writingmomentum.com and let us know because we're adding new times all the time, and we'd love to add a time that will work for you, too. Meanwhile, we thank you so much for listening to the Writing Momentum podcast. You guys are the awesome sauce of this podcast, and we just really appreciate that you're viewing and that you're listening. And we hope that you'll go ahead and rate, review, and subscribe to this podcast because we don't want to ever have you missed one because we try to always come up with great topics that you'll really love. [00:16:41].720] - Chris Until next time, we hope that you have Writing Momentum. Bye bye.