When was the last time you paid any attention to your blog subscriber emails? "My blog subscriber emails? I'm pretty sure those just ... get sent, right?"
Probably. For many marketers, subscriber emails were likely something you configured when you first launched your blog -- never to be thought about again.
If this sounds familiar and you're treating your blog subscriber email like just another automated email you set and forgot, you could be missing out on a wealth of opportunity.
Not to blame you, though. Most automated blog subscriber emails from software are nothing to write home about. In fact, HubSpot's own software only recently, with the launch of our new Blog tool on HubSpot's new COS, started giving customers the ability to truly customize their blog subscriber emails.
But if you do have the ability to customize these emails, they're definitely an important asset to leverage. After all, depending on how often you blog and how many email subscribers you have, these emails go out to quite a few of your contacts on a regular basis. Are you making the most of all their potential?
Using the HubSpot software's own blog email capabilities as our prototype, let's dissect the anatomy of an optimized subscriber email so you can identify areas for improvement in your own emails.
The Anatomy of an Optimized Blog Subscriber Email
1) Recognizable Sender Name
Make sure your sender name makes it clear to recipients who the email is from. This is likely the first thing your subscribers notice about your email notifications, so if it's not immediately evident to them that your email is from a known sender, your emails might end up straight in the trash.
In HubSpot's case, because multiple sections make up our blog, we use "HubSpot Blog" followed by the name of the particular section the contact is subscribed to as our sender name. This makes it easy for recipients to identify that the email is coming from, say, the marketing section of HubSpot's blog.
2) Clear, Catchy Subject Line
Because your email's subject line is the most critical factor in whether your recipients decide to even open your email in the first place, make sure you give it ample thought.
Considering your subscriber emails are most likely automated and triggered every time you publish a new post, a great approach here is to simply use the title of the blog post as your subject line -- if your software enables you to do so like HubSpot's does. Knowing this, make sure you take the subscriber email into consideration when you're crafting your blog post titles.
And be sure to avoid lengthy titles -- 50 characters or fewer will ensure the subject line doesn't get cut off in most email clients, particularly for mobile users. Also, make sure the title is catchy and interesting while also clearly indicating what the content is about. Misleading titles may get you the initial click, but over time, they will lead to the loss of subscribers' trust -- and ultimately, an increase in unsubscribes.
3) Enticing Preview Text
If your software enables you to customize the preview text of your email, this is another great opportunity to increase opens of your subscriber emails.
The preview text is the copy that appears immediately following the subject line of your email. Use this real estate to further clarify what your recipients are getting and get them excited about what's inside. Remind them that this is a notification email about your awesome new blog post and entice them to open it with some creative copy. But again, keep it brief!
4) Responsive Template
Your email recipients are reading their emails on various devices, operating systems, and email clients -- desktops, smartphones, tablets, iOS, Android, Gmail, Outlook -- you name it! This means that in order to send effective blog subscriber emails, they should be optimized for each and every one of these different platforms. That's where responsive email templates come in handy.
A responsive template will automatically adjust to suit your email recipients' individual situations -- whether they're using Gmail on a desktop, an Android smartphone, an iPad, or any other combination of software.
Now, on to the body of the email itself. Remember, getting your subscribers to open the email is only half the battle. The true goal is to get them to click through to the post itself.
First things first: Incorporate some branding, such as your company's logo, near the top of your email. This reassures subscribers that your email is coming from a trusted sender and adds some consistency to your blog notification emails.
For instance, in HubSpot's own blog subscriber emails, we use the same banner (with the addition of the HubSpot sprocket logo) that appears at the top of the section of the HubSpot blog the email is associated with.
Greet your subscribers by name! If your blog software is connected to your contacts database, chances are you may know at least the names of many of your blog subscribers. Use it to your advantage and make your subscriber emails a little bit more personal using dynamic tags. Just be sure to set a default value for this dynamic tag for those people whose names are not in your contacts database.
You can also introduce your latest post and let your brand's personality shine through with a quick, friendly greeting. Just keep in mind that, because your blog notification emails are automated, this greeting can easily get stale to recipients over time. If you're going to incorporate a greeting, try to remember to switch it up every once in a while.
8) Clickable Blog Title
Prominently display the title of the blog post you're emailing about, and make sure it's hyperlinked to the post itself. (If you're using HubSpot's new Blog tool, the title of your post is automatically pulled in to your email and hyperlinked for you.) This is exactly what your subscribers are looking for -- and the main point of your email -- so you want to make sure it's easy to find to encourage clickthroughs.
And as we mentioned earlier, when you're brainstorming the title of your blog post, keep in mind how critical it is for generating clickthroughs from not only your emails, but also promotion in other channels like social media. For help with blog title generation, check out this simple formula for writing kick-ass titles.
9) Post Preview
Some subscribers may need a little more convincing that your new post is worth the read before they decide to click through on your email. This is where the post preview comes in handy.
Depending on the capabilities of your software, this is a good place to either provide a quick summary/description of your post or include the first few sentences of the post itself to draw readers in and entice them to click for more. Feel free to experiment with both to determine which generates more clickthroughs.
If you're using HubSpot's new blog subscriber emails, you can choose to either show the post in full or just the content appearing before the "Read More Separator" (which you can set) in the post itself. Since the goal of your email is likely to drive subscribers back to your blog so they can explore not only this particular post but also your other content, I strongly recommend the latter.
10) Compelling Image and Alt Text
Use the power of visual content to make your subscriber emails even more clickable by including a compelling, relevant image in your post preview. Not only will this help draw in the eye, but it will also make your emails more sharable, increasing the likelihood recipients will forward it to others and expand the reach of your blog content. And don't forget to add relevant alt text for those recipients who either choose not to enable images in their email clients or whose email clients don't support it.
If you're using HubSpot's new blog notification emails, keep in mind that the image in your email will automatically get pulled in from your blog post if it's included before the Read More Separator in the post itself. As such, you'll need to add your alt text to the image in the post (not the email) and choose compelling images for your posts as you're writing them. The good news is this is not only a best practice for email, but also for the social shareability of your blog content in general.
11) "Read More" Call-to-Action
We know every effective marketing email has a clear call-to-action (CTA), so how does this translate to your blog subscriber emails? Well, if you're main goal is to drive subscribers back to your website where they can read the article you're emailing about (and hopefully other articles), make sure that next step is crystal clear!
After your post preview, include a call-to-action for recipients to read the full article on your blog. Experiment with the copy of this text link to see what generates more clickthroughs, and if your software allows, try a more prominent button CTA instead.
(Tip for HubSpot COS Users: You can use HTML to display your "Read More" CTA copy more prominently, using styling like bolded text or headers.)
12) Secondary CTAs
This begs the question -- should you include any secondary CTAs in your blog subscriber emails? What about a CTA promoting an offer relevant to the content of the post? You know, for lead generation? To be honest, this depends on your particular goals and the type of secondary CTA you plan to use.
If the goal of your blog subscriber emails is to drive traffic to your blog, then it'd probably be wise to forego any competing CTAs that might interfere. If your goal is to use these emails as another source of lead generation, feel free to experiment with secondary lead gen CTAs.
For HubSpot's own blog subscriber emails, our main goal is to drive subscribers back to our blog, so we chose to exclude lead gen CTAs. However, we do include a CTA for subscribers to download our free Newsstand app, enabling them to read our blog content optimized for their iPad -- a complementary, but not competing offer.
You'll also notice that our "update your email preferences or subscribe to other sections" anchor text link is a CTA in and of itself. We have this there as a way to make sure subscribers know their options, save them from unsubscribing, and promote the other sections on our blog.
13) Social Media Follow Buttons
Not every post you email is going to tickle your subscribers' fancy. Maybe your blog is about unicorn care, and one of your subscribers is already an expert unicorn dietician. While your introductory post about unicorn diet may not be something she feels is worth the read, that doesn't mean she has to go away empty-handed.
For instance, is she following your company on Twitter yet? How about Facebook? A form of secondary CTAs, social media follow buttons are a great way to engage and nurture blog subscribers in other channels, and increase your overall social reach. Configure these buttons for the social networks in which your company actively maintains a presence.
Last but not least, customize your email's footer. The most critical component of your footer is CAN-SPAM compliancy, so be sure to include your company's physical mailing address and a clear unsubscribe link.
You can also use your footer as an opportunity to save a few unsubscribes by reminding subscribers that they can always modify their current email preferences if they're receiving too much email.
HubSpot's new blog subscriber emails enable you to offer subscription via an instant, daily, weekly, or monthly frequency, so if instant emails are overwhelming your subscribers, you'll want them to know they have other frequency options before choosing to unsubscribe altogether.
How else can you customize -- and optimize -- your blog subscriber emails? Share your tips in the comments!
Originally published Jan 6, 2014 11:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017