email newsletter checklist

Email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to grow a blog, website, or online business. In fact, if you focus on getting more email subscribers your website will be insulated against Google algorithm changes and fussy social media trends that put you at risk.

But having a big list isn’t enough.

There’s simply no point in having tens of thousands of subscribers if no one opens the emails, or actions the content inside of those emails.

Today’s post is a simple checklist that you can follow before you send out an email or email newsletter to your list to ensure you get the most out of the exercise.

Hope it helps.

A simple checklist to ensure an effective email campaign

It’s such a waste to put all that work into getting email subscribers only to find that they unsubscribe or don’t open because you’ve made a little mistake somewhere. Here’s some things to make sure you check before you send:

  1. Is your subject line short, attention-grabbing, and open-worthy?
    The subject line can make or break a campaign. Short lines often work best, and it needs to get attention and trigger an open without being caught up in a spam filter. Think: questions, scarcity, curiosity, and no-fuss.
  2. Does your email pass spam tests?
    Sites like this one allow you to test whether your email is likely to head to someone’s spam folder. Make sure your email subject line and contents don’t contain risky words (like SALE!) or phrases.
  3. Does it look okay on mobile and tablets?
    Some rich-text emails wrap things strangely and can cause display issues in mobiles and tablets. Make sure you test various devices and ensure the preview looks good as well as the main email itself.
  4. Is there a call to action?
    What do you want your subscribers to do once they’ve opened and read your email? Have a clear and simple call to action that is easy to do but also easily explained. Don’t confuse people with more than one idea per email.
  5. Do your links work?
    Have you tested all of your links to ensure that they go to the right place?
  6. Are your paragraphs an appropriate length?
    Plain and rich-text emails will display paragraphs differently so make sure it’s a readable length and make sure you decide in advance where the breaks and spacing will be. People don’t like reading long chunks of text in either horizontal or vertical layouts.
  7. Have you segmented and selected the right audience?
    Have you created some meaningful segments for your list? Is this email going out to the correct list and/or correct segment of that list? Make sure all the settings are double checked before hitting the send button. There’s no point sending an email to someone who doesn’t want to see it and might unsubscribe or mark it as spam.
  8. Are you sending it at the best possible time?
    Each niche and industry will have an ideal time for sending out newsletters. This can have a lot to do with reader expectations, but also aiming for East Coast US time at around 9am to 11am when people are at their desk can have good results. Many people say that Monday and Wednesday is good for email campaigns but some other data is totally different.
  9. Have you sent a test email?
    Make sure you send several test emails to check formatting, links, spelling, grammar, etc. and ensure everything looks good.
  10. Are your images appropriately sized, placed and cropped?
    If you’re using images in your mail out make sure they are the right size and format, not blurry, and have the appropriate links when clicked. Also make sure you have the rights to use the image before sending.
  11. Is it worth split testing this message?
    Most email companies will allow you to split test your campaigns before you send to ensure you get the best results. If it’s a big campaign you might want to test different titles, links, copy, etc. to see if one performs better than the other. If something gets good results then you can use that for the major part of the list.
  12. Is any website you’re linking to experiencing downtime?
    This is more common than you think. Before you send out a big email, make sure your website and any website that you link to is online. For example, there’s no point sending out a big affiliate campaign offer if their website is slow or down. Use this site to check.
  13. Does the email suit your brand and your subscribers’ expectations?
    Remember that subscribers are generally hooked up to several mailing lists and as such they have certain expectations about what you can send them. Make sure each campaign suits your brand’s messaging and is inline with what you told them you’d be sending when they first signed up.
  14. Can you add any instantly actionable value?
    If you can add quick value to your email newsletters you will find that people become more likely to open them. A simple tip that a subscriber can use instantly will help you increase opens over time as you become perceived as being more useful. Pat Flynn used to to do this (can’t find the post) and I do it for my first few follow up emails.
  15. Do you have anything untrustworthy in the email?
    Thankfully, people are getting wiser when it comes to email scams. But that also means that some subscribers might be too vigilant. Do you have any potentially untrustworthy-looking elements? For example, sometimes tracking URLs used in links can look suspect and dissuade people from clicking.
  16. Is someone from your website going to be online?
    I always try to send my emails when I know I can be online for at least an hour or two. That way I can chat with people in the comments section, answer questions on social media, and address any issues that might pop up with sudden bursts of traffic.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive checklist and, over time, you’ll pick up so many little small things that you’ll need to be across before you send out your campaigns.

Can you help improve this email checklist?

This is my own little checklist but I’d love to know if you think I’ve missed anything important. What do you do before you send out an email to your list? If you’ve got something to contribute please leave a comment below and let us know.

Top image: © Sentavio

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  1. Brilliant list, Ramsay, and thank you so much for the link to the spam tester – had no idea there was such a thing. The only thing I don’t do on this list is the segements. How big is a list usually before you start emailing segments if they have all signed up from the same site? Reading the info on MailChimp (who is my list service provider) doesn’t really make it easy to understand how to set them up in the first instance or even to help me understand if/why I need them. Or maybe my IQ isn’t high enough… Am I the only one who struggles with understanding this? Cheers, Lisa

    1. Laura Routh on September 23, 2016

      Lisa, I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with your IQ. I’ve found setting up emails confusing, also. However, I will say that Mail Chimp has provided excellent support. It was all so much easier when I could use Jetpack, but my new theme doesn’t support Jetpack’s email program. It sounds like your well on your way, though.

      1. Thanks, Laura!

    2. Hi Lisa.

      You can start segmenting right away, but it’s only really if you need to send different things to different people. For example, if you run a promo aimed at women over 50 you don’t want to be sending that to 18 year old males who didn’t opt-in.

  2. Do the obvious stuff too. Spell check. Do drafts and go over them 24 hours later to make sure the email makes sense. Ask yourself if you were the ideal client, would you find the email useful, or just another darn thing to delete.

    1. Totally agree.

  3. Such helpful information! I have made my own mistakes once or twice sending out emails as a newbie blogger so really appreciate this info. Do you suggest email blast be plain text mostly? The only time I have experienced issues is when I used rich-text html.

    1. I only use plain text but I haven’t really tested rich formats so I probably shouldn’t comment. Maybe that’s something worth testing next?

  4. That’s for sure a good and easy to use checklist. I didn’t think about point 16 before, and I think you’re right.
    I also need to take care about the timing as said in #8. But Getresponse has the option for perfect timing, which is great for me because many my readers live on 3 different continents.
    I’m going to use these tips for my next newsletter.

    Just keep up with your good work.

    1. Oh I didn’t know that about Get Response – might have to check it out.

  5. Thanks! Lot of my fan using gmail, so I use this tool to check if my mail goes into their promotion tab or inbox. It’s an useful tool for everyone: https://litmus.com/gmail-tabs – Hope it will help!

    1. Oh nice one!

  6. Mania Mavridou on September 23, 2016

    Great tips and useful links, as always!

    I could add a few things.
    I recently attended a webinar on email marketing and I’ve learned 2 things I found interesting.
    1. It was suggested to delete subscribers that haven’t opened our emails for a long time (or never) from our list, maybe by informing them first.
    The more unopened emails we have the more probable for spam filters to block our newsletters.

    2. What has results is re-sending a campaign to those who haven’t opened our email, with a slightly different title, a few days or weeks later.
    I’ve tried this and it worked.

    And a last thing I’ve noticed in many newsletters I receive and I think it’s easy to change, by tweaking the order of elements in the template we use.
    The first words after our email title shouldn’t be: “if you are having trouble viewing this email…”, but something more interesting or important.
    We could take advantage of those few words that may appear in our subscribers’ inbox, to make our newsletter more appealing.

    1. Mania, thank you for your 2nd tip ! I’m going to try it.

    2. Deleting subscribers is really important. Saves money too. Thanks for adding those!

  7. Wow! Brilliantly written.

  8. Hi, nowadays things are global and whence often need to go multilingual. So, you need to make sure that a few of those points Ramsay beautifully sums up are checked in each of those languages.
    Sometimes you may have to split your campaign, one for each language, because of the time zones, cultural differences (segmenting) etc.

    1. Thank you.

  9. Maria Geronico on September 23, 2016

    I have a few problems with my emailing: I use mailchimp to send beautiful newsletters, which I do once a week, with a recap of my blog posts. However, wordpress sends an automatic ugly email every morning when I post. Do you know how to unlock that? Or at least modify it? On the other hand, I have a plug-in called Sumome that helps me collect emails, by placing a customized pop up on my blog. But also, I have a register now box, from which I’ve never collected any email, and this is something weird. I think that I might not having alerts when someone suscribes. Could you give me your inputs on my situation?

    http://www.mgluxurymarket.com

    Thanks!

    1. Yeah that sounds like some RSS setup. Might be worth only having one option, or at least making it a bit clearer for people.

  10. Laura Routh on September 23, 2016

    Thanks for the tips, Ramsay! I need to make some changes in how my weekly roundups appear in email format. I won’t have time before the next one goes out, but I do need to have changes in place for the following roundup. I agree with Lisa, above, in that it’s often time consuming and confusing to figure out some of the nuances of email formatting. I’ll be referring back to this post as a reference.

    1. Thanks Laura.

  11. Handy list, thanks Ramsay!

    Another tip is to make sure you include an ‘unsubscribe’ link in every email you send out.

    Many mail services (MailChimp etc) require it, but it’s also just good manners!

  12. Thanks for sharing this excellent post, I am going to share it as an external reference link in a post I am writing on Guest Posting.

  13. Hassaan Khan on September 25, 2016

    Hi, Ramsay!

    It was really helpful. I learned that email marketing is all about testing things and observing that what works for you. I’m glad you comprehensively explained what needs to be done before hitting the SEND button.

    1. Hope it helps!

  14. I just stumpled upon your blog and you sure do have a lot of useful information. I’m currently in the process of launching a free ebook to get more signups for my list. This post and the other ones you have on newsletters is a great help.

    Thank you for sharing all your knowledge so openly 🙂

    1. Glad you enjoyed it!

  15. Kalyanverma on September 27, 2016

    Hi,
    You got a good point email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to grow a blog, website, or online business. Anything excess is bad.
    Thanks!

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