10 Requirements for modern Newsletter Systems

by Gert Mellak on January 16, 2009

I’ve done some research recently and tested different newsletter systems in order to check for alternative newsletter solutions to my favourite one,  AWeber.

Before starting to test various different platforms this afternoon , I created the following list of my 10 basic requirements I expect to have covered by any professional newsletter platform:

1. Whitelisting / Positive listing

There are numerous newsletter systems available on the web. In order to do a first preselection, I usually look for information on whether the system has active whitelisting or positive listing. This means that the sending server’s ip is recognized as a trusted server, which makes it less likely that your newsletter might end up as spam.

2. Write newsletters in html and text version

While until a few years ago text-only newsletters were completely acceptable, nowadays newsletters must be sent as html. However, many client applications, especially web mail clients, do not show the html version of your newsletter right away and the user must do one or two clicks in order to view it properly.

Since very often users aren’t used to that, many newsletters will never be read. Adding a plain-text version of your newsletter can be very helpful since it allows you to also send the basic information along with the links as plain text, so that mail clients not capable of showing the html version can first show the text only version.

3. Intuitive user interface

Let’s face it: sending a newsletter is an additional task that – if done properly – already requires a lot of time and effort. There is no need to any further complicate the task by providing hundreds of different options – I’m in favour of straight simple user interfaces able to lead the user through the necessary tasks step by step. It’s great to have an additional admin mode for advanced settings, but for the average user I need a simple interface.

4. Planning newsletters

When using newsletters professionally, they’re usually not written right before sending them – especially for holidays or special events you might plan several e-mail campaigns a long time ahead. A professional newsletter system therefore should let you plan the date and time when you want to have your newsletters sent.

5. Import and Export contact lists

Although you might have found your favourite newsletter solution, keep in mind that tomorrow another one might come up that suits you even more. Importing and exporting contact lists (also for backup purposes) should therefore be one of the standard features of every mailing application (and it is, in fact, even available in free (open source) applications)

6. Planning follow-up e-mails

One of the reasons why I really love AWeber is the possibility of planning follow-up e-mails. This means that if you register for my newsletter today, I can plan ahead that 2 days after your initial subscription you will receive e-mail X, 15 days after subscribing you’ll be sent e-mail Y, and 2 months later e-mail Z, and so on.

This not only guarantees that your subscribers are reminded regularly of your website automatically with a one-time-effort of writing the follow-up e-mails, but also means that your follow-up e-mails you write today will still get you visits month and in theory years ahead.

Just make sure these follow-up e-mails contain what I like to call “sustainable information” – tips and advice that will still come in handy in two years.

7. Click rates

It’s not realistic to expect that the first newsletter you send will already create perfect results. Like with every application, it takes some time until you know which type of links, link texts, images, etc. really attract your newsletter’s target audience.

In order to evaluate, for example, which links in your e-mail get most of the clicks, professional solutions offer click-tracking where the url of your link is redirected and so clicks can be counted and later checked in the statistics. This way you might find out that the text “Buy now“  next to a product gets much more clicks than “Visit our web store to buy this product“.

8. Target groups

Users are different – even users belonging to the same target group. For this reason, although you might have one general mailing list for general broadcasts, it’s convenient to also use more specialized lists and let people opt for the lists they’re interested in.

This way, you could send out product offers on cars to the “average” subscriber, but information on trucks only to those users subscribed to the “trucks” list.

9. High deliverability

If your e-mails aren’t delivered, people won’t get them – sounds logical, but many companies offering newsletter services are still not concentrating their efforts on deliverability. AWeber is one of the companies that really focuses on this issue and therefore has a very high deliverability rate.

10. Newsletter Web Analytics

I don’t like the thought of spending time regularly on things I cannot evaluate afterwards, which is why I would never use a newsletter system that doesn’t tell me how many of my newsletter recipients actually open the newsletters.

You should always be aware of the fact that opening rates only include html newsletters, since at the moment there is no other technical solution than integrating an image tag which, at loading the transparent image, handles the tracking.

But apart from opening statistics there are other important figures, for example, related to the signup forms you’re using, or your recipients’ geographic location. You should also get detailed statistics about how many new subscribes you have each day and how many decide to unsubscribe, and much more. The statistics tool is the most decisive tool when it comes to evaluating whether your efforts pay off or not.

After having spend an entire afternoon testing and comparing different newsletter systems, at least for English newsletters I’ll stick to AWeber.

If you would like to see AWeber in action, sign up for my personal newsletter.

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