Everything from colors, to images, to indentation all play a role in whether someone will read your email or banish it to the Junk or spam folder. A poor email can also reflect badly on your organization, because it can make you look unprofessional.
Here are 11 mistakes that will make your email newsletter absolutely unreadable:
1. Use clip art you found on the Internet
Who doesn’t like a great, colorful picture of something that has nothing to do with your organization? Nothing is more professional than grabbing the most jarring and unrelated image and using it in the header of your newsletter—except everything.
Want an easy way to create a great header? Find out how to use PicMonkey to make cool images.
2. Put space in all the wrong places
White space can help make an email feel less cluttered, but if it’s aligned incorrectly, then you can create a lopsided email that’s confusing and hard to navigate.
The key here is balance: make sure no part of your email is so full of white space that it looks incomplete, but don’t fill up every possible corner, either.
3. Don’t acknowledge the reader
If you rush right into an email without saying “hello,” then it seems like you don’t appreciate the people on your contact list. There’s also a chance they won’t remember why they’re receiving the newsletter.
Constant Contact has an option that will automatically greet a contact by name when he or she receives an email, which can help personalize each newsletter.
4. Use bright colors and fonts that cause physical discomfort
There are few things that will drive readers away faster than a splash of neon yellow against a solid, black background. Putting light text over a dark background can strain a person’s eyes until he or she gives up reading the email completely.
5. Hide the purpose of your email
Don’t make readers guess what the purpose of your email is. If you don’t highlight why you’re sending it or what to do next, chances are pretty good readers won’t do anything— except delete it.
6. Create chunks of text without indents, bullets, numbers, or blocks
In general, web content needs to be spaced out differently from print material. On our blog, we try to keep each paragraph to 1-3 sentences to reduce eye strain.
Similar rules should apply to your email. The goal is to make the content scannable, too. Readers should be able to skim the newsletter and take something away from it.
7. Use questionable, low-quality material
Images are temping to use if you’re trying to break up an otherwise text-heavy newsletter, but make sure you’re using relevant pictures.
For affordable, high-quality images, try istockphoto.com.
No room in the budget? At Compfight.com, just search for a picture under “Creative Commons” license, which allows you to use the artwork as long as you attribute it to the photographer.
8. Don’t include social share buttons, forwarding options, or contact information
If you don’t have any external resources in your newsletter, you’ve made the email a dead-end, which means it’s hard for recipients to follow-through.
All email newsletters should drive readers somewhere else, whether it’s a blog, website, or Facebook Page, so always remember to include those links in a prominent location.
9. Put your company header in a place that doesn’t make sense
Company headers that aren’t at the top of a newsletter can often get overlooked. That will leave readers wondering why the heck they’re getting an email from you in the first place, so it’s important to put your logo at the top of each newsletter.
10. Leave lots of space between blocks
In this instance, the space will force readers to scroll through an email to get to the footer of the newsletter, where the rewards and action items can frequently be found. If the space creates more barriers than benefits, you may want to carefully resize each block.
11. Don’t reward people for being on your email list
Always ask yourself why a person would sign up for your email list in the first place. If you can’t give an answer, then you may want to reconsider what kind of incentives you’re offering.
Coupons, white papers, donation updates, even interesting bits of news can all make readers eager to open an email from your organization.
Learning to be consistent
Don’t experiment with different templates every month—that can frustrate people who are used to one layout and then receive another.
And don’t forget to create a schedule for your email marketing campaigns. That way, contacts know when to expect each email and, more importantly, what to expect.