HOW TO START A NEWSLETTER
You Should Understand by Now that You Need a Newsletter. Here is How You Start One.
Before you can begin using one effectively, you have to know how to start a
newsletter. There are three main ways you can maintain a newsletter: do all the work yourself, use a
free service, or use a paid service. Each has its pros and cons. But, regardless of which
method you choose, there are a few foundational aspects of starting a newsletter that you need to
How to Start a Newsletter: Principles
Before getting to the
details, it is important to lay the foundation for successfully starting and running a newsletter. There are
a few principles and pointers that need to be reviewed prior to making decisions regarding your
newsletter. Understanding these things will help get you up and running quickly and keep the subscribers
First, you need to give
each visitor a good reason to sign up for your newsletter. Give them incentives over and beyond just the
information they will get in the newsletter. If you offer a high-perceived-value report, ebook, manual, or
something else, many more people will sign up than would have
Also, tell them what they
will gain from the newsletter. If you are confident, guarantee it. If you don't deliver, they can
unsubscribe at any time. Are you going to save them time or money? Exclusive information? Make it
Respect the privacy of the
subscribers, and make it easy for them to sign up. Your goal should be to reduce the barriers that stand in
the way of people signing up. Require as little information as possible. Just a first name and an email
address are usually all that is needed. Asking for any more than that will cause some individuals who do not
yet trust you to never subscribe when they otherwise would have. You could even skip asking for a first
name. However, you will find that people, on average, respond better if they are addressed by their first
name, even if they know it is just pulled from a database and inserted into a form
Remember that time is your
only non-renewable resource. Select a newsletter delivery method that doesn't cost you too much time.
Email lists can become tremendously cumbersome. Don't discount paid newsletter delivery services simply
because they cost money. Like any good business, they exist becasue they provide valuable services to their
Additionally, there are no
free lunches. Somebody pays. The various methods of running a newsletter all cost someone
something. If you aren't paying, be aware of the "catches" that are inherent in your chosen system. You
will lose time, money, or control/opportunities in exchange for gaining a functioning newsletter community.
There are no free lunches.
Some people are sly.
They will enter false emails into signup boxes in an attempt to be take directly to a download page. Don't
play those games! Put your download link in the welcome message email instead of having an automatic redirect
after the initial opt-in opportunity. After a person has successfully opted in, be sure to make it easy to
get the advertised benefit - but not before. And, make sure there are no other links to the download or
download page anywhere else on your website or blog. Doing this will ensrue that the individual has to
give his true email address to get the free download and not the address of Mr. Jones down the
Finally, you need to have
an idea of what form your mailing list will take. Most business websites use Announcement Lists instead of
Discussion Lists. Announcement lists are newsletters that are controlled by a single person. Only the
owner of the list can send messages to the list subscribers. A discussion list, on the other hand, is a list
that is open to all participants. For most businesses, announcement lists better serve both the reciepents
and the business. There are instances, though, where groups would most benefit from a discussion list.
For example, a discussion list composed of home schooling families would likely benefit from the interaction of
multiple parties. Think about which model best suits you and will allow you to serve your clientele
How to Start a Newsletter: Do It Yourself
There are a few main ways to start and
run a newsletter by yourself. I honestly don't recommend these methods as they have a tendency to eat
much more of your time than is warranted. But, every person's needs are different, and one of these may
be the solution you are seeking.
Utilize your web host's software: most good
web hosting services will provide you with mailing list software. If you are set on managing your own
list, this software can be quite helpful. Some even have the ability to automatically handle subscribe and
unsubscribe requests and archive past editions of your newsletters. As with anything, there are benefits and
drawbacks to this:
Benefits: the cost is included in the price of
hosting the website. You should have your own hosting service anyway, so this extra shouldn't cost any
money. You often will have more control than a free service gives you. There usually aren't third
party ads that go out with your mailings. You have access to detailed instructions on how to use the
host's software. The automated systems of adding/removing/blocking users frees you up to
do other things.
Drawbacks: there is almost always a limit on the
number of mailings you can send out. If your list grows, you'll either have to upgrade with your current
host or move to a different free or paid service - both of which could be a considerable
Use a mailing list script. Most modern
hosting services will provide mailing list functions with whatever hosting plan you purchase. If they do, it
is usually easier to use what they provide. However, if they don't provide a mailing list function you can
still run one of numerous free CGI or PHP scripts for mailing lists. Click the link for Free Newsletter Mailing List CGI Scripts, and click
the link for Free Newsletter Mailing List PHP
Benefits: depending on the script you choose, they
can be inexpensive and highly functional. Most easily integrate with web
Drawbacks: it may take more time to learn how
to install and use the scripts. There are usually better options available. Depending on the
script you use, you may spend a lot of time managing the
Manage and publish with your email program.
In the old days, most people with mailing lists just used whatever email program they had to send out
newsletters. Over the years, the software has developed quite a bit, and some programs are quite adept at
managing lists. However, of all the do-it-yourself methods, this one is probably the most
Benefits: probably the cheapest in certain
circumstances. You don't have to pay a web host or any other mailing list/newsletter service to
facilitate your mailing lists.
Drawbacks: using an email program to
manage mailing lists will likely absorb your time to the detriment of everything else. You'll likely
have to delete bounced email addresses manually. In today's internet world, the delay that happens
with manually monitored lists can mortally wound a business. If you still have a dial-up
connection, it can take hours to send out messages. This is probably the worst option for starting a
mailing list. Don't go this route unless you have all the time in the world and nothing else to
How to Start a Newsletter: Free Services
To streamline your mailing
list management for your newsletter, I recommend using an established service. There are free services
and services you have to pay for. As always, each has its benefits and
Click the link to see my
top four Free Newsletter Mailing List Hosting
Benefits: the hosting service usually takes care of
the tedious aspects of list management for your newsletter. Many even automatically archive past
issues. You don't have to configure much of anything and you don't have to fool with scripts.
Double opt-in is used by the free services, and they don't require any additional software. You sign up
and are ready to go. Plus, some of the well-known free services like Yahoo Groups lend a certain amount
of credibility to your list/newsletter due to the fact that Yahoo is quite
Drawbacks: you lose control when you use a free
service. You also place yourself at the mercy of the controlling entity of the list. Should they
shut down for some reason, they will most likely take your list to the grave with them. Also, remember
that there are no free lunches. In order to be able to provide the services free of charge, many mailing
list hosts will automatically place ads into your newsletters or mailings. You rarely have any control
over this if you use a free service. It is the price you pay for not
How to Start a Newsletter: Paid Services
The two best paid services for managing newsletter mailing lists
are Constant Contact and Aweber. Both have tremendous reputations. The reputations are
well-earned. Some of the biggest and most successful internet marketing and internet businesses use one or
the other of these two services.
You will want to seriously consider using one as well.
Eventually, most people come to understand that the flexibility and power of these services more than justifies
the fee that is charged by each. My personal favorite is Aweber. I highly encourage you to
investigate it to see if it is a good fit for what you want to accomplish.
Benefits: most of the same benefits of the free services
apply to the paid services as well. Additionally, you can customize nearly all aspects of the
newsletters. Your own ads can be inserted. You can maintain continuity of appearance with your
website or blog. You have access to statistics that are provided by the services so that you can focus
your business strategies. Your time is maximized.
Drawbacks: it costs money. This expense, however, will
almost always be quickly overcome by the additional customers and profits that are generated through the
newsletter mailing list.
How to Start a Newsletter: Format Considerations
Once you've worked through the basic
principles of newsletter publishing and decided which management option is right for you, you have to decide on
The two types of format that are generally
used in newsletters are HTML and plain text.
HTML newsletters allow for colors and images
and a more aesthetically pleasing presentation of information. They can be designed to graphically
thrill the reader as well as providing valuable information. However, there are also drawbacks
to HTML. While most people like the added visual elements, some don't. Know your audience
and what they prefer. On the technical side, most spam messages are in the HTML format. So, a
lot of spam filters automatically send all HTML messages straight to the trash bin. You don't
want the work you put into a newsletter ending up in the garbage without the subscriber ever getting a
peek at it.
Because of the
spam-filter-straight-to-trash-bin problem, a lot of online businesses send their email newsletter in plain
text format with a link to a HTML version that is created as a separate page on their website or
blog. Sending in plain text has its own issues as well.
For plain text there are a few tricks to
ensure you get the best product to the most people and see the highest return on your time investment per
newsletter that is sent out. Here are some of the things to remember when sending plain text
- Use plain,
non-hyperlinked text for websites and email addresses. Just about all of the email clients
in use today recognize the plain text and convert them to links for the reader (AOL is the exception).
For website URLs, simply type the entire URL in plain, unlinked text and it will be a clickable link on
arrival (example = http://www.understandwebsites.com). For email addresses, add the prefix
"mailto:" to the email address (example = mailto:
- Use a lot of empty
space. Don't shy away from using a lot of white space in your plain text newsletters. Put a
space between each paragraph, and keep the paragraphs short. This increases readability and the
overall look of your newsletter.
- Keep each line at 65
characters. Many email clients will automatically wrap lines that exceed 65
characters. If each line in your newletter were, say, 80 characters long, it would look like
a jumbled mess. You would have one line of 65 characters followed by one of 15 and then one of 65 and
then one of 15, etc. This not only looks unprofessional, it is distracting to most
readers and hampers the main purposes of sending a newsletter in the first
How to Start a Newsletter: Conclusion
You need a newsletter. Use this
information to get it started. Keep working on your Website Development strategy, and be ready to launch your
newsletter around the same time you have your Website Launch. Now, keep
moving. Click the link to investigate your Small Business Website Creation Options. Or, for more
information on newsletters, see Starting a Newsletter in the Website Improvements department.
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