Debunk the Myth of Magnetic Content by Writing a Better Newsletter

When it comes to growing an audience and driving consistent traffic to your website, there’s nothing quite as useful as a big ol’ email list.

How useful is it? Next month, we’ll be sending our 350th edition of our weekly newsletter – and since we launched this blog in January, those newsletters have been responsible for driving more than a third of its traffic.

(So yeah, email is a lot more than just a way for your weird uncle to send you his political conspiracy theories.)

No matter how big your email list grows, though, and no matter what tips and tricks you use to build it, it won’t do you any good unless you know what to actually send people.

So what are the ingredients of an email newsletter that your audience can’t resist opening? What can you send people that’ll make them click week after week?

Here are a few must-haves:

Updates to your site

Back in the day, you probably had all your favorite blogs saved in your bookmarks folder.

You probably also had a mailbox crammed full of free trial discs from AOL. Point is, the Internet has changed.

Now there are a million ways for content to come to you. You don’t have to bother periodically checking your favorite sites to see if they’ve updated – because they’ll just let you know when they do.

That’s what you have to do for your own fans.

Promoting your latest blog post via email might feel a little redundant, or even like you’re going to annoy people.

“They obviously already know my blog exists! They don’t want me bothering them with an email every time there’s a new post – they’ll find it on their own!”

The thing is, though, they kind of DO want you bothering them, and they probably WON’T just find your latest post on their own. Your business is your life, so you spend a lot of time focused on it – but for most of your fans, it’s just not something they think about that often unless somebody reminds them to.

The idea that people will just magically find your content on their own is one of the biggest myths in marketing.

Read a little about content marketing, and you’ll come across the term “magnetic content” a lot. Magnetic content is content that’s so good, it just pulls people in. An “if you write it, they will come” sort of idea. All you’ve gotta do is write something really great, and boom, your work is done! It’s like magic.

Problem is, content isn’t a magnet.

It’s an electromagnet.

An electromagnet is super strong, but only when you turn it on. Otherwise, it just sits there like a big useless lump.

Your blog content is an electromagnet – and sharing that content is how you switch on the power.

Sharing it on social helps, but those updates are way too easy for the people in your audience to miss. You need email to pick up the slack.

Emails like the ones Product Hunt sends to its subscribers! Want to keep up with their latest? You don’t have to go crawling through their site every single day – they’ll send you the highlights via email.

Product Hunt Newsletter

Help Scout does the same thing with their emails. Their blog has a lot of fans here on Team Edgar, but none of us know to check it until they send the email promoting a new post. (You can always tell when the email goes out, because we’ll all start talking about the latest post simultaneously in Slack.)

Slack Conversation

Even our own blog traffic typically gets an enormous boost on the day we promote a new post via email. Take a quick look, and you can probably guess which was newsletter day:

Weekly Blog Traffic

That’s electromagnetic content in action!

Don’t be shy about using your newsletter to promote your latest and greatest content. Your readers will thank you for it!

Announcing what’s next

The people on your email list haven’t just demonstrated their interest in what you have to say – they’ve shown you a serious amount of trust.

Someone’s email address is a serious gift, and you should repay it by giving that person the inside scoop.

Don’t believe it? Imagine this.

When you’re at Bath & Body Works scoring a sick deal on Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin gentle foaming hand soap, and the cashier asks you to enter your email address for coupons, do you hesitate? You love autumnal-scented bath products, but your email address is sacred.

Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin

When you give someone your email address, you expect a little something in return.

Giving up your email address isn’t always an easy choice – so if someone has given you theirs, the least you can do is make it worth their while.

(And you don’t have to do it by offering lucrative deals on hand soaps, either.)

Clue your subscribers in on what’s coming up. You already know that they’re interested – if they weren’t, they sure wouldn’t have subscribed!

Our weekly newsletter often gives subscribers advance notice about upcoming events and deals, including those offered by us and those being offered by other people. Sometimes we share stuff in our newsletter that we literally don’t share anywhere else!

For another example, travel blogger extraordinaire (and Team Edgar’s very own) Amanda Williams uses her monthly newsletter to tell her blog’s readers about her upcoming adventures:

Travel Newsletter

What you choose to announce in your newsletter depends on what you do – and why people are your fans!

And once again, Product Hunt uses their newsletter to make sure subscribers always know about upcoming events:

Product Hunt Event Announcement

When someone gives you their email address, reward them with a little insider info – they’re interested in what you have to say!

Curated content

We’ve written about OPC before. It’s hugely beneficial to your social media marketing.

It’s also a serious value-add for your newsletter.

The short version? The people in your audience don’t have time to read dozens of articles and blog posts every week all about one subject. You’re the expert – curate the best of the best and serve it up in an email.

That’s what Hiten Shah does in one of our faves, SaaS Weekly. He puts together a list of links to insightful content – content that he didn’t write – and shares it with his subscribers. He even breaks it down into categories, so you can easily pick out the articles most relevant to your interests.

SaaS Weekly OPC

It doesn’t matter that you didn’t write all the content you’re linking to – point your audience toward reading material that will interest them, and they’ll keep opening your newsletter to see what you’ve got for them time after time.

Unique content

You’re noticing a trend by now – your newsletter should provide people with stuff they’re not going to find somewhere else.

Not on your blog. Not on your social media.

Just in that one place.

One of the ways you can do that is by writing something special for the newsletter, and for the newsletter alone.

It doesn’t have to be huge or complicated, either! Hiten Shah adds a Tip of the Week to each of his newsletters – a one-or-two-paragraph exercise you can do. We actually do the same thing in our own newsletter:

The Dash

It doesn’t take much time, but it can add a lot of value to your newsletter. We’ve even noticed that in our case, at least, a lot of our readers take the advice we offer – so keep an eye out for next week’s tip, “Send five dozen cookies to Edgar Headquarters.”

Ways to get more – and less

Whether your newsletter’s readers want a whole lot more of you or a whole lot less, you should make it as easy as possible for them to get it.

(And don’t take it too hard if they want less. Happens to everyone.)

For those who have an insatiable appetite for more you, make sure you have all your relevant social links right where they’re easy to see. For those who need just a teensy bit more space, on the other hand, make sure they can unsubscribe with the click of a mouse.

Let’s look at Product Hunt one last time for a perfect example of each:

Unsubscribe From Product Hunt

Social? Check. Unsubscribe? Check. And our personal favorite: they allow you to fine-tune just how often you actually get their emails, so you can control how often their updates show up in your inbox.

Not giving your readers an easy unsubscribe option is a surefire way to get yourself flagged as spam. When that happens a lot, your delivery rates can drop. People who want to stop seeing you in their inbox will make it happen one way or the other, so you’re better off just allowing them to unsubscribe on your own terms.

And the most important thing…

The biggest thing to remember when you’re fine-tuning your newsletter?

There’s no one perfect way of doing it.

Sure, there are lots of things like these that you should seriously consider including – but that doesn’t mean there’s a perfect template out there that everyone should use!

Experiment with what you offer your readers on a regular basis. Try new things, and see which ones resonate with them – and which ones don’t. The more you can tailor your emails to your audience, the better they’ll respond!

  • Thank you for this post. I almost thought that writing newsletters went out of fashion since many of the blogs I subscribed to do them anymore.

    I totally agree that it generates extra traffic. 50% of my suscribers click through to my site lovecleanfood.com, but no one seems to talk about it.

    In the case of my newsletter, one piece of new content I add is a weekly challenge where I invite readers to make one small habit change helping them to integrate healthy eating in their daily routines. So far it’s been working great.

    • Tom | Team Edgar

      The weekly challenge is an awesome idea! You’re absolutely right, too – until you actually look at where your traffic is coming from, it’s easy to feel like a newsletter is old-fashioned, just because people don’t really talk about them. The numbers don’t lie, though – glad to hear what you’re doing is working so well for you!

  • when I look at my stats there’s always a peak in website views on Mondays. This is the day when I publish a new blog post, send out the link in my newsletter and promote on social media. I continue to promote the post on social for the rest of the week but the traffic dips.

    I’ve heard that you should only out one call to action in every newsletter you send. When I read The Dash there’s always lots to click on and read. Does this work well?

    • Tom | Team Edgar

      That’s a super good question! After years and years of sending The Dash every week, what we’ve found is that you don’t necessarily need to include only one link in a newsletter, but it’s definitely wise to focus on one in particular. So while we may link to multiple places throughout (like book and tool recommendations), those are secondary to our main focus, which is almost always our latest blog post. That link will be the focus of the first/main section of the newsletter, which is consistently our best source for clickthroughs.

      There are a number of factors that could contribute to that. Regular readers of The Dash, for example, know that the first section is where we link to the blog post – and for some people, that may be their primary reason for opening it in the first place. There’s a certain measure of expectation. There’s also the simple fact that it comes first, and it’s not unlikely that some readers don’t make it all the way through to the end of the newsletter. So in some ways, it’s a question of format/design and consistency as much as anything! Ultimately, we do see a not-insignificant number of clickthroughs for most of the links in our newsletter, but the big winner week after week is the one we put front and center.

  • Tom VanBuren

    Good question! Mailchimp has written about this themselves, and found that the most reliable way to avoid being lumped exclusively in a Promotions tab is for your readers to proactively filter you into their main inbox. (There are more details here: http://kb.mailchimp.com/delivery/deliverability-research/place-emails-in-primary-tab-in-gmail)

    Another thing YOU can do is to not make your newsletter the only thing you ever send – and to not necessarily just use a tool like Mailchimp for it! Because we also send emails to our users via Intercom, for example, we’ve been able to establish some precedent with our users, so that they know to expect emails from us. (We’ve also been able to use this to make sure people know about our weekly newsletter.)

    There’s also a matter of managing expectations, too, and keeping up-to-date on current benchmarks. When Google introduced the tabs system in 2013, open rates pretty much took a hit across the board, and statistics that might look super low to you could be closer to the average than you realize. (Here’s a look at the averages from Mailchimp: http://mailchimp.com/resources/research/email-marketing-benchmarks/) If you’re getting even 1 in 5 people to open an email, you’re actually doing okay!