How To Create and Send HTML Newsletters
Every now and then a subscriber will ask how I create my newsletter. Fortunately, this request is done in conjunction with a complement I humbly accept.
So, I decided to dedicate an entire issue to the creation of an HTML (web page looking) ezine. This won’t serve as the only technical guide you will ever need to read to create stunning HTML newsletters but, I hope it will serve as a mid-level introduction to the ins and outs of this powerful tool.
It is my hope that past issues extolling the virtues of an online newsletter or ezine as one of the crucial marketing tools has already convinced you to pursue this vehicle – today’s lesson, then, will show you how to get the most from your ezine.
What is an HTML Newsletter?
An HTML Newsletter is a newsletter delivered via email that looks very much like a web page. The reason for this is very simple – it’s created using the same code language, HTML, as a web page.
The obvious advantage of this format over text is a stylish presentation. Of course, you know I’m not one to get too hung up on style alone. This presentation has proven over and over again to deliver much greater results in terms of readership, comprehension, interest and, ultimately, sales and clients.
How Do Your Create Them?
There really are two components to an HTML email newsletter. One is the designed page and the other is distribution of the page as email. You can create the pages yourself and use a distribution service (that is what I do) or you can use one of the many all-in-one email newsletter services that use templates and distribute your email for you.
The pros of doing it yourself are that you get the most custom look possible and it is generally much less expensive. The benefit of using a service is that you don’t need to know how to create an HTML page. You simply fill in templates. For this reason the services are more expensive.
Creating an HTML newsletter is not really that difficult. (Obviously you’ve got to have something to say but for this lesson I’m concentrating on form alone.) If you already know how to create a web page and can use web page creation programs such as Microsoft FrontPage or Dreamweaver or HomeSite you are 90% home.
To create an HTML newsletter you simply create a web page and then upload the code from that page to your distribution service.
Some crucial tips:
If you already know how to create HTML pages you should be aware of some unique aspects of creating HTML to deliver via email. (If you use a service, most of these tips will be built in.)
Width – Keep the width of your newsletter, contained in a table and no more than 600 pixels wide – You want to make sure that your email shows up in the email window of the recipient
Image links – If you use images, and you probably should, make sure that you use absolute links to the images as opposed to relative links. In traditional web page design and image link may be something like /images/bob.jpg. This is fine when you are getting the image on your server. When you send out an email the recipient needs the entire path, more like http://www.yoursite/images/bob.jpg.
How Do You Distribute Them?
I use a service called AWeber – http://www.aweber.com/?204167 and it’s the only one I can recommend. I have tried others but nobody comes close to what AWeber provides. AWeber also hates spammers so they do everything they can to make sure that their clients get their email through.
AWeber hosts my mailing list and sends my email newsletter out. Each week I upload the HTML code to my list and AWeber sends the mail out. You can buy software that can do this but once your list grows over 100 people it is far better to use a hosted solution to distribute your email.
AWeber also checks my newsletter to make sure that I haven’t inadvertently used phrases that get my email kicked to the spam filter.
Text and HTML formats
Unfortunately, HTML email is used very heavily by spammers so HTML only newsletters come with a pretty hefty spam score no matter what the content is. I find that if I load a text message along with my HTML message my email scores much lower. The text email also then is received by people who choose to disable HTML email.
I then also make it a habit of uploading my newsletter to a newsletter archive on my web site. This way those who only get the text version can visit the web site and my web site benefits from a new page of content.
Here are some turn-key solutions that might may sense for you.
Constant Contact – http://www.constantcontact.com/index.jsp
Cooler Email – http://www.cooleremail.com/index.ice
Double Click- http://www.doubleclick.com/us/
Exact Target – http://email.exacttarget.com/
Email Labs – http://www.emaillabs.com/
John Jantsch is a veteran marketing coach, award winning blogger and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide published by Thomas Nelson – due out in the fall of 2006 He is the creator of the Duct Tape Marketing small business marketing system. You can find more information by visiting http://www.ducttapemarketing.com