How to write an email: 9 email copywriting best practices for engaging email newsletters

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Our inboxes are overflowing with offers, promotions and email newsletters. The average American worker sends and receives 126 emails per day. As a creator, it’s your job to write an email that is enjoyable to read and prompts the reader to stick around, and eventually, convert.

And because email marketing delivers an astonishing $44 for every $1 you spend, you’ll leave thousands of dollars on the table if you can’t write a conversion-focused email newsletter.

We want to help you build confidence to send value-packed emails that convert. In this article, we’ll help you understand email copywriting best practices so you can deliver top-notch newsletters every single time!

Email copywriting best practices for engaging email newsletters

Five core elements every successful email needs

Before you start writing your next newsletter, it’s essential to know what goes into a well-written email.

Although the content you write for your welcome email sequence may be different from a sales email, each type of email in your funnel needs these five core elements.

1. Subject line

Your subject line is the first thing your subscriber will see when they open their inbox. And it holds immense power—35% of users open a marketing email based on the subject line alone.

You might feel tempted to use misleading clickbait to increase clicks, but we don’t recommend that. 69% of recipients mark emails spam solely on the subject line; inaccurate subject lines do more harm than good.

To increase your email open rate, your subject line must be honest and intriguing. Take a look at some of these subject lines below:

Use accurate and enticing subject lines
Use accurate and enticing subject lines

The subject line “The (not so) secret Twitter hack for more engagement” makes me wonder what the secret is and whether or not it’s something I know. For this reason, I am compelled to click and read the email.

You can begin researching subject lines right in your inbox. Take a peek to see which emails you opened and which ones you left unread. For the ones you opened, what part of the subject line enticed you? And for the ones you left unread, what was lacking?

Next, let’s touch on subject line length.

Since 61.9% of emails are opened on mobile, a suitable subject line is 41 characters or less. At 41 characters, you can feel confident your subject lines are readable on mobile and desktop devices.

For assistance crafting irresistible subject lines, CoSchedule’s Email Subject Line Tester is here to help. After you input your subject, you’ll receive a score and helpful tips to improve:

CoScheduler’s Email Subject Line Tester helps you create great subject lines. Image via CoSchedule
CoScheduler’s Email Subject Line Tester helps you create great subject lines. Image via CoSchedule

At ConvertKit, we recommend A/B testing two subject lines to see which one receives the most opens. You can automatically A/B test your subject lines with your free ConvertKit account.

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All you need to do is enter your two subject lines for your newsletter:

A/B test your subject lines with ConvertKit
A/B test your subject lines with ConvertKit

ConvertKit will send your newsletter out to a sample of your subscribers. Whichever subject line results in the most opens is the winner.

The winning subject line is sent to the remainder of your list
The winning subject line is sent to the remainder of your list

Your remaining subscribers will get your email newsletter with the winning subject line.

2. Preview text

Have you noticed the text directly after the subject line? It’s often a small snippet of the incoming email message. This is called your preview text, and it’s one of the most overlooked aspects of email copywriting.

For example, if we read through the below preview texts, which one jumps out the most?

How to write an email- Preview text
Preview text can compel your readers to open your email newsletter

We love that Grammarly Insights includes a personalized statistic in the preview text to further illustrate the point they are making in the subject line while also giving an added touch of relevance.

We also like how Shanna Skidmore uses urgency and strong language to pique your curiosity.

But if you don’t manually set your preview text, you miss out on this valuable real-estate, like this email has below:

Preview text that hasn’t been manually set
Preview text that hasn’t been manually set

You can strategically use the preview text to invite your subscribers to open your newsletter. The preview text is typically pulled from your newsletter’s first few lines, but if your first line is “hey there,” you’re going to want to manually set it.

You can easily set your preview text with some simple code. Add the below code to the top of your email newsletter before your content:

PREVIEW TEXT GOES HERE

PREVIEW TEXT GOES HERE

It’s good practice to test different preview text snippets to see what performs best with your audience. People respond to email content differently, so keep on experimenting and record your results.

3. Body copy

Great subject lines and preview text will help ensure your reader opens your email. What happens next depends on your email’s body copy.

Email newsletters between 75 and 125 words are said to receive the highest response rate, but we recommend you experiment.

Email copywriting expert, Samar Owais, agrees and says, “[a]n email should be as long as it needs to be. While industry and type of email plays a role in length, it’s more about the relationship between the brand and its subscribers. If they’re used to receiving longer, value-packed emails from you, then your 1,000+ word email could very well have a high open and click-through rate.”

You can use your body copy to:

Those are just a few examples; the sky’s the limit for what you want to include in your newsletters. Just remember to keep your promotional and non-promotional emails balanced. 86% of customers polled want to receive promotional emails monthly, which means you can use the rest of the month for non-promotional content.

4. Call-to-action

Inside your body copy, you will want to have a central call-to-action (CTA). Your CTA will quickly tell your audience what you want them to do after reading your email. When your CTA is clear, it helps you increase email conversions.

Your CTA can be a button that links to a sales page, a link to an affiliate product you’re promoting, or a link to one of your recent blog posts. Buttons increase conversion rates by 28%, but you can experiment and see which produces the highest clicks!

Take a look at some of the different CTAs you can use in your email newsletters:

Call to action buttons
Email from iFundWomen Coaches to sell more of their video production packages
Call to action links
This email from the eMyth team links to a guest blog post
Email copywriting- Call to action- Email from byRegina
Email from byRegina that links to an educational video
 Call to action links
Here’s an email from MIG Soap that links to a special discount for their online shop

We recommend switching up your calls-to-action so your email content feels fresh each time your subscriber opens an email. If you only ever link to your digital products, your emails will feel more like a never-ending sales pitch than a conversation with your audience.

Your educational emails will have a different call-to-action than your hard-pitch or soft-pitch emails. This is a good thing since it allows you to add variety and continue to build trust that will turn into more sales.

And don’t be scared to include your CTA multiple times. Samar agrees that multiple CTAs are the way to go: “[h]aving a CTA placed at different places in an email isn’t just for folks who skim email. Making [your readers] scroll down for your CTA is just adding friction to your conversion. Don’t make them do more work when a strategically placed CTA would get you that conversion faster.”

5. Signature

Once you’ve crafted educational, entertaining, and story-driven body copy to go inside your email, it’s time for your signature sign-off. What you choose as a signature to end your emails is entirely up to you as an email content creator.

Some brands choose to end with a simple sign-off like “Best, [your name here]” or “See you next time, [your name here]”. Others follow up with their title or even a link to their website with a bio. No matter what you choose, you can make it work for you by assessing your brand personality.

Here’s a simple custom email signature from Dean Street Society:

Email signature by Dean Street Society
A handwritten email signature

Ann Handley’s email signature includes a CTA and asks subscribers to pass her email along to someone who might benefit from it:

Ann Handley includes CTAs in her signature so she can increase conversions and leads in one go! Image via Ann Handley
Ann Handley includes CTAs in her signature so she can increase conversions and leads in one go! Image via Ann Handley

There are many different ways to use your email signature. Get creative and see what generates the most clicks and results.

Best practices for email copywriting

Now let’s shift gears and talk about how to write an email. When done right, email marketing can be one of the most influential marketing channels you have.

You can use your email newsletter to:

  • Build your brand
  • Position yourself as an expert
  • Share special deals and promotions
  • Connect with your audience
  • Tell a story

In order to make a lasting impression with your emails, you need to keep your larger marketing strategy in mind. How you teach, share stories, and sell inside your emails can be similar to the way you market on other marketing platforms like social media.

As you prepare to write your email newsletter content, let’s look at your overall email marketing strategy and the role it plays in your business. These tips will help you strengthen not only your email marketing but every digital marketing effort in the future.

1. Have a distinct and memorable brand voice

Have you ever taken a moment to intentionally think about the words you use and how you use them? One of the first things your readers and subscribers will notice is the tone and style of your brand voice.

Your spelling, grammar, slang, and text formatting have a lot to say about your brand and the type of content you produce.

Your brand voice is most successful when it stays consistent on every marketing channel, but it’s hard to reach that consistency if you aren’t sure what your brand voice sounds like now.

We recommend starting the brand voice process by creating a brand voice style guide with your ideal client or customer in mind. The brand voice style guide is a valuable resource that defines and summarizes the most important elements of your brand voice and brand story.

It’s common for a brand voice style guide to include:

  • The mission and purpose of your brand
  • The core values of your brand
  • A clear picture of who your ideal audience is
  • Descriptive words that describe the tone and personality of your brand
  • A branded list of vocabulary words, catchphrases, etc.
  • Communication or customer service guidelines

You can also share this brand voice style guide with any collaborators, contractors, or employees so everyone is writing in the same brand voice.

Just make sure to always keep your ideal audience top-of-mind whenever you make edits to enhance your brand voice.

2. Learn the basics of conversion copywriting

So far, we’ve mostly talked about email content creation, but how does content writing differ from conversion copywriting? The main difference is that content writing is primarily done to educate or entertain your audience while conversion copywriting is meant to convert your subscribers into buyers.

When you write an educational email, you won’t be using many conversion copywriting tactics because you aren’t focused on selling in that email. Instead, you want to provide a lot of upfront value. When you are ready to create a soft-sell or hard-sell email, conversion copywriting techniques become really important in order to make the sale.

Email copywriting is more about your reader than it is about you. Make sure you keep your readers’ needs and pain points in mind as you write your newsletter.

Conversion copywriting is meant to create a sense of urgency while you focus on relating to your reader. By relating to your reader, they’ll begin to trust you, and when they trust your content, they’ll be more likely to convert into a paying customer.

Pro tip: Sign up for ConvertKit’s Email Writing Pep Talk so you can turn your subscribers into raving fans and customers with next-level email copywriting techniques. You can click here to register at any time.

We also recommend in-depth copywriting resources like Copy Hackers, Copyblogger, and StoryBrand. They offer tutorials, courses, and trainings that will help you learn more about the difference between content writing and copywriting.

Email Copywriting Best Practices

3. Make your writing relevant and personal

Think back to the last email you got from a friend or coworker.

Did the email address you by name? Did it mention something specific that is relevant to your daily life?

Your email newsletters should be the same! Personalized emails result in higher conversions. It doesn’t matter if you are writing to 100 people or 10,000 people. Write your email marketing content as if you are writing to one person, and as if you deeply understand them.

If you feel like you are writing to appease the masses, you may find it hard to consistently write content that connects with everyone.

Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, choose your niche and take time to uncover who your ideal customer is so you can write more personal, friendly, and relatable emails.

If it helps, you can even choose one person on your list to keep in mind as you write. Doing this feels more like writing a letter to a friend (which also helps to eliminate writer’s block.)

Here’s an example of personalized content from Melyssa Griffin:

Melyssa Griffin segments her email list to send tailored emails. Image via Melyssa Griffin
Melyssa Griffin segments her email list to send tailored emails. Image via Melyssa Griffin

The newsletter snippet above was for subscribers who hadn’t yet signed up for a course Melyssa was promoting. Rather than send a mass email to everyone, Melyssa tailored this email to those who hadn’t signed up to address common concerns.

4. Use “you” to keep your writing personal

WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) is a famous marketing acronym that will transform your email copywriting. The concept is simple: your copy needs to clearly outline why your reader should care about your newsletter.

The quickest way to achieve WIIFM-copy is by replacing “I” statements with “you” statements:

  • “I wrote a new ebook detailing how…” → “My new ebook will help you learn how…”
  • “I’m going to show you how…” → “You’re going to learn how…”
  • “I have a 50% off sale right now” → “You can save 50% off right now”

See how the above “you” statements aren’t self-serving?

You’ll want to do the same thing inside your email. This is a simple tip, but it can make a world of a difference.

It will also help you avoid sounding too salesy. Instead, your newsletter will feel like it’s coming from a friend. Your tone will be more conversational and personal this way.

Through personal and simple language, ConvertKit user Kate Reding makes her email newsletters feel like they’re from a friend:

Kate’s email is simple and personal. Image via Kate Reding
Kate’s email is simple and personal. Image via Kate Reding

You can also personalize your emails with the subscriber’s name. Who doesn’t love to open up mail that has their name on it? Including a name can help your emails feel even more personal.

You can easily collect your subscriber’s names along with their email addresses by using ConvertKit forms.

5. Focus on the benefits before the features

One of the biggest mistakes new copywriters make is focusing too much on the features when they should be highlighting the benefits.

For example, if you are writing an email to gauge interest in your new group life coaching program, you’ll want to focus on benefits like the confidence your clients will gain after your sessions and how it will improve their most important relationships rather than the number of worksheet exercises you’ll give them.

Benefits are often more successful in making the sale because they create more of an emotional tie to your ideal customers.

In the same example, if you lead with the features of your coaching program, like how many sessions are included inside the program and that you offer a Facebook group community, you’ll miss the opportunity to create a more personal connection with your subscriber.

Take this newsletter snippet from ConvertKit creator, A Branch of Holly:

Holly lists the benefits of her program. Image via A Branch of Holly
Holly lists the benefits of her program. Image via A Branch of Holly

Holly uses her email copy to explain the benefits of her new program.

The features are still important to include in your conversion copywriting, but they aren’t as crucial as the benefits. Always lead with the benefits of anything you are selling and follow up emotion-driven information with attractive features to help you seal the deal.

6. Tell a story

You can still craft a relatable, personal story as you write copy for conversions. If you make it all about the sale, your email will just feel like a long, drawn-out pitch. Instead, you can add stories from your own experiences or stories from past clients or students. These can be turned into case studies, testimonials, and more.

As you tell a story within your email, your goal is to make your reader feel something. That emotion will often translate into more trust because your audience member will feel heard, seen, or understood. Storytelling is a great way to do that within your email marketing strategy.

Joel Klettke weaves stories into his email newsletter to engage his readers:

Stories will engage your readers. Image via Joel Klettke
Stories will engage your readers. Image via Joel Klettke

Remember, not every story needs to have a sales goal attached to it. Some stories can be shared simply for the goal of creating more of a bond with your ideal audience members. This trust will go a long way when you are ready to start marketing new products and services.

Email copywriting for the web

7. Write emails with great readability

Most readers skim your content and won’t read every word.

As a creator, your job is to make your newsletter as easy to digest as possible, highlighting key points and making your CTAs hard to ignore.

Improving the readability of your newsletters is an effective way to make sure your audience is absorbing more of your information.

You can improve the readability by:

  • Using short paragraphs (usually only 1-3 sentences long)
  • Bolding or italicizing key information
  • Breaking up long lists into bullet points
  • Organizing longer emails with headers and sections

Your ultimate goal is to guide your readers easily through your content as they consume it on any device.

A newsletter with great readability. Image via Justin Blackman
A newsletter with great readability. Image via Justin Blackman

Justin Blackman’s use of short paragraphs, and italicized text make his copy enjoyable and easy on the eye.

8. Use sales psychology

When you are diving into conversion copywriting, understanding sales psychology will be important. Knowing the “why” behind someone pressing your buy button is crucial. And the more you know about how your ideal client or customer’s brain works, the more you can optimize your conversion copywriting.

Implement the sales psychology tips you learn into your overall sales strategy. This will help you map out sales goals, determine KPIs, and create an action plan that will help you increase your conversion rates long term for better lifetime customer values.

When you are ready to implement your sales psychology knowledge and sales strategy, you can start by including one clear call-to-action in each email. As mentioned above, you don’t need to include the same call-to-action in each email in order to be successful. Instead, tailor the specific call-to-action to the email content.

ConvertKit creator, Aquila, uses sales psychology to increase conversions to her products:

Sales psychology in your newsletter can increase your sales. Image via Maraval Made
Sales psychology in your newsletter can increase your sales. Image via Maraval Made

Scarcity is a common sales strategy used to encourage customers to buy.

9. Don’t forget to edit your email newsletter

An often overlooked email copywriting best practice is editing. Forgetting to edit your emails could produce embarrassing facepalm moments if your grammar is incorrect or you accidentally misspelled a word in your email.

In fact, 59% of people polled are less likely to trust a brand if there are obvious grammar and spelling mistakes in their marketing materials. It’s essential to keep mistakes to a minimum.

If you don’t have the budget to hire a dedicated editor for your content, you can use tools that will help you edit your work beyond the normal Word or Google Doc grammar and spell check tools.

Hemingway App is one of our favorite editing tools because of its ability to go beyond correcting your spelling and grammar. It also counts how many adverbs you’re using and how many sentences are hard to read and locates when you are speaking in a passive voice. We also like that you don’t have to download any tools or extensions to use it.

Hemingway App will also give you a readability score to determine the reading level of your copy. Most adults read at a 7th to 9th grade level, so keep your email copy simple.

Another editing tool is Grammarly, a free Google Chrome extension that will check your grammar. The tool calls itself your “writing assistant,” which fits its capabilities perfectly. It will help you fix spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.

Homework: How to Write an Email

How to write an email newsletter in ConvertKit

Writing marketing emails is a breeze in ConvertKit.

If you don’t have an account yet, sign up for your free ConvertKit account.

Next, click on “broadcasts” in your navigation bar.

Click “Broadcasts” to start your newsletter
Click “Broadcasts” to start your newsletter

Then, click on the “New Broadcast” button along the right hand side:

Click “New Broadcast”
Click “New Broadcast”

Next, you can select who should receive your email newsletter. You can choose to send to all subscribers or select a specific segment.

Choose who will get your email newsletter
Choose who will get your email newsletter

Once you’ve determined who will receive your newsletter, click on “next step”.

Your last step is to write your newsletter using the email copywriting best practices you’ve learned from this article!

Want to try using ConvertKit to send your email content?

If you’re ready to create your email content calendar to send emails to your audience, ConvertKit is ready to help you get started.

And creating emails in ConvertKit’s email editor is a breeze. Sign up for your free ConvertKit account to get started!

The post How to write an email: 9 email copywriting best practices for engaging email newsletters appeared first on ConvertKit.

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