Part I: 10 Death Sentences in Digital Newsletter Publishing

A guideline for all seasoned digital publishers and those in the making

Because it’s easier to promise you a rose garden than the time needed to read a lengthy article, this is a 5-part series.


Digital publishing has become a lucrative business. In the early days, no one would have predicted the E-Force with which badly designed newsletters and spammy e-zines would explode into what it is today: The very foundation of content marketing.

The ability to create an electronic product from scratch and release it to (don’t we wish) millions of people have made more and more people jump on the runaway train that is digital publishing. Anyone can write an ebook and link it to a splash page with a sexy conversion rate, or get an autoresponder and compile their own newsletters and e-courses to their subscribers at the cost of pennies. LinkedIn itself has joined forces with the world of digital publishing by purchasing SlideShare, the largest document sharing site on the net.

However, as with any moon-walkin’ endeavour, mistakes made by newbies are rife. These include unsolicited e-mailing (eek!) and not focusing on their core business. If you’ve been wanting to start a newsletter – or transform your existing one – and have bigger plans for your profits than swim-coaching them down the drain, read on.

Death Sentence #1: Sending newsletters (or anything else) from your Gmail or Yahoo! account

Part of the temptation for newbies is to collect a group of e-mails and start mailing out from their own personal e-mails. Resist it. Then resist it some more.

At first, this may seem quite harmless when you have less than 20 people in your list, but once your subscriber count exceeds 50 people, you’re going to have a very big problem on your hands.

Firstly, you’ll have to handle people who newly sign up for your list manually. Then, unsubscribers will need to be manually removed as well – causing you massive administration problems. And if you can’t even read a 10-point LinkedIn post in one sitting, why bite off more than what’s needed for the stew, email list-wise?

The worst thing is most Internet service providers refuse to let you send bulk e-mails to many people at once. Of course, this is – for any of us with an email account – a very wonderfully fantastic thing: It prevents spammers from preying on the unsuspecting through their networks. Chances are, if you’re bulk-sending from your ISP email account, your email will be on the road to SpamBox as quick as you can press ‘Send’.

Make sure you get a good and reliable autoresponder to handle all the work for you. Be smart like that.

Death Sentence #2: Signing people up without getting them to opt-in

One of the biggest newbie mistakes when it comes to newsletters is signing people up on (other) mailing lists without their permission. You might think just because

a) you have someone’s email address, or

b) they’re on another of your email lists,

it automatically gives you permission to sign them up. Prepare to be slaughtered, if that’s how you’re going to go about things.

A certain percentage of LinkedIn users are notorious for doing this. The fact that you’ve connected has given them the green light to endlessly update you on their latest and greatest business propaganda. If you’re tempted, go take a cold shower, instead.

Take it from a digital marketer who’s been on the ‘Can I kill you already?’ side of things too many times herself: Unsolicited signups is a big no-no on the Net, and will get you in deep trouble! Worst-cast scenario, you’ll be accused of spamming and you’ll get your IP blacklisted on the ISPs. Not to mention what it’ll do to the business brand you’re trying to build.

You must do things the proper way. Like flushing the loo during an evening of good curry at a friends’ house so you won’t be defriended on Facebook in the morning, so too do you need to make sure you do things the right way when building your email list. Direct potential subscribers to a landing page or opt-in form, and when they manually opt-in, then you’ll have their permission. Short of that golden pot of, “Yes, please send me…” at the end of the newsletter rainbow, you’re just two big canine teeth away from being a big, bad spamwolf. It’s your job to ‘convince’ them – ethically – why they should opt-in to your list. Never ever take any shortcuts. That only leads to being cut.

If you already have a list and have procured their signups through anything less than white-hat methods (i.e. letting them know what they’re getting themselves into before they’re into it, and actually giving them a say in the matter), now’s the time to rectify your oversight. Send out an email directing them to an opt-in form, and state explicitly that should they fail to do that, they’ll be removed from your list. Then, shocker, do it. Of course, sending a few reminders help. But ultimately, if they’re not clicking, it means they don’t want to be there. Get over the rejection and move on. They were clearly never fans, anyway.

Want the rest of the low-down on what to avoid?

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