Spruce up your online newsletter

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You've been sending your online newsletter for some time now. But lately you've noticed your click-through or open rates getting a bit soft. Before you redesign the layout, here are five content-related pick-me-ups.

Introduce an expert - perhaps you?

Does your online newsletter come from your company or a human at your company? Remember, a newsletter is a letter. Typically letters from companies are not very personal. Consider introducing the person who's behind your newsletter. Add a letter from the editor with a photo and a scanned signature.

Browse and link to related stuff

Find Web sites related to your newsletter subject and link to them. This will provide a fresh, interesting section that isn't all about your company. Think editorial. You could link to stories, sites, individuals and studies. Readers will be interested because it's familiar yet is always new and different. Plus, if you're caught surfing at work you can say it's for the newsletter.

Give away free stuff

Oh, so simple and powerful. Giving away free stuff may sound corny, but it works. Create a section that gives away something to the first five responders. You could tie it to a trivia question "First 5 people to answer correctly getà" This trains your audience to stop what they were doing and read your newsletter.

Want to make it even better? When you introduce the freebie section, initially, give away something to everyone that responds. Why? Because if I try and get your freebie offer then, every time you send it I'm going to stop and read your newsletter.

Sticky content

Remember dictionary.com's æword of the day'? It's a hugely successful daily e-mail that simply sent a single word. You can apply this same thing to your newsletter. Short and scannable. For example, your newsletter could put a trivia question at the top of the newsletter and users then have to scroll to the bottom to get the answer. What else is sticky? How about picture of the day, coolest gadget this month, hero for helping the planet, here's what's on our iPods. Bite-size, fast and sticky.

Turn on the feedback loop

Plain and simple, ask readers questions and display their answers. This shows you're listening and that your newsletter is by people for people. Polls are fine and do a similar thing, but still seem rather cold and automated. However, if I'm reading your newsletter and I see that "Doug from Portland, Oregon" responded, I think to myself, "Huh, there's other people out thereà brand X is cool." Overall, like most of these suggestions, it adds human voice and community to your newsletter.

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