• General Best Practices
5 School Email Newsletter Strategies You'll Want to Start Using Today
Mia Major

I have a confession to make: poor email engagement is my biggest fear. (Well, my second biggest fear next to heights.) I actually sweat when I hit send. For me, there's nothing worse than spending hours crafting the perfect subject line, creating images, and tweaking text content to see lower-than-expected email open rates and click through rates.


But, I know I'm not alone in that. At least once, all of us marketers are bound to be discouraged by the ROI of our email-invested-time. But there are some proven-to-work email newsletter practices that you and your subscribers are bound to love.

Crafting Emails

Try out these five strategies that will improve readability, engagement, and overall look and feel in your next email newsletter to ensure you won't be worried about hitting "send."

1. Use a Faux Video

We are frequently asked the question, "is it possible to embed videos in e-notify messages?" While that would be amazing, no email platform allows you embed videos right in your email. However, you can make it look like there's a video in your email, which will prompt subscribers to click it to "play." You can use an animated GIF, or simply overlay a play button on the still image you've selected to represent your video.

St. Anne's-Belfield School launched an Alumni Fund video series in the fall of 2015 and promoted it in their newsletters using this strategy. With a click-through rate above the industry average, we'd say this strategy works pretty well for them. Since they put the video at the top of the email, it's also more visually appealing and compelling than beginning the email with text.

St. Anne's Belfield Email Video

There's also an added bonus when you have an image that links to a video too: you're bringing more traffic to your website. And that's the goal of all your marketing efforts, right?

The Ultimate Guide to Better Email Marketing

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2. Always Include Alt Text (And Get Creative)

Alt text, the text displayed when an image doesn't load, is a commonly forgotten but extremely important piece of your newsletter.

Many email clients load images automatically — like the Apple iPhone client, the top email client today — but many do not. For example, Gmail — which is currently the second most popular email client — automatically downloads images, but won't display them unless you've selected to do so. What does that mean? About 43% of Gmail users read their emails without ever enabling the images. And if you don't have alt text, it's going to look like this:

Starbucks - No Alt Text

(That's a whole lot of white space. So yes, even Starbucks makes mistakes sometimes.)

Keeping subscribers informed about the subscriber should be seeing in your email, provides the opportunity to get creative, informative, and even a little witty. Here's a good example of an email with alt text:

Antropologie ALT Text

This Anthropologie is effective for two reasons:

  • It uses alt text to create plain text CTA buttons, allowing subscribers to visit site pages without needing to download images.
  • It also uses alt text to describe the offers the email is about, so I can decide immediately whether or not the email is relevant or incentivizing.

Want to learn best practices for using and styling your image alt text? We love this guide from Litmus, which outlines everything you'll need to know about writing and styling your alt text.

3. Quicken Your Load Time

If 47% of consumers expect a webpage to load in 3 seconds or less, you can bet that they expect the same from your emails. The best way to speed up load time is to adjust the size of your displayed files.

For example, if your email is only 600px wide, don't import an image that's 900px wide and adjust in the email. Resize the image before you put it in your email. If you're editing in Photoshop, use the simple "save for web button." To make image size even smaller, you can use programs like ImageOptim, TinyPNG, or JPEGmini.

4. Show, Don't Tell: Get creative with a GIF

Because of their inherently small file size and video-like quality, GIF images are becoming increasingly popular in email marketing. Animated GIF images offer new story-telling possibilities that simply are not possible with a static image. Here's one we made for a recent email about SEO and PPC.

Holidays GIF from Finalsite

At Finalsite, we make all of our gifs using Photoshop's timeline feature, but there are dozens of tools available to you online that create a GIF image for you like this one.

Keep in mind that some email clients won't support GIF images, so always accompany GIF images with a related caption and call to action.

5. Design responsively.

With the Apple iPhone email as the top email client, and 61% of consumers checking email on their mobile, emails should be designed to respond. Here are some easy-to-implement tips to make sure your newsletter looks good on every screen size.

First, set your max-width to 600px. While this won't cover the smallest screen sizes, it will look good on most devices without any extra effort.

Second, use a single-column layout. This kind of layout is more flexible across numerous devices than a magazine-style template.

Third, make your images responsive. An easy piece of HTML to add to all image tags that will help them scale to screen size is: style="width:100%;" You can also keep images from expanding beyond the email by adding a minimum width using the HTML: min-width: 100%;

And of course, to alleviate your stress — test, test and test again to see what your email will look like on different devices and email clients.

The Ultimate Guide to Better Email Marketing

  • Email Marketing
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