Author newsletters are an effective way to promote your newest release, direct fans to special sales, help other authors promote their books, and more. But including too many links in your newsletter may get you flagged as spam, preventing your email from reaching your reader’s inbox.
Why does the number of links matter? How many links should you include in your email newsletter? And how do you know which links to include and which to exclude? We’ll be tackling these questions in today’s article.
The Problem With Using Too Many Links
The internet is as dangerous as it is useful. This isn’t news. You probably use antivirus protection, and perhaps a firewall to keep bad actors from accessing your data. The Web is no place to be without protection.
If you’ve ever opened your inbox to find an onslaught of spam, you know what a problem it can be. At best, it’s annoying to be greeted each morning with a multitude of uninvited messages you’ll need to delete. At worst, phishing email that looks legitimate may entice you click, ensnaring you in a costly scheme.
And those triple-x subject lines? Ick.
Enough said. Spam is bad and we’re thankful for help in blocking it.
The problem is those blocks aren’t perfect. It’s not Sally Jane opening your mail for you every morning, culling out the junk, putting your bills in one stack, personal email to be answered in another, and business mail in another. It’s a software program, written in advance, with a set of rules.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and email clients (the programs we use to access mail, e.g. Outlook or Apple Mail) are in a war against illegitimate uses and abuses. They use predetermined rules and sometimes complex algorithms and machine learning to divert spam and/or promotional email away from your cherished inbox.
With this in mind, it’s a good practice to prevent your email newsletter from looking like spam. And one of the things spammers do is pack emails with lots of links. Let’s take a look at how to be more strategic about links.
How Many Links to Include…and Which Ones
If spammers use too many links, but links lead to sales (or other benefits), what’s an author to do? How many is too many? Is there a hard number to shoot for? It’s difficult to say, since every ISP and email client may have their own set of rules.
Here are 3 tips to build your linking strategy. I offer these as a good place to begin, but remember, results may vary for your list. You may want to do some A/B testing to find the best model for your newsletter.
1. Be frugal.
As we discussed above, too many links may incur a “spam” flag on certain ISPs. How many? This will be different for each scenario, but you have to start somewhere. I dug into some discussion board comments and online articles. Best guess, six links at most may be a good place to start testing, with some recommending a max of three.
The inbound marketing experts at GetResponse note that a lengthier email can get away with a few more links without looking suspicious or spammy. Six links in a 500-word email is not the same as six links in a fifty-word email. Your text-to-link ratio matters.
Now, here’s the bad news. The suggested limit of 3 to 6 links per email includes your logo (that links to your website) and all those social media links and footer links. Put on your editor’s hat and let’s look at trimming down your link count.
Here are few suggestions for reducing links.
- Remove the “view in browser” link in your email pre-header if your readers aren’t using it.
- If you can opt out of including your mail service’s logo and link plastered (usually) at the bottom of your emails, do it.
- Look at your stats to see which links are being ignored. Do you really need these?
- Be smart about social. Social share links have a better click rate than social follow links. You might omit the “follow” links or highlight only one channel where you’re focusing on growth.
Most of us have included those “follow me on ________” links as an easy place to (maybe) pick up a follower or two, but it’s a better use to include a “share” link. You’re apt to gain more followers through subsequent shares by motivated fans than by a random click in your newsletter.
2. Be clear.
Aside from differentiating your email from spam, marketing studies have concluded that giving fewer choices leads to a better conversion rate. This is true with email links, too.
“…when the customer is faced with too many choices at once, it leaves the customer confused and less likely to buy from any of the choices! This retailer has discovered that giving a customer more than three choices at one time actually overwhelms customers and makes them frustrated… If you give people too much information – or offer too many choices—they either won’t remember a thing or they’ll become frustrated, even mad.”Carmine Gallo, Forbes Magazine Senior Contributor.
When consumers are presented with too many choices they are overwhelmed. Paralysis may result. They shut down. And if they shut down, you’re shut down.
Remember, people are busy. Their attention spans are only getting shorter. They’ve developed extremely efficient filters of their own, outside of what their ISPs and software have. They can quickly delete or disregard your email if it looks too complicated or will require too much of their limited energy to process.
If you want more clicks, offer fewer links.
3. Be strategic.
Establish engagement with your subscriber early in the relationship. Take advantage of the automatic “welcome” response your email service provider (MailerLite, Mailchimp, etc.) may offer, or create a short onboarding / welcome series triggered by subscribing.
Refer to email deliverability tips especially when you design your initial emails to help ensure they’ll clear the spam filter hurdles. Include one spectacular call-to-action that compels your subscriber to click. Their engagement will help identify you as a “good” email sender.
Your email marketing is a powerful tool, but it can’t do everything well. Create a strategy for your author newsletter and know what its purpose is within your marketing plan.
With each email, ask yourself what you want it to accomplish for you. When someone reads your email, what do you want them to do?
What is the one thing you want your email to do? Build each email around one goal.
Be clear about that goal before you sit down to put your newsletter together. And be clear about it when you craft your message. Don’t confuse your readers. Offer them clarity and they’ll follow along. Confuse them and they’ll bail.
Make it a Win
This is a difficult topic but it’s also an opportunity. It would be an interesting exercise to count the number of links in your latest emails, then review your click stats. How many of these did your subscribers click? Which campaigns have had your highest click rate? Lowest?
Understanding what your subscribers are clicking and why can only help to strengthen your messaging. A more thoughtful linking strategy will increase clicks and boost your ROI.
Limiting the number of links in your email will help you reach more inboxes and get more clicks. Remove superfluous and ineffective links, shooting for three to six links per email. Keep these three tips in mind when developing your newsletter content:
- Be frugal with the number of links you use.
- Be clear with your calls to action.
- Be strategic with a single goal for each email.
Got thoughts on this? Share your comments here or in the AuthorCompany Book Marketing group on Facebook.
Heather is a freelance marketing specialist and author. She writes a weekly blog for AuthorCompany to help Christian authors navigate marketing technology and engage their target readers. She lives in sizzling Louisiana but dreams of mountains, chilly days, and a little snow wouldn’t hurt, either.