Senin, 14 Juli 2008

Should You Upgrade Your E-zine From Text to HTML?

A few years ago, when I first started seeing HTML e-zines in my inbox, I admit I was jealous. They were attractive, attention getting, snazzy. They made my text e-zines look boring.

But my mind fought the idea of upgrading my own. "My readers appreciate my e-zine for its content," I told myself. "They don't need some slick design to get their attention. They just want my information, straight up. Publishing in HTML won't make a difference."

I was wrong.

Well, I was right that my readers receive my e-zine for its content. After all, that's why they subscribed - for my concise, how-to articles.

But I was mistaken that a better "presentation" wouldn't make a difference.

After much deliberation, I decided to give HTML a whirl. I had my e-zine professionally designed in HTML, featuring my logo, colors, and photo.

First off, let's all agree that it's ridiculously easy to publish in text. That's a good thing.

If you're just beginning your e-zine and are a bit overwhelmed, text is a great place to start. You can then focus on developing great content and publishing on a regular basis, without worrying about HTML design and coding snafus.

Text also gives you complete freedom and flexibility - you can add new sections and delete others any time you feel like it, without having to redesign your entire e-zine.

But let's face it: There are hundreds of thousands of text e-zines out there that all look the same. I subscribe to 30+ text e-zines, and they all seem to lump together in my e-mail inbox.

The ones that catch my eye and make me read on - they're HTML.


"Okay, okay," you say. "I know HTML e-zines look great. But do they get better results?"

I'll let these statistics answer that question:

HTML e-zines are read MORE OFTEN than plain text e-zines.

HTML e-zines have a higher CLICK-THROUGH rate. (That is, people are more likely to click on any links you provide to your site or sales offers.)

HTML e-zines reinforce your BRAND by carrying the same look as your Web site and other marketing materials with your logo, colors, etc.

HTML e-zines allow you to TRACK your readership by showing how many people on your list actually open each e-zine you send.

It's also nice if you can offer your readers a choice in what they want to receive. Why? While I got dozens of compliments and thank-yous after switching to HTML, I also got a few people asking if they could still receive my e-zine in TEXT! Go figure... ;

By Alexandria K. Brown

Are Your E-Mails Bouncing? Hard Bounces, Soft Bounces, and Everything in Between

Are you doing "the bounce"?

No, it's not a new hip-hop dance.

A bounce, or bounce-back, is an e-mail that is returned to you because it cannot be delivered for some reason. You've probably gotten bounces on your own personal e-mail program, when you send an e-mail and then receive a response saying it was undeliverable.

These get to be more of a headache, however, when you publish an e-zine. Sending e-mail to more people means more bounce-backs. And too many bounce-backs can cause your mailings to be blocked with certain Internet service providers, meaning many of your e-mails won't reach your readers.

What You Need to Know

There are two kinds of e-mail bounces:

A hard bounce is an e-mail message that has been returned to you because the recipient's address is invalid. A hard bounce might occur because the domain name doesn't exist, the recipient is unknown, or there's some type of network problem on the recipient's end.

A soft bounce is an e-mail message that gets as far as the recipient's mail server, but is bounced back before it reaches the recipient. One of the most common causes for a soft bounce is a full mailbox. This will happen A LOT with your subscribers who use free e-mail services like Yahoo and HotMail, because they allow for very little e-mail storage.

What You Need to Do

Ask your current list service how they handle your bounces.

Some of them have a hands-off policy and don't do anything. If so, ask them how you can go in yourself and see how many names are bouncing and who they are. Then you can decide to keep them on your list or delete them.

One factor to consider here is your listserve's "retry" policy. That is, how many times do they try to send out your e-zine to the soft-bounce people? Some only try once, others try several times, waiting a few hours in between.

Sometimes you'll also see a few e-mail addresses that are obviously misspelled (e.g. "nancy123@aolcom" -- note the missing dot) and you can fix them yourself manually.

If your listserve is hands-off, you'll want to go in and look at your bounce situation at least once a month to check things out and delete names if necessary.

The other extreme is list services that automatically delete people after only one hard bounce, which isn't good because it could be caused by a temporary problem like a network outage. If this is your listserve's policy, find out if you can change it.

Then some list services take the middle road by automatically deleting anyone who has had a certain number of bounces in a row. Ideally you want them to wait longer on soft bounces to make sure that the problem isn't resolved over the next few issues you send out.

You can often instruct the listserve to unsubscribe soft bounces after a specific time, say, five bounces over a two-week period.

Whatever your case, be sure you get a handle on your bounces this month!

(c) 2003 Alexandria K. Brown


By Alexandria K. Brown

The Sticky Issue of E-zine Schedules

While many new e-zine publishers are anxious about developing good content for their e-zines, many of them seem to have more trouble simply deciding on a schedule and sticking to it!

It's smart to tame the schedule beast right from the start. Here are a few tips to help you.

Realistically consider how much time you want to spend on your e-zine.

For your beginning stages, plan on at least five hours to develop each issue if you're developing your own content. This includes time for researching, writing, formatting, proofreading, and publishing. And this estimate is for an e-zine featuring only one article. If you're going to feature more than one article, plan on making more time, or publish articles by guest authors.

Start with a conservative schedule.

When you're planning your e-zine, you'll probably be so excited and brimming with ideas that you want to publish as frequently as possible. Stop! Your enthusiasm is admirable, but start off monthly for now. You can always increase the frequency later, when you're sure you can handle it.

I excitedly began my first e-zine several years ago as a weekly gig, then immediately dropped back to monthly once I caught myself moaning and groaning whenever I was scheduled to write it. Now that I have support staff, I've increased my schedule to biweekly (every two weeks).

Even if you can stand it, don't publish daily.

Yep, that's right. You want to be on your prospects' minds, but not in their faces every day. We all get SO much e-mail as it is! Even if you write a phenomenal missive, it's best to leave your readers wanting a bit more.

I was recently on the list of a very good daily e-zine, but I just couldn't keep up with reading it every day. I felt extremely guilty watching the issues build up unread in my e-mail inbox, so I finally canceled my subscription. If you want your e-zine to be joyfully anticipated and well read, I recommend publishing no more than once or twice a week.

Pick the best day for your readers ... and you

Many sales experts say that people are most receptive to hearing from marketers on Tuesdays. So why not have your e-zine arrive in your readers' e-mail inboxes then? Other good days are Wednesdays and Thursdays, according to other sales pros. However, I ignore all this and publish on Fridays, simply because it's my favorite day. ; )

Once you've set your schedule, stick to it!

Setting a schedule suggests to your readers that you're organized and can meet deadlines. No matter how busy you are, sending out your e-zine at random looks flaky and unprofessional.

Now, we're all human and take vacations, get sick, and get plain busy. So what do you do when you just CAN'T get that new issue out? Do a rerun. Choose a past issue from more than six months ago that you got great feedback on. Republish it with a little intro that says something like, "Hey folks, right now I'm sipping drinks on the beach in Bali, so by popular request, here's a rerun of one of our best articles. We'll be back next week with fresh, insightful content!" Of course, only say something like that if you are actually on vacation - people do understand that you take time off.

Otherwise, never share that you're behind schedule or too busy to write your next issue - that would tell your readers that they come last on your list. If you must, stretch the truth a bit, and say you're at a conference, traveling, etc.

Try to have one or two issues completed in advance that can be sent out at a moment's notice.

This is great for those times when an emergency strikes or you're too swamped to write a new issue. The next time you get a few ideas at once (and don't they seem to come in multiples?), get psyched up and whip out a few at once. You can always edit them later - just get the ideas out of your head and onto your screen.

(E-zine Queen Secret Tip: Need a little extra inspiration? Try whipping up a fresh margarita - works for me, every time! Just be sure to do an extra proofread later on. ; ))

For a low-maintenance e-zine, tip well!

Who says you need to write in-depth articles? Everyone's time is short, so readers LOVE quick tips. Tips are easy to put together when you're close to deadline, also meaning you'll be more likely to stay on schedule. So if you're tight on time, publish simple monthly or weekly tips instead of detailed articles.

By Alexandria K. Brown

How to Get E-zine Subscribers From In-Person Events

While I run my business completely online, I really enjoy attending in-person events and seminars here in Los Angeles and around the country. I'm sure you find these events valuable too. The problem most of us have with networking, however, is following up with the people we meet.

An easy way to follow-up powerfully and automatically is to turn these folks into e-zine subscribers. This ensures that you'll have the chance to repeatedly teach them how great your products/services are while building their trust in you.

But how do you "capture" people in person? Remember, you can NEVER sign someone up unless they specifically ask you to be signed up - it's unethical.

So you need to encourage people you meet in person to join your list, and make it easy for them. And I have three successful strategies to share with you.

Advertise Your E-zine on Your Business Card (or Brochure)

Nothing gets passed around at a networking event more than the good old business card. But what's on the BACK of your cards?


Well, from now on you're going to use that valuable real estate. Next time you print new cards, use the flip side! Create a brief message that promotes your e-zine and gives information on how to subscribe. When someone you meet looks at your business card again when she's back at the office, she'll be much more likely to subscribe when she sees the reminder on your card.

As an example, here's what I have on the back of my new cards:

"Promote your business with an e-zine! Sign up for FREE biweekly tips at"

BONUS: This strategy also gets these people to visit your Web site, which they may not have done otherwise.

If you aren't ready to print new cards for a while, use your computer to print your message onto labels, and affix them to the backs of your cards. Cheap and easy!

Follow Up With Each Person You Meet Via E-Mail

After each event I go to, I aim to follow up with every person I met with via e-mail within three days. In that e-mail, I remind the person that she can sign up for my FREE tips at my Web site. Here's an example of a note I sent out recently:

"Dear Margaret,

It was a pleasure to chat with you at [EVENT NAME HERE] last Thursday. I'd like to learn more about your business and how we can help each other. Perhaps we can meet for coffee next week?

In the meantime, you may enjoy my FREE weekly e-zine "Straight Shooter Marketing" that gives tips on how to market yourself online. I write it for small business owners just like you! You can learn more and sign up at

Take care and let's stay in touch.

Best, Alexandria K. Brown, 'The E-zine Queen'"

Once again, this strategy also gets these people to visit your Web site, which they may not have done otherwise. (Very cool, yes?)

Are you the Speaker? Pass Around a Signup Sheet or Collect Cards

Whenever I'm the featured speaker at an event, I make sure to give the audience members an easy way to sign up for my e-zine. I either pass around a signup sheet to collect their names and e-mail addresses, OR I collect business cards when I draw a winner for a free book.

If you use the business card method, tell the audience to write an "E" for e-zine on their card - this lets you know they want to be signed up for your newsletter. Some speakers do the opposite, and tell the audience that if they do NOT want to be subscribed to their e-zine, to put a "NO" on their card, but I'm more comfortable with the former method.

Remember, Your List Is Your Goldmine!

People you meet in person will be very valuable subscribers, because they've already met you. And we're all more likely to buy from others whom we know, like, and trust.

Your in-person meeting will start that process, and your e-zine will follow-through for you, automatically!

By Alexandria K. Brown

Putting the YOU in Your E-zine

I get many e-zines in my inbox every week, and they all offer useful information. But there are some I enjoy more than others.

What do the ones I love have in common?

They feel like they come from a REAL person. These publishers put some heart-and-soul into their e-zines. They share information about themselves. And because I feel like I know them personally, I'm more likely to buy from them at some point.

I can also share with you that once I began sharing a bit about ME in my e-zine, my response rates increased dramatically. More readers wrote me back, more clicked on my links, and more bought my products and services.

So, how can YOU put more you in your e-zine? Very easily. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

What's Going on With YOU?

Quick: Think of three things going on in your life right now that you could share with your readers. Have you won an award? Were you mentioned in a national newspaper? Did you pull a hamstring doing Tae Bo? Are you teary-eyed because your daughter's wedding is right around the corner? These are all events your readers can relate to and will appreciate you sharing.

One e-zine I used to get a real chuckle out of was Dave Balch's "Big Bucks in a Bathrobe." (Unfortunately, his business has changed so he no longer publishes it.) In each issue, Dave not only shared useful information on running a profitable business, but also hysterical stories about "life on the ranch." Dave and his wife own many animals, including horses, dogs, and "the parrot that just won't die." Whenever I saw Dave's e-zine in my mailbox, I read it right away because I knew it would brighten my mood.

Reach Out for Help

Have a question you'd like answered? Why not ask your readers for help? Example: I recently began shopping around for a convertible, and I mentioned it in my e-zine a few weeks ago. To help me with my decision, I asked my readers who owned convertibles to share their experiences with me.

You wouldn't believe how many people wrote me back, telling me about their own cars, how much they love them, and what new convertibles they recommend! I was delighted with the response.

Readers also love quick polls that allow them to give you their opinion. For a fun survey mechanism, try

Give Us the Picture

Photos help your visitors and your e-zine readers feel closer to you instantly -- it's as if they know you better than before.

In one issue I mentioned to my readers that I had a new headshot taken and would love their opinion of it. Hundreds of people clicked through to see the photo, and many of them wrote me to say they thought it was great!

Unless you're ugly as a toad, a decent photo will only help your business. If you publish an HTML e-zine, put your photo in your top banner if you have room.

Also don't be afraid of sharing photos of your family, pets, business associates, etc. You'll be surprised how often your readers will click-through to see them. Example: "Click here to see me in action at my first swing dancing competition!"

Don't Be Afraid to Have Opinions

Real people have real opinions. So voice yours, and people will perk up. I've found that my readers often respond best when they're provoked and encouraged to see things in a new light.

If some don't agree with you (and some won't), their response can lead to a brand new discussion or article topic. Remember, if someone takes the time to write you back to disagree with anything you've said, be happy. It means they're actually reading your e-zine!

Where, and How Much?

A great place to put this personal information is at the beginning of your e-zine in an "editor's note" or "welcome message." This welcomes the reader with a warm greeting from you and is the perfect spot to share these positive, personal tidbits.

Once you get the hang of giving more YOU to your readers, you'll come to enjoy the art of sharing and the increased reader-interaction it brings. Just make sure that it doesn't take over your e-zine. The bulk of your content should still be your main article, list of tips, etc. Think of your personal information as the introduction that leads up to the main event!

By Alexandria K. Brown

21 Questions to Ask Any List Service Before You Sign on With Them

If you publish an e-mail newsletter, or "e-zine," you'll need to sign on with a list service (or "listserve") to manage your subscriber list. There are many types of listserves out there, so here are some guidelines to help you choose one that's right for you.

Do they use MULTI-PART MIME technology?

You'll need this if you want to publish an HTML newsletter. Otherwise you'll have to send out multiple versions for users who can read HTML, users who can't read HTML, and users on AOL.

Do they offer some type of ORIENTATION OR TUTORIAL?

If you're new to the game and/or technologically challenged then you'll appreciate any type of help they offer for new clients.

What's their CUSTOMER SERVICE like?

Are they prompt to get back to you via e-mail? Can you call them if you have a problem? Are they available more than standard business hours? What about weekends? Contact them and see how long they take to get back to you -- if it's longer than 24 hours, definitely keep looking.

Do they NOTIFY list owners if there's a PROBLEM with their service?

If so, how, and how quickly?

Do they have CUSTOMER TESTIMONIALS to share with you?

Or even better, client references? Contact some of these folks to see how their experiences have been.

Do other BUSINESSES LIKE YOURS use their service?

If most of their clients are large corporations, small businesses like yours may not get the attention they deserve.

Is their interface EASY TO USE?

Meaning is it easy for you to setup and launch each issue of your e-zine. They should offer a demo or let you access the 'mission control' area that you'll be using to test it out.

Can you MANUALLY ADD AND REMOVE people to and from your list if you want to?

Sometimes you'll need to do this, so you'll want the answer to be "yes" -- especially if you're moving over a list you've already collected.


How and how often? You'll want to know on a regular basis how many subscribes and unsubscribes you've had since the last issue.

What appears in the "FROM" field when subscribers get your e-zine?

You want it to be YOUR name if possible. Some spam filters screen out e-mail that does not appear to come from an individual person.

What appears in the "TO" field when a subscriber gets your e-zine?

You want it to be the person's name if possible. Along the same lines, some spam filters screen out e-mail that does not appear to be addressed to the individual person.

Who has ACCESS to their servers and your list?

Anytime you hand over your customer list, you're taking a risk. You don't want your service or anyone else using your list for spamming purposes.

What happens if some addresses are UNDELIVERABLE?

These are also called "bounces" or "bounce-backs." You don't want them to automatically remove names for "soft bounces," which are due to temporary conditions like full mailboxes.


Do they have to visit a Web page or can they do it via e-mail (best if both options are available). Is the process single or double opt-in? (Double is better for more security - the user has to respond to a confirmation e-mail before she's added to your list.) Is the process kept simple?

Can you customize your LIST SERVER DOCUMENTS?

This means messages like your subscriber welcome and goodbye messages. (You'll definitely want to be able to do this, since the prewritten messages many list services use are horribly cold and confusing.)


Not necessary, but a very nice feature. For example, if your e-zine came to me, it would start off with something like, "Hello Alexandria!"

How often do they BACK UP their servers?

It should be at least once every day. Also ask if you can download your lists to back them up on your own, as a backup to their backup!

Can you send a TEST MESSAGE out to yourself or another person before you send out each issue for real?

You'll definitely want this because it's the best way to see how your e-zine looks on the recipient's end, do a proofread, and check all your hyperlinks.

Can you see stats on your CLICK-THROUGH rates?

If you publish in HTML, you should be able to see how many people - and even exactly who - opens your messages.

Can they AUTOMATICALLY ARCHIVE your issues if you'd like them to?

Some services will archive your e-zines at their site, others can configure it so they're archived at your own site (which is better).

Are they currently BLOCKED anywhere on the Web?

If so, it may mean they've been reported for allowing spammers to use their network. You don't want to work with any list service that's been blocked anywhere, because it means that your e-zine won't reach all of your readers.

By Alexandria K. Brown

7 Ways to Self-Promote Within Your E-zine

We all know that an e-zine won't attract and keep subscribers without offering insightful, practical content. If you only drone on and on about how wonderful you and your services/products are, your readers won't stick around for long.

But let's think about WHY you began your e-zine in the first place. It was likely to use it as a vehicle to promote you and your services/products, right?

You have every right to toot your own horn in your e-zine, as long as you don't drown out the useful content your readers are looking for. You work hard on your e-zine, so let's make your e-zine work foryou!

Here are 7 simple ideas on how to accomplish this:

Make sure your MAIN ARTICLE always provides information that your readers will find valuable.

By having a main article as the foundation of your issue, readers will feel they got what they came for - helpful information. Try a list of top 10 tips, a "how-to" article, a list of resources, a review of a trend in the industry - that sort of thing.

So remember, if your e-zine is tonight's meal, your main article should be the entree. Any promotional info should be your side dishes!

Begin each issue with an EDITOR'S NOTE or PUBLISHER'S NOTE.

I began doing this during the fall of 2001, and have found it's the perfect place to let readers know about what's happening with me and my business, give them a taste of my personality, and announce any upcoming events or workshops. Because this is a personal message from you to them, and because it's NOT your main content, you have more leeway in being direct and self-promotional.

In your article, throw in LINKS to related articles you've written or been featured in, when appropriate.

Your readers will appreciate the additional information and resources, and it's one more chance for you to demonstrate your expertise and credibility.

Directly after your article, give a quick PROMO BLURB, mentioning your e-books, reports, or workshops, if you offer them.

Why right after the article and before anything else? If someone reads your article and says to themselves, "Gee, that was great information!" They'll be ready to hear what else you have to share on that subject.

A great lead-in for your blurb is: "Did You Like Today's Article? If you did, you'll LOVE my [e-book, report, upcoming workshop, etc.]..."

In each issue, offer a TESTIMONIAL from one of your clients or customers.

I saw another e-zine publisher doing this last year and thought, "What a great idea! She's giving her readers further reason to try her services."

I now also do this by featuring a short testimonial in each issue from someone who has bought my book and loves it.

Tell us what YOU'RE all about!

At the end of your ezine, take at least 10 lines and give a concise description of YOU and what you have to offer your readers.

For example, here's what I put at the bottom of every "E-zine Queen" newsletter:

By Alexandria K. Brown