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You look for clues as to whether your newsletter is landing well, engaging people, right? But how many of the clues you look at are unambiguous?


You get feedback on your newsletter when people “reply” to it and let you know what they think, yes? If that happens to you a lot, I’d guess you’re in pretty good shape, because I only ever reply-to when I love something in the newsletter.

You also get feedback of a sort when people unsubscribe, because that lets you know you haven’t been interesting to that person for a while. That might be good feedback because, unless it happens to you a lot, it might just be people who have been getting too many newsletters in their inbox and their interest in yours might not have been strong anyway. It is at least clear. They’re gone.

But the unsubscribes don’t tell the whole story of loss of engagement.

There are people who don’t even open your newsletter. What does this mean? They manually sent it to the trash without opening it? They set up a filter to send it to the trash? They manually or via a filter sent it to spam? (gah). Maybe it ended up in their spam folder because other people have been sending your newsletter to spam? (double-gah). Perhaps it’s the least dire scenario most of the time—your subscriber did not have time to open every newsletter that flooded their inbox this morning and trashed as many as she could without opening them. But who knows.

Next piece of ambiguous feedback from the data: people who open your newsletter one time only. It could be that they read it and filed it away after they enjoyed it. Could be.

Or it could be that they opened it in that automatic way that your email opens the next email after the last one you dealt with and they filed it or trashed it without reading it.

It could even be that your subscriber deliberately opened your newsletter because you know them and they don’t want you to see, when you check the opens, that they didn’t open your newsletter. I’ve done this, so I promise you it happens

And then there are the people who open your newsletter multiple times. These, in my experience are the people who are really paying attention—and showing some real interest in what you’ve written or offered. People who want to interact with you or who really like what you’ve written usually open your newsletter at least a few times.

How good would it be if all your subscribers read your newsletter every time you sent one and they enjoyed it so much they read it more than once?


How much does it matter whether everyone on your list loves your newsletter so much that they open it every time and read it? Is it possible to hope for this kind of engagement?

I’d say yes. There are newsletters I receive that include information about events I cannot attend but where the writer always includes a preamble that is illuminating, stimulating, nourishing—and I read these every time. Some newsletters are all ideas—and as long as these are cohesively written and don’t start to sound the same every time, I read these too. I really like a newsletter that feeds me with ideas the very minute I open it. Sometimes I follow someone’s work for a long time without ever interacting with them directly—but because they’re really interesting, I read their newsletters.

And what’s the value of that to you?


Apart from the fact that you’re a person of vision who’s not just writing to make income, it’s really valuable. Because as long as I stay interested in your writing, you maintain “awesome” status in my mind and I will think of you and forward your newsletter to people from time to time—possibly bringing you more subscribers and followers who are interested in your work.

So how good is your newsletter at getting and keeping very high engagement with a very large group of people over a very long period of time?

If you have a list that is growing and your multiple-opens rate is high and your unsubscribe rate is low, you are probably doing well. If you get a lot of people replying to your newsletter because of the impact you’ve made on them or a lot of people signing up for something you’ve offered, so much the better.

Anything less than this and you’d do well to rethink your newsletters.


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Author: Rohesia Hamilton Metcalfe
I design websites and write about things people might like to know about websites and digital marketing.

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