Email Marketing: Include Full Articles or Only Links?

Posted by on Sep 15 2014

It started as an innocent question on Facebook: do you prefer to get email newsletters with the full article in the email, or do you prefer to get a short description and link to read the article on the author’s website?

The response was intense on Facebook, so I sent an email to my entire list asking their preference, too. And the results are: 60.1% prefer to get the entire article in the email, and 39.9% prefer to get just a link in the email and to read the article on the author’s website.

What I decided to do…

Sometimes I write short articles (around 400 words). Those I’ll put in full in the email newsletter AND include a link for those who prefer it.

But for my longer, more sophisticated and strategic “how to” articles (like this one, which is topping out around 2,250 words), I’ll include a short blurb and a link in my email newsletter. And I’ll let you know why you’re not seeing the full article — because it’s rich and juicy and has a lot of incredibly practical content but it’s too big to put in an email.

If I include a link, I’ll tell you what you can expect to find on the other side of that link, so you can make a decision if that information is valuable to you or not.

P.S. I love you…

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of how to make this decision for your own newsletter, I want to share a heart-felt thank you to everyone who replied to my “vote now” email. Not only did you state your preference, but so many of you shared that you loved my articles. As a writer, this is what I need to hear! Writers often wonder if there’s anyone out there reading their material. 🙂

So thank you for letting me know that what I write is important to you. It means a lot to me.

But that’s just part of the story…

It was the responses where people shared their reasons for their reading preference that got my attention. Here’s what some of them said:

From those in favor of the FULL article in the email:

  • Full article in the email, Karyn. If I have to click through I will often save it for “later” and as we know, later usually doesn’t come!
  • The whole article. I like to read it on my BlackBerry and don’t have a good web connection (or unlimited data), so it allows me to read it wherever I am.
  • I prefer newsletters to be in full in an email with a link to the website if I prefer. This is so I can go to an internet café with my laptop or hook it up with my cell phone regularly download your emails and then read them when I have the time and environment to digest (like on a plane).
  • Full article in the email. Less clicking, plus I usually read these kinds of things on my phone, which is sometimes slow loading web pages — so I often don’t click.
  • I like to have the entire article in the newsletter but don’t want to necessarily see the whole thing until I’m ready.  I like to scan all the headlines then go back & read the articles that interest me.  Going to another window or website makes me lose track of what I was doing in the first place…oh yeah–checking my email!
  • I prefer the full article because seeing it all at once saves me from having to click.
  • I would prefer the full article. It takes extra time on my phone to pull up a link so alot times I don’t bother.
  • Full letter in the email – otherwise I get distracted and don’t read it.
  • I prefer the whole article. Sometimes links do not work.
  • I rarely click through on newsletters…. If it is important enough to get to my inbox, it must contain what I need or I will unsubscribe usually.
  • Have to admit to a small preference to have the whole thing right there – easier to copy snippets that I like and want to keep to think longer about.
  • Full – because of the potential for viruses
  • I prefer getting the full article so I can read on the go, forward to Evernote for future reference, or share via email. I also like having the link to the full article so I can quickly share via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Full article in email with web-link for sharing!
  • I like the convenience of reading them in my emails. It also lets me keep your articles as a reference or reminder too!
  • I prefer the full article.  Many, many times I don’t follow the link to complete the article, but there are very few that I don’t complete when it is in the email.

From those in favor of a LINK in the email:

  • I like a short blurb with a link. I’d rather see snatches of all the articles offered and then choose which to pursue.
  • I like either method.  However going to your website allows for more variety and innovation.
  • I prefer a link personally. That way I can add it to my reading list to read and share later.
  • I prefer the link method. That way I can save it in your file in Evernote for later reference. I don’t always read them right away, and Evernote is easier for me to organize than my email. Thank you for asking.
  • I like a link as long as the link sends me directly to the article and I don’t have to hunt for it once I arrive on another page. If it’s hard to find the article, I’ll simply click off.
  • Teaser with link would be my preference because I like to share great articles on Twitter.
  • A link to your website because then I can look around and see what else you are up to! 😉
  • I prefer the link. If I’m trying to quickly clear the more than 70-100 emails in my inbox every morning, I typically delete all but the shortest ones. With a link, I can put your newsletters into my “To Read” folder on my desktop.
  • My preference is shorted article with the link to the full but that can also depend on how many articles and how long the articles are.  I scan all newsletters first then decide what I want to read.  Like in the newspapers, the headline is most important, then the first two paragraphs.  If they grabbed me, I always hit the hyperlinked “more” and view the entire article.

In favor of both ways:

  • It makes no difference to me. I guess it depends on how mobile friendly your site is for those who only access the internet via mobile.
  • I prefer to receive both. If it is a interesting small article I like to finish it while reading email. If it is longer I like to save the link for later reading.
  • Can Both be an answer? There are times where its very easy to just read it in gmail, and other times where I have other email that I have to get to, but it’s nice to be able to just click a link and save it in pocket or instapaper.
  • My preference is the whole article in the email. I wanna get the goods ASAP and without a lot of clicking and waiting for a website to load. If there’s a link within the email that gives me extra info related to the topic then I don’t mind clicking through to go deeper.
  • If there’s just one article in the newsletter, I prefer the full text. If there are multiple articles, I prefer blurbs and links.
  • Honestly Karyn, because I value your content, I don’t mind having to click to read the link. Most of the time, I prefer the content to all be right in front of me.
  • If it’s just one article, I like reading within the newsletter, but if you have more than one section, I’m ok with excerpts and links.
  • Whichever prints easier.  I sometimes like to print the article to read it while relaxing.  Otherwise, either way is fine.

So how do you serve both types of readers? 10 things to consider…

As an email newsletter publisher, I needed to make a strategic decision that both served my audience and served my business needs. Here’s how to think through this decision:

  1. You may not be able to please everyone — While I decided to post full articles under 400 words, and post excerpts with a link for longer articles, that may not make everyone happy. I think you have to do your best, and if people find your content helpful, practical, inspiring — and if they connect with you, then they’ll read what you write.
  2. If engagement is important — One of the ways that Google decides if you should have high rankings on search results is whether your content has engagement: comments, shares and likes. If good SEO is important to you, put LINKS in your email newsletter, and at the bottom of your blog posts, encourage discussion and sharing.
  3. If site traffic is important — Another way Google decides if your site is rank-worthy is by how much traffic you get to your site. Also, if you’re trying to get a book published with a big publishing house, or trying to get hired for keynote speeches, these folks want to know if you have a platform and an audience. So if site traffic is important to you, put LINKS in your email newsletter.
  4. If sharing of your article is important — I did a test last year, putting the FULL article in the email newsletter and including “share this” buttons in email newsletters where people could then share the article on Facebook, Twitter, etc., to see how many people actually shared the content. Then I did the opposite: put the excerpt and a LINK in the newsletter and put the “share this” buttons on the website blog post. FIVE TIMES the number of people shared it via my website than via my newsletter.
  5. If having your readers actually read your article is important — Just reading through the comments above tells the story. People are busy, distracted and time-constrained. If you want them to read the article, put it in FULL in the email.
  6. If you include multiple articles in your email newsletter — I got a lot of comments from people saying that they prefer LINKS when there is more than one article in the email newsletter.
  7. If your article is very long — Some email systems won’t deliver long emails (they might think they’re spam). Some mobile devices have a limit of what they’ll display in an email. So if your article is over 400-500 words, consider providing a LINK in the email. (And tell them why you are using a link: because the article is long and contains an in-depth discussion of the topic.)
  8. If your article is short — Include the FULL article. People love it. 🙂
  9. If your article includes phrases that might trigger a spam filter — Sometimes as marketers and writers, we actually are talking about ways to grow a business, selling Rolex watches, or talking about losing weight. But using certain phrases might trigger a spam filter, even if they’re a legitimate part of your article. If you have been dinged in the past by spam filters for phrases like this, use a LINK in your email and avoid using those phrases in the excerpt you provide with the link.
  10. If your readers typically read on a mobile device — Let’s face it, reading long articles from small screens can be tough. Do you know if your email newsletter is mobile-friendly, with large fonts and a good layout? Also, some people prefer to download their email and then read it on the go, and if they don’t have internet connection when they read your newsletter, they won’t be able to click through to your article In this case, include the FULL article. If you are going to provide them a LINK and have them click through from the email newsletter to your website, make sure your website is mobile-friendly.

When you send your email newsletter, test it…

 I have been publishing my email newsletter for over 10 years. And every single time we do a test run first, sending it to all of our own email addresses in all of the major email services and software: Outlook, Windows Live Mail, Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook.com, Mac Mail, iPad email, etc.  We look at the email in the full screen version and the “preview” pane for all these email readers.

This way we know two things: the email is formatted properly for easy reading on any email reader, and all the links work. It’s just plain embarrassing to have to send a follow-up “Oops, wrong link” email to your readers.

And remember to also test it in the major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.) because some browsers may render your email newsletter differently than others.

Do the obvious…ask your audience!

Just because my audience is split 60/40 on this topic doesn’t mean yours will be. Send out a simple email asking them about their preferences, and tally the results for yourself.

Was this article helpful?

I’d love to hear from you! What are you thinking about regarding your own email marketing?

And, yes, I’d love it if you share this article with your audience. 🙂

   

13 comments for now

13 Responses to “Email Marketing: Include Full Articles or Only Links?”

  1. PacawNo Gravatar

    All I can say is “Wow!” I so, so, so appreciate what you do and the detailed way you helped me with thinking about this.

    (And I do read and love your email newsletters and blog. Keep sending all the goodies!)

    18 Nov 2013 at 9:19 pm

  2. Mary StenoraNo Gravatar

    This is REALLY GREAT information. It is a lot to digest. I think I’ll have to print it out and read it several times. Thank you!

    18 Nov 2013 at 9:22 pm

  3. SandraNo Gravatar

    Karyn,

    It was fun to see what you did with the questions from Facebook. You made the best choice for us all.

    18 Nov 2013 at 9:31 pm

  4. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    I first asked on Facebook, Sandra, and when I saw how interested people were in the topic, I sent the same question out to my entire mailing list. I found that there was no simple, easy answer…so the ultimate consulting comment (“It all depends.”) applies to this, too. 🙂

    18 Nov 2013 at 9:36 pm

  5. Diana SchneidmanNo Gravatar

    Karyn,

    This is fantastic data!

    I like how you resolved the issue—one method for shorter articles and the other for longer.

    And your explanation of the reasons is super!

    -d

    19 Nov 2013 at 3:41 pm

  6. MichelleNo Gravatar

    What great information! Thank you for taking the time to send and follow-up. Your articles are extremely helpful and thank you for giving so graciously. Keep them coming Karyn, I appreciate them!

    19 Nov 2013 at 4:36 pm

  7. ShannonNo Gravatar

    Karyn!

    Well done. I voted, and as a copywriter your readers, on both sides, brought up very valid points. Good for you for first crowdsourcing and giving your readers a voice, and second turning it into a blog post so others could learn through you.

    19 Nov 2013 at 6:17 pm

  8. Stephanie LH Calahan (@StephCalahan)No Gravatar

    Awesome research results Karyn. Love that you shared the detailed comments you received too. You’ve given me a lot to think about and I appreciate you sharing the results. Will be sharing.

    19 Nov 2013 at 6:22 pm

  9. Gladys StricklandNo Gravatar

    Karyn – thank you so much for this information. I do a weekly newsletter for a client, and we just discussed this! Your information and suggestions will be great “food for thought” as we begin planning 2014.

    19 Nov 2013 at 7:11 pm

  10. Paul CoutureNo Gravatar

    Karyn,
    I really appreciate your explanation of not only what decisions you made based on the feedback, but why you came to the conclusions you did.
    Thank you for publishing the preferences of the responders. It helped me look at this issue from other people’s point of view. Sometimes I think my view point to be the most important.

    20 Nov 2013 at 2:59 pm

  11. Helga MatzkoNo Gravatar

    Thank you for this wealth of information, Karyn. You are an incredible miracle worker having a GOOD, CARING, answer for everyone regardless of personal preferences.
    That ultimately you will proceed and you have planned out (in response to clients’ perspectives), is just another and welcome approach in a successful attempt to please all of us.

    Karyn, you are a once in a lifetime individual, a true and caring miracle worker. Love you and God bless. Helga

    20 Nov 2013 at 3:28 pm

  12. Cena Block from SaneSpaces.comNo Gravatar

    As usual Karyn… you knock it out of the ball park. Thank you for your grounded, sensible approach to just about everything. I appreciate you and LOVE that you actually do research in a day when so much is so lightly attended to….

    20 Nov 2013 at 5:35 pm

  13. Jason RosadoNo Gravatar

    Karyn, this is a great resource, and I love your analysis and conclusions based on the feedback you received in your survey.

    I have often had this same question bounce around my mind about my own newsletter articles that I send to my list.

    Thank you!
    Jason

    Jason E. Rosado
    Business Growth Coach
    Distinctive Coaching for Business Success
    http://www.DistinctiveCoaching.com

    21 Nov 2013 at 3:58 pm



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