Newsletter Subscribers Down, Open Rate Up

Social Business Bites weekly curated newsletter

This post is a bit in the way of a “what I’m doing in my kitchen” story. I’m guessing it will be of interest mainly or only to people interested in the business of email newsletters, but I know people have lots of opinions about newsletters, both for the sending and the receiving, so I am hoping for some feedback to help me do better.

But if you are not intending to read beyond here, I understand completely. 🙂

Newsletter Stats

Do you send out a newsletter and if so do you study the statistics for the number of subscribers, the number of people who open the newsletter, and so on? Do you have a strategy for making your newsletter a highly effective element of your marketing and client engagement?

Frankly I have not done well in that department, but I’m in the process of changing that.

I keep an eye on the stats, but lately I have not been studying them closely. I decided to do something about that, especially to see what changes there might have been since I changed the whole format and the name of the newsletter, from one where I mainly wrote some longer form content to a more curated content format, with the new, hopefully indicative name of Social Business Bites: see my March post, Social Business Bites Now a Reality.

So in this post I’m sharing my experience of going from being down on myself for a drop in the number of subscribers, through doing a more detailed analysis of the statistics, to being more optimistic and recognising that I’m actually better positioned than I have been for a long time to make something useful of my newsletter.

To help with some analysis. I set up a basic spreadsheet with the following columns for the data (column headings were abbreviated for the spreadsheet):

Date sent | Day of Week | Subscribers | Opens | Percentage Opens to Subscribers | Clickthroughs | Percentage Clickthroughs to Opens | Notes

The data for the columns was taken from my AWeber mailing service.

At First I Was Disappointed but Then I Bucked Up

At first glance, I was disappointed with the numbers for subscribers, “opens”, and clickthroughs.

I was particularly despondent about decline in the number of subscribers over the past six months.

Then I looked more closely, and while not exuberant about the drop in the number of subscribers, I was pleased about the overall picture that started to emerge.

Key Results

Subscriber Numbers Down

The pattern of “unsubscribes” was interesting – 9% over 6 months, but only 3% since I launched the new format Social Business Bites on March 11.

As my newsletters had been pretty infrequent up till March 4 when I started sending them on a weekly basis, and as some of my subscribers had signed up as long ago as 2004 or 2005, I had actually anticipated that more people might now unsubscribe than has actually happened as my newsletter started hitting inboxes much more frequently than previously.

And while I am keen to start building the numbers up again, they seem to have pretty well stabilised over the past three weeks, with only a 1.5% unsubscribe rate.

Open Rates and Clickthroughs Good

I’m pleased with the open rates. Percentages of opens to subscribers since I launched Social Business Bites range from 19.4% to 35.5%, with an average of 23.5% over the period (9 issues). According to a schedule of benchmark open rates published by MailChimp, that is a respectable number (just above the percentages indicated for Professional Services and Social Networks and Online Communities).

Of course I’d like it to be more, but with that benchmarked open rate giving me some comfort, I see the strategic priority now as being to promote the newsletter more and attract new subscribers, rather than worrying about getting the open rate up dramatically with existing subscribers.

People have all sorts of reasons for not opening emails.

I’m pleased also with the clickthrough rates, bearing in mind however that a lot of these will be to posts or articles I have highlighted, rather than to sites of mine. Clickthroughs to my own site, e.g. for a special offer such as I included in the most recent newsletter, are another story – and an important one.

That said, percentages of “raw” clickthrough numbers to “Opens” range from a low of 4 to a top of 39 and average 20.6% over the 9 week period covered above for opens.

Days of the Week

I’ve varied the mailing day, over the past 6 months and over the past 9 weeks with the new format and frequency, from Tuesdays through Thursdays, and so far cannot see that any one of those days looks better than another.

But so that the week doesn’t catch up with me and find me scrambling to produce the latest issue, my intention now is to use Wednesday as the day I want to send the newsletter and to do that consistently.

Strategic Implications

The main strategic implications I’m drawing from this exercise are:

  • The new newsletter format and frequency seem to be working – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems applicable
  • Time to get serious about building the subscriber list – subject for another post down the track a bit.

And It’s Fun

One of the best things about my still fairly new (9 weeks) approach to producing a newsletter is that with new curated content format I am enjoying the process and seeing the weekly production of Social Business Bites as a pleasure and a privilege, whereas I used to agonise, to the point of procrastination/inaction, over previous attempts to keep a newsletter going.

It also helps that I’m getting positive, supportive feedback on Social Business Bites content. CAn’t recall that happening with previous newsletter efforts.

Tips, Advice?

Have you ever put something off for so long that you felt you had left it too long? That was me with getting my newsletter up to speed and building a seriously sizeable mailing list. So I am feeling positive about this next stage of list building, but nervous.

Any tips or advice you would care to offer about how to succeed with the process will be welcome. Just leave a comment or if you prefer not to leave a public comment send me your message via the Contact page. No pitches please.

Des Walsh

Business coach and digital entrepreneur. With coach training from and its Graduate School of Coaching, and a founding member of the International Association of Coaching, Des has been coaching business owners and entrepreneurs for the past 20 years. Over the same period he has also been actively engaged in promoting the business opportunities of the digital economy. He is a certified Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) coach, and a certified specialist in social media strategy and affiliate marketing.

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  1. Des,

    Thanks for sharing your experience with reviving your newsletter. You’ve encouraged me to get my act together and revive mine as well.

    I was doing well when I had just one newsletter, publishing it weekly for years along with a blog. When I moved into a new industry, however, and tried to maintain two blogs and two newsletters , things fell apart and my frequency dropped until I was neglecting them all.

    Some things I did to begin to make publishing life more manageable was

    1. I gave up the idea of posting on my blog AND writing separate content for a newsletter.

    2. With one blog, I write and publish a post and use the newsletter to announce it sending folks to my blog to finish it and leave comments. The content is time-sensitive.

    3. With another of the newsletters I wrote evergreen content for 45 issues over a period of weeks and set them up as follow-ups in 7 day intervals from the day the subscriber signs up. My plan was to write a full year’s worth, but never finished that plan.

    Since I have more than one blog and newsletter, I will need to set priorities and buckle down to a plan. You’ve reminded me of the importance of tracking results so I can gauge my progress or lack thereof.

    Thanks for setting me on the road to improvement.

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