The Most Important Part of Your Newsletter Isn’t In Your Newsletter

Katherine Raz is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub. She is the digital marketing manager at Mightybytes, a Chicago-based web design firm helping nonprofits and conscious companies create awesome digital experiences.


The most important element of your email newsletter isn’t part of your newsletter at all, it’s the places you send people after they click.

Nonprofits spend a lot of time thinking about the content and design of their emails, but not enough time thinking about the landing page destinations users arrive at once they take a desired action from your email.

Landing pages are a huge part of the experience of receiving and interacting with an email, but unfortunately, they’re not a built-in part of the experience of creating one. Think about it: we obsessively check a newsletter’s spelling, images, dates and links, but we rarely check the content and experience on our landing pages because that’s not something we can do from within our email marketing platforms.

We create newsletters as if our goal is to get users to a page, but getting them to a destination URL is only half the job. The most important part of the email process is the landing page, because this is where conversions happen.

With each email we send we should be thinking: what are we trying to get our recipients to do, and how does that experience work for them? We need to change our approach to email by measuring success beyond the inbox. But how do we do this?

Define What Success Is (and Measure It)

Think carefully about the purpose of each email. How will you tell whether or not it’s effective? We all have the habit of checking stats after we send an email, but pie charts and line graphs don’t give us a full picture of how our email actually performed beyond how many opens and clicks it received.

Before you send an email, ask, “What do we want our recipients to do with this?”

Some examples of desired actions for nonprofits might be:

  • We want them to buy tickets to the gala
  • We want them to support a participant by making a donation
  • We want them to read the president’s update
  • We want them to take a survey
  • We want them to vote for us

For each desired action, assign a metric. For example:

  • We want them to buy tickets to the gala


  • We want them to support a participant by making a donation

Measure clicks to the ticket purchase or donation landing page, then measure the number of transactions (not number of tickets sold or donation amount) that can be attributed to the email sent (you can do this with tracking data or simply assume based on the time period).

Another example:

  • We want them to read the president’s update

Measure clicks to the blog post, then drill down to average time on the page for that post on the day the email was sent. This will help you determine how many people read the post and for how long.

Over time, you can track these metrics against one another. Which blog post had the most clicks and longest average time on page? What email resulted in the most ticket sales? Use these metrics as your benchmarks.

Test How Landing Pages Look and Function, Especially on Mobile

Don’t just test links, test external experiences—especially for mobile devices, since more than 50 percent of your recipients are probably opening your email on their phones. Are your landing pages mobile-optimized? Does every step of your conversion process work on a mobile phone? Even if you don’t own the process—if, for example, you’re sending people to a third-party ticket or donation app—check to make sure it’s working.

Trust and Security

If you’re asking people to use their credit cards, check to make sure your landing pages are secure and trustworthy. Phishing is still a major concern for email recipients, even though it may not be something you’re thinking about when constructing your email.

In addition to page security, take a close look at the language on your landing pages. Are the instructions clear? Is the name of the organization clearly stated on the landing page? Are there misspellings?

Smooth Transition from Email to Landing Page

Look at your landing pages as “step 2” in a process that starts with email rather than as stand-alone pages that are usually accessible via the web. If someone is clicking through to this page based on a call-to-action in an email, their experience is different from someone coming in from the web. So for instance, you should disable pop-ups for email click-throughs.

If you’re sending people to a donation page from an email, make sure you’re sending them directly to a form, not another landing page with a donate button. This is especially important for mobile users who won’t want to navigate through several steps before providing information.

Think like a UXer, Not a Marketer

Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes: where are they and what are they doing when they get your email? How easy will it be for them to do the thing you’re asking them to do? Your email may be mobile-optimized, but there’s more going on in a recipient’s environment than holding a phone or sitting at a desk looking at a computer. Your landing pages, and what you’re asking a user to do, should take into consideration the whole environmental picture.

When is the best time to send email when you want users to buy something? Check your website stats to see when the highest number of transactions usually occurs. Take an informal survey of your potential email recipients to find out where or when they are most likely to make a financial transaction based on an email.

Or, Just Think Like a Growth Hacker

Growth hackers are obsessed with landing page optimization and conversion rates. If you really want to take your email to the next level, throw some of the conventional rules of email marketing out the window and think creatively about how to use email as a tool to achieve the highest number of conversions. This means creating targeted messages that are ridiculously easy for people to follow through on.

Can we simplify the experience by filling out fields prior to clicking? Can we use a third-party app that stores credit card information for future donations? Can we segment our list and create landing pages with really direct messages to specific types of donors?

Always Be Testing

No one else is marketing your unique mission to the list you’ve built, so as with any marketing effort, email marketing is an experiment. Your goal is to find out what works well for your audience. Landing pages are an important part of the email marketing picture, and the great thing about them: they can easily be changed and manipulated to measure what content resonates best with your audience.

Make assumptions, test content and track your metrics to figure out what destination URLs achieve the highest levels of engagement with your marketing list.


Katherine Raz

August 19, 2015

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