June 12, 2006

The Highest Performing Email Newsletter Ad in History

Anne Holland, the President of MarketingSherpa.com recently wrote about "The Highest Performing Email Newsletter Ad in History." The format of the email newsletter resembled a blog or an online magazine. The ad was identified by a header reading "Advertisement" but was formatted to resemble body copy. Here are the important elements that Anne pulled from reviewing this ad:
The best-pulling ad of all time:

Kristin says the ad with the best click through rate of all time for the newsletter ran in their May 2006 issue. (You can see a copy of it in the Creative Samples link at the end of the Case Study below.) I spotted four elements that probably helped clicks soar:

1. Preview pane "hotspot" --
The ad is placed immediately above the first story of the newsletter edition. So, it's where the readers' eyes naturally go when they are looking for "real" content.

2. Text-only --
The ad is nothing more than copy, set in the same size and style as articles appearing immediately below it.

3. Wording --
The ad is very clearly an ad because it's labeled as such in the headline. However, without that label you might not guess it's an ad at all. The copy is styled to read as though it's just like one of the article summaries directly below it. The first two words are "Business Tip" ... and the name of the newsletter is "Business Tips Newsletter." That kind of customized copy must pack a wallop.

4. Link at the end of the paragraph, not in middle.
The hotlink to click to respond to the ad is at the very end -- not the middle or the start. This has two advantages - first it looks more like a story summary that also feature a link at the end. Plus, it is easier for humans to click on links that are next to white space, rather than buried within text.
This kind of ad placement seems like a slam dunk for blogs. Savy advertisers could easily create ads that felt like blog copy. The ads could even be formatted to resemble a blog entry, with a linked headline, body copy, and "continue reading" link at the bottom. All links would lead to the ad's landing page.

Such an ad might pull clicks extremely well. However, it would hurt the reader's trust in the blog and ultimately drive down the blog's readership.

Some sites, like engadget.com, put text ads on a yellow background. I am sure the ads get fewer clicks, but it helps preserve the site's editorial integrity.

Advertising on blogs is a constant struggle to preserve editorial integrity and reader trust while creating clicks from readers who legitimately want to know more about the ad. Lessons like the ones described by Anne Holand may be appropriate for an e-newsletter, which has an overtly commercial purpose, but may not be appropriate for a blog whose purpose is more editorial. Posted by georgegmacdonald at June 12, 2006 12:31 PM