How to Craft Engaging Email Marketing Campaigns for WordPress

How to Craft Engaging Email Marketing Campaigns for WordPress

No one wants to read your boring email newsletter. According to Marketo, the average user is exposed to 2,900 media messages every day, but will pay attention to only 52 and will remember just four. Those are daunting numbers, not to mention a helluva lot of competition.

When it comes to email marketing, the idea is simple: you need to create content that inspires people to do something. But in practice, coming up with that content can be hard.

So how can you make sure your messages are one of the four that people actually remember? Below are the top seven email blunders businesses are making and how to fix them.

Size Matters

We’re talking the length of your paragraphs, copy, and emails in general matters. According to marketer and New York Times bestseller Jeff Walker in his book Launch, you should try to keep your newsletters fairly short and precise.

Short email example
It may not look like much, but shorter emails often get the most attention.

Between five and 10 paragraphs is usually more than enough. Your paragraphs should also be concise and between one and four sentences. If your emails are even shorter, that’s okay.

The longer your emails are, the less likely it will be that subscribers will actually read your emails through to the end. Many people just glance through to get the gist of what you’re saying. In fact, it helps to highlight your most important information and call to action after you sign your name using a postscript.

For example, writing something like this can help your readers stay on track to achieve your overall goal:

“P.S. You’re not going to want to miss my new free video series 22 Tools for Mastering Your Email Newsletter. It includes the tips I’ve used to make my first million dollars.”

Of course, what you write should be tailored to your business and in this case, should include a link in the title that directs readers to the free video series.

I have received many email newsletters that are several pages long when printed on paper. They include the sender’s latest blog post, a blog post-sized case study, an update on the sender’s whereabouts, and, finally, a pitch for their latest product or service. I don’t think I’ve read through a single one of those emails and most people won’t.

The same applies to blog posts and articles. Jeff Chandler of WP Tavern admitted in episode 191 of his WPWeekly podcast that he doesn’t read through articles thoroughly. He’s not alone. According to a study done by Medium, the ideal length of a post is 7 minutes or 1,600 words.

It might help not to focus on hitting a specific word count, but rather on being clear and concise. Your paragraphs should still be between one and four sentences and be sure not to repeat yourself or over-explain a single point.

You don’t have to keep your emails and copy as short as your subject line, but they shouldn’t be a novel, either. Think quality over quantity.

Offer Real Value

In his book Launch, Jeff Walker also stresses the importance of offering real value to your readers. This means handing over bits of information that will change your reader’s life for the better as they relate to your business or product.

You don’t need to give away the farm and it doesn’t have to be a huge transformation, but it does need to be noticeable to your readers. They need to be able to easily apply your tips and see direct results.

Example post with value
Your posts and emails should help your visitors solve a problem. This is where the value is that you can offer.

For example, if you sell plugins, one of your newsletters or posts could outline a tip to unlock a helpful feature in one of your plugins that usually goes unnoticed. The more this tip benefits your users, the better.

Coupons and discounts aren’t the answer, either. It’s okay to offer them from time to time, but unless you’re a discount retailer, a grocery store or your business otherwise warrants it, every email you send shouldn’t contain a coupon.

You may be wondering why discounts aren’t a hallmark of true value when it saves your subscribers real money. It’s because coupons don’t convince your subscribers that your products or services are worth their hard-earned money.

On the other hand, if you can demonstrate how one single aspect of your business can be hugely helpful to your readers by allowing them to sample it, they can see first hand how much value your business holds for them.

Offering some tips relating to your business that also aid in creating a small transformation for your subscribers is how you can position your business as being valuable.

Don’t be Selfish – Talk About Your Reader, Not You

Another consideration that will help you offer more value to your subscribers is to create an emotional connection with them. By talking about your subscribers and their problems, rather than about you and what you can offer them, you can demonstrate that you care about them and their results.

It’s certainly important to present yourself as an expert in your field and talk yourself up so your newsletters hold more weight to them, but there’s a time and a place for that. Most of the time, your emails are not that place.

Instead, meet your reader where they are and address the problem that they have and offer a solution. If they have subscribed to your newsletter, it’s because they think you can help them solve a problem whether it’s adding more functionality to their WordPress site to increase sales or making them feel like they are helping a good cause when they make a donation.

If you speak to that and write to help them solve a piece of the puzzle, you can earn engaged readers that hang on your every word. Sounds great, but how can you do this exactly?

First, you need to identify the problem you can solve for your readers.

If you can solve one of their basic needs, you have a recipe for engaged users. Surprisingly, most products and services can fit into a person’s basic needs.

If you’re not sure what that is for your business, this concept is explained in detail in one of our other posts: The Simple Psychology That Will Increase Your WordPress Site Conversions by 110%.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Maslow’s hierarchy shows a human being’s basic needs. The problem your business can solve should fall into one of these categories.

Once you have figured that out, you start working on improving your email newsletters. Be sure to use simple language because it’s easier and quicker to read and helps solidify the idea that you are just like them so they can trust and relate to you.

Next, validate their needs. Karyn Hall Ph.D. explains how to do this in her article on Psychology Today. It can be difficult to do this from afar, but the key is to summarize the experience your target audience is having in a genuine way.

One of the best ways to do this is to also mention you have a deep understanding because you have also been there, followed by a short anecdote.

Another great way to show validation is by trying to guess what your target audience might be feeling and thinking based on your similar experience. With this knowledge, you can further validate your readers by writing that you understand and accept their situation and how they might be feeling.

If you can genuinely write that it’s okay to be experiencing what they are currently going through, all the better, but this only works if you sound like a real person. Otherwise, it comes across as sarcastic and impersonal.

Finally, offer them a solution, just like what was covered in the last point. Offer some tips, and eventually, your products or services.

Capturing Their Imagination

It also helps if your subject line or title and the introduction grabs your reader’s imagination. If you can do this, you can also grab their attention.

You can learn how to write slam dunk titles by testing them out in our post How To Improve The Effectiveness Of Your WordPress Post Titles.

According to user experience researchers at Neilsen Norman Group in their article How Little Do Users Read?:

“On the average web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.”

If you want your introduction to keep readers interested after reading the title, try including the same principles best-selling novel writers use. Use a hook to keep readers at the edge of their seats. George Brown College has some great tips in its educational resource Hooks and Attention Grabbers.

How Frequent is Too Frequent?

As Nir Eyal MBA explains in his book Hooked, posting as frequently as possible is the key to habit-forming products, services and businesses. If you’re able to create an emotional connection with your readers, offer real value, and provide solutions to their problems, then posting frequently absolutely works.

If you fall short in any one of these areas, posting frequently could lead to your subscribers ignoring you, rather than clinging to your every word. In case you missed it, read all the suggestions above to help you correct these problems.

Design is Everything

Firstly, it’s important to follow all the anti-spam laws currently in place. If you’re not familiar with them, your emails could be hitting your subscribers’ spam boxes rather than their inboxes. The FTC has a great post on the CAN-SPAM Act that details how to comply with US regulations and avoid the spam mail boxes.

Email footer example
It’s important to ensure your mailing address and unsubscribe link are visible in your email newsletters.

If you’re sending emails, too many images and links can actually get your emails marked as spam, but on the flip side, blog posts rich in images help boost reader engagement. The trick is to learn how to balance the two.

A simple way to do this is to display an excerpt of your blog posts in your newsletters with a link for readers to click on to view the rest of the post on your site with images and all. You could also introduce and post the title as a link, then offer a more customized message that hits all the points covered above.

It’s also important to choose images that are consistent with your business and your brand. Canva, an easy image creation tool, posted a great article on how to do this called The Art of a Consistent Brand Image.

Above all, the design of your site and your newsletters should be simple, uncluttered, and easy to use. This is where A/B testing comes in handy. If you would like to conduct your own tests, check out our own A/B Theme Testing plugin.

You can also use heat maps to actively see where your users spend most of their time on your site and where your theme falls short. Check out our post How We Are Using Crazy Egg to Radically Improve Our Product Pages to find out how you can do this for your own site.

Start a Conversation

You can’t just post endless links to your articles, though, whether it’s in your emails or social media. Best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuk explains it best in his book The Thank You Economy and his article What Social Media “Experts” Are Doing Wrong.

It’s crucial to engage with your audience and one of the best ways to do that is to strike up a genuine conversation in social media.

Another great way to do this is by making sure you have a comments area in all your posts that’s easy for your target audience to use. It’s also a great idea to invite your readers to comment at the end of your posts. Check out our post covering the best WordPress comment plugins available.

All it takes is a sentence or two to ask what your readers think about the ideas in your post. Better yet, ask them a question they may not be able to refuse to answer. Make it as enticing as your post titles.

Creating Your Newsletter in WordPress

To learn about using newsletter plugins in WordPress and how they stack up, check out this post: Best WordPress Email Marketing Plugins.


We’ve looked at and determined the ways you can fall short when it comes to engaging your audience and we also covered how to fix those mistakes. Now it’s your turn to turn your emails and copy into an engaging, converting machine that keeps your audience wanting more.

Finding the perfect theme that hits all the points that were covered can also be difficult. If you’re on the hunt for a new theme, check out our post: 25+ Powerful WordPress Themes Designed to Grow Your Email List. And, remember to choose a reliable hosting email provider too!

Image credit: FireflySixtySeven.

What do you think? Are there tips that blow all these out of the water? Let me know and share your experience in the comments below.

Jenni McKinnon

Jenni McKinnon Jenni has spent over 15 years developing websites and almost as long for WordPress as a copywriter, copy editor, web developer, and course instructor. A self-described WordPress nerd, she enjoys watching The Simpsons and names her test sites after references from the show.