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Financial e-newsletters, kill your annoying, weak clickbait!

Some financial e-newsletters drive me crazy. I click to open them and find nothing there. Well, not nothing, but just enough to annoy the heck out of me.

If you’re doing what these newsletters do, please stop.

The most annoying habit of financial e-newsletters that I actually open

If I actually open a financial e-newsletter, I expect it to have some content. The body of the newsletter shouldn’t simply consists of links leading elsewhere.

Below is an example of a newsletter that failed the test. The first two blacked-out lines are the title of a blog post formatted as a clickable link. I’m concealing the firm’s identity because I assume this is an innocent mistake on their part. It’s the kind of thing that happens when non-professional writers create content.

annoying financial e-newsletters: an example

This is the only text that appeared in the main body of a financial e-newsletter that I received.

 

I think that the e-newsletter senders hoped that their links would serve as clickbait—provocative content that drives readers to a web page. However, the title of a blog post written by financial professional rarely has the flair to do that.

The senders could have achieved better results by adding a brief summary or introduction to their article on MarketWatch. That would have let me assess whether their topic interested me.

I understand that the authors probably are limited in how much they can copy from their MarketWatch article. However, that shouldn’t prevent them from writing teaser copy or saying “If you’re a ___ type of investor, this article can help you to ____.”

The second offense by this financial e-newsletter

clickbaitWhen I clicked on the two blacked-out lines, which are clearly meant to be clickable links, they took me to a post on the company’s blog. The content on the page? Exactly what you see in the image above.

Oops! I had to click again to reach the article on MarketWatch. What casual reader is going to take all of these steps with so little indication in the e-newsletter of what benefit they’ll gain from their clicks?

I understand that people want to drive traffic to their websites. But balance that against the risk that along the way you’ll annoy and lose readers for your financial e-newsletters.

I think the newsletter senders in this case should have linked directly to their post on MarketWatch. They would have avoided annoying me by sending me to their blog post that didn’t add anything new. Also, even without the link to their website, they would have learned whether their title was strong enough to interest me. Most newsletter programs allow you to measure your readers’ click. Although their measurements aren’t 100 percent accurate, they’ll tell you if one title attracts more readers than another.

Mistakes by other financial e-newsletters

What else do financial e-newsletters do to annoy or drive away readers? They:

  1. Add people to their newsletter distribution lists without asking permission, as I’ve discussed in “no, No, NO: My business card shouldn’t add me to your e-newsletter list” and “Our LinkedIn connection isn’t an invitation to spam.”
  2. Use weak subject lines in their emails. For an analysis of a weak title and how to spice it up, read “Stop! Get a better title, or forget winning readers.”
  3. Send newsletters that aren’t mobile-friendly. Today people are often read emails on their phones and other mobile devices that fail to display traditional e-newsletter formats effectively. For tips on how to be mobile-friendly, see “3 ways to make your emails mobile-friendly.”

They may also suffer from “4 reasons your emails don’t get results.”

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Help your readers by linking to definitions

Using words that your audience doesn’t understand can cut your readership. That’s why I recommend using plain language or defining terms by writing parenthetically. But what if 95% of your readers prefer terms like “quantitative easing” and “duration,” but you want to accommodate the remaining 5%?

Link to online definitions, but cautiously

Glossaries can help you cater to a small number of less sophisticated readers. You can link from technical terms to their definitions. This works well in online content, such as websites, blogs, and even in PDFs that are read online. In printed documents, you can refer to a glossary at the back of the piece or at an easy-to-type online address. However, be aware that it takes a very motivated reader to click, read the definition, and then return to your document. I’d only use this technique when less sophisticated readers are a small minority.

You can find good definitions online, with glossaries such as Investing in Bonds, the Morningstar Investment Glossary, or the NASDAQ Glossary of Stock Market Terms. You can also do a Google search, typing “Define: Term.”

Don’t blindly accept any definition you find. Read the definition carefully to see if you agree with it.

Create your own glossary

Another approach is to create your own glossary that lives on your website. This may be the only solution if you have concerns about linking to third-party websites. Your compliance professionals may worry about seeming to endorse someone else’s website or being vulnerable to changes that occur in the content after you post your link. Plus, what happens if that page disappears? Broken links disappoint your readers and damage your credibility. Creating your own glossary gives you control over the definition and your readers’ access to it.

Another potential advantage: You can cross-link from your glossary definition to other relevant content. This could increase readers’ engagement with your website.

 

Image courtesy of  arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Updated 7/15/21