Time to Kill off the PDF Newsletter

death-pdf-newsletterWe’ve had a number of clients over the years who have communicated with their customers by attaching or linking a PDF in an email and sending it out to all and sundry.  Their justifications generally include; We’ve always done it that way, it makes it easier for them to print out, it’s easy to create in Word etc etc.  There’s a number of reasons that this is a bad idea but also advantages to killing off this practice.  Here’s just a few

They look terrible on a Smart Phone

Remember a lot of your customers are getting email on mobile devices.  The chances of them scrolling around to read a PDF are pretty slim.

They create large file sizes

A PDF of printable quality with images and styling can easily become several megabytes.  Once again, bad for mobile devices but also can get bounced by email servers for being too large.  They can also take ages to download, not a great experience for your users.  Your newsletter probably isn’t getting printed out anyway.

You don’t know how many people are opening your email and reading the PDF

There’s no easy way to understand the effectiveness of your emails.  Which are being read, which are being ignored and which sections are effective.

If you keep your current and previous PDF newsletters on your web site they are bad for SEO

Wait, I hear you say but PDF’s are indexed by Google.  That’s true but they are generally not structured with the correct tags such as headings, image tags, titles and descriptions.  The same information structured correctly as a web page will provide search engines with a better understanding of your content and new opportunities for rankings.

They are bad for conversions and taking action

Someone who opens a PDF doesn’t have a good opportunity to take action easily or visit other parts of your web site.  Calls to action in a PDF newsletter will often get put in the bottomless pit of “I’ll get around to that” as opposed to the immediacy of there and then.

So, is there a better way?

Email is still an effective marketing channel and using it along with other digital marketing channels can provide another source of leads and sales.

Modern email marketing systems such as Mailchimp offer easy to use tools for creating, measuring and managing email campaigns.  With these mailchimp-1systems you can create stylised emails suitable for a range of devices and screen sizes, manage your subscribers, understand open rates, click through rates and popular content.  Automate processes such as a follow up from a purchase or a birthday email.  You can even link to your analytics programs to understand the engagement on your web site from email visitors.

Here’s an effective strategy that might work for you.

  1. Publish your content on your web site as a list of articles or blog entries.  If you’re already creating content for your newsletters, get the most from it.  Here you get the benefits of additional content on your web site that can improve your site rankings.  If you have previous PDF newsletters that still contain valuable, relevant information convert them to articles and put them in an archive.
  2. Add a sign up form on your web site and social media.  We might as well pick up some new prospective clients if we can.
  3. Collect any existing email addresses and create lists in your email marketing system.  If you have multiple target markets or product ranges you can even segment your lists by interest or customer profile.
  4. Create a newsletter that contains an introduction and add headings and summaries that link to the articles on your web site, throw in a special or incentive as well if you want.  That way we get our clients to our web site where we have an opportunity for a conversion.
  5. You don’t need to go overboard – A newsletter a month or quarter might be enough.
  6. Review the campaign.  What was the open rate like?  Which articles were popular? This might give us ideas for future articles. What was the engagement and/or conversions on the web site from our email visitors.

PDF documents still have their place in this world.  An email newsletter is not one of them.  There are better ways of managing and engaging your customers and potential customers.  For more information or to discuss other digital marketing solutions send us a message.