The Full-Length Blog Email Experiment: What We Learned

When I subscribed to Moz’s email newsletters some time ago, I was surprised to see that they send emails with full blog posts. Here’s an example:

Of all the marketing emails I receive in my work and personal inboxes, I rarely see blog posts in this format. Usually, there’s a short description of the blog post with typical marketing speak that entices me to click on the article. This type of copy often elicits that FOMO feeling – if I don’t read this, I might miss out on something really good.

Many marketers, including us, use this method. It gives us the control to explain why readers should click on the blog post and hopefully drive them to visit our website. Here’s an example of one of our recent blog email newsletters:

So, why does Moz send full-length blog posts? Convince and Convert recently announced that they’re changing their email marketing strategy to do the same — by opting in to join the Convince and Convert Corps, they stated, “You’ll receive an email of each article we publish. Not a summary, hoping you’ll click back to the site; we’ll send you the full text of each piece.”

This email, from founder Jay Baer, also stated, “Our overall mission is to publish less, but publish better. … I want everything with a Convince & Convert logo on it to be a must-read for you, and I want it as seamless as possible to do just that [emphasis added].”

That last line is what caught my attention. By sending a full-length blog post, they’re focusing on user experience — there’s no easier way to read a blog post than if it’s directly in your inbox. You don’t even need to click on a link.

Is this as brilliant as it seems?

We decided to test it.

In one of our engagement emails, we nixed the typical “read this blog post because …” copy and just inserted the full blog post (we used “What is High-Quality Content?”) and the title, which we hyperlinked to the blog post page, in case users wanted to read it in their browser.

The results of sending a full-length blog post

1. A significant decrease in the click-through-rate (CTR)

The CTR for this email was 51 percent lower than our average unique CTR for this email engagement. That’s pretty significant.

The best explanation for such a low CTR is that readers don’t need to click a link to read the full blog post. Because of this, we also saw a decrease in web traffic, which was the biggest heartbreak in this experiment.

The result is no surprise. But it made us think more about how we can better track and measure how people engage with these emails.

We could look at the open rate, but there are many other factors that affect an email’s open rate, so it’s not a meaningful metric in this case.

However, the total CTR provides some interesting findings.

2. The total CTR was about average

This blog post included many links throughout the post — 27 to be exact. This included links to our homepage, one of our service pages, other blog posts in the Quality Content Series and non-Brandpoint pages.

Because there were more links to click, this could have increased the total CTR, which was about average compared to the rest of our emails in this engagement.

The “total” CTR means that fewer people may have clicked, but for those that did click, they were engaged with the article because they clicked multiple links.

Twenty-seven links may be a lot to include in one blog post and email, but this gave us access to new information about our audience that we didn’t get from our previous emails in this engagement.

3. We learned more about what this audience wants to read

With more links in the email, we could better gauge what people were interested in learning more about, while also seeing how much of the email they read.

At the very end of the post, we included links to the rest of the nine posts in our Quality Content Series. Some people scrolled all the way to the bottom of the email. Talk about engagement! We know this because they clicked on some of the articles from the series, so we got a better idea of what posts interest this audience.

We learned a few other things from the content that was clicked:

  • Our content strategy service page had a good number of clicks. This helps us see that the people on our list may be further along in the funnel and are interested in learning more about our services.
  • Besides the main blog post in the email, “The Big List of Content Marketing Acronyms” got the most clicks of any of our Brandpoint blog posts. This could suggest that our audience is looking for more basic information on content marketing or that general topics may be more appealing than something ultra-specific.
  • Google’s Webmaster Guidelines had the most clicks of any external link. Google is the ultimate authority on the subject of quality content, so this could indicate that our users care about this topic and/or respect credible sources.

The audience of this email campaign is different from some of our other audiences, so now we have a better idea of what topics they want. This will help us choose what content we need more of, and what we should send in future emails.

What do these results mean?

It’s tough to declare that this experiment failed or succeeded because there is no good way to really know how many people read this blog post. Some people may have skimmed the article without clicking any links, but still found the email valuable. (Again, though the open rate could give us an idea of how many people opened the email, there are too many factors that affect this number.)

The other possibility is that the email was too overwhelming. The blog post we sent is almost 900 words long. Our audience is all business professionals, so we know that they’re busy. If they see such a long email, they may think, “I don’t have time for this. Delete.”

It’s all about the user

One blogger explains that she loves full-length blog emails because it’s not begging for a click; it just provides helpful content. She also makes the argument that people are lazy, like her, so they don’t want to leave their inbox. She writes, “If you try to force me to click through to your blog every single time, then I’m just going to unsubscribe. Unless your content is THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD to me, it’s just not worth the extra effort. Sorry.”

This is just one person’s subjective view, but it echoes the reason Convince & Convert is sending full-length blog posts: to make the blog reading experience “as seamless as possible.”

Smartblogger also explains that the “whole shebang” email adds more value and builds trust with readers. They state:

Just think how rare and uncommon it is to receive an email that asks nothing of you. Its sole purpose is to educate, inspire and help you. … Isn’t it the kind of list whose owner you’ll tend to trust? … When you send content-rich emails, rather than short emails that demand an action, something magical happens.

That magical thing is a better user experience. So, even if you’re not seeing a higher CTR or more web traffic because people are no longer clicking on your website, you can tell stakeholders that it’s all about the user.

Ultimately, your brand’s goals will determine if this tactic is meaningful and effective for your email marketing campaigns. For some marketing teams, they need to present the numbers. But if you’re getting positive feedback from subscribers, more email subscriptions and are building trust, then this might be a reliable long-term email marketing tactic.

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