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Best Practices: Stop Sending PDF Email Newsletters!

Every now and again a request will come in over the wire for us to write a “Best Practice” article or white paper, to help explain to decision-makers what the current state of the art is in technology for nonprofits. I thought I’d start sharing some of these pieces here on the Sage70 blog. Today’s […]

Every now and again a request will come in over the wire for us to write a “Best Practice” article or white paper, to help explain to decision-makers what the current state of the art is in technology for nonprofits. I thought I’d start sharing some of these pieces here on the Sage70 blog.

Today’s Best Practice is about e-newsletters. Once upon a time, before email could display photos and formatted text, before HTML and CSS and Javascript in emails, people would attach their beautiful, full-color newsletters as PDF files and send them via email. Just the other day, I was asked “why shouldn’t we keep sending emails with PDF attachments? What’s wrong with PDF e-newsletters?”

The question caught me by surprise. Why would you want to send PDF attachments? HTML emails are so much better! So here we go, a quick explainer you can send around to anyone still stuck on PDF newsletters on why it’s time to move to HTML.

What’s wrong with PDF newsletters?

  • Poor Deliverability: Many spam filters or attachment filters will block PDF file attachments, especially if they’re sent from personal accounts to many recipients. And that’s often what you’re reduced to, since major e-newsletter services like Mailchimp and Constant Contact won’t allow you to attach PDFs. Additionally, PDFs require additional clicks to access, which means fewer readers are going to bother.
  • Poor Readability: About 66% of email is now read on mobile devices, according to a report by Movable Ink. You know what’s hard to read on a mobile phone? That’s right, a PDF file. It can also take a while to download, which means your PDF newsletter is even less likely to be read.
  • Media-Poor Content: Let’s say you got past the spam-blocker and onto that desktop screen. Now what? PDFs are limited. You can’t embed a video or audio file in a PDF. You can’t have animations in a PDF. Nor can you serve interactive forms or other elements. PDFs tie one hand behind your back when it comes to creating engaging, interactive, media-rich content.
  • Poor Tracking: Sending email is about building relationships by providing timely and useful content. To do that on an ongoing basis, email publishers need access to information about who is opening the emails they send. Opens, clicks, shares and conversions are the basic measurements of the email arena. With PDFs, much of that is lost. You can’t track PDF opens, which means that you simply don’t know how well your content is actually performing.

There are a handful of situations where PDFs do make sense, and there are methods for sending emails that link to PDF files, whose downloads can the be measured, secured, or even put behind a paywall. But for regular email newsletters, stick to HTML. With HTML newsletters you can guarantee deliverability, create emails that look great no matter what size screen they’re viewed on, and you can load them up with dynamic content, videos and more! Best of all, you can track exactly who is opening your emails, how well they’re doing, and whether they’re effectively driving your constituents to take actions that push your shared mission forward.

If you’d like to learn more about HTML emails, services you can implement, and how you can integrate all of that with your fundraising database, please contact us by clicking here or email info@sage70.com to set up a free initial consultation.

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About us

  • Isaac Shalev Founder Sage70

    Isaac combines technical, product and digital marketing knowledge with a keen sense of how people and organizations relate to technology and change.

  • Gary Newman

    Gary’s broad understanding of web technologies, enterprise project management, and leveraging technology to drive mission and bottom line makes him an important asset to Sage70’s clients.

  • Faigy Gilder Project Manager

    Faigy brings a deep understanding of the nonprofit sector as well as digital marketing and technological infrastructure to her work.

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