The Basics: Newsletter 101

If you had a penny for every time you read or heard that having an email list is incredibly important when you are a blogger or business owner, I'm sure you would be wealthy and on an amazing vacation right now.  But let's take a step back and start from the beginning.  You should have a solid understanding of what email marketing is and the different terms that relate to newsletters.  Let’s get down to vocab.  Newsletter Lingo.  Modal, Opt-In, exit-intent...what does it all mean?  I’m going to discuss this in detail, so if you’ve ever been confused on newsletter terms, keep reading.  Hey, even if you aren’t confused, read on anyway because you may learn something new!

Let’s start with the essentials:

Email Marketing

The act of sending contents through email to people that are interested in you or your company/blog.  Traditionally the main objective is to drive sales, but lately it has expanded to not just a sales tool, but as an engagement tool and a way to have a closer connection to your list.  The content that is sent can vary.  You may want to send little updates about your blog, special coupon codes for new products, free advice, new blog posts, etc.  Essentially, it's a way to communicate to leads and your fans through email.


This is an email that is sent to a list of people that have signed up to receive emails from you.  Newsletter in the paper sense is a document that lists various types of information to share with people.  A community newsletter may list upcoming events, new neighbors, road closures, etc.  An email newsletter is a bit different (unless you are strictly providing informational updates) because it falls under the category of marketing.  This is another tool that can contribute to sales, but it’s also the best way to get more personal with your fans!


This is the person that has joined your email list.  Please though..don’t call them subscribers.  Maybe use peeps, squad, crew, etc.  Subscribers sounds so boring, and you definitely don’t want your list to sound like a snooze-fest, do you?

Signup (AKA Opt-In)

This is the intended end result of the courting process when trying to add new members to your email list.  The visitor joins your list.  It’s a courting process because you are offering a great time in exchange for their contact info.  This is also know as Conversion (conversion rate is the percentage of visitors that opt-in to your list).   It looks something like this:

1. Greet them (the “Hey my name is” phase)- welcome them to your site with a welcome mat or top bar (details on these terms coming up).

2. Be nice (the “getting to know you” conversation)- provide value-packed blog posts that peak their interested in you.

3. Offer them something of value for free (the “dinner date proposal”)- at the end of your posts, offer a content upgrade (a freebie or bonus material that is related to the blog post that they just read).

4. Reader to Member (the “Here’s my number” phase)- they sign up for your list by giving you their email address because they liked what you were offering.

The act of opting in is usually completed on a form.  The form is made up of intro text and blank fields to collect the contact information that you want to keep track of.  At minimum, an email address must be else would you be able to contact them through email if not? :)


Now let's dig deeper into Opt-In forms and the different types that can be added to a website:

There are various ways that you can present someone with the opportunity to join your squad.

1.  Popup- this is an opt-in box that appears on the screen after a predetermined amount of time from the time of entry to a website (5 seconds after entry, 1 minute after entry, etc.).

2. Modal- this is an opt-in box that appears when the reader clicks a link, image or button.  The difference between a popup and a modal is that the reader has no control over when a popup appears, but they can control if the modal appears because they are following through with a Call to Action (CTA) by clicking the link/image/button.  For example, if there was a button that said "Click here to receive your free download" (this is the CTA), the only way the form would appear is if the reader clicks the button.  Also, a modal "takes over the screen" and forces the reader to make a decision (opt-in or close the box out);  they cannot continue on your site until they choose.

3.  Slide-In (AKA slide box)- this type of form literally slides into the scene generally on the bottom right corner of the website.  This is usually based on the visitor scrolling down to a certain point of the page, so when that place is reached the box slides in.  This can also be controlled by the amount of time that the visitor has been on the site.

4.  Top Bar/Announcement Bar/Hello Bar- this is a type of form that appears horizontally across the top of a website as a long bar/strip.  It can either act as a form where the visitor can enter their details directly into it or a button that they click to either trigger a modal form or redirect to a full opt-in page.  It just depends on how the site owner wants to set it up.  The great thing about top bars is that they are not as intrusive as some other types of opt-in forms.

5.  Embedded (AKA embed form)- this is your traditional 2004 (read: old school) form that appears in a sidebar, within a blog post or between each blog post and tends to be very generic (it doesn’t have to be though, just throw some creative juice on it).  It’s generally made up of some text like “Hey sign up for blah blah blah”, then there are fields to be filled in for the email address, first name, etc.  This type of form isn't triggered by anything, it just sits there waiting to be filled out.

6.  Cover Page/Landing Page/Welcome Mat- this is an entire page dedicated to opting in to your list.  The only difference between a landing page/cover page and a welcome mat is that a welcome mat is not a totally separate page/URL, the form just appears and fills up the page before the rest of the content on the website.  Also, once you close out or scroll down on the welcome mat, the form will no longer appear.  It goes bye-bye :)


Finally, there are various actions that can occur with each of the forms above (except for the embedded form):

1.  Timed- a form appears at a predetermined time.

2.  Entry- a form appears upon entry of the page.

3.  Exit intent- a form appears just as you move your cursor out of the active area of the website and closer to the close button or address bar.

4.  Link/Click Trigger (AKA Click to trigger)- this is the highest converting type of opt-in form, friends (and my personal favorite to use).  The form appears only when the visitor clicks the link, image or button that a special code is attached to.

5.  Scroll box- appears when a certain point/percentage of the page has been reached after scrolling down the page.

Now that you have a little 101 under your belt, I hope that you understand newsletter lingo a little more.  If you want to learn even more about email engagement and things such as...

  • how to create opt-in forms that don’t look so “Blah” for all of the forms discussed above

  • how to create an email content strategy and editorial calendar for AT LEAST three solid months (once people join your list, you have to keep in touch with them!)

  • how to set up external opt-in forms to work with the email service provider, MailChimp

  • and more!

...I urge you to get into my self-paced online course, #EmailParty!  It’s jam packed with video tutorials and strategies to get your email marketing (email engagement is what I like to call it) game strong.  Click below for more details and to join!