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Reaching your users regularly without newsletters

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Best practice, Working with us

GDS is regularly asked why we encourage the use of blogs over newsletters. We have 2 reasons:

    • blogs perform better than newsletters
    • we don’t publish duplicate content on GOV.UK

Avoiding duplication

Some transitioning arm’s length bodies want to publish their newsletters on GOV.UK - but these are collections of previously published news content. The GDS style guide calls for avoiding duplication so each user need is met in one place.

Blogs perform better

We've now got data from blogs on GOV.UK to support the user benefits.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s (DVSA) Matters of Testing blog is performing better than their Matters of Testing e-bulletin, which is issued every 2 months. In April 2014, the DVSA blog had 18,078 visitors - over 5,000 extra visitors on top of the email going out.

Sean McCabe, DVSA Digital Communications Co-ordinator, says: “Around 70% of our visitors come from our e-bulletin subscriber lists that we send out every 2 months, so the extra 30% comes from people going straight to the blog either through GOV.UK, social media shares, Google, forums etc.”

Why DVSA loves their blog

Sean says: “What the blog has allowed us to do is open up the information to many more people than just our email subscribers. It's made our information much more accessible and easier for people to engage with.

“In the past year since the Matters of Testing blog started, it has had over 50,000 unique visitors. The blog generates on average 300 visits per day. We update the blog weekly to keep people coming back for more.

“It also gives us much better audience insight, so we know a lot more about what the users are interested in. Between monitoring clicks in email alerts and which posts people are visiting more, we're able to plan ahead better with our content, around the kind of content users like to read about.

“More importantly, we can also look at what doesn't work so well and make improvements for the future based on a post's visits and average visit duration. That could be down to things like the content itself, headlines, pictures, word count.”

DH also recommends blogs

The Department of Health (DH) looked at the effectiveness of e-newsletters and found:

A DH spokesperson said that blogs let them “talk about crucial subjects in a way that previous forms of communications would not have made possible”.

DH use experts like Professor Viv Bennett on their blogs. The spokesperson said: “These people are experts in their field and we know from evidence that people trust experts more than organisations or government, so that's another reason for personal and engaging blogs rather than 'corporate' newsletters.”

Make your information easy to find

Social Media Today show that blogs boost your search ratings: “It is very valuable to have results high in search engines, and blogs, unlike email newsletters, get listed. In fact, as blog information changes regularly (as often as you post), this means that search engines often rate blogs higher than static websites which rarely change. That's an enormous boost to people’s ability to find and make use of your information.”

Sean McCabe says: “We now also get around 600 shares per month from the blog on social media sites too so it's pushing the information out there much further than we were able to before in the online world.

“The blog has helped with being able to find archived posts, and with the search engine it's much easier for our users to find what they need.”

Using your blog as a newsletter

You can use your blog as a newsletter. Each week or month you can email subscribers with titled links to your recent blog posts. This way your users get an email with a simple, informative contents list with links to your website.

Other ways of reaching people

Obviously, not all content sits equally well in a blog post. There are other ways of reaching people potentially interested in your content.

You should think about how social media like Twitter and Facebook could be more effective in some cases than a campaign or newsletter. For example, the National Citizen Service, which is for 16 and 17-year-olds, reaches its young audience cheaply and effectively on Facebook.

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  1. Comment by Stephen Gill posted on

    Nice! Two more reasons blogs are better -

    1. PDFs aren't always accessible to people using assistive technologies like screen readers. You shouldn't have that problem with a blog.

    2. People can comment on a blog, so you can have a two-way conversation with your community.

  2. Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

    I foresee a flurry of requests for blogs for newsletters. Are the guidelines in still valid and current if we are now encouraged to consider the use of blogs to replace newsletters?

    PS I can't get the link in the sentence "The GDS style guide calls for avoiding duplication so each user need is met in one place." to work for me.

  3. Comment by Ben Clancy posted on

    The guidelines in are current.

    Thanks for pointing out the broken link. I'll get that fixed.