• Newsletter Operator
  • Posts
  • How To Increase Ad CTR (Click Through Rate) and Get More Sponsor Renewals

How To Increase Ad CTR (Click Through Rate) and Get More Sponsor Renewals

Better ads, more clicks, more money

Deep Dive

How To Increase Ad CTR and Get More Sponsor Renewals

More clicks on the sponsored ads in your newsletter lead to:

  • More conversions and purchases for your advertisers

  • More repeat sponsorships and longer contracts

  • More revenue for you

Plus, with better ad results and a higher renewal rate, selling new advertisers on sponsoring your newsletter is easier.

This is the topic of today’s post.

How to get more ad clicks, better advertiser results, and ad renewals.

Let’s get into it.

Types of Ad Placements

First, you need to have ad placements in your newsletter that work.

There are 3 most common types of newsletter ad placements (aka formats):

1) Primary placement

Newsletters like Morning Brew, The Hustle, and The Skimm popularized this format.

It consists of these elements:

  • Clickable logo at the top of the newsletter

  • Ad section near the top or middle of the newsletter

  • Headline

  • Body copy with 100-200 words

  • 1-4 hyperlinks and/or CTA button

  • Image (optional)

2) Secondary placement

This is essentially a smaller and shorter primary ad that is placed later in the newsletter.

Secondary placements do not include a logo at the top of the newsletter.

They consist of:

  • Ad section near the middle or bottom of the newsletter

  • Headline (optional)

  • Body copy with 50-100 words

  • 1-3 hyperlinks and/or CTA button

  • Image (optional)

This ad type is a 1-3 sentence bullet point in a newsletter’s curated section.

These ads typically only have 1 link and no image.

Which ad placements should you offer?

Most newsletters should stick to just 1 primary ad per email until they sell out of ad inventory for at least 30 days.

Be careful when selling lower-priced ads like secondaries and bullets. New advertisers will want to “test” these placements before spending more money on primary ads.

You’ll miss out on the revenue you could have gotten by just offering primary placements.

Reserve your secondary and bullet ads for:

  • Packages of 5+ ads

  • Long-term contracts (3-12 months)

  • Sponsorship packages you guarantee clicks from

  • Backup inventory for when you sell out of primary ads

  • “Make good” ads for when a primary ad underperformed

Where to place ads in your newsletter to maximize clicks

More views and visibility = more clicks on your ads.

The higher your ad placement is in the newsletter, the more clicks your advertiser will receive.

I’m seeing more newsletters put ads after the “introduction” of their newsletter, before any editorial content.

Of course, having an ad before any editorial content makes your reader’s experience worse. But your Advertisers experience better.

It’s a trade-off.

That said, your primary ad placement should be in the top 50% of your newsletter. Any lower than that and you’ll see significantly fewer clicks.

If you’re worried about readers having to scroll through an ad before they see your main content, test making your ad copy shorter.

Instead of <150 words, test <50 words.

With shorter copy readers will be less annoyed and advertisers may see more clicks.

Ad Placement Design

There are nuanced design details that can improve your ad performance.


A thin border around your ad section makes it stand out.

Newsletters have found 2-4 hyperlinks in an ad work best. Those links should all lead to the same landing page.

Ads packed with links are confusing. They scare people away and readers don’t know where to click.

Ad Disclosure

You need to tell readers what content is sponsored but don’t make it obvious.

I see way too many newsletters with big headlines above an ad section that says, “This newsletter is sponsored by ___”

Don’t do that. People will skip the section. Your ad disclosure should be clear but small and not easily readable.

Look at the ad example from Morning Brew again:

The “presented by” ad disclosure is:

  • All caps, which is harder to read

  • Blue text, harder to read

  • Smaller than the headline

  • Looks native to the newsletter

  • Does not say “sponsored by”

When looking at the ad above readers will see the headline and image before they see the sponsor disclosure.

If the headline and image get their attention, they’ll read the body copy, and if the body copy interests them, they’ll click the ad.

Ad Disclosure copy

I recommend using this disclosure copy for sponsored content:

  • “Presented by ___”

  • “Together with ___”

  • “A message from ___”

You can also disclose an ad with an asterisk at the end of the headline or bullet — and then a disclosure at the bottom of the placement.

Example from Morning Brew

If you use a call-to-action (CTA) button in your ad placement it will get more clicks than a hyperlink CTA.

The bigger the button, the more clicks.

And your button should be a bold color like red, orange, green, or yellow

Inverted Pyramid

Your ads should draw the eye from top to bottom with an inverted pyramid.

Great ads:

  1. Grab readers attention

  2. Transform their attention into interest and desire

  3. Prompt them to act

The inverted pyramid helps you structure your ad to do this. Read Ethan's thread on how to do this.

Ad Copywriting

Copywriting is the most overlooked part of ad performance.

As a newsletter writer, you need to be writing ads in your voice, tone, and with the insights you have into your audience.

Don’t just use the copy the advertiser gives you. That’s a recipe for failure.

Instead, here’s how to write great ads:

1) Get insights on what type of messaging is working for the advertiser

Look at their Meta ads, Google ads, and ask them if they can share ads that worked in other newsletters or publications.

Use the Facebook Ad Library to see their meta ads. Filter the library to only show active ads and scroll to the bottom to see what active ads have been running the longest.

If a meta ad has been running for 3+ months it’s a winner and you should use that ad to draw inspiration from.

Also, you can do the same thing with this advertiser’s competitors.

2) Look at testimonials and reviews for the advertiser’s brand

Use their website, Amazon, G2, social media, and wherever you can find reviews.

If you can’t find them, ask for them. (This ask should probably be in your brief).

What people who use the product say about it is often better written and more impactful than what the brand says about its own product.

Swipe copy from reviews and testimonials to use in your ad.

3) Read this advice from a pro who has written 1000+ newsletter ads

This thread walks you through the step-by-step process of writing a great ad.

Work With The Right Advertisers

Who the advertiser is… is just as important as the ad creative.

If the ad isn't relevant to your audience it won't perform.

That’s obvious. But there's more to this…

Working with the wrong advertisers can decrease the performance (and clicks) of ALL the ads in your newsletter.

Here’s how:

Working with untrustworthy advertisers

If you wouldn't use the product or recommend it to a friend, don’t advertise it in your newsletter.

This sounds obvious but most publishers don’t do this. I understand why. Advertising is a tough business. Sometimes you need to take what you can get.

That said, advertising products you don’t vet and recommend will decrease reader trust.

If you are selective and vet which advertisers you work with, the the long run, readers will trust you and your sponsors more.

To learn how to vet a potential advertiser, watch this video from Tim Ferriss that explains his process.

Working with too many of the same type of brands

If all your advertisers offer the same service or product, readers will get fatigued.

At The Hustle, salespeople would sell ads for less to some brands to diversify the type of advertiser in the newsletter.

For example:

  • Financial products and services loved to buy ads in The Hustle. There was a surplus of these advertisers. They paid full price.

  • However, there were not many consumer brands that advertised. (apparel, accessories, food, drinks, kitchen tools, etc). These types of brands got a discount.

Advertiser Landing Pages

If your sponsor’s landing page and funnel are bad, it doesn't matter how many clicks you send them.

Advertisers need landing pages that convert.

Before working with an advertiser, audit the landing page they want to use.

If the page is bad, give them suggestions on how to improve it. Not sure how? Read this guide on how to create landing pages that convert.

Also, ask the advertiser:

“Have you used this landing page for paid acquisition before? How did it work? What is the landing page conversion rate?”

If they haven't used paid ads (on any platform) before or don’t have an answer, make a note of this and be extra thorough in your audit.

Custom landing pages

If you can have an advertiser create a custom landing page (based on their best-performing page) for your newsletter ad campaign, test it.

If you’re a small newsletter, don’t ask for this. Advertisers won't have the time.

But if you can drive thousands of clicks from your ads this is worth testing.

Here’s an example from 1440 and Roots.

Don’t neglect reporting and advertiser communication.

Share ad results promptly and accurately.

Here’s how:

Immediately after the newsletter is published, forward it to the advertiser and let them know their ad is live.

Then 3-5 days after the ad runs send a reporting email to the advertiser with:

  • Unique ad clicks

  • Unique email opens

  • Total email recipients

A table in the email or bullet points is fine. Add screenshots to increase transparency and trust.

If the ad got more or fewer clicks than average, let them know.

If more you get an opportunity to brag. Their ad saw above-average performance.

If less, use this as an opportunity to briefly talk about how you can improve the ad performance next time (different copy, creative, more opportunities for the audience to see the ad).

In this email, ask for feedback on ad performance and conversions.

How many conversions, leads, sign-ups, or purchases did they get?

Follow up

A few days after your reporting email, follow up.

If you have the data or inclination that the ad went well:

  • Talk to the sponsor about a package where they can buy multiple ads at a discount.

  • Or a long-term contract where they can lock in 1-4 ads per month for 3-12 months at the current rate.

If you think the ad didn't go well, you could sell them a discounted package where you can test multiple ads with different creatives to improve performance.

Here are a few more ways you can make advertisers happy and increase your renewal rate:

“Make-good” ad placements

If an ad flopped you can give sponsors an additional ad placement for free or at a large discount.

By “flopped” I mean that the ad got much fewer clicks than average.

Don’t offer a make-good if the flop isn't your fault:

  • If the advertiser refuses to use the copy you wrote, they don’t get a make-good

  • If the advertiser got the estimated clicks you said they would, but their landing page did not convert, they don’t get a make-good

However, there are many reasons you should offer make-goods:

  • Your newsletter got a low open rate that day

  • Your copy was sub-par and didn’t lead to the clicks you expected

  • There was a technical issue or mistake with the email. Wrong link, clipped by Gmail, deliverability problem, etc

If you think the advertiser will renew if you make things right, do it.

Ideally, the make-good placement you give away is a secondary or bullet placement.

Guarantee results

Some newsletters guarantee ad clicks. This is a smart idea for new publishers.

Here’s how it works:

Guarantee the minimum number of clicks an advertiser will receive. If the ad doesn’t get that number of clicks, run another ad for free until it does.

Example from Marketing Examined

Bonuses and perks for sponsors

If you can, throw in a free bonus.

The Rundown adds every advertiser to their AI database with ~250k views/month.

If you have a “Recommended Tools/Products” page on your website, an addition there could be a great perk for new advertisers.

More resources

That’s it. Hope this helped!

If you’re looking for more sponsorship sales and operations tips check out:


Get my free guide on how to grow your newsletter to 1,000+ subscribers in 30 days

Sign up to get instant access to the guide. Plus, more growth tactics, case studies, and industry news delivered to your inbox.

Join 16,000+ readers for free.

Join the conversation

or to participate.