9 Ultimately Easy to Follow Best Practices for Email Marketing
How to get subscribers? What’s the secret to writing a great email? How to avoid being spammed? Find out now in our best practice guide for email marketing.
When it comes to email marketing, there are 9 factors that determine the success of your marketing campaigns. For your convenience, I have categorized them into three major groups – Inbox, Email Copy, and Performance. Read on to find out more about the 9 ultimate easy to follow email marketing best practices!
1. From Name and Address
Wonder why your readers aren’t responding in spite of delivering great content? Blame it on your from name and email address.
Now this might sound like a no-brainer, but it is vital that your From Name and Email Address come across as friendly, recognizable and trustworthy. Otherwise? Your email goes to trash, unopened – all those hours spent carefully and meticulously developing your email campaign – all goes down the drain.
Avoid, at all costs, using just your name. Instead, start using this format:
Your Name and Company (for example, Ash from Mailee
But Seth Godin just sends his emails with the From Name: Seth Godin!
So what? When Seth sends an email, it is going to get read, because that’s how famous he is. Are you sure yours is too? If not, then stick to the format we mentioned above.
Pro Tip: Use branding in your from name to reduce spam complaints, improve open rates. – Neil Patel, Kissmetrics & CrazyEgg.
Similarly, use something familiar or friendly like firstname.lastname@example.org for your email address. This makes you easily recognizable and quadruples the probability of your email getting read.
Pro Tip: Be careful about is your email address containing ‘no-reply’ or its variations. If you want your readers to engage with you, sending from email@example.com is probably not a great idea. Take a look at this email I received.
2. Subject Line
On an average, an adult user spends 15 seconds on your subject line. The younger your audience, the lesser the time they spend on your subject line.
So, 15 seconds is all you have to make an impression. And you don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression. How do you ensure that your email gets opened in an already full inbox? Relax, we have a few proven tips that work right here –
- Keep it short, to the point and catchy. Jon Morrow sends some click-worthy emails.
- Avoid the click bait approach and instead, focus on tailoring the subject as per the needs of your readers.
- Stick to 50 characters or 10 words as the limit for your subject line. Here’s an illustration giving you a brief idea on the character lengths for various ESPs.
Here’s another illustration analyzing the various subject line lengths and their corresponding open and click rates. As you can see, the lesser the number of characters, the better the metrics.
- Think mobile. If your subject line isn’t optimized for mobile users, it isn’t going to get read.
For the first quarter of 2014, 66 percent of emails were opened on a smartphone or tablet.” – Movable Ink’s Q1 2014 US Consumer Device Preference Report
- Personalize your emails.
- Try weaving in trending topics into your subject lines. Take a look at this email that Action Rocket sent, during the whole ruckus about the color of the dress.
- Keep testing subject lines to find out what works best for you.
Pro Tip: Find out what content and email marketing expert, Bruna Goss, has to say about getting the subject line right. Also, take a look at the free subject line spreadsheet by Mailee.
3. Preheader Text
An element often left unfocused is the preheader text. However, when you go through your list of emails, your attention automatically goes to the text beside the subject line, doesn’t it? Why does this happen? Because you receive countless emails every day and need to decide whether the email is interesting enough to open or discard. This text is nothing but the preheader text.
Take a look at the following illustration to see what’s a good preheader text –
When it comes to preheader text, you need to watch out for –
- ESPs that don’t display pre-header text, in which case your email is going to look like the one by Mashable Velocity Alerts in the above example. Do your homework on all the ESPs that you are targeting before sending any email.
- Avoid repeating the subject line, because your readers are looking for additional information. Merely repeating the subject line doesn’t help with this.
- Like the subject line, keep testing the preheader text to find out what works for you.
- Try adding a CTA or a special offer to the preheader text. See if it works out for you. Check out this great article by Email Acid for inspiration.
Pro Tip: Just like the subject line, you must check how the preheader text looks on mobile devices. With an increasing number of people relying on smartphones for checking emails, you don’t want your email to be sidelined just because you didn’t test it for mobile devices, do you?
4. Email Lists
The key to surviving in the digital world is to keep building your audience. Like Joe Pulizzi says,
Once you build an audience (of email subscribers), anything is possible.
The problem that most marketers face is getting their target audience to sign up. And solving this problem by buying email lists is one of the worst mistakes you could ever make. So what’s the solution? It is quite simple and three-fold:
- Terrific content that identifies and addresses your audience’s problems. Offer solutions to these problems.
- An appealing landing page telling your audience what exactly they’re signing up for and what you’ll offer. Along with a lead magnet – something valuable that you can offer freely to your visitors in exchange for their email addresses.
- Use pop-ups. Find out more on pop-ups here – The Perfect Opt-In Form and the Secret to Boosting your Subscriber Lists. Also, check out this article by Crazy Egg.
Pro Tip: Always go for a double opt-in. It is a surefire way of driving greater engagement with your subscribers and ensuring that they are qualified enough. Sure, it is expensive and a bit tedious. But, in this case, the choice is between quality and quantity. Always opt for quality. It’s not just us, Content Marketing Institute recommends it!
5. Template and Design
The template you choose for your email also plays a huge role in determining its success. You could have either a plain text or HTML template. You could either use an existing template or build one from scratch. It’s up to you, really.
Do your homework first – research your audience, your market, your competitors – and then decide whether to use text or HTML.
Whatever you wish to express using words, can be expressed better using images. A single powerful image could double or triple your popularity and help your audience retain more information. However, what often get ignored are the image dimensions. Having your audience scroll to view an image is just embarrassing –an egg on your face. That’s why it is always a good idea to optimize your image.
According to a research by Fractl, Buzzstream, and Hubspot to find out the most popular image widths, an ideal size for the image, and avoid scrolling, is between 600-800 pixels.
Bonus Content: Check out these resources on email templates to further your knowledge and become an email marketing pro!
- All you need to know about email marketing templates
- Email marketing tutorial: How to create editable templates
- Choosing the best email marketing templates for your messages
- Email Marketing Design Guide
Mobile Optimization – The World’s Going Mobile … So Should You!
Statistics courtesy: Litmus
Why use responsive templates? Because responsive templates use media queries – a special set of CSS styles – that detect the screen size of the device and adjust the dimensions of the message accordingly. So if you are using a responsive template, you will see a large template on your PC and a relatively smaller template on your smartphone, for the same message.
Bonus Tip: I’ve rounded up a bunch of articles on mobile responsive design that you can use to further your knowledge of the same. Check them out!
- A note on responsive email design by Elliot Ross from Action Rocket
- The How-To Guide to Responsive Email Design by Justine Jordan from Litmus
- Responsive Email Support chart by StyleCampaign
- How to write an email for a mobile device
Unsubscribe Link – How to Avoid Being Blacklisted?
Sometimes, your readers might wish to opt-out of your email list. Do not try to trick or deceive your readers by hiding the Unsubscribe link or not providing one altogether. That’s how you get blacklisted. Always ensure that you’re providing them with an option to opt-out.
Call to Action – How to Get Subscribers?
A greatly designed email with relevant content is going to serve no purpose if your email is missing a Call-To-Action (CTA). The CTA must be very precise and clearly thought-through as it must direct the reader to take action. Here’s an example of a great CTA:
6. Content - How to Write a Great Email Copy?
Ultimately everything comes down to this – content. You can write the greatest subject line every known to humankind, combined with a rocking preheader text … however, if your content isn’t good enough, it’s game over for you. From our experience, we’ve come up with a few magical guidelines that you should permanently brand in your head – for these hold the secret to writing a brilliant email copy –
- Structure your content around this question – What’s in it for my target audience?
- Keep it relevant, no-nonsense, and personal
- Maintain a good content hierarchy
- Ensure that your copy is optimized for images-off viewing. Use ALT text, styled ALT text, background colors or a combination of these elements to optimize your email copy.
- A general rule of thumb is to prefer JPG or GIFs over PNGs since they aren’t supported everywhere.
Here’s a great post by Lauren Smith from Litmus on what’s the best image format for emails.
Pro Tip: Content types that are guaranteed lead-clinchers – newsletters, birthday emails, and free ebooks.
Bonus Content: Check out these articles on writing great content to seriously amp up your content marketing efforts.
- How to use trending topics in your email campaigns
- PAS Formula: How to get your emails read
- Combine email with your social media marketing efforts for greater success
- Newsjacking – Your 60 seconds to fame
The mantra for success with anything is to test, test, and then test some more. All those countless hours spent in meticulously planning and designing your email campaign will amount to nothing if the message doesn’t render properly. To avoid your efforts and hard work going down the drain, always perform A/B testing. The elements that you must test include –
- Subject line & preheader text
- Email message layout, design, fonts, and images
- Compatibility across different platforms
- Call to action
- Element of personalization
Most email campaign software have built-in tools for A/B testing. Check out a few and find one that best suits your needs.
If you wish to go the extra mile, we suggest that you use a service like Email on Acid or Litmus for testing and tracking your emails.
Pro Tip: Only test one variable at a time for best results. Also, test as large a sample you can for accurate results. Also, check out A Beginner’s Guide to A/B Testing by Kissmetrics and How to A/B Test You Email by The Next Web.
8. Performance Metrics
A major blunder that several marketers make, especially newbies, is not finding out how their campaigns fared. Performance metrics tell you how effective your email campaign was, what could be enhanced, is it being delivered to the right audience, who’s reading your emails, etc.
There are 7 performance metrics or email marketing KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that every email marketer should focus on –
- Open Rates – How many opened your email
- Click Rates – How many went through the entire email and clicked on your CTA
- Bounce and Unsubscribe Rates – How many emails didn´t reach the destinations and how many of your readers unsubscribed their subscriptions to you
- Engagement (Click-to-Open) Rates – How many clicked as compared to the total number of users who opened your email. This is one of the most important metrics.
- Best time to send emails
Remember, keep learning and improving for better engagement with your audience. Because once you stop learning, you stop growing.
Free Tool: I know how important ROI is to email marketing. To help you calculate the ROI for a campaign, Mailee has created an ROI calculator. All you need to do is fill in the required data, and then sit back while the calculator does the math and shows you immediately whether you’ve recovered your investment, or are still behind. And the best part? It’s free to download and use. Download the free ROI calculator by Mailee here.
9. Email Deliverability
Email deliverability is nothing but making sure that your email gets delivered in the recipient’s inbox, without being lost, blocked, or flagged as SPAM. Easier said than done. Over 90% of emails sent these days are classified as SPAM. In the case of Gmail, even if you somehow manage to avoid being flagged as SPAM, you might end up in the Promotions tab. To avoid this, you need to warm up your IP.
You need to warm up your IP – send an ever increasing number of emails out of an IP address in order to build up the IP’s reputation to successfully deliver email into an inbox. – Neil Patel
Here’s what worked for me. I started off by sending emails in small batches to some trusted recipients who engaged with us. As my emails got opened, my IP was warming up.
Moral of the story? It all comes back to your email list. It is the key to a good email deliverability score. That’s why it is always better to go for double opt-in, regularly updating your list to weed out the inactive users, and keep sending actionable content to keep your list engaged and interested.
So there you have it! Nine ultimately easy to follow best practices for better email marketing. I truly help these tips help you better your email marketing efforts.
What are some email best practices that you've come across, based on your experience? Please do share them in the Comments section below. Remember, sharing is caring! ;)