Email marketing might feel “old hat” in a world of new and ever-evolving digital marketing tools. But it deserves your attention more than ever and these email marketing best practices will help you get ahead.
In 2022, the number of email users worldwide is estimated to be about 4.3 billion. This is expected to grow to about 4.6 billion in 2025, making up more than half of the estimated world population.
But in addition, you can develop relationships with your current customers and connect to potential customers. It’s about informing and engaging your recipients with a personalized message that resonates.
Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective and conversion-rich tactics you can embrace within your overall digital marketing strategy. And embracing its best practices can make you even more effective in your efforts.
The following are 16 email marketing best practices that will help you make an impact.
Never purchase contact lists
There are a number of reasons why you should not purchase contact lists for your email marketing efforts.
Of course, data protection laws (such as the General Data Protection Regulation) are critical to keep in mind. You need consent.
But beyond even that is how differently email recipients act when you’ve bought them versus when you’ve earned them.
Email recipients you’ve brought are essentially cold leads. They could have no idea who you are and may even wonder how or why you are emailing them. This could lead to low open rates, low click rates and even higher unsubscribes or (even worse) spam reports.
The contacts you’ve earned have opted in somehow, so they have a better recognition of your brand and are more likely to open and click (and not unsubscribe or report you).
Regularly review (and segment) your contact list
While several of your contacts might not opt-out of your emails, they could simply never open an email of yours either. This can kill your open rate and cloud some of your campaign analytics.
It’s important to regularly audit your mailing list and segment accordingly so that you can target the right message to the right recipients at the right time.
Removing contacts is an option some brands use to maintain a more engaged list, but we actually recommend grouping your less-active contacts so that you can target them in different ways (whether that’s frequency or contact channel). Ultimately, the least engaged of your contacts will be the most likely to unsubscribe in the future. So, keep that in mind as you decide how best to engage with them.
On the flip side, you can (and should) segment your contacts into groups that are relevant to your marketing goals. A segment is a grouping of your audience who shares common attributes.
Examples include contacts who have not made a purchase yet or customers whose membership is about to expire, and so on.
By targeting the right group with the right message at the right time, you’ll see better conversion metrics in every email campaign.
Dive deeper into the power of audience segmentation.
Timing is everything
Granted, there is no “silver bullet” time that all marketers can guarantee better conversion rates.
But data suggest that mid-morning, afternoon or evening Tuesdays through Thursdays is a good place to start. We also recommend trying “off” times, like 10:13 a.m. rather than 10 a.m.
That being said, you’ll still want to think about your audience and their habits. Then, you’ll want to track the performance of your emails and see if there’s particular timing that works best with your audience.
Do not use “no reply” in your sending email name or address
Considering CAN-SPAM, which is a law that sets the rules for commercial email, you want to avoid using “no reply” (or anything similar) as your sending email name or address. An example would be “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
This interferes with a recipient’s ability to respond or even opt out, which is a huge protection with CAN-SPAM.
Instead, make your sending email name and address as clear, recognizable and even as human as possible. This not only follows commercial email regulations but also builds trust with your recipients, which can encourage them to open and engage with your emails.
Invest effort into your email subject lines
A successful email subject line is part art, part science but typically a recipe for anxiety for any marketer or business owner.
But it doesn’t have to be. If you’ve noticed that your emails aren’t getting the open rate you are looking for, then it’s time to take a look at your subject lines.
Of course, some subject line recommendations include:
- Keeping it short (between 30 and 50 characters, including spaces)
- Using action verbs (instead of passive voice)
- Leveraging urgency
- Giving an air of exclusivity
- Being very clear about your offer (whether it’s an incentive, discount or something else)
- Embracing a compelling or engaging angle
You can also test your subject line with an A/B test or resend through an automation with a new subject line.
Dive deeper with our 12 tips for email subject lines that won’t get ignored.
Optimize your email’s preview text
About 24 percent of email recipients look at an email’s preview text first when deciding whether to open an email.
The majority of email clients provide a snippet of text to help recipients preview the contents of an email. Leverage this to your advantage.
You should use the space to dive deeper into why recipients should open your email. You can build off of what you say in your subject line, tease something that’s inside the email and so on.
Keep in mind that if you don’t include any content in the email preview text field, a recipient’s email client can pull whatever content it decides to. This could be your preheader (if you have one) or simply the first 40 or so characters of your body text (which could be confusing as preview text). For example, many preheaders say, “Email not displaying correctly? Click here.” You definitely don’t want that.
While you can’t control how much text will be shown in your email preview, you can control what text is shown. And you should include at least 160 characters of text in your preheader copy.
Confirm that your email template isn’t too wide
While many email marketing applications account for automatically resizing your emails to appropriately for the screen sizes your email recipients are using, it’s always a good idea to make sure that your email template is no wider than 650 pixels wide.
Going wider (unknowingly or not) can force your recipients to have to scroll horizontally. Having to do so makes your brand appear less professional.
Readability is critical not just for conversions but the overall user experience that can build relationships with your contacts, which can lead to further conversions in the future.
Limit your font types and sizes
Think clutter. The more font types and sizes you use in a single email, the more cluttered the overall email will feel.
And that clutter can turn off your email recipients.
Strive to use web-safe fonts between 10-point and 12-point sizing. This helps ensure that your email will be legible on all email clients and possible devices.
Our email frequently asked questions addresses the use of web fonts.
Seek opportunities for personalization
Are you sending emails that begin with “Dear Member” or “To our customers”?
Personalization can take your emails to the next level by automatically inserting details about each email recipient that really shows you care enough to speak specifically to them.
Especially in DailyStory, the sky’s the limit with the types of information you can automatically personalize in your messaging. Some examples include:
- First name
- Number of purchases or visits
First names can be especially powerful, and you can leverage that power in your email subject line and the body of your email.
Always include your logo in your emails
Logos are part of branding, which is critical to your digital marketing in general but your emails as well.
Brand recall increases about 18 percent after a five-second exposure when including a logo in the email, and the likelihood of a purchase goes up by about 34 percent in emails with logos.
Emails are simply a great opportunity to not only include your logo but also your branded colors, fonts and voice.
Get your main message and call-to-action ‘above the fold’
“Above the fold” in email body copy refers to the information that’s visible to the recipient before he or she scrolls down.
Clearly, you don’t want critical call-to-actions (CTAs) getting lost in the need to scroll.
There are many tactics for this, depending on how you design your email. One example is including a CTA button at the top and bottom of the email. Another example is leveraging your banner at the top to be a clickable CTA while also being visually engaging.
You also can run A/B testing to determine what approaches work best for your audience. See our nine tips to make your A/B testing more effective.
Include an email signature
No matter how broadly you’re sending a message or newsletter, you’ll want to consider including an email signature at the bottom. Even when an email is representative of your entire company, a signature adds a touch of human personalization to your messaging. It shows that a human is behind the email, not just a marketing department.
Send an engaging welcome email
You want to be a brand that gives all new subscribers a warm welcome. Welcome emails give you the opportunity to re-introduce yourself and explain to new subscribers what kind of emails they’ll receive from you (and how often they should expect them).
It’s about getting started on the right foot with your new subscribers but also sharing the value of your emails and getting them excited to keep an eye out in their inboxes.
Provide an opportunity to subscribe within your email
Of course, common sense suggests that your email recipients are receiving your email because they’re already subscribed to your list.
But that train of thought forgets about the possibility of your email being forwarded from a subscriber to someone else.
Being clear and giving the opportunity for a non-subscriber to subscribe to your email newsletters ensures that you’re not missing out on that opportunity. No one overtly slips through the cracks.
The CTA doesn’t have to be big, just clear. You don’t want it to compete with your primary CTA for the email.
Make unsubscribing easy
On the flip side, you also want to ensure that your subscribers have a clear and easy way to unsubscribe from your emails.
This can feel counterintuitive if your goal is to either grow your email mailing list or boost your conversion rates (or both).
You’re required by commercial email laws to offer the clear path to opting out. By not doing so, you risk being in violation and/or getting reported as spam, which can hurt your email sending reputation.
Even if the email recipient only moves your emails to a folder he or she never opens, that’s not a win either.
Truthfully, your campaigns will perform better by allowing those no longer interested to easily unsubscribe and focusing on your more engaged recipients while building up your contact list with other interested subscribers.
Use a common phrase like “Unsubscribe” as your hyperlink text, so subscribers can quickly find it. And make the unsubscribe link big enough so that people using mobile devices will be able to click on it easily.
Test and monitor performance as much as possible
Before officially sending out an email, you’ll always want to send a test email. One can go to yourself so that you can confirm everything looks and acts the way it should. The other should go to at least one friend or colleague.
Not only should that person do a basic proofing and testing of your email, but you’ll also want to ask him or her to tell you whether the CTA is apparent within the first five seconds of looking at the email. If it is, great. If not, you’ll want to adjust.
Beyond the work you’ll want to do upfront, you must follow it up by monitoring and tracking the performance of your email campaigns. Keeping an eye on what is generating higher open or click-through rates and conducting A/B testing will help you learn what works for your audience and what doesn’t.