Email Marketing Best Practices: Quality Wins Over Quantity

Email MarketingMy background in journalism might have something to do with my views on email marketing best practices.

Throughout a long career, quality almost always wins over quantity when it comes to the information consumer, whether that consumer is a newspaper reader, TV watcher, Web site visitor or email subscriber.

The best email marketing gets the best response rate. The response rate is determined by:

  • The subscriber conversion rate of people coming to the email subscription page.
  • The churn rate, meaning the rate of subscriptions to unsubscribes.
  • The open rate or the percentage of emails that are opened by subscribers.
  • The click rate or how often people click on links in the email.
  • The site conversion rate of people who click on a link in the email and take action on the site (purchase, click on ads, etc.).

It is better to have 100 quality subscribers clicking 100 times a month than 10,000 junk subscribers clicking 50 times a month.

Best practices deliver quality subscribers with a high response rate while “worst practices” guarantee high churn, a large number of complaints and a poor return on investment.

What are some best practices?

1) Email only to people who have requested the email.

A common practice has been providing a form on the site for some other purpose, such as registration, and having a box with a check mark in it — the “opt out” approach.

If the site visitor doesn’t see it, or forgets to uncheck it, he or she gets an unwanted email.

2) Identify the source of the email clearly.

Use the business name and postal address. Include an unsubscribe option and an email address for contacting someone.

3) Use an appealing subject line.

“Today’s News” doesn’t cut it. “Explosion kills 4 people at city hall” is much more likely to increase the open rate. Be as specific as possible.

Be careful about using exclamation points, all capital letters or other methods of getting attention because spam filers make block the email.

4) Put links near the top.

This is an important practice for Web site publishing and it applies just as well for an email.

Imagine opening an email with few links and boring content in the opening screen. Why would anyone scroll down to view more?

5) Minimize the number of images.

Many email viewers block images because of the possibility of viruses and the fact that they potentially slow the display of the email.

It is common to open an email with numerous large blocks of blocked images that push links farther down and impact the click rate.

Remember to offer a text-only version in addition to an HTML version.

6) Send emails from mid morning to mid afternoon.

Emails too early in the day might be overlooked from other work or personal emails.

Emails sent late in the day may get overlooked if the subscriber is an employee getting ready to leave or someone at home preparing to shut down the computer for the day.

7) Track analytics at least monthly.

Don’t worry about the daily results. They will bounce around quite a bit.

Worry a little more about the weekly results. Worry a lot about the monthly numbers.

8) Test and Retest

Email marketing best practices are like any other best practices. The amount of effort that goes into them will determine the results.

Maintain a chart of monthly results. Make small changes to the format at least monthly and watch what happens.

Test and test again. In time, the numbers certainly will improve.

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