Email Marketing Best Practices – A Solid Guide to Drive Results (2022)

Email Marketing Best Practices

Introduction

To start sending bulk emails, one often wonders about what to put and whatnot. The start always seems confusing and overwhelming. As a sender, you want to send emails that can make sales, have a high click rate, and of course, not end up in Spam. 
This guide will mainly cover the non-technical side of bulk email marketing best practices. If you are using SMTP services like amazonSES, follow these steps to hit the subscribers’ inbox every time: How to Prevent your Email Newsletters from Going to SPAM.

We aim to put up all those things you need to consider when sending emails to many subscribers. But if you start with email marketing, you will undoubtedly find this helpful guide as you start growing your subscriber base. Let’s hop into the guideline and make the emails shoot for the star immediately.


Table of contents


Whom to send

How to collect your Subscribers:

First thing First! We need an email list to send the bulk emails to and a list/record consisting of active email addresses. You can purchase an email list or build an authentic one by influencing your customers to sign up for your newsletter. Let’s compare these two methods –

Building Authentic subscribers:

So the key to successful email marketing is building an authentic list of subscribers – by letting your customers subscribe to your newsletters willingly. Some of the critical things to consider when making your list are – 

  1. Could you give your subscribers the option to choose what type of emails they want to receive and what not? This way, you will have a general idea about what kind of marketing subscribers are looking for and sort them accordingly. It helps to provide users with a sense of importance as well.
  2. Ask them to include your business email (The “from email” you will use to send the newsletter) in their address book at Gmail or whatever email service provider they use. That ensures smooth delivery against bouncing and spam filtering.
  3. Use Double opt-in instead of single opt-in if possible. For single opt-in, users have to put their personal information only once, not confirming their email address anyway. But with double opt-in, users need to verify their email id by signing in to their given email id. Marketers do not highly applaud it because traditional double opt-in systems send a confirmation email to the users’ inbox, and they have to log in to their inbox and click on the confirmation link. This extra step may discourage the users from the subscription, though it guarantees the authenticity of the subscribers’ given email ids. Instead of using common double opt-ins, you can put forward a few incentives to encourage the subscribers to sign in to their inboxes. By asking their email to send them a white paper or a download link for some free goodies, you can easily verify their emails and sort out the authentic users when they click the link. ThemeWagon uses such ideas in action – Whenever a user tries downloading a free template from their site, they ask for their email address to deliver the download link.

It could take years and lots of effort to build an extensive list with millions of subscribers. But in the long run, it pays off.

Sending to a purchased list:

Having a readymade email list is very lucrative, and many people fall into the trap of purchased email lists. There are so many online sites or companies promising you to give a list of prospective recipients. What those lists lack is genuine authenticity. And as a result, what happens is people mark your emails as Spam. It could also drastically increase your bounce rate and destroy your reputation as a sender because over 25% of emails in purchased lists are usually likely to be “dead” or “trash” emails. However, if you have to use a purchased list, make sure you use a list cleaning service like NeverBounce, ZeroBounce, or something similar to avoid bounces. Could you start sending a few emails from that list first and see how it goes? If the list is too “trashy,” converts very little, or has a high complaint rate, give it up.


List Segmentation

Segmentation is the process of dividing the list of email subscribers into smaller segments based on specific criteria. Segments are created so that the marketer can cater specifically to each different email list rather than sending one mass message for all. This personalization tactic serves the purpose of relevance based on recipients’ interests, geographic location, purchase history, open rate, and much more.

Generally, if you’re going to provide your subscribers with something generic, they will seldom get interested in the offer you want to preach. So, could you set out your email marketing based on information retrieved from the user during the subscription and analysis process? A broadly used way of segmentation is geographic email segmentation. There are other ways, as well. Content, specialization, and behavior-specific segmentation are good ways to divide the list to gain the user’s interest. Mainly, you have to use data from your subscriber’s interests to curate content that you know they’ll love. Some high converting circumstances you can segment your list are:

  1. People who did not open your last email
  2. People who did not click any links in your last email
  3. People who did not purchase after getting your last email
  4. Ecommerce events include people who added items to the cart but did not complete the purchase, have failed payment, or viewed an item for a long time or over and over but have not purchased yet.

Keep in mind that open rate and page views are not always correct because, most of the time, bots open the email to check for Spam, and mail tracking systems can not correctly understand the difference between a bot and a human. But the click rates are more accurate. Also, sometimes people use one email address to sign up and another for purchasing an item; sending them a discount offer after buying will hamper your reputation.

Overall, segmenting your email list will always pay off. It highly reduces the unsubscribe rate and complaints while raising the conversion. For us, we sold more than 20 fold by targeting the customers “who did not click the CTA link on our last email.”


A/B testing

A/B testing is a widely used method for generating the best converting email by sending differently styled and written emails to several test groups of subscribers.

Hundreds of little changes are possible in any email. Please don’t feel overwhelmed by it. Focus on basics like – call to action, subject line, overall graphical presentation, products or sales description. Calling these fundamental causes can directly affect the open, click-through or conversion rates. For example, the subject line will directly affect how many people will open your email in the first place. Or the color or position of the call to action button hugely impacts how many people are going to buy your product or click through to your landing page.

Here comes the other important factor – If you want an accurate result from which email a better response is coming, you must stick to testing one thing at a time. Along with that, testing regularly and simultaneously is of no less importance. Variation in timing may induce other time-based factors and skew the results, which is in no way acceptable or desirable by the tester.

Could you look over the result of your A/B testing properly? The final goal here is conversions, not just click-throughs or opening rates. On that note, your email should echo the look and promise of your website. Confusing the audiences broadly decreases the conversion rate. 

Suppose you’re using email marketing service tools like Mailbluster. In that case, A/B testing your campaigns is a complete cakewalk. You can use the “A/B testing slice” to slice your subscriber list into multiple segments, send different emails to them, and figure out which variation performs best.

A/B testing may not always give a complete winning segmentation. Sometimes the results vary very little, and sometimes the winning email for the sample subscribers converts less for the entire group. It is better to take a simple random sampling when picking up the subscribers for the test. And a substantial number of them. For example, in ThemeWagon, we have around 1 million subscribers, and to get the least skewed data, we take about 5% of them for the A/B testing purpose.


What to Write

Subject Line

Once the email gets inside the inbox, the next important thing you need to be careful of is the subject line, as it is quite a weighing factor to convince the recipient about opening the mail or not. A minor tweak in the subject line could double the open rate. Here are some actionable tips and insights for making your subject line polished – 

  • First, the subject line must be simple and have a tone of urgency, if not permanently. The FOMO(fear of missing out) of the users can help increase the opening rate in such cases. Like, “Act fast and save 20% on stylish bags” or “Limited offer on our hottest collection.” But please be careful of being repetitive and the need to use an urgent tone.
  • Try not to put nonsense into the subject line, like wasting precious space on the subject line by putting some greeting into it, such as “Hello {user},” “Warm Greetings,” and many more like this. Keep it precise and straightforward as much as possible. To be exact, one needs to ensure not to give false promises, and the site where they will divert the customer echoes the theme and promises appropriately. Also, could you tell them what’s inside? 
  • Could you be careful about the number of words? Let us present the data related to the length of the subject line, according to a study:
Number of WordsOpen Rate
0 – 5 16%
6 – 1021%
11 – 1514%
16 – 2012%
21 – 259%
Different Open Rate depending on Number of Words
  • The most alluring part of the subject line can be the presentation of incorporating the number of benefits or sales the deal has to offer. Try to use the exact number rather than a percentage. This way, the discount looks more authentic to the user. For example – “Save $45” works five times better than “5% Off”, while the 5% off equals $45. 
  • Personalized subject lines attract recipients to click on the email and go further. All you need to do is use personal data like name, occupation, and previous purchase in the subject line. For example – “Hello <first name>,” Always gives more opens.
  • Stimulate your recipient’s curiosity through your email’s subject line. Try different methods. Like storytelling, presenting intriguing words, and many more. Some triggering starting could be like – “Here’s what happens when you…” or “The secret of the <whatever> is finally revealed.”
  • Using emojis properly can translate to much higher open rates. As of 2020, more than 56% of promotional emails come with emojis in their subject lines. Sometimes senders use multiple emojis. While using emojis makes your email stand out but use them properly and do not overkill. 
  • Preview text: In the subscribers’ inbox, right after the subject line or the sender name, you can see a snippet of text pulled in from the body of your email. The preview text idea is just like the “Johnson Box” used on direct mail pieces to draw readers’ attention to critical points of a message. For email, preview text can capture your subscriber’s attention, encouraging them to open. It can also influence subscribers’ behavior – getting them to open, scroll, and click specific articles stated in the text. For example, WeddingWire, a company, showed a 30% increase in click-through rates by testing preview text.
Name, Subject Line & Preview Text
Stay away from Such words:
  1. Don’t write anything deceptive into the subject line. Don’t write ‘Re:’ or ‘Fwd:’ if it is not any reply or forwarded email.
  2. Don’t go with such starting “Do you want” or “Do you need.” You can say these types of intros are excessively overused and do not attract the user anymore.
  3. Try your best not to go with any sort of lies. For example, don’t send a message to people saying they’ve won a prize that they haven’t. This way, your reputation as a company would be hugely damaged to the recipient and would refrain them from getting to your services.
  4. Don’t include a percentage of more than 100; marking any email as Spam is quite a standard criterion. You can not even offer anything more than 100 percent in reality. So let not over-enthusiasm kill our marketing rate.
  5. Certain spam-prone words easily take your email to Spam. Some are manipulative; others are either needy or cheap, and a few are sleazy and shady. Let us mention those words in the list so that you can easily hold yourself not from using words in your emails.

Manipulative

Though asking the recipients to take action is not wrong, extreme urgency always gets caught in the spam filter. That is why we need to be careful about how to present the speed, excluding the following words:

  • Act Now
  • Action
  • Apply now
  • Apply online
  • Buy
  • Buy direct
  • Call
  • Call now
  • Click here
  • Clearance

Needy

 Desperate and exaggerated claim generally seems distasteful to users. If you genuinely got something valuable to offer to them, you definitely shouldn’t go with such an approach with the mentioned words:

  • 100%
  • All-new
  • Bargain
  • Best price
  • Bonus
  • Email Marketing
  • Free
  • For instant access
  • Free
  • For instant access
  • Gift
  • Free trial

Sleazy & Shady

You must be aware of words that can question your motive ethically or legally. Plus, you should not be too pushy on pursuing, as they result more in detaching the user than attaching them with your services. To put in one word, stay away from using the following words in your email:

  • As seen on
  • What are you waiting for
  • Click below
  • Deal
  • Direct email
  • Direct marketing
  • Do it today
  • Order now
  • Order today
  • Unlimited
  • Addresses
  • Beneficiary
  • Billing
  • Casino
  • Celebrity
  • Collect child support
  • Copy DVDs
  • Fast viagra delivery
  • Hidden
  • Human growth hormone

Cheap

Stay away from any presentation that will make your offer not that exclusive. Easily attainable and available products will never drive any user to take a particular action. To have a win-win email marketing, stay away from such words:

  • Acceptance
  • Access
  • Avoid bankruptcy
  • Boss
  • Cancel
  • Card accepted
  • Certified
  • Cheap
  • Compare
  • Compare rates
Examples of good subject lines:
  1. Get a scratchcard and win up to $150* in prizes!
  2. Full taste, half price! Get 50% off 1 year of MailBluster Pro
  3. Flash Sale ends today! 😱
  4. ⏳ 24 hours left to grab your 96% discount
  5. BlackFriday – 96% OFF! 🎁 Take everything with $29 Only [Save up to $1195] 🤑
  6. Earn $100 per Referral Starting Today!
  7. 👋 Say goodbye to code: MORE PLZ!
  8. ONLY 1 DAY LEFT to save 30%
  9. Productivity level: legendary💥
  10. Finish your online visit. These women did.
  11. Get 20% off new 👕 now!!
  12. ✨ NEW PRODUCT ✨ Magic for your hair!
Examples of ugly subject lines:
  1. 🙌😱2️⃣0️⃣% off 🔥 new 👕👚 now‼️✨
  2. ⚡ SET Today: Daily title came here for 10 days
  3. 80% off on our bundle; grab it anytime
  4. Free at 3 pm today? Please Join our webinar! 
  5. Dumbhead, why don’t you try this offer?
  6. GET Fa$t CA$H Now!
  7. Honestly! I just wanted to let you know that this can wait.
  8. FWD: You won’t believe it.
  9. FIRST DAILY POST
  10. 50-Point Checklist for Creating the Ultimate Optin Form(Avoid Using Round Number)
  11. Hey, open me! I’m fun and interesting
  12. Stop! See! Move!     

Remember, the subject line is sort of a gate pass for the involvement of the users. As per a study, 68% of the users use the subject line as the only factor in deciding when to report an email as Spam (Source) and 47% of email recipients decide to open the email based on the subject line alone (Source). That clearly shows how important the subject line is. So, try to be unique and experimental and observe what’s attracting the users. With more exploring, you will get your secret elixir.


Email Body

Clarity and Good Content

First and foremost, could you present your offer as clearly as possible? This is a must to submit your request effectively to prospective and current customers. Try to add things which would make the offer more valuable, like special offers on holidays, not-to-miss discount offers and many more. 

Ensure your campaign is relevant to all your subscribers. As you’re creating the campaign, ask yourself: Why will my clients care about this? What will it do to improve their lives? Be clear about the privileges and advantages you’re offering your clients, and give them a compelling reason to take action. In addition to that, be extra cautious about providing good content. It should not be forgotten that an acceptable transparent email adds a strong value proposition. I think it’s highly recommended that you keep your descriptions concise and on the point. It would be best to put precisely as much as needed, no more than that.


Length

We need to get off the idea of “the bigger, the better.” For email marketing, I would like you to understand that you won’t have much time to engage the subscriber. The ideal length of a perfect email is between 50 to 125 words. You may think 125 words is insufficient to convey a marketing message fully. That could be the case sometimes, but the fact is: in general, brief performs better.
But don’t go for too short, either. Could you pick up the minimum length for the email body to convey your offer and try to be precise about it?


Layout

Be a bit careful about organizing your email layout. Try to follow some basic and Wala✨! You can send a well-structured and attractive email to your subscribers. Follow the suggested tips, and that takes you further:

  1. First of all, try to use the Inverted Pyramid Model: Begins with attention-grabbing headlines with your principal motif, then description with supporting info, and finally, CTA. This structure encourages the reader to stick with the email and continue to the end.
  2. Whether you agree or not, White Space is your best friend. You can use it often to balance the visual representation and make the direct user flow down to your CTA.
  3. Another essential thing to cover is creating a visual hierarchy, like headings, subheadings, and different colors and font styles.

Personalized Language

In email marketing, personalized language is how to construct more targeted emails. To make the email more acceptable to the recipients, you should try implementing it in most of your emails. That gives the audience a feeling of importance which usually makes them interested in the offer. Research has shown that personalized email campaigns receive 29 percent higher email open rates and 41 percent higher click-through rates than regular emails (Source). Another case study shows that 77% of marketers believe real-time personalization is crucial, though most struggle to implement it in real-time (Source).

  1. You can begin by mentioning the specific name of your subscriber in the subject line or the email body. This excellent way promisingly targets the reader and increases the chance of opening the email drastically. Many email tools, including MailBluster, allow you to enter codes replaced with the recipient’s name when the email is delivered.
  2. As data is your true friend, you need to use them wisely to cater to your subscriber’s reasonable offers as they want to have it. For example, if your audience likes BTS, you can use pop-culture references in your email campaigns to offer a better-personalized experience through content and increase conversions. It will also help you build more substantial and personal relationships with your customers.
  3. You can show how important and appreciated your customers are to you, and also you care about every one of your customers by showing your gratitude, by sending an email wishing for their birthday, giving them “exclusive” access, “sneak peeks,” and unique tokens. You can try to use your newsletter to nurture your relationship with the reader/customer rather than pitch them and consider it as a rule of thumb.

Let us put it straight and simple. Put a visible and operable unsubscribe link at the bottom of every email. Any hide and seek on this thing won’t help you anyway. In contrast, you should make it pretty easy for the subscriber as the count is a key to winning subscribers’ trust. Including a viewable way to unsubscribe from your email list proves that you have confidence in your content value and structure.

Some brands take the confidence theory to the extreme level, putting an unsubscribe button in the header and the footer in the emails. You can do this, but there are also chances of being unnoticed by people. In that case, people will either unsubscribe without reading the email or hit the button by mistake. A simple unsubscribe button in the email footer can reduce the chances of your email not going to SPAM anymore.


Company Address(Physical)

Including the company’s physical address in the email is a good practice. Even the anti-spam legislation of several countries has put it an essential requirement. You can easily keep your email away from Spam by adding the company’s original mailing address. I’d like you to please add your company or organization name and postal address at the footer. You can add that directly into the email campaign if there is no template available.


Call to Action

In email marketing, Call-to-Action(CTA) is either a button or hypertext used to prompt the users to take a specific action. Nothing is better than a call-to-action when engaging the recipients in certain activities. CTAs are usually placed in a prominent spot in the marketing email. 

May it be the Hypertext or Simple button, it has to be clear and prominent enough to stand out in the crowd of letters. Remember, a clear call to action wins the click. To increase efficiency, give people a single actionable thing to do when they read your email, and they’ll likely do it. This is how CTA takes the spotlight of the show. Email marketing company Campaign Monitor found that button-based CTAs increased their click-through rate by 28 percent over link-based ones (Source). Please don’t forget to put up the right amount of actionable links or buttons. OverCrowdy emails with links and buttons can never engage any reader for long.

More Importantly, CTA placement is essential. According to Digital Doughnuts, putting their CTA on the right of the email increased their email marketing click rate significantly.


Content / Image / HTML Ratio

The most common mistake in providing images is putting a whole picture straight. It is not recommendable as it has loading issues, and device size varies from user to user. We need to ensure the email body has a balance between image and text that makes sense for the type of devices you’re sending. That is why finding a total mixture of photos and text in the email body is highly suggested. Generally, a 40-60 or 20-80 image-text ratio is laudable for the email body. You’ll know that the popular guideline is no more than 40% image coverage and a minimum of 60% text. The exposure of the image should not be 40%. If you are considering going for multiple images, no more than three images would be there. Please make sure that the pictures don’t touch each other. Besides that, don’t forget to use Alt text with images.

Another important thing is even if you take the images out from the email, the email should still make sense. This way, it guarantees that even if the photos could not be loaded on the users’ device, the email would not turn out to be a complete blunder. Nowadays, the image-to-text ratio is gaining high importance because this ratio determines if the message is Spam or not. So, we better not ignore its importance.


When and How

From Address

When you are up for bulk email sending, go with an authentic email sender address instead of email ids that start with “no-reply” or other undefined sub-domain, like any “catch-all” email account. Generally, it is the account that captures emails sent to any invalid email addresses of the domain. Those sending email IDs can easily be marked as Spam and increase the bounce rate exponentially. Usually, undefined co-operative emails are counted as junk by spam filters. Always keep the window open for interaction, and try to send an email to which recipient can do their queries. It may convince them about authenticity and integrity.


Time-Warp Delivery

TimeWarp is a feature that delivers a campaign to your audience based on the recipient’s time zone. As you may have recipients all over the globe, the time for each can vary in quite a fluctuating way. Suppose you live in place of GMT + 8 and send emails to your recipients at 11 am. Usually, your subscribers residing in the area of GMT + 6 will receive the mail at 9 am. With timewarp, they will receive the mail precisely at 9 am in their time zone.

TimeWarp can increase the open and click rate pretty significantly. For sending emails to 1 million subscribers in Mailbluster last Monday morning at 10, the A/B tested with 50%/50% (with/without timewarp), and the result was a click rate of 10.06% vs. 5.18%.

To get all of the TimeWarp, you need to know the subscriber’s IP address or address. You know all of your receivers are from your same time zone; then timewarp can be considered a plain redundancy that way.

Many email marketing services have the tool TimeWarp to facilitate email marketing service. So does our service, MailBluster. It can help you to go stress-free by utilizing time warping in the email in no time.


Sending rate/limit

Generally, having a certain amount of bounces over an extensive email campaign is expected. It can occur for many reasons like addresses can be changed or abandoned by their owners, network problems, people can change their jobs, and temporary delivery issues. But no matter what, the benchmark for bounces should be less than 2%. You should be careful if it gets above a 2% bounce rate. According to Campaign Monitor research, the retail industry’s average bounce rate is around 0.69%. On the other hand, marketing and advertising agencies have a higher but modest bounce rate of 1.29% (Source).

To prevent a higher bounce rate, one needs to use services like ZeroBounce or NeverBounce, especially if the address list is purchased. This way, someone could ensure which email addresses are still active and keeps the bounce rate in check. If you are using a dedicated IP for sending, you must “warm-up” the IP before sending. Also, if you use amazonSES, could you ensure you have the sending limit uplifted before you start sending? Here is how to increase your sending quota on amazonSES.


Conclusion

These are some of the non-technical ideas and outlines that our team found useful over their long working with email marketing. These are no complex fast rules you must maintain by hook or crook. As all businesses are unique in their way, one thing we genuinely suggest is to explore and experiment with your mail marketing without risking a lot on it. Moreover, following the guidelines mentioned above will ensure better click-through and open rates and might help you be dumped in the spam folder.

Leave your valuable thoughts about this topic in our comment section, and let us know what you are thinking about it.

Happy Sending!

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