Browsing: Email 101
A question asked very often in email marketing is what makes a great subject line? Unfortunately there is no silver bullet. Our simple answer comes threefold; An email that is timely, relevant and relates with the reader.
Our work and personal email accounts are open communication channels and will be utilised very differently.
At work we read our emails because we have to, but if it’s non-essential work related content or in our personal inbox, what will drive us to open and read them? We come back to the email being timely, relevant and relatable.
Let’s start with some general facts and figures about email marketing subject lines:
- A rough 33% of subscribers opened an email just on the subject line alone
- The most common length for subject lines is 41-50 characters
- Around 69% of email recipients report email as Spam based on the subject line
- Interestingly emails with the word “You” in the subject line were opened 5% less
- Emails with “Free” in the subject line increased open rates by 10%
- There was an 18.7% decrease in open rates when the word “Newsletter” was used
- However, an increase of 61.8% in open rates with the word “Alert”
- Using words such as “Daily or Weekly” in subject lines tend to boost open rates, whereas “Monthly” has the adverse effect
- Subscribers viewing emails on mobile devices may not be able to see the full subject line so it’s important that you have your CTA (call to action) stated at the beginning of the subject line
- There is no real conclusive evidence to suggest shorter subject lines are more successful
- Subject lines with personalisation are more likely to be opened by a rough figure of 22.2%. E.g. First name
- Subject lines that have a sense of urgency in them can achieve an increased open rate by 22%
- In pricing related emails, subject lines containing symbols such as “%, $, £” have below average read rates and are more likely to end up getting caught in the spam filter
- Excessive punctuation can result in your email ending up in the Spam folder
We say this all the time but it’s true… you should split test your subject lines and our multivariate testing is an invaluable tool and comes as standard for all Campaignmaster users. We took a very small number of prospect data, (300 records to be exact), and conducted an extremely, simple subject line test. No other content was changed, not even time of day.
Version A’s subject line was ‘Start sending better email’
Version B’s subject line was ‘Send better email marketing campaigns’
The results speak for themselves:
So the upshot is that we can swot up on facts and figures but fact is, if a subject line is meaningful to us then we are more likely to open it.
Not familiar with split testing? Read our guide here.
Furthermore, with Campaignmaster’s Advanced Spam Analysis tool you can test your subject lines against the main email filters to analyse your content and get a breakdown of any potential red flags in your subject line and your content too.
Here is one of my inboxes and it is overflowing (I am an email marketing geek after all!). I’ve highlighted the emails I will definitely open. Guess why? They appeal to me and it’s got nothing to do with the subject line length or the time of day that I received the email. So yes, I’m planning my summer holiday and am partial to a glass of lovely wine and ready to buy now (or very soon!).
In Managing Unsubscribes we discussed the different reasons why people unsubscribe and how you can manage your unsubscribe pages. In this post we will delve into examples of live preference centres and unsubscribe pages to see what we can learn from what's currently out there.
First up is Groupon's preference centre. There are a lot of positives here, but those very positives can be construed as negatives, depending on the audience.
Off the bat, as soon as I come to the preference centre, there is too much going on. My eyes need to adjust to the multitude of options available on the page. Now, for someone like me who deals with emails, webpages and forms for a living, it’ is easy to quickly make sense of it. But it might not be as simple for someone less acquainted with the internet.
The page reflects the website, so to a regular subscriber it will be familiar, which is never a bad idea.
The search bar at the top is a good distraction, a way to divert my attention from unsubscribing and instead searching for a deal; who doesn't love a good deal!
The manage subscription options are specific to my location and give me the chance to add another city, which in affect could leave me wanting to receive even more emails than before, even though I came to the preference centre to unsubscribe. Quite ingenious.
The options are broken down well, so as to retain as many subscribers as possible. More importantly, it will help Groupon send me more targeted emails and understand their subscribers better.
So, the various options on this page are great and at times sneaky, given how I am easily distracted, I could decide to visit their website instead of unsubscribing, end up opting in for even more emails then before, or I could simply be put off by all that’s going on here and end up chucking the next email into my junk folder. This in turn would be bad for Groupon’s reputation as a sender.
Moral of the story: if you are creating a preference centre with a multitude of options, keep your layout simple and easy to understand. If you incorporate the design of your website into the page, don’t lose sight of the main objective, which is to give your readership a chance to manage their preferences easily. All in all, keep it simple and easy to use so you don’t end up in a junk folder.
We recently wrote a design spotlight on a Booking.com email. For me, they have hit the nail on the head with their preference centre.
They have incorporated their header, so I get the look and feel of their website with a few options, most of which are specific to me:
Despite this, the focus remains on the preference centre with a nice big heading and centre aligned content:
Each type of newsletter has a unique name, instead of just 'newsletters' and 'events' they use 'lazy Sundays' or 'Tuesday Inspiration ', making the newsletters sound more interesting and appealing.
For one, it’s well laid out and designed, and secondly it shows me a live example of what I could be missing out on. Remember, just because you understand the categories for your email campaigns, doesn’t mean your readership will. So the preview option is an ingenious inclusion.
The apology is a nice, sympathetic touch.
So in conclusion, I think Booking.com have hit the nail on the head, their preference centre is clear, concise and to the point.
Preference centre is not always the way to go when it comes to managing unsubscribes. Yes it may help you retrain a few subscribers but you are running the risk of ending up in junk folders, which is ultimately worse than an unsubscribe.
Londonist have taken a different route. They offer a one-click unsubscribe, which will be a relief to their readership who will be grateful for the easy unsubscribe and hence more inclined to provide the simple feedback request that follows:
This simple feedback form is a great way of understanding why someone has unsubscribed, and though you are not retaining subscribers, you now know what mistakes you made so you can rectify them. Although, I would possibly take a different line of questioning. Maybe ask the recipient if they did not receive what they were expecting when they signed up or if the content was too generic and not for them etc.
In conclusion, feedback questions are a great way of understanding why a recipient has chosen to unsubscribe, and a good way to learn from your mistakes. Almost like asking an ex for feedback at the end of a relationship so you do better next time around!
This is quite a unique take on unsubscribes. Noddle are asking for a second chance, which is in my control. I can decide to, firstly give them a second chance and secondly how long for. It's a good idea, as they make their subscribers feel in control which isn’t easy to do when we receive so many emails on a regular basis that we feel it’s out of our hands.
The page itself is simple, a bit too simple for my liking. There is a lack of branding and no links off to their actual website. They are in affect losing the chance to drive traffic to their website, as a marketer you shouldn't miss out any such opportunities.
- Preference centres are a good idea, but they need to be simple and to the point. It could be your last opportunity to salvage the relationship, so you want to be interesting and unique, but at the same time do not come on too strong.
Have a 'unsubscribe from all' option that is easy to see.
As Booking.com has done, use large headings that get the point across to the user.
Offer options that are specific to the recipient, like Groupon offered me the option of staying subscribed to all communications based on my location.
Mostly importantly, try and understand why the recipient wants to unsubscribe, is it the frequency of emails? Or the lack of relevant content etc.
- Getting feedback will in the long run help you understand your subscribers better, and deliver email communications that lead to a better ROI.
I personally receive a lot of emails on a daily basis and I use my commute to work as the perfect time to trawl through these. I am generally interested in the content of all the emails I receive so I do take the time to read through the majority of them. However, the minority I don’t read are usually not read due to poor design. Not only that, but as I’m on the go, I am reading them on a smartphone and therefore design is paramount in order to get me to read the entire email, let alone interact with any calls to action! In order to get the most out of your email campaigns, it is important to get all elements of your design looking sharp and we at Campaign Master (UK) Ltd have a few tips that can help you do just that.
Not all email campaigns are designed to be optimised for mobile, especially internal campaigns, but with more and more emails being accessed on mobile devices, it should at the very least be a consideration. As we previously discussed in the evolution of smart technology article, 88% of people check their emails via a mobile device so ensuring your campaign displays correctly and effectively on these devices should be a priority.
The content of your email should be legible at arm’s length which means bigger fonts, larger calls to action so that the average thumb can interact with it and optimised images for quicker load time. The other key point to cover when considering a mobile-first approach is the general layout of your email design. Sticking as close to a single column layout as possible means that your email should display better on a smaller screen than a multi-column layout. Although this doesn’t mean your email is fully responsive, it does go a long way to improving its readability. If you didn’t want to tackle responsive design, attempt to use percentages where possible instead of fixed pixel dimensions as this will result in your content adapting for all screen sizes.
Content/Call to actions
Although the design of your email is a huge point to cover, going back-to-basics should be a priority and ensuring your content is not overshadowed by an all singing and dancing design is key. The expected reason for a recipient signing up to your campaign is that they have a genuine interest in the content and what you and your company have to say, so make sure they can take that information in. If your aim is to get call to action interactivity, make sure these are clear and in a prominent location. A general rule of thumb is to have at least one relevant call to action above the fold and all of your content should fit within a 600-700px width. Finally, make sure there is something for everyone in your email. If a reader doesn’t want to interact with anything that only appears in one particular campaign, give alternative, generic links such as your company’s social media channels.
There are a lot of unwanted emails out there and when they land in our inbox, they are sometimes not as obvious as we expect. For this reason, branding is massively important as not only does it express your company’s public image, but it also provides comfort for the recipient. If a reader can recognise your branding, and this includes a branded from address and from name, they are more likely to trust your email and therefore read it. Stick to your brand guidelines as much as possible to achieve this result. In order to accomplish a safer design, it’s a general recommendation that you should stick to a small collection of your brand’s colour palette.
Text to Image balance
Images are arguably the most eye-catching element of a HTML email. When images are used, they should be clean, appealing and relevant. However, one large image or a heavily image based email serves up several problems. Emails that make use of this method are widely associated with spam and therefore a lot of email clients will automatically associate a very image heavy email with the spam folder. In addition to this, recipients will more than likely be asked to download images to view the email properly. If the email client features a preview pane such as Outlook does, recipients may choose not to download images and therefore they will not be able to see your content as you intended.
Achieving a good text to image balance is vital in avoiding these problems and improving your email deliverability and there are a couple of ways to improve this situation if you find yourself in it. Firstly and most obviously, use text where possible. Try to avoid images of text and use actual text instead, making use of safe web fonts to ensure it displays properly. If images can’t be replaced, adding alt tags is a way of balancing out your ratio and this will provide text to be displayed if images are not downloaded by the recipient. In addition to alt tags, background colours for cells containing images will act as a back-up for non-downloaded images. This technique is especially useful for features such as buttons as a matching colour from your button image can be used as your background, almost making the non-displaying image unnoticeable.
The final stage of a good design and perhaps the most important is testing. Your email design should be tested vigorously, and then tested again. Testing should not be undervalued and you can never do too much testing. Unfortunately for us email marketers, all email clients and devices seem to vary in some way or another with regards to how they read and display your HTML email. Due to the variation of devices and email clients currently in circulation and with this only set to increase as time goes on, it is important to test how your email looks on these different platforms. Analyse who your campaign is going out to in order to understand what email clients you should be mainly targeting. An alternative and easier way of ensuring your campaign looks crisp across a huge variety of clients is by using a rendering tool. Campaign Master (UK) Ltd offers this feature and allows you to test how your email looks on 31 different clients and devices. If you would like a demo of this feature or feedback on how your designs look, get in touch with our team.
- Campaign Master (UK) Ltd. at Marketing Week Insight Show
- Email Marketing Deliverability
- Top 4 Takeaways From Integrated Live 2016
- Campaign Master (UK) Ltd. at IntegratedLive
- Gmail to support responsive email design. Finally!
- Email Marketing Checklist
- Should you use emojis in subject lines?
- How to create a really personalised email
- GDPR – Email Marketers Getting Compliant
- What Makes A Great Subject Line?