As COVID-19 continues to impact our businesses, communities, families, and other aspects of our personal lives, email marketing continues to thrive in the business world. Learning best practices for email marketing is a crucial tool to knowing how you can increase your click-through rate (CTR). Especially during this pandemic, when it’s particularly important to know how best to reach the customers and potential customers on your email list. Increasing your CTR means more engaged visitors, more email opens, more call-to-action clicks, and even more conversions! Today on the Launchpad Blog, we’re discussing 8 Best Practices for Increasing your Email Marketing CTR.
Before we dive in, let’s discuss what a Click-Through Rate (a.k.a. “Click-Thru” Rate), or a CTR, is. In digital marketing, the CTR is a metric that essentially tells you how actionable your content is. The CTR is displayed as a percentage, and it is calculated by dividing the number of clicks, by the total number of views. In email marketing, the CTR metric deals with how your email list is responding to the emails or newsletters that you’re sending them. So for example, if I send an email to a 100-person email list, and 20 of them click the email, I have a 20% open rate. Of those twenty people that actually opened the email, five of them clicked the link that I included in the email. This means that this particular email has a CTR of 25% (5 clicks divided by 20 total views).
Now, let’s discuss best practices for email marketing:
1. Never Buy An Email List
The first rule of email marketing is that you should never buy an email list. Buying an email list is what’s known as a “black hat” technique. Put simply, it’s not really an ethical practice. Unfortunately, however, purchasing email lists is very common.
What is buying an email list?
Buying an email list means that you’re purchasing email addresses and contact information to grow your mailing list. You’re paying to transfer a ton of data from questionable sources, so that you can promote your product or service to that audience. There are a large number of networks that sell lists based on their size. While they claim to be ethical, the constantly changing landscape of data privacy laws play a different tune.
Why would you buy an email list?
Buying an email list is an appealing option, particularly for small business owners who don’t really have that foundation for how to market and grow their list. It’s an appealing option because it seems like you can have things done for you very quickly and immediately have a large audience.
Why shouldn’t I buy an email list?
Aside from the fact that you’ll have a ton of trouble actually inputting all of the data into your email service provider, buying email lists is never a good idea because of the quality of list that it creates. You have to consider the data that you’re purchasing – they never signed up for your list. They never consented to give you their email. So when you purchase an email list, you will tend to experience very low open rates, very low CTRs, and overall just have a very unengaged audience. There’s also the consideration that purchasing an email list is untargeted. It doesn’t make sense for me to sell homemade paintings to a list of people that are interested in making money online. This type of an interaction usually results in your emails being seen as spam, which can have additional ramifications with your email service provider.
2. Use Double Opt-In
The next best practice for email marketing is to utilize the right opt-in type for your email list.
What does “Opt-In” refer to?
The “opt-in” style refers to how people sign-up to your email list. There are two types of opt-ins: single opt-in and double opt-in.
What is the difference between a single opt-in list and a double-in list?
When you sign-up to a single opt-in list, once your email address is submitted, you’re on the list. Whereas, with a double opt-in list, submitting your email address triggers a confirmation email. In order to officially be added to that email list, you must first go and verify your sign-up via the confirmation link sent to the email address that you provided. If you don’t click the link to verify your sign-up, you won’t be added to the list.
Why should I use a double opt-in list?
Using a double opt-in list is important because it’s about creating a high-quality list. Without a double-opt in list, you’re likely to get spammer sign-ups and sign-ups from people who aren’t truly engaged in your content. By using double opt-in lists, you’re really focusing on driving engagement. Someone who checks their email inbox and clicks the verification link to confirm that they want to sign-up to your list is far more committed to the decision. Additionally, with email lists, you have to consider that you’re dealing with personal information. Therefore, using a double opt-in sign-up method is also seen as more ethical.
3. Use Smart Form Placement & Incentivization
You’ll also want to consider how people sign-up to your list, where those sign-up forms are, and whether or not people are getting anything out of signing up! Placing your sign-up forms in the right spot can be the difference between 0 subscribers and having a list that grows daily. Finding the right spot for your email sign-up forms is very similar to using ad heat maps.
What are ad heat maps?
Ad heat maps show a digital marketer what ad placements are most likely to receive attention on the website. For example, ad heat maps might tell you that only 15% of site visitors get to the bottom of a page. So the ads at the bottom of the page might be cold, while the banner ad up top gets a lot of exposure and engagement. Thus, it would be considered “hot.”
What do ad heat maps have to do with email sign-up forms?
Just like ad heat maps play a role in ad placement, it’s important to use this same approach when you place sign-up forms on your website and within your network. You want your forms to be in a location that they’re seen and are actually used.
What about email sign-up incentivization?
Incentivizing an email sign-up is a very common practice, however, there are right and wrong ways to do it. In general, you shouldn’t incentivize sign-up with a physical product. Aside from the fact that it’ll take you tons of time to be mailing products out and paying quite a bit in shipping costs, this type of incentivization is seen as a bribe. Many advertising networks will not allow this type of incentivization.
How can I incentivize people to sign-up to my list, ethically?
The most common practice for incentivizing email sign-ups is to offer some sort of a digital download, asset, or document. This is most commonly done with an ebook. So for example, if you had a mailing list that was in the health & wellness niche, you might incentivize email sign-ups with an ebook called “10 Ways To Melt Stubborn Belly Fat.” You still have to be mindful of what your incentivization promises, and choosing the right offer is an art in itself.
4. Strategize Your Subject Lines
The subject line is one of the most important components to email marketing. You really only get one sentence to make an impression on someone and try to get them to click your email and read more. Strategizing and knowing what makes a good subject line is incredibly important to your CTR.
What is the first rule of writing a subject line?
The very first rule of writing a good subject line is knowing the number of characters to use. People have different devices and different methods for checking their email, so you want a subject line that doesn’t get cut off on devices. Your subject line should contain no more than 41 characters, with studies showing the shorter the subject line, the better. While this number comes from numerous case studies and is known to be the industry standard, it’s also important to consider mobile phones. Email clients on mobile phones generally show about 25 – 30 characters. You’ll want to make sure that your subject displays properly on as many email clients as possible.
What are the three components of an effective subject line?
An effective subject line really has three essential components to it – it’s personalized, it’s actionable, and it clearly defines the contents of the email. Let’s talk about this a little more:
- Personalized – A good subject line often uses the subscribers name or something relevant to their life and why they signed up to your email list.
- Actionable – Your subject line should clearly provide value to the reader and communicate why the email matters.
- Clearly define the contents of the email – The mark of a great subject line is that it tells people EXACTLY what the email contains and what they get out of opening it. Transparency is key with email marketing.
So what would a good subject line be?
An example of a good subject line might be “Jon, watch this 30-second video on meditation.” This subject line is great because it hits all three components – it’s personalized, it communicates what the person is getting, and it clearly defines what is inside the email (a 30-second video). While it’s 46 characters, it’s a great hook to increase open rates and CTR.
5. Send Emails At The Right Time
To maximize your email list CTR, you’ll also need to make sure that you’re sending emails at the right time.
How do I know what time to send my emails?
For many folks, the “right time” to send an email is going to be a bit of trial and error. You’ll need to keep an eye on your CTR, keep consistent subject line quality, and try out some different times. What this really boils down to is learning about your audience and knowing what times will really drive your engagement and increase your CTR. For example, if you have an email list of people who are interested in day trading, or the stock market, you would want to make sure that your email goes out before the markets open at 9:30AM.
What about different time zones?
Many email services offer a feature known as “time capsule,” “time adjust,” etc. Essentially what this feature does is it makes sure that no matter what time zone someone is in, they get the email at 7:00 AM if that’s the time you set it for. This feature can be particularly useful when testing out different sending times.
6. Keep Your Content Simple
Another best practice to increasing your CTR is to keep your content simple.
What makes good content?
Emails shouldn’t be long stories or 500 word blog articles for your list to read – that’s what your website is for. Good content for an email marketing list is short & sweet. The emails should be easy-to-read and follow along with. They should be structured well, and they should have a clear purpose and reason for the communication. It’s also important to make sure that you’re spacing out your content, as white space and the use of paragraphs can really help the readability of an email.
Are pictures okay?
While pictures are okay to send to email marketing lists, it’s always important to consider the image format and size, as well as the fact that many mobile browsers will not load the images by default. Mobile email clients typically require a visitor to confirm that they would like to download the images contained in the email. This is again why it’s important to build a high quality list, as you’ll want subscribers who are engaged enough to even want to see what images you’re including in your emails! Additionally, as a general rule of thumb, it’s never a good idea to include an image that has text in it – there are various formatting issues that can arise, and it’s more likely to be flagged as spam.
7. Limit Call-To-Action Use
The next crucial component of email marketing lists and newsletters are calls-to-action.
What is a call-to-action (CTA)?
A call-to-action is exactly what it sounds like – you’re encouraging the subscriber to take action in some capacity. This is almost always in the form of a button. For example, if you’re reaching out to your email list to let them know that you wrote a new blog post, you would include a call-to-action in that email that would take subscribers to said blog post.
Where should I place calls-to-action in an email?
Call-to-action placement is another science, but the general rule of thumb is that you can break up your content with CTAs. Emails should contain no more than 3 CTAs, and generally, depending on the length of your content, 1 – 2 CTAs is really all you’ll ever need. A good practice is to place CTAs after every 150 – 250 words in your email.
How do I know where the right place for a CTA is?
You almost want to think about CTAs in a very similar light to that of a subject line and email list practices – you want to clearly define what the CTA does, where it takes the visitor, etc. Furthermore, the CTA should only be placed once the purpose for the email and the result of clicking the CTA has been communicated.
8. Analyze SPAM Scores & Utilize Inbox Preview Tools
The final component to increasing your email marketing lists CTR or maintaining a good CTR, is to utilize SPAM scores & inbox preview tools. At this step, you really want to be putting yourself in your subscriber’s shoes and seeing how you would feel if you received the email you’re sending out.
What is a SPAM score?
A SPAM score is essentially a measurement of how likely your email is to end up in a subscribers spam or junk mailbox. There are a number of components that contribute to a high spam score, including using many different fonts, using too many images, using larger fonts, including too many links, etc.
What is an inbox preview tool and why should I use it?
An inbox preview tool will actually show you what your email looks like in a variety of different email clients. These tools are important to use because they will give you a clearer idea of how much of your subject line is getting cut off, how your email displays on different devices, whether or not the email is going to spam, etc. These tools provide really important considerations as all email clients have different protocols for determining something as SPAM content.
These 8 best practices for email marketing are really all about one thing: building a high-quality list. A high-quality email list will have higher open rates, higher click-through rates, and higher conversion rates if you’re selling products or services. Additionally, by going the extra mile to be transparent in your correspondences and sign-up process, you build trust with your subscribers. As a business owner or a marketer using an email marketing provider, it’s important to consider that you’re directly emailing someone who has consented to receive those communications. Transparency and ethics are a must if you want to maintain an engaged, high-quality list.
If you’re interested in email marketing services, New Moon Strategy provides full email marketing setup and maintenance services with the basic best practices that we discussed here today! We also utilize advanced best practices for email list retention and maintenance.