If you didn’t open this blog post through a social network or website, chances are it was opened through a link in your email. Although we live in a social media-marketing world, sharing and promoting businesses through email continues to be one of the most effective ways to increase reader engagement. What guidelines should you follow so that your email marketing efforts lead to sustainable growth?
Create an Engaging Subject Line and Preheader Text
Your subject line is what people see before opening your email. You need to carefully create the subject line so that the wording is compelling and noticeable. The text should be eye-catching text. Some companies even use characters and emojis in the subject line; but use these features at your own discretion.
Most email providers also display 75-100 words in the inbox area, immediately after the subject line called the “preheader”. It is important to display this second subject line in this area because it will be the first line in the email that catches the reader’s attention. It’s a way to get your reader to act, especially if they don’t have time to read through the rest of the email.
Determine the Correct Balance of Color
While color brings more interest to the content of your emails, it can easily be used in the wrong way. If you use too much color, your email could look messy and be distracting to the reader.
Try to use only three or four colors that match your company’s brand and/or project theme. Brand colors can be used for headings, links, and even your background. Keep in mind that using a lighter background is easier on the eyes and keeps the email clean.
Use Negative Space
Your email design should incorporate the use of negative space somewhere in your layout, so that it’s easier for people to read. One suggestion is to put the majority of your content in one column and then have white space on the left with a picture every few inches; or vise-versa. By utilizing negative space, you’re directing the readers’ eyes where to go.
Make Your Call to Action Stand Out
Include a call-to-action (CTA) in every email and make it stand out. For example, the subject line “Register Now for GO Georgia to Get Your Spot!” includes the action word “Register” which clearly instructs the reader what they should do. You may also want to use arrows or other visual elements to guide the reader to the most important sections of the email. You could also try using contrasting color where each CTA is included. Also, be specific about what you want your readers to do, and make sure that the text conveys a sense of urgency for them to act. The use of different colors and a strong CTA will naturally catch your reader’s attention and show that your email has an important purpose for them.
Break Your Content into Subheadings
The content of your email should be clear and easy to understand. People do not have time to read a long email, meaning that you only have a few seconds to keep them engaged. Keep the text short and concise; and send them to your website or other useful content you are sharing. If you’ve created a newsletter or would like to share an article or blog post from your website, it’s better to include only a short snapshot of what the article is about and then link to it from your email.
Break up high volumes of content through subheadings. Since most people only scan emails anyway, the subheadings will show them the most important parts. The goal of email marketing is to create content that is easy to digest. This will generate more responses to your CTA’s and bring more traffic to your website.
Include Pictures and Videos
Readers almost always look at images before they read the text that follows. Find and/or create eye-catching images that provoke interest in your message. For example, infographics are a great way to display a condensed version of a story or data. They have recently increased in popularity because of their ability to include colorful graphics and enhance patterns and trends. Try using an infographic within the bulk of your content to see how many more people respond to this type of email design.
Many people would rather watch something, than read something so also include video links where possible. Since it usually involves coding and most clients can’t display the content, avoid embedding an actual video in an email. You’re better off using a thumbnail image and link to the video’s URL.
Include an Email Opt-Out Area
The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 requires that all businesses include an “unsubscribe” button in all email marketing correspondence. Most email services provide this feature either at the top or bottom of every email, making it easy for readers to find. However, you may still have the occasional recipient email you directly, asking to be removed from a list. If you are frequently receiving direct requests, the “Unsubscribe” or “Manage Your Subscription” area may be too difficult for your readers to find. It may be helpful to include a section at the beginning of your emails explaining why they are receiving them, and directions on where they must go to unsubscribe. (This is also a good time to evaluate why readers may be unsubscribing. What could you be doing to improve the content of your emails?)
Use Social Media Icons
If your business has one or more social media accounts, it’s appropriate to link to your relevant social media sites. For example, iContact has easy-to-insert linking capabilities to help increase “click-throughs” by providing a Social Contact block where social media links can be inserted.
Make sure to test all the links in your email before sending it. It’s an inconvenience to your subscribers when they click on a link and it goes to an unexpected site or takes them to an error page. It’s also a good idea to have the links open in a new window, so readers don’t have to scramble to find their way back to your email or newsletter.
Build an Image Library
Upload into your image library any logos you need; and track any images, banners, and stock photos you might already have on hand. Take the time to upload them into your image library for future use. This will save you time in the long run! At the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, we frequently use stock images provided through our accounts with Getty and Canva. If you’re in need of images for your organization, check out this blog post from web designer Barry Dollar on the best FREE photos, graphics, videos, and fonts to use for print, web, and social media!
Use the Correct Image Sizes
Standard headers and footers for most emails should no larger than 600 x 200 pixels; however, this depends on your company’s branding standards. For all other images there aren’t standard dimensions, but make sure that they are at least 600 pixels wide. Most email services are set to auto resize your image to fit the small boxes within templates. As long as your image is of high resolution quality, the system will scale down and shrink the image, and the quality will remain the same.
Don’t try to upload an image that is low resolution because it will look pixilated. While the size of these boxes may vary, 600 pixels is a safe width to ensure that the entire width of your email displays in a user’s preview box or email pane.
When you save images, use PNG, JPG, or GIF format. You can use PNG format if you need to retain transparency.
Limit Your Links
Limit the number links in your emails to no more than seven. While including links in emails can help drive traffic to your website, too many can look unnatural and overwhelm your readers. Your email may also be marked as spam if there are too many links. Always run the spam check to determine if your email is safe.
Put the most important links at the top of the email to increase click-throughs. Put bonus content links in a banner or side navigation panel. Lastly, include permanent links that are always available in your communication (social media pages); and keep them in the same place in your emails so that readers know where to find them.
Carefully Choose Your Background Images and Fonts
I want to point out that background images do not appear in Outlook. If you are testing an email in Outlook, the background image will not show, nor will rounded buttons and certain fonts. Most other email service providers do not have this issue. However, I would still recommend limiting your use of background images and, instead, stick with one solid color (preferably white).
Take the time to carefully choose your font. It’s okay to use more than one font; however, as with the colors, you should keep your font styles to a minimum. If you’re not sure what font to use, go with something common, like Arial or Times New Roman. These are the fonts that people easily recognize and are email-safe.
Unify Your Look
Your company’s logo is one of the most visible markers, so displaying it clearly on all email communication is a great way to help readers recognize your brand right away. Make sure that you feature this visual element the same way in every instance. Whether your company’s website shows the logo in a centered position across the top of each page or at the top of a sidebar, do the same in your email marketing efforts. When your readers can quickly recognize your logo, they’ll know exactly what to expect from both your website and your marketing messages.
Go Mobile: Use Responsive Design
As a marketer, you want your emails to display properly on all devices, so it’s key to use a responsive design approach that will automatically resize a display to fit every screen, by adjusting both the format and layout. More and more people are using their smartphones to check email. Using a mobile design will enable every image and word to appear clearly, no matter what device your audience is using.
So, there you have it! Following these guidelines will ensure that your readers will have a pleasant experience reading your emails, which may result in higher conversion rates. Stay ahead by following these email marketing strategies, and your readership is sure to grow!