Consultant’s Corner – April 2016

//Consultant’s Corner – April 2016

Consultant’s Corner – April 2016


This month’s tip comes from Mike Popalardo, Principal, Next Steps Marketing in San Francisco, CA.

The secret to getting more email click-thrus…

If only email marketing was as easy as “If you build it, they will come” or perhaps more appropriately in the case of email — “if you send it, they will respond.” As you already know, that simply isn’t the case and likely never will be. Getting more response is ultimately a function of getting more opens and getting more click-thrus. Duh.

As far as actually getting your email opened, ‘Subject’ rules supreme as the reason an email gets opened. Indeed, about 70% recipients consistently report that it’s the #1 reason for why they do it. My own experience is that the preeminent status that has been accorded to ‘Subject’ is warranted.

However, it’s critical that you keep in mind that the sole purpose of ‘Subject’ is to get your email opened. Once that occurs, its job is done. This is when the body content of your email takes over. Its job is to sufficiently warm up your prospects to get them to your Landing Page where they will take the action of placing an order or requesting more information.

Given the importance of ‘Subject’ it’s not surprising that what I see is a lot of ‘Subject’ testing. At some point you are going to top out in regards to how many more incremental opens you can get. While that doesn’t mean stop testing ‘Subject’ it does mean other email elements need to be tested. I would argue for body content. Below is a simple example of the benefit of increasing your click-thru rate by 5% pts versus increasing your opens by 5% points. As you can see, the benefits of increased click-thrus are enormous.

As you begin planning your testing, start with accepting that you have to overcome 3 hurdles. Once opened (the first hurdle) your recipient will scan your email for less than 2 seconds before deciding to read or delete it (the second hurdle) and those who do read it will spend 15-20 seconds with it (the third hurdle). If you can overcome these 3 hurdles you will be rewarded with a higher click-thru rate.

With those hurdles in mind here are 16 things you can test to improve your click-thru rates:

  1. Connection with your Subject Line. Don’t provide a subject that has nothing to do with the inside of the email. Your prospects won’t appreciate being misled or lied to and it may cause problems with email clients and ISPs.
  2. Don’t break trust. Gimmicky ‘Subjects’ like “Re: Checking in” or “Re: Following Up” are very hot techniques that emarketers are currently using and in my opinion are likely to backfire shortly. Fooling your prospect is ultimately not going to be your advantage, despite the momentary thrill of more opened emails.
  3. Be Careful with Multipart Design. Many email servers are configured to automatically generate a plain text version of a message and send it along with the HTML version, to ensure that it can be read even by text-only email clients. The downside is that what gets automatically generated for the text version may not be particularly user-friendly. Revise your text version to remove or rearrange links. One at the top and one at the bottom with an explanation of the offer should do it and set that link up as a simple redirect rather than as the originating URL. Click here to get 4 Free Issues:
  4. Avoid Image Only Emails. At a bare minimum it requires your recipient to take another action which may dissuade them from reading your email. If you find that image based emails are highly effective than consider testing placing alt text below the image that at least gives the flavor of the offer.
  5. Compelling Offer. Subscribe now, is not as seductive as “Get 4 free issues.” Save $10, Special Introductory Offer, Early Bird Pricing, Loyal Customer Discount, etc…
  6. Get to the Point. 100 to 150 words that include enough information to encourage them to find out more on your landing page (read more, learn more, etc…). Longer emails may feel like too much work to your recipient and are more likely to be misunderstood.
  7. Easy to Read. In general 10 pt or 11 pt, black text, with a non-serif font (like Arial) is a good place to start. Avoid italicized text or use sparingly. Design for a 600-750 px width.
  8. Prominent Headlines. They play a major role in getting the desired click-thru to occur. Bolding the font, using different fonts or color, and increasing pt size are all ways to draw attention. Be careful about going too big. You want to draw attention not overwhelm the email. One to 3 headlines in an email is likely to be sufficient for your needs.
  9. Position is Everything. Place at least one headline above the fold in the top two inches of your email to ensure that the most important message gets seen in the preview window and is easily seen on a mobile device.
  10. Say not to Red. It seems like an ‘old wives tale’ but it does appear that the excessive use of red fonts in an email can get you listed on a “spam watch list” of some email service providers. A splash or 2 of red is unlikely to hurt you but if you don’t need to use it why take the chance.
  11. Some words may impact your deliverability. Words like “free,” “$” and “credit” can trigger spam filters. Use them sparingly within your email. Run all your emails through your ESP’s Spam Scorer before sending just to be on the safe side.
  12. Novelty works. The eye gets bored easily and what’s likely to capture it’s attention is what stands out as being different. Use bold and all caps on key elements, words, or phrases. Don’t forget white space. Breaking up text, bullet pointing, indenting words, images can all help to make your email offer more visible while it is being scanned.
  13. Prominent Call-to-Action (CTA). Place at least 2 prompts to click-thru within your email. One near the top and one near the bottom. Don’t place your call-to-action within an image, or if embedding it in an image make sure the underlying image alt text refers to the action. (“Click here to Get 4 issues”) This way if someone hasn’t downloaded your images they can still see the offer.
  14. Don’t Hide your CTA. It will not be intuitive to your recipient that an image is linked and goes to your offer page. Bold, larger, differently colored font (think blue hotlink), buttons, direct instruction (“click here”) are more likely to get your recipient to take the desired action.
  15. Give your CTA room to breathe. Have them stand out from the surrounding text with a paragraph or line break.
  16. Don’t ignore mobile. Responsive emails use a media query, (aka @media) to detect screen size and then “turn on” different sets of simple of complex rules based on the size of the screen. In general, you will need to build in more planning and testing time for creating responsive emails. And while at the current time, responsive emails don’t work in all email clients with nearly 50% of users now viewing their email on a smartphone or tablet it’s likely we’ll see improving solutions for viewing email on the go in the near future.

Hope you got some tips you can use for your email body content testing efforts. If you have tried anything that worked particularly well, please do share in the comments section below.

Looking for email templates ideas that you can use. Check these out by clicking here.

For more of Mike’s insights, please visit or email him directly:

In Touch is a monthly newsletter by ESP Computer Services. Read the full April 2016 version.

2016-05-03T00:09:24+00:00 May 3rd, 2016|Industry Insights|

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