How to use email marketing to get more website traffic, Part 2


Last week I discussed some of the basics of email marketing: choosing an email marketing service, getting subscribers, and creating HTML emails. Today I’ll wrap it up with tips on subject lines, email content, and scheduling.

Subject lines need to be short, especially when they’re being read on mobile devices.

Subject lines

The first step in writing a subject line is knowing what not to do. Internet Service Providers and email clients have spam filters that detect certain words, phrases, punctuation, and formatting styles that suggest an email is spam. Using the following tactics won’t automatically land your email in a recipient’s spam folder, but when you’re writing a subject line try to avoid:

  • A heavy emphasis on money/price
  • ALL CAPS and excessive QUOTATION MARKS!!!!!
  • Making the message sound urgent, eg. CLICK NOW! or DON’T MISS OUT!

Beyond those basic rules, the best practices for creating a subject line is to keep it short and simple.

  1. Short—With more and more people reading email primarily on mobile devices (41 percent and growing!), subject lines need to be extremely concise. For instance, the mail app on an iPhone only displays about 40 characters of a subject line. According to litmus (an email testing service), subject lines with 28-39 characters have the best click rates.
  2. Simple—It may be tempting to get clever with your subject lines, but resist the urge. You’re emailing subscribers (if you’re playing by the rules), so these are people who’ve either volunteered to receive emails from you or purchased your products/services. Use the subject line to tell them exactly what they’re receiving: a monthly newsletter, a discount, a notification about new content, etc.

This MailChimp guide on subject lines has a cool table comparing subject lines from emails with the best and worst open rates. HubSpot has some cool charts that show how certain words affect click-through rates and spam reports (starts on Slide 14).

That illustration at the top of the email is hard to ignore. If that landed in my inbox, I’d read it. (Click through for full HTML version)

Email content

  1. Create your emails with the assumption that images won’t display. All crucial information needs to be included as text. In particular, don’t trust Gmail and Outlook to display your emails exactly as you have intended.
  2. With that disclaimer out of the way, images can be a great advantage when your emails display properly. Beyond a catchy headline, a big, colorful header image is great for getting someone’s attention.
  3. An HTML email is an invitation to view your content, not the content itself. No one’s going to read a 500-word email newsletter. Keep the copy brief, break up bits of information with bold headings, and make your links clearly visible.
  4. Tell your subscribers what to do next. Your emails should have calls to action. Make sure to include links and images that tell the reader to “Click here,” “Read more,” “Start your search,” etc. Keep your mobile readers in mind by making buttons and links big enough to accurately click on a touchscreen.

Scheduling your emails

Good luck finding consistent information about the ideal day and time to schedule your email campaigns. Some studies suggest you’ll get more opens by sending mid-week, mid-afternoon emails. Others (like the HubSpot slideshow embedded above) suggest sending in the morning on weekends. And others say to send in the middle of the night.

I think this Email Vision blog post sums it up best:

“…Position in the inbox is relatively unimportant. Your email will be scanned for a delete or read decision regardless of whether it’s the top email or number 25. Your email will live and die by much stronger factors than time of day such as:

  • Subject line and from name
  • Content relevance
  • Previous experience of your emails
  • Brand loyalty and engagement”



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