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Email marketing is a low-cost tool that marketers can use to send targeted campaigns, increase ROI, and improve engagement—as long as they incorporate the top best practices into their strategy. To ensure you get the most from your efforts, follow these 17 email marketing best practices.

1 Design a branded template

Do you ever open an email and immediately know who it’s from? Brand recognition provides a level of familiarity with subscribers that’s hard to beat. To achieve that goal, create templates that incorporate your brand’s colors, style, logo, and fonts. Then, plug in your text and photos into the template for each email to create a cohesive campaign your subscribers are sure to recognize.

2 Segment audiences

Separating your email list into smaller, more targeted lists allows you to deliver email marketing campaigns that resonate with each audience—instead of taking a “one size fits all” approach. Lists can be segmented by the subscriber’s location, age, preferences, purchase history, online behavior, job position, or any criteria you have data on. 

You can also ask customer’s questions about their preferences when they sign up for your email list. For example, give them a checklist of options—like different topics they want to receive emails about or even the email frequency they prefer.

3 Provide targeted content

Once the segments are set up, it’s time to craft emails that each of those groups will enjoy and find valuable. Using the information you’ve gathered, create personalized, targeted content. They receive dozens of emails a day, so send them one that will catch their attention—whether it’s focused on a topic they enjoy, useful information for where they are in the sales funnel, or an email based on a recent engagement. Providing highly customized messages improves email engagement, ROI and customer loyalty.

4 Catch their attention

Besides who the email is from, the subject line is one of the first components subscribers see when a message pops up in their inbox. About half of all email users decide if they are going to open an email based on the subject line—so it needs to pique their interest.

Whether it’s a welcome email or letting them know they left an item in their cart, make sure the subject line clearly states what they can expect to find when they open the email. Here are some examples of what that looks like:

  • Open for 25% off your next purchase
  • Don’t forget [product] in your cart! ????
  • How to get started with [Company/Product/Service]

While the best subject line length varies by audience, the sweet spot tends to be around six to 10 words. Avoid words that will trigger spam filters—urgent, free, buy, money, avoid, never, and more you can view here.

5 Optimize preview text

After the subject line, the next best place to catch their attention is with the preview text—and you want to make the most of that prized real estate. Think of the preview text as an extension of the subject line where you can provide additional, different information to summarize what’s inside of the email.

If you don’t add the preview text, the email provider will pull in text from the email to fill in there—which could include text like, “Unsubscribe Now,” “View in Browser,” or other words that make your email seem unprofessional. That can also make your email look like spam, so be sure to add preview text to all of your emails.

6 Tell subscribers what to do next

Your audience’s engagement shouldn’t end after they open an email. That should just be the first interaction of many. But you don’t want to leave it up to the subscriber to figure out what comes next, so include a clear call to action (CTA). That can be either a button or a text link. Place the CTA high enough in the design so that they don’t have to scroll to see it, and keep it short. Check out these examples of engaging CTAs to get more ideas on what works.

7 Run A/B tests

Crafting a successful email isn’t mere luck: It takes careful planning and testing to see what does and doesn’t work. One way to do that is through A/B testing—also known as split testing—which is when you send two versions of an email campaign to two sets of subscribers within the same list. 

Some common elements to test include the subject line, sender name, visual elements, personalization, CTA, send times, types of offer, template designs, and the tone of the email (ex. formal vs. relatable). It’s important to only test one element at a time so you can pinpoint exactly what worked. For example, send emails with a different subject line but keep everything else the same.

In Robly, you can also choose how to distribute the A/B test email vs. the winning email, how long to run the text, and whether to use open/click rate as the winning metric.

As more data pours in, analyze it for trends and how you can improve future campaigns for the best results.

8 Give them ways to connect

If subscribers have a question or want to further engage with your brand, don’t make them search for how to do that—because they aren’t going to take the time to do that. Be sure to include icons/links to your social media pages in the email footer, along with a link to your website and physical address. 

By using an actual sender email address (instead of a “no-reply” address), subscribers can respond and know a real person will receive their message. This could either go to an employee’s direct email address or to a customer support inbox like

9 Inspect before sending

Typos, broken links, and other errors are sure-fire ways to make email campaigns look unprofessional. Take time to read through the content, click all of the links/buttons, view how it will appear on different devices, check image alt text, and ensure everything is working correctly. Errors in the campaign will cause subscribers to lose trust in your organizations—and maybe even view the message as spam. For a full list of what to check before hitting send, click here.

10 Verify subscribers

Quality really does trump quantity when it comes to email marketing. Having a massive list doesn’t matter if only a small percentage engages with the campaigns. One way to ensure your lists are highly qualified and that the subscribers want to receive your email marketing campaigns is by using a double opt-in. By sending them a second message to confirm their subscription, you can reduce unsubscribes and poor email engagement down the road.

Adding a captcha form to your email signup on your website is another tool to help qualify contacts, ensuring the sign ups are coming from people and not computers or spammers.

11 Clean email lists

To help ensure the email deliverability remains strong, be sure to keep a clean email list. That includes scrubbing your email list of any contacts who are no longer engaged—which are negatively affecting the engagement metrics—and emails with hard bounces. 

To identify unengaged subscribers, you’ll need to decide on how to define those. For example, is it someone who hasn’t opened an email in X months or hasn’t clicked on any links in the campaigns? Once you have created the unengaged segment, send that list a re-engagement campaign. Think of it as your last-ditch effort to bring them back in. If they don’t engage with those emails, go ahead and remove them from your list. 

Also, check your lists for duplicates, typos, or any email that appears to be spam and remove those. Clean your lists at least yearly, if not more often. You want your lists to be squeaky clean with engaged subscribers that will boost your email metrics, email deliverability, and ROI.

12 Maintain good reputation

The content of the email and the sender’s reputation are two of the main contributing factors to the spam rate, whether for better or worse. Generally, a spam rate of 0.1% or less is considered standard. But if it climbs well above that, you’ll likely suffer from deliverability issues that will take time to repair. Here are a few ways to avoid a high spam/complaint rate:

  • Maintain clean email lists
  • Include a prominent Unsubscribe button in the email
  • Only email contacts who have opted in 
  • Send targeted, personalized content
  • Use a double opt-in to ensure they want to be on the list

It takes time to build up a good email reputation, so once you do, take steps to maintain it.

13 Automate email flows

Another way to provide targeted and timely content—and take work off of your plate—is by setting up automated emails. These are sent when a subscriber completes a designated task or on specific dates. Common flows include welcome, add to cart, browse abandonment, holiday, thank you, birthday/anniversary, and reengagement emails. Test these flows to ensure they are working correctly.

14 Track email metrics

Know which email metrics are the most important to achieving your marketing goals. Some of the top ones companies track include open, click-through, ROI, bounces, spam, opt-outs, and the rate at which your list grows. Pick the top ones that will have the biggest impact on your goals, and focus on them when creating campaigns. For example, if the click-through rate is one of the top metrics, conduct A/B tests on different types of CTAs.

15 Don’t purchase lists

Not only is buying or renting an email list a bad practice, but it can also have long-term negative effects on your email marketing efforts. For starters, it violates the GDPR privacy act (for those who send emails across the world) and harms your email deliverability and IP reputation. Sending emails to a purchased list may also result in your email marketing platform suspending or closing your account.

Emailing contacts who didn’t sign up to be on your list (and don’t know who your brand is) will annoy them and make them wonder why your company is emailing them. If by some miracle they don’t automatically mark the email as spam, they aren’t going to engage with it because they won’t recognize who it’s from.

16 Comply with regulations

Email regulations are in place to protect subscribers, so ensure your campaigns are in line with the current rules. Not following the rules won’t only affect your email deliverability, but it could also result in fines. The rules vary by location, but the general rules include offering subscribers a way to unsubscribe, not using false or misleading information, including the company’s physical address, and following general best practices. To view the full list of requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act, click here.

17 Choose intuitive email marketing platform

Partner with an email marketing provider that gives you the resources to be successful with each campaign. Look for one that not only offers all of the tools you need to be successful, but also a platform that provides support in case you run into obstacles. 

The platform should help make your job easier—not add to the work with complicated features. From a drag-and-drop campaign editor and a variety of templates to survey and landing page tools, Robly provides a user-friendly experience for all skill levels.

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