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Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 6

5. Font, Font Size and Font Color


In general, only universally-supported fonts such as Arial and Times New Roman should be used in email messages. Arial is a font that was specifically designed for onscreen readability. Studies indicate that Web users prefer Arial, Verdana and Tahoma to others when viewing Web pages and email.

If you include fonts that are not loaded on your recipients’ machines, their email clients will substitute different fonts, which can affect your design. When using a special font (such as the unique font for a company logo), place it within an image.

Fonts can be specified in pixels, points or HTML font size value. Use a point size no smaller than 10 pixels, 10 point, or size “2”.

Beware of using white as a font color. While it is tempting to use a dark background and white font to make the text stand out, many spam filters identify the use of white (#FFFFFF) in a font tag as a possible spam trigger. Spammers often use a white font on white backgrounds to hide information from recipients. Use your color wheel to find contrasting colors that can accentuate your message and readability.


Read earlier blogs on “Guide to a Better HTML Email Design” on Kenscio Blog.


Using Forms in HTML Emails – Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 5

Validate HTML Content and Avoid Using Scripts – Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 4

HTML Email Coding Guidelines – Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 3

HTML Email Layout – Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 2

Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 1


Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 5

4. Using Forms in HTML Emails
We generally discourage the use of forms in email to prevent delivery or usability problems. However, at times you might still need to use a form in an email instead of directing readers to your Website. Consider these factors before you use a form in your next email message.
Those recipients of your email who use Hotmail or those who use Outlook 2007 will not be able to use the form because:

  • Hotmail displays the form but strips all values from your <FORM> tag and removes the name values of all form elements, rendering the form useless.
  • Hotmail recipients can complete the form, but nothing will happen when they hit the submit button so they will not know it has not been received .
  • Outlook 2007 has limitations when viewing forms in the mail client. Outlook 2007 cannot see data in a “form tag”, when a form is passed via email and viewed in Outlook 2007 as outlook strips out form elements.


Some email clients do not support forms that use “POST” method, which allows form data to appear within the message body. Instead you will need to replace it with the “GET” method, which will write all form content to the query string of the page to which the form is posted.
For example: <form method=”get” action=”http://…..>

Most email clients that provide a preview pane don’t allow you to tab between form elements. This means that when a recipient completes the first field in your form and clicks the TAB key, the focus is automatically shifted to another part of the software. This hinders usability and can confuse your recipient.


Form based mailer Format

1. Form tags needs to be defined for the section that has the form details/elements to be captured.
2. Specify relevant names for the data capture elements.
3. All the data validations should be done on the server side at the client’s end.
4. Specify the form Method as GET.
5. Define appropriate action for the form. The action should ideally take them to the page which captures and validates data on the server side at the client’s end.

Once data is validated then appropriate action needs to be taken, the process should be as follows:

– Data should be captured from the GET parameters.

– Once the data is captured, validate the data.

– If everything is fine, then it should take the user to a Thank You page hosted by the client.

– Else, it should redirect to the same or similar form page which will be hosted by the client, where all the errors should be highlighted and data should be pre-populated if needed

6. There should be no Javascript code present in the email html.

Sample code snippet

<form method=”GET” action=”http://” >



<td>Name : <input type=”text” name=”name” value=””/></td>



<td>Email : <input type=”text” name=”Email” value=””/></td>



<td><input type=”submit” name=”submit”></td>





Read earlier blogs on the same subject.

Validate HTML Content and Avoid Using Scripts – Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 4

HTML Email Coding Guidelines – Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 3

HTML Email Layout – Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 2

Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 1


Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 4

3. Validate HTML Content and Avoid Using Scripts

The vast majority of HTML emails do not comply with World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) HTML standards. This can cause rendering and delivery issues, particularly at AOL, MSN and Hotmail. AOL, for example, has a that is an HTML validator, which scans incoming messages for HTML syntax and formatting errors. If it detects invalid HTML, it will reject the message.
If you use HTML in your messages, make sure your code is error-free and follows W3C HTML standards. Popular HTML-editing software such as Homesite or Macromedia Dreamweaver already offer effective validation tools and will highlight any errors as you create your message. For a complete reference spec of HTML formatting, visit the World Wide Web Consortium documentation pages. Also, you can use the HTML validator in your email application or a third-party validator such as W3C Markup Validation Service.

Also, avoid scripting. Scripting languages, which can be imbedded within HTML, are often used to add dynamic functionality to a Web page. However, security risks due to script vulnerabilities in email browsers have increased over the years. The result is most scripts, such as JavaScript and VBScript, get stripped out of messages. Some email systems reject messages outright if they detect scripting. For greatest compatibility, avoid using scripts in messages. Instead, drive your readers to your Website, where dynamic components are easily rendered.


Read earlier blogs on the same subject.

HTML Email Coding Guidelines – Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 3

HTML Email Layout – Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 2

Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 1


Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 3

2. Email HTML Coding Guidelines:

a. HTML Coding Do’s

  • Code HTML emails as a single Web page with the basic <HTML>, <HEAD>, <TITLE>, and <BODY> tags.
  • Code emails by hand where possible, as WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors typically add extra code that creates havoc with certain email clients. If you must use an editor, use Dreamweaver or Homesite, which do not add extra code to the design process.
  • Use HTML tables for the design layout.
  • Keep emails at a fixed width of between 500-620 pixels wide.
  • Instead of defining percentage widths use fixed widths. While this is not optimal, because people can and do resize their email windows when reading, sometimes using a fixed width is the only way for a layout to display properly in multiple email software.
  • Use only the ASCII character set. More advanced word-processing software often inserts odd characters, such as the trailing dot characters or smart quotes (curly instead of straight), which can hamper display or create delivery problems in some email software.
  • If you use CSS, include inline styles. Do not link to an external style sheet nor use embedded styles, as this code is often stripped out by email clients, creating display problems.
  • Make sure all tags have supporting closing tags. The most common HTML errors come from not having a closing </FONT> tag or having open <TD> or <TR> tags in the HTML. While your HTML might render properly in a browser, these errors can cause problems with many email clients.
  • Use the HTML table attributes within the TABLE and TD tags.
  • For example: to set the table border=0, valign=top, align=left (or center, if that is the design), cellpadding=0, cellspacing=0, and so on. This primarily helps older email readers to display the html email in a minimally-acceptable way.
  • Put general font style information in the table TD or DIV or P tags closest to the content. This can mean repetitive style declarations in multiple TD cells or DIV’s or P tag. Put font style definitions into heading (e.g. H1, H2), P, or A tags only when necessary.
  • Use DIVs sparingly to float small boxes of content and links to the right or left inside a table TD cell. Google Mail appears to ignore the CSS Float property but Yahoo! and Hotmail work fine. Outlook 2007 ignores floats.
  • Sometimes it is better to code a more complex table layout than rely on the Float property. Since email is easy to clutter, ask that the design put the floated content in the narrow side column. Floats are the one part of an email design that might require the design be reworked.
  • Animated GIF files are acceptable, but use them sparingly.
  • Use of images maps is acceptable.
  • If there is a spacing issue with the columns in the email design, first tweak the cellpadding and cellspacing attributes of the HTML tables. If that does not work, use CSS margin and padding attributes. HTML spacing works better with older email software than spacing with CSS.
  • If an image is cut up and spread across several HTML table cells, test the email with many test accounts. Sometimes it looks great in Outlook but shifts by 1 pixel or more in Hotmail and other services. Also consider putting the image as a background image on a new html table that encases all the table rows and columns that would display parts of your background image. sometimes this achieves the same effect as cutting an image up but with less code and better results.


Note that Outlook 2007 does not display background images. Be sure to test your email code with your target email client software.

  • If you use background images, use the HTML table attribute background= instead of CSS. It works more consistently across email software except Outlook. Define appropriate bgcolor for the TD’s so that the color is displayed when the images are blocked.
  • Be sure all your images use the alt tags, height, and width parameters. This helps with Google Mail as well as when a reader has their images turned off. However, Outlook 2007 does not recognize the alt= parameter.
  • Use the target=”_blank” attribute for the HTML A tags so that people reading with a webmail service don’t have the requested page appear within their webmail interface.
  • Avoid a big image above the fold in the email. This is another classic spammer practice and can increase the likelihood an email will be tagged as spam.
  • Make sure your email content displays fine without images.

For example: if you use a background image to provide a background color with white font color over it, make sure the default background color for that part of the HTML table is dark, not white. Also be sure your alt=, height=, and width= parameters are set for images so they can help readers understand your content without images. Turning off your images will help you catch these issues and ensure the HTML email will display effectively if people see your email with images off.

  • Test your HTML code. Make sure your code conforms to World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) HTML standards
  • When sending a multi-part message, remember to create the text version. Most email clients send HTML as a multi-part alternative by default. Failing to include the text part of the message can cause some filters to treat your email as spam.


b. HTML Coding don’ts

  • HTML should not contain any JavaScript or any other script embedded in it. Some email clients do not support JavaScript, and others view it as a security risk.
  • Avoid using CSS for positioning. The support is very limited and will, more than likely, result in a broken layout for most of your recipients.
  • Avoid nested tables if possible. Some email clients, especially Lotus Notes and Netscape Messenger, might not render them correctly.
  • Do not use canvas background images. Most email clients do not display canvas background images. Background images for individual table cells are generally acceptable but might not appear in some clients such as Lotus Notes.
  • Do not apply attributes to the <BODY> tag. Attributes placed in the <BODY> tag are often flagged by spam filters and increase the likelihood of your message getting bulked or blocked.
  • With multiple embedded images, which also might cause the email to be blocked
  • Do not use EMBED tags.
  • Avoid embedding forms, such as surveys, into emails. Some email clients such as Hotmail might not pass the data through to the collection point. Instead, link to a Web form through which the recipient can complete the survey.




Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 2

  1. Email Layout:
  • Determining the layout design. Single column and two-column layouts work best for emails because they control the natural chaos that results when a lot of content is pushed into such a small space as email. Use a consistent HTML template.
  • Add in a header that contains logo, view online links if the email is not rendered properly on recipient email client, instructions to add sender email id to recipients address book (improved deliverability), etc
  • Body or the main section that contains the main content of the mailer.
  • Footer – should contain unsubscribe, contact us and forward to friend links and sender’s general terms and policies.


You can notice the email layout in the images below from Target, a top retailer mailer from USA. The header has all relevant detail of add to address book for inbox delivery, view online version, brand logo, etc.

Email Header


The body of the mailer has a consistent look with a single column view, with a clear offer and an actionable main link. You can also notice actionable links to other categories of products on the retailer website. You would also notice more offers, clearance sales, and other attractive discounts at the bottom of the main offer.

Email Body


You would notice multi-channel contact points for engagement on other digital channels and fine print of offer details, etc.
Email Body - Social Media Links


You would notice in the footer below, all relevant details on why you are receiving this email, to opt-out from further communications, company policies, etc.

Email Footer


Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 1

Email marketing is one of the most powerful and effective forms of marketing today. It is quick to deploy, offers immediate and highly-measurable results, enables advanced segmentation and personalization, and delivers a high return on investment.

However, achieving maximum results from your HTML email requires experience and expertise. Simple mistakes in the implementation of HTML emails can seriously affect delivery or usability and cripple your ROI.

To help marketers optimize results from their email marketing efforts, Kenscio has created this complete guide to create effective HTML email. These technical and design best practices give marketers the ability to improve their own email marketing campaigns. This guide is best shared amongst email marketers and the HTML coding staff that supports your email development efforts.

In this guide we will cover:

  1. Email Layout
  2. HTML coding do’s and don’ts
  3. Validate HTML content and avoid using scripts
  4. Using forms in HTML emails
  5. Font and font size
  6. Color
  7. Background colors
  8. Font colors
  9. Buttons, charts & other supporting images
  10. Style sheets
  11. Images
  12. Image alt tags
  13. Creating a Web version of your email newsletter
  14. Preview panes and blocked images
  15. Number of hyperlinks
  16. Phishing and HTML Links
  17. Message file size
  18. Length of email messages
  19. Personalization
  20. Individualization
  21. Navigation of email messages
  22. Search capability in email
  23. Email format/Versions
  24. Add to Address Book
  25. Forward-to-a-friend functionality
  26. Rich Media/Flash
  27. Video email
  28. Tips Email Deliverability to Inbox
  29. Five common flaws that you can avoid in Email Marketing Campaigns

Everyday we will cover the above topics in details. Keep visiting the Kenscio blog to learn in depth of each topic.

Your feedback and comments are most welcome!

Happy Reading!

@Kenscio Email Design Team

Copy rights to articles on Kenscio blog reserved. Any article from Kenscio blog can be reproduced by providing credits to Kenscio or providing a link back to Kenscio blog.


Why Customer engagement with your email marketing campaigns is very critical?

Email marketing is a lot more like dating..

If you offer attractive benefits, then the relationship is on, but if you don’t, the subscriber will cut you off. Whether it happens immediately or over a period of time, the primary goal for marketers is to pique subscriber interest and get them heavily engaged with your product and service.

So, how committed are you to developing a solid, long term relationship with your subscribers?

Marketers define engagement by how active their subscribers are, as well as interaction with their marketing efforts. Marketers can measure engagement through things like opens, clicks, and conversions. For marketers, high engagement means their marketing efforts are working which translates into higher ROI.

Engagement is great for marketers to measure how effective their programs are, but honestly ISPs don’t care how many clicks or conversions you get.

ISPs only care about their users – which happen to be your subscribers!

Their primary goal is to make email enjoyable and useful. The #1 concern with email users is subscriber fatigue. We get so much email that we can’t keep up with it all.

We also get a lot of spam, which is the largest obstacle for ISPs. ISPs do block a lot of spam.

Microsoft received 8 billion email messages per day. Out of those, 90% are spam.

Now, the ISPs do a pretty good job of blocking spam, but some legitimate mail does get caught by spam filters (less than 1%). Even though ‘less than 1%’seems like no big deal, it also means that around 55 million legitimate messages are still getting caught. ISPs like Microsoft are now focused on reducing that number and making sure that people get all of the email they want.


Measuring Engagement

Currently there are only two webmail providers that are using engagement metrics, Hotmail and Gmail.

They don’t care how well your marketing program is working. They just want to know what email their subscribers want, and which subscribers they can trust for feedback. Meaning – marketers won’t be rewarded by padding their lists with inactive addresses to keep their complaint rates low. The ISPs give more weight to trusted subscribers. They know those subscribers are active and real people.

There are three main factors that Hotmail considers when defining subscriber engagement.

  1. 1. Messages read, then deleted
  2. 2. Messages deleted without being read
  3. 3. Messages replied to

This individual analysis overrides global filters, so your emails may land in the inbox of one person, but get delivered to the spam folder by default in others.

Gmail recently released their Prioritized Inbox to help their users sort through all the clutter.

Google Prediction attempts to predict what is important to a user based on their actions. Like Hotmail, it will look at things like how often, or not, you read messages from a particular sender. Gmail also looks at the types of email you ‘star’, whether it’s addressed directly to you or not, and how the user ranks its importance.

Gmail Priority Inbox Layout

This is what Gmail Priority Inbox looks like


To most marketers, this looks like bad news.

  • How on earth will we know where our email gets delivered now, if they’re using subscriber level filtering?
  • What do I need to do to make sure my email gets priority and is delivered to the inbox?

Don’t despair! A lot of the things you are doing now will still work, but there may be some things you will need to start doing.


Seed list monitoring is still important!

You will hear a lot of nonsense that “seeds don’t work anymore.” This is not true at all. Seed lists measure how you are performing against the global filter. It’s also still important to track your reputation.

Monitor your Reputation!

Reputation is still main driver for determining default mailbox placement.

Reputation consists of:

  1. Complaints
  2. Unknown Users
  3. Honeypot Addresses/Spam Trap
  4. Sending Infrastructure
  5. Sending Permanence
  6. Subscriber Engagement
  7. Content

Ignoring its importance can land you in trouble!


Complaints are still important to measure and reduce..

The ISPs will be calculating complaint rates based off of active subscribers instead of total volume sent. Therefore, you may see an increase in complaint rates, even though the total number of complaints remained the same. You should continue reducing complains and begin to dig deeper into the reasons WHY your subscribers are complaining.

Common factors for complaints..

  1. Lack of permission or disclosure at the point of email collection
  2. Mailing too frequently
  3. Content isn’t relevant or what was expected

Analyse the data points you currently have to find those trends.

Things you can do.

  1. Remove dead addresses
  2. Win back inactives, before it’s too late
    1. Subscribers who are ignoring your emails are soon lost to you – recapture them before it’s too late.
    2. How often should you remind subscribers to stay active? It depends on mail type and frequency, but generally if subscribers are ignoring your emails for a quarter, it’s time to take action.
    3. Win-back strategies are no longer something you should think of once per year. In order to optimize deliverability, senders should implement a strategy to win those inactive subscribers back.
  3. Re-engage the dead ones
    1. Some marketers re-permission subscribers that didn’t previously re-engage with their win-back campaign. This type of action will trim your list of dead addresses which include spam traps and unknown users. It will also help remove complainers.
  4. Manage Frequency
    1. A key reason subscribers complain and unsubscribe is because they goo much email from us.
    2. Frequency testing – you could look at response rates to figure out the optimal frequency. But a really simple way is to use some data that you already have – complaint data. You can also look at unsubscribe rates or simply ask your subscribers the exact frequency in which they would like to receive email from you.
    3. People complain the most after 1 email indicating an issue with the sign up process, then really start complaining after 15 messages or so. After 43 emails, people lost interest. What does your complaint file say?





Best Practices on Constructing an Email Newsletter and Improving its Performance

Here are some great ideas to improve your email newsletters for better performance.


Subject line: Use concise subject lines, emphasizing the recipient’s benefit and prompt him/her to take action. Personalization and Individualization with Title, First Name (or Last Name), City, Login Id or Email Id will also greatly benefit.

Editorial for your readers: According to a recent survey, subscribers are engaged more by newsletters with an editorial, than a newsletter without a proper introduction. Another positive effect of the editorial is that you can highlight particular elements of your newsletter to your audience

Directory for a better orientation: If your newsletter consists of several articles, then a link directory is essential. This way your recipients can reach the article they are most interested in reading with one simple click. But make sure you don’t over burden them with too many articles.

Add to address book: Benefit from the positive effects an attractive image can bring you by ensuring that all images and illustrations are directly shown to your subscribers by simply asking your readers to add your email address to their address books. ISPs provides greater deliverability of your newsletter by directly putting them in the inbox of the recipient bypassing spam filters and enable images in the newsletter automatically.

Opportunity to subscribe: If a person receives a forwarded newsletter he/she should immediately have the opportunity to subscribe, so make sure you offer the possibility to subscribe after the obligatory unsubscribe link.

Show the recipient’s email address: State the recipient’s email address to raise the credibility of your email and facilitate readers who receive your newsletter several times to subscribe with the right email address.

Link to profile data: Your recipients should have the chance to update their profile. That way you are you able avoid unnecessary unsubscriptions.

Link to View Online link: Provide a view online link for subscribers whose email servers blocked the images, so that they can visit the landing page directly through their browser.

Engage with your audience: get people encouraged to share travel reviews/ advices / tips / pictures. Offer free reward points for people who help friends and family sign up for our newsletter.

Enable Social Media links: get your subscribers to interact with your social media accounts and share it with their networks.

Enable Forward to a Friend link: get your subscribers to share the email newsletter with their friends and also to invite them to join the newsletter subscription.

Take advantage of every single touch point: Think about every way you can increase subscribers, taking advantage of every contact you have with your customers and prospects. Have a subscription box on every page of your website; at events or in-store promotions ask if the interested person would like to receive the newsletter and preferably obtain permission there and then; add a footer to all staff emails; promote the benefits of signing up by enhancing the subscription value with customer testimonials and offering incentives for sign.


How to accurately measure the success of your email campaigns?

Part II of the article

Click Through Rate (CTR): This is a measure of the action of the recipient seeking more information by clicking the links embedded in the email message sent. This is a measure of the interest of the recipient. It doesn’t necessarily convert to a sale or registration, but it is a step closer.

It is defined as CTR

(Number of unique Emails clicked / (Number of Emails Sent – Number of Emails Bounced)) * 100%

Does your email marketing software or provider give you the measure of both total number of link clicks (for all links, by each link) in the message and unique number of clicks for each link. You should be considering the total number of unique clicks more than the total clicks because a recipient may be clicking the same link twice or thrice doesn’t mean anything for the marketer.
The industry standard benchmarks for the click through rates are between 2 to 3%. If you are getting better than these results through your current email marketing software or provider, you are doing great. If you are getting way too less, you should be seeking answers from your email marketing software or provider.

Strong call to action can greatly improve your click through rates.


Unsubscribe Rate: This is the number of unique email addresses that do not want further emails from you. They didn’t have an interest in your message so they unsubscribed. Unsubscribe rates are key to recognizing whether or not your content sucks. Just as important, though, is calculating when people unsubscribe. Perhaps it’s on the 2nd email or perhaps it’s the 4th… you need to
figure that out and ensure that you provide some great content, especially at danger points when people are more likely to unsubscribe.

It is defined as Unsubscribe Rate

(Number of Email Addresses who unsubscribed / (Number of Email Addresses Sent – Number of Email Addresses Bounced)) * 100%

Does your email marketing software provide you the details of unsubscriptions? Does it provide policies for setting the limit on the emails sent to each recipient irrespective of how many campaigns you may be doing? Does it provide policies to unsubscribe across multiple lists? If not, you are dealing with lot of manual effort in unsubscription and may be not effectively taking actions on
unsubscriptions. If you don’t take action on unsubscriptions quickly, your next email marketing campaign may be marked as SPAM by the recipient and complained to ISPs, which could hurt your reputation of being a good marketer.


Viral Rate: Hopefully you’ve got some viral component to your emails where they can be forwarded and measured. Don’t dismiss your viral rate… it’s a great way to acquire subscribers who stick as well as add additional revenue to a great campaign. You have to make sure that your method for Forwarding is simple, though.

It is defined as Viral Rate

(Number of Emails forwarded / (Number of Emails Sent – Number of Emails Bounced)) * 100%

Your email marketing software or provider should provide a mechanism to capture all of the forwarded email addresses for later analysis and targeting.


Conversions: This is the number of unique email addresses that ’registered’ or ‘bought’. For a retailer, this is pretty simple… it can be the actual registrations or dollar amount that resulted in a web site purchase. For other businesses, a conversion could be different, though. It might be how many people subscribed to your podcast if that’s the call to action. Watching your conversion rate will tell you how well you are ’selling’ your call to action.

It is defined as Conversion Rate

(Number of unique Emails resulting in a Conversion /(Number of Emails Sent – Number of Emails Bounced)) * 100%

This metrics depends on the earlier metrics. If the earlier metrics are good, naturally this metric will improve. This metric also depends on the marketer’s value proposition, attractiveness of the offer and meeting the needs of the customer.


Visual Reporting: Providing metrics like clicks visually on your HTML message itself, provides much greater visibility on the performance of your creative in the eyes of the recipients. The marketer can visualize where the interests of the recipients are more or appealing depending on the clicks. The marketer with this knowledge can optimize the creative further for future campaigns.


Time Distribution: Do you get to know how are your recipients reading your message over the different hours of the day or days of the week after the message was sent out? Can you recognize a pattern?

The marketing message is all about relevance and timing. Do you want send a campaign that sits in the recipient inbox for hours before they read? It would have lost its timing if it not sent at an appropriate time, when the recipient will have just an hour in the morning 10 AM to read all his personal mails. In today’s world, if your email is not in the first page, then it may not be read at all. With so much spam escaping filtering or irrelevant mails in the inbox, the marketer has to know the recipient reading and clicking behavior during the time of the day and day of the week. The marketer can appropriately time the message during the day or on a particular day.


Drill Down Reporting: Can you drill through the opens or clicks by domains, target attributes of the recipients like city, gender, etc., within the email platform itself, so that you can measure the performance of your marketing campaigns based on target attribute values?  Whether males perform for a marketing campaign vs females, or gmail users perform better vs yahoo or hotmail users?

If your email platform doesn’t provide such capabilities, then you would need to extract raw campaign reports in to an analytic system to get these metrics.  It will be an expensive and time consuming solution.


Hence working with an email marketing software or provider who provides all the relevant metrics for measuring the success of your email marketing campaigns is absolutely essential. The metrics provide you with all the data to measure the success and returns from your campaigns against the money you spent.

In the recession economy, it doesn’t make sense to waste your money and effort on executing marketing campaigns that doesn’t  yield results you need.


How to accurately measure the success of your email campaigns?

Part I of the article.

Peter Drucker, the father of ‘modern management’ said ‘If you can’t measure, you can’t control it; if you can’t control, you can’t manage it”. If you can’t manage, you are simply wasting your effort and money both.

This is true with your email marketing campaigns. You are simply wasting your marketing budget down the drain, if you don’t measure the success of your email marketing campaigns! You may also be hurting your brand and reputation eventually!

How do you know if your email marketing program is working? How can you tell if your electronic communications are actually having the impact you hoped for? Is the work you’re putting in worth the effort? Email metrics can help you determine the effectiveness of your communications and fine tune them to improve their efficiency.

There are a number of ways of measuring the effectiveness of an email marketing campaign, and marketers would be best advised to use as many as possible. Campaigns can be made to work far better and executed with a much tighter focus, once we can establish who is interested and to what degree. A considered, cost-effective and result-oriented email campaign will incorporate as many of the suggested  metrics as possible.

Deliverability: This metric gives you the picture of how many emails were successfully sent out by your email marketing software or provider. Ideally you would need 100%. Practically no email marketing software or provider will guarantee 100% deliverability, because of many issues. The issues range from the hygiene of your list, ISP rejections and blockages, recipient’s inbox full, etc.

Deliverability is defined as

((Number of Email Addresses Sent – Number of Email Addresses Bounced) /Number of Email Addresses Sent) * 100%

If you are using a reputable email marketing solution or provider, you should be getting deliverability in excess of 95% to your opt-in list from the first campaign itself. The deliverability for successive campaigns should be in excess of 99%. If you are not getting these numbers, you should be seeking honest answers from your email marketing solution vendor or provider or the hygiene of your opt-in list.

Bounces are categorized into hard bounces or soft bounces.

A hard bounce is an email message that has been returned to the sender and is permanently undeliverable. Causes include invalid addresses (domain name doesn’t exist, typos, changed address, etc.) or the email recipient’s mail server has blocked your server. Servers will also interpret bounces differently, meaning a soft bounce on one server may be classified as a hard bounce on another.

A soft bounce is an email message that gets as far as the recipient’s mail server (it recognizes the address) but is bounced back undelivered before it gets to the intended recipient. A soft bounce might occur because the recipient’s mailbox is full, the server is down or swamped with messages, the message is too large or the user has abandoned the mailbox. Most email service providers will attempt to deliver the email regularly for a few days. If it is still undelivered, it becomes a hard bounce.

You should be checking if your email software marketing solution or provider

  1. Have capabilities to check the invalid email addresses even before sending them out?
  2. Allow defining policies for retrying sending again in case of soft bounce?
  3. Can export the hard bounce and soft bounce email addresses for further validation?


Detailed Domain Report: Just getting a consolidated report of emails delivered across all of the domains is not enough for a marketer. Marketer has to get a detailed report of the performance of the email marketing software on how many emails were sent successfully to each of the domains or ISPs (gmail, yahoo, msn, aol, rediff, etc.), how many were rejected and how many were blocked. If you don’t have visibility to these and your email marketing provider doesn’t provide them, your reputation will be badly hurt as you can’t take action on those proactively.


Spam Complaint Rate: As you may know, subscribers using many of the most popular web based email services like Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL have an option available at their fingertips to report messages they don’t want in their inbox.  This action is called a Spam Complaint. Spam Complaint Rate is the percentage of the number of such spam complaints to the number of emails sent from each email campaign.  This can be further categorized for each ISP.

This requires your email marketing software or provider has to work with the ISPs to get the spam complaint feedback loops (FBL). Most ISPs don’t entertain such requests, unless your email service provider meets certain requirements. If you don’t have visibility to spam complaints of your ISPs, your email marketing provider doesn’t provide them, your reputation will be badly hurt as you can’t take action on those proactively.

At any given point, your campaign’s spam complaint rate should below 0.1% at most. This is equivalent to 1 spam complaint per every 1000 emails sent to that ISP.


Opening Rate: This metric gives you the number of recipients who opened the email message. It is defined as

(Number of Emails Opened / (Number of Emails Sent – Number of Emails Bounced)) * 100%

Does your email marketing software or provider give you the measure of both total number of emails opened and unique number of recipient’ openings. You should be considering the total number unique openings more than the total openings because a recipient opening the same mail twice or thrice doesn’t mean anything for the marketer.

The industry standard benchmarks for the open rates should be more than 8%. If you are getting better than these results through your current email marketing software or provider, you are doing great. If you are getting way too less, you should be seeking answers from your email marketing software or provider.

Targeted lists and Relevant email communications can increase the open rates significantly. Marketers can also test multiple versions of the campaign (different appealing content, varying subject lines, highly personalized and individualized messages) to test audiences and sending the highly performing campaign to the target audience.


Look out for the Part II of this article on this blog.


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