With so many digital marketing channels available today, some marketers fear direct marketing is losing its effectiveness. Although there are many digital marketing channels available, email marketing has proven that it is still effective and tops the list for direct marketing channel return on investment (ROI).
Email designs play a unique role. Your audience like “new” and new is co-pilot of “interesting”. Coming up with new and fresh designs can mean both smaller and larger changes. In between big redesigns, you should always be exploring small changes. Small Tweaks = Big Results. Changing around your emails to be fresh is a great email marketing strategy for engagement.
Follow these simple steps and expand your reach.
STEP 1: Following the “F” format
Emails should be designed in a particular way to maximise performance and optimise your email campaign as much as possible.
Emails should follow an “F” format. By this, I mean the text should be in the shape of an F with the most important information along the top and down the left hand side.
Why is this?
Typically, recipients follow this sort of pattern when reading, first horizontally all the way across the top of the email, then horizontally again on the secondary section of the email, following vertically down the left hand side as they scan the rest of the content.
Also, in most email providers, the preview box just shows the top left hand side unless the email is opened fully. You want to entice recipients to view the full email by making the most important and interesting information at the top on the left hand side. So, include the most important information at the top, for example impressive statistics and/or a catchy headline, and the recipient will be more likely to open it and read more.
Calls to Action (CTA)
Calls to Action or CTA’s should be included with the important text information to encourage recipients to click through. Even if they just read the headline, there should be a CTA at the top, so that, they can click through and get to the landing page.
The F pattern doesn’t just apply to emails. Eye tracking studies have found that people also read webpages in the same way.
STEP 2: Structuring email text content
Recipients often only read the top part of an email so the most important information should be placed at the top. It’s recommended having a clear and catchy headline and a sub heading to draw the recipients’ attention.
Small manageable chunks of information
The text throughout the whole email should be kept in small manageable chunks rather than long paragraphs of text, so, recipients can skim the information and pick out the most important parts. Bullet points are also useful to list the key benefits to the recipient.
Calls to Action (CTA)
At the top of the email, with the most important information, you should also include a call to action (CTA). This can be in the form of a button with commanding text e.g. “Click Here” “Buy Now” to encourage recipients to click through.
Consistency between email copy and landing page
The email should summarize the main information with call to action (CTA) for the recipient to click through to a landing page and find out more. Basically, the email is used just to draw their attention and if this does interest them, then, they can read more about it. Therefore, the message in the email should be consistent with what’s on the landing page.
Create a sense of urgency
Adding offers and deadlines encourages recipients to interact with your email much more quickly. An offer adds an incentive while a deadline increases urgency, and, hopefully these two factors will increase the amount of conversions you receive as a direct result of the email campaign.
Overall, the text should be short and to the point. Include bullet points to list the key benefits to the recipient and encourage them to click through to the landing page for more information.
STEP 3: What are calls to action and how do you use them?
Calls to action or CTA’s are used to encourage recipients to do a particular action, hence the name. They are often used in emails to promote a specific action such as “Click Here” or “Buy Now”.
CTA’s are usually in a button format. Following a button format for the CTA’s will make the button look clickable, therefore, encouraging recipients to interact. CTA button format, is usually a rounded rectangle with different 3D effect and color. A flat text link can act as a CTA, but, it should be highlighted in some way so that recipients know it’s clickable.
Use at least 3 times in an email creative
Generally, try to use CTA’s at least 3 times within an email creative. One right at the top, so even if recipients only read the headline, they can click through and get to the landing page, one just after the main information and one at the bottom.
More CTA’s can be used if it’s a longer email or if it’s a hard sell with the sole aim to get conversions. Less CTA’s can be used for short emails or if it’s an email solely for information, however it’s recommended using a CTA button at least 3 times regardless of the message.
CTA buttons work best when the text is a command such as “Click Here”, “Buy Now”, “Find Out More” etc. Not only is it quick and catchy, it tells the recipient exactly what they need to do and encourages them to carry out that action.
STEP 4: Advantages of using alternate text (ALT text) in email marketing
Many of the largest email clients will block images by default, making it increasingly difficult to successfully market the product or service. The big hitters include Gmail, Yahoo and AOL, so the sheer volume of blocked images is huge.
These email clients will show alternate text (ALT text) as opposed to images in the email. The ALT text will serve the same purpose as the image, conveying the same message that the image would deliver. For maximum effect, ALT text should be kept short and precise and avoid elongated and unnecessary sentences.
ALT text also is also very handy if recipient is reading emails on a slower internet connection, the ALT text will be visible before the images have finished downloading. This means potential recipient won’t have to wait for the email content to become clear.
Setting ALT text for images in an HTML email is simple, you just include the text in the image tag. Be sure to include the height and width values as this determines where the ALT text will be displayed if images are disabled. There is no need to include “image of” or “graphic of” to explain the ALT text, as the reader will invariably understand there should be an image in the space.
STEP 5: How to write a great subject line
One of the key things that make recipient open your emails is the subject line. If it interests the recipient, then, it will encourage them to open the email to read more. This doesn’t mean that you write something completely unrelated to the content just because it’s funny or exciting. For example, as people will open the email, but, they might not read the unrelated content. Make sure the subject line is relevant to the content. If the subject line is related to the content, then, recipient will be opening the email, because, they are genuinely interested and want to know more.
Keep it short
The best subject lines are a maximum of around 50 characters long. This means that the full subject line will show in most inboxes. Keep to around 30 characters for the full subject line to show in mobile phone inboxes. It’s best to keep subject line to the point and simple that summarises the content of the email.
Place the most important words or brand names at the start
Even if you can keep within 50 characters, it’s a good idea to include any important words or impressive brand names at the start of the subject line, as this will catch the recipients eye and encourage them to open the email.
Include deadlines in the subject line
If there is a specific deadline on the email or the offer, include it in the subject line, as it will encourage recipients to interact with the email quicker. If there’s no urgency, then, often emails can be forgotten or a recipient might come back to open it later and will notice that the offer is now out of date.
Test your subject lines
The best way to see what subject lines work for your audience is to test them. For example, use a different subject line for each email campaign you send or split test an email campaign with 2 or 3 subject line, and then, monitor the response. Make sure all factors remain the same (e.g. send volume) and then, gather the statistics from each subject line to assess what works best. Use these findings in further campaigns to improve your open rates.
STEP 6: Best practice for designing and coding an email
Design emails so that they are 600px wide and around 900px in length. However, the length is much more flexible and can vary. An email that is 600px in width will display within the standard email viewport without the recipient having to scroll left and right to see it all.
Use inline CSS
Not all email clients support style sheets, so, inline CSS is good to use in order to make your email creative display correctly in all possible email clients. Inline CSS labels each and every cell with the style information and this will ensure 100% that every cell is styled correctly.
Make sure you use text instead of images as much as possible
Text should be used instead of images in every instance possible. For example, when using calls to action (CTA) buttons, the text should stay as text and the background should be a colour or an image. Images are blocked by default until the recipient unblocks them, whereas, text appears immediately. Therefore, text should be used to display the information as much as possible. Where images are used, they should include ALT text.
Use web safe fonts
The text that is used in emails should be a web safe font, for example Arial, Georgia, Tahoma etc. Just because there’s a font on your computer, it doesn’t mean that everyone else will also have that font. If a specific non-web safe font needs to be used, then, it would have to be an image. However, it’s advisable that you use text as much as possible.
Here’s the list of web safe fonts you should consider.
Arial, Georgia, Tahoma, Book Antiqua, Times New Roman, Courier New, Comic Sans, Helvetica, Palatino and Geneva.
Style images with “display:block; border-style:none; margin:0px;”
Ensure images are styled with “display: block; border-style: none; margin: 0px;” to guarantee that there will be no problems with how image cells are displayed. This bit of code should go within the <img style> tag.
I hope you have enjoyed this email design best practice series and also hope that it will help you create fully functional, great looking, optimised emails for your campaigns.
Tell us in the comments! We’d be happy to hear from you.
(Contributed by: Ambili K Pillai, Group Manager – Client Success, Managed Services, Kenscio Digital)