Last modified December 17, 2019 by Shelly Wolfe

Email best practices

Learn how to optimize your email campaigns with our email best practices.

Email is still one of the most effective ways to communicate with your customers. It provides immediate, timely, and relevant value to their personal journey by reaching them via their inbox, whether on desktop or mobile. Email offers the same flexibility from a timing and targeting perspective as other campaign channels, yet gives you the chance to be more creative, create longer-format content, and offer a seamless transition to your brand.

This article covers email campaigns best practices in the following areas:

  • Personalization
  • Dynamic elements
  • Brand alignment
  • Content and topics
  • Subject lines and pre-headers
  • Layout guidelines
  • Calls-to-action (CTAs)

Personalization

Above all, keep your emails personal and relevant. Here are some general guidelines for personalizing your emails:

  • Subject line – Emails with a personalized subject line are 26% more likely to be opened.
  • Content – Go beyond just using your subscriber’s name in the subject line and fuel your emails with other customer-centric content items.
  • Tone – Use a personable, friendly tone to ensure your emails feel like one-to-one communications, not a one-to-many communication.
  • Personalized elements might include:
    • First name, last name
    • Location-based messaging
    • Company name
    • Last purchase information
    • User behavior and preferences

For more details on personalizing your emails, see Personalizing your content.


Dynamic elements

Include dynamic elements that provide a fresh feel, real-time relevance, and are engagement-friendly.

Dynamic elements might include:

  • Real-time countdown clocks
  • Up-to-date local weather information and forecasts
  • Live sports scores and medal tallies
  • Current inventory data
  • Animation and GIFs

Brand alignment

Align your emails with your overall brand look and feel. Otherwise, many of your recipients won’t engage with your email content due to brand confusion that detracts the user from engaging.

Alignment includes:

  • Consistent fonts – Don’t change it up.
  • Hero images should define the overall email theme.
  • Tone-of-voice should align with how you communicate with your customer.
  • Branding elements such as imagery, colors, and CTA treatment should remain consistent from email to landing destination.

Content and topics

It might seem obvious, but the content of your email is as important, if not more, than the layout. Ensuring your emails are relevant, value-driven, and customer-centric will help guarantee your customers continue consuming your emails.

Best practices include:

  • Don’t surprise your customers – Set expectations at sign-up for the types of content you’ll be sending.
  • Staying on target – Keep the message focused on your goals.
  • Limit your message – Include no more than three different topics to focus your subscribers’ responses. Remember, you can always send a separate email.
  • Develop a welcome email or onboarding series – Guide your users accordingly for your product.
  • Send social-based emails – Use user-generated content or testimonials to promote brand relevance.
  • Include incentives – Offer promotions, rewards, or loyalty-freebies that show value to your customers.
  • Seek feedback – Ask customers how you’re doing, which shows you value their opinions and are willing to adapt.

For additional details about Swrve email content, see Content for Swrve Email.


Subject line and pre-header

Your subject line is one of the primary factors in prompting engagement and opens from your customers and subscribers. It encourages them to open the email.

Make your subject line and header relevant, engaging, and concise. Also, remember that your pre-header is the first preview of your email’s body content. It adds valuable context to your emails!

Best practices include:

  • Keep the subject line and pre-header personalized and relevant.
  • Be concise – Content should be straightforward for your customer.
  • Keep subject lines to about 50-65 characters – Any more than this and engagement tends to drop.
  • A/B testing subject lines – Get valuable data about what your customers engage with and open.
  • Avoid spam trigger words – These are known to cause problems and increase the chances of your email getting caught in a spam trap.
    • Examples include clearance, order, cash, lowest price, get paid, subscribe, and so forth.
  • Use questions – Create intrigue for the customer.
  • For pre-headers – Choose to display in the body of the email, or just preview pane.

Layout guidelines

The email layout is the most important element of your email because it tells the customer where to look and when to take action. In particular, use a clear communication structure so readers can identify your primary message, headline, and theme at first glance. Display the hero content at the top of your email and the sub-content below it.

Best practices include:

  • Blocked or inverted pyramid layout – Use a layout that naturally guides the reader through your email.
  • Primary call-to-action – Place the CTA above the fold. Place a secondary follow-up CTA below, if necessary.
  • Layer them – Use a good mix of images and text (with images making up no more than 40% of the message).
  • Keep email width to 600-640 px – Narrow emails are widely supported and easy to read.
  • Use web fonts – Align with your brand to improve viewability and recognition.
  • Use white space wherever possible – White space separates each element of the email and draws the reader’s attention to the right element, at the right time.
  • Mobile optimized – Include a short subject line, pre-header, minimal body copy, and one or two CTAs.

For more information about using templates or predefined layouts, see Email content layouts.


CTA

A primary component of a strong email is having a strong, encouraging, and clear call-to-action (CTA). You’ll want to craft a call-to-action that leads your subscriber to the desired conversion.

If you check the lifecycle campaigns companies send, you will see they all have a CTA built around the end goal. Ensure your email has a great, clear CTA that ultimately drives the user to convert.

CTA best practices include:

  • Have distinct, benefit-focused copy – Showcase your value to your customer.
  • Ensure they are easily clickable on mobile – Don’t make them too small.
  • Choose an accent color that matches your brand – The CTA should stand out from the rest of the email.
  • Include verbs and action words – For example: Create, Enter, Explore, Find, Free, Get, Join, More, Shop, Start, See

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