By Aimee Graeber • 10/10/2012
Email design best practices to encourage sharing, reading and engaging
It’s been reported that the average email user spends an average of 51 seconds reading each email newsletter. If this average pertains to your market, you need to develop a way to maximize your email’s ability to connect with your audience.
Email design best practices don’t have a habit of changing as quickly as other design best practices. We try to design as minimally as possible in order to comply with every email client and mobile preference. Still, there are more than just aesthetic best practices when it comes to sending an email.
To measure a campaign without benchmarks is to guess at its effectiveness—and blind guesses rarely make money. Silverpop’s 2012 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study gives the following industry averages. Take a look at these numbers and compare them to your email marketing numbers:
- 29 percent unique open rate
- 34 percent gross open rate
- 1.54 percent open rate
- 8.9 percent click through rate
- 24.2 percent click-to-open rate
- 1.49 clicks per clicker
- 12.3 kilobytes per message
- 2.2 percent hard bounce rates (up from .63 percent in 2010
- 0.2 percent unsubscribe rate (up from .11 percent in 2010)
- 0.09 percent complaint rate
Is your deliverability poor? Then decrease your use of large-sized images, remove spam words from your subject lines and put white-list requests in every one of your messages. In fact, some publishers clean their lists every six months and remove anyone who hasn’t opened within those months. Your delivery rates and open rates may skyrocket if you haven’t done this in a while.
Do you have a low open rate? Then your sender address needs to be clearer, your subject lines need to be more arresting or you have to provide better content. If people are not anticipating good content when they open your email, then eventually they won’t open it at all.
Are people opening your email but declining to visit your website (low click-through rate)? Then you may want to create more incentives to click through or possibly add more links to your landing pages in the message.
For more ways to increase these numbers this year, next year and beyond, follow these email design best practices:
Desktop email design best practices
1. Establish a theme – If you’re utilizing a snippet-based email template, you need to have a theme to each issue. Doing so increases the likelihood of getting all the individual articles read. In our email newsletters, the overall theme is based on the content of the feature article. Each corresponding article is then related in some manner.
2. Include links to your social media profiles - Encourage signups to alternate lists just in case they decide to subscribe from your email lists later on down the road. Depending on your email template’s design, place the icons in the right or left navigation to give them prominence.
3. Optimize your “from line” - The from line of an email newsletter should clearly identify the sender and be quickly recognizable to the recipient. Studies have shown that when viewing their inbox, readers start by looking at the from line; engaging readers here has been shown to increase open rates.
4. Use your subject line to talk about what’s inside - The subject line should be engaging, benefit-oriented and talk about the content of this issue of the email newsletter. The key message in the subject line should be first; subject lines are often truncated. When writing subject lines companies should be sure they don’t sound “spammy” by avoiding over-the-top claims and language favored by less reputable emailers.
5. Write the shortest subject lines you can – Subject lines get truncated at all different lengths, but the shortest is around 35 characters, which is the mobile cut-off point. A recent study from Informz provided data saying shorter email subject lines performed the best. These include email subject lines that were 10 characters or fewer. After the email subject lines of 10 or fewer characters, email subject lines of 50-59 characters in length were the second most popular.
6. Use the top 2″-4″ to give away enough information for the user to make a decision – A company logo in the preview pane that’s instantly recognizable to readers is important; a strong benefit-oriented headline or newsletter title helps as well. Image blocking (which is getting more prevalent) makes it important to include a link to view the email online in case images aren’t visible. Also good—making sure that the key messages of the preview pane get delivered even if the images aren’t visible.
7. Use a table of contents if you have a lot to cover – Many publishers choose to add a table of contents box into their preview pane. The table of contents should include links so that the reader can “jump” directly to the item in the newsletter or to the Website with the full story.
8. Give all of your content enough room to breathe - The email newsletter should use images to support the content and business goals, but not overuse them. It should be easy to skim, with short paragraphs, bullet points and ample white space.Learn email newsletter design best practices with our 10 Email Newsletter Design Best Practices: Create Impressive Email Newsletters with 40 Email Newsletter Tips on 10 Design Best Practices.