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Email marketing best practices.

Things you can do to improve your email marketing.

In order to maximise the results you get from your email marketing activities there are a number of best-practices that you should always comply with. 

In this article I’m going to take you through just 12 things that’ll make it easier for you to stay on track when starting or growing your email marketing system.

✅ Email marketing "dos"

✅ 1. Use a 'From' name that your subscribers will recognise.

When your emails arrive in your subscribers inbox, the first thing that will be seen (even if sub-consciously) is the sender. To optimise your open rates you need to make sure that your ‘From‘ address is one that your subscriber will recognise.

Now, there’s not really a right or wrong ‘From’ to use, just make sure you’re known as whatever is typed there.

By the way, when I say ‘From’ name, I’m talking about the free-text version of the sender, as opposed to the ‘from email address’ that your email comes from – that’s a separate attribute of your email.

Let me explain…

I use ConvertKit as my preferred email marketing platform, and I’m also a subscriber to their newsletter and therefore receive emails from them on a regular basis.

When they send me emails, they use a ‘From’ name that I recognise. They also have a ‘From email address’ (which for larger businesses can often be shared amongst staff) which is different from the display name.

Here’s a recent example:

Below is a screenshot of how the email appeared in my mail client inbox; it has a very obvious ‘From‘ name of ‘Angel at ConvertKit‘. I recognise her name because it’s associated with the business that she works for, i.e. ConvertKit.

If she had used her full name (which happens to be ‘Angel Marie’) without the reference to ConvertKit, then there’s a good chance I’d either send it straight to the bin or ignore it.

Email as shown in client inbox

When I click on the email I can see this summary header information, as shown below;

Summary email header information

Then, if I click further to look at the details behind the display terms, I can then see what email addresses are being used. You can see that Angel is using a generic from email address that others also use (help@convertkit.com) – I know others use it because I get multiple emails from ConvertKit.

Email example arriving in email list of inbox

Whatever you decide to use as your ‘From’ name, make sure your subscribers are going to know it’s you. If you’re better known as your product or brand, then include that, and if it’s more of a personal recognition then use your name.

I personally use ‘John at Proven Flows‘ rather than ‘John Bellingham’ because more people are likely to remember me when they associate me with my business. 👇

Proven Flows email example from name

✅ 2. Use intrigue or interest in your subject line.

The subject line of your email has one basic job – to get your subscriber to open it. So, in order to maximise your chances of it being opened, you need to give it something that either intrigues or interests the recipient.

Just think about the bland emails that arrive in your inbox today, things like “[Company] Newsletter” (inserting whatever company)… it’s not lighting up anybody’s inbox, is it? Even if it’s the most interesting content inside, the subject line is as dull as dishwater. 😳

Contrast that with a subject line of “What I did to get from £2k/m to £7k/m – [Company] Newsletter” for the same email – the open rates for both will differ significantly.

If these two emails arrived in your inbox, which one would you be more likely to get you to open and read? 👇

 

Subject line with and without interest

Yeah, me too. 

Even though it’s the very same content inside the email, the subject line from the second example would win every time.

✅ 3. Use preview text to support your subject line.

Just like a sub-title of a book or the strapline to a business name, the ‘preview text‘ is there to support the subject line of your email. It should contain words that increase the recipient’s desire to open the email.

Here’s an example of an email that shows both the subject line and the preview text;

Email with preview text

The preview text is only seen when the email is in preview mode in your email client, and doesn’t actually appear when the email is opened.

4. Send emails with a frequency that makes sense for your business and subscribers.

One of the most common questions I get from clients is “How often should I be emailing my list?”.

I always give the same answer; Send emails as often as makes sense for your subscribers and your particular business.

Let’s look at some examples;

If you happened to run a newsletter called “The Daily Stocks & Shares Tip“, then subscribers would not be surprised to receive an email from you every day, so it makes perfect sense.

However, if you provided information around a topic like retirement planning or pension provisioning then probably a daily email would be over the top.

Find a balance. A cadence that just feels right. For most solopreneurs just getting started, I recommend they begin with a weekly email and then test the frequency over time. Your engagement and response rates will guide you.

5. Be consistent.

One of the most common mistakes that I see people make is they get all fired up by the thought of starting their email marketing system, create a few email campaigns, maybe one or two sequences, and then it turns into tumbleweed town – nothing sent to anyone.

Email marketing, like many aspects of business, is always most successful when done properly and consistently over a sustained and ongoing period. Don’t think of it as something you ‘do’ and then it’s done – it ain’t like that.

To design, build, and launch your email marketing system and then ignore it, is akin to designing your ideal car online, buying it, paying for tax and insurance, and then just leave it parked up on the street after a couple of spins around the block – it’ll bring you absolutely zero value.

Consistency wins the day, every time! Even if it’s only once per month, never miss a month!

 

6. Use recognisable formats and styles.

When you’re communicating with your email subscribers, always use formats and styles that represent you and your business

Use similar colour palettes, images, fonts, and language that you use in other areas of your business, e.g. your website, products and services, social content, and printed materials.

Your emails should be able to convey the same look and feel as the rest of your business, as that’s what your subscribers will be familiar with and most comfortable receiving.

One of the more intangible styles is your tone of voice, but just as important (if not even more so) as other assets. For example, if you normally have a conversational and relaxed demeanour, then make sure it flows through to your emails too.

 

✅ 7. Make your email make sense, even if your images don’t load (for any reason).

No matter how beautiful your email images are, there’s always a chance that for a few emails they might not be loaded when the recipient opens it. 

This can happen for any number of reasons, but most commonly as a result of a local setting on the recipient’s email client (e.g. their Microsoft Outlook or Google Mail client).

Emails with a balance of images and text perform best and it just makes sense to write each email in such a way that should the images not load, the general gist of the email can still be determined by the reader.

If a reader reads a line of text in an email that says something like; “in the image below…” but there is no image, then that’s okay because it’s obvious that there was an image sent but it wasn’t loaded.

So, don’t be tempted to make your entire email content an image (or series of images) as that could lead to a disappointing experience for the reader.

 

✅ 8. Use plain language text in your hyperlinks.

When you’re providing hyperlinks inside your emails for your subscribers to click on, use plain language text to increase your chances of it being delivered successfully into your subscribers’ inboxes.

Let me explain why this is beneficial for your email campaigns;

Without getting too techy, when you use an email marketing platform (EMP – sometimes called an ESP – Email Service Provider) like ConvertKit, then they use their own unique URL structure for every link so that they can provide you with tracking information (e.g. who opened your emails, who clicked on your links etc.). 

So, let’s say you add a link to one of your emails, let’s say it’s to a blog on your website (my own domain is provenflows.com) – see an example below;

EMail snippet with hyperlink

This link is using plain language text “check this blog post out” and the URL that ConvertKit will assign to will look something like this; 👇

https://preview.convertkit-mail.com/click/dpheh0hzhm/cHJvdmVuZmxvd3MuY29t

So, this is completely different from the actual URL for the blog post, which you can see below; 👇

https://provenflows.com/email-marketing/what-are-lead-magnets-and-how-do-i-use-them/

So, in short, when an email provider (like GMail, Outlook, or Yahoo Mail) sees this discrepancy between the URL the recipient clicks on and the destination URL, it can cause the email to sent to the ‘Spam‘ folder.

However, when you use plain text language (not a URL) like “check this blog post out“, then there is no discrepancy flagged since there is only ever one URL, i.e. the destination URL.

🤯 If your head hurts after reading this, just remember that when creating links in your emails, to use plain text and then highlight the text and assign whichever URL you want the link to take the reader to; e.g. provenflows.com.

 

Don’t do this; 👇

EMail snippet with hyperlink

Do this instead; 👇

EMail snippet with hyperlink

✅ 9. Limit the number of emojis 😊 and CAPS.

Emojis 

I love an emoji just as much as the next guy, but not all email providers think like me. So, for this reason, we need to be aware not to overuse them in our emails.

For me, emojis are fab at conveying an emotion (daaaah! 🤪), often able to say something in a single character that could otherwise take a sentence – like 😂 or 🤬.  

If you like using them but your subscribers don’t like seeing them, then chances are, their not perhaps your ideal subscribers. I always prefer to be ‘me’ and let those who I repel by being ‘me’ will naturally avoid me – so, win-win.

Anyway, back to the main point – don’t overuse them by scatter-gunning them all over your emails, just be subtle and use economically, just to add a bit of colour and flavour to your messages. Email providers can treat an overuse of emojis as ‘Spam’ triggers and ultimately direct your messages to the wrong folder.

 

CAPS

We’ve all seen them; the emails that land in our mailbox, usually in the Spam folder, where the subject line (and often the content) is jammed-pack with capital letters (often BOLD too!). I’ve no idea why people do it, I guess they must think that we’ll REALLY LISTEN to what they’re telling us if they SHOUT!!! 😡

When composing emails for your subscribers, just do what makes sense; if you want to highlight a particular word or phrase, then yeah, that’s perfectly acceptable – we know why you’ve done that. But don’t fall down the abyss that others do by riddling your entire email with this feeble attempt at grabbing attention. It just doesn’t work and email providers often treat these types of emails as Spam.

✅ 10. Proofread every email you write, twice!

I’m not one for needing to have everything absolutely word perfect and grammatically sound, as I know that’s not me, but I am a stickler for always trying my best.

Some people can be distracted or even repelled by poor spelling and grammar, not to mention spates of waffling, so we should make an effort to eliminate the howlers from our emails. 

Here’s how I do this for my emails;

  1. I read my email in its entirety at least twice (normally 4 or 5 times!), looking for any glaring errors, although I know that because I wrote it, it’s much more difficult for me to spot my own mistakes.
  2. Once I’ve proofread it a few times, I check all suggestions made by Grammarly (I use the free version) – it highlights all the spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors that I’ve made, so it makes this part really simple.
  3. I then run it through another free tool (see screenshot below), which is part of the Apple ecosystem, a screen reader that reads aloud my email. This secondary way of listening back to what I’ve written can be helpful in picking up on things that just don’t make sense. (There is most likely an equivalent in Windows® world). 
Screen reader settings on Macbook
Screen reader settings on Macbook - select "Speak selection" checkbox.

 

Below is a short video showing the spoken text content in action. You can either select a section of text to be read, or default to reading the entire page.👇

By following these simple steps, I usually manage to put out content that I’m happy with, and any uncaught problems are okay with me – sometimes someone will point out the odd missed typo, but it’s no big deal.

✅ 11. Adopt a double opt-in subscriber policy

When you’re adding new subscribers to your email list, you really want to make sure you’re using a double opt-in policy.

What’s an “opt-in” policy?

Well, as you might imagine, the alternative to adopting a double opt-in policy is a single opt-in policy; let’s look at what each means and why it makes most sense (IMHO) to always adopt double opt-in.

🎯 Single Opt-In

This is when a subscriber submits their email details (usually via a form) and your email marketing platform auto-confirms them and then sends them whatever they asked for (it could be just a welcome email or a lead magnet that you offer).

✅ Pros:
The benefit of single opt-in is that it’s a quicker sign-up process for the subscriber, and presents a lower barrier to joining your list.

❌ Cons:
The downside to a single opt-in is that your email marketing system is exposed to potential spamming where people can simply enter any old email (real or fictitious) and
(depending on how you configure your system) they could end up getting whatever it is they want to access (e.g. a downloadable PDF). This activity is known as “List bombing“.

 

🎯🎯 Double Opt-In

This is when a subscriber submits their email details (usually via a form) and your email marketing platform sends an email (using the email address supplied) asking for the lead to confirm that they requested to join your list and that the email address supplied is actually owned (or managed) by them before adding them to your list and sending the lead magnet.

✅ Pros:
This policy keeps your email list clean since only validated addresses will ever make it
onto your list. It also keeps you compliant with GDPR regulations, as the email marketing platform records the explicit consent received via the double-opt-in.

 Cons:
The downside to a double-opt-in is that it makes it a little more effort for your leads to join your list, by adding that extra step into your process. 

If you want to know how to adopt a double opt-in policy using ConvertKit, see my blog post here, where I walk you through the process of setting up a landing page. 👇

✅ 12. Make it easy to unsubscribe from your email list.

When subscribers join your email list, they give you their permission for you to add them, and in doing so they also put trust in you to protect their data and make sure it’s used only for the purpose of sharing information between you and them.

Part of that trust is the subscribers knowing that they have 100% control over their email address (and any other personal data) being stored safely on your email marketing platform, e.g. ConvertKit.

To ensure you maintain this freedom of choice and always allowing them to be in control, you must always include a clearly identified “Unsubscribe” link in every email you send out.

Below, you can see the information that I include at the bottom of every email;

Email footer including unsubscribe link

I’ve seen many people over the years who try to obfuscate as best they can, the links to change subscriber preferences or to unsubscribe. For example, they’ll make the font colour the same as the background, meaning it’s very difficult to find.

This type of behaviour is just bad practice and should never be done. Just be open, honest and transparent. If someone wants to leave your list then it’s your fault – you either became irrelevant or stopped providing value to them.

I hope you found value in this article. If you did, please share it with your community so that more people may benefit from learning about email marketing.

If you want to get started with your email marketing, check out this course.