9 Tips for Sending Better Email

We send a lot of email, for a lot of clients. It can be intimidating sending to hundreds, or thousands of people, especially considering that it is a representation of you and your work. So I wanted to put together this quick checklist for you to follow. It includes some tips and tricks we use in sending email campaigns. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it does include some pretty huge points. Let’s get started.

Use logical “alt” text for images.

When someone opens your email, the images aren’t displayed automatically, most of the time, they have to click “Display Images”. Until they click that, there is an “alt” text that is used. That text is shown if the image isn’t shown. So take advantage of that, and use the opportunity to communicate to the reader what they can do to see the images. Add Alt Text that says Click “Display Images” – you can do that with most email marketing programs just by changing the settings of the image. This does 2 things:

  1. It communicates to people that there’s an image there…and that if they click, they can see it.
  2. When they click “Display Images Below”, the email tracking works more effectively and gives you a more accurate open number.

alt-text-1

default alt text

Check the headers of your emails for default content

I did a quick search of the phrase “Use this area to offer a short preview of your email’s content.” in my personal email (not my work email that I often use to approve emails before they get sent out) and it returned a few dozen results.

Here are a some screenshots I found in my inbox of others making this very simple, but very common mistake.

email

zombierace

email2

email3

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So, don’t feel bad if you do make this mistake, because you’re not alone, and if this example does anything I hope it helps you to understand that mistakes are a normal part of the process, and everyone makes them, but now you know. So make sure you check it before it goes out.

Thoroughly check your email for typos

By the time you’ve written, edited, and re-written your email, you begin to only scan the content. This leads to missing typos. Especially when your content is long, it’s hard to find the needle in the haystack that is a typo. Yet somehow, the second the email goes out you see it and begin the full-fledged freak out. Don’t let that be you, confidently click the send button because you caught the typo.

Pro Tip: Read the email out loud. You start to look more closely at the text when you have to read it aloud.

Confirm all links work and get reader to the right place

This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes, especially in cases when you’re in a hurry to get the email out the door, you can make the simple mistake of a broken link. Make sure that the link not only works, but gets the user to the RIGHT place. Don’t be that guy who sends out the second email that says, “Correction: In the last email, we meant to link here, and linked there instead.” I’m not making fun of that guy by the way, I’ve been him before, and it sucks. I want to keep you from making this mistake.

Make sure links stand out and are noticeable.

When you’re providing a call to action, make sure it stands out. I’ve received a few emails where the link color was the same as the text, only underlined. Don’t do this. Make sure your it’s crystal clear that your links are clickable. Make them prominently stand out. Make your calls to action noticeable.

Isn’t this link much more clickable?

Enable Google Analytics tracking to all email links

You should have google analytics setup on your website. It only takes a few minutes, it’s free, and should be easy to do with any web service you have. Even if you don’t read the data, you should still gather the data. When sending emails, make sure your Google Analytics link tracking is enabled.

Note: If you’re using an email marketing provider that doesn’t automatically add Analytics links to emails, you should probably switch. We recommend Mailchimp.

Use logical personalization.

If you are using personalization (like inserting someone’s first name into the email), make sure you have a logical fallback. I’m sure you’ve seen this before:

Dear ,

I regret to inform you that I didn’t use logical fallbacks when I tried to personalize this email to you, so instead of calling you by your first name, I skipped to terms of endearment like “Dear”.

Yours Truly,

Joseph

Here’s a simple bit of code we use for Mailchimp you can copy/paste into your campaign:

*|IF:FNAME|*Hello *|FNAME|*,

*|END:IF|*

This code checks to see if the FNAME merge field exists, if it does, it adds “Hello Joseph,” and adds two returns, but if it doesn’t, just starts into the email. Whatever is between the IF and END:IF merge fields will only be displayed if the merge field exists.

Note: You’ll want to test this a little bit to make sure the spacing doesn’t get knocked out of alignment. I can’t go into detail on that in this lesson, but will soon

Write helpful content that provides value to readers

If you’re only telling people about you and how great you are, that’s going to get old, and fast. Remember that you’re connecting with readers. Tell them what you’ve been up to, and fascinating stuff you’ve read that you’d like to share with them. To make this easier and more concrete, think of who you’re writing to, and put a picture of them on your monitor. Look at the picture, would you tell them what you’re about to send your list? Would it be useful to them? If so, then send it, if not, go back to editing. Think of the emails you open the minute you see them — why do you open them? Is it because they’re full of salesy content and you can’t wait to buy some product, or is it because there’s meaningful content being provided?

This is most important, and here’s why:

You want your content to be useful, helpful, and compelling, because people are exhausted of being sold things. I know I am. I will liberally unsubscribe from emails that clearly only see me as a consumer instead of a person. This builds credibility with your audience, increases engagement, and makes future emails far more likely to be opened and shared.

Lastly, if you can avoid it, don’t fly solo.

Many years ago I worked at a sign shop. We spent all day crafting huge banners and signage. Our boss’s wife was a fantastic proofreader and found many mistakes that we overlooked because we were looking so closely at the design, we failed to pay attention to the text. Many times she found mistakes that clients didn’t catch. Having a second set of eyes on your emails will help to avoid making simple mistakes. At Out:think we have a policy, “Two sets of eyes on anything that ships”. Ask someone to help you, and provide them this list so they know what to look for.

That’s all for now. I hope you found this helpful.

Joseph Hinson

Joseph Hinson is the president and owner of Out:think Group, a firm that helps authors build their platforms, connect with readers and sell more books.

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