5 ways to improve email engagement

Email engagement is the biggest challenge marketers and bloggers face in the world of email marketing. And sometimes that can be overwhelming.

That’s because you put in a lot of hard work into getting subscribers. Transforming the art of list building into a systematic discipline yields great results. You get a great response, and before long you’ve a mailing list of respectable size.

That means you’ve won an important part of the battle.

Now comes the next mountain for you to scale: email engagement.

Yes, there is no magic bullet to instantly improve email engagement. However, best practices combined with a willingness to experiment and to put efforts to understand the technicalities can increase your chances like nothing else.

Remember, email is the best way to show your subscribers what you’re worth. So email engagement is one goal to pursue, one challenge to master. Here’s a list of 5 most important ways to improve email engagement:

1.     Come up with an irresistible subject line

You already know this. And this topic has been almost beaten to death across blogs, e-books, webinars….everywhere.

And yet, it remains one of the most important things you can do. Get an awesome subject line for your email. That’s because subject line is where your subscribers will decide if they want to read further or hit delete.

While there are a number of things you can do to get it right, perhaps the best advice comes from the American Writers & Artists Inc (AWAI), via Copyblogger. Their formula of writing great email subjectlines is composed of what is called the Four U’s, given below:

  • Provide URGENCY
  • Do the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC manner.

Naturally, these 4 aren’t the only things you should look for. For instance, a headline could be more successful if it can show, in brief, the advantages of opening the email. If the context is right, you can also add a touch of humor or a bit of twist.

5 ways to improve email engagement

Ann Handley uses a smart twist – and you can’t resist opening the email!

The whole point is: would you yourself click on your own subject line? If yes, you’re well on the way…

2.     Use email tools, including spam checking software

Crafting a great subject line is absolutely vital. But what next? How do you know the copy you’ve written for your email, the layout and design… everything is optimized? Will it improvement your email engagement?

Rather than leave such things to chance, seasoned marketers and bloggers reaching out to their subscribers prefer using tools designed to carry out a variety of tests and suggest improvements.

Here’s how such tools work. You write the email into their system. Next, their systems allow you to view your email across various email clients (Gmail Chrome, Outlook, iPhone, Apple Mail etc.).

You can view the email and make necessary changes so that your final email turns out perfect when it reaches out to subscribers.

Such tools also analyze emails against SPAM criteria and blacklists. Most of these tools allow you to see how the email would look like if the image you inserted in the email had not been displayed.

Email marketing automation tools continue getting better and smarter. Smart marketers use them and stay ahead of the rest.

3.     Plain text? Images? Links?

Should your email be plain text? Should there be one image? Multiple images? How about links? How many links are too many for optimum email engagement?

Marketing experts don’t quite agree on this one. Neil Patel sends plain text mails, with no images ever. (top left). GoDaddy uses one single large image (top right below).

TechInAsia uses different approaches at different times. It uses a plain text format but inserts a number of links for announcement of events (bottom left below). Its newsletters, predictably, come with both a number of images and story titles – both hyperlinked to the detailed story (bottom right below).

5 ways to improve email engagement

Images and links might work – depending upon…

All these approaches work successfully.

That means one thing is certain: There’s no one single rule you could blindly follow. The layout of your email should depend upon how engaged your recipients are, what news and contents you are sharing with them, what sender reputation you enjoy and so on.

So what do you do?

As said at the beginning of this post, you would need to experiment. Split tests, more commonly known as A/B testing is the answer. Run one version of an email design with a small part of your subscriber lists. Measure the responses (complaints, unsubscribes, open rates and so on).  Then run another version with another part of your subscriber list and measure.  And then compare the two results.

A/B testing doesn’t always provide you with clear answers but at least it’s a great deal better than shooting in the dark. Besides, this is more about knowing your target audience better, so a few iterations later you’ll be a lot more confident.

4.     Have a clear CTA (and keep the landing pages spruced up)

No marketing emails are ever sent out without a clear objective. But how do your recipients know what action you want them to take?

One of the most common email marketing mistakes is not having a clear CTA (Call To Action).

You must make it very clear what action your readers should take. Do you want them to download a PDF? Or sign up for a webinar? Or perhaps try your service free? Or maybe you want them to take part in an online survey? Be perfectly clear.  Display the CTA button prominently.

And after that comes the landing page. Landing page – the page where people land when they click on a link – is the first impression you leave upon your visitors. A cluttered, text-heavy, outdated landing page will drive away visitors. A thoughtfully laid-out, neatly designed landing page will take your visitors to the next level of your sales funnel.

It’s not possible to explain, in this short post, how to make awesome landing pages. Apart learning from free guides like this and this, you must do your own homework by studying landing pages of successful sites. See what elements will work for you and keep improving.

Remember a clear CTA or a good landing page isn’t just a marketing requirement; you owe it to your subscribers.

5.     Never ignore SPF, DKIM and DMARC

Chances are you may not have paid much attention to these three – a handful of you might not even understand it fully. In simple words, SPF, DKIM and DMARC are email authentication tools, created mainly to fight spam. While they are more to do with deliverability than with engagement, we wanted to make sure you don’t overlook them.

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) is a list of servers that are ‘permitted’ to send out emails for a defined domain. DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) is a process that verifies and authenticates that the contents of your email have not been changed or tempered with since they left the sending server (the one permitted by SPF entry).

Finally, DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance) is an authentication protocol. DMARC gets activated when an unauthorized sender sends a message, trying to act like it’s genuine (phishing).

Further technical details of setting up such authentications are beyond the scope of this post. But yes, every committed marketer understands how vital it is to send out authenticated emails. After all, emails that aren’t authenticated stand the risk of being rejected.

The 5 points listed above are by no means the only things you need to work upon for better email engagement, but these are among the most important ones. Do share you own views in the comments section below.

Happy marketing!