According to Statista, over 300 billion emails are sent and received around the world each day, and that number increases each year. Every email you send is an opportunity to connect with the reader and share an important message. However, not all emails are created equal. 

If you don’t understand the anatomy of an email, your messages won’t have the intended impact. You’ll miss out on the chance to effectively market your business through this powerful communication medium. 

This guide to the anatomy of an email will walk you through each part of creating effective emails, from the subject line to your email signature. So, what is the anatomy of a great email?

Introduction to the anatomy of an email

The anatomy of an email describes the different components that come together to make up an email. Each piece of an email contributes to the overall experience recipients have when the message comes into their inbox.

Getting the structure and design of your marketing emails right from top to bottom can make a huge difference in the success of your campaigns. Ask yourself whether you would ever engage with an email with an unclear subject line, an overly wordy message, and a lack of greeting and graphics. Or you would opt for a straightforward, organized, and visually appealing email.

The answer is clear. Well-designed emails are more likely to grab recipients’ attention and lead to better open rates, click-through rates, and sales. 

The core elements of an email

A professional marketing email has more components than you might think. There are six core elements of every marketing email that you have to get right for your message to have the full impact. When drafting your promotional emails, focus on these core email components:

1. Subject lines

One of the first things your email recipients will see when they get your email is the subject line. The subject line tells your audience what to expect from the email content. To be effective, it must catch the reader’s attention and drive them to open your email. 

2. Email preheaders

The preview text is another part of the anatomy of an email header that your recipients will use to decide whether to open your message. It appears after the subject line and gives the reader a taste of the email body content. 

By default, the email preheader text will include the first sentences of your email. However, you can change this text to better capture your audience’s attention and prompt them to open the email. A good strategy is to use your preheader text to complement or expand your subject line. 

Sender name, email subject line, and preheader text as viewable from the inbox.
On the desktop, recipients can see the email sender, subject line, and preheader text (highlighted in the red box) before opening an email. Image source: Constant Contact

3. The salutation

One part of the anatomy of an email message that’s easy to overlook is the salutation. This is where you greet your readers and draw them into the rest of your message.

While a generic salutation like “Hello” or “Good morning” is fine, using these greetings would be a wasted opportunity to stand out from all the other mass emails consumers receive. Instead, try to establish your unique tone of voice from the first line to connect with your audience. 

4. Email body content

After the salutation, it’s time to get into the actual main message of your email: the body content. This is where you get the bulk of your message across to your audience. 

When drafting body content for business emails, ensure your message provides valuable content that speaks to the audience’s needs and pain points. The actual structure of your body content can take different forms depending on your brand style and goals. Your email body may be only text or include both text and images. Part of the anatomy of an email newsletter, for example, is typically at least one image. 

Email template from Constant Contact, example of an artist spotlight email
The sample email from Constant Contact includes a header image to set the tone for the email and an image that encourages subscribers to select the link. Image Source: Constant Contact

If you choose to include images, keep them relevant to your message. Choose high-quality images consistent with your brand, but keep in mind that larger images take longer to load. Also, remember to make the image accessible by including alt text that describes the content for those who are visually impaired. 

5. Call-to-action (CTA)

So, you got your audience to open and read your email. What’s next? Invite them to take action!

Generally, businesses send marketing emails hoping the audience will take a specific step after reading the message. This step forms your call-to-action or CTA. 

Some CTA examples include:

  • Download X now
  • Buy X today
  • Register for the mailing list
  • Get your free sample here
  • Get the discount today
  • Sign up for free

6. Email signatures

The email signature is your sign-off and your last chance to make a positive impression on your readers. Though it may seem simple, you can approach your email signature in many ways.

Signing an email with a company signature or individual signatures are both feasible for business emails. It all depends on the email’s purpose. For example, an announcement about a new direction the company is taking may seem more personal and important when signed by the company’s CEO. On the other hand, promotional emails usually go off with a company’s signature. 

Other email components

Though these six components are the most important parts of any business email, there are still some other components to consider. 

From name and from address

The ‘from name’ and ‘from address’ appear before your recipients open your email, which means they can make or break your open rates. That’s why it’s vital to choose the right ‘from name’ for your emails. Ideally, the ‘from name’ should be recognizable and trustworthy to your audience. 

If your ‘from name’ or ‘from address’ seem suspicious, that will dramatically reduce the open rates on your email. Don’t use a no-reply address, and make sure the sender’s identity matches the sending email address. 

Social sharing and unsubscribe links

Social media presence is an essential component of most brand strategies in 2024. To boost social media engagement, add social sharing links to your emails. Typically, these links should appear toward the end of the email as buttons showing the social media platforms’ logos. These buttons will help your audience connect with your brand on other platforms and share your message. 

Social media sharing links for email
Insert social media share links into the footer of your email to help boost audience engagement with your brand across channels. Image Source: Constant Contact

The bottom of your email is also the ideal place to put the unsubscribe option for your audience. Under the CAN-SPAM Act, businesses must provide an option for consumers to opt out of receiving their email messages. Promotional emails need to have a functional unsubscribe link for them to do so. Make the unsubscribe option accessible and simple by including a straightforward link at the bottom of all your promotional emails. 

Email footer featuring contact information, FAQs link, privacy policy, and an unsubscribe link.
Make your unsubscribe link easy to read and select. You want your subscribers to be excited to receive your email communications, and if they decide to unsubscribe, they should have an easy way to leave your list. Image Source: Constant Contact

How to improve your email structure

Even marketers who understand the significance of all email components still make mistakes when drafting their emails. Try these tips to improve essential elements of your email structure:

Craft a compelling subject line

Since email users typically receive many promotional emails each day, you should draft a compelling subject line to stand out. Otherwise, your recipients may not open your email and view its contents. 

Try these strategies for drafting intriguing subject lines:

  • Use strong action verbs or adjectives
  • Keep your subject line short and sweet
  • Include the recipient’s name in the subject line
  • Ask a question or make a bold statement
  • Offer something concrete and valuable (such as a discount, special access, etc.)
  • Share a testimonial or quote

Don’t try to mislead your audience with your subject line. A teasing or over-the-top subject line may get readers to open your email, but you’ll lose their trust once they see the content doesn’t match what you promised. Deliver on your subject line in the content of your email. 

Personalize your salutation

With email marketing software, you can send mass emails with personalized salutations for each recipient. The software will take the name of each of your contacts and automatically insert it into your salutation. Some examples include:

  • Hi [first name]!
  • Hope this message finds you well, [first name, last name]!
  • Greetings, [first name]!
Insert personalized greeting tags into your emails with Constant Contact
Here is an example of how you can personalize greeting tags within email marketing tools like Constant Contact. Image source: Constant Contact  

When using this kind of personalization, ensure you spell everything correctly. You want to avoid any embarrassing mistakes, such as sending emails addressed to the wrong person or with the recipient’s name spelled wrong. Personalized communication is a key factor when consumers are considering a brand, so it’s worth taking the time to personalize your email greeting

Deliver an attention-grabbing message

In general, try to incorporate the following strategies into your email body content to keep your audience engaged:

  • Use bold and italics to emphasize key points
  • Add bullet points when including a list
  • Break up text into smaller paragraphs
  • Eliminate unnecessary information and fluff that will distract the reader
  • Incorporate headlines and subheadlines where appropriate

Create an effective CTA

An effective CTA should be straightforward and convenient. Think of the simplest next step you want your email readers to take and make that your CTA. Use clear, action-oriented words that are easy to understand. Then, create a button or link and make sure it appears prominently in your email. 

The CTA needs to stand out so your readers can’t miss it. Try to place the CTA high enough in your email so your audience doesn’t need to scroll to see it. You can reiterate your CTA at the end of the message as well. 

Design a professional signature

Your professional email signature should include some essential contact information to be useful for recipients, such as:

  • Your first and last name
  • Your job title, department, and company or organization
  • A link to your website
  • Other contact information (such as phone or fax number, if applicable)

Some professionals also include a headshot or logo in their email signatures. Adding an image is a personal touch that can help the email recipient view the sender as a real person worth engaging with. 

Email marketing best practices and tools

Employ the following email marketing best practices and tools to make your emails stand out and drive engagement:

Optimizing emails for seamless mobile experiences

People open around half of all emails on their mobile devices. If you don’t optimize your emails for mobile, you risk losing a significant percentage of your audience. 

To create mobile-optimized emails, keep your copy concise and easily scannable. Leave plenty of white space in the email so readers don’t get overwhelmed. Your CTA button should also be large enough to click easily on mobile. 

Timing your email communication

Did you know the time you send your email can dramatically affect your open and engagement rates? Don’t just click send as soon as you finish drafting your promotional emails. Instead, send your messages during times when your audience is likely to be available online. 

Some good times to send emails are between 8 and 10 am for higher open rates or 1 and 2 pm on workdays for high all-around email statistics. If you’re sending a series of promotional emails, try to space them out with at least a few days between messages. Otherwise, you risk overwhelming your audience and losing email subscribers. 

Leveraging email marketing software

The right email marketing software can take your email campaigns to the next level. It can automate your promotional email sending and give you invaluable insights into the anatomy of an email campaign. This can help you save time, effort, and resources and make better-informed decisions. 

Software like Constant Contact streamline email marketing by providing various tools to support your campaigns. For example, you can use a content generator that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to write emails quicker and easier and pre-designed drag-and-drop templates to speed up email design. Constant Contact’s performance tracking tools also track metrics like your open and click-through rates to help you determine what’s working best in your campaign and what needs adjusting. 

Start your trial today to drive more engagement in your marketing email campaigns with Constant Contact software.

Optimize every component of your emails for the best results

Every part of an email contributes to your message, so you should optimize each perfectly. Your promotional emails should include:

  • Compelling subject lines
  • Intriguing preheader text
  • Personalized salutations
  • Valuable body content
  • Clear, concise call-to-action
  • Professional email signatures

If you can get all these components right, your email marketing campaigns will yield much stronger results. Proper email structure and design make your emails more appealing and increase the chances of your recipients engaging with them. Learn more about creating successful email marketing campaigns and developing your brand’s email marketing strategy. Email marketing is constantly evolving, so never stop adjusting and improving your strategies.