Every day, people receive dozens of emails. Some are work or family-related, but a significant portion are marketing emails. And of those marketing emails, some will sit for all of eternity, never read by their intended recipient. Of course, that’s not what you, as a marketer, want — otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this email marketing optimization guide. 

So, how can you increase open rates and get clients to engage with your brand? The answer: email marketing optimization.

When you take the time to create a winning email marketing strategy, you’ll see engagement rates climb. You’ll also find it easier to attract new subscribers — something that’s essential for brand growth. Let’s uncover the top techniques for email marketing optimization in digital marketing.

Best practices for email optimization

Creating a marketing email may seem as simple as writing a short message, inserting a few product photos, and including a link for your recipients to visit your website. It can be that simple, but that strategy may not yield the results you’re looking for. Instead, examine each element of your marketing email before giving it the green light for distribution. This list of best practices can give you some inspiration.

Adopt proper email list management and hygiene

You worked pretty hard to build an email subscriber list — but your efforts don’t end once clients opt in. It’s important to regularly assess the condition of your subscriber list and look for anomalies you don’t want, like low open rates or bounces. 

If you see a trend toward lower open rates, try deciphering what’s driving it. A few reasons could be:

  • Sending too many emails with repetitive content
  • Messaging subscribers at inconvenient times, like the middle of the night
  • Delivering low-value messages
  • Sending irrelevant messages that don’t apply to your subscriber’s interests

Email bounces indicate your messages aren’t being delivered. A soft bounce usually means a temporary delivery issue, like a service outage. Once the issue is resolved, your subscriber should receive the message. Hard bounces are another story. A hard bounce means the email address is invalid and can’t receive messages. 

You’ll want to remove email addresses from your subscriber list if you receive a hard bounce. Too many undeliverable messages can damage your sender reputation.

Create eye-catching subject lines

Your email’s subject line is the first thing people see when they scan their inbox. Seize the opportunity to make it as compelling as possible. Instead of using bland, ineffective copy, liven up the five or ten words you use to tell subscribers why they *must* open your message.

Tripadvisor email subject line sample
In this subject line, Tripadvisor includes a few emojis to attract attention to its marketing message. Image Source: Tripadvisor

Some brands use email marketing headline optimization with emojis to make their subject lines even more visually attractive. Red alerts, stars, and other elements drive the eye directly to your message, encouraging recipients to open it and see what you have to say.

Ensure device friendliness

While you may intend your subscribers to read your email on their smartphones, you can’t guarantee it will happen. They may open it on a tablet, a laptop, or a PC. 

Use email marketing software that optimizes your message for all devices. That way, anyone can read your message and take action if they want to, no matter what size screen they’re reading it on.

Utilize images effectively in your emails

Stock photos are so last year. Actually, more like ten years ago, but who’s counting? 

Rather than relying on the same free stock photos every marketer can access, embrace authenticity by using your own graphics and images. If your email is product-related, you can include pictures of the items you sell or create a demonstration video so subscribers can see them in action. 

Hallmark email invitation for movie premiere viewing
Hallmark uses an original image for its movie premiere email invitation. Image Source: Hallmark

Consider designing a brand template for informational messages that distinguish your content from other senders. Make sure to include your logo and brand colors to stand out. 

Write engaging and relevant email copy

Most emails are meant to be short. They’re not the next Great American Novel. However, that doesn’t mean you can afford to get sloppy with boring content. 

Spice things up with creative taglines and messaging that engage customers for the few seconds you have their attention. If you need a little inspiration, most email marketing software (including Constant Contact) has templates to get the creative juices flowing.

Craft a professional email signature

Some brands include a signoff that distinguishes them from similar businesses. Their signoff might include a visually appealing signature and company logo. Using a signoff lends greater brand credibility. 

When subscribers see it, they’ll know the message has a personal touch. You can include additional contact information in your signoff, like a link to your website or phone number, so customers can quickly get in contact if they want to.

Use A/B testing to improve results

A/B testing is a fantastic way to learn what drives subscribers to open and take action on your messages. To try it, identify an element of your message to test, like a subject line or call-to-action (CTA). Then, create two alternatives and send the results to a test sample of your subscriber list. 

If you notice greater email success with one element versus the other, you know it’s more effective for converting subscribers. Use the winning combination when sending your message to your remaining subscribers.

Implement a few personalization aspects

Email is one of the easiest ways to form a one-on-one connection with your clients. Since your message is sent directly to individual subscribers, you can incorporate personalization elements that resonate with readers. 

For instance, you might start your message with their name or include product recommendations relating to recent items they browsed on your website. The more tailored your content is to your clients, the higher your engagement rates will be. 

Incorporate strategic calls-to-action

Every message you send should have an end goal. Your objective might be increasing familiarity with your brand or something more revenue-oriented, like making a sale. Whatever your goal is, it’s essential to inform subscribers what you want them to do with your message. Do you want them to visit your website? Share feedback? Buy something? Include a clear CTA that encourages subscribers to take the action you’re hoping for.

edX email sample
This email from edX includes a clearly visible CTA button that links to its website. Image Source: edX

Let subscribers unsubscribe if they want to

It may sound counterintuitive, but stay with us. If a reader asks you to remove them from your mailing list, don’t argue. Simply let them go.

Yes, you may have worked hard to get their email address, and you’re probably pretty sad to learn they don’t like your messages. But if you don’t honor their wishes, they aren’t going to suddenly start being the perfect subscriber again. Instead, they may complain about your business or report your emails as spam — something that can have a highly detrimental impact on your brand.

The Washington Post email footer
The Washington Post includes an unsubscribe link and an option to manage newsletter preferences in its emails. Image Source: The Washington Post

Set up automated sequences for timely engagement

Every client goes through a buyer’s journey when they first learn of your brand. It typically starts with an accidental introduction — maybe they stumbled upon your website, or a friend told them about your company. Then, it progresses. They sign up for your email list, do some product investigation, and decide whether they need your services. 

You can take control of the buyer’s journey by setting up a timely sequence of emails that aligns with where they’re at with your brand. Start with a welcome email for new subscribers, then gently build momentum by introducing them to your products and offering them valuable content. When the timing’s right, they’ll be ready to buy.

Measure email time and frequency for maximum effect

Here’s a secret: more is not necessarily better when it comes to email. You don’t have to send subscribers dozens of emails monthly to see results. You may find just one or two emails each week are effective. Sending too many emails may result in higher unsubscribe rates and spam complaints. 

Another aspect to consider is email send time. People are more likely to read promotional emails when they have time — on their lunch break, in the early mornings, or at the end of the day when they’re winding down. Try sending emails at different times to see how they impact your open and conversion rates. Keep in mind that you may have clients in multiple time zones, so you may need to customize send times based on recipient locations.

Avoid punctuation and grammar mistakes

You may be anxious to send subscribers your email marketing message but don’t forget to perform an in-depth spelling and grammar check first. You don’t want any mistakes that make your brand appear unprofessional. After an initial review, you can run your copy through a free checker like Grammarly to catch any errors you missed.

Advanced optimization strategies

As you build your email marketing skills, you can try some cutting-edge email marketing optimization techniques.

Balance aesthetics and readability

Customers like to receive visually attractive messages, but not every device or internet connection can handle extensive graphics. Aim for utility rather than going all out with lots of embedded videos, heavily pixelated images, and over-the-top designs. Understand that your message is the real point of the email, not all the fancy bells and whistles you add to supplement it. 

It’s a meticulous balance you may need to work toward achieving. The end result should be an email people can easily scan but also strikes the eye.

Build revenue with email retargeting

Brands may see many website visitors, but only a portion of those who stop by convert into paying customers. That’s normal — but there are steps you can take to increase your conversion rate. One of the best strategies is email retargeting.

Email retargeting involves sending subscribers follow-up emails whenever they browse your site without making a purchase. You can use emails to promote similar items to the ones they looked at, or to encourage clients to finalize an abandoned cart purchase. Of course, email retargeting only works if clients opt-in to receive your marketing emails, so make sure you get their permission before trying this technique.

Embed video content into your emails

Sometimes, your email may call for additional content — like an embedded video. Integrating embedded videos can be fun for your subscribers to watch or add credibility to the products you’re advertising. 

If you choose to add video, optimize it for email viewing and try to keep it short. Remember that some recipients may see your message in places where they can’t watch it with sound, like the workplace or in public areas. If you include sound in your video, give clients an option to watch it on mute with closed captions instead.

Privacy consideration and data protection

There are lots of laws and regulations concerning marketing emails, and some vary by state, so it’s vital to understand and follow them before initiating a campaign. 

In general, laws require you to obtain a subscriber’s written consent before sending marketing materials. Do not purchase third-party lists to fill out your subscriber base, best practices suggest against purchasing email lists.

Different countries have regulations you may need to consider if you have international subscribers. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies to businesses serving customers who live in the EU and requires marketers to safeguard customer information and minimize data collection. If you have EU subscribers, pay careful attention to the law to avoid unnecessary penalties or fines. 

Email marketing software and tools

Brands hoping to incorporate email into their marketing toolbox should look for software to manage their subscriber list and improve campaign effectiveness. One of the top software solutions available is Constant Contact, which offers comprehensive email, SMS, and social media marketing tools.

With Constant Contact, you can establish automated email sequences, utilize hundreds of pre-designed email templates, and easily analyze your results. It includes a ton of email marketing optimization features, including advanced elements like sign-up forms and surveys. Plus, it’s simple to use — you don’t need advanced coding skills or a design background to get started.

Start your next email marketing campaign today

Now that you know all the critical elements of email marketing optimization, it’s time to implement them! Consider each aspect of your message, from its subject line to signature, and polish them so they stand out. Remember, the more value your emails provide subscribers — and the more interesting they are — the more likely you will see results in the form of higher open and conversion rates. 

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