Finessing Your E-mail Message

If you’ve ever sent out a newsletter or any publication via e-mail, chances are that you’re aware of the enormous amount of information on how to best create your e-mail campaigns. However, there are some not so subtle things you need to know as well if you want to take your e-mail campaigns to the next level…

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is not a good thing in e-mails. Sure, they look fine in your web-friendly version, but each e-mail provider renders the CSS in entirely different ways and you should take into consideration the fact that web browsers may display them differently as well. Instead of adding flavor and style to your e-mails, keep it simple. The message is what’s important, not HOW the message is displayed. Obviously there are some creative things that you can do to make your e-mail more appealing, but stick with the baiscs. Each paragraph should have its own font HTML tag…

…font face=”Arial, Verdana, Helvetica, Sans-serif” size=”12″ color=”#FFFFFF”…

These tags are important as otherwise, Outlook or other web e-mail platforms will display your e-mail differently than what you intend.

Add ALT tags to your images. It’s okay to add images, but remember that a huge majority of e-mail browsers now block any images right from the get-go. So when someone recieves your e-mail, they’re only looking at text since the browser doesn’t know if the images you’ve included contain any viruses. By using ALT tags, you’re allowing the user to see what you’ve included and also helps anyone with visual difficulties to effectively know what you’re sending.

Include a link to view the e-mail as a webpage. This has happened countless times in the e-mails that I’ve received…most notably from a tourist destination. What makes it worse is that the background was the SAME color as the font, which practically made it illegible and all you could see was the color of the link that read “click here”. Click here for what? Why should I now?
By including a link to the web-friendly version, you can allow viewers the option of seeing the e-mail exactly how you want them to see it and include all your CSS coding. This is especially helpful if you include dynamic forms, such as sign-up forms that you created yourself as Outlook 2003 no longer displays forms correctly and if this happens, your users will find it difficult to look at your e-mail and delete it.

Update your e-mail list frequently. This is perhaps one of the most important things that you can do, both from a best practices approach and financial approach. As most third-party e-mail marketing systems charge by the number of people in your database, wouldn’t it behoove you to remove any faulty names (e.g. bounced, unsubscribed/opt-outs, etc) from your database to make it more streamlined? By doing this, you can be assured of an accurate count of how many e-mail addresses you have and constantly know that you’re not sending e-mails to unwanted guests.

Track your e-mails. When you send out your e-mails, do you just send it on its merry way and then occasionally look at the open, unsubscribe, clickthrough, and bounce rates? Or do you apply tracking tags to your e-mail links so that you can monitor the path that the users take when they click on the links in your mailings? Obviously this can be time-consuming when you have a large newsletter with a lot of links, but this might be fruitful for those links you are particularly interested in.

Remember that your viewers don’t spend that much time on your e-mail. Get straight to the point with your content and capture their attention. Viewers only spend a few seconds with their e-mails and if they see the subject line of your mailing, they may or may not spend more time on it. Make sure that you have catchy subject lines, attractive content, and mesmerizing imagery. Don’t keep a lot of content on your e-mail. Make the call to action conspicuous and prominent. Force them to do something (besides delete your e-mail…).

Those are just some key things that I’ve found out over the years of e-mail marketing and hopefully you’re doing just fine. But if not, here’s just ONE more resource for you.

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."