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‘Numbers, Data Get Your Emails Noticed’; Results From 2020 Email Studies

A recent GetResponse survey revealed that the top words for inducing opens in a subject line are “pdf,” “newsletter” and “ebook.” For click-to-open rates, “infographic” scored huge at 35.1%—it’s easy to digest—followed by “newsletter” at 31.4%. “Sale” and “free” also fared well—the latter drawing this comment: “This phrase, previously believed to cause deliverability issues, seems to work well for quite a few marketers. People still enjoy receiving free things.” Amen.

Not surprisingly, by around June last year, more people were opening their email on their computers or desktops than on their phone, reversing a recent trend. However, as the year—thankfully—ended, mobile gained ground again as the top way to read email.

As with so many things, it’s really a case of knowing—and talking to—your audience. If the majority are opening your emails on their phone, then go short. iPhones show about 35-38 characters in portrait mode, and Galaxy phones show roughly 33 characters in portrait mode. According to most studies, subject lines that are 17-24 characters long are most likely to boost your email open rates.

But that can really feel short sometimes. The main lesson is to be direct. Language cuteness has its place, but subject lines need to make an immediate impact and reflect what’s in the email.

Other ways to get more attention for your emails:

Take a number please.
Email open and reply rates go up when there’s a number in the subject line. “Numbers and data get your emails noticed, demonstrate a clear and straightforward message about your offer, and set the right expectations for your readers, helping draw them in.”

Create a welcome message.
Welcome emails perform very well. A report from last year said that 30% of onsite digital subscriptions originate from “welcome” messages that provide an introduction to new readers, and “warn” messages that serve as reminders as the reader approaches the meter limit.

Test send-day, send-time, subject-line length and even sender name.
Perhaps you will do better with a person’s name that people know. In one of the biggest surprises, Friday, not Wednesday or Thursday, was the best day for engagement last year, reported Campaign Monitor. It had the best open rate (22.1%), the best click-through rate and the best click-to-open rate. “This is just one example of the ways the pandemic changed the way people engage with the world around them.” In open rates, Monday was second and Sunday third. But in click-through and click-to-open rates, Wednesday was second and Saturday third.

Monitor your sender reputation.
According to Demand Metric, “a surprising percentage of study participants do not monitor their sender reputation or were unsure if it is being monitored. Marketers who are not actively monitoring their sender reputation should strongly consider leveraging Sender Score, Google Postmaster Tools, Microsoft SNDS, or other similar tools.”

Give thought to the preheader text.
Preheaders summarize the content in your email for added explanation and enticement. Your readers get an opportunity to preview the email, even while it sits unopened in their inbox. I just started doing this for another newsletter, and the open rate has increased. When done right, the subject line and the preheader complement each other. One example: “Innovative event ideas – Coffee mugs for speakers, drive-in meetings and year-round platforms highlight new twists for the virtual age.”

Send highly-relevant content through personalization and segmentation.
This came from another email report last year: “Personalization is quickly being overtaken by hyper-personalization, not only in email messaging but in touch points far beyond the inbox. Brands that have resisted the personalization wave will find their reliance on one-size-fits-all email might shut them out of the inbox as customers grow more apathetic to their messages—and ISPs use that apathy to give preferential treatment to brands more in tune with their customers.”

Ensure that your emails align with subscriber expectations.
Know your audience and why they are there. “Marketers who report inbox placement rates of 90% or above are much more likely to follow list management best-practices, such as validating email addresses, building lists organically, and honoring opt-outs,” writes Demand Metrics.

Routinely schedule re-engagement campaigns to maintain list hygiene.
Focus on quality of subscribers above quantity.

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Friday Sends, Segmentation and More Testing Can Boost Your Email Rates

In the space of about an hour yesterday, I read a 2020 email report that said that Fridays are now getting the best engagement of the week—and then our director of marketing said how well our noon Friday emails are doing. The reasons? Less competition and people are not traveling so they’re working, but if they are like me, they may be doing a little lighter lifts. So opening emails may feel just right.

Campaign Monitor has put out a report titled Media and Publisher Email Marketing Benchmarks for 2021 (download here), looking at the email trends from the year 2020. Here are some takeaways:

Friday is the best day for email marketing.
In one of the biggest surprises, Friday, not Wednesday or Thursday, was the best day for engagement. It had the best open rate (22.1%), the best click-through rate and the best click-to-open rate. “This is just one example of the ways the pandemic changed the way people engage with the world around them.” In open rates, Monday was second and Sunday third. But in click-through and click-to-open rates, Wednesday was second and Saturday third.

Mobile opens decreased this year for the first time ever.
Those dropped from 63% to 54% in 2020. “With fewer people commuting and more people going from their morning coffee directly to their desks—guilty—people spent more time at their desks.”

Click-through rates decreased steadily over the course of 2020.
The thinking is that Zoom fatigue and the ongoing crisis led people to disconnect for the benefit of their mental state. So while opens still soared, that didn’t translate to click-through or click-to-open rates. They suggest that “publishers will need to re-engage with their audience and combat fatigue through increased personalization. Publishers can analyze the engagement they saw early in 2020 to discover new segments that will help you deliver hypertargeted emails you know your audience will care about. For example, you can segment people based on the type of content subscribers engaged with” or even the format of that content. Did they click on images as opposed to in-text links?

Publishers experienced 29% growth in open rates from 2018 to 2020.
From 2019 to 2020 alone publishers saw 19.7% growth in their open rates. “That means more and more people are turning to email as a trusted source of information, as a way to connect directly with the publishers they care about most.” It also goes to the ascending popularity of newsletters. In general, the publishing industry outperformed the average email benchmarks for every industry across the board in 2020.

Ways to improve your email open rate:

– Create a welcome series to foster loyalty and strong relationships.
Welcome emails perform very well. A report from last year said that 30% of onsite digital subscriptions originate from “welcome” messages, that provide an introduction to new readers, and “warn” messages that serve as reminders as the reader approaches the meter limit.

– Test send day, send time, cadence, subject line length, tone, content and even sender name.
Perhaps you will do better with a person’s name that people know. At Dell, every new landing page is a multi-faceted project that requires several handoffs taking 6-8 weeks to customize and globalize for testing.

– Don’t forget—and give thought to—the preheader text.
I’ve noticed an uptick since we started doing those.

– Focus on sending only highly-relevant content through personalization and segmentation.
This came from another email report last year: “Personalization is quickly being overtaken by hyper-personalization, not only in email messaging but in touch points far beyond the inbox. Brands that have resisted the personalization wave will find their reliance on one-size-fits-all email might shut them out of the inbox as customers grow more apathetic to their messages—and ISPs use that apathy to give preferential treatment to brands more in tune with their customers.”

How to improve the click-through rate:
Ensure that your emails align with subscriber expectations. Know your audience and why they are there. Also make sure that your subject line reflects the content of your email. You can fool people once or twice with tricky subject lines, but it’s not worth it in the long run.

How to lower your unsubscribe rate:
“Routinely schedule re-engagement campaigns to maintain list hygiene. Segment your audience to send the most relevant emails. Focus on quality of subscribers above quantity.

You can get the full report here.

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‘Here Are Your 29 Tips, Jane’; 7 Keys to Getting Better Email Opens

What do the following words have in common? 100%. Congratulations. Don’t. Get started. Innovate. Problem. Quickest. Success. Vacation. Volunteer. According to CoSchedule, they trigger spam alerts.
For what works well, a recent GetResponse survey revealed that the top words for inducing opens in a subject line are “pdf,” “newsletter” and “ebook.” “If you’re promoting a piece of content or a valuable resource, you’re probably better off if you mention it in the subject line.” But for click-to-open rates, “infographic” scored huge at 35.1%—very easy to digest—followed by newsletter at 31.4%. “Sale” and “free” also fared well—the latter drawing this comment: “This phrase, previously believed to cause deliverability issues, seems to work well for quite a few marketers… People still enjoy receiving free things.” Amen.
What can we do to improve engagement and deliverability of our email? Let us count some content-oriented ways here.
The Hubspot blog lists 29 ways to ways to avoid spam and improve your email deliverability. Here are three.
1. Don’t use all caps anywhere in your email or its subject line. “Don’t yell at people. It’s not nice. Using all caps in your subject line might get the recipients’ attention, but probably not in a good way. Using all caps can really rub people the wrong way. It’s annoying and can seem spammy.” They suggest “personalizing your emails, establishing relevancy, and using catchy and delightful language.”
2. Don’t use exclamation points. They are “unprofessional and spammy”—especially a whole bunch of them in a row. “And when 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line, you’ll want to stay away from triggers like this as much as you can.”
3. Avoid spam trigger words. You saw a few of them up top. “A good rule of thumb is this: If it sounds like something a used car salesman would say, it’s probably a spam trigger word. Think ‘guarantee,’ ‘no obligation’ and so on.” Instead, they encourage creativity and being informative—without giving too much away.
Here are three from Campaign Monitor.
4. Include a number in your subject line. A recent study looking at 115 million emails surmised that email open and reply rates go up when there’s a number in the subject line. “Numbers and data get your emails noticed, demonstrate a clear and straightforward message about your offer, and set the right expectations for your readers, helping draw them in.” Some I’m seeing today: 20% off new kitchen designs; 5 ways to win back lost customers; ViacomCBS to sell CNET for $500 million.
5. Utilize preheader text to boost subject line open rates. Preheaders summarize the content in your email for added explanation and enticement. Your readers gets an opportunity to preview the email, even while it sits unopened in their inbox. I just started doing this for another newsletter I send out. When done right, the subject line and the preheader complement each other. One example: “Innovative event ideas – Coffee mugs for speakers, drive-in meetings and year-round platforms highlight new twists for the virtual age.”
6. Keep your email subject lines relatively short. Here, as is often the case, it’s best to know your audience. If the majority are opening your emails on their phone, then go short. iPhones show about 35-38 characters in portrait mode, and Galaxy phones show roughly 33 characters in portrait mode. CM’s best practice suggests that “subject lines that are 17-24 characters long are most likely to boost your email open rates.” But that can really feel short sometimes. The main lesson in that is to be direct. Language cuteness has its place, but subject lines need to make an immediate impact.
And finally…
7. Emails with video still generate the highest email engagement rates. But only around 8% of the emails in a recent study from GetResponse contained links to videos. “For now, the best workaround is to use an image (maybe even a GIF) that looks like a video player and links to your page,” they suggest. “That way, you’ll boost your click-throughs and enhance your contacts’ experience as they’ll watch the content in their default browser or video player.”