W-Systems joins SugarCRM! Read Blog

Improve Email Deliverability and Stand Out in a Crowded Inbox

by Amanda Anderson on March 5, 2015

6 minute read

Email marketing is an essential component of most marketing strategies and the most effective channel for reaching prospects. With over 20% of marketing emails never making it to subscribers’ inboxes and the average subscriber receiving 416 commercial emails each month, marketers face the challenge of developing campaigns that are delivered to their destination and stand out in a crowded inbox. Even though there is no foolproof method for keeping your campaigns out of spam folders, there are best practices you can follow to improve email deliverability and increase open rates.

Make a Great First Impression

Let’s assume your email makes it to your subscribers’ inboxes. The subject line is your first impression with your readers. People scan subject lines quickly, so crafting content that excites your readers increases the chances that your emails attract their attention. The best email subject lines give readers a preview of what’s inside and entice them to want to click. Emails with short, descriptive, informative and clear subject lines often have higher open rates. Because email programs can limit the number of characters visible in the subject in the inbox view, it is recommended to use no more than 40 characters in your subject line.

Consider Your Text to Image Ratio

A picture may be worth a thousand words but graphically heavy email campaigns with minimal text can raise red flags for spam filters. Even if your email reaches subscribers, chances are images will be blocked by email clients or readers will not enable images. Gmail data reveals that 43% of Gmail users read emails without turning images on.

You can still design a visually appealing and interesting email. Just watch your text to image ratio. Best practice recommendations for text to image ratios vary because all spam filters use different criteria for what is a healthy balance of graphics and text. Common suggestions are 60/40 or 80/20 text to image ratios. It is never recommended to use a single graphic as your email content since most email programs block the automatic downloading of images by default and your recipients will initially see only a blank email resulting in a low open rate.

To reduce the number of images, lean more on your HTML. Instead of having a graphic banner with your logo and headline, just add your logo and use text to display the headline. The same thing goes with your colored footer. Don’t use an image for this. Instead, use HTML to display a background color and use text within the HTML table. So even if the email recipient doesn’t load their images, they’ll still see color and a nice looking email.

 W-Systems email footer

Using alt tags is one of the best ways to get around blocked images and provide some context for readers when images are disabled. Alt tags are simply text that displays in place of an image when an image does not load by default.

Other tips for working with images in emails include avoiding background images, making image file sizes as small as possible without affecting visual integrity and providing links to view emails in a web browser. When adding an image, try to avoid resizing the image in your email marketing tool. Create the image to be the exact size you need. Some email clients, like Outlook, only display the original image size. So that small icon you made but resized, may actually display in the inbox as a huge image that takes over your entire email.

Create Mobile Friendly Emails

The devices used to open emails are shifting from desktops to mobile devices. In fact, two-thirds of all emails opened are on mobile devices. Because space is limited on mobile devices, keep your email design and content simple with a clear call to action. Tell your readers what you want them to do and make it easy for them to do that. Design email templates that are desktop, laptop and mobile friendly so your emails look great regardless of the device they are read on. Keep these tips in mind as you are coding your template for cross-platform email design.

Get Readers to Take Action

Your email was opened and read, but now how do you get the subscriber to take action? Marketing Experiments tested calls to action and found those that offered high value at low cost to the reader get more clicks. Provide engaging, clear content that encourages the reader to act as soon as possible and limit content to one call to action per email to avoid confusion.

Let Subscribers Know How to Reach You

The “From” field can be just as important as your subject line and should indicate who the sender is. Emails from unrecognized senders are quickly deleted or sent to the junk folder. Never make the mistake of sending an email with a no reply email address. No reply addresses give the perception that you do not care about your subscribers and readers do not feel valued.

There are always going to be subscribers who for whatever reason decide they no longer want to receive your emails. To ensure CAN-SPAM compliance, every email you send needs to include an unsubscribe link or email preference page link. Make the opt-out process quick and easy and provide alternatives to opting out entirely. For example, subscribers may not have time to read your daily emails but would be happy with a weekly digest or monthly newsletter. Give them the option to continue hearing from you!

Test, Test, and Test Some More

Before sending your campaign to your subscriber list, send a few test emails to different email platforms, such as Outlook, Google, Yahoo, and Hotmail, to view how the email displays. All email clients render HTML differently so your email’s appearance may vary among them. You may also want to conduct A/B testing to a small percentage of your subscribers to determine which version receives the most opens or clicks. Content to test includes the subject line, sender name, calls to action and images.

Some marketing automation platforms, have a tool to test the email across platforms so you don’t have to manually do this. However, another great tool to test is Email on Acid.

By incorporating these best practices in every campaign, you can create emails that are effectively delivered to inboxes, get clicked and inspire readers to take action. For more information about email marketing tips or marketing automation, contact us today.