Marketing Strategy Blog

7 Ways to Create Better Email

create better email

As multitasking marketers, we dot a lot of “i’s” and cross a lot of “t’s” each day. But in the hustle and bustle of building cross-channel campaigns, how many times do we pause and consider that the messages we are creating—including our email marketing campaigns—are being read by real people with real needs. Not enough, if we’re being honest. 

How can we make sure we’re capitalizing on the email channel and building campaigns that deliver the experience our users so desperately desire? To get started you’ll want to make sure your campaign is:

  • Measurable: With the right email provider, hundreds of data points are available to you. 
  • Direct: Your email campaigns are delivered directly to a user’s individual inbox. 
  • Personal: You have the power to gather mounds of data to make email a highly personalized experience for your user.

To begin to learn how to create better email, let’s break it into two user experiences. First, there’s what the user sees before they open the email. This is the Inbox. Second, there’s what the user sees after they open the email. This is the Email Body

create better email


As marketers, we often under-optimize the inbox experience. Most of us are guilty of spending a significant amount of time on the email body and then rushing the subject line or other inbox elements. However, without sparking interest in the inbox, we have no chance at getting a user to click-through to our content.

Make sure you’re making the most of your inbox experience with this list of email marketing best practices:

1. Test Subject Lines:

There’s no magic formula for a subject line, no matter what any marketing agency tells you. The best way to know what subject lines work for your audience is to dig into the data and A/B test. Here are four A/B tests you can try for your subject lines:

  • Playful voice vs. straightforward voice
  • Question vs. statement
  • List vs. non-list
  • Short vs. long 

Tip: The open rate is a good way to measure interest in a topic, but truth be told, the open rate is a vanity metric. To understand which emails are performing best, dig further into the funnel. An email subject line with a lower open rate (but high click-through rate or high conversion rate) is better than a high open rate that resulted in no additional action.

2.Customize Your Preview Text:

The preview text can act as a second subject line. Unfortunately, many marketers don’t use preview text. Instead, they allow the first line of the email to populate in the preview area. This is often something to the effect of “Trouble viewing email? View in a web page.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the word “trouble” showing up in emails associated with my brand. The preview text is generally two lines, and it’s a simple line of code that shows up in the inbox, but not in the actual email. Customize it with each email send for the best user experience.

create better email

3. What’s in a From Name? A lot!

Your email subscriber will see your “from name” before anything else. Be as descriptive as possible to let the person know who and why. The more specific the better – it can almost act as a subject line. If you have multiple email programs, specify what each one delivers with the “from name.” 

create better email4. No-Reply is No Good: Where does the email go when the customer replies? Does it go to no-reply? What does this say to the customer about your commitment to their satisfaction? This is an easy fix. Give the customer a place to respond. If there’s a problem or question, wouldn’t you prefer to know about it?

create better email


Congratulations! You’ve inspired your subscriber to open your email and now it’s time to deliver on your promise of terrific content. Here are three ways to make your email even better:

5. A Mobile World

Did you know mobile email has grown 600% in 5 years? To deliver the best experience, it’s important to explore which device your subscribers are using to access email, and it may be mobile. Dig into your email data to explore your device breakdown. Work with your development team to make sure your email is responsive, and consider design decisions that are mobile friendly like one column vs. two column and cutting significant navigational features.

Hint: Don’t use call to action messaging with copy like “click here” or “tap here” because it can alienate users on either desktop or mobile.

6. Bigger is Better:

Making email elements big is especially important when it comes to call to action buttons. You can use your thumb to test sizing. If the button is as big as your thumbprint, then it is properly sized.

A note about buttons: Use a stylized table code to create a button because images don’t display in all emails.

create better email

7. Use Optimized Visuals

Some email providers will block images, so make sure to stylize your “alt-text” and make it nice and big. Don’t be afraid to use animated GIFs. GIFs can be a lot of fun for your audience; however, some email servers don’t support them. The solution is to deliver the call to action in the first screen of a GIF.

Video is also gaining momentum in the marketing arena. You may see an email that appears to host video, but in fact, it’s simply a thumbnail of a video that when clicked, opens into a landing page with the video embedded on it. This is a great technique to let your audience know a story includes video.

create better emailWhat tips would you add to this list to create better email and improve your email marketing? Let us know in the comments section!

This blog is based on a presentation entitled “The Hidden Talents of Email: Creating Customer-Centric Messages,” presented by Justine Jordan of Litmus at MozCon 2016 in Seattle.




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