Best Practices: Key Content Tips for Creating Email Content
At the heart of it all, the email that you send is the content that you want your readers to care about. Whether that content is information- based or an offer or promotion, how and what your email content is can make a huge difference in performance. Here are some key content tips for creating your emails.
Content Tips No. 1: Choosing and Selecting Content
The first question that you are undoubtedly asking yourself is "What content should I put in my email?" There's not a proven algorithm for knowing what will resonate with your users or readers. In fact, the best option is to always test a variety of email content over a period of time and then track the results. You can then use those results to create a best-practices list and internal knowledge of what will work for your users. However, if you're just getting started, here are some email content tips to follow.
It's NOT What You Would Want: One of the most common content generation mistakes that often happens in crafting email content is that the person in charge of creating the email centers the content around what he or she would want to read or see in an email rather than using data to determine what actual readers and subscribers would enjoy. Even if you've never sent an email before, your company will have some data on what type of content resonates the best with your users. This may be sales data on the types of items or discounts that work the best, or it may be web analytics that show which pages or content types do the best on your site. Regardless of what sources you use, remember that you want to put content in your email campaign that will make users want to read and open it. That may mean that the email content or offers don't personally align with your instincts or what you like!
Ask Around! No matter how small or large your company is, there are easy and quick web tools out there to survey or poll your existing traffic or members about the type of content or offers that they'll like. If you have an existing social network program, you can use Facebook Questions or a tweet-back campaign to accomplish the same goal. In reality, it will only take you a week to ask users what they want to read or see in your email. The one caution, however, is to remember that the types of users who will respond to polls or questions will be your most active and engaged users. You may want to do the work to find out what the less active and engaged users desire, and that may require looking closely at your sales and web analytics.
Competitor Research: If you have a competitor who has a successful email marketing or newsletter program, or even a more robust web content section than you do, you can feel fairly safe in emulating the types of content or offers that you have seen them promoting. Particularly if they have been running an email program for quite some time, they have likely tested and perfected the types of email content and offers that work best. Again, however, the one caution would be that you may be receiving a specific email based on a list segment that you are falling into. For example, if you have a dummy account at a competitor from which you've made one test purchase, or no purchases, you may be getting different email content than their best customers do. However, it's a great research jumping off point!
Seasonal Content: Seasonal content is always a great way to improve open rates. Remember though that December is the most active email marketing time, so even with great email content you may see reduced results because there's simply so much email in most people's inboxes. However, making your content targeted to holidays, seasonal fashion trends, trends in your industry, or other time-related or seasonal elements is always a great way to make the email content more relevant to your readers and users.
Test! Test! Test! Of course, at the end of the day, it's all about email test. You'll only develop knowledge of what email content your readers and subscribers love and what email content they hate over time and by keeping great records and reporting on email activity. Never assume that you already know what your subscribers will want to read. Pay attention to what they're actually telling you with their behaviors.
Content Tips No. 2: Correct Grammar Counts!
It may be a world of SMS abbreviations, but test after test has shown that proper grammar in your email counts for improved conversion rates. Take the time to have the English major in your office (or a professional copy writer) review and edit your email. It only takes one user who notices a grammar or spelling mistake in your email to then begin a social media campaign that makes you look less professional than you are!
Content Tips No. 3: Determining the Length of Content
How long you make your content in an email is also important. You want to put enough content in to get your message across, but at the same time you run risks if your content is too long. Those risks include:
- Ending up in the spam or junk folder
- Having users be overwhelmed by the amount of content in your email and not reading it
- Having formatting issues as the email content gets so long that it creates display problems in various email clients.
The best emails will be under 750 words total, and that's a great deal of text. However, as you determining the length of your email content, here are some content tips to make it more visually appealing and less likely to end up causing problems.
Use Short Text Blocks:Your email will almost never be the best place to put the content of a full article or robust product description. Use shorter text blocks of 100 to 200 words that have a strong call-to-action to click-through to your landing page or website for more information. You'll get the double benefit of a more text-friendly email as well as increased web traffic.
Format the Text: We'll cover best-practices for formatting content below, but make your content visually interesting by using font colors, sizes, and bold tags. If text is more visually compelling, it's also more likely to be scanned or even fully read.
Break Text Up with Headlines or Images: Break up your larger blocks of text with headlines or images (though obviously limit the use of images as previously discussed). Again, if there's too much text in a large block, users will be overwhelmed by it and it's unlikely that they will read it. Keep your email visually interesting with other elements placed in between text areas.
Content Tips No. 4: Words to Avoid in Your Email Content
There are about 200 words that can get you into spam trouble with your email content. That's not to say that you can't ever use these words, but it is to say that you should minimize them and certainly don't use them in the subject line. We've provided a complete list of spam-trigger words in section six of this ebook. However, the following short list constitutes what are often referred to as "email disaster words." If you're having a problem staying out of the spam or junk folder, these are the words that are most likely to be putting you there.
- Visit our website
- 50% Off
- Click here
- Call now
- Save up to
- Information you requested
- Important information regarding
- Guarantee, Guaranteed
- Special Promotion
- Great Offer/Deal
- All New
- One Time
- Order Now
Again, you certainly can use these words in your email, and you've most likely seen emails from companies that use these words. Ending up in the spam or junk folder involves a complex matrix and algorithm that's different for each email service provider. The more that you use the above words (as well as the list of words provided in section six of this book), the more likely you are to experience deliverability problems. Be aware of these "disaster" words and know that if you over-use them or begin to experience deliverability problems they are your likely culprits.
Content Tips No. 5: Formatting Content
Finally, how you format the content in your email is almost as important as what the content itself is. Here are some content tips for email formatting in email formatting or promotions.
Don't Copy and Paste from Word! If there's one rule of "doing things on the web" that you should always remember, it's "Don't copy and paste content from Microsoft Word." While many email marketing platforms, including Comm100, will overwrite any "special characters" that translate from Word as "garble", you may later find that in some cases they displayed inappropriately. Word content is not web-ready content. Always copy your content into Notepad before inserting it into your email template. Then use your email platforms html or Wiziwig tools to format headlines, fonts, etc.
Use Bold Tags, Font Colors and Font Sizes: As we noted above, making your content visually interesting is also highly important. Within your individual text blocks, use bold tags, font colors, or even various font sizes to highlight keywords and trigger words. Remember, however, that it's important to do this using inline tags rather than a CSS call.
Underline Links: In a previous section, we provided great detail on the best practices for improving email click-through rate. For a full summary, you should read that section if you skipped over it. However, at a minimum, remember that when formatting content you should always format links with an underlined font in order to improve click-through activity.
Use Headlines: Be sure to break-up your content by using larger, bolder headlines to convey to users what exactly each section is about. It will help readers scan your content for the pieces that are most interesting or important to them.
Small Text Blocks: We've said it frequently because it's important! Use small blocks of text that then use strong calls-to-action to have users click to your landing page or website for the full content or information. It will keep your email more text-friendly and increase web traffic.
Readable Font: Finally, make sure to use a readable font! Arial and other non-serif fonts in a ten or eleven point font size are often considered the best fonts for email templates. Stay away from heavy serif fonts, script fonts, or novelty fonts.
Content is king of the internet, and that includes email. Take the time to follow these content tips for both choosing and selecting and then creating content and you'll see email improvement.