Top 10 email marketing questions and the answers

You asked, we answered

A successful email marketing campaign requires your content, list and timing to all work harmoniously. There’s a lot to know! So we’ve gathered the top 10 email marketing questions from you, our customers, all in one place. If you’re new to email marketing, or simply need to rethink your marketing strategy, start here!

The email marketing questions

  1. Do I need to send an email newsletter?
  2. When is the best time to send an email newsletter?
  3. How often should I send my email newsletter?
  4. How long should an email newsletter be?
  5. How do I grow an email list?
  6. How do I write a good subject line?
  7. How do I avoid the junk folder?
  8. What is a good or average response rate for email marketing?
  9. How can I increase my click through rate (CTR)?
  10. Has social media replaced email marketing?

 1. Do I need to send an email newsletter?

Absolutely! From a pure marketing perspective, email outperforms other marketing channels, including social media, by leaps and bounds. According to the Direct Marketing Association’s National Client Email Report, email marketing is rated the No. 1 tactic by a vast majority of companies. The DMA puts the ROI at about $40 for every $1 spent.

Email newsletters are popular with consumers and drive repeat business.

By staying in touch with subscribers, businesses are able to inform and entertain as well as generate interest in new products.

Email newsletters help your business stay connected to your customers and the results are statistically proven to be worth the time investment.

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 2. When is the best time to send an email newsletter?

Email Marketing Questions - Time This depends on you and requires some experimentation. The studies focusing on best times to send a newsletter tend to look at averages which, when it comes to you, your list and your content, may be meaningless.

That means that while your competitors are sending on Mondays at 8 a.m., and seeing good responses, you might too. However, you also may see better results if you send on the weekend or afternoons and stand out more.

Testing will be needed to find the right time for you, but make sure you’re not basing your email marketing strategy on one test. Test a few newsletters on weekday mornings, midweek afternoons, weekends and evenings.

Watch for trends and then decide for yourself if there’s any significant gains at a specific time slot.

Experian Marketing Services found that people responded more to email marketing emails sent on the weekend. They also found that, in general, response rates were higher in the early mornings and in the evenings. That makes sense considering that people tend to check emails with less distractions before and after work.

I’ve seen data hinting that Tuesday through Thursday has higher view rates, but an Experian email benchmark report found that Monday emails generated the highest revenue per email.

What this all really means for you as an email marketer is that you should focus first and foremost on the following areas before thinking about the optimal times to send your emails:

Growing your email list

A targeted, opt-in email list that follows email marketing best practices is vital to your success. This directly impacts your delivery as well as audience engagement. An email list consisting of people who asked to be contacted by you specifically is going to have better results than a list collected by coercion, misdirection, or purchased contacts.

Writing good subject lines

Subject lines play a huge role in increasing view rates. Chadwick Martin Bailey found that 64 percent of people opened emails because of the email promotion’s subject line. Other studies have shown that certain elements like length, specific words and personalization have contributed to increased views.

Writing content that interests your subscribers

If your email newsletter’s content provides valuable info to your subscribers, you’ll experience good view rates.

Be mindful of why your subscribers signed up to receive your emails and make sure you’re catering to their interests and providing incentives like special offers.

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 3. How often should I send my email newsletter?

The ideal frequency depends on your content and what your subscribers prefer but if you’re unsure, some experimentation is needed.

Most businesses should send a monthly newsletter and then possibly increase frequency from there.

If you find your content is making your newsletter longer and longer, consider increasing the frequency and splitting up the content.

Many online businesses rely on sales and promotional materials to stay in the black. In that case, weekly or even daily promotional emails are more appropriate, if that’s what your subscribers expected when they signed up. Monitor your unsubscribe rates closely as well as your view rates.

With increased frequency you’ll notice an increase in unsubscribes and lowered view rates — but don’t panic. Add up your open rates over the entire month and if you’re reaching more people by increasing your frequency, then that may be the right tactic for you.

For example, consider your monthly sends to 1.000 people were getting a view rate of 20 percent (200 subscribers). Then, when you increase your volume to weekly, you may find your view rates dropped to 15 percent. However, when you add up your unique subscriber views over the month, you may find that 10 percent of each newsletter was different to the one before. That means when sending weekly, even though view rates dropped per email, you actually are reaching more subscribers per month (400 people).

Pro tip: Consider splitting up your email list between daily, weekly and general news (monthly or less) and allowing your subscribers to opt-in to whichever frequency they’re most happy with.

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4. How long should an email newsletter be?

Consider this: the average reader spends less than 20 seconds reading your newsletter. Consequently, the links that are clicked most are those links that are up top, or at the very least, visible without scrolling.

With that in mind, I’d say your newsletter can be as long as you’d like but make sure your most important info goes up top. If your newsletter needs 5 minutes of uninterrupted attention by your readers, then you need to be comfortable knowing that most readers won’t make it to the bottom. Also, if your newsletter is taking you hours to compose, it’s probably too long.

To truly see if your newsletter is too long, look at your email newsletter ‘Sent’ statistics and pay attention to the click through rate (CTR) on specific links. You’ll see that the links lower down likely have a far lower CTR than those up top. If that’s a problem for you (and it might not be) then your email is too long.

If you have a lot to say, rather than placing it all in a newsletter, I’ve found that these two options work well:

Increase your send frequency

Send less content, more often! That way you don’t need to pack in everything into one long newsletter. You’ll be able to make each item the focus of it’s own newsletter.

Host the main content outside the inbox

If you keep your content on your site or blog, you give yourself the luxury to send out much shorter newsletters that then drive traffic back to your site or blog. I’ve found this to be very effective. It can open up new opportunities to engage your subscribers on your site as well as presenting a lot of information in the newsletter as bite sized chunks. This way, your readers can see more within a shorter time span and if something piques their interest, they can click through to your site

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5. How do I grow an email list?

First things first, don’t consider buying an email list! No matter what list sellers claim regarding opt-in, the fact is, email clients like Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail don’t consider purchased lists or lists given to you by a third party to be opt-in.

They call it “unsolicited bulk/commercial email.” If the people you’re emailing did not directly sign up with you (and only you!) then it’s considered unsolicited and your emails will end up in the junk folder.

So, now you know what not to do, how do you grow your email list safely? Here are some ideas for you:

Use a signup form on your website

GoDaddy Email Marketing offers signup forms that you can place on your website. This allows site visitors to subscribe to your newsletters. Subscribers who sign up through signup forms tend to be highly engaged because they’ve requested your email newsletters and that means high views, high click through rates and a higher ROI! To learn more, check out this post.

Learn how to create a sign up form in GoDaddy Email Marketing.

Tap into social media to grow subscribers

GoDaddy Email Marketing FacebookUse GoDaddy Email Marketing’s Facebook integration to add a signup form to your Facebook page. This means that your Facebook fans can easily subscribe, and if you entice them to sign up by sharing your newsletters on Facebook too, you’ll find that you’re able to close the gap between the inbox and social media channels and make sure that you’re reaching everyone.

You can also share the webforms via a URL, which means you can post it as a status update on Facebook or share it on Twitter.

Whenever you have a new email promotion, be vocal about it on social channels and encourage people to subscribe to receive the next newsletter directly in their inbox.

Incentivize subscriptions

By giving potential subscribers a good reason to subscribe to your newsletter you can increase your list size considerably.

Let people know that there’s exclusive offers via email newsletter.

Other ideas are giving away a free track if you’re a musician or a chapter of an ebook if you’re an author. A one off 10-percent discount on a product is a great incentive, too. By giving away something of value, you’ll motivate more people to subscribe!

Customers become subscribers

Repeat business is important to your bottom line and by staying engaged with existing and past customers, you’ll drive more repeat sales.

Email newsletters are an ideal way of staying in touch with these customers and so make sure when any customer makes a purchase, you’re inviting them and incentivizing them to join your newsletter list.

Ask people to subscribe

Simple! Ask everyone you know to subscribe. Ask customers, potential customers, friends and family to join your email list. Ask people directly on Facebook and Twitter to sign up. Don’t be shy, be proactive!

Just like all good things, building a healthy and effective email list takes time and some small effort and grows in ones and twos rather than thousands.

That’s OK, though — healthy email lists have better results!

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6. How do I write a good subject line?

Writing an effective subject line is more art than science though there’s certainly elements of the latter involved.

Starting at the most basic level, to write a good subject line, you must first have good content. If the information in your newsletter is valuable to the reader, a good subject line won’t be hard to come by.

Be direct, honest and specific.

Describe the content (or the main topic of your content) in the subject line. By telling readers what they’ll find inside the newsletter, you’ll entice them to open it  to find out more. Think of the subject line as a preview to the content.

There’s no need to resort to humor or silliness. If your subject line is working hard to get attention by being funny or ridiculous, you’ll soon desensitize your subscribers and they’ll stop bothering to find out what you’re actually writing about.

The ideal subject line length is under 10 words and often longer than five. This isn’t a hard and fast rule but if you stick close to it, you’ll be at an attention garnering length while also being able to describe the email contents.

Other helpful tips are to include your company name, have a “call to action,” and imply positive benefit.

Oh, and definitely steer clear of spammy sounding subject lines. If it wouldn’t entice you to open the email, it probably won’t compel your readers either.

7. How do I avoid the junk folder?

Email Marketing Questions Spam Folder

Avoiding the junk folder is actually quite easy, provided you stick to some best practices that are more common sense guidelines than strict rules.

The logical starting place is the list itself. If your subscribers signed up, directly with you, and expect to receive your newsletters, you’ll be just fine. If you’d like to stay out of the junk folder, don’t purchase an email list. Nor should you add anyone to your list without their permission.

Staying out of the bulk folder also requires maintaining a view rate that shows ISP’s that people want your newsletter. Aim for a minimum of a 10-percent view rate. By delivering the type of content your subscribers expected and signed up for, you’ll maintain an engaged audience and keep your view rates up.

Similarly, by removing old, defunct email addresses, you’ll avoid “bounces” and that’s good. A bounce is when we try to send to an email address that’s non-existent, inactive or otherwise undeliverable. ISP’s look at bounces as an indication of a poorly managed email list. Luckily, GoDaddy Email Marketing automatically removes bounces for you, but it’s still important to keep in mind if you’re periodically importing new contacts or emailing for the first time in a while.

Specific content makes a big difference, too. Here are some tips:

  1. In general, it’s a good idea to avoid hard-sell catchphrases like: Free, Instant, Double your money, Sex, XXX, Win, Cash, Bonus, Membership, Free Offer, Call Now, Rates, $$$’s, Success, etc.
  2. Excessive use of CAPS LOCK can cause issues, as well.
  3. Avoid excessive punctuation especially in subject lines. Multiple !!!’s and ???’s can be troublesome. Keep your promotion conversational rather than hard-sell EXTRA!!!! BUY NOW!!! style.
  4. Keep a reasonable text to image ratio. Email marketing promotions that are all images can trigger spam filters because it looks like you’re hiding something.

8. What is a good or average response rate for email marketing?

This is one of those questions that has no straight answer. It’s like asking what the perfect weight is. Everyone is different! The average view rate varies by industry, sender frequency, list size, the methods you used when growing your list, subject line choice and content. Still, I’ll do my best to give you some goals to aim for.

Overall, average view rates are somewhere between 10 percent and 25 percent.

If you’re consistently getting below 10 percent, I’d recommend making some changes. You could adjust your sender frequency, work on improving your list health by removing non-responsive email addresses, work on improving your subject lines and maybe make some changes to your content.

Instead of worrying about average view rates, it’s better to set yourself achievable goals. Aim to improve your view rate per email by 2 percent and experiment with the above options.

Experimenting with frequency is a good idea too. If you send three emails a week, try slowing down to once a week so you don’t overwhelm your readers.

Alternately, you may want to increase frequency even if it’s at the expense of your view rate per email. For example, if you get a 20-percent view rate per email and you send once a month to a list of 1,000, you’re reaching 200 unique subscribers.

If, however, you send weekly and get 15-percent view rate, it’s possible that added up together, the unique views over the month may be greater than the once a month newsletter. You’re accepting a lower view rate per email, to reach more people overall.

It’s extremely rare to see emails with view rates above 40 percent but it is possible with opt-in practices that result in highly engaged subscribers. Targeted, niche market newsletters with strict double opt-in, combined with regular, consistent sends and valuable content, tend to have above average results. They also tend to have smaller list sizes.

Your view rate should be something you’re happy with as well as being realistic. Take small steps to improve constantly.

9. How can I increase my click through rate (CTR)?

Increasing your click through rate (often abbreviated to CTR) isn’t as difficult as one might think. The secret to getting more click throughs is by combining the following concepts:

Include a call to action

This is simply about word choice. Instead of including the full URL of the destination, use words that compel. At the most basic level “click here” is a good place to start.

Positive words like “get started” or “learn more” or even “get your free copy of my ebook” are very effective at increasing your CTR.

Utilize prominent link placement

After analyzing the statistics on my email newsletters, I noticed that commonly, the first link in my newsletter had the most clicks. The second link, had the next highest number of clicks and so on. I then looked at hundreds of other newsletters to confirm this same phenomenon occurred elsewhere.

What was startling though was just how many more clicks the highest placed link got. The first clickable link in newsletters seem to get a vast majority of the clicks. Then there’s a sharp drop off between the 1st and 2nd links and an even sharper drop off between the 2nd and third links.

Thereafter, all other links tended to get a similar number of click throughs.

Link placement matters.

Place links prominently near the top of your newsletters, in your opening paragraphs, and not at the end.

Have multiple links to the same destination

Make it easy for your readers to get to the destination by having multiple links to the same URL. If you have any images, make them clickable in addition to hyperlinking words in your newsletter.

Save some content for later

There needs to be a reason to click through to your website. Craft your newsletter content so the reader needs to click on your links in order to get the full value.

I try to combine all the above ideas where appropriate in my newsletters and I’ve seen great results. It’s not important to adhere strictly to these guidelines if the situation doesn’t need it, but if you’re looking to get an increase in your CTR, give some, or all, a shot.

10. Has social media replaced email marketing?

Email Marketing or Social MediaNo. Email marketing is considerably more effective in gaining new customers, driving purchases and maintaining customer interaction than social media — but that’s not what I’d like to focus on.

Email marketing and social media are complementary channels.

No marketing strategy should focus on one at the expense of the other. Both channels are opportunities to connect with customers and engage with fans.

You can increase your Facebook and Twitter followers via your email newsletters. You can also increase your newsletter subscribers by placing sign up forms on Facebook or sharing your subscribe link on Twitter.

Sharing your newsletters on social media increases the reach of your content, while encouraging email subscribers to follow you on Facebook gets more people seeing your status updates and breaking news.

Social media and email marketing are ideal companions and work together well to help you grow your business.

In conclusion

We searched high and low for the top 10 email marketing questions and did our best to answer them for you. And if you’re ready to create your own email newsletter, check out GoDaddy Email Marketing today.


Also published on Medium.

Image by: Veronique Debord via Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Dean Levitt
Raised on a farm in South Africa, Dean moved to the United States to pursue a career in music, eventually finding his way to both Hawaii and the tech world. While growing his previous company, Mad Mimi (acquired by GoDaddy in 2014), Dean realized he had a passion for helping small businesses grow online. Dean is the CEO of Yala. Yala combines social media video ads with intelligent scheduling software making design and posting simple for small businesses.