Three principles you can put into practice

Testing a Campaign
Every company has the potential to achieve fantastic results using simple principles in their email campaigns.
In this article we look at three principles that could help you achieve your email marketing potential.

Subject lines

The subject line is one of the most important elements of your email. Start by identifying the frequency of your email campaign. Are you sending a stand alone email or will it be a regular update?

Monthly newsletters and regular updates can benefit from using a fixed subject line like, "This month's NewZapp news". If you want a more flexible subject line, ensure you include at least one consistent or easily recognisable element. Many studies have identified that using a brand, company or product name in the subject line can increase readership. The main aim should be to make your email easily identifiable.

The art of subject line writing is similar to writing headlines. Seek inspiration from your favourite newspapers and read articles related to your target market. This will help you learn what inspires your market. Don't be afraid to apply this to your campaigns and be open to trying something new.

Text to image balance

An article by eMarketer identified that business-to-business campaigns achieve higher click-through rates when the email has more text than images. However, business-to-consumer campaigns achieved higher click-through rates when the email included more images than text.

Test different image to text balances in your campaigns. You can even try using the same links on images and text to see which performs better. Do your readers prefer to click on the text or the image? We tested this recently and found that some text based links outperformed links on images. However, what works for us may not work for you so test to see what is your optimal text to image ratio.

Testing for perfection

Email marketing is not an exact science. You need to test your email creative and try out different approaches. Always take a deliberate approach to your marketing. Plan what you are going to do and why you are going to do it.

Only change one or two elements of the campaign at a time. For example you may start by testing new subject lines. Does using your brand name or product name improve readership? You can then test something else. For example the from name you apply to your emails, do you get a better response using individual names like "John Smith" or does your brand name have a greater impact?

Monitor the changes and try to find a winning structure. Once you have your winning structure you can concentrate on writing great content for your emails. Don't forget to review your strategy at least once a year. Time spent on analysing results, and testing new approaches, will always be time well spent.

Font choices on mobile email

Font choices on mobile emailIn my previous blog 'Why we talk about web safe fonts in email' I outlined the reasons why we use certain reliable (web safe) fonts in emails to give us consistency in the way emails display on recipients' screens.

In that piece, the references were mainly being made to desktop screens (PC or MAC), but here we'll look at mobile devices, eg. Tablets and phones.

We are family

The range of font styles available on different mobile platforms varies quite a bit and so the likelihood is that you will want to pick the closest alternative(s) for your emails to use on mobile, so that you keep some control over the branding and overall look and feel.

This is why, when coding your email in HTML, the designer will include a font family (as it is often called) in the code. It's like setting a list of preferences for each device to refer to.

eg. If Arial is your preferred choice, the font family will often be: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
(Helvetica being the MAC alternative to Arial, and sans-serif is the instruction to the mobile device as the general style to use if neither of the named fonts is available).

Here's a look-up table to illustrate how traditionally web safe fonts display on iOS, Android and Windows Phones.

Comparison chart of how web safe fonts display on mobile
Comparison chart of how web safe fonts display on mobile - Click to enlarge
It's not all doom and gloom as you will notice that even the fonts which aren't included in a mobile platform, are substituted in most cases with a close alternative - unless you really had your heart set on Comic Sans and Impact for your next campaign (... but if that's the case, you and I really need to have words!)

In my next blog I'll be talking about choosing the best font style for your emails, and what we mean by serif and sans serif.

Watch your aim!

NewZapp Email Marketing
It's very tempting to just send a generic email to your entire database but this won't produce the best conversion rates, and may eventually turn your subscribers into non responders.

If you segment your database and target your emails, you'll be able to write about what your subscribers are interested in. This will get a much better response rate, as your recipients are more likely to be interested in your communication. This will increase your open and click-through rates and therefore the overall success of your email campaigns.

Here are a few areas for you to try some segmentation and targeting:

Open history

See who opened which emails in the past and target them with similar information. If you are using an email service provider such as NewZapp you will be able to track who is opening your emails and look at who has opened which email campaigns in the past. If you've done a specific email on a certain area or product, see which subscribers opened this email, then tailor future emails to them along similar lines. Monitor who opens the email and continue to send them information they're interested in.

Click history

See who clicked in specific areas of your email and target them too. If you can track your email campaigns, look at your subscriber history to see which links they've clicked on in the past. Make the most of this knowledge and send these subscribers information on this area.

However, don’t try to make it too exclusive. Include links to other relevant areas and you'll be able to monitor what else they're interested in. Don't fall into the trap of constantly sending the same information again and again. The emphasis is on "related topics". For example if you are a holiday company and a recipient clicked through on a link regarding a holiday in Paris, you can send them further information on other popular French cities. You could also send them information on the Euro tunnel, the cross channel ferry and flight options, so they can compare prices to their preferred destination. To take this even further, once they have booked their holiday you could also send information on car hire, local places to eat, entertainment in the area and so on. Follow your recipients' behaviour and then follow up with a related topic.

When to send?

Now you've got your targeted email ready to go, when do you send it? Business to Business (B2B) can differ greatly to Business to Consumer (B2C). Industry standards suggest that the best day for B2B is Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays at around 10.30am and 2.30pm. B2C industry standards suggest that Friday afternoons, weekends, and the lunchtime hours (12-2pm) are a good time to receive emails. Recent studies have found that B2C email behaviour is shifting to the working week. For example many recipients may read their private email during working hours.

You should test this to your unique database. Really think about your recipients and your industry to see if these studies are correct for your database. Also consider when you would like your message to be read and when it's most likely to have a high impact and produce the results you are looking for.

To do this, try an A/B spilt test. This is where you spilt your database evenly down the middle. Send your campaign to section A as you would normally, and send again to section B at a more considered time and date. Then review your reports to see if there was a difference. Either way you'll have found some information that will be useful for future campaigns.

This method of A/B split testing is useful for testing other aspects of your emails, such as: Subject line, call to action (location and phrase), images vs text only, offer type and different landing pages. In fact you can test any element of your campaign!

Why we talk about web safe fonts in email

Why we talk about web safe fonts in email
You will probably have heard mention in email marketing articles, the term "web safe fonts" or "web friendly fonts" and how they are crucial if you want to ensure that your emails look the same to everyone that receives them.

Yet in the next breath you'll hear email designers stating that the most reliable method of coding emails bears no resemblance to that used for web pages!

What does the term "web safe font" mean?

Web safe fonts are a set of generic and reliable font styles that everyone should have access to, a kind of common denominator.

In days of old (aka the 20th century!) a web safe font was a term generally used to describe a text style which was universally available on everybody's computer. As most web pages contain real text, by using these fonts web designers could pretty much rely on the fact that their work would look the same on every screen.

Where web pages and emails part company

In more recent times, style sheets (CSS) have given designers more scope in the range of fonts that can be used on web pages. In these instances, the text style you see on a web page might not necessarily be one that's installed on your PC or device, but being "pulled into" a page from another hosted area.

[ There's a nice explanation in an article here - How do web fonts work? ]

Although we do now implement some CSS in email design, not everyone thinks it's a good idea to use too much as the results are variable between email readers. So we usually stick to one of the web friendly fonts listed below and then no matter where or how the email is opened, the person reading your email should have the font installed on their computer/device it will look just how you planned it to.

The core web safe fonts (or email friendly as I think we should start referring to them as!) are:
      • Arial
      • Arial Black
      • Comic Sans MS
      • Courier New
      • Georgia
      • Impact
      • Tahoma
      • Times New Roman
      • Verdana

And then along came mobile

Just to confuse matters, the range of font styles available on different mobile platforms varies quite a bit and so the likelihood is that you will need to pick the closest alternative for your emails to use on mobile.

But more of that in my next blog!

Additional resources for designers

For more information about which fonts come as standard on commonly used operating systems, please follow these links:

JPEG, GIF and PNG - which one is right for you?

There are many standard image file formats, but only a few of them - primarily JPEG (JPG), GIF and PNG - are commonly used in email marketing. The basic reason for this is size - big files take longer to transmit so smaller files are preferred. To keep file sizes manageable, these preferred file formats compress the data.

There are two types of compression; 

Lossy (JPEG): Lossy file compression results in lost data and quality from the original version. The "lossyness" of an image file may show up as jagged edges or pixelated areas. Because lossy compression removes data from the original file, the resulting file often takes up much less disk space than the original. For example, a JPEG image may reduce an image's file size by more than 80%, with little noticeable effect.

A JPEG file does allow for various "quality settings," which determines how compressed the file will be. The quality setting involves a trade-off between quality and file size. A file that uses greater compression will take up less space, but may not look as good as a less compressed file.

Lossless (GIF AND PNG): Lossless compression reduces a file's size with no loss of quality. Lossless compression basically rewrites the data of the original file in a more efficient way. However, because no quality is lost, the resulting files are typically much larger than image files compressed with lossy compression. For example, a file compressed using lossy compression may be one tenth the size of the original, while lossless compression is unlikely to produce a file smaller than half of the original size.

When Should I use what file type?

JPEG or ‘Joint Photographic Experts Group’ is the go-to format for online photos. It supports a full spectrum of colours, and almost all devices and programs can open and save to the JPEG format - making it the most universal of the three. JPEG files are ideal when you want to keep file size down and don’t mind giving up a little quality to create a very small file. That said, JPEG quality drops when images are edited and saved. If you plan to continually edit your files, JPEG is not the format for the job. But if you need to display photos online, JPEG is just right.

GIF or ‘Graphics Interchange Format’ files should be used for simple web graphics with limited colours. GIF files are the smallest of the three because they are always reduced to 256 colours, making for fast-loading visuals. That said, GIF files aren’t recommended for files with a large range of colours, like photographs or other detailed imagery. But if you are working with small graphics like banners, charts and buttons, GIF is the best format for the job. GIF files also support animation.

PNG or ‘Portable Network Graphic’ files should be used when you need a small file that maintains its original quality. PNG files support millions of colours, plus varying degrees of transparency - so they are perfect for graphic image files, like logos and infographics. However, PNG isn’t compatible with all software or applications. If your goal is to find a file format for widespread use, PNG might complicate the process. But if you need a format that supports millions of colours for your logos and small images, PNG is for you.

How do I know how big my image is? 
The physical size of an image when it is displayed on a computer screen or printed out on paper depends on two factors: the image size and the image resolution.

Image size refers to the number of pixels (short for picture elements) in an image, and is measured by the number of pixels along the horizontal and vertical sides of an image, e.g. 600 x 400 pixels. This is the easiest (and most accurate) way to think about the size of a digital image: the number of pixels that it contains.

Image resolution refers to the density at which pixels are displayed: that is, how many pixels are displayed per inch of screen or paper. This is often quoted as dots per inch, or dpi, but a more accurate term is pixels per inch, or ppi.

There are a number of ways to find out the size of an image (its pixel dimensions):

  • Right-click on an image file, select Properties from the pop-up menu, then select the Details tab. You can also see the resolution of an image in this box.
  • You can also find out the size in image browsing or editing programs, such as Microsoft Office Picture Manager or Photoshop.
  • Mac users can control-click on an image and select Get Info from the pop-up menu. Alternatively, in the Finder window, open the View menu and select As Columns – the image size is shown in the Preview column once an image is selected.

8 tips to boost your email open rates

One of the most common questions we get asked is "how can I increase the open rate of my campaigns?". Well today is your lucky day because in this article we are going to look at some of the ways you can do just that.

Now one thing I haven’t mentioned as a tip is to test, test and test again - this is for the pure fact that every group of subscribers will be different, so treat them as such. By testing different types of subject lines over a period of say, 2-3 months, you can see which email campaigns you have sent have the best open rates. Then you should have more of an idea on what works best for your own subscribers.

Keep growing your list
I know this article is focusing on boosting your open rates but you can’t forget to keep promoting your list and trying to increase your subscribers - the more subscribers you have the more chance your email will be opened. Now I'm not saying you should be on social media sites everyday asking people to subscribe but a few times a month should be adequate. Another good tip is one day prior to sending out your email, alert your followers that the email is due and point out where they can sign up.

Change your sending habits (time, day)
By using NewZapp LIVE! you can use our Graph feature to see exactly when the highest email open rate occurs by date and time. Using this information you can then change the time and day you send your emails out to try to increase the number of opens and clicks you receive. This will help answer the question on every marketers lips, "when is the best time for me to send?"

In a recent report by Adestra, it showed that campaigns with personalised subject lines had a 31.6% increase in open rates.

Subject line
Never keep your subject line the same. Change this for every campaign you send, if you don’t this could decrease your open and click through rates because how do your subscribers know what is in the email? Keep it short and straight to the point.

Split test
By creating two versions of the same campaign you can see which small changes make a big difference in your email. Segment your list into two parts and send the same campaign with a different subject line to each segment. This can then help you to know what works with your subscribers for future email campaigns.

From name
Who your email is from will have a big impact on your open rates. Be consistent, check what emails you send out from and keep this the same for all your campaigns. For example if you are using "Company Name" then stick to it, nothing would be more confusing than changing this to "Joe Bloggs". Your subscribers won’t know who you are and may just delete the email straight away without opening it.

Adjust the volume
Consider changing how often you send out emails. It is best to sit down, grab a hot drink and review your reports. Review when your best open days and times are as well as the content you are sending out. It may be an idea to either increase or decrease the volume of your emails, you want to give your subscribers the information you promised when they signed up - without overfilling their inbox.

Segment your data into smaller groups and target subscribers by their latest actions. Send a follow up email campaign to anyone who clicked a specific link in the previous campaign. This way you can target the subscribers with relevant content that they have shown an interest in.

Single vs Double Opt-In

There are two different types of opt-in methods for your subscriber lists; single and double opt-in. In this blog post we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of both. 

Single opt-in 
A single opt-in list means that as soon as a person subscribes to your list, they will be added and do not go through a verification process to check if their email address is valid.

Helps to grow your list faster because a one-step sign up process is less hassle resulting in higher subscribe rates.

Opens your subscriber list to collecting invalid, faulty and non-consenting email addresses. This can happen for a number of reasons including: errors made when entering emails, for example a typo that results in someone submitting an address that is not theirs and legitimate addresses being added by someone who does not own the address.

Because of the reasons above your list quality is reduced, making it difficult to value metrics such as open rates and engagement levels.

The risk of spam complaints is increased because you don't know if everyone on the list legitimately opted-in.

Double opt-in 
A double opt-in list means that when someone subscribes, they are sent a confirmation email with a link to follow to verify their email address, as well as to confirm that they did request to receive your correspondence. Only after the link in the confirmation email is followed will they be added to your list properly and be able to receive your campaigns.

The double opt-in process ensures people are entering their information correctly which in turn equals a cleaner list.

Reduces the probability of spam complaints because subscribers have had to take the extra step to confirm their consent. If spam complaints are recorded, you have a record of everyone's opt-in confirmation.

Subscribers who 'say yes twice' are generally more responsive, meaning they're more likely to open emails and click links.

Typically, up to 20% of initial subscribers will not complete the final confirmation step. Reasons include: people forgetting they subscribed and confirmation emails being deleted accidentally or getting stuck in spam filters.

Potential subscribers who genuinely do want your newsletter may not understand the confirmation process and fail to click the link.

Understanding your LIVE! Reports

The importance of tracking and measuring your email marketing campaigns cannot be overstated. It eliminates the guesswork and enables you to calculate your campaign ROI (return on investment), so you know just how effective it was and whether you should spend your marketing budget in this way in the future.

Bearing this in mind we thought it was time we explained our LIVE! Reports section in detail to make sure you are getting the most out of your email marketing. Please note all NewZapp accounts come with LIVE! Reporting, however, the degree of features available within each of the tabs does vary depending on the type of account you have. If your account is missing something mentioned below you can have the feature switched on for a one off cost.

LIVE! Hotspot
Once your campaign has been sent, you can view all of the actions taking place in real time. All you need to do is load the report and leave it open on the main “Hotspot” tab.

You will see in the top left hand corner, a ‘Right Now’ panel. This information will refresh whenever there are any campaign actions, e.g. when an email is opened or a link is clicked.

Below this we show the 5 most recent actions (clicks or opens) as they happen; with details of the subscriber as well as the date and time of each action made.

This is followed by another real time indicator of campaign actions in the last 45mins in bar chart format and a complete list of URLs included in your campaign.

Using our Hotspot email view on the right you can easily see which links were more popular than others. You will be able to see at a glance:

  • Which links on your email  have been clicked 
  • Where the ‘hottest’ hotspots (red circles) are on your email 
  • Number of clicks received on any link 
  • Which subscribers clicked them 
LIVE! Data
The data tab gives you access to all the raw statistics of your email marketing campaigns and an invaluable insight into your subscriber’s preferences.

The top part of this screen summaries the key data - total number of emails sent in your campaign, and the number (and percentage) of emails opened, clicked, bounced and failed.

Underneath this summary is a data table containing an A-Z of every subscriber you sent to, with details on number of opens, first open, clicks & time of first click made by each subscriber.

You will also find other tools to make the most of your data, such as:

  • Clickable headings on your data table to sort results 
  • Filter tools to narrow your results or search 
  • A ‘Group’ tool to add or remove selected subscribers from new or existing Groups 
  • Exporting of data 

Sent: The total number of emails in the campaign that were successfully sent out of all the addresses in the campaign. This updates live as the campaign progresses.

Opened: The total number of HTML emails in the campaign that were opened with images switched on from all those successfully sent. This is updated live as the campaign progresses. Note that Text version emails do not count towards this total unless a link is clicked.

Clicked: The total number of emails in the campaign that were clicked in from all those successfully sent and opened. This is updated live as the campaign progresses.

Failed: The total number of emails in the campaign that NewZapp could not send to. This is updated live as the campaign progresses, and is usually caused by incorrectly formatted email address such as no @ symbol.

Bounced: The total number of email addresses in the campaign that were successfully sent but could not be delivered to. An email may bounce for a number of reasons, such as an address no longer in use, or does not exists (misspelt). Bounces are classed in two categories: hard bounces (highlighted in red) and soft bounces (highlighted in orange). Bounces are processed and logged within an account within approx. 48 hours of the campaign being sent. Within approx. 12 hours of bounces being logged in an account, the system will check and remove (unsubscribe) hard bounces, and where necessary, soft bounces that have exceeded the account’s bounce threshold setting.

LIVE! Graph
By using the Graph tab in NewZapp LIVE! you can view the amount of opens by time and date up until the present time. This will allow you to look for any spikes in opens or clicks and see when majority of these occur over the last hour, day or week. You can also use the slider to manually narrow down the time frame to your own requirements and run a comparison between the selected and other campaigns.

LIVE! Client
The NewZapp LIVE! Client tab tracks two vital aspects of your email campaigns:

1. Device summary – Breaks down in number and percentage terms, which devices are being used to open your emails e.g. Desktop, Mobile or Tablet.
2. Client Summary – Shows you which email readers your subscribers are using on those devices, to open your emails e.g. Mail for iPhone, Outlook 2010, Google Mail, and others.

LIVE! Social
The Social tab shows the activity of your email campaign on the social networking sites Twitter and Facebook. Data here includes how many shares, opens and clicks your campaign received.

As well as summarising the activity on Twitter and Facebook at the top of the screen, we show you more in-depth data in the overview panel e.g. which subscribers shared your campaign, the date and time of the share, and how many opens of your email campaign were achieved as a direct result.

LIVE! Analytics
If you use Google Analytics, then this LIVE! feature is a must have! Integration is as simple as adding your Google Analytics campaign name to the Properties panel of your NewZapp email campaign, before you send out to your subscribers.

The Analytics tab will then report back to you with an in-depth look at website traffic which occurred as a direct result of your email. No need to wade through the complexities of Google Analytics reporting, NewZapp extracts the information related to your campaign in clear and concise style, with a summary of:

  •  Number of website visits 
  • How many people viewed more than 1 page 
  • Goal starts 
  • And goal completions  

LIVE! Print
The Print feature provides a quick and simple means to create a customised report of your email campaign – no more cutting and pasting of stats and screen grabs! Start by adding your own cover image / logo and then all you need to do is select the items you wish to include in your report.

You can also download this helpful guide for future reference here