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At the end of 2011, we talked about reasons subscriber
As our US-based users get ready for Thanksgiving, it’s easy to find yourself jumping to thoughts of the holiday while working on your campaigns.
So let’s have a little fun in the spirit of the season.
I was thinking recently about what I was thankful for, and when my mind turned to work, a question occurred to me:
What Should Email Marketers Be Thankful For?
A few things I came up with:
Not everyone has the cash to spend on radio, TV and print ads. (This is doubly true if you’re just starting a business, or taking a struggling one and rebuilding it.)
Email gives us a powerful, yet relatively inexpensive, means of marketing our products and services.
No other marketing channel lets us track our results as extensively and quickly as email does.
From open rates (which are still useful, even if they’re not perfect), to clickthroughs, to conversions, we can use email statistics to see what works, what doesn’t, and what we should do to increase the response to our campaigns.
Reputation and Relevancy Rule
Used to be, content filtering was a really big deal. And a lot of people were lured into the trap of obfuscating words like “F.R.EE” to try and get around those filters. (PS – if you’re still doing this, stop. Please. Learn why here.)
Nowadays, effective email marketing involves building a reputation for sending timely, relevant, useful information to subscribers. (Permission still matters, too, but it won’t save you if you’re sending junk.)
The moral here? Send subscribers what they want, when they want, and you don’t need to micro-manage your content to get your email delivered. That’s a lot to be thankful for.
You Don’t Have to Be an Artist to Create Good-Looking Campaigns
Still like hand-coding your messages? Go for it. I don’t envy you.
For the less design-inclined, HTML email templates make it easy to spice up your newsletters with a splash of color and imagery, helping to build your brand as subscribers associate your emails with your website.
That’s not to say hiring an email designer to create a custom design for you isn’t ever a good idea; it absolutely can be. But it’s not critical for every business, and it’s not always in the budget.
There’s No Shortage of Useful Advice
Point is, if there’s something you want to know about email marketing, you can rest assured that there are people out here willing and ready to help. All you have to do is ask.
So What Are You Thankful For?
How has email marketing helped you this year? Share your experiences on the blog!
It’s not subject line personalization (although many email marketing campaigns do indeed use this).
It’s not that the sender chose to tweet the email newsletter.
It’s not that they were created from blog content using our RSS to email tools.
Nope, it’s even more basic than that. And it might surprise some of you (at least, based on some of your responses to Bob’s recent post on HTML email design examples).
So what is it?
Most Email Newsletters Are Sent In HTML
In August 2009, 73.9% of all broadcast messages sent through AWeber included an HTML version.
For comparison, in August 2008 only 58.9% of broadcasts included an HTML version. In other words, the use of HTML in email newsletters has increased 25.47% in the past year!
Here’s how the percentage has changed over the past four years:
I’ll admit that even I was when I saw the stats. A lot of marketers still believe that plain text is the “default” format to go with (just see the comments on Bob’s post), and while I knew that the reality was different (even 3 years ago, over 53% of the broadcasts sent from AWeber included an HTML version), I didn’t expect such a strong majority of broadcasts to include HTML.
Why Has HTML Email Become So Much More Popular?
I’d like to think that at least in part this is due to the increasing number of HTML email templates we’ve released over the past couple of years.
But that certainly isn’t the only reason, and it’s probably not the primary one. If you’re going to use HTML, you’re going to do so because you’ve found it gets better results than text, or you believe it has the potential to do so.
So what potential/results might people see in HTML email?
- An opportunity to provide an experience that more closely matches the one your customers & prospects have on your website.
- The ability to deliver product and other images directly in the email body; to link text/images; to display content in multiple columns and take advantage of other HTML formatting.
- Easier tracking of activity – no need to type out tracking URLs in the body where subscribers can see them; ability to track opens (even if opens are a somewhat imprecise metric, they can help you to compare the relative success of campaigns).
- You can add a preheader to remind subscribers why they signed up, encourage them to whitelist you and take other actions that can increase response and deliverability.
Don’t Join The Crowd “Just Because” – But Don’t Avoid HTML “Just Because,” Either
The point here isn’t “hey, 3/4 of broadcasts are in HTML, so obviously yours should be, too.”
It’s this: if you’re sending your emails in plain text only “just because” you always have, or because the people you receive email campaigns from send in plain text, then try HTML – run some tests with it to see how your subscribers respond!
After all, you never know until you try…
More On Email Newsletters and HTML
- Browse our HTML email templates and watch a video on how to use them.
- Video: introduction to AWeber’s email newsletter tools.
- See our Knowledge Base to learn how to send email newsletters with AWeber.
- More posts on email design, including several on text vs. HTML.
Were you surprised to find that so many broadcasts are sent in HTML?
Have you been sending yours with an HTML version, or as plain text?
Just because someone else does something, doesn’t mean you should, does it?
Maybe not, but from infancy all the way through adulthood, we take cues from others on what is worth our attention.
Now with just a few clicks, you can add a subscriber count chicklet to your AWeber opt-in form that shows your website visitors how many others are benefiting from you email newsletter.
Showing your subscriber can help you to boost conversions on your sign up forms. Give it a shot!
If you’re anything like me (like just about all email marketers, really), you want to know how effective your emails are at getting subscribers to open and read, click through to your site, and make purchases.
On the other hand, you may be concerned that your tracking links are getting fewer clicks than a link straight to your own domain would, because:
- Links that go to a tracking domain, instead of to your own website directly, may cause some subscribers to not trust a link that doesn’t point straight your website, causing them to not click through.
- If your readers are aware of (and sensitive to) the fact that their response is being measured, they may be less likely to click through.
So how do you get the best of both worlds? How do you track response while maintaining trust?
The Trouble With Old-School Click Tracking
Traditionally, tracking clicks involved a trade-off: you gain insight into what your subscribers are most interested in, and what they respond to, but your links point to a tracking site, which after recording the click, redirects the subscriber to your site.
For email marketers who send plain text messages, this is particularly noticeable, since you can’t link up text or images in a plain text email — you have to put the URL out there for all your readers to see.
If you weren’t comfortable doing that, you either didn’t track clickthroughs, or you did it using your website tracking software (which, while useful for getting aggregate information, didn’t allow you to do much with the data to target groups of subscribers).
It’s time to leave old-school click tracking behind. There’s a better way.
Track Clickthroughs Using Your Own Domain
You don’t want to send subscribers to a third-party site.
But giving up the tracking and segmentation opportunities that click tracking offers isn’t an option — not if you’re serious about creating relevant, focused campaigns.
While we were developing the new Email Web Analytics tools to track sales, page views and other subscriber activity, it occurred to us:
So we built own-domain click tracking into the new tools.
RSS Subscribers: See how it works in the short video on our blog.
This is just one of the benefits of using the Email Web Analytics tools we recently released.
You Can Use This With Your Plain Text Emails (HTML Ones, Too!)
One of the more interesting pieces of feedback we got when we initially released the Email Web Analytics tools was that it wasn’t obvious to our users who send plain text emails, that these tools would be of any use to them.
Apparently we made it sound like the benefits of these advanced segmenting and targeting tools were reserved for those who send HTML messages.
I want to point out right now: that’s not at all accurate. (And sorry if I made it sound that way before!)
You can use own-domain click tracking, along with the rest of the Email Web Analytics tools, with plain text emails too! It’s not just for HTML emails.
Hope that clears things up a bit
How to Start Tracking Clicks on Your Own Domain
- Current AWeber users (signed up before May 20th):.
(If you don’t see the upgrade prompt, contact our Customer Solutions Team and they’ll be happy to help you upgrade.)
- New users (since May 20th):
Think you know the best day and time to send your email newsletter?
Ever wonder if your fellow email marketers are all sending at the same time you do?
Convinced your open rate is too low (or amazingly high)?
Some recent statistics pulled from all AWeber users may help you answer these questions:
What Kind of Open Rates Are People Getting?
If you’re sending HTML emails, you probably use your open rate to help gauge your success.
Even though it’s not a perfect measure of whether people are actually opening and reading your emails, it’s useful as a relative measure:
Plus, all other things being equal, it can give you some motivation (if your open rates are lower than other senders’) or satisfaction (if your rates are higher).
So, here goes…
When Is/Was The Best Day To Send?
You’ll often hear (at least, I often hear) that Tuesday is the optimal day to send, because on Monday people are catching up from the weekend, and that on Tuesday morning you’ll have their undivided attention before they jump into their work for the upcoming week.
Do the numbers back up that theory? Let’s see.
The breakdown of open rates by day of the week:
Last month, Tuesday was actually the second-worst day to send, at least if you’re measuring by open rates.
(While we’re breaking assumptions, I should point out this, too: the hour of the day that got the best open rate was not 8-9AM, or 9-10AM, but in fact 2-3PM Eastern Time — email newsletters sent during that hour last month enjoyed a 19.1% open rate.)
Does This Mean I Should Switch My Campaigns To Thursdays?
In a word: No.
In both March and February, Thursday newsletters got the 3rd-worst opens vs. the rest of the week.
I hesitated a little to publish these stats, because I’m concerned that people might flock to sending their newsletters at the day or time that happened to get the best results lately.
Please, don’t drastically change your sending times/days just because you see that the average last month, or any month, happened to be higher on a different day or time.
Yes, you might eventually be able to shift your sending schedule, or split test some broadcasts, but if you up and move everything, you may throw off subscribers who are used to hearing from you at the usual time.
“It’s So Busy, Nobody Goes There Anymore”
To get at the other reason for not shifting your sending based on these stats, let’s paraphrase Yogi Berra (see above).
If everyone switches their sending schedule to send on say, Thursday, then recipients will start getting a ton of email that day, and start paying less attention to each individual email.
One possible reason for Thursday’s success last month may be that it wasn’t as popular as say, Tuesday or Wednesday for sending email:
Those higher-volume days mean more emails in readers’ inboxes, which might contribute to reduced open rates. Following that reasoning, some people may look at the low weekend volume (more email newsletters were sent on Tuesdays than on Saturdays and Sundays combined) and see an opportunity to get their audiences’ undivided attention.
My main point in showing these is to point out that our assumptions about what works are often quite wrong, and that you ultimately have to test for yourself to see what best suits your audience.
Some Inspiration… And Some Help
Are you getting better open rates than this?
If so, GREAT! Give yourself a pat on the back…
…but don’t get complacent. Open rates aren’t the be-all, end-all of email metrics. They don’t guarantee that people are reading your emails, only that they have images turned on and that they probably saw your email for at least a moment.
Plus, there’s always room for improvement, right?
Some ideas that can help you raise your open rates:
What statistics/benchmarks would you like to see and/or learn more about?
Does your form ask for just the information you need to build and engage a list of subscribers, or does it go above and beyond that?
As MarketSherpa has pointed out, “above and beyond” in this case may lead to signup conversion rates and information quality that fall below your expectations.
In the latest Chart of the Week, they illustrate why name and email should typically be all the information we ask for in our email newsletter sign up forms. Take a look:
Name and email are the two fields most likely to be provided accurately, and still, even these fields are “fibbed” sometimes (e.g. 32% of respondents to their survey said they didn’t always provide an accurate email address).
That’s one of a few good reasons to use confirmed opt-in for all of your campaigns. The fact that respondents were generally less willing to give other information accurately (and presumably *at all* in some cases) is a convincing reason to ask for only what you need from your website visitors.
Alas, sometimes less means more! I couldn’t resist .
While it’s a gloomy rainy day here in PA, it’s a great day at AWeber when we get to let the cat out of the bag on a project that’s been in the works for over 6 months.