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Three Core Principles Behind Successful Email Optimization

March 12th, 2012

A couple months ago we laid down a challenge to increase your open and click-through rates. Then, we shared some insights into why you should try a re-engagement strategy before giving up on inactive subscribers. Now, it’s time to overuse an overused cliche and talk about where the rubber meets the road: what you can do to get more opens and clicks for the emails you send.

Striving for Relevance
This may seem obvious, but when a message is relevant to the person that receives it, they are much more likely to open, read, and click. The bread and butter of this principle is segmentation: knowing the people on your list, grouping them by common traits, and sending messages that fit the group. These segments can be based on a variety of factors, including:

  • Past readership
  • Past behaviors
  • Who the subscribers is (demographic, georgraphic, etc.)

Segmentation allows you to match the message content to the recipient, increasing the likelihood that the emails you send will be relevant.

Optimization: #1 – Timing
Data is your friend and your Blue Hornet account has no shortage of it. Send messages at different times of day and compare your click rates. Dig deeper into each email’s “Sent Message Report” and watch the “Unique Subscribers Who Clicked/Opened (by hour)” and “Unique Subscribers Who Clicked/Opened (by day)” charts.

Look past just the initial spike when the message was sent to identify other peaks when clicks were high. In the chart above, for example, the message was sent at 7:00pm local time. The next morning, however, another 1,500 clicks came at 8:00am. Extend this analysis to which day of the week you send as well.

Optimization: #2 – Subject Lines (Opens)
If you want to increase your subject line performance, you must split test. Think of it like a tournament bracket where the winner moves on and is tested against another. Small differences do add up and may even determine if a message makes it to the inbox or simply ends up in the junk folder. Blue Hornet’s split test tool, built right into the message creation interface, makes these comparisons incredibly easy.

Look at what you’ve done in the past and use what generally yields good results. From there, try personalization and be specific with the wording you choose so, even though you’re sending to 50,000 people at a time, the recepient doesn’t get that vibe.

Optimization: #3 – Email Content (Clicks)
Unlike a subject line where you might use a dozen words, the content of your emails is much more dynamic. Again, use split tests to evaluate different combinations of elements:

  • Email length
  • Images
  • Offers
  • Text links vs. buttons

Urgency can be a powerful tool. If there is a deadline, don’t assume they’ll dig up this email later on. Get them to click now.

Putting it All Together
Remember, the message is not where the transaction takes place, your message is the tool to get them there. Small, changes can yield big results down the line. For example, if you send a message to 20,000 recipients, have a 20% open rate, and a 12% click rate, you’ll end up with 480 clicks.

However, if you can increase each metric by just 1 percentage point, resulting in a 21% open rate and a 13% click rate, you’ll get 14% more clicks (66 total) for a total of 546. Reach our challenge of 3 percentage points (23% open and 15% click) and you’ll end up with a 44% increase in clicks (690 total). Not too shabby, eh?

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