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Six Ways You Are Sabotaging Your E-mail Open Rates

E-mail marketing and successful branded blogging initiatives go hand-in-hand.  Yes, search engines help drive traffic, but for reaching out to established readers and current customers and giving them a reason to return to your site, e-mail marketing is critical. You probably already know this.

What you might not realize is that, by simply doing what others have been doing for years, you could be sabotaging your e-mail open rates, prohibiting your potential for growth and limiting the reach of your online content. Think you’re immune to the trend? Check out these six ways you are sabotaging your e-mail open rates.

Why Successful E-mail Marketing Matters and How Gmail has Changed the Game

E-mail marketing drives readers to your blog. It’s a way to reach out personally while inviting readers and potential readers to check out what you have to offer. It’s a method of sharing promotions and brand news. The bottom line is that regardless of how technologies change, how social networks evolve and what new strategies come out in the next few years, successful e-mail marketing matters.

Just because it’s important doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, in May of 2013, e-mail giant Gmail rolled out a new tab feature that separates standard e-mails from promotional and social e-mails. This means that when mistakes are made in the formatting of an e-mail, it’s possible that your desired audience may not see it at all, or during the time frame that you desire.

To stay ahead in the email marketing game, the following six tactics should be avoided at all costs.

1. Using a Header

It might go against everything you’ve ever learned. When you have a story or something to share, you write a catchy headline. You know all of the rules: word length, word choice, how to attract attention and so on. However, your header could also be working against you.

Gmail understands that when a friend or business contact writes an e-mail to someone, they don’t use a header to attract attention. They announce the subject of the email in the subject line and they move forward with a message. Because Gmail is on the lookout for promotional material, e-mails with headlines tend to fall into this category. In his study of Gmail tabs for SEJ, Luke Guy found that in only four of the 56 e-mails that made it to his inbox contained headers. While it might be difficult to avoid, by decreasing your dependence on headlines, you may increase the likelihood that your e-mail will be received, opened and acted upon.

2. Including Too Many Links

It’s common practice for friends and acquaintances to share a link or two through e-mail. It’s an easy way to pass information. It’s probably also something you do on your own site to enhance your link-building strategy, you link out to other content and you link in to your own content. As it relates to e-mail marketing, too many links could land you in the “promotion” or even “spam” categories.

So, how many links is too many? Google has been vague on exactly what constitutes too many links. Numbers like 100 and 21 have been thrown around as the optimal number of links for a successful e-mail in the past. But, in this area, practice caution and focus on value. If a link has value, include it. If it doesn’t, exclude it. The author of the study referenced above found the magic number to be just three. Remember, the more your e-mail scans like a “normal” e-mail, the more likely it is to be presented to your target audience.

3. Including Pushy Lingo

It makes sense. You have a message that’s important that you’re excited to spread to your e-mail list. Whether it’s a sale, a promotion, a contest or new content, you want to spread your excitement. When this happens, things like dollar signs, exclamation points and strong sales verbiage – “order now,” “don’t miss out,” and so on – tend to find their way into your copy.

The problem is that your readers’ spam filters might not be as enthusiastic about the message you’re trying to spread as you are. The problem is that “pushy” can come across as “spammy” and that even those on your e-mail list who regularly take the time to look into the content you share might not even get the opportunity if the filter deems your message as spam. Be straightforward and transparent without pushing the limits in terms of word choice.

4. Using Images

Images help to differentiate one piece of content from another. They’re an important part of branding; as such, many marketers believe they’re integral to e-mail marketing success. This might not be the case. While images are critical for use in online content, they might be best left out of actual e-mails.

In Guy’s study, the most successful e-mails – those that landed in the primary folder – had no images whatsoever. Because images slow load times, increase message sizes and stand out from ordinary, friend-to-friend messages, it might be best to save them for your site to avoid sabotaging your e-mail campaigns.

5. Over-Designing

Not all e-mail programs and devices read e-mails the same way. This can lead to complications when e-mails are filled with extra design elements. Additionally, think about the messages you receive from actual acquaintances. How many of them are filled with over the top designs? I’m guessing close to zero.

When these two ideas are combined, it becomes clear that for a message to actually be presented to those on your e-mail list, designs should be basic. Remember: clear, concise and basic e-mails are less likely to be categorized as spam and more accessible to readers on any device.

6. Limiting Personalization

Avoiding the five pitfalls above will mean very little if your content isn’t applicable to your target readers. This means that you must demonstrate value in every message that is sent. To do this, consider:

Including the recipients’ name on messages you send.
Clearly stating how an e-mail relates to a target reader.
Referencing the reason a reader is receiving your e-mail.

The options are endless, however, if an e-mail is personalized, it’s more likely to receive attention.

Some of the items listed above may come as a surprise; you may be reluctant to change what you’ve always done. However, change can be a good thing. Make a few modifications and watch what happens to your read rates. To stay ahead in the e-mail marketing game, anything is worth a try.

About the Author:
Adrienne Erin writes twice weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses like Find a Pet Wash succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work or get in touch.


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