Last week we discussed the role of subject lines and brand recognition in driving email open rates. But, if subject lines cause opens, it is the content that drives click throughs and engagement. What follows is a series of best practices for email design. It is not always possible to follow each of these every time, but the more consistently you apply the best practices, the better your deliverability and return on investment.
Most importantly, be interesting! Speak in terms of benefit to travelers so that they want to click through to learn more. Your format must be clear and easy to read. Too much information can complicate both your message and your design. Make good use of white space and keep your message simple and easy to understand.
Many Email Service Providers like Constant Contact, have very good systems for building your emails, including templates. Unless you are an accomplished designer, using a template is a good way to go. You may also build the email in a program like Dreamweaver and import the email into your email system.
Have a strong call to action. Many email marketers are surprised at their low click through rate until I point out a lack of a strong call to action. Even “click here for more information” is enough to drive an interested viewer to your landing page! Click throughs should go to a landing page that relates to your email message. Don’t just drop agents off on your homepage. Now that you have their interest, keep them.
Which is better, plain text or HTML? I side with HTML. Everyone is used to seeing graphics in their email and your layout options are better in HTML. But try to minimize the use of images in consumer emails. Don’t eliminate them, just don’t make your email depend on them. Many subscribers to your emails will have images turned off by default. Don’t use background images, which will not show up in many email readers. Keep your HTML simple. Use inline html tags and standard fonts such as Arial, Verdana & Courier.
Remember what looks good in a browser does not necessarily look good in an email reader. Your clients use all versions – Outlook, gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, even AOL. Thus, don’t use CSS or layers to build your email creative. Don’t use “colspan” and “rowspan” elements as well as the “div” element in tables. Try to keep email tables as simple as possible. Many email clients, including Outlook 2007, are not equipped to read complicated tables. Don’t use Flash, Java Script, Java Applets, VB Script, or Active X as they do not work in email readers.
Avoid spam filter keywords (“free”, “discount”, “save”, “$$$” etc.) However, also remember that most spam filters are scores that add up the cumulative use of such words. In travel, it is very difficult to completely eliminate spam words. One of the most common spam scoring systems is SpamAssassin. Below is a link to follow to learn more about spam scoring.
I know that’s a long list, but the result will be an improvement in your ROI! Here’s a good article you might want to provide to the people who build your creative:
Here is a list for those who want to delve deeply into the rules SpamAssassin uses to score email for spam: http://spamassassin.apache.org/tests_3_1_x.html
Finally, realize some of the rules above do not apply to business to business emails. Businesses who depend on email for informational purposes will be more tolerant of images and layout concerns.