Email Best Practices You Shouldn’t Forget

Content Marketing Marketing Tools & Tips Web Marketing & SEO

Successful email marketing is deceptively tricky. We create and send plenty of emails, so it’s easy to get sloppy–even when you are paying close attention to your opens, clicks and CTO. Here are a few email best practices to help prevent those clumsy little mistakes:

Beware huge top images.

Large images are, as you may have noticed, a big trend both in websites and, as I have noticed, in email. However, is this image the best way to get your point across? Those huge (300 wide X 400 high) banners are pushing down your compelling content out of eyesight. At a minimum, a headline needs to appear above it. By all means, if you have an epically compelling image, go ahead and super-size it. However, not every message lends itself to a visual, and your words drive action. Use large images wisely.

Use the preview text.

I feel very sad when I see emails that have confusing preview text (the text that appears first, in the preview pane of Outlook/other email application.) You can get very creative there–it’s a huge opportunity to pique interest, and that property should be used in every email. Please don’t let these be the first words your audience sees: “Click here to view in a web browser”.

You. You. You.

My personal best practice is have the word “you” among the first six words in your email. Ideally in the first three. If you’re having trouble getting the word “you” in there, that’s a big red flag that your copy isn’t audience-centric. What’s in it for them? Avoid chest-beating. It’s easy to fall into that trap when your company is filled with pride for the product. Put the customer benefits first, then insert the “we’re #1” language later, and only if your boss insists (if they’re good at their job, they won’t.)

Be a brand or be a person.

That is to say, pay attention to your voice, and let it match your “from” name. Don’t be a robot–be energetic (this is direct response, after all), and now’s the time to totally embrace your voice.

Button up.

Buttons work. Why? We’ve all been trained to pay attention to buttons (large, colorful) as the sign of our next step. In the time-tested mantra of “don’t make me think,” make it more than obvious what they should do–in the body of the email.

Focus the call-to-action.

One action per email. Include as many links (and the aforementioned button) as you’d like, but make sure they lead the reader to the same place.  It may be prettier to have only one or two links/buttons, but let your A/B testing show how more than one CTA increases click-throughs. Also, marketers without direct-response backgrounds are often tempted to add supplemental information–links to several different pages, videos or other assets. Don’t do it. If other links are necessary, you’re trying to say too much.

Relevance is everything.

You may have heard that the biggest driver of an email’s success is the list you use. I’d argue it’s really about the match of the list to your content. Segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue according to the Direct Marketing Association.


There’s a lot to remember when it comes to writing good email. A/B testing has a way of reminding us what works best. And, of course, success often varies according to your company, industry or audience. We hope these are helpful email best practices, and that your next email campaign is a roaring success.

Kate Kirby

Kate Kirby is principal at Kirby Creative. She has 14+ years of experience in direct response writing, product marketing, and managing marketing teams. She is a legitimate expert in turning the written word into revenue (she’ll deny such grand claims, but it is true). 

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