Email Marketing Best Practices: 11 Tips for 2022

Melanie Balke
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November 17, 2021

If you have an eCommerce business, email marketing campaigns are one of the most valuable tools you have in your marketing toolkit — arguably the most valuable.

A photo of downtown Los Angeles, where The Email Marketers are located, with overlaid header text: “Email Marketing Top Practices: 11 Tips for 2022.”

Sure, social media marketing and Google Ads get a lot of airtime in marketing circles these days, but they aren't about to supplant the original, most direct, and highest-ROI marketing strategy.

The truth is: email marketing is far from dead. It's very much alive, kicking, and taking names.

Emails continue to outperform social media when it comes to marketing campaigns, and over two-thirds of B2B marketers say email newsletters are the best way to nurture leads.

In 2021, 4 billion people use email daily, and that number is expected to increase to 4.6 billion people by 2025. Talk about a MASSIVE potential customer base!

It's clear that email marketing is essential for a successful marketing campaign. So what are some go-to best practices when it comes to this marketing must-have?

New Year, New You

It’s a new year, and it’s 2022, but 22 tips for 2022 seemed a little excessive… so I halved it and put together 11 simple but highly helpful strategies.

Keep these tips in mind as you craft your email marketing campaign and devise your own email marketing best practices for the next 12 months. And even if you're seeing this well into 2022 (or even beyond, I guarantee you'll still pick up some tips and tricks that will help you up your marketing game.

1. Use Welcome Emails

Yay! You just got a new subscriber!

But hold up! Don't kick back and break open the bubbly just yet. The job isn't done.

You now need to unroll your welcome email, and, preferably, your automated welcome series.

A photo of a life saver with “Welcome” arching over the upper portion. There is overlaid header text: “Tip #1: Use Welcome Emails.”

The welcome email is the first email you send to a subscriber, and it is considered by some to be the most important email you will send during your entire relationship with your customer. It sets the tone for your brand, builds trust and rapport, and sets the stage for what your subscriber can expect from you moving forward.

The Lowdown On Welcome Emails

Your welcome email needs to go out the same day that your new subscriber signs up to your email list. Most of the time, my team of strategists gets the best results from sending an email 1–10 minutes after someone becomes a subscriber.

Why?

The welcome email helps seal the deal and set expectations between your subscriber and your brand. If you're offering an incentive like a discount or lead gen, your user is going to want it now, not later. This quick turnaround time helps turn new subscribers into loyal customers.

And if you're still not completely sold on the welcome email, the numbers don't lie: recent data tells us it translates to open rates of over 80% and click-through rates of 22–25%.

The welcome email is the first step in your relationship with your new subscribers, so why wouldn't you do everything in your power to make a stellar first impression?

Check out this example of a stellar welcome email below:

A screenshot of an example email from Adobe. The header is, “Let’s get started with Photoshop.” There is an eye-catching image and a bright blue call-to-action button, which reads, “Start here.”

This example speaks for itself, but I want to highlight some of its best features. As the email marketer’s best practices handbook dictates, this email campaign contains plenty of eye-catching elements. From the gorgeous Photoshop image to the bright blue call-to-action button, this is one message that any subscriber will find hard to ignore.

The Double Opt-In

Oh, and consider adding the double opt-in to your welcome emails.

What's a double opt-in? It is an additional step in the process of signing up for an email subscription.

Instead of immediately receiving a welcome email, the double opt-in requires a new subscriber to verify their email address and confirm their intent to subscribe to your list before receiving any communications.

And because I can't resist a good bad pun: The double opt-in allows new subscribers to effectively double down on getting your marketing emails.

Feel free to pause to collect yourself after the hysterics you probably just went into over that joke.

Maybe Opt Out of the Double Opt-In...

The double opt-in can be a courteous way to confirm that they indeed want to receive your email campaigns and a fantastic way to get the relationship off to a good start, but full disclosure:

I do not make a universal recommendation that all brands automatically employ a double opt-in process. It's a decision that should be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account a brand's voice, tone, ideal customer, and audience.

So if you aren't sure about the double opt-in, this is one of the few email marketing techniques that probably won't come back to bite you if you skip it. But they can be great!

BONUS! Keep Your Subscriber List Fresh

Another great thing about welcome emails: they help keep your email list current.

Your first welcome email will bounce if the recipient's email address is incorrect, and you can then remove it from your email list. And with the double opt-in, if a subscriber never confirms they want to receive your emails, they'll never muddy your subscriber data.

Bottom line: your welcome email isn't just for your subscribers. It helps you in achieving the goal of having current and clean lists full of valid email addresses so you can ensure your future email marketing campaigns have the best possible results.

2. Timing Matters

"When is the right time to send this email?"

A photo of the view from inside of a clock tower. Overlaid header text says, “Tip #2: Timing Matters.”

Ah, that old question that keeps email marketers up at night. Obviously, some types of emails have best send time practices. We just talked about that with the welcome email. But here's a little secret: when it comes to your everyday email campaign, there is no magic time to send it!

That's right! Your emails can be sent at any time!

Repeat: there is no universal "right" time to send in email marketing. A recent study found that the email open rate is largely a matter of personal preference for each subscriber.

Someone, Somewhere Is Always Checking Their Email

In fact, variables such as location play a strong part in when a subscriber opens an email. I'm in Los Angeles and have subscribers all over the world, and they all have different habits when it comes to checking their email. And unless your brand is very localized and attracts nearby subscribers almost exclusively, I'm willing to bet you're in a very similar boat.

Because of these variables, it's almost impossible to give a universal, standard best time to send. So how do you figure out the best send time for your brand and your customers?

Send-Time Optimization Algorithms

Enter send-time optimization algorithms. These algorithms correct for variables and optimize open rates.

How? They automatically keep track of subscriber preference and adjust the send-time for each subscriber.

Pretty incredible, right? If you're looking for an example, GetResponse Perfect Timing is a good place to start.

Super handy, and a must-add to your email marketing best practices list. Plus, if you're a data junky like me, you'll love getting a peek into when all those subscribers are opening your lovingly-crafted emails.

3. Personalization Is Key

Whether you're new to email marketing or a decorated veteran, personalization is a word you've likely heard MANY times.

It's a vast subject, but for the purposes of this blog post, let's just say that personalization is the practice of making the emails you send to your subscribers seem as if they've been written exclusively to them.

Personalization goes a long way.

A photo of Los Angeles with overlaid header text: “Tip #3: Personalization Is Key.”

Subscribers tend to open emails that feel tailored exclusively to them. It makes sense--who doesn't prefer to read an email that addresses their needs and preferences?

Ways To Personalize Your Email List

There are many ways to personalize your list, and the ingenious methods are ever-growing.

One of the easiest ways you can personalize your email list by using subscribers' first names.

See this example that uses the first name:

An example email from GasBuddy. The header image reads, “Your May Driving Scorecard.” Below this are more images, which display personalized stats about gas mileage and driving time.

It's human nature to positively respond to seeing your own name, but that's just the tippiest tip of the personalization iceberg.

(I know "tippiest" isn't a real word, but what's the point of being in email marketing if you can't play around with words once in a while?)

You might also create target audience groupings by asking your subscribers what information they'd like to see in your emails when they sign up for them.

Do they want to know about upcoming sales? That data can be used to target specific audiences and give each group exactly what they desire.

Get Help From AI & Machine Learning

Does all this personalized data collection, sorting, and utilization for every single subscriber sound daunting? Don't worry, AI to the rescue!

AI-powered email service providers (ESPs) use machine learning and other similar technologies to automatically personalize email content depending on subscriptions.

Investing in an ESP like Klaviyo will make your email marketing efforts easier, more effective, and likely give you a higher ROI. You'll be able to effectively leverage data that you don't have to worry about knowing how to collect to increase the effectiveness of your emails.

And why wouldn't you want that?

4. Segment Your Email List

The savvy email marketer generally considers segmentation one of THE most vital marketing best practices. It stands alongside personalization as one of the bedrocks of email marketing.

Segmenting your database allows you to better target your audience.

A photo of a store in Los Angeles with overlaid header text: “Tip #4: Segment Your Email List.”

The more an email reaches its target audience, the higher the open rates.

Email segmentation has been shown to increase open rates up to 203%! Skip it as one of your email marketing best practices at your own peril.

To make sure segmentation is working for you, keep it updated. Asking new subscribers about their email preferences and interests is great, but like most email marketing best practices, segmentation isn't a one-and-done. The needs and desires of the audience are in continual flux, and your brand's offerings are, too.

Sending out a survey as its own campaign periodically can help you continually get to know your audience better and tailor your segmentation, campaigns, and overall email strategy accordingly.

Get Granular

To hone segmentation further, segment your email list into more granular target groups, known as micro-segments. Base these segments on factors such as buying history, location, or buyer journey stage.

There are almost an infinite number of ways to segment your audience, so if you'd like to dive deeper, check out this blog.

5. Nail Your Email Subject Line and Preview Text

Your email subject lines and preview texts are the first things your subscribers will see in their inboxes. As such, they play a huge part in the subscribers' decision to open the email or not.

A photo of many books on a shelf with overlaid header text: “Tip #5: Nail Your Email Subject Line and Preview Text.”

Getting those email subject lines and preview texts on point is crucial!

So is there some sort of subject line secret sauce out there?

Yes… and no.

The thing is, there are a lot of delicious subject line and preview text recipes out there. Your job is to find the right recipe for your target audience.

Use The Data

There IS email marketing data showing subject lines with six to nine words had higher click-through rates, while those with four to five words had higher open rates.

But subject lines are famously HARD to write.

When you feel stuck, try using an A/B test on different subject lines to see which resonates with your subscribers best.

Pro tip: keep in mind that email accounts and mobile devices frequently truncate any subject lines that exceed 30 and 50 characters (including spaces), so you'll want to keep characters in that range.

Another trick to increase open rates (by as much as 50%) is including an incentive in your subject line OR in the preview text.

For instance, you might write "Free shipping on all orders over $25," or "Get 30% off your first purchase," etc.

Additionally, the subject line of your email should convey a sense of urgency and the preview text give subscribers a peek at what's inside.

Once you get started on your journey in the land of the subject line, you'll find your groove and get a feel for what works best for your brand.

6. Optimize for Mobile Devices

It's the age of the mobile device, and you can be sure that more and more people will first glimpse your email marketing campaigns on their phones.

A photo of a mobile phone with overlaid header text: “Tip #6: Optimize for Mobile Devices.”

Therefore a non-negotiable email marketing best practice is optimizing your email campaigns for mobile devices.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Earlier, we talked about the importance of optimizing your subject lines for mobile devices.

Another way to get on that is with Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), a fast-growing trend in email marketing and design.

AMP makes your site load much faster and allows subscribers to take action without getting redirected to any third-party website or app.

For example, subscribers can fill out a form, respond to a survey or easily complete a purchase from the email itself.

Believe me, this makes the chances of your email performing well from start to finish MUCH greater. Or choose not to believe everything I tell you blindly and check out this blog on it instead.

7. Clear Links: Call To Action, Subscribe and Unsubscribe

Bottom line: every email should contain a call to action (CTA). Otherwise, what's the point of sending it?

A photo of downtown Los Angeles with overlaid header text: “Tip #7: Call-to-Actions, Subscribes, and Unsubscribes.”

Without the CTA, your email is just a simple hello to your customers. In other words, it doesn't go anywhere, much less result in a sale.

That being said, it IS an email marketing best practice to sustain a positive relationship with your new customers and your current customers.

Therefore, a nice check-in email can be a good idea--yet even this check-in should have a CTA of some sort, be it a sale or a transmission of knowledge or an expression of gratitude, etc.

However, just having a CTA isn't enough.

You need to make sure the call to action is prominently displayed, like in the example below:

An example email from Squishable. There are two bright images. The first images advertises free shipping. Beneath this is small disclaimer text followed by a bright yellow button, which reads, “Enjoy!”

In this wonderful example, — courtesy of the plush toy manufacturer Squishable — viewers are drawn in the a bright image, which features a button-like informational box. This acts as one CTA; the second CTA, which is at the bottom of the email, is another bold attention-grabber.

Above The Fold

Please, keep your CTA above the fold!

70% of people will miss out on your main call to action (CTA) if it's below the fold.

Also, make sure that longer emails have at least three calls to action throughout. Repetition helps give a sense of urgency.

Subscribe Link

Remember the double opt-in email marketing best practice all the way back in email best practice numero uno?

The double opt-in gives new customers freedom to choose by including a confirmation subscribe link in your welcome email.

In fact, almost any email you send should have a subscribe link included--in case your subscriber forwards the email to a friend, for instance.

The lesson here is: including a subscribe link is important for your email marketing campaigns.

Don't forget to make sure folks can SEE your subscribe link! Make it clear and easy to find.

Unsubscribe Link

And just as you have a subscribe link in your email, you must have an unsubscribe link.

First off, including an unsubscribe link shows respect to your customers. They should never feel forced into your email communications.

Offering an offramp will increase your customers' trust in your brand.

It's The Law

Additionally, including the unsubscribe link is required by law.

Legally, customers must always have the option of opting out of receiving your email campaigns.

Neglect this link and you can also expect to incur some subscriber complaints and even legal action!

Turn That Unsubscribe From Upside Down

If subscribers do use the unsubscribe link, don't despair.

It may sting to lose a sub, but you can turn the experience into a useful learning lesson.

Try utilizing an automatic form to gather valuable information as to what is potentially not working in your email campaign.

From there, course correct! Heck, you may even win back the subs you lost, once they hear of your new and improved email campaigns.

8. Embrace The Test! A/B Testing

Don't panic! I'm going to say this to calm any nerves that might be getting activated by the dreaded word "test."

Repeat after me: testing is an email marketer's friend.

A photo of someone taking a test. The overlaid heading says, “Tip #8: Use A/B Testing.”

Why? Because testing helps you improve your email marketing campaigns. Oh, and it's not school, and your teacher isn't going to scold you for not studying.

No, in the world of email marketing, testing is something you CHOOSE to do.

For instance, if you find that your email open and click-through rates aren't increasing, you likely need to improve the content of your email.

A/B Testing

Your digital marketing content can be improved by conducting A/B tests, or "split tests."

Your email recipients are effectively "split" into two groups: Group A (a test) receives the regular email, while Group B (b test) receives the email with a particular variation.

This can show you if a new variation results in a better open and click-through rate.

The A/B test can have a variety of uses: from experimenting with the subject line to changing the color of the calls to action inside the emails to seeing whether an email campaign performs better with or without images.

Once you determine which email version performs better in terms of open rates, click-through rates, or conversion rates, you can then standardize the better email.

Need more expert advice on A/B Tests? We've got you covered here.

9. Match Emails and Landing Pages

Consistency is a huge part of branding. A brand is defined by what consumers expect it to be.

Consistency also creates a successful email marketing campaign, particularly when it comes to your email and your landing page, i.e. the site to which you direct your customers with your CTA.

A photo of downtown Los Angeles with overlaid header text: “Tip #9: Match Emails and Landing Pages.”

The headline, copy, and content of your landing page should match that of your email.

Customers might feel confused or misled if your landing page doesn't look and feel consistent with your email.

Maintain customer confidence by giving exactly what you promised in the email: landing pages that make sense.

10. Offer Real Value In Your Email Content

If you want your email subscribers to eagerly anticipate your emails and newsletters, make content that is valuable. Period.

A photo of palm trees in Los Angeles. Overlaid header text says, “Tip #10: Offer Value.”

Although I list this as email marketing best practice number 10, and these email marketing best practices are in no particular order, this practice could easily be number 1.

You want your subscribers and customers to expect good things from your brand! This builds loyalty, repeat business, and the continued prospering of your company.

Beyond Freebies

But don't assume "valuable content" just means freebies.

You don't necessarily need to include a special offer or incentive in every email you send.

Rather, it means that your email should be rich in information, useful, and interesting to the subscribers.

Yes, you might offer more free content in your email campaigns. BUT, I'm not just talking about the standard "free shipping."

Try offering free resources such as templates or e-guides. Get creative! Suit your value offerings to your unique product or service.

This kind of creativity is what differentiates your company and makes it stand out from other brands.

11. Track! Do Those Reports

You need to be able to tell if your email marketing strategy is working or not.

In other words, you need to keep track of data and utilize reports.

A photo of Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California, with overlaid header text: “Tip #11: Do Those Reports.”

Opens, clicks, bounce rates, and unsubscribes are all metrics that you can use to track your email marketing campaign's effectiveness.

For more detailed feedback, you can even use a heat mapping platform that shows you exactly where your audience clicked.

Using this data, you can adjust your email marketing and allow your best practices to evolve based on what the data has demonstrated works.

Invest In the Right Support

If you just read this and thought to yourself, that sounds like a lot of work, you're not wrong. Email marketing best practices, when done right, take time, energy, and care. And if you want that fantastic ROI email marketing is legendary for, you can't afford not to do it right.

And that's where my team and I come in. Obviously, it will cost you more money to hire The Email Marketers than it would to get an account for an ESP and manage this all on your own.

BUT!

The amazing thing about good email marketing is you have can invest in the cost of an agency and still make way more money than you would by tackling the email marketing learning curve on your own. It's seriously that effective.

Takeaways for Email Marketing Best Practices

Your email marketing best practices will always be subject to adjustment, and that can be overwhelming.

A photo of Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California. Overlaid header text reads, “Takeaways for Email Marketing.”

But the more strategic your email marketing foundation is, the more your emails will do the work for you.

Nailing the basics such as personalization, segmentation, testing, offering value, and AI tools are proven methods for effective email marketing campaigns.

Most importantly, think of your email marketing best practices as a way you can make your company and brand stand out: experiment and see what resonates best for your mailing list.

Oh, and hiring an agency that's the right fit for your brand can save you a ton of time and grief while making you a lot of money.

Now you're ready to go forth and make 2022 the year your email marketing campaign numbers skyrocket. You've got this!