Are you experiencing a drop in email engagement? More often than not email marketers only look at open and click-through rates lacking the insight of what’s happening in between. Don’t panic though. There are a few best practices you can count on to boost email engagement. 

“You don’t want a huge list. You want an engaged list. The gold isn’t in the list anymore, it’s in the engagement.” – Scott Stratten

Marketers are facing a lot of challenges when it comes to providing a great experience for their subscribers. However, email engagement is considered to be one of the biggest challenges for businesses. You might’ve had the privilege of obtaining someone’s email address, but getting them to interact with your emails can be a difficult task.

In this article, we’ll discuss the following email engagement topics:

  1. What’s email deliverability?
  2. What’s email engagement?
  3. Best practices to boost email engagement

Let’s dive in.

A lot of email marketers view email engagement as a ‘black box’ – a complex system whose internal workings are hidden or not really understood. They rely too much on metrics that are only scratching the surface. Hence, in order to boost email engagement, a business should be aware of the whole picture. Therefore, gaining better insight is essential for optimising the performance of your email campaign as well as keeping email engagement alive and lucrative.

What Is Email Deliverability And Why It Matters?

Your awesomely creative email team has drafted the perfect email campaign and sent it to your targeted email list(s). However, did it actually get delivered?

If you are aiming at having an effective and successful email marketing program, email deliverability is one of the most vital elements you should focus on. Why? Because your emails will be worthless unless they actually reach the subscribers’ inbox.

With that said, we’d like to focus on two important concepts: email delivery and email deliverability. You might’ve never thought there’s a difference between the two, there is.

Email delivery is the process of successfully delivering an email to the recipients’ receiving server. It comes before the inbox and spam folder distinction. Overall, it refers to whether the email message has been accepted, or not, by the ESPs servers.

Email deliverability (also known as inbox placement) is the process of successfully delivering an email to the subscriber’s inbox. In other words, once your email message has been accepted by the receiving server, it will get placed accordingly – for example, the inbox, the updates tab, the promo tab or the spam folder. 

As incredible as it might sound, you can have a good delivery, however, your deliverability rate can be quite disappointing. Why? Well, because your email message ended up in the subscribers’ spam folder instead of their inbox.

Here is a selection of factors that can affect your email deliverability – 

a) spam complaints – when a recipient marks your email as ‘spam’;
b) bounces – when an email address is invalid or doesn’t even exist;
c) spam traps – email addresses created for the sole purpose of catching fraudulent emails;
d) IP address reputation – it measures the reputation of your IP address based on the quality and type of the emails you’re sending; and
e) domain reputation – it measures the reputation of your email address based on the quality and type of emails you’re sending.

Why does email deliverability matter? It’s quite simple really. For your email campaign to be effective your email has to be delivered. Yet, if your email deliverability is plunging, don’t go into panic mode. You can improve it with a few easy tactics

The most essential element of email deliverability is email engagement. It has a direct effect on your sender’s reputation and we all know an exceptionally good sender reputation is essential for achieving awesome email deliverability.

What Is Email Engagement?

Subscribers are quite literally being blasted with marketing emails every single day. Getting them to open and interact with your emails, specifically, can possibly prove a challenge.

However, don’t get discouraged. As intimidating as it might be to keep your subscribers engaged since every other business out there is attempting to do the same, it doesn’t really have to be. Yet, before we divulge the best practices that will help you boost your email engagement, we’d like to clarify what it actually is.

Email engagement refers to all the various ways subscribers interact with your marketing emails. Metrics such as open rate, click-through rate (CTR), replies, conversion rate, time subscribers spent reading your email as well as number and frequency of spam complaints are all indicators of engagement. It’s data-centric and marketers can think of it as a trust-meter of sorts. If your marketing emails receive a high positive level of engagement, ESPs will perceive you as a trustworthy sender and therefore, award you with improved deliverability which will help not having your email ending up in the spam folder but in the subscribers’ inbox instead – and that’s the place you want it to be.

There are a few factors that can destroy your email engagement – 

a) too much content – irrelevant, heavy content can be the downfall of your email engagement. So, simplify your email message. Create concise email copy supported by relevant imagery (but don’t overdo it) instead of blasting your subscribers with a head-spinning wall of content.

b) rendering issues – nothing can be more irritating to a subscriber than a broken email. It doesn’t only demolish the subscribers’ experience but also, it’ll make them ignore your emails – now and in the future. Thus, make sure you’ve tested your email before sending it.

c) sending too many emails – overwhelming your subscribers’ inbox with emails will not only irritate them, tremendously, but it can also result in an increased unsubscribe rate. Therefore, make sure recipients can change their email preferences.

d) hiding the unsubscribe link/button – by concealing the unsubscribe link/button, or manipulating subscribers with misleading content, you’ll not only lose them but it will also result in an increased spam complaint rate. It is always better to get someone to unsubscribe than submit a spam complaint. Hence, make it easy for them to ‘leave’ your email list(s) if they so wish, it seems obvious, but no one should want email recipients that do not wish to receive your content, they skew your report statistics and will not engage with your products or services, and perhaps as importantly their frustration will have a negative outcome for your future sends’ deliverability. 

Now that we’ve cleared up the definition and reasons for ruined email engagement, let’s take a look at a few best practices that will help you boost email engagement.

Boost Email Engagement: Best Practices

Achieving engagement with email marketing is one of the biggest challenges for marketers. Especially since there are so many companies out there trying to do the same. Nonetheless, there are a few best practices that can help businesses boost email engagement.

1) List segmentation.

When it comes to email engagement, it’s all about quality, not quantity. Thus, it’s always better to have a smaller email list of highly-engaged subscribers instead of a humongous one with unengaged contacts. So, by taking into account demographics, buying habits and previous engagement patterns, you can segment your email list(s) to ensure you’re sending personalised, relevant marketing emails that reflect the subscribers’ persona.

2) Carefully crafted subject line and preheader.

The first thing that will draw subscribers’ attention to your email is the subject line. Hence, make sure you’ve drafted the perfect subject line in order to get the recipient’s attention and provoke their curiosity. After all, the perfect subject line is your golden ticket to standing out amongst the clutter and achieving higher open rates. Your email copy also needs quite a bit of thought if you want recipients to engage with it – at all. However, first and foremost, start with the preheader – it’s also part of your email message (some marketers don’t utilise it, you should). It accompanies your subject line and furthers the interest in what lies ahead. Considering that more and more email marketing software includes a preview, it’s very important.

3) Email copy and CTAs.

Now that you have a captivating subject line and a preheader that persuaded the subscriber to open your email, it’s time to make your emails even more engaging by presenting your subscribers with relevant, valuable and visually-pleasing content. After all, subscribers want information that’s directly useful to them, not some promotional blast or industry update. If you can give them that, you are well on your way to boost email engagement. So, create copy that’s concise, to-the-point, with relevant imagery (or GIFs) and, most of all, an easy to engage with clear, prominent call-to-action. It’s pretty easy to turn your email from good to great, just take a look at these email design best practices and you’ll be an expert in no time.

4) Re-engage your idle subscribers.

Sometimes people won’t engage with your emails for 2-4 months or more and that’s fine. List turnover is a totally normal – and an expected – thing. Actually, according to stats, somewhere between 20 to 30% of email addresses ‘rot’ year on year. After all, people change and so do their interests.

Now, if you want to re-engage them, you don’t need to go crazy. Simply create a short email campaign with the goal to rekindle their interest. It can be anything – from an exclusive offer through a simple “are you still interested?” email to a coupon or a whitepaper that’s right down their Straße. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, well – it might be time to move on. In which case, removing them from your email list(s) would be the best course of action. Pestering them would only result in spam complaints and that, in itself, can be harmful to your email deliverability.

5) Always test your emails and analyse the results.

There’s no one simple, magical solution when it comes to creating an email campaign that will boost email engagement. It’s all about trial and error. Hence, draft two email messages and use A/B testing to determine what drives open rates – and what doesn’t. Split testing will give you insight not only about your email copy but also about your subject line – its length and tone of voice – and the overall design of your email campaign. By testing your emails, you’ll get a better idea of how you should be communicating with your subscribers as well as what’s most effective when it comes to keeping your subscribers engaged and coming back for more.

Once you’ve done everything possible to boost email engagement, it’s crucial to monitor the outcome. So, dive into the results of your email campaign(s). They will help you fine-tune your email marketing communication as well as fix a failing campaign or simply re-design a good campaign and make it great.

Final Thoughts

It is not an easy task to grab and hold your recipients’ attention. Therefore, it’s vital to make the most of those precious few seconds when the reader sees your email.

Considering ISPs are making a move towards a more comprehensive, data-driven approach of evaluating email senders, especially when it comes to email deliverability, marketers should focus a lot more on email engagement. After all, as we’ve mentioned, it’s one of the most important deliverability factors.

While metrics such as spam complaints, spam traps and bounces are still important, ESPs are looking at more precise ones when determining the sender’s reputation. Such metrics are opens, clicks, domain reputation, time spent reading an email and time an email was unopened. They all fall into the category email engagement and can be considered key to your email program’s health.

Overall, by following best practices as well as monitoring and analysing the results from your email campaigns, you will have the ability to improve your emails (if required) and incorporate more elements that have proven to resonate best with your subscribers. You’ll see improved results and consequently, you’ll see the reason as to why email engagement is so important and why it’s deemed key in achieving the best results from your email marketing efforts. However, remember that in order to increase email engagement you’ll have to not only experiment with different strategies and tactics but also, have patience. It won’t happen overnight. 

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