You want to get more out of your email marketing, right? Yet, do you know which email marketing factors – and elements – you should invest more time on evaluating? The quality of your email lists? Email authentication? Email design? Deliverability? Content quality? 

There is always something more, something better and cleverer you can do to improve your email campaigns’ performance. It does not necessarily mean you have to work more, and harder, but rather smarter. If your email marketing KPIs are (a bit) disappointing you can remedy that by running an email marketing audit. 

“Email marketing practised without audit is like having sight but no vision.” – EmailOut

Do you wonder if your email marketing strategy is working? Are you sure your email campaigns are effective? Is your campaign even reaching the target audience? If you are uncertain of the answers then your best course of action is to conduct an email marketing audit. The term ‘audit’ can be somewhat scary. However, the process itself is painless and valuable for every email marketer as it’ll help discover any shortcomings in your email campaigns and subsequently improve your overall email marketing strategy. 

In this article, we’ll cover the following email marketing audit topics:

  1. What is an email marketing audit?
  2. Why should you conduct an email marketing audit?
  3. Email marketing audit questionnaire

Are you ready to check the DNA of your email?

Despite all the shortcomings businesses and consumers faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, email continues to reign supreme as 91% of consumers rate is as the top communication channel. Yet, should you stick to your ‘old’ email marketing strategies and keep doing what you’ve been doing so far even if it’s not delivering the desired outcome? Or, should you carry out an email marketing audit which will help you evaluate your email campaigns’ performance in extreme detail and outline any inefficiencies? 

Regularly checking on your conversion rates is one way to establish whether your email marketing efforts are productive and working. But, if you want to grasp the big-picture of how your email campaigns are performing and evaluate your overall email marketing strategy, you need to think outside the (in)box. Hence, an email marketing audit.

The Definition Of Email Marketing Audit

An email marketing audit is an assessment of an existing email marketing strategy. It refers to evaluating existing email workflows and processes, email lists, email copy, email design and, most importantly, email campaign performance. Simply put, by conducting an email audit, you’re examining the DNA of your email and identifying what works and what doesn’t.

Even though a lot of email marketers wait for a problem to arise before initiating an audit, it is considered best practice to run an email marketing audit at least once a year – even if things seem to be going smoothly. It allows you to scale successes, limit failures and improve not only your email marketing strategy but also strengthens your relationship with customers, subscribers and leads. 

An email marketing audit can be either internal or external. With the former, you will be the one carrying out the audit with the help of an email marketing audit questionnaire, of course. With the latter, the audit will be run by a third-party which can be quite costly (fees vary from £300 to £2,500 and higher). 

Now that you know the what, let’s jump into the why.

The Importance Of Conducting An Email Marketing Audit

An email marketing audit can be conducted for several different purposes. Yet, it’s usually done to evaluate issues in five main email marketing areas –  

1) Security/Infrastructure

You must ensure all necessary settings for safe information transmission are in place. When businesses make changes, sometimes certain things do not get updated as they should. Thus, it’s important to double-check five key areas.

1) DNS (Domain Name System)

This is a protocol for exchanging data on the Internet. What does it have to do with email? An email address is matched to a domain name and this needs to be matched to an IP address to send the data. Thus, the mail server uses DNS to match the address to its destination and deliver the email. In simpler terms, when you send an email campaign the recipient’s server will check where the email came from and that is properly authenticated

2) Authentication

There are three key authentication methods – 

    • SPF (Sender Policy Framework)
    • DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail)
    • DMARC (Domain Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance)

To set up an email authentication method, you have to create DNS records in your domain hosting provider using the information rendered by your email marketing platform

Email Authentication Methods >>>

3) IP reputation

It measures the reputation of your IP address based on the quality and type of the emails you are sending. To check your IP reputation you can use tools like SenderScore or Barracuda Central.

4) Reply and response addresses

Make sure that any replies/responses email addresses are still working and are processed appropriately. More often than not, it’s quite easy for reply inboxes to be neglected or completely forgotten.

5) Email campaign links

All standard links appearing in your email (i.e. T&Cs, privacy policy, GDPR policy, etc.) must redirect to the corresponding landing pages. Unsubscribe link, forward-to-a-friend, social share, etc. – are all links that should be double-checked as well to ensure everything is working smoothly.

Security is a gigantic concern for email marketers and rightly so. We are all worried about viruses and other nasty email-transmitted headaches. Thus, if your email looks even the slightest bit off or sets-off any security-related red flags, you can be certain it’ll be sent straight to Hell – a.k.a the Spam Folder.

2) Reputation

A bad email reputation can put you on a direct path to spam lists which, subsequently, can result in significant harm to your deliverability rate. Occasionally, with email, you can earn a bad reputation even though you do not deserve it – and often you don’t find that out until it is too late. So, instead of waiting, make sure you are constantly monitoring your email reputation and, if necessary, clean it up. For example, count the number of soft and hard bounces, spam complaints and your blacklist status.

How To Improve Your Email Sender Reputation >>>

3) Deliverability

You’ve created an outstanding email campaign and unleashed it on your target audience. However, did it get delivered? When talking about deliverability there are two district terms you should know – 

  • email delivery – the process of successfully delivering an email to the recipients’ receiving server; and
  • email deliverability (a.k.a inbox placement) – the process of successfully delivering an email to the subscriber’s inbox. 

Do you know you can have a good delivery but poor deliverability rate? It happens when your email campaign ends up in the recipients’ spam folder rather than their inbox.

How To Improve Your Email Deliverability >>>

4) Effectiveness

Assuming you’ve been diligent in locating, avoiding and/or addressing issues with security, reputation and deliverability, your email campaign is now much more likely to be received and opened by the target audience. Yet, this is only half the battle. If your recipients do not engage with it or immediately delete it, the effectiveness of your email marketing efforts has been for nothing. It is quite simple to determine the effectiveness of your email campaign. Simply monitor your email marketing KPIs. Ask yourself – 

a) Are recipients acting on your email campaign’s call-to-action (CTA)?
b) Is your campaign convey the intended message efficiently and compellingly?
c) Are recipients eager to forward-to-a-friend or social share your email campaign?

With the right email marketing software, tracking and monitoring the effectiveness of your email campaigns will be a breeze.

5) Content quality

Your email campaign is only as good as its content. Once your recipients have opened your email, the copy is what you’ll rely on to not only get your point across but also inspire the reader to take action. 

Your email marketing analytics will paint a perfect picture regarding what resonates best with and converts your target audience. The best email campaign copy is highly-personalised, informative and value-driven. From your campaign’s subject line and preheader through the email copy to the overall email design, everything must be carefully thought out and planned to deliver the desired results and ensure the success of your email campaign.

By conducting an email marketing audit, you can improve your email marketing efforts and make important decisions such as switching (or upgrading) to a new email marketing software platform. Moreover, you’ll be able to set up an airtight infrastructure, security, improve deliverability and, overall, have an exhaustive understanding of what is and isn’t working for your email campaigns. Simply put, you’ll have a roadmap and to succeed, you’ll only have to follow it.

Now that you know the why, it’s time to learn the how.

Email Marketing Audit Questionnaire

You can never know what an email marketing audit might uncover and some results can surprise you. It can be simple things like an email campaign template not rendering correctly or big things like email campaigns going straight to the spam folder. Regardless of the issue, an email marketing audit will help you identify any possible – and potential – problems and resolve them as swiftly and painlessly as possible. 

What questions should you ask when conducting an internal email marketing audit? 

1) Email marketing strategy

  • Do you have an email marketing strategy?
  • Have you pinpointed your target audience needs/interest?
  • What type of content does your audience prefer – i.e. text, imagery, video, audio?
  • Do you have an email marketing content calendar? Is it up-to-date?
  • Do you have brand guidelines in place?

2) Email marketing software

  • What do you like most about your current ESP?
  • Which features do you use most?
  • Are there any features you need but don’t get from your current ESP?
  • Is your current ESP easy to use?
  • How much does your current ESP cost?
  • Are there any pain-points that a different ESP could help solve?

3) Email infrastructure and security

  • Do you have DNS records in place?
  • Have you implemented email authentication – i.e. SPF, DKIM, DMARC?
  • Are you monitoring your IP reputation? What is the score?
  • Do you have reply and response email addresses? Are they working? Do you monitor them?
  • Are all standard links (i.e. T&Cs, privacy policy, GDPR policy, unsubscribe, etc.) included in your email campaign(s) working and redirecting to the correct landing page?

4) Data quality and email list segmentation

  • Is your email list data up-to-date?
  • How did you obtain your data – i.e. sign up forms, purchased/rented email lists, etc?
  • Do you have an email segmentation strategy? Is it accurate?
  • How are you segmenting your email list(s) – i.e. age, gender, location, occupation, etc.?
  • Can you be more specific with email list segmentation?
  • Are you maintaining healthy email lists?
  • Have you obtained explicit permission to send email campaigns to your target audience?

5) Subject lines and preheaders

  • Is your subject line effective? 
  • How long is it (50 characters or less)?  
  • Is your subject line personalised?
  • Does your preheader have the desired effect?
  • Is your preheader personalised?
  • Do you A/B test your subject lines and preheaders?

6) Sender name and email address

  • Is your sender name consistent?
  • Do you use more than one sender name/email address?
  • If you use more than one sender name/email address, which one performs better?
  • Are your sender name and email address recognisable? 
  • How is your sender name displayed in different email clients?
  • Is your sender name cut-off due to length?

7) Email copy

  • Is there a certain font style that performs better?
  • Is a certain font size more appealing to recipients?
  • Are there any font colours that attract more attention and inspire action?
  • Is there a certain text-length that delivers better results?
  • What tone of voice resonates best with your target audience?
  • What topics resonate best with your subscribers/customers/leads?

8) Email design

  • Does your target audience prefer plain text or HTML emails?
  • Do recipients prefer image-based email campaigns?
  • Have you followed the optimal text-to-image ratio (80:20)?
  • Are your images taking too long to load?
  • Do your email campaign images render correctly against all email clients?
  • Do images have alt text?
  • Is your email campaign template optimised for the small screen?
  • How does your email render in different email clients – i.e. Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo!, etc?
  • Is your email campaign layout easy to follow?
  • Have you implemented your brand’s guidelines?
  • Are links rendering correctly and redirecting to the relevant landing pages?
  • Is your design too cluttered?
  • Are call-to-actions (CTAs) clear and appealing?
  • Do you have fallback fonts in place in case your recipients’ email client doesn’t support the font you’ve chosen?
  • Are you following email design best practice?

9) Email deliverability

  • How many of your email campaigns are landing in the subscribers’ inbox?
  • What is the reputation of the IP address used to send your email campaigns?
  • How good is the deliverability rate of your email campaigns?
  • Does your email campaign end up straight in the Spam folder?
  • What are your hard and soft bounce rates?
  • Is your copy hitting any spam traps/raising any red flags?

10) Frequency & Sending times

  • How often do you send emails to your subscribers?
  • How often should you send email to your subscribers?
  • Do people unsubscribe due to too many emails or because they haven’t heard from you in a while?
  • What is the best time to send your email campaigns?
  • What is the best day to send email campaigns?

Final Thoughts

Think of an email marketing audit as a roadmap. It guides you through all the different email campaign elements to help you improve your email marketing strategy, spot any mistakes and create even better email campaigns. 

From email authentication and deliverability through building your email lists, email copywriting and creating perfectly designed email campaigns to the email frequency, there would be no stone left unturned while carrying out your email marketing audit.

It is recommended to conduct an email marketing audit at least once a year, however, set up your own schedule. You can run it quarterly or bi-annually, whatever works best – for you. After all, the entire purpose of the audit is to help you improve every aspect of your email marketing strategy and set you on the path to ultimate email marketing success.

Highly recommended further reading – 

1)  The Importance Of Email Whitelisting
2) Writing Marketing Emails 101
3) Email List Segmentation Best Practices
4) The Ultimate Email Preflight Checklist

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