Guest post by Emily Johnson.
Are your your email campaigns effective? Do they meet the goals you set? Are you sure your messages are reaching the intended recipients? Perhaps it’s time to put your email marketing through an audit.
Though it’s a somewhat time-consuming process, the insights you’ll gather after performing an audit are worth the effort. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to conduct an email audit plus tips on how to improve your campaign results using your findings.
What is an Email Marketing Audit?
An email audit is extensive examination of email marketing processes to evaluate their effectiveness. In simple term, it’s an assessment of your email communications to figure out what works for your brand and what doesn’t. It includes looking at workflows, email copy, design, subscribers, and most importantly, performance. It identifies any problems and enables you to remove them quickly.
An audit can be done internally by a company, or externally as an independent examination conducted by a third-party.
Why Should You Conduct an Email Audit?
An email marketing audit is performed for several purposes. But it’s usually done to scrutinize one or more of these issues:
- Efficiency: Monitor the effectiveness of your campaigns in terms of email opens, click-through, or ROI.
- Deliverability: See if your messages reach the right inbox or do they get blocked, junked, or bounced.
- Reputation: Track your email reputation and fix it instantly at the first sign of trouble.
- Quality: Identify whether the given subject line, pre-header text, and actual email content gets more open and clicks.
- Security: Determine whether your company follows all necessary practices to ensure safe information transmission.
Most often, an email audit focus on multiple purposes to pinpoint the problems accurately.
How to Audit Your Email Campaigns
Many of the basic elements of solid email marketing practices (e.g., regulatory compliance) are handled automatically or by choosing the right settings in whatever email marketing tools you use. The steps below focus primarily on the manual components of your campaigns.
Step #1: Evaluate the Content Creation Process
This stage involves documenting the email creation and workflow processes.
- Content Creator(s)
Keep track of the individuals and team responsible for crafting your email campaigns and how long it takes to complete each step. A simple campaign may be created using the drag-and-drop editor within an hour. But depending on the campaign size, you may have to allocate more time and assign additional staff to minimize process time.
- Subject Line
Pay close attention to the subject line length and wording. The ideal length for a marketing email subject line is generally between 40 and 70 characters. But, according to Marketo, 41 characters or 7 words is the best length for email subject line in 2019.
If possible, personalize your subject line to increase the open rate. Keep away from words like “free” or “Act now” to avoid spam filters.
Always use a pre-header text as a continuation and explanation of the subject line. But keep it short in order to retain the recipient’s interest. On average, a solid pre-header is between 85 and 100 characters. Be creative with your pre-header as it will likely be the first thing readers notice. So, make it big and bold with bright colors.
- “From” Address
This must accurately identify the sender’s email address using the company domain (not @yahoo or @gmail). But you can also use some creativity with this; think about whether you can want to use a generic inbox (e.g., email@example.com, which makes your organization look bigger) or an individual’s name (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org, which is more personable).
Use images carefully. A clear and relevant picture can add interest, but keep the focus on your message. Make sure to stick to the optimum text to image ratio of 80:20. Also, include an alt text and compress the image size (under 200KB) for quick load time.
- Call to Action (CTA)
An effective CTA is a button which urges the recipient to take the targeted action immediately. But don’t overdo it with CTAs. It’s best to limit the number of the CTAs to not more than two. And needless to say, ensure that the links redirect to the proper pages.
Design your call-to-action buttons with the user in mind. A large and intriguing call to action that is simple and easy-to-read works best.
This footer design from United by Blue includes the motto the company lives by. They have also provided the phone number, hours of business, and the hashtag to find them on social media. Everything is clearly organized and easy to find.
- Email Design
Audit the email design to assure all of your brand guidelines are followed. Your email must be responsive and render well on devices of all size. Also, make sure its size is less than 102k. Avoid using link shorteners; spam filtering services view them as untrustworthy as they mask the real link you are redirecting to.
Step #2: Analyze the Timing
Next, evaluate the timing of execution of your email campaign. This includes:
- Send Time
Analyze send times of your previous campaigns to determine the ideal scheduling to improves performance. According to industry studies, the “best” time to send any email varies by industry, target audience, time of year, and other factors. So the best approach is to test: split campaigns to run on different days and times and then perform A/B testing to learn what works best for your business.
You can use Google Analytics to find out when your website gets the most visitors or your email tool’s analytics to look at open and click times. Use your findings to optimize your email send times.
Audit the sending frequency of your email campaigns to ensure your aren’t overwhelming your subscribers. Sending multiple emails in a week (or worse, within a day!) can be quite detrimental to your marketing results. The best option is to ask your subscribers to set their preferences for receiving emails; this prevents annoyance and also makes them feel more valued. However, follow a consistent schedule so that your subscribers know when to anticipate your messages.
Step #3: Track Email Infrastructure
Next, examine your email service providers and related technology factors.
- IP Address
Audit your IP reputation as early as possible because a bad email reputation does significant damage to your deliverability rate. Email feedback loops (Examples of ISP’s offering feedback loop – Hotmail, Yahoo, United Online, AOL, and USA.net), sender score calculators, Microsoft Smart Network Data Services, and blacklist checking tools like Spamhaus or MXToolBox will help you find out more about your IP reputation.
- Domain Name Service (DNS)
Your DNS is one of the most crucial parts of your email marketing strategy. Always keep a high sender score and have security in place to avoid phishing attacks or domain hijacking.
Track your emails for any deliverability issues such as hitting the spam box, or hard and soft bounces.
Make sure your emails are verified as per the DKIM records. Also, check whether your SPF records are working correctly and DMARC settings highlight how your domain handles all the doubtful email.
Step #4: Make Necessary Changes
Once your audit is complete, it’s time to turn all of your analysis into action. Review the notes you’ve made in step 1, 2, and 3 of your email audit and answer these questions:
- Is your workflow optimized? If not, what can you do to improve it and create more effective emails?
- Who should be responsible for these changes or flaws?
- How can you measure the success of these changes?
- Do you need to delegate these tasks? If so, to whom?
- Do you have the right tools to take your emails to the next level?
- Is your brand ready to switch to a more advanced email platform?
- If so, which platform best meets your needs?
Summarize your findings and develop a plan to improve your future campaigns. You may be excited to make the changes, but remember, you don’t have to tackle them all at once. Make these changes gradually, and while making the improvements, watch your metrics to see how your audience responds.
An Effective Audit is Never Really Finished
After completing your audit, it’s important to stay alert for any future problems. Continually monitor and test your email communication, so you know exactly how your campaigns are working and what modifications are needed in order to achieve your goals.
Emily Johnson is a marketing analyst with 6+ years of experience in the execution of marketing strategies. She is interested in writing and helps SMBs and large firms with her rich experience. Currently, she heads the marketing department at Blue Mail Media, a renowned B2B data solution company based out of Irving, Texas.