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Get more opens on the mailing you’re sending right now

Why subject line split testing matters

Since Emma’s subject line split-testing feature launched last month, we’re gleaned a lot from our own internal tests and those our customers have shared. Below are four case studies that find laying out your cards isn’t always the best policy, a thoughtful subject line is worth the time spent on it and limiting your appeal can yield a yawn of a response.

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With Emma, you're in good company. Meet our Customers.

Subject line split testing is here!

And we're challenging you to a subject line showdown.

Now in Emma, you can test up to three subject lines, and then let us automatically send the winning version to your whole list. With the launch of our latest feature, we're challenging you to a Split Test Showdown to see if you can spot the winning subject line from a few tests we and our customers have tried. Play the game at

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The anatomy of Emma’s response page

Understanding delivery stats, opens, click-throughs and more

Once you send out an Emma campaign, your response results immediately start building on the main response page. If you're like us, you spend the next few hours obsessively refreshing the page to see how many folks are opening, clicking and sharing your campaign. It's exciting stuff, for email marketing nerds anyway. But it's even more exciting when you've got a solid handling on what you're looking at — and what you should be striving for.

Let's take a closer look at an Emma mailing, one of our Agency Insiders. I'll break down Emma's response page to explain each section and how you can use the data to inform next steps.

Response Mailing Overview
Here's a look at the Overview tab of our mailing's response.


The Trend

The chart at the top of the page gives you an at-a-glance account of the mailing's opens and clicks. Click the upper right links to adjust the view (by default, it displays a 12-hour view), and hover your mouse over data points to see numbers. Read more about our interactive charts here.

What to look for: Scan the time of day that yields the highest open rates for your audience. In many cases, this will be three hours following the mailing's send time; however, you might see different trends if you send your mailing very late at night, for example. Our mailing met expectations, as we saw the most opens in the first hour after its 11:00 am send.

Next steps: If you see open times contrary to what you expect, use this information to determine the timing of your next mailing. Perhaps you expected your audience to be opening your email during work hours, but they're actually opening in the evening. Schedule your next mailing for 6 pm and see what happens.

The Send Off

The Send Off
At the server level, we track the number of emails sent, received or bounced.


When you send an email campaign, the response tracking is actually happening at two distinct levels: the server where your recipient's inbox is hosted, and the inbox itself. (For more information on how email delivery works, take a look at this blog post by our delivery specialist, Art.) The numbers under The Send Off all happen at the server level. Emails sent refers to the number of emails we attempted to send (which will match the number of active email addresses in the audience group that you send to). Emails received refers to the number of emails that were successfully received by the servers on the other end. And the bounces include emails that were kicked back as undeliverable by the receiving servers. Read more about bounces here.

What to look for: Emma has an average 98% delivery rate so you should see that about 98% of your sent emails were received at the server level. If you're working with an updated list of addresses, you'll see even better delivery rates. (Our mailing saw a strong 99.4% delivery rate.) Keep in mind, however, that if you're sending to an email list for the very first time, you may see a few more bounces, as Emma helps to weed out addresses that are no longer valid.

Next steps: If more than 3% of your emails bounced, click to take a closer look. If all bounces are from one particular domain, Emma may have had trouble connecting to that domain. Feel free to reach out to our support team to help you uncover any curious bounce patterns. And keep in mind that Emma handles soft and hard bounces a bit differently. Addresses that soft bounce will stay on your list, and we'll mark addresses that hard bounce as "error" so you don't waste time (or money) mailing to them next time.

The Response

The Opens
A closer look at the response activity at the inbox level


Here you'll notice response activity at the inbox level. You'll see the percentage (and number) of folks who opened your email in a trackable way (read more about what that means here) and the number of people who clicked at least one link in your campaign. If you have a "send-to-a-friend" envelope icon atop your email stationery, you'll also see how many folks shared your email with friends. (Not to be confused with Social Sharing via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, which we'll get to in a moment.) Finally, you'll see how many new subscribers signed up and how many recipients opted out.

What to look for: The open and click-through rates are sort of like your report card grades. Have you met industry averages? That's a solid C. But why settle for average? If open rates are lower than you expected, there's a chance that a phrase or two in your email kept it from arriving in your recipients' inboxes. Proof your content, and make sure to avoid spammy words and phrases. And if you're doing well, think about how you'll maintain momentum. We're pretty pleased with a 37% open rate — and we'll continue offering the sorts of content our audience responds well to — but that doesn't mean we aren't thinking about ways to improve it as well.

Next steps: It's time to move the dial and go beyond proofing your content. Spruce up your subject line, surprise your subscribers with an unexpected format or dream up a contest. And, hey, ask them to share the email with their friends by using the send-to-a-friend feature, and thank those who do by sharing special content or a coupon.

The Clicks

The Clicks
A breakdown of the clicks across the campaign


This section shows the total number of clicks across all links, along with a link-by-link breakdown. In our example, we see 401 total clicks across 35 links (HTML and plaintext). Notice how, in the screenshot above this one, we see 255 unique clicks. Why is the number of total clicks (401) greater than the number of unique clicks (255)? Unique clicks refers to the people who clicked. In this case, 255 people clicked a combined 401 times, meaning certain recipients clicked the same link multiple times or clicked multiple links.

What to look for: Clicks tell you more than the sum of their parts. Your audience is communicating their interests to you — and their reading habits. Maybe your audience likes your video content more than your weekly wrap-up. Maybe they respond better to a call to action at the top left of the email versus the bottom. Whatever you see, pay attention and repeat what works. In our case, the marquee story, a guest post by Ilise Benun of Marketing Mentor, was the most-clicked link. It was also the story we chose to place at the top of the email.

Next steps: Use the data to guide future newsletters and content, but don't forget that those clicks come from people. Consider following up in a more personal way every now and then. Save all members who clicked on a particular link as a search group, and reach out by email, on Twitter or even by phone.


The Shares
The Shares tab shows the number of shares on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. You can click the tab to see more details.


Let's depart from the Overview tab and focus on Shares. If you enabled Social Sharing in your mailing, you'll be able to track shares to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn on this tab. Moreover, you'll be able to see how much traffic was generated from those shares. If you're not sure about Social Sharing, read more here.

What to look for: If you enabled Social Sharing, we do hope some of your recipients shared your mailing! Take a look to see which networks are most-used by your audience, and which recipients are doing the sharing — these folks are likely some of your most enthusiastic brand advocates.

Next steps: If you're not seeing as many social shares as you'd like, take some time to plan next steps. Just because the social buttons are atop your email doesn't mean your recipients know how (or why) to use them. Give them a brief tutorial in your next mailing, or design a fun giveaway or reason for participating. For example, in last year's April newsletter, we challenged our subscribers to share the Earth Day infographic we created. If we reached 100 shares (we did, thanks to our readers!), we'd plant 100 extra trees. That plan worked swimmingly, whereas this mailing didn't see the same kind of success. It's back to the drawing board for some new ideas …


Want some more inspiration? Check out Carolyn's post on making the most of response charts and our customer stories, highlighting a slew of effective email strategies. And let us know if you have any questions about your response rates — we're here to help.


New to Emma? Learn more about our features and service.

Email click-throughs aren’t as elusive as you may think

Small changes in your campaigns can increase your click-through rates

Getting clicks on your newsletter is one of the elusive goals that requires a combination of the right information at the right time to the right recipient. No sweat, right? Well, it makes sense that the percentage of people who click is usually in the single digits. According to the Email Stat Center, the average click-through rate is 5.9%. You aren't going to be able to meet everyone's need in the right stage of the purchase cycle. However, there are a few things that you can do to encourage those on the fence to go ahead and learn more.

Right off the bat, you need to know that you have very little time to engage the person who has just opened your email. Think about that person for a moment; she has just deleted 12 other emails, she's drinking her morning coffee and she is checking her day's schedule. Or maybe your recipient is wrapping up before lunch (because at least one time zone always seems to be at lunch). He is seeing your email amongst social media notifications, YouTube videos from his sister, and all he can think about is that club sandwich in his future.

All that is to say, after you spend the time perfecting the content of your email, consider that you only have two seconds to capture the attention of your subscribers. That means that you must share what you're offering in a clear, swift and appealing manner.

Here's a good test: Hand your email to a colleague who has not helped design or write it in any way, preferably one who's unfamiliar with your campaign. To be generous, give him 5 or 6 seconds with it. At the end of that time, he should be able to answer the following questions:

  1. What are you offering me?
  2. How can I get it?

You don't have to be offering a coupon for this test to be relevant. If you are offering your expertise on choosing a wine to pair with dinner, that's valuable. It just has to be clear.

The "How do I get it?" question is where you really figure out if your message is effective and actionable. Here are some tips (and some of our favorite click-related articles) for optimizing your emails.

The small changes go a long way, so give one or two a try and report back — we'd love to know which strategies work best for you.

This is part four in our holiday series where we answer email marketing questions provided by our customers. To see part one, click here. Visit part two here and part three here.


Not yet an Emma customer? Join now — your first two months are free.

Advanced email analytics with Litmus

Using Litmus and Emma to preview your email in various email clients and study engagement

Benjamin Franklin once said that the only certainties in life are death, taxes and the fact that various email programs display HTML differently. Well, he may not have been familiar with that last one. But as email marketers know, it's a truth that adds a level of difficulty to designing for email.

Thankfully, we've got tools for that kind of thing. Litmus is a program that gives marketers a firsthand look at how newsletters render across the major email programs, and it also shows which ones your recipients are using. Last month, Emma took a Litmus for different kind of test drive. We've been using the system for quite a while now, but trying some of their more advanced features this time around gave us some fascinating insights.

Let me introduce two of the Litmus features that we found useful, as well as the results from our own newsletters.

Email previews

Because of the plethora of email clients out there, making campaigns look good everywhere is an uphill battle. Emma's designers are stars at making your stationery display consistently, but once you add images and text to your campaign, you can bet that it won't look exactly the same. And don't even get me started on Outlook. To make matters more complicated, email clients span across three environments: desktop software (like Outlook and MacMail), web software (like Hotmail and Gmail) and mobile. For the purposes of this post, that's all you need to know. But if you're curious about rendering engines, which actually perform the task of displaying HTML, you can learn more here.

With a basic Litmus account, you send your email to a test Litmus address to see how your email looks on all major email clients in an instant. From there, you can browse through the clients, scroll on the mobile phones and even turn preview panes on and off to see all preference configurations. It really takes the guesswork out of it.

If you decide to go with a plus or premium account, you'll actually see what emails clients are represented in your audience, and by what percentages. With this data, you can get a sense of just how mobile your subscribers are and how much your campaigns are affected by Outlook's quirks.

Litmus allows you to preview campaigns in all major email clients.


If you're using Emma, you're already getting a good idea of your reader engagement through the response section. Litmus gives you even deeper analytics, at their plus and premium levels. The report tells you exactly how many seconds your audience spends with your emails and categorizes the whole group into "read," "skimmed" and "glanced or deleted." It's even organized by email client.

The results: Litmus in action

We used Litmus for two of Emma's newsletters, our August Roundup (a newsletter sent to our entire community) and our Agency Insider (sent to our agency partners). (To subscribe to either or both of these, go right ahead here.)

Litmus' email previews allowed us to test our campaigns before their send-offs. Then after sending, we dove into the engagement and email client details. We learned a few things along the way, including…

  • The audiences for our community-wide newsletter and agency-specific newsletter are not that different. At over 80% for each test, desktop email clients are still king. Our general community has a higher percentage of Outlook users, while our agencies prefer Mac Mail; those were the #1 and #2 email clients for both.
  • Our mobile readers, despite being a significant minority, were extremely engaged. Over half of mobile recipients fell into the "read" category, spending the most time with our emails. Maybe it simply takes longer to read and digest an email on mobile. Or, maybe folks who make time to check email on-the-go really want to receive the message.
  • Our readers are environmentally friendly. Fewer than 10 readers chose to print out the newsletter.

Pretty interesting, right? You may find that you know your audience better than you expect — perhaps your assumptions are right on the money. Or, you may find that more readers than you realize are using mobile devices and that your mobile strategy needs a tune-up.

Even if the results don't lead to major changes right away — we're pretty pleased with how Emma's data stacked up, for example — it's useful to document the data as a benchmark. Gradual changes to your reports over time will indicate an evolving audience, and it'll allow you to keep your content and formatting fresh. Got anything interesting to share about your own email testing? Please share any insights in the comments. We'd love to hear about it.

And for the record, we don't have any special relationship with Litmus — we just think it's a handy tool, so we wanted to share it with you.

Beefing up your email link tracking

Get more mileage out of your URLs with Google Analytics

We email marketers love open rates and click-through rates. They tell us the quantity of attention we've won and show us opportunities to win more, whether we're out to increase alumni engagement or to hawk Corvettes.

But what do your readers do beyond the click, when they leave your email campaign to visit your website?

Add web analytics software like Google Analytics to your email marketing campaigns, and you'll be able to see what your email subscribers end up doing on your website. It'll give you invaluable data about conversions and site traffic patterns, and it'll help you plan even better marketing campaigns. I'll walk you through it.

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Unopened emails “nudge” subscribers to action

It may come as a surprise that unopened emails can still be effective

An email can affect a recipient's actions, even if the email goes unopened.

At first glance, that seems unlikely. Isn't an unopened email akin to putting music on but not putting the headphones in your ears? Pretty much no benefit, right?

According to Dela Quist, the perception that only the opened emails affect purchasing behavior may be selling your subject lines and greater marketing efforts a bit short.

The simple effect of seeing your brand in the inbox reminds your subscribers of your existence, as well as your new product line, sale, or whatever else you mention in your subject line. That can influence people to visit your store, recommend you to a friend or even make a purchase, without ever opening your email. (Read the full article here.)

You can loosely measure this by comparing the direct success of the campaign to its indirect success. If you know the exact number of people who clicked through to make a purchase from the email, and yet you had a jump in purchases above that number, the nudge effect may have something to do with it.

Here are some recent examples from my inbox. Each of these campaigns went unopened, and yet the underlying message reached me.

Subject Lines that work for the Nudge Effect

1. Sender: Redbox
Subject line: New to Rent This Tuesday
Why it works: Even though I have a busy week coming up and I know that I won't be renting a movie, it reminds me that a fast and affordable movie night is within walking distance. I can picture where my local redbox is located, and I think back to the last movie I rented. (It was Iron Man 2. I admittedly don't rent a lot of movies.)

2. Sender: Vera Bradley
Subject line: Shop Summer Sale and ship for free (ends today!)
Why it works: I recently moved and have put a strict no-buying policy in place until I find a spot in my apartment for everything I already own. However, it has me dreaming of a new summery bag, and I make a mental note to check their site once the dust settles.

3. Sender: Amerigo (a local Italian restaurant)
Subject line: Join us on Memorial Day for a special offer!
Why it works: I see this one after Memorial Day, so I don't bother opening it. But, just hearing the name Amerigo has me thinking of their tiramisu, which is bound to get me in there soon.

4. Sender: The Limited
Subject line: Save $15 Off Every $50! 4 Days Only!
Why it works: Due to my aforementioned no-shopping policy, I don't open this one either. Before I remove temptation from my inbox, I can't help but notice the math on that deal. 30% off is a nice deal, and I appreciate that they reward their email subscribers with a discount. Positive brand experience!

5. Sender:
Subject line: Kindle with Special Offers from $114
Why it works: I'm already thinking of buying an e-reader, but I haven't committed to one yet. Though I'm not quite ready to buy, I process the decreasing price of Amazon's version. Due to the simple exposure of it, they're my most top-of-mind vendor right now.

Pretty impressive how much I'm affected by these subject lines alone, right? Still, remember that the subject line's purpose is to get your subscribers to open, not to do the email's whole job. But, if you're sending close to the deadline, on an unusual day, or just want to reach those non-opens for a change, try designing a subject line that stands on its own to remind your recipients why they buy from you.


Want to read more strategy tips for reaching your audience? Consider segmenting based upon the customer lifestyle or split testing your emails.

Comparing email results across several mailings

Part four of four to building an effective engagement strategy

And the winner is…

If you've taken our lead and done some testing recently, you may be ready to find out how different mailings stacked up against one another. We wouldn't send you on your way without providing some guidance as to what to do when the mailings are complete. Our compare mailings feature is the perfect way to find out what practices you want to keep and what should be left behind. You may discover things about your audience you never knew. Get ready to compare mailings, and find out which test is the winner. (Time to settle up on those bets, eh?)

Compare mailings

Compare your mailings to see how they performed.

What is the compare mailings feature?

The compare mailings feature, found in the response section of your account, allows you to compare up to five mailings at a time. You can see an overall summary of the mailings as well as compare the opens and clicks among the five. This is the perfect way to see which subject line your audience members preferred or perhaps which types of links got more clicks (image links vs. text links, for example). You aren't obligated to choose five mailings to compare; if you'd rather just compare a simple A/B subject test, choose the appropriate two mailings to compare.

Why compare your mailings?

Comparing your results not only allows you to see which of your tests proved more successful, but if a mailing's response rates seem particularly low, you can do some sleuthing to find out why. Maybe you're in the practice of sending on the first of every month. If the first happened to fall on a Friday and subsequently suffered particularly low results, you may realize you should always send on the first Wednesday of the month instead. It may sound simple, but the purpose of comparing results is to be proactive; use what your response rates are telling you to guide future strategy.

How to compare mailings in Emma

Emma makes comparing your mailings super simple. You are just a few clicks away from determining the winners of all the testing work you've done over the past few weeks. Click on the Compare Mailings button in the top right of your main response screen. On the next screen, check (up to five) campaigns from the list and click Compare Mailings. Or, after you've selected to view a particular campaign, you can click the Compare Mailings button to compare that particular campaign to others. The Excel spreadsheet will show you a breakdown of the campaigns you selected and a summary of all the numbers combined. Once you see the winner of the tests, you'll be able to choose which strategies to keep and what to leave behind.

Wrapping up the series on engagement

From part one of this blog series, where I wrote about triggers, to parts two and three, where I gave tips on list hygiene and new strategies for more personalized campaigns, we've covered a lot of ground.

I'd love to hear how you're thinking about engagement. What tests are you running, and how are you gauging the success of your mailings? Have you compared mailings recently, and what has it revealed? Or do you have a different set of metrics in mind that I haven't mentioned to validate your mailing success?

If you're using triggers, personalization or other strategies to boost your response, let me know in the comments below.

Variety is the spice of email

Part three of four to building an effective engagement strategy

It's time to think just a bit more about effectively targeting your most and least engaged readers. If you missed parts one and two of this series, give them a read here and here. And today, we'll talk about new things you can try to reach a level of response you'll want to write home about.

Trying something different can be a bit unnerving, require a few rounds of testing and even a little research. Why would you want to take on something that sounds like, well, a lot of work? The answer is simple. Just like your mother always taught you, "Variety is the spice of life." The same goes for email. Mixing things up may reveal new strategies that work better than the old, as well as new things about your audience's behaviors and preferences.

Creating personalized emails

Creating personalized emails means much more than merging a name into the body of your emails. While it's nice to call someone by name, why not go a step further and get specific with the content as well? Targeting members based on location, interests and even something as simple as the weather in their region is a way to connect with them on a personal level. (Check out some of Emma's advanced personalization options here.) Marketing Sherpa reports that 64% of people they surveyed were willing to share personal preferences in return for a more personalized online shopping experience. The email addresses in your audience aren't just addresses. They're real people. You wouldn't carry on the exact same conversation with every person in your audience face-to-face, so why do it in email?

rainy day campaign
Special offers brighten up a rainy day.

Experimenting with subject lines

Another variable to test with your audience members is the length of your subject line. Return Path shows that click-through rates can be 75% higher in emails that have subject lines with 49 or fewer characters versus subject lines with 50 or more. Do you have better luck with super short subject lines? Have you done some testing with vague, quirky subject lines compared to content-specific lines? Picking two distinctly different subject lines to test may provide you with surprising answers for what your audience prefers. Feel free to test your intuition regarding subject lines here.

subject comparison
Test different subject lines to find out what works for your audience.

Determining sending frequency

Your sending frequency is another great variable to test. Email Stat Center reports that 54% of people who unsubscribe from permission-based emails do so because they're receiving emails too frequently. We've also mentioned how sending too infrequently can cause problems with bounces and keeping your list current. To determine how often your audience wants to receive your campaigns, you could ask in a survey format, allow them to choose during the signup process or do some testing. Experiment with sending frequency, and compare opens, clicks and opt-out rates to gauge your audience's engagement.

What works for one person's audience may not be the same thing that gets your list actively engaged. Don't be afraid to spice it up and see how your audience responds. There is no need to settle for mediocre response rates when a spiffed-up subject line or more personalized content is all that's standing in the way of stellar response rates.

Tell us what works for you, and join me for the final installment of the series, where I'll discuss comparing mailings and checking out how your results stack up.