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Email marketing best practices

email marketing best practices

Email is both an important and cost-effective way to reach consumers and market your business. In today’s environment, there is so much unsolicited mail sent out daily that it is crucial to adhere to best practices in order to give your legitimate mail the best chance of being received and, more importantly, read.

Ultimately, you want the reader to engage with your email in order to build a relationship with your company but this is not possible if your emails are deleted the second they land in the inbox.

Adhering to email best practices will reduce the likelihood that your marketing emails will be reported for spam. This is vitally important. Emails being marked as spam could damage your company’s reputation, your domain could be blacklisted, and you could even be suspended by your internet service provider.

You want to stand out from the traditional spam-orientated ‘blanket marketing’ that you probably receive (and ignore) on a daily basis.

When sending an email to a targeted audience, you might assume that once you’ve hit the send button, your email is guaranteed to reach the inbox of everyone on your mailing list. However, poorly constructed emails may not reach a selection of the recipients due to things like subject line, links, attachments and content.

There are some rules regarding subject lines and content that should be followed in order to minimise the risk of this occurring. These rules will help you to avoid your emails being marked as spam either by the recipient directly, or by any active anti-spam software.

Subject line

Subject lines are the first part of an email a recipient will see when opening their inbox. This is the first chance you have to gain their attention.

  • There are certain words that, if used within your subject line, will increase the chances of your email being picked up by a spam filter. These include words such as ‘free’, ‘success’, ‘hello’, ‘call’ and ‘apply online’ among others.
  • Personalise the subject line wherever possible by doing things such as including the recipient’s name or city if this would be relevant to your email content. This can increase your chances of the email being received and read.
  • Keep the subject line short and to a maximum of 50 characters. A longer subject line can increase the chances of the email being marked as unsolicited and placed in a junk/spam folder never to be seen again.
  • Do not re-use subject lines as the recipient is likely to ignore any further emails using a subject line you have used previously. If they ignored the first few emails, they are unlikely to read and act on the umpteenth copy of exactly the same thing.

Email content

Email content includes the text, pictures and attachments you are sending in your mail. It is the main part of an email and contains the subject matter and messages that you are trying to get across to your customer base.

  • Try not to make the text in the email too long. As well as increasing the risk of the email being marked as spam, a longer email may cause your reader to lose interest. If you want to provide them with more detail, add a link to a detailed web page within the email.
  • Do not add long URLs. Long URLs are frequently used when phishing, and as such spam filter software may block your emails if they contain long links.
  • Check any links you include actually work. Broken URLs sent in an email will look unprofessional and could mean any future emails you send are ignored by the recipient.
  • Do not use JavaScript or Flash within your emails. This is very likely to be marked as harmful, and most email clients strip this out of the mail anyway.
  • Using simple HTML within your emails is fine and can be a good way of creating an email to catch the attention of the recipient.
  • When formatting your email try not to use glaring colours and oversized fonts or overuse symbols and external links. You don’t want to appear aggressive or pushy.
  • Avoid sending attachments as .exe or .zip files.

Best practices

Use your company’s domain to send mail and be sure to authenticate your messages by adding an SPF (Sender Policy Framework) record. This will help show that the mail is from a verifiable source and legitimate. If your domain name is held with Fasthosts you can do this directly via your Fasthosts control panel. For more information on SPF, visit the support site.

  • Make sure your company logo is clearly visible and that you clarify exactly what you are promoting. This will improve your click through and read rates.
  • Consider using a ‘from’ label, to make the email seem more friendly and professional. For example, ‘Blogs at Fasthosts’ from ‘blogs@fasthosts.co.uk’.
  • Only send to confirmed opt-in (COI) mailing lists. These are where the recipient has given authorisation to receive mail newsletters and advertising. This is usually done via a verification email that contains a link to click or asks them to send a reply to confirm that they wish to receive marketing emails.
  • Include your mailing address and contact information within your emails. Having legitimate details available for recipients for alternative methods of contact will improve your image and ensure that you are as easy as possible to contact.
  • Monitor any email bounce-backs that you may receive and act upon them. If you receive any bounce-backs you should immediately remove the email address from your mailing list to prevent spam reporting and wasted effort.
  • Include a working and tested unsubscribe link within the email and refrain from using purchased mailing lists where you have no guarantee regarding the quality of the data and whether the parties listed have opted into such communications.
  • It is also a good idea to send a test email to yourself before sending the email to your customer base. This way you can see how the email appears from within various browsers, and spot any bugs before the email goes out.
  • Ensure that the unsubscribed addresses are removed in a timely fashion and the mailing list is kept up to date. If this takes too long and the recipient receives further mail following unsubscribing then they are likely to report you as a spammer, not realising that the removal is in hand.
  • Provide links to any of your social media accounts, blogs and websites that relate to your company as again this will help to improve the impression of your company.

To summarise, the best practices of sending marketing email is to put in the effort to reassure the reader you are genuine and a good company to work with. Badly designed, poorly worded or buggy/broken emails will be deleted, sent to junk or reported. Emails that are clear, concise and appear to come from a reputable source are more likely to be read and received, delivering the message to your target audience.

Visit the Fasthosts website for a business-class email hosting solution.


James Norman's picture

James Norman

Content Editor James is a writer and content editor for Fasthosts. He contributes articles on upcoming trends in web hosting and technology to the Fasthosts blog.