Best practice: content

In order for recipients to do what you want them to do with your email marketing, they need to be interested or at least inclined to let you convince them. This means the email and its content need to be relevant to them and relative to the rapport they have with you.

If someone signs up to your newsletter about shoes they expect emails about shoes. If you then add them to an additional list and start also emailing them about Crocodiles, you would be legally allowed to – only just – with the soft opt-in rule, but they are unlikely to be inclined to engage, unless you can prove relevance very quickly. In fact you are more likely to lose subscribers who would not be happy that you abused their trust in your brand.

Best practice content tip: make the content relevant to the recipient requirements and expectations.


To ensure everyone can see and interact with your email the way you want them to, you will need to test, test, test the rendering in each email client that your recipients could possibly view your emails in. Obviously the main one is Outlook and then there are the big 4 web clients: Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail & AOL (respectively) as well as mobile clients like iPhone, Blackberry and Android.

Many ESPs have built in Inbox Preview tools, some of them have integrated with established third party apps like Litmus. Litmus is also available as a stand alone app as well as Email on Acid and Return Path’s inbox monitor tools.


In this digital era we are in, powered by caffeine, smart phones and social media; attention spans are tiny. Creative best practice is to make sure people can engage with your email as soon as possible.

Different people have different levels of attention span and you have to cater for them all, so break your thinking down into 3 sections:

  1. Preview Pane no images
  2. Preview Pane with images
  3. Full email

When the email gets there, there is a good chance that the email will be viewed in the preview pane with the images blocked; ask yourself 2 questions:

  1. Can the recipient know what the email is about and be inclined to engage?
    If it is all images and no text people will have to make the effort to load the images, if their rapport with you is poor they may just skip to the next email and get on with their life, safe in the knowledge that they don’t care what they missed.
  2.  Can the recipient convert from there?
    If you have one main call to action you want them to perform will they need the images loaded in order to know what it is you want them to do, let alone actually do it, if the answer is yes you are missing a trick.

The key to this is trust earning text in the preheader and getting more text in the top third of the email. When people open the email they will see your preheader text telling them who’s emailing them and why, you then present them with a link to click to view in a browser and why not ask for them to add you to their address book and/or safe list.

If you have a big banner image with text in that is the linked call to action (CTA) make the text actual text then they can convert without having to do anything.

Ensure the opportunity to convert is always available:

  • If people are converted from the subject line, put an easy text link within your preheader text
  • For people who are not converted but intrigued, make sure there is enough text in the preview pane view to allow them to find out more and then click, without loading the images
  • For people who really need convincing sell the loading of the images or view in a browser link in the preheader as a secondary call to action. This way anyone who does not convert straight away will be inclined to see your email in its full glory and your own creative expertise can do its job.

Best practice tip for preheaders: Make sure you have one, make sure people can convert, sell the image load or browser view.


When writing for the web you again have to remember the short attention span. The marketing email you send them is not expected to be a book or even an essay, it is a short message normally updating someone on a bit of information or selling something. When writing emails it is even less because you want them to click through to this content.

Best practice tip for email copy writing: Keep it short and sweet, easily understandable, keep to the point and get the click through.

I hope you found this useful. In my final best practice blog I will look at tips for optimisation. You can also look out for my email best practice guide which is coming soon.

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