7 acid tests for healthy email marketing campaigns

Fresh from the lab, the dotDoctor offers some fiendishly good advice on how to test for success...

When an email marketer contacts my surgery with concerns about the performance of their email campaigns, we both know it's time to run some tests.

Testing different elements and content is the surest way to improve the metrics of your campaigns. 

But where should you start when it comes to testing? Follow my 7 acid tests to ensure your email campaigns are performing to their maximum potential.

Test 1. The subject line

Your subject lines are fundamental to your campaign open rates. They’re like the headline of your story and should work hard to compel the recipient to open the email and read your full message.  


There are important guidelines and rules to follow for composing powerful subject lines, but the only way to ensure you are using the most effect subjects is to split test different variations.


Your subject line testing shouldn’t be a one off. What works in one month may not work in 3 months time, so you need to test for each campaign and on an ongoing basis.

Test 2. Your calls to action

The call to action is the component of an email that propels the recipient towards a conversion point, usually via a click-through.  It’s the bit that gets them to do something next, rather than simply reading your email then closing it.


But which call to action works best for your recipients and for your business?  Test different wording, offers, propositions, closing dates, images etc by split testing the content in your campaigns. And don’t forget to experiment with different positions for your calls to action, and graphic versus text links.


Remember, click-throughs allow you to track and follow-up individuals who engaged with your campaign by clicking through to your landing page. You may choose to follow these contacts up with a triggered email campaign, a mail shot or a phone call.


Remember too that a compelling call to action may be a freephone number for the recipient to call right away, so don’t be afraid to include and test off-line calls to action.

Test 3. Images

The extent to which you should use images in your email will be dependent very much on what you are offering and who you are offering it to.


If your recipients are likely to have images turned off as standard then there is an argument for using images sparingly in your messages. However, if lots of your recipients have added you to their safe senders list, then you could get better results by increasing the number of images in your message. The only way to know for sure is to test. Don’t forget to segment your database depending on what you find out so you can send different content to different groups, going forward.

Test 4. Friendly 'sent from’ name

The ‘sent from’ name is another crucial element that can have a big effect on the open rates of your campaigns.


Is it better to use your business or brand name as the 'friendly from’ name or does an individual’s names - maybe your MD for example - work better? A known contact’s name as the friendly ‘from’ name can be particularly successful for B2B senders.

Test 5. Personalisation

Personalisation can have a significant impact on the metrics of an email campaign, providing it is done carefully and done well. At worst, personalisation can look half-hearted or even spammy. Test using different forms of personalisation and dynamic content to see what effect it has on your open and click through rates.


Don’t just change the odd word or piece of copy, change elements of the creative as well, and make sure you use default content where there is no variable data available.

Test 6. Your landing page

What happens when your recipients click through from your email to your landing page? Do they go on to convert (e.g. submit an enquiry form, purchase a product, download a whitepaper, give you their details) or does the page you are landing them on lead them to a dead end? Does landing them on your homepage convert them to a sale more effectively than clicking them through to a product page or a dedicated campaign landing page? Does personalising your landing page improve conversion rates? Test and optimise this element of your campaign and you can send the ROI of your email marketing through the roof!

Test 7. Time to send

How much of an impact do the day and/or time you send your campaigns have on open rates and conversions?


The answer of course is to test it. Very generally speaking, B2B emails work better sent during business hours, whereas high street stores may want to send an email on a Friday to tempt buyers to visit their store the following day.


If you’ve been sending regular email campaigns for some time, you’ve probably already done some of your testing! Pull your historical campaign reporting and look at patterns in sending times/days and response metrics.

How do you measure success?

This depends on what you are aiming to achieve with your email campaign. If you’re primarily spreading awareness or a branding message or running a teaser and you have no direct call to action, then your open rate stats could be your measure of success, i.e. what percentage of those who received the email, opened it.


If (as is more likely) you are driving traffic to your website or landing pages using links from your email, then you might choose to measure the ‘click to open’ rate of your split test, i.e. what percentage of those who opened the email, went on to click through.


If your email campaign has a final goal, e.g. to drive recipients to buy a product online, or to register for something on your website, or complete a Contact Me form, then you might want to look deeper at the conversion rate of the split tests.


Any of these measurements have their value – your choice depends how much detail you want to measure on and how much time you realistically have to invest in testing.

How to speed the process and automate your split testing

Your email service provider should be able to automate your split testing requirements. dotMailer Enterprise enables automated subject line, content and ‘friendly from’ split testing.

Our email marketing experts are always on hand to answer all email marketing questions.

Call us on 0845 337 9170. Plus, any questions you have on email can be asked and answered in our dotMailer community. Take me to the forums.