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3 common email marketing failures (Guest Post)

This is a guest post by a friend of mine on email marketing. Elizabeth Yin is the CEO and a co-founder of LaunchBit, an ad network for email newsletters.  Previously, she worked at startups and Google, and went to MIT for her MBA, and Stanford before that. In her spare time, she enjoys writing posts about how to improve your email newsletter (fun hobby, I know :) ). Some other great posts include Can we improve your open rate and click-through-rate?Why you should love Hotmail and Yahoo subscribers?, and Which links get the most clicks in an email newsletter?

3 common email marketing failures
by Elizabeth Yin, CEO of LaunchBit

Email marketing is one of those tricky marketing channels, where it’s tough to know what or how to improve.  So, my friends and I recently launched the Email Newsletter Report Card, which can analyze your email marketing campaigns of last year and give you an assessment of how well you’re doing.  This free tool integrates into your email marketing product and gives you grades for:

  • your open rate
  • click-through-rate
  • list growth
  • unsubscribe rate
  • spam complaint rate

… all in the form of an infographic.  You can also see how your newsletter compares to other newsletters.

I run a few email newsletters on online marketing, anime, and startups.  This is what I learned from running my own newsletters through the Email Newsletter Report Card, which may apply to you too- here’s 3 common issues:

  1. Email subscribers from bad customer acquisition channels
  2. Too many links in each email
  3. Sending emails at the wrong time

It turns out these issues are pretty easy to detect, and thus fix, which we’ll discuss below.

1) Email subscribers from bad customer acquisition channels (like Facebook!)
It turns out out that where your email subscribers come from plays a huge role in their engagement and quality. Even if your email subscribers double opt-in to the lists, you may still find that certain sources will hit “Spam” more often than others, thus endangering the spam scores of your emails.

Let me compare and contrast two newsletters- as I mentioned before, I have an email list on marketing, and another one on anime too.

My marketing newsletter has a 0% spam complaint rate across all of my campaigns of last year- here’s what my infographic looks like there:

I was surprised, because this is extremely rare.  The flip side is that I have a high unsubscribe rate.  So, it’s not that my audience loves my content — they just know not to hit the spam button.

In contrast, my newsletter called Anime Goodies shows a spam complaint rate nearly 5x the average and a much lower unsubscribe rate:

Most subscribers on the Anime Goodies newsletter came from Facebook.  And, even though these people double-opted into our lists, going forward, I’m much more cautious now of doing user acquisition for this list on Facebook.

Once your newsletters start going to spam, email clients, especially Gmail, start sending more of your emails to spam.  Furthermore, since this newsletter is on a shared IP address, once my audience starts hitting the spam button too much, my email service provider will move me to a “dirtier” IP to share with other spammers.  If I’m sharing an IP address where subscribers on other lists are hitting the spam button, my emails can be affected and go to spam even if my own audience stops hitting the spam button.  So, going to spam is a very bad cycle that I need to fix on the Anime list.

2) Too many links
If you are trying to optimize for users to click on a single call to action in your email newsletter, the best way to do this is to have fewer than five links and place the call-to-action in link #1 or #2.  Having more than 5 links actually distributes your clicks.

This is what the analysis of the # of links looks like, on the Email Newsletter Report Card:

Right now, the average number of links is 23.3 per newsletter (the tool updates the average as more newsletters use it).  As you can see, another newsletter I own, called Startup Frontier, has on 9.4 links on average, which is a lot more links than I thought it would count.  Apparently, it is really easy to unknowingly add links, so that is something I’ll be more cognizant of going forward, since I want to improve my click-through-rate on specific calls to action.

3) Sending newsletters at the wrong time
Lastly, I typically send the Anime Goodies newsletter at 7pm GMT, but I just learned that most people open the newsletter at 6pm GMT — basically a day later:

Although the best time to send your email campaigns will vary across newsletters, I now know that for this particular newsletter I can change the send-time to get my message in front subscribers sooner.

Get your own email newsletter scorecard
If you’re interested in getting your own email newsletter graded, just go here. And below is an example of what the infographic output looks like:


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