Today's email subscriber is thirsting for a value-packed and personalized experience. Companies that are creating such experiences are earning more Web traffic, signups, and referrals than the ones that still think a "batch and blast" mentality is the way to go.

And although there are many ways to measure and improve the ability of your email program to deliver the goods, generating clicks and Web traffic from your emails is a primary indicator of what's of value to your subscribers. It's a simple premise: If your content rocks, you build trust and get clicks.

If, however, your emails are so dry inside that they'd prick your subscribers' fingers if they were to tap on one of the links, you need to change something.

So how can you begin to optimize your newsletters and your lead nurturing, event, and other emails for more clicks? Start in any of the following four areas.

Download my "Take 10" MarketingProfs presentation on how to increase click-throughs in your emailsfree to MarketingProfs PRO Members, and only $10 otherwise. You'll learn how to create a testing process for each type of email campaign, and get six different testing ideas to try for yourself. Get the Take 10 materials here.

1. Match your email design to the user experience

In many cases, email is the initial touchpoint for a campaign. It sets the expectation for the rest of the user experience once one of the links is clicked. And if the design of the campaign in the subsequent stages doesn't match the initial experience, you lose trust from that point on—and you lose conversions.

For example, if your email is mobile-optimized but the landing page or registration form would be best visited via laptop or desktop, then all the elegance and user experience brownie points you earned with your mobile-optimized email are flushed down the toilet.

For the purposes of optimizing your click-through rate, the best thing you can do for your email campaign is to have seamless mobile and desktop experiences, from your email all the way through whatever final step you want your subscriber to take.

If there is a disconnect in either the mobile or desktop experience, then there are two things you can do:

  • First, take a hard look at factors such as device usage by time of day, then try to create subscriber segments around that data. Send your campaigns to those segments at times when you know the experience will be optimal for them.
  • Second, consider using friction-mitigating copy or visuals to guide your subscriber toward the best environment for the experience. Typically, you'll need to do so for any campaign that involves a form (registration, shopping cart, download, survey).

    When the primary objective is for the subscriber to fill out a form, and the form is mobile-optimized, your email design could include a smartphone icon, or a graphic of someone holding a smartphone, in close proximity to your call to action. If your form isn't mobile-optimized, then consider a midday sending time, visuals that have a laptop or office setting, or even a non-mobile-friendly email design.

(Learn about other examples of experience-driven email design.)

2. Vary your call to action by segment

There are some people who will open every one of your emails, click on every one of your links, register for every webinar, and read every whitepaper. You are clearly very valuable to that segment of your subscribers, and you know they don't need persuasive copy or call to action buttons to help you achieve your email campaign's objective.

If you create a segment of top engagers (or brand champions) from those people, try mixing up your call to action to ask for something other than a click (for example, asking them to tell their followers in social networks to attend your conference). Doing so wouldn't actually help your click-through rate, but it could lift your visibility in networks where these brand champions may have more reach than you have.

Another way to change your call to action by segment is to look at past participation in different types of content. For example, people who have attended webinars are likely predisposed to doing so in the future, so send them the webinar invitation emails. Send the recap email to a different segment of people, such as those who signed up to your newsletter and have visited pages on your website that share a similar topic to the webinar (your marketing automation software should be able to tell you this). In both cases here, the link your call to action points to is familiar to the subscribers, so there is a higher likelihood that they'll click through.

3. Use your community

There's a ton of user-generated content that your company can make use of in its email campaigns.

Highlighting members of your email audience by using their content within your email campaigns does a few valuable things. Most notably it's a form of social proof and builds brand advocacy: The subscriber sees that other people are talking about your company, and that could encourage the subscriber to do the same in the hopes of also getting a shout-out.

And I'm willing to bet that if you're the one being highlighted, you'll be sharing the news and mentioning the company to your entire network.

Tip: Remember that not everybody will love the spotlight, so reserve the shout-outs for those subscribers with whom you have a good relationship. It's simply best to reach out ahead of time and ask if it's OK to highlight the person's question, article, tweet, etc. in your next email. I mean, it's pretty easy to do: You already have their email address!

How does this increase click-throughs? You can pair a strong call to action with a community member's testimonial or positive tweet, to add an element of social proof to a registration campaign.

If you're segmenting to brand advocates, this approach can work particularly well. Your brand advocates will want to get in on the action and be highlighted the next time you send out an email campaign, in turn providing you with opportunities to share "testimonials" that drive clicks.

4. Write better calls to action

The best call to action finishes the sentence, "I want you to..."

I want you to Register for the webinar.

I want you to Download the whitepaper.

I want you to Continue reading...

That works well, right? Within this call-to-action framework, you can experiment with button placement, buttons vs. clickable text, the use of both a button and a second instance of the link as clickable text (which I recommend doing), and, of course, specific verbiage for your call-to-action phrase.

* * *

Combining some or all of these four optimizations could lift your click-through rates even more. Just remember to test only one thing at a time. Which will you try first?

Enter your email address to continue reading

Four Email Optimizations That Will Increase Your Click-Through Rates

Don't's free!

Already a member? Sign in now.

Sign in with your preferred account, below.

Did you like this article?
Know someone who would enjoy it too? Share with your friends, free of charge, no sign up required! Simply share this link, and they will get instant access…
  • Copy Link

  • Email

  • Twitter

  • Facebook

  • Pinterest

  • Linkedin


image of Stephan Hovnanian

Stephan Hovnanian is a content solutions architect at Bambu, an advocacy platform by Sprout Social. He has spent most of his professional career as an email marketer and business owner focused on helping companies build stronger relationships with their audiences.

Twitter: @stephanhov

LinkedIn: Stephan Hovnanian