510,435 emails with 42.16% average open rate. Here’s what I’ve learned!

Email has been our main business since May 2018. And if you asked me 1 year ago if I would be sending emails, let alone half a million of them, I would say “Most certainly not!”. But I and the others in The WTAFF Crew did exactly that.

So, from for 500k+ emails, I learned a thing or two about how to create and send stuff people open. The >42% average open rate is not too shabby, is it?

Here are my simple tips for improving delivery of your email. These apply universally, regardless of what you are sending. From newsletters to updates to promotional campaigns. Let’s get to it!

1. Ask your subscribers to add you to their inbox/contacts/VIP list.

Sure, not everyone will do it and that’s fine. But you should certainly ask people nicely to do it.

Let’s take Gmail as an example. You get a certain reputation with the inbox based on what you send now. Future subscribers will also be affected by this average. If your email hits the inbox for most of your existing subscribers, Gmail’s default will be the inbox for anyone new.

Not quite so straightforward, some personalization based on each account exists. But the way most current subscribers treat your email is basically how Gmail thinks anyone new will treat it.

Get that positive engagement early on!

2. Authenticate your domain.

DKIM, DMARC, SPF. I still don’t understand them well enough to explain them each individually. Just google how to set them up if they aren’t. Your email service provider probably has a pretty detailed tutorial for this. It takes 10 minutes to copy/paste some info.

3. Get people to reply to your email.

Pretty self-explanatory, right? But it matters so much! One big engagement factor is whether or not readers reply to the email, whether or not they have a conversation with your sending address.

Although we haven’t tested it properly, it makes me think about sending newsletters from a personal email you use for another purpose too. You don’t have to, but it’s an idea.

Generally, it’s enough to get 2-3 replies per day from your list to feel the positive effects.

4. Don’t get your message clipped in Gmail.

Oh. My. Gosh! This was one of the most annoying things ever. First off, it’s not obvious that when Gmail clips emails they are extremely more likely to go into another tab, like Promotions or Spam.

Secondly, you have to google a bit about what actually causes the clipping. The short story is that when you use visual editors offered by ESPs, you’re likely putting in an extreme amount of extra HTML. And Gmail clips emails that have a message size larger than 102KB.

In other words, you’re wasting limited email size on useless HTML. This also restricts how much and what sort of content you can put in your emails. Sucks on all levels.

You should write a proper template from scratch (and face other challenges while doing it) or restrict the separators, spacers and images you use with your visual editor. Those are what waste the most HTML from my experience.

Here’s what we’re doing now, half a million emails later.

1. We test our emails with Glockapps every single time.

We’ve learned what inboxes matter and a bit about what each of them prefers. Gmail, the biggest player, looks at overall engagement, Apple the second biggest seems easy to solve. The 3rd biggest is Outlook and it’s less transparent and more of a pain to deal with.

We generally have 85-95% score with Glockapps, one time we went to 99%. Never had 100% though.

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Keep in mind they give you a “pass” for not hitting Spam. You won’t be able to hit the Inbox on all, especially the smaller providers that don’t get much data. But well, they also are not likely to be in your list.

2. Re-wrote our email template from scratch.

Writing code for email is not the same as writing for a website. Responsive is not enough. I’d say you have to think “mobile ready” because some coders make responsive email templates that just shrink so much you can’t read the text on the phone. You don’t want to do that.

You actually have to slightly increase your regular text size when the screen is smaller. Who would’ve thought, right?

Aside from that, different inboxes process your code differently. For example, if Gmail detects some invalid CSS for itself, it will ignore all the <style> </style> block. So you have to include client-specific queries in their own blocks. I could write a whole other article just on how to build a mobile-ready email template… That’s for another time!

3. We have conversations with our readers.

We get replies to our newsletters on a regular basis. We always reply and make a small conversation… Because it helps us better understand what our readers want but also because it helps our engagement for future deliveries.

Oh, and because this is likely to be a question that comes up. There’s not much in the way of “the best ESP”. Most ESPs out there can’t do anything magical if you screw up the things I mentioned above.

If you’re curious though, we’ve used Active Campaign and recently switched to Campaign Monitor.

It’s been an interesting journey to learn about email in most of 2018. It made me realize just how much potential there is. People still open emails. You just have to create interesting content that they really want to read and then apply these simple tips.

Let’s see what I learn in the next 6 months when we’ll probably be sending >750k emails. If you want to be part of the people reading those emails, check out WHAT THE AFF right here.

It’s a free daily briefing sent from Monday to Friday with the latest news, trends, tech and actionable advice for all digital marketers: affiliates, e-commerce entrepreneurs, media buyers, etc.

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Emanuel Cinca, aka Manu

My story starts in Lipova, Romania, a town of about 10,000 inhabitants, where I was born in a working class family. Growing up in a family that had a shaky financial base and relied solely on month to month wages, and sometimes on short term loans from friends, I knew that I a) didn’t want to get a regular job EVER, and b) I want to have true financial independence.

Fast forward to my high school days, I got admitted into the number one high school of Arad county, “Moise Nicoara” National College. Don’t ask me why they call it a college, that’s just the translation from Romanian. I had a passion for technology and computers, so it seemed natural that I wanted to get into the so called informatics class.

The 4 years here taught me that:

1. Where you come from has little to no impact on your ability to learn, your skills and their value

2. Being number one high school is overrated

3. In the standard educational system, you are not allowed to excel at something, until you have proven to be above average at everything else.

4. Grades are an extremely flawed measurement of someone’s skills

5. I know myself better than anyone else, so I should make my decisions, not anyone else, and I should be OK with the consequences.

These learnings will be reflected in some of my posts here.

After high school, I quit University after 2 months in… TWICE! One time I quit Computers and Information Technology, and the second time I quit Business Administration.

During these years I also developed a passion for poker. I was a content producer at the world’s biggest online poker school for 2 years, and I wrote a book with a Maths professor from Nottingham and TT, who also blogs here. The book is called The Education of a Modern Poker Player.

I moved to Vienna in 2013, at TT’s initiative, and had several failed ventures together, all leading up to what is now Adefy.

I have a keen interest in psychology and in data, which makes performance marketing such a great industry for me. I blog about these topics, sometimes adding education, personal development, and management to the mix.

Interested in: Psychology. Marketing. Management. Investing. Startups. Entrepreneurship.

Hobbies: Reading. Fitness. Football. Travelling.

Connect with me:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/emanuelcinca

Twitter: https://twitter.com/manu_adefy

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/emanuel.cinca.35

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