30 Email Marketing Best Practices and Tips for 2023
Get your email program in tip-top shape for 2023 with our updated email best practices guide.
Why Email Marketing?
Email marketing serves as a primary component of customer acquisition programs for companies across all industries.
But if you’re responsible for maintaining the day-to-day details of your company’s email marketing program, you may feel like there are so many elements to keep track of to get your email program just right.
To help, we’ve compiled our top tips to empower and inspire you to create your best email marketing campaigns yet. Here’s what you’ll learn:
- The most important email marketing best practices in 2023
- The latest email marketing tips and tricks for reaching the inbox
- The best practices for crafting beautifully designed, engaging email marketing campaigns
- The best way to access updated email marketing guides and resources for specific topics
Strategy and Preparation
Email Marketing Strategy and Preparation
1. Get to know your audience
A deep understanding of your recipient audience is one of the most important aspects to take stock of before you start emailing them. Your audience is more than just a demographic group. Ask yourself and try to address the following questions in as granular detail as possible:
- How and when do they prefer communication?
- Is there a specific vernacular, or slang even, that might resonate with them more than others?
- What types of actions or activities distinguish your audience from the general population?
The truth is, you’re unlikely to address these questions completely the first time around. But the beauty of email marketing is that, over time, you’ll amass critical insights and data about your recipients to make informed changes to your program.
2. Experiment to see what resonates
It’s important to A/B test every part of your email, from subject lines to your calls to action (CTAs). Some tips to keep in mind during your tests are:
- Test only one element at a time (otherwise, your results will be inconclusive)
- Make sure you have a significant sample size in your testing
- Move onto the next test once you find a winning element
Remember, your product changes, as do your recipients, so a good email marketer is never done testing. For more tips, check out our A/B testing guide.
3. Follow a pre-send checklist
Set yourself up for success on your next email campaign by creating a checklist of all the important steps you need to consider before pressing Send. We’ve compiled a simple checklist that you can reference, but be sure to add items tailored to your program for a seamless sending experience every time.
One of the most important steps is to test your email before sending, which gives you a chance to identify any rendering issues, typos, broken links, and potentially spammy elements. If your recipients can’t see or read your email, they can’t engage, which can have lasting consequences, especially on your sender reputation. Learn more about email testing.
4. Choose meaningful metrics to track and measure
Open rate, click-through rate, click-to-open rate. So many metrics. Take a breath. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
To determine which metrics you should monitor, first determine the purpose of your email. For example:
- If you want recipients to read an important update to your terms of service (and the content is in the body of your email), provide a compelling and urgent subject line and measure your open rate.
- If you want to extend an offer or discount, click-through rate (and subsequent visits and conversions from your offer) is your main metric to watch.
5. Personalize your emails
Personalization isn’t new for 2023, but it keeps picking up steam, becoming increasingly important for email programs. Batch-and-blast emails just aren’t going to cut it or result in high conversion and engagement rates.
To personalize your emails, you must first consider what user data you have. We partnered with Segment to show you all the cool ways you can use data to enhance customer experiences—download 15 Ways to Use Data to Engage Your Customers to see how!
If you have a highly engaged portion of your email list, personalize content for that user behavior. And for those who rarely open your emails, customize content through a reengagement email campaign.
6. Have a plan for the holidays
It’s the jolliest—and, unfortunately, spammiest—time of the year. Subscribers already expect increased promotions and deals leading up to the holiday season, but it’s still important to remain mindful and courteous about your sending to avoid overwhelming your users.
Our delivery experts recommend modifying your preference centers during the holiday season to include a check box that asks your subscribers if they’d like to opt into holiday email communications. This properly sets expectations with your recipients while helping you tailor your holiday email content.
For other holiday email hacks, read our blog post on Holiday Email Marketing Best Practices. Take our quiz below to see if you’re ready to send for the upcoming holiday season!
7. Focus on quality over frequency (always)
Email marketing can be a powerful tool for digital communication, but that doesn’t mean that ramping up your email frequency will make your message more effective.
In fact, sending too many emails to your recipients will likely achieve the opposite result. Recipients may unsubscribe if they feel overwhelmed by your communications, or worse, they may even decide to mark your email as spam.
Start slow and test how your audience responds to your email sending frequency. Learn more about fighting email fatigue.
8. Nail your timing
Figuring out the perfect time to send your email is a hot topic. And while we don’t have the silver bullet answer for you, we do have some advice and insight.
Based on our tests, we found that our Twilio SendGrid marketing emails sent on Tuesdays get better engagement from recipients. Test sending emails on Tuesdays to see if this works for your program.
Also, consider sending your emails at “off” times and not at the top of the hour. For example, send your newsletters at 10:07 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. Sending at the top of the hour increases the chance that your emails will be delayed and won’t reach your recipient when you originally intended.
9. Reward your VIPs
Your VIP recipients are your biggest brand ambassadors. Subscribers who always open and click (and maybe even share) your email deserve a little extra appreciation for their loyalty and engagement. Plus, you can glean valuable information from your VIPs.
Have a new email template or CTA you’d like to try out? It’s a good idea to start with your VIP recipients first. Survey your VIPs to see how you can improve your email program (or understand what you do right), and be sure to reward them with special offers and discounts. Reward and retain your VIPs, and you’ll both notice the benefits.
10. Review your landing pages
Designing and writing copy for your email campaigns will require a good chunk of your time. But you also need to consider where you send your recipients through links and buttons.
Send your recipients to landing pages that make sense based on your goals and email copy. You want the experience to be seamless for the recipient. For example, if you want to direct them to a certain product, send them to the landing page for that specific product, not your homepage or product line page.
11. Let AI do the heavy lifting
You may be thinking that many of the tips on this list are time-consuming and complicated to execute. But with the right artificial intelligence (AI) tools, you can streamline processes and get actionable data insights with little work on your end.
For example, you can leverage AI to analyze your customer data to personalize your emails. AI can also tell you when audiences are most likely to open your emails, which subject lines perform best, and much more.
Read more about how AI can help you improve your email campaigns.
Your Email List
Your Email List
12. Build your email list
Whether you started from scratch or inherited a list of email addresses, it’s essential to verify that every name on the list was added organically and by the individual’s own choice and consent.
Immediately remove any rented or purchased email addresses from your email list. Otherwise, you’ll experience low engagement (a lot of purchased emails aren’t even real people) and risk getting blocklisted by the major internet service providers (ISPs) (like Gmail and Yahoo!). Your email service provider (ESP) could even shut down your accounts.
Getting recipients organically may not be the fastest way to build a large email list. But it is the only way to curate an engaged recipient base—and one that’ll keep your email delivery rates as high as possible.
13. Segment your email list
Email marketing (much like direct marketing) used to be more of a batch-and-blast communication—everyone gets the same message at the same time. These days, you’ll experience higher engagement if you cater your messages to specific characteristics that you know about your customers.
You could segment your email streams according to factors such as:
- What did they purchase lately?
- Where do they live?
- What time do they typically open your other emails (e.g., transactional emails)?
Already have some audience segments set up? Get even more granular with microsegmentation. The more you cater your messages to your subscribers’ tastes, interests, activities, etc., the more likely these messages are to resonate with your recipients.
Check out our Essential Guide to Email Segmentation to perfect your process.
14. Don’t take unsubscribes personally
At some point in your email campaigns, some recipients may not want to receive emails from you anymore—even if they once opted into them. That’s OK (and a natural part of the email lifecycle), as long as you have a simple unsubscribe system in place for these users. The ability to unsubscribe from your email program should be easy for recipients to access, available in one click, and instantaneous.
No matter what, don’t require your users to log into any sort of account to unsubscribe from emails. Remember, if users can’t find the unsubscribe button, they can (and will!) find the spam button.
15. Clean your list regularly
Although some people will take the time to unsubscribe if they aren’t interested in opening your emails, many will just ignore your emails indefinitely. This can harm your delivery rates and signal ISPs that you may be sending unwanted emails.
To address this issue, carve out some time each quarter to remove unengaged subscribers from your email list. If they haven’t opened your emails in a couple of months, you can safely remove them.
For a deeper dive into how to effectively remove unengaged recipients, check out Email List Hygiene: 5 Tips to Keep Your List Clean.
Email Marketing Design and Content Best Practices
16. Keep your email design consistent and on-brand
Whether you use a template, hire a designer (keep in mind not all designers are email designers), or have a developer on your team to code your emails, your email design should align with your overall brand found on your website.
You don’t want your recipients to open your message and have no idea who sent it.
Clicking through from an email to your website should also be a fluid experience. Your recipients should know exactly how and where they can take the next step. Design your templates with this in mind.
Here are a few of our top email marketing design best practices—use this as a checklist before sending any campaign:
- Colors align with the brand
- Logo appears at the top (and links back to the website)
- Anchor link text is short and indicative of the URL destination
- Footer includes relevant company details and unsubscribe links
- Text and images strike a good balance
If you need help coming up with a quality email design, check out our free template gallery.
17. Write a subject line your recipients can’t ignore
All editorial components of an email are important. But your subject line is generally where your recipients decide whether they’ll open your email or continue to scroll through their overcrowded inbox.
Try to keep your subject line on the shorter side (3–5) words. Consider writing your subject line after you write the other components of your email to help you decide what angle you’d like to take. This also ensures you focus on the most newsworthy portion of your email up front. Finally, provide a clear sense of urgency or action that your recipient can take—to drive conversions.
18. Write clear, friendly, and engaging email copy
Whether you dread or look forward to writing email copy, there are a few high-level pointers that will help you craft engaging copy efficiently and consistently.
These are the steps to get started:
Determine brand voice
Take a step back and ensure that you (and all stakeholders) work from a strong foundation and understanding of your brand’s voice. As a bonus, this agreement will help guide you as you craft copy across various campaigns beyond email.
Write a conversation, not a brochure
The best way to connect with your audience is to write to them on a conversational level. Imagine you're at the bar with your audience and write to them how you would speak in person.
Break up the pieces
Each email copy component serves a specific purpose (ultimately, to persuade the reader to continue reading to the next copy element). As you start to plan your email copy, consider how all the pieces, from your subject line to your CTA, fit together.
Your brand voice is a lot like your email sender reputation. Once it goes, it's hard to get back. But with practice, using your brand voice gets easier.
The first edit should review how the pieces work together and whether the email is persuasive, warm, and engaging. This is a great time to ensure that pieces like the subject line still fit with the entire email.
Although you don't want to make any drastic changes to your voice and tone, measure your copywriting performance by conducting small A/B tests (e.g., second vs. third person) and using the winning results in your future emails.
For a deeper dive into email copywriting best practices, check out Awesome Email Copywriting: A How-To.
19. Incorporate multimedia elements
Eye-catching multimedia elements can make all the difference when it comes to engaging your email recipients. This can be as simple as using a GIF to convey the emotion behind your message or showcase a range of products.
In the example below, Boden uses a GIF to keep this promotional email short and sweet while showing multiple swimwear products and conveying a fun summer atmosphere. Learn how to incorporate GIFs into your emails.
Depending on the content of your email, you could also test interactive polls, rollover effects on images, or even embed surveys into the email.
20. Amplify your customers’ voices
People trust recommendations from other people, which makes user-generated content a powerful marketing tool. Did you get some great customer feedback? Were you tagged in some awesome photos of customers using your product? Use these in your marketing emails!
Show your recipients what real-life customers have to say about your business to create a sense of trust and improve conversions. Read all about user-generated content, how to get it, and the best ways to use it.
21. Stop using no-reply From names
Curious about what to put as your From name? At the very least, remove the no-reply response (e.g., “firstname.lastname@example.org”) because sending an email with a no-reply stifles the impression of having a 1:1 conversation in your email messaging. Also, it’s just generally unfriendly.
Instead, you may want to use a personal name or the company name. But the only way to know for sure what will work best is to A/B test to see what sender name generates the most opens.
22. Send a stellar welcome email
It may seem obvious, but give your new subscribers a warm welcome. Welcome emails allow you to say hello, re-introduce yourself, and set expectations for what kind of email you’ll send to your recipients and how often.
Welcome emails also provide the perfect opportunity to send subscribers to your preference center, so they can adjust the frequency and type of email they want to receive from you. Getting started on the right note can make a world of a difference in keeping your subscribers happy.
Take the following quiz before you send your first welcome email series:
Email Deliverability Tips
Email Marketing Tips for Delivery
23. Use double opt-in
How do your recipients get onto your email list? There are several ways to do this, including single opt-in, double opt-in, and pre-confirmed opt-in, to name a few. We highly recommend that you use a double opt-in method that requires recipients to click a box on your sign-up page and follow a link in your email that confirms that they meant to do that in the first place.
Read about all the types of opt-in and how to choose the right one.
24. Send at a consistent cadence
Consistent sending volumes are crucial for maintaining a good reputation with ISPs. Sending 100 emails on Monday and 100,000 on Tuesday gives mixed signals. Was that 100,000-email campaign just a massive spam send? ISPs probably think so.
Breaking up your sending volumes to a consistent level shows ISPs it’s just business as usual (and you’re not a phisher or spammer). If you do end up sending high volumes of email, make sure you build up your amount gradually (known as warming up a new sending Internet Protocol or IP). Send too many emails at one time, and ISPs will likely throttle your emails, which can delay the delivery time, frustrate your users, and likely cause a decrease in engagement.
If you’re a high-volume sender who sends millions of emails a month, check out our guide for sending large volumes of email.
25. Follow the rules: GDPR
The General Data Protection Act (GDPR) started to dominate email marketing conversations in 2018, and it will likely continue to do so. GDPR applies to the processing of subjects’ personal data by any European Union (EU) or non-EU organization that provides goods or services to the EU or monitors the behavior of EU users. If you send email to European users, it’s critical to understand the law and know if you need to make any changes to your program.
We’re not here to replace legal advice, but you can check out our GDPR best practice guide for a deep dive into the law, implications, and tips for your email program. Finally, although GDPR applies to the EU, following the law for everyone is just a good practice for email marketing in general.
26. Know how many IP addresses you need
An IP address is a unique number block that identifies a device using the IP to communicate over a certain network. When it comes to your email, your IP address behavior affects your sender reputation and how ISPs judge your sending patterns.
Most ESPs provide the option to send email on a shared IP pool or a dedicated IP address. When you send from a dedicated IP address, you are the sole sender and your reputation (and how it affects your deliverability) is yours and yours alone.
If you send both transactional and marketing email, it’s a good idea to separate those 2 streams of email. Because transactional email is crucial and requested by your user, don’t risk that delivery by combining it with the reputation of your marketing emails (which typically has a much lower engagement).
How many IPs you add from there will depend on your monthly sending volume. Check out our recommendations for dedicated IP addresses.
27. Stay up to date with the latest email marketing guides and resources
Email has been around for a long time, but that doesn’t mean this communication channel doesn’t change. Best practices emerge, regulations evolve, and email marketing tips ebb and flow. However, keeping up with all the nitty-gritty changes in email can be a challenge.
Well, if you don’t have a partner like us, that is. We eat, breathe, and sleep email for you. Every year, we publish email marketing guides and email marketing resources with the updated information you need to keep sending stellar campaigns.
28. Diversify your channels
While email is a tried-and-true platform for reaching your customers, it’s not the only channel at your disposal. According to our 2022 Global Messaging Engagement Report, email is consumers’ No. 1 preferred channel—but SMS and social media follow close behind.
Give your audience options—they might want to receive your promotional messages in their email inbox and their shipping notifications via SMS. Try experimenting with more channels, and monitor your engagement to see the effect. Download our latest Email and SMS Guide to learn how to add text messages to your marketing mix.
29. Take advantage of your data
Use your customer support and SMS engagement data to inform your email marketing strategies and vice versa. You likely already have more data than you know what to do with—now it’s time to put it to good use.
You can also leverage your call center data to inform your marketing tactics. For example, if your customer called about a shoe-sizing issue, you may follow up with targeted campaigns promoting true-to-size footwear. Download 15 Ways to Use Data to Engage Your Customers to discover new ways to leverage your data.
30. Coordinate cross-channel campaigns
Your email campaign may be the headliner, but it sometimes needs some opening or supporting acts to get momentum going. Consider running pre-targeted campaigns on other channels like Google Search, Facebook, LinkedIn, or other websites.
This spreads awareness and allows you to start testing your messaging and announcements. For example, you may find that a certain CTA or message resonates better with your audience on LinkedIn, and that data could inform your email subject lines.
Coming up with creative and effective email marketing campaigns doesn’t need to be a task that you dread. Applying the tips above will position your emails to stand out, deliver, and render results. Also, if you’re starting an email program from scratch, take a look at Twilio SendGrid’s Email Marketing Getting Started Guide.
When you’re ready to put all of these tips into practice, check out our full-featured email marketing service, Marketing Campaigns. With a flexible workflow, powerful list segmentation, and actionable analytics, Marketing Campaigns helps you build meaningful relationships with your recipients.