10 Guidelines to Design an Effective Email Every Time

Designing an email can seem like a complex project when you first get into it. What should the message look like? What should I say? (What should I not say?!) How will I know if I did it right?

Here are 10 guidelines to help you design an effective email message every time:

  1. Identify one goal. Do you want to drive traffic to your website or a specific landing page? Is this one of an ongoing series of messages, or something you will be doing on a regular basis? Is this a general newsletter, or do you have something specific to announce? Of the many things that you have going on, which is the most important? Whatever your goal is, design the email message with that one goal in mind
  1. Focus your message on one thing. If you have many things going on, it can be difficult to focus on just one thing. Similarly, it can be difficult for the reader to get the point of your message when you tell them many things all at once. So it’s beneficial to focus on one thing… but it can be challenging to figure out what that one thing should be. Go back to #1 and get clear on your goal, and that may help you focus your message.

What if your goal is to let your readers know about absolutely everything you have to offer? Be sure to lay it all out in an organized and structured way so it’s easy to scan. In this case, the answer to complexity is organization.

  1. Provide a call-to-action (CTA). To identify your best call-to-action, go back to your goal.
    • Are you advertising an event? The CTA should offer a registration button.
    • Are you sharing a blog post? Offer a link where the reader can “click to read more”.
    • Do you want to increase brand familiarity? Offer a link that leads to more information about your business.

Consider what you want your readers to do as a result of receiving your email, and then provide them with the opportunity to do that.

  1. Keep your message short and concise. If there’s a lot to say, direct the reader to another location on your website for the details, and then include a link to it so that “click here to learn / read more” is your call-to action. There are two key opportunities here: (1) drive traffic to your website and (2) measure the interest in your topic by seeing how much traffic is generated. (See #10 below for more on measuring impact.)
  1. Include a relevant image. People see and process images faster than they process text, and they remember 80% of what they see, while they remember only 20% of what they read. (Hubspot)

Using a relevant image is key, so that when the reader moves from the image to the text the content fits the impression they received from the image. If there is no or little connection between the image and the content, the reader will slow down as they work to make the connection. This can create frustration and it can drive the reader away rather than engaging them.

  1. Place your primary message at the very top of the email. Make sure the reader can see most of it without scrolling. 50% of email is read on mobile devices (MoveableInk), so design with a small screen in mind.
  1. Don’t rely on your logo. In addition to your logo, also write out the name of your business. Many email systems don’t upload images unless the reader indicates that they want to see them, which means your logo may be hidden from view. Adjust for that possibility by also writing out your business name, and also consider hot linking it to your website.
  1. Include your social media links – prominently. I often see people use really tiny social media icons, as though they’re trying to hide them or tuck them in as an add-on. It’s good to be on social media and it’s important to direct your readers to those sites. Use reasonably-sized icons that link directly to your social media pages and post them where they can be found easily; Near the rest of your contact info at the bottom of your message is a great location.
  1. Use a template to keep your branding consistent. Your branding goes beyond your logo and into your colors and the structure of your message. Using a template will keep your brand message consistent and save you a whole lot of time. Design it once, then use it over and over and over.
  1. Measure the impact. Beyond open rates, measure your click rates and look at what has been clicked on. Clicks express interest; not clicking tells you something too!

This connects directly to your call-to-action: This is your opportunity to measure the engagement of your audience. If they click, then they are interested in what you have to offer; you are headed in a good direction and should keep on going. If readers don’t click, then you haven’t captured their attention. That’s informative because now you know that something isn’t working; it could be your content, your presentation of that content, or perhaps you aren’t tapping the right audience. Either way it goes, you’ve gained important information that can help you better direct your marketing efforts!

Are you just getting started with email marketing? Using a platform like Constant Contact will enable you to incorporate your branding into your emails, increase the chances that your email will be received and, most importantly, access data that will help you continuously improve your email marketing results.