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Email Best Practices

Before You Hit Send

  • Over 50% of emails are opened on a mobile device. Test your emails on both desktop and a mobile device before sending. Services such as Litmus and Email on Acid allow you to view your email on multiple devices and clients.
  • Take note of the current global email client market share, and ensure that your email looks right on the most popular clients. While you may be using Outlook in your office, the majority of your recipients are likely a different client.
  • Click through all links and ensure they are both working and pointing to the correct page.
  • Run your copy through a spell-check and have a colleague give it a second glance. Also, ensure that all dates are current and valid.

Best Practices for Effective Email Marketing

  • Key subject line info should be in the first 35 characters.
  • Preheaders (the preview text that a reader sees before opening an email) can be around 80 characters, with the most important content first.
  • Use a top-down content hierarchy. Get to the point quickly.
  • Utilize the "ALT" field with all included images. This is vital for accessibility, as well as for recipients who block images.
  • Call-to-Action language should be descriptive, value-oriented, and action-oriented. Avoid using "click here".
  • Statistically, most emails are opened on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays in the early afternoon.

Tips for Avoiding Spam Filters

  • Avoid bright red fonts or excessive colors, styles, and formatting.
  • Don't overuse exclamation points!!!!!!!
  • Don't say "free" or "click here!" or "click here now!" or "act now!" or "limited time!"
  • Avoid using the word "test" in your subject line.
  • Don't build an email with images only, you need to also include text in the message.
  • To learn more about spam filters, please visit MailChimp's Email Design Reference site


CAN-SPAM Examples

What's the difference between a commercial and a transactional message?

It's common for email sent by businesses to mix commercial content and transactional or relationship content. When an email contains both kinds of content, the primary purpose of the message is the deciding factor. Here's how to make that determination: If a recipient reasonably interpreting the subject line would likely conclude that the message contains an advertisement or promotion for a commercial product or service or if the message's transactional or relationship content does not appear mainly at the beginning of the message, the primary purpose of the message is commercial. So, when a message contains both kinds of content – commercial and transactional or relationship – if the subject line would lead the recipient to think it's a commercial message, it's a commercial message for CAN-SPAM purposes. Similarly, if the bulk of the transactional or relationship part of the message doesn't appear at the beginning, it's a commercial message under the CAN-SPAM Act.

Here's an example:


TO: George Pepperdine
RE: Pepperdine Summer Event - Registration Information
Your registration is confirmed for the Pepperdine Summer Event. Please make sure to arrive early to ensure you and your guest(s) reserve space on the field for your blankets and chairs. If you have any questions regarding this event, please reply to this email and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Also, be sure to sign up for the Pepperdine Winter Event before it sells out!

MESSAGE A is most likely a transactional message subject only to CAN-SPAM's requirement of truthful routing information. One important factor is that information about the constituent's registration is at the beginning of the message and the brief commercial portion of the message is at the end.



TO: George Pepperdine
RE: Pepperdine Summer Event - Registration Information
Make sure to join us in December for the Pepperdine Winter Event at Alumni Park!
There will be music, food, and fun for you and your family.
Limited Time Offer: Sign up in the next 48 hours and receive a free Pepperdine mug with your registration.
Please note: Your registration for the Pepperdine Summer Event has been confirmed.

MESSAGE B is most likely a commercial message subject to all CAN-SPAM's requirements. Although the subject line contains "Registration Information" – generally a sign of a transactional message – the information at the beginning of the message is commercial in nature and the brief transactional portion of the message is at the end.