Email Newsletters: Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

Wondering what to do to improve the click-through rate from your email newsletter? Wayne Hurlbert illustrates how to test new formats in your newsletters to help pinpoint what is working and what is not.

Johnny kept sending out his email newsletter to his subscribers and kept getting back modest returns. He tracked his results and knew how many recipients opened the email, what percentage of readers clicked through to the offer, and even the total number of conversions to paying customers. His problem was not knowing how to make improvements in those overall results.

Online businesses using email newsletters as a marketing device must not only track their results, but they must also test various potential improvements. Changes can be made to the three main components of the newsletter, including the opens, the click through rate, and the conversions to paying customers. What many email marketers fail to do, however, is to test new formats for the newsletter.

Not only is the newsletter content itself something that invited improvements, but the delivery technique is also a possible testing point. The click-through methods can always be checked for their overall value, and some huge alterations can be made with minimal effort. The conversion rates can be improved by testing out different variations as well.

There is no limit to the methods that can be utilized to improve the overall email newsletter results. In the end, they all require testing. Without side by side comparisons, of apples to apples, the email marketer can never be certain if a change is netting the desired results. Only with testing can the marketer know for sure what is working; or perhaps more importantly, what is not.

By utilizing various tests, an email newsletter marketer can uncover hidden opportunities to increase returns. Often, little or no additional expense in either money or time is required. By making testing of everything in the newsletter format a required part of the program, much stronger revenues can be the end result. That is what makes the test taking worthwhile.

{mospagebreak title=Testing Out in the Open}

Before anything happens with an email newsletter, the subscriber has to open it. As many email marketers know all too well, getting the recipient to click to open the message is a huge part of the battle. With careful testing of different techniques, the message can be read by more people. All that is needed is a bit of imagination and a careful examination of the test results.

Many email marketers have discovered a significant improvement in open rates by simple changing the day of email delivery. The time of day has also proven to have a huge effect on the number of emails being read by subscribers. While such mundane issues are often overlooked by marketers, they can have a large effect on the business bottom line. They are also easily and cheaply tested.

To test different days, simply send half of the emails on one day and the balance of the newsletters on the next day. Splitting by alphabet or by random selection are both suitable division techniques. Should one day prove substantially stronger than the other, after carefully examining the open rates of the two days, a marketer can then shift the entire mailing to the better day.

The best time of day for the mailing can be tested in a similar manner. Don’t make the mailing times too close together. Use significant time variations. Testing the newsletter for morning, afternoon, or evening open rates are a great place to begin. The added cost of testing time related changes is minimal, so they should be checked by every marketer. The same caveat regarding spacing tests too closely together also applies to time of day comparisons.

Try not to employ delivery date tests too closely together, as you want to create an expectation of your newsletter arrival. By randomly trying different days of the week, in rapid succession, weaker than expected returns may result. One the day has been tested, move along to a different newsletter element.

Be sure to test the email headlines. They are possibly the single most important aspect of the newsletter campaign. If no one opens the email, nothing happens, resulting in a lost opportunity to communicate with your customers. Comparing different headlines should be a key component of any testing program.

Send a pre-sample to a random group of recipients and chart the percentage of openings. A low open rate, as measured by your tracking system, should warn you to rewrite the failed headline. It’s better to have a small test group of emails rejected by subscribers, than to have the entire campaign turn into a failure. Testing pays in saved money and more sales.

{mospagebreak title=Testing the Clicking Rates}

The rate of click throughs to the actual website provides a wealth of testing opportunities. With some creativity, on the part of the email marketer, the content of the message can be tested to determine the best layout and design. The types and location on the page of links can even be tested.

Test the information found above the fold. That includes all of the newsletter that can be read in the computer screen without scrolling the page down. Note that different computers have differing monitor sizes. Within monitors themselves, there are subtle differences resulting from the installation of browser toolbars. Be sure to consider those variables in your tests, and make allowances for them.

It’s easy to test whether an offer placed above the fold will result in click throughs. Simply place a link, so it will appear instantly in the screen on half of the newsletters, and not on the balance of the emails.

The same form of test, can be used for link locations within the text, and for numbers of clickable links on the page. Remember to only test one pair of ideas at a time, so as to not distort the results. Provide each link with a separate coding or landing page to track the test results.

Try two slightly different wordings of the offer, to each half of the test group. While the same offer is unlikely to be used again, the wording format can be repeatable. Once a more successful type of wording is uncovered, it can be incorporated into future newsletter offers.

The format of the newsletter itself can have a profound effect on both the opens and the click through rates. Some email marketers use a text only newsletter format, despite some lingering problems with tracking. Not all newsletter servers are able to track open rates of text only products.

The alternative format is an html coded newsletter. They are easily tracked, more readily customized to any design, and can contain photographs of the products on offer. It will pay any marketer to consider testing both text and html newsletter formats.

A slightly higher html cost will be more than offset by a higher open and click through rate, should those people convert to customers. Of course, there are no guarantees that such a pleasant turn of events will ever take place. As with everything, be sure to test the results.

{mospagebreak title=Testing for Conversion Rates}

When a subscriber clicks through to a landing page, the ideal opportunity to test different versions presents itself. By simply providing two or even three slightly different variations, of the sales copy on the landing page, a test of the results is easily conducted. The best version can serve as a starting point for future tests. Note that testing is never over, but is an ongoing process.

Slightly different versions of the shopping cart presentation are prime areas for testing. Because of the sensitive nature of shopping cart purchases, and their frequent abandonment prior to transaction completion, testing different formats is almost a necessity.

Shopping carts being filled, as a direct result of an email newsletter promotion are especially vulnerable to having incomplete sales. One of the first tests to consider is a pre-filled in order form against one that the purchaser completes themselves.

Test post purchase thank you pages. You can test pop-ups versus another landing page. You can also test extra offer pages as well. It’s always a worthwhile test, to find out if buyers might want to purchase more related items, following the sale. Many customers will happily buy some other products and services at point of sale, while they are in a buying mood. Be sure to test several add-on offers.

Online offers and web landing pages can be tested in numerous ways. Remember to only test one component as a time. Note that all shopping cart, additional point of purchase offers, and thank you page tests, pay off for regular customers as well.

{mospagebreak title=Conclusion}

Testing should become second nature and a way of life for every successful Internet marketer. There are few less expensive and more highly profitable tools available to the online business person than testing. Use it constantly, and it will reward you with more sales and long term customers.

Putting every element in an email newsletter to the test over time, is essential for successful marketing campaigns. Failure to test the various components of the opening, the click throughs, and the conversion sections can leave many potential sales out in the cold.

Since many testing procedures are very low cost, or even entirely free to implement, there is no reason to not test everything possible. As a cost effective activity, testing everything in the email newsletter is one of the best paying activities for any marketer.

Many of the tests, especially those for the onsite elements of the marketing effort, can serve double duty for buyers created by the website itself. In fact, marketing items like shopping carts and sales landing pages should be tested on an ongoing basis.

The abandonment rate of shopping carts is very high on many sites. It’s vital to a business to lower that non-completion rate as much as possible. Thorough testing of the cart is one valuable tool available to the website owner.

By testing every part of your email newsletter, from opening to the completed sale, your newsletter can be an even more important revenue producer.

Get some of those important tests started today.

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