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February 25, 2016
Marketing  |  14 min read

7 Strategies for Increasing Email Marketing Engagement

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Annaliese Henwood

It’s not enough to just create an email and send it out in bulk to your entire contacts list. Email marketing engagement is key to finding a worthwhile return on investment (ROI).

You may be asking, “What is considered essential for engagement?”

These are just a few of the ways you can improve in this area. You’ll see that it takes more effort to do, but the results are bound to make it all worth it. Let’s dive into the seven strategies for increasing email marketing engagement.

1. List segmentation

It’s not just important to create segmented lists for your contacts. It’s mandatory.

You shouldn’t simply send one email to everyone on your main list. If you do, you risk poor open rates and high unsubscribe rates. You’re essentially wasting your time and effort and potentially losing valuable contacts that you probably won’t get back.

Now that you know why you should segment, it’s time to learn how to do so effectively.

Start with your sign-up form(s). How many fields do you require? If you want to segment by specific criteria, add fields requesting that information.

However, keep this in mind: The more fields you require, the higher the offer value should be.

Make it worth the effort for your visitors. If they are just subscribing to your blog, you only need their email address. A name would be helpful as well, but shouldn’t be required.

If they’re downloading an e-book, this is your opportunity to acquire more information to help with segmentation.

I only ask for an email address. That’s all I need. I segment by acquisition:

  • Main list with all contacts
  • New contacts list for welcome emails

I plan to reward long-term subscribers when the time comes by paying attention to the acquisition date. I recommend this approach to you as well.

For you, find the information types you need for effective list segmentation, and ask for it when appropriate. If you have an existing contact with missing information, send them a custom email to request it, maybe in exchange for a free download or a product discount.

When you segment your lists effectively, you’re better prepared for improved email marketing engagement. People will see that you remember and care about them and their interests. They will feel more inclined to not only open your emails, but also follow through with a click on your call-to-action (CTA).

2. Email design

When it comes to email design, there is a lot to consider:

  • Subject line
  • Preheader
  • Sender
  • Content/text
  • Design/layout
  • CTA/links
  • Imagery
  • Postscript

All of the above elements play a role in how your email is going to perform. Your recipients are more likely to engage with you if you take the time to optimize each piece

Let’s briefly dive into each element, considering how each affects your email marketing engagement:

Subject line

While your subject line is more important for your open rate, it still has a crucial role in your email’s success. Why? Because if recipients don’t feel compelled to open your email, they’re not going to have the chance to interact with your email’s content.

Your subject line needs to be a direct, relevant hook that’ll compel people to click. You want to get your recipients’ attention, but do so without deceiving them. Tell them exactly what your email is about, but don’t give everything away. Leave enough out that the recipient will want to know more.


This is the preview text that appears after or below your subject line in the recipient’s inbox. It is an opportunity to further compel your recipients to open your email.

I, personally, think the preheader must have a custom message that benefits your open rate, but I see so many companies and blogs that don’t use it. Often I see the standard “open in a new window” text. When I see this, I know the sender is missing out on a great opportunity.

Customize your preheader. It doesn’t take much, and it can mean a higher open rate as a result.


I’ll be quick here:

Use a person’s name and email address, not your company or a product. People are more likely to click if they see a human as the sender.


So your recipient has opened your email. Now what?

You have mere seconds to keep a person’s attention to your email. You need to put your most convincing, relevant, important information first. Recipients should see your CTA without having to scroll down.

All your primary content should be “above the fold.” This is content that appears without the need to scroll down. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have secondary content, but make sure your CTA is immediately apparent.

Use text formatting to emphasize your point. Use bold text, italics, and colors but in moderation.

Add social media buttons, both for your accounts and for social sharing.

Always remember: Simplicity is key to a successful email campaign.


With design, you want to keep your email simple. Don’t go crazy with the layout, especially with colors and markings. Allow for plenty of white space. Make your own template that looks relevant to your own brand image.

Also with design, make sure it’s optimized for mobile. These days, so many people are using their phone to access their email. It has become an essential need for you to create responsive emails. Even email providers have started to penalize senders if their emails aren’t designed for mobile.


First and foremost, only have one link at the top of your email, and it should be your CTA button. Don’t distract your recipient from the main purpose of the email.

You want the recipient to click on your CTA because that’s why you’re sending the email. If you have extra links nearby, especially social media ones, you may miss out on getting the right traffic that you were hoping for with that campaign.

Before thinking everything is all set and done, be sure to check your hyperlinks. Do they work? Do they lead to the right place? Is the site relevant to your email content?


Similar to design, you don’t want to overwhelm your recipients with excess images. Keep it simple, silly (KISS).

Only use images that emphasize the point of your email or are meant for email branding (company logo, for example). Make your CTA an image in the shape of a clickable button. Don’t simply stick to basic text. An image will stand out and increase your click-through rate (CTR).


A postscript (or P.S. for short) is a great opportunity to add a little extra to your emails. It can include a reminder or another offer. It can be anything as long as it’s relevant to the overall purpose of your email.

Using a P.S. may seem like a distraction from the rest of your email, but it’s not. You can find a lot of benefits from using it, as long as you do it correctly.

3. Personalization

Generic emails are boring and borderline spammy. They are more likely to land in the recipient’s spam folder, and your unsubscribe rate might increase. They don’t allow for true engagement because you’re not talking to that recipient directly

To make the best use of personalization for email marketing engagement, follow these guidelines:

  • If you have it, start your email with the recipient’s first name. Avoid using “Dear” though because that word has been flagged for spam.
  • Sound human and friendly in your email copy. Be relatable and personable. Your recipients want to see the person behind your marketing emails.
  • Sign your emails with both your name and maybe even a headshot photo. Even if sending an email on behalf of your company, this can help with engagement. Pick a person to represent your company, such as yourself, and use that name as the sender.
  • Send a customized welcome email that tells recipients what to expect from now on as a subscriber. Give them a copy of the download they signed up for, if applicable. Offer something else for free without making them fill out another form (direct download).

When you personalize your marketing emails, you increase the likelihood of true engagement. This could mean several things, such as simply your click-through rate or a more beneficial sales conversion.

4. Say thank you

Along the same lines as personalization, you should always aim to welcome new subscribers by saying a big thank you. This could be in the form of simple text, or you could provide a free offer of gratitude, such as a coupon or product discount.

In my welcome emails, I always say thank you. I don’t yet have anything extra to offer subscribers unless they haven’t yet received my e-book. Even without an offer, I make sure I write a custom note of gratitude.

It helps your click-through rate (CTR) if you remind recipients how they subscribed in the first place, and it helps you build a long-term relationship if you show appreciation for their time

5. CTAs

The whole idea of email marketing isn’t to send out an email and wait for people to open them. Your email’s open rate isn’t your first priority metric.

What you do want to see is people clicking on your links? How do you get people to follow through with your emails?

Add a compelling CTA.

A CTA is a catchy, compelling phrase that prompts web visitors or email recipients to click, redirecting them to a custom landing page. The CTA must be clickable and must lead to a landing page. It can be in the form of simple text, an image, or a button. The purpose of your CTA should always be to get people to take a single, specific action.

With an email CTA, remember these key points:

  • Don’t overcrowd your email with links.
  • Make sure your CTA stands out compared to your secondary links.
  • Use a button or other graphic to help your CTA stand out, but have a text version there too for when images are blocked.
  • Use a catchy verb and other compelling words to draw people to click.
  • Don’t use the typical “Click Here” terminology.
  • Tell people where the link goes to and what’s in it for them.

You want recipients to interact with your email, and clicking on a CTA is a big way from them to do so. Your CTA must lead to a landing page where you can continue relationship building.

Use Google Analytics or another program to measure your recipients’ activity on your site. Follow their web path to gauge their interest level in your company.

By getting people to click on your CTA, you’re one step closer to getting a sale.

6. A/B testing

Before you even think of sending or scheduling your email campaign, you must have a plan of action for A/B testing.

A/B testing is a marketing strategy in which you use two different methods and check which one brings in the most value. As a result, you’ll know which method to use in the future.

When A/B testing, you can examine small changes in all areas of your email marketing, especially in regards to your email design and scheduling. You can test your subject line, your CTA, or even your email formatting. You can test your when to send your email as well as how often to do so.

If you don’t test your emails, you risk missing out on some significant email marketing engagement.

  • What if your recipients are checking their email most often at 7 a.m., but you’re sending emails to them at 5 p.m.?
  • What if all those emails you’re sending out in one week are bombarding your recipients and pushing them to unsubscribe?
  • What if you’re not sending enough emails to remain top of mind?

If you want to increase your email engagement, you need to make sure you’re able to determine what works and what doesn’t. You won’t see all the benefits of email marketing if you skip this crucial step.

7. Measurement

This is the last step in ensuring email marketing engagement. All your efforts are futile if you don’t reserve resources for this part of the process

But how do you what metrics to prioritize?

Although it does depend on your own marketing goals, these are some metrics to track, starting with the basic:

  • Open rate
  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Bounce rate
  • Replies
  • Unsubscribe rate

Let me explain what a few of these metrics mean for engagement:

For your bounce rate, you’ll see no engagement. The recipient’s email may be full, or the email address might not exist anymore. You want to do everything you can to prevent it from getting too high.

A reply is simply when someone sends a response back to your email’s sender address. Depending on your email marketing service provider, you may be able to see these replies from your dashboard. However, it’s common for direct replies to go straight to the sender’s inbox instead. Keep this in mind when choosing your from address. You can also check to see if you can turn off direct replies with an automated “Do Not Reply” message.

Your unsubscribe rate is your most harmful metric. The higher your rate, the more likely you’ll be penalized by recipient email providers, such as Gmail. Your emails will be more likely to land in the spam folder. If you see that people are unsubscribing, this is the time to do more testing to see how you can improve.

Along with the above metrics, there are others that can help you further understand your recipients’ engagement with your emails:

  • Website path
  • Lead path

When you dig deeper into your email marketing engagement metrics, you learn much more about your audience. You can learn their behavior patterns on your website as well as their interest levels in your company. This can then help you build upon that relationship and help you bring those leads along the path to a sale.

If you want to know more about how to apply engagement measurements, these are just a few good places to look:

You’re now well along your way to increased email marketing engagement. Why?

  • You’re now better prepared with list segmentation.
  • You’ve learned how to design an optimized email.
  • You know the best practices for personalizing your emails.
  • You know the importance of saying thank you to new subscribers.
  • You have the knowledge on how to craft an effective CTA.
  • You understand why and how to A/B test your email elements.
  • You’ve learned what metrics are most important for engagement. 

This article was written by Annaliese Henwood from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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