I always love the e-mails that sometimes arrive “Recalling” a previous message. The fact is that once an email has been sent, it is out there and can not be retrieved. Because of this, get it right first time is an essential part of e-mail marketing, and the key to this is testing. I can not stress enough how important this is at every stage of the process. Testing e-mail has 4 key purposes:
- To check that it looks good in all formats & clients
- To check that all links work
- To check that the message is correct and typo free
- To check that is is ending up in the inbox rather than the Junk folder
Looking at these aspects individually:
Unlike websites, that will usually be viewed in one of 4 web browsers (Chrome, Explorer, Firefox or Safari), the permutations for viewing email are much broader. To give you an idea, the email client simulator we use delivers 34 previews (61 if you include all permutations of web browsers for web based mail). All of these will potentially render your carefully crafted email slighty differently, so testing is important to ensure that it looks good across the board. But lets be realistic, testing your email, and getting it spot on in all 61 clients is pretty much impossible, so in practice, I would consider the following:
- In practice the top 10 account for over 90% of email, so you are probably OK focusing on these in your testing. Here is a list of the current top 10
- Use your website analytics to get an idea of which platforms people are using. Although you cant directly see email clients Looking ad visits driven from email, will give you a good idea of what people are using
- For the top 3 or 4 try to do live tests to accounts of the various platforms rather than simply relying on simulators
One key purpose of emails is to drive traffic to your website, so it is essential that all links work and go to the correct place. The first and most basic test is to send a copy of the email and click every link to check they are correct. If you are using templates, or simply taking a copy of the last email sent & updating the content, it surprisingly easy to miss a link, so this step is essential. Once you are happy the links are correct, the final step in this process is to send a live test. By a “live test” I mean sending it exactly as if it were going for real, but sending it to a list of just your test email addresses. The reason for this is that most systems will change the links on a live send, to include tracking information, and we have had circumstances where adding these tags breaks the links, so the only way to be sure is to test it “for real”!
Proof reading at every stage of putting together an email is essential, and although sending test emails is not an essential part of this process, sending the email to a few people and asking them to proof read is always a good practice, furthermore, it is essential to recheck the email every time you make a change (however small it may seem) to be sure everything is still good. When proof reading, here are a couple of things to consider:
- Pay particular attention to the subject line. Its easy to focus on the body, and forget this key part if the message
- Always get someone who has not been involved in putting the email together to do the final proofread, as when you have put the copy together, its easy to miss things
In fact, proofreading emails is no different from checking other output, so these tips from the Plain English campaign should put you on solid ground.
Although there are tools out there that will test your email for spam keywords and the like, in our experience there is no substitute for sending tests to your key platforms and seeing where they end up. Like the link checking, this is an instance where “live tests” are needed. The key reasons for this is that things can change when you send an email for real (server IP address, Image and Link urls etc) all of which can impact on deliverability. Server IP address is particularly important here, as its reputation is key to deliverability. You will find more on this here. Although in most circumstances, the best way to test deliverability is to set up accounts on key platforms, and then to send tests to these accounts, in some cases, a more comprehensive approach may be appropriate. If this is the case, you may find mailmonitorapp.com of interest, although it costs, it does have some useful email monitoring/testing tools in its portfolio. And remember … …. Cher’s “If I could turn back time” is actually about her sending an email campaign with a mistake in it!