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Optimizing email copy

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Wednesday April 25, 2007 )

Marketing Experiments have published another one of their very interesting and in-depth studies; this one relating to email marketing copy and how to best structure it.

Something I love about Marketing Experiments’ work is they don’t just percentage based stats, vague advice or leave you in the dark as to how they arrived at their conclusions. There’s always something to gain from any study they do and much of their information is free.

Their study on email copy is a lengthy report, but just to briefly summarize their findings if you haven’t the time to peruse it all, here’s their recommended 6 email copy optimization principles:

Familiarity and trust.

If the recipient doesn’t know you; they are likely to be skittish, so depending on the familiarity level you have with your targets, or the popularity of the product or service being promoted, credibility may be the first issue to address.


Basic spin is easy; anyone can describe a product or service as “fantastic” or “unique” – but what makes it so? Be specific as to the benefits. Again related to credibility.

Paragraph length.

According to Marketing Experiments, the shorter the paragraph the better as when a person first opens you’re email, they are scanning. Huge chunks of text may be overwhelming.


There should be consistency in the branding used in your marketing email – everything from the “from” address, to body content, to sig lines, right through to landing page URL’s should be consistent in order to reduce anxiety.

Unfavorable connotations.

Avoid wording that can give any sort of negative impression. For example, consumers are learning that cheap doesn’t necessarily equate to good and while pricing is important, it perhaps shouldn’t be the only focus. If you’re trying to sell an upgrade to a current product; don’t give the impression that there was something wrong with the original product. For example, instead of the term “improved”; I prefer “enhanced”. To me, “improved” means a bug fix; “enhanced” means building on something that is already solid.


People need to be told that the time to act is now; otherwise in many cases, they won’t :) – create a sense of urgency by impressing on the reader that time is limited to take advantage of the offer. An open-ended special will lead the person to believe they have plenty of time to act.. and then promptly forget about you.

In many instances in small online business, we don’t get feedback before sending out a email campaign; we just write what we think will work, then hit send. Large companies spend big bucks on testing copy via focus groups and while we may not have that luxury; we usually have people (friends, colleagues, family) we can trust to give an honest opinion – use those resources where you can.

Read more of the Marketing Experiments email copy optimization study and check out my article on using scarcity as a marketing strategy.


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