Since I’ve originated email roles at several companies over the years, I’ve often found myself in the position of creating processes for email production, and making emails with people who don’t have experience making emails. Even in companies that have established creative work request processes, there are still things that most non-email people simply don’t know that make things just a little bit harder than they need to be for the person building the email. This post is for my email friends to casually share with their colleagues to help us all work together better. (If you’re reading this, and you’ve worked with me before and have done any of these things – please know, this isn’t about you specifically, because it has happened at every single job I’ve ever had).
- Don’t hyperlink your links
You’ve written the content for the newsletter and are ready to hand it off to the person coding your email. It’s all organized by sections that match your email template, and you even have a subject line and pre-header text – wonderful! You even hyperlinked the text that you’ll want linked throughout the email to make it easier.
Please just… don’t.
When someone is building or coding an email, they’re copying and pasting the content from (probably) a Word or Google doc. That part’s pretty straightforward. But if any of that text needs to be linked somewhere – there’s a bit more HTML code involved, and we need the full URL available to us. Sometimes, especially in a word doc, clicking on linked text doesn’t work right away, and then you have to right click, open it in a new tab, and then copy/paste it into your code. It slows us down.
This is what I’m talking about:
Instead, put the link somewhere separate and indicate what words you want linked. You can highlight or bold them if you want – we’re pasting them as plain text so it won’t copy over that formatting. Maybe do something like this:
Now, I’m not saying this is the correct or only way to do this. Check with the person who’s building your emails to see if they have a preference (and if you are a person who builds emails and have found a good solution for this – please comment with it!).
Related: If there are images throughout your email, and you’re providing them to your email builder, don’t just embed them in the Word/Google doc. They have to be uploaded/hosted somewhere, and again, HTML will put them in the right spot of the email. Just provide them separately as jpgs, gifs, or pngs. Maybe note in your doc where each one goes if it’s otherwise unclear.
- “Click here” is not your business objective.
While we’re talking about links, I feel like we must address click here, because it still happens. You should never, ever, use “Click here” as text on a link or button. It’s so bad and embarrassing. And for several reasons:
- It’s boring. If you have a lot of links in your email that all say “click here,” peoples’ eyes will glaze over and they’ll fall asleep before they finish reading your email.
- It’s probably not actually what they’re going to do. Roughly half of email opens are on mobile (smartphone or tablet). They’re not actually CLICKING anything.
- It’s 2022 and we all live on the internet. If your link looks like a link (different color text, underlined, etc), people will know what you want them to do.
- Finally, and most importantly – “click here” is not accessible. Someone reading your email on a screen reader would have no way of knowing what the link is or why they should click here.
Instead, use a CTA (Call to action) with a verb and a noun that actually describes what you want to happen after they click or tap: Sign up, Buy now, Shop dresses, Download report, Complete Survey, Read article (these are all best for buttons – you can use a few more words in a text link. Just don’t end it with here. You don’t need to.)
- We aren’t going to send your email to a list serv.
So you’ve written a great newsletter for your customers. Your links are clear CTAs and formatted for easy email building. Your email looks great, and you want to make sure all staff at your company gets it when it goes out to the world. You give your email marketer this to add to the send list: firstname.lastname@example.org
We can’t really send to that. I know you can do it in Gmail or Outlook. But this isn’t Gmail or Outlook. We need the individual email addresses of each person who should receive it. We’re not trying to create more work for you. We’re trying to make sure that people actually see your email.
So what’s wrong with it? Well, it’s treated as one email address (even if hundreds of people may be attached to it). To follow CAN-SPAM, the law that regulates email marketing in the US, all emails must have an unsubscribe link at the bottom. (This is a good thing, I promise). If I send your email to “email@example.com”, yes, everyone on that listserv will probably receive it – the first time you send to it. However – if even ONE person clicks on that unsubscribe link, it unsubscribes that entire listserv. And then no one gets it. Sending to a listserv also would skew your reporting – you wouldn’t be able to see individuals’ activity on the email. You’d see that the email was opened/clicked hundreds of times perhaps, but you wouldn’t see who did what, and if this email listserv address is included in the send to customers, your numbers will be funky.
Instead, and I realize this is annoying – you have to develop a process for managing employee email addresses. Whether that’s getting the full list from IT with every send (or once a month, or whatever frequency you need), or even better – make “subscribe to our emails” part of your new employee onboarding process. But it will have to be maintained.
Related: You may be thinking “I’ll just get around this by forwarding my copy of the email to the listserv! I’VE BEAT THE SYSTEM!!” Sorry, but no. That unsubscribe link will still be at the bottom, and if anyone clicked on it, it would just unsubscribe YOU. And then you won’t get the test emails I send you next time around, and we’ll have to constantly re-subscribe you. I’ve been down this path many times (CEOs who forward a newsletter to their entire staff, for instance). It will be frustrating for you.
- Setting up your own Mailchimp account to send your own emails
Kristin, working with the email team is just too much. I don’t want to deal with all this. I just want to send pretty emails to my specific customers without dealing with all this process. I’m just going to set up a Mailchimp (or Constant Contact, or any other low budget/free ESP) account and do it myself.
I appreciate your enthusiasm for email as a marketing channel. I really do. It’s my favorite too. That’s why I’ve spent 15 years honing my skills in it, and learning all the laws and best practices associated with it, and navigating the challenges around data management when migrating to a new ESP (email service provider). One of which is – if you are sending emails to the same audience through different ESPs, you need a mechanism for tracking unsubscribes throughout each system. If someone unsubscribes from an email I send in our company’s main ESP, and then you upload them into a difference one – yours won’t know that they previously told our company they don’t want to receive emails from us. You’re putting the company at legal risk, and also creating a frustrating user experience for your customer.
Instead: Talk to your email team! Yes, they may be overworked and not have time for your email. But part of why they’re overworked is because they have a specific email strategy they’re trying to execute, often that has the big picture of all external communications in mind. If you have a great idea for an email the company should send, they probably want to hear about it. If you have something that’s truly niche for a small segment of your customers – they still want to hear about it. They have ways to automate things, and can work them into the overall email program if appropriate. If they tell you no – they probably have a good reason. They are experts in email. They’re not trying to tell you how to do your job, so…
- Finally – it’s never JUST an email.
I know, I know. Email marketers are amazing and make it look easy. But it’s still a lot of work. Even if they’re using an existing template and just putting in new content. There are still email segments (who receives it) to consider, copy editing, calendar management, and reporting. If it’s a brand new email – there’s also design, and plenty of time spent coding the email and testing it to make sure that it’ll render well across email clients and devices. Give your email team as much time as you’re able to with requests like this (if you don’t know how much time they need – ask!).
Email friends – what did I miss? What else do you want your colleagues to know about your work?