Email testing is a way to maximize the effectiveness of your email campaigns. Yet studies show that too few marketers actually do test.
Email testing typically is performed for two main reasons:
1) Technical. To ensure that the email you send is rendering correctly, that links are working, images are appearing properly, and that HTML and text versions are received without corruption.
2) Marketing Effectiveness. To compare the user’s response to different versions of email elements-different subject lines, images, text descriptions, using humor vs. seriousness, etc.-to achieve optimal marketing results.
Most marketers perform the first type of technical testing, but too few perform user response testing. As Jordie van Rijn explains, while you should always test your rendering and functionally of your emailing, “that has nothing to do with optimizing your emailings for conversion.”
The most common tests are A/B tests in which two different versions of an element (image, subject line, text, call to action, etc.) are sent to two different recipient lists and the results compared. You also can test the results of sending on different days of the week and at different times.
Top email marketers find that the results are worth the effort. As Mike Holtz of ClickZ explains, marketers who test effectively achieve significantly higher open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates, and these marketers “are disciplined to run A/B split tests in every email campaign and committed to making changes in their program that make a difference.”
Testing also can be performed for deliverability and reputation management-to keep your emails from being flagged as spam, reduce bounce rates, prevent your brand reputation from being harmed, and ensure more emails reach the in box. Tom Sather of Return Path offers tips for optimizing deliverability, including spam filter monitoring, phishing prevention, and email content testing to make sure the subject line and text aren’t causing deliverability issues.
There are a host of tools and services available from email service providers to monitor and track the performance of your e-mails, with a comprehensive list of service providers available at Email Vendor Selection.com.
For marketers who are reluctant to test the effect of their emails on recipients, a persuasive guide is Jordie van Rijn’s “99 Reasons for Not Testing Your Email.”
Marketers who rely on their gut feelings can see how their instincts pan out in real-life scenarios at Which Test Won.com, which offers a library of case studies.