You know your emails could perform better. You spend hours debating what subject line to use, what wording is best and even whom the email should appear to come from. You take your time constructing the perfect email, and then you painfully hit the send button to await your fate.

Slowly, the results come in. Your open rate and click through rate are both good, but you cannot help but be disappointed. You expected great, not good.

What happened? You followed all the best practices you read about in blog articles. You analyzed every element of the email, what should you have done differently?

With A/B testing you can now focus your efforts on improving your emails with actual data. A/B testing compares two elements against each other to determine which one performs better.

This simple test will take the guesswork out of your email marketing activities and allow continuous improvements to take your emails from good to great.

The first step is deciding what to test. It is important to only test one element at a time. Testing more than one element at the same time is multivariate testing and will skew your results.

google tweets

Subject lines are generally the easiest place to begin A/B testing, and can offer a significant return quickly. If your subject line does not grab the reader's attention, your carefully crafted email will be ignored. A Google search for "best email subject lines" will return over 40 million results, with plenty of conflicting information and questionable advice, many of which will be irrelevant and potentially harmful to your specific email marketing needs. Just because a particular subject line or methodology worked for one company does not mean it will work for yours. That is because every list is unique, even if the industry is similar.

At Foremost Media, we spend a considerable amount of time discussing subject lines and before A/B testing, we were stuck with sending the subject line preferred by the Highest Paid Person's Opinion (HiPPO), or whoever campaigned the best for their choice. Now we can use real data to determine the best subject line for the email. Not sure what to test for subject lines? While word choice and length are popular, even small changes, such as punctuation can have a big impact on the open rate. Many organizations find success with personalizing subject lines to the recipient by using their first name. Finding out what works best for your organization will keep you from relying on assumptions.

Think you constructed the perfect subject line and want to test something else? Try changing whom the email comes from. Does it work better when it comes from your company's name or a real person? What if that real person is male, female or ambiguous? Best practices usually dictate that you should send from a gender-neutral name, allowing for the widest range of recipients to identify with sender, however, we have found that using a recognizable name within the company (our CEO Jon Ballard) can lead to the highest open rates.

Now that you have optimized your email for the open, it is time to focus on the content to increase your conversion and click through rates. Does a button work better than hyperlinked text? Testing the two variables without changing anything else will give you the answer. Even a seemingly small change, such as the call-to-action text can have a dramatic change on your click through rate. Generic words, such as "submit" or "enter" typically perform much lower than action-oriented words that directly relate the offer. Even using possessive case first person words (receive my checklist) have been shown to increase conversion rates in studies.

a tweet from Google

The bottom line is no matter how well your emails are performing, A/B testing will improve them. Looking to get started? Contact us to find out how we can take your emails from good to great.

More Email Marketing Tips:

10 Tips & Tricks to Design Email Campaigns That Get Results
Pair Email Marketing with Social Media
What the GDRP Means to Email Marketers

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