Email Marketing: Best Practices in 2018

Computer with email logo

Email marketing strategies to keep you out of the spam folder. 

Is email marketing going the way of print advertising – dozens of pieces showing up in a mailbox, immediately discarded without a chance of attracting lead? Some might think so, but when implemented correctly, email marketing remains a powerful tool for generating leads and nudging potential buyers through the sales funnel. Constant Contact claims that for every $1 spent on email marketing, companies can expect to make $38 in return.

Email marketing is a constantly changing tactic, and maximizing its potential relies on businesses always updating and modifying their methods to stay on top of the best practices. When emails start to blend in with every other company’s emails and email captures seem stale or spammy, the power of email marketing goes to waste. Read on for some of the best practices in email marketing for 2018 with real-life examples of companies that are doing it right.

Capturing Visitor Emails

The prevalence of spam emails has given email marketing tactics a bad reputation. Consumers rarely want unsolicited emails about a company’s product, and email marketing is most effective when targeted toward people who have expressed some level of interest in the brand. Give website visitors every opportunity to provide their email address, but take care to not overdo it. Visitors should be able to easily connect with a company at any point without feeling like the company is pestering them for their email address at every click. Here are some ways to incorporate email captures naturally throughout a site.

Header & Footer

Including an email capture in the locked header or footer of a website is one of the simplest and least intrusive ways to ensure that visitors always have the opportunity to provide their email address. One of the best ways to do this is to include a specific call-to-action in the header that leads to an email capture when clicked, as TransUnion’s ShareAble for Hires does in the example below:

screenshot of ShareAble for Hires


The “Try Now” button on the top right is a simple and clear call-to-action that leads to an email capture. It is a bright color but still blends in with the overall design of the site. It doesn’t prevent visitors from accessing information, rather, it directs them to how they can find the information they are looking for.

Pop-ups and Interstitials

Pop-ups can have a bad reputation because they can be intrusive and are a favorite tactic of spam sites. Clear and simple pop-ups that offer value to the visitor, however, have been shown to increase leads by 600%. To best use pop-ups, make sure they offer something unique or exclusive to your visitor – something they can only get by providing their email via this form, like in this example from ConversionXL:

Conversion XL screenshot


Displaying pop-ups when a user shows exit intent, or indicates that they will soon be leaving the site, is one of the most effective ways to time these windows. If the pop-up displays upon entering the website or at another point during a user’s visit, be sure to have a clear way for them to exit the pop-up, or risk losing that lead entirely.

Be cautious with pop-ups and interstitials, as those that prevent the user from easily accessing the content, especially on mobile, may adversely affect search engine rankings.

404 Pages

Most 404 pages offer nothing to the user, but just inform them that what they are looking for cannot be found. Capitalize on this opportunity by including an email capture, like on this page from Coinlookup:

Funny 404 page

Asking for an email address here gives the visitor, who has demonstrated an interest in the site, a chance to either find the specific information they were seeking or more general information about the overall topic. This can also be an opportunity to offer an alternative resource if the 404 page is the result of a resource that was recently changed or removed.

Keep Email Captures Simple

When asking for an email address, it is crucial to only ask for the information that is necessary. This increases the number of people who take the time to provide their email address. The more fields an email capture has, the less likely people are to fill it out.

Renovate America has a great example of a simple email capture, shown below:

Renovate America screenshot

Segmenting Email Marketing Lists

Email segmentation is the antidote to always ending up in the spam folder. This is the practice of dividing up emails by different attributes to send more personalized content according to the lead’s interests and needs. This tactic sounds complicated, but many email marketing software companies offer this feature already, and it is simply a matter of setting up the appropriate segments and testing what works.

  • This list from OptinMonster includes further tools, tactics, and resources to best segment email lists.

Email lists can be segmented by almost any attribute – age, profession, or products viewed and purchased, to name a few. These segments help direct the content of the email, but they should also be used in conjunction with geographic location to determine the cadence and frequency of emails sent.

Cadence refers to the timing and pattern of emails, while frequency refers to the number of emails sent within a certain time frame. To optimize open and click-through rates, time emails depending on when the recipient is most likely to be actively working in their inbox. This will vary due to industry, job title, and time zone, so segment your lists accordingly.

The most recent email marketing benchmark report from GetResponse finds that Tuesday is the best day to send emails, and that open and click-through rates decrease dramatically an hour after the email is sent. Base email campaigns off this data initially, and run A/B tests to determine the optimal email day and time for your target audience and segmented lists.


Creating Compelling Content

Building and segmenting an email list is just the beginning of email marketing. Once those emails show up in an inbox, they must be compelling and exciting to entice the user to open the email, read it, and act on it. Every part of a marketing email matters, from the subject line to the salutation to the very end of the email content.

Subject Line

With consumers receiving so many promotional emails, the subject and the first line of a marketing email may be the most important type of marketing content to create. Take a look at this section of an inbox filled with promotional emails and take note of what elements stand out:

Gmail screenshot


The emojis in two of the subject lines are certainly eye-catching, but notice what else is motivating. Many of these promise offers of savings if the receiver opens the email, or compete for attention by capitalizing keywords or phrases.

Visual and Interactive Content

Once the email is opened, it must compel the reader to action. Many email marketing campaigns develop beautiful and colorful email templates that showcase products or entertain the reader and motivate them to take action. This allows readers to quickly understand the information.

A newer trend is interactive content, where companies include video, animations, games, or other types of content to engage with the reader within their email account rather than taking them to an external site. For example, Trendy Minds included this game in one of their marketing emails:

Trendy Minds screenshot


When users won, they received an exclusive link to a special blog post. This kind of content draws readers in out of curiosity and rewards them for their interaction. It also makes the brand stand out to consumers in the future.

Plain Text Emails

As the visual and interactive email trend increases, there is also an increasing space for simple, plain text emails. This seems counterintuitive, but plain text emails are more likely to be delivered and read, as they take up less data and bandwidth to send and receive. These emails can be read on all devices with no concern as to adaptable formats for mobile or other devices.


Mobile Optimized Email Marketing

More and more emails are being read on mobile devices, meaning all emails in a marketing campaign need to be responsive to any device. The content needs to look the same regardless of the device it is read on. Plain text emails are one way to ensure this, but visual content can and should also be responsive to being read on mobile. This email from Dreamstime does this well:

screenshot of Dreamstime


This entire email can be read and reacted to without any scrolling on mobile. Some marketing emails condense and reformat so the images are intact, but the email is so long that it requires seemingly endless scrolling to receive all the content, which can be a deterrent to consumers.

Adapt Your Strategy

Consumers can still be persuaded by email marketing, even as the numbers of emails increase and other marketing methods grow as well. Pay attention to how leads provide their email address and interact with the site and content, and produce and send email content accordingly. Stay on top of the changing email marketing best practices to adapt your email marketing strategy when necessary.

About Sophia

Sophia Conti is a digital business consultant at Inseev Interactive, where she specializes in marketing and outreach for small businesses. When she’s not obsessively checking Twitter, Sophia can be found exploring San Diego’s many used bookstores.