The truth about creating effective email content: six tips that really work

The truth about creating effective email content: six tips that really work

When it comes to creating emails, practice makes perfect. But that’s easier said than done, and sometimes it’s hard to decipher the myths from the facts. That is why I am always listening to experts like Ann Handley to help uncover the truths, and debunk the lies.

Compelling email subjects

An intriguing subject line and brand recognition in the inbox are your first chances to impress readers enough to engage.

The key here is to incite enough curiosity to get the click, but with balance. There’s nothing worse than a clickbait headline that leads to an email that bears little relevance to what its subject promised. Email marketing is all about delivering on your promise, whether that’s knowledge, a discount, or something else of value to your subscribers. Likewise, avoid cryptic heads in your emails.

What leads to a connection for one brand might be a ticket to the junk folder for another. So test, test, and test again.

See what works in terms of length and tone, and don’t be afraid to monitor what your rivals are doing.


How do you avoid the dreaded spam folder? Your sender reputation is the most important factor. Send content to people who have subscribed to hear from your brand and actually want the content you are sending them. That may sound simple, but it’s the most impactful strategy to avoid being flagged as a spammer.

Don't forget your pre-headers

This is the chunk of text that appears underneath or next to the main subject line in some email providers and devices. It’s an opportunity to add a little more information to someone browsing their messages so you can get that valuable click.

This leads to my next point – go for a punchy introduction. Even if they click on the email, some readers might not get beyond the first paragraph. Try to pack as much information as possible in the first sentence, with the secondary information following after.

A clear call to action (CTA) is crucial when writing short emails. If you’re asking your audience to do something, it should be very clear when scanning an email. Don’t make them hunt for what to do, or you won’t get that conversion.

Getting the right length

The rise of the email newsletter in recent years has highlighted that readers will, in fact, consume longform content in an email. Longform email newsletters should deliver an explosion of ideas, but at the same time be presented in a short form way – with lots of subheads, illustrations, and other ways of breaking up the text.

Getting personal

A skilled email writer can personalise emails in a number of ways. Segmentation is important here. Write different versions of your emails by product, persona, etc. while all the time trying to picture your reader. Who are they, what do they do, and how would you like them to respond to your email?

Another tip is to use merge variables, but be authentic. Don’t use someone’s name or company in places where you wouldn’t naturally say that.

Watch your language too. Don’t be afraid to generously use the word “you.” It creates a more conversational email, and in my experience, encourages readers to respond.

Test, test, test

Always have someone else read your email before it sends. An extra pair of eyes on your copy is the simplest form of email quality assurance. It isn't all about catching typos – a good editor can also help you take out the parts of your email that readers will skip.

Spend some time checking the links too. If they don't work then the chances of your emails being successful are virtually nil.

Finally, see what the email looks like in different formats and on different devices. Someone using Gmail on a mobile is going to have a very different perspective than someone on Outlook on a Windows PC.

Cynics have been proclaiming that “email is dead” for at least... 15 years now. Yet email continues to drive engagement, demand, and ultimately revenue year after year. It’s the workhorse of marketing. It is a fabulous tool, and in an era when first-party data is becoming ever more valuable, if used effectively, it might just be the most important communication platform you have.