How to create readable emails

by | Tue 9 Jun, 20

In today’s world of emails, you can send just about anything to your mailing list, you could send a full blog post! But it doesn’t mean that you should.
Making emails readable is just as important as getting people to sign up as an email contact, it takes testing, patience, and a keen attention to detail. So let’s get started:

What is a readable email?

An email that is readable isn’t just content that you can understand, it is content that has to engage you, content that has a good balance between the amount of text and the number of images (If you choose to add images). It isn’t too long, isn’t too short, and it fulfils its purpose.
An unreadable email could make perfect sense to everyone in your email list, but it might just look too long-form or too boring to read based upon a first impression. It’s like going for a hike as opposed to a quick jog, a hike takes hours, but it might give you the same feeling of “well done, you just did some exercise!” as a jog, but the latter of the two takes 5-10 minutes. See the difference? 
A short, entertaining and engaging email that clearly states what it wants your reader to do is far better than a slide full of text that is squashed onto your template because “It would look strange to have the rest of it on your landing page”.
Emails aren’t supposed to be a reading experience at all – That is why CTAs (Calls to action) exist, your email designs are only meant to serve as a preview for your products, promotions, websites etc. It is the easiest way to get someone to buy your products without having to say much.

So, how do I make my emails readable?

Think about short, punchy lines to really get your point across. A paragraph that formally explains all about your business is pointless. No one cares about your 15 year history or your current profit figures (Although a thank you email rewarding your email subscribers for their contribution to your success works a charm!).
In fact, the optimal length of email (After your subject line) is only between 50 – 125 words. That sentence alone was 17 words (1/3 of the lower limit), and once you finish reading this paragraph, it is going to be 50 words anyway, and that is all you need really.
Beyond email open tracking
If you really need to fill your emails with waffle about your promotions, put the important stuff in bold, things like 50% discount on new subscribers, or your free monthly newsletter. See how your eyes drew to the thicker text? It’s because your eyes tell you to go to that. You still read the non-bold text, but you don’t react to it as much as what’s in the bold.
More important than the length is the subject line, so let’s rewind a little…

Take the time on your subject line

Subject lines are the key difference between a great open rate and a, well, crap open rate. You need to ensure your subject lines have some purpose or benefit for every reader, if it isn’t relevant, it won’t be read.
To make your subject lines readable, you’re going to need to use words and phrases that spark a connection with your readers, that helps them realise something is in it for them if they go on to read your email.
Some examples include;
  • Discounts – 50% if you sign up today!
  • Welcome offers – Join our programme today and get a free welcome gift!
  • Announcements – We just opened a store near YOU!
  • New products – New trending range for you, Harrison
  • Questions – Harrison, where do you want to fly in 2021?
It works because you are dangling the carrot for the reader, it gives them a valid excuse to open your email. From the subject line onward, you then have to make the most of your preview text. A good, readable preview text should not be a copy of your subject line, nor should it be left blank, ever.
A solid, readable preview message should be elaborating on the subject line. You might want to try adding in a bit of personalisation, a joke with the punchline hidden, enticing the offer you have on your website etc. 
Preview text is the only part of your email that can still be classed as readable even if it is incomplete – An incomplete preview header works just as well as a CTA (Call to action), as long as you word it correctly. Every reader wants a reason to open your emails, you just have to give them that short, clear excuse to do so.

Content Recap – Importance of the TL;DR approach

Going back to the main content in your email, you don’t want to be giving too much away, that’s why 50-125 words is optimal for click-through success. The less you give away in the email, the easier it is to be able to encourage your recipients to click through. 
Optimal words for click through success
Take a blogger for example – Your click-through rates won’t be high if you are literally sending the blog post in each email. A good tool to use is TL;DR (Too long, didn’t read), so you have the chance to create a short summary of what you are offering. When readers like the short preview/summary, they’ll want to click through, and that’s where you’ll want to implement a clear and easy-click CTA (call to action).

Modernise your tone

Make the content simple to understand, a little like if you were a novice in your field. Avoid the unnecessary jargon, and focus more on the personal tone, the modern tone – One that your segment/s will understand. If you know you distribute emails in segments based on age, think about urban terms for your younger generations (More specifically generation Z and millennials). 
Terms like hangry, LOL, & WTF resonate with our younger readers. Speaking their language helps as it gets them onboard, it makes them feel more welcomed, and leads them to believe your promotion, offering or welcome email is modern and trending. Nobody likes tone that is boring, the email should be the highlight of their day, not a chore to simply mark you as read and get that notification out of the way.

Utilising images

An email usually reads better with images – In fact, people can understand content 3 times better when it is placed along with relevant images. Take a clothing retailer for example, if they want to showcase their summer range, there’s no point saying you have trending dresses, and first-class suits on sale. If your reader doesn’t see the suits and dresses, why should they click onto your website or online shop?
Black Friday sale
It’s the same idea behind reading picture books as a child, when we associate images with words, and vice versa, they resonate better with us. When you think about companies like Dominoes for example, you don’t think about the wording on their menus, you imagine a cheesy, delicious pizza in its packaging. 
The same concept goes for email marketing – If you want your emails to be readable, associate pictures, so your readers really know what it is you are offering, that way they don’t have to try and figure it out themselves. If they are unsure what you are offering, their attention span will expire, and they will lose interest in what your email has to offer.
Readable emails should have images, but they shouldn’t be just images, or just text. A good balance between the two makes it suitable for all kinds of readers, whether they are old or young, or whether they have image blockers on their email account. Try to aim for around a 60/40 split. 60 per cent text and 40 percent images keeps your content fresh, whilst also giving you the space to put your point and purpose across.

Signatures help the cause

Email readability can improve based on how easy it is for readers to tell who is contacting them. The most popular form of displaying yourself as a sender is in the form of an email signature. You might want to include some of the following;
ILAB Web Designer
  • Name of employee/name of company
  • Position in company
  • Telephone number
  • Email address (Some people don’t know how to check this from the email itself)
  • Website/social link
If your readers can easily figure out where you are from, it will build that level of trust, and encourage them to interact with your emails.
Making your content clear and concise is so important with emails nowadays, if you don’t get your subject line right, your content is useless. If your content is too long, too boring, or too irrelevant, you’re wasting your time. 
Make it exciting, make the important parts stand out – The important parts should be important to the reader, not to you as a business. So if you’re offering a sale, it’s not about supporting your business, it’s about how much your customers will save if they sign up through your email link. 
If you are offering a free trial, it isn’t about how many sign ups you get to try and recur payments on, it is about the customer, and giving them a free test of your product/service. You want them to enjoy your emails, and strike a personal touch with them, that’s the best way to make them readable.
Email readability isn’t about being able to read your words in the email, it’s about your words being straight to the point, and having usefulness to the reader, only then will you generate clicks and in turn, sales.

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