Curious what call-to-action yields the most clicks?
Unsure whether to use images or GIFs?
There’s a simple way to find out once and for all: Split test your emails.
What is a split test?
Split testing (or A/B testing) is a method by which you can scientifically test the effectiveness of your email marketing.
When split testing, you create two versions (called variants) of an email to determine which email statistically performs better. Once you find which email variant performs best, you can update your email strategy to include the winning email. This allows you to identify what emails engage your subscribers best, which can ultimately help you increase conversions and revenue.
(Is your small business or nonprofit making an impact beyond the inbox? Want to make an even bigger impact? Tell us how, and you could win $20,000 from AWeber. Click here to learn more!)
Why you need to test your emails
Split testing is an effective way to find out what’s working and what’s not in your email marketing. Rather than assuming your customers would prefer one kind of email over another, you can run a split test to find out in a methodical way.
The more you split test, the more information you’ll have on hand for your future emails. And while a once-and-done test, or even an occasional test, can yield information that will expand your marketing knowledge, regular testing can provide you with a successful email marketing strategy.
Related: 6 Email Split Tests You Can Set Up in 1 Minute
4 best practices to get started
1. Test one element at a time.
Never test more than one change at a time. Have a control email that remains the same and a variant with one change — like a different color CTA button, or a different coupon offer — you want to test. If you have multiple variables, it’ll become difficult to identify which one caused a positive or negative result.
For instance, let’s say you’re a blogger who writes about gardening. You decide to split test an email’s subject line to improve your open rates. The goal of your split test is to discover if longer, descriptive subject lines or shorter, direct subject lines perform better. You also want to see if including a subscriber’s first name in your subject line will increase your open rate.
So you write two variant subject lines:
But what happens when the camera stops rolling or after you walk off stage is even more important. How do you continue to engage your audience and drive them to action?
The answer: email marketing.
With email marketing, you can continue to build upon the relationship you formed during your speech and create a stronger connection with your audience.
During our recent webinar with speaking pro Michael Port, he shared his secrets to building an email list from speaking events.
Port has inspired audiences from the stage for more than a decade. He was a professional actor. Now, he’s the founder of Heroic Public Speaking and coaches some of the world’s best speakers.
Below, learn Michael’s 3-step system for building an email list with your speaking opportunities.
(Want to watch the entire recording of Port’s webinar? Register here.)
1. Create a curiosity gap.
People tend to take action when they have a desire to achieve or learn something. You can create this desire (and use it grow your list) with a curiosity gap.
A curiosity gap is when there is a void between what someone knows and what they want to know. And according to Port, it’s important to create one with every speaking opportunity you have because it’s what drives your audience to take action.
To create a curiosity gap, answer the “what” and “why,” but don’t give your audience the “how” yet. You want them to think, “That sounds awesome! But how do I do that?"
Here’s an example: A sign up form is a tool that allows you to easily collect subscribers. By optimizing your sign up form, you can triple your subscriber growth and double your revenue.
By creating a curiosity gap, you’ve now piqued their interest. You’re ready to move to the next step: filling the gap with a tool or resource.
2. Fill the gap with a tool or resource.
Once you’ve created a curiosity gap and your audience is looking for a solution, give them a tool or resource to fill the gap and satisfy their need or desire. (In step 3, we'll explain how to deliver this tool or resource to your audience from the stage.)
When creating your tool or resource, Port suggests staying away from denser pieces of content, like ebooks, white papers, and reports. In his experience...
The reality is: Getting subscribers is hard work. That’s also why according to Ascend2, 54% of marketers say that growing their list of email subscribers is a top marketing priority.
You want quality email subscribers, and you want more of them, but the question is: How do you find them? Better yet, how do you make sure they stick around?
Ready to reach 1,000 (or more!) email subscribers? Follow the plan below.
(You can also sign up for our FREE email list growth course. Learn how to grow your list in under 1 hour!)
Craft a better email newsletter
First things first: To effectively grow your subscriber list, you want to make sure you’re always sending your best content. Before you send out your next email newsletter, it’s a good idea to take a step back and evaluate what’s currently working and what’s not.
Related: How to Create an Irresistible Email Newsletter (Plus, 19 Newsletter Examples for Inspiration!)
According to the Direct Marketing Association, the four most important email marketing metrics are:
Click-through rate (CTR)
Having a good grasp of how your emails are performing (based on these metrics) will not only ensure you’re providing value, but that your subscribers will also continue to open your emails.
An easy way to identify your top-performing content is to review your email newsletter analytics. Pay attention to the emails that not only received the highest number of opens and clicks.
Related: Subject Line Formulas You Can Steal to Boost Your Open Rates
Are there certain types of content that get more clicks than others? Is there a section that has barely been touched by subscribers? Take note of these trends for future planning. Of course, your subscribers won’t want to see the same articles and information in every email, so it’s best to create new content and support it with older pieces where applicable.
After you have a handle on what’s working and what isn’t with your current newsletter, use your findings to create an even better one. As you begin to gather more data on your subscribers and understand what they like to see, you’ll be able to tailor your emails to...
In fact, I have a bunch sitting unopened in my inbox right now. The sender is hoping to catch my attention, so we can work together in a way that grows their business.
But here's the cold, hard truth: I won't reply to the majority of these messages. I'll put most in my trash folder.
The Most Important Lesson of Sending Outreach Emails
When I first started out in sales 15 years ago, my outreach emails were also ineffective at driving action. I was wasting my time writing messages that ended up in people's trash folders.
That was, until I learned one important lesson: The true goal of any email outreach is to build meaningful relationships with the person you’re hoping to contact. It isn't to bombard them with offers until they magically decide to purchase from or collaborate with you.
Once I realized this, my outreach emails started to get opened. Since then, I've scored business opportunities with everyone from startup founders to Fortune 500 executives. I’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t.
That's why I put together relationship-building email templates inside our product at Close.io. These templates help hundreds of thousands of sales professionals increase their open rates, start more conversations, and drive more sales.
So whether you’re looking to secure a spot as a contributor for a major online publication, book yourself on someone else’s podcast, or land your next big client, outreach emails are a necessity in today's business world. Follow my 5 tips below to learn how to effectively write them so they don't end up in someone's trash folder.
(Heads up: An outreach email is different than email marketing. You send an outreach email to a single recipient who has no prior relationship with you. Email marketing, on the other hand, is a message sent to a mass audience that has opted-in to receive your content.)
1. Use mutual connections
Did you know that 92 percent of people trust referrals and recommendations that come from people they know?
When sending outreach emails, remember that you’re probably not the only one emailing with a similar request. (Let alone the only one pitching them that very same day.) So whenever possible, leverage your personal or professional connections who have a more direct...
“My feelings about newsletters are strong. It’s the one enduring place that we have as marketers, and it’s the place where conversations are most intimate,” Handley says, noting that subscribers voluntarily opt in to your newsletter and choose to receive your emails. “[Newsletters] are 100% effective and they’re still the backbone of so many content marketing efforts."
Yet, in 2017, she sent only four newsletters. She missed talking directly to her audience on a regular basis.
That's why she knew it was time to approach her newsletter differently. Handley wanted something she was excited to send, and that her subscribers would be excited to open.
So in January 2018, Handley unveils her TotalAnnarchy newsletter. It was unlike any other email she had sent before.
And it's one of our must-read newsletters.
During my interview with Handley, she explains the format of her revamped newsletter, how to gauge if your newsletter is successful, and her writing process for crafting effective emails fast.
What is TotalAnnarchy?
TotalAnnarchy is sent every other week, and it's filled with curated content for marketers, writers, and content creators.
Handley begins each TotalAnnarchy email with a long-form essay on one topic — like Mr. Rogers, the words people hate, and even her battle with the squirrels who are eating her tomato plants. She follows this essay with content pieces she thinks are worth sharing that week, like the most common grammar mistakes people make.
Each newsletter is riveting, valuable, and beautifully written.
How to determine if your newsletter is successful
Every great newsletter helps its subscribers. It educates, amuses, or provides some kind of value. But how do you know if your subscribers are actually finding value in your emails? Email analytics and qualitative data (like responses from your subscribers) can help. For Handley, there are four email health indicators she examines to determine if her newsletter was a success on a given week:
1. Welcome email responses
When someone subscribes to...
“Authoritative research and reference content are the two types of content that consistently get links and shares.” –Steve Rayson, BuzzSumo Director and Co-Founder
The takeaway: Publishing original research is a substantial opportunity for marketers right now.
We recently partnered with BuzzSumo to study if and how marketers are using research, and we found that approximately half of them are. Another quarter (26%) have not conducted research but are considering doing so in the next 12 months.
The bad news? Those who are considering research think the biggest challenge will be understanding how to approach a project like this.
Publishing your own survey-based research is time-consuming, in part because it’s a multi-step process, but also because it is a new “muscle” for many marketers. But, you can do this if you educate yourself on the process.
During a recent webinar with BuzzSumo I shared key results from our joint research and answered the most common (and challenging) questions we tend to hear from survey respondents and those we talk with who are considering or conducting research.
If you prefer a more detailed version, you can view the webinar on this topic or check out the slides.
To check the performance of research content in your industry, use BuzzSumo’s Most Shared section to search for the topics you write about. Add the word “Research” to your content topic.
Common Questions About Original Research, Answered!
What is involved in an original research project?
All research projects go through 4 stages:
Strategy and planning: Similar to what you would do at the start of any new project, answer key questions such as why you are conducting research, what topic you want to cover, and how you’ll use the research.
Data science: When you conduct survey-based research, you need to decide which questions to ask (and how to ask them); program and test the survey; get responses and analyze the data.
(Note: This is where marketers have the most questions because this is where they have the least experience. Many of the questions below focus on data science.)
Research journalism: Next, you need to create the...
Seasoned entrepreneurs don’t build a product until they know how they plan to sell/market it.
Seasoned content marketers shouldn’t build an epic piece of content unless they know how it will reach a wide audience. — Henley Wing, Co-Founder, BuzzSumo
I decided to ask 13 content marketing experts to share their strategies for promoting content. I also got them to reveal their biggest challenge with promoting content. Read on for their insightful responses.
How to promote content before hitting publish
Several themes emerged in the advice from these experts. Here’s a quick summary:
Know your goals
Work with influencers
Do your homework
Define your audience
Get buy-in from clients
Michael King, Digital Marketing & Lead Generation Consultant
1) What are some ways to plan content promotion before you hit publish?
Certainly it depends on the goals and the type of content, but one of the most common ways to is to leverage Snip.ly to promote content.
We plan out influencer outreach, sharing wireframes and ideas before a piece of content is launched. We want to get buy-in and convince people to link to or share the piece even before it’s done. Additionally, we identify similar content types and the people who shared them using BuzzSumo and a number of other social listening tools.
2) What’s the biggest challenge you face in promoting content?
It’s never a question of buy-in from clients for us because we wouldn’t be able to create something if it they hadn’t bought into it. Boring industries represent opportunities to me since there’s not much cool stuff already in existence in that space. Typically the biggest challenge is lack of budget. Clients see content marketing as a
largely organic function, and they are leery of putting paid media into it. Therefore we have to do all of the leg work through outreach of some kind. Launching content works a lot better when you have a Paid, Owned and Earned strategy to support it.
Simon Penson, Founder of Zazzle Media
1) What are some ways to plan content promotion before you hit publish?
We do a huge amount of work in the planning phase. That starts with...
According to Edison Research, podcasts are becoming increasingly popular. The ‘share of ear’ on mobile devices is almost tied between traditional radio and podcasts.
Even though we are not yet ready to let go of the text-based article, there is a noticeable online trend toward an equitable balance between written words and audio content.
Why choose audio content for your content marketing strategy?
There are many reasons for a marketer to choose to create audio content.
Firstly, the traditional visual and text-based genres aren’t enough to drive engagement in 2018. To succeed in a saturated content landscape, where overall shares have fallen by 50 percent, marketers need to think outside the text box to drive engagement.
Audio content makes sense because it’s second only to video as people’s preferred format, according to Activate. The average American consumes five hours of video each day and two hours of audio content.
BuzzSumo can help you determine if your audience is interested in audio content.
See the Most Popular Podcasts for an Industry
Activate also found that people spend seven hours a day on non-work related activities. With limited free time, audio becomes even more important because people can listen to podcasts and audio courses when they are doing something else — running, walking, at the gym or doing house chores.
Video content, because it requires two senses instead of just one, is more limiting.
So, audio content drives engagement and (or even because) it’s easy for your audience to use while multi-tasking.
Audio content is also poised to become incredibly lucrative. Three years from now, podcast ad revenue is projected to double: from $237 million in 2017, to no less than $642 million in 2021.
According to a recent study published by IAB, almost two-thirds of listeners admit they are inclined to consider purchasing or researching a product based on podcasts’ recommendations, or ads streamed during the podcasts they love. This includes both podcasts published by marketers and any relevant ads streamed during podcasts.
Finally, according to IAB’s research, audio content has become more relevant...
In May 2015 Facebook made a change to their newsfeed algorithm to ‘balance content from friends and pages’. Nobody was to know at the time, but this was the start of a new age of social media and content engagement.
In 2015 Facebook was driving increasingly higher engagement and traffic for publishers, brands, marketers and news outlets. The May 2015 newsfeed adjustment and the many subsequent changes to the Facebook Algorithm, listed below, put this trend into reverse. The chart below from Shareaholic demonstrates very clearly the rise and fall of Facebook as a traffic source for publishers.
This is the story of Facebook’s algorithm changes and the consequences for content marketers.
It’s a story that continues to unfold. The most recent newsfeed changes in 2018, particularly promoting stories from ‘trustworthy’ sources, are changing the dynamics of Facebook reach and engagement again. This report on the Facebook Algorithm from 2015 to the present details the changes and helps readers understand the current marketing context.
The Old World Of Facebook Engagement
From 2012 to 2015 publishers increasingly recognised the ability of Facebook to drive engagement with their content and to drive traffic from the social platform to their own sites. Many publishers quickly learned about the type of posts that resonated with people and the type of posts that went viral on the network. For example:
This Playbuzz quiz What Country in the World Best Fits Your Personality? had over 8.5m Facebook engagements (likes, shares and comments).
This BuzzFeed list post 26 Pictures That Will Make You Re-Evaluate Your Entire Existence had over 2.5m Facebook engagements.
These headlines tease and withhold information from the reader. This Upworthy post 2 People Described The Same Person To A Forensic Artist And This Is What Happened had over 3m Facebook engagements.
Publishers and Facebook Traffic
The success of these publishers led many others to follow their example and create so-called viral content formats for Facebook. In 2015 Parse.ly reported that for their network (over two thousand publishers) referrals from Facebook surpassed referrals from Google.
Facebook as an advertising platform has an interest in keeping people on the platform for as long...