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When Finalsite launched the new eNotify email editor, schools were excited about the possibilities of the new, simple, drag-and-drop interface. It opened new windows of opportunity for design and engagement — something that Ryan Nolan, Immaculate High School's Director of Communications and Digital Marketing, took total advantage of.
Inspired by Twitter's simple, daily "here's what you missed" emails, Ryan sought to use Finalsite's new eNotify editor to build simple, engaging emails, and the results have been spectacular.
With their new email template, email engagement rates soared:
- Click-through rates sky-rocketed from 234 to 1,183
- Website sessions more than doubled from 387 to 1,050
- Page views nearly tripled, increasing to 3,194 from 1,191
- Bounce rate decreased from 51% to 34%
So what exactly contributed to that impressive improvement in email engagement? A few key elements of their email design and strategy stand out.
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It has a visually appealing format.
Immaculate High School's emails are, no doubt, visually appealing. They are comprised of multiple high-res images and calls-to-action, following a grid layout — which is ideal for responsive design.
Prior to the redesign of the newsletter, Immaculate High School's weekly newsletter suffered from the same issue most school newsletters do: it was jam-packed with content. "It was so bombarding and so long because there was just so much content. The new template engages the user up front with an awesome photo, and then uses a soft icon that encourages them to click and read," said Ryan.
"In the emails, we provide just enough content to tease them, and get them to click and read the post on our website."
The back-end set up of the email is pretty simple, too. Ryan created a basic "Weekly Updates" templates, that includes two columns of content blocks. Each week, he simply creates new images, and places them in the already-existing template.
It forces subscribers to go back to their website.
Immaculate High School's new email template has two main goals.
First, they want to provide the information subscribers need and want — which is obvious. Not sending good content is a really great way to decrease engagement. The school accomplishes this by writing a news story for all the school's announcements, no matter how small.
This helps contribute to goal number two: send subscribers back to the website. Rather than listing all information and news in the email, the school uses their email newsletter to link back to the website. This ultimately increases website traffic and time spent on the website — two key metrics important to Immaculate High School.
They track success using analytics.
Immaculate High School keeps a close eye on email open and click-through rates. But, they also are extremely in tune with what stories resonate most with their audience, allowing them to fine tune their news and email content, and overall communications.
"The new newsletter format gives us full reign of tracking all our stories and content," said Ryan. "Since it's all going to our site, we can use Google Analytics to track website trends on our news stories."
Immaculate High School is most interested in what email recipients do after they click, so they looked at a variety of statistics, including:
- The bare bones metrics: opens, click-through rates.
- The time spent on each news story: it gives Immaculate High School an idea as to whether or not recipients are actually reading the content
- Number of website sessions
- Bounce rates
- Overall time spent on the site
"I wanted to compare progress, so I compared our old newsletter, sent on the same day to the same audience from 2015, to our one from this year...and the results are incomparable," said Ryan.
"Every number was tripled or doubled, including page views, users, session length, and pages per session, you could just see the spike in the days when we were sending out emails."
They segment their email lists.
All of Immaculate High School's email newsletters have a targeted audience. Their weekly newsletter is sent to all current and prospective families, and includes all important news and updates. "In a way, it gets prospective families in tune with what communications will be like when they're here, and it gets them excited," said Ryan. "They're subconsciously getting used to where to find information."
Their monthly newsletter includes some of the bigger news updates from the weekly email, but includes new content with bigger stories, and is sent to the same audience.
They strategically place content to increase engagement.
"There were some that I was afraid of," admitted Ryan. "If you think of our main goal, we want them to get the message, and we don't want your email design to detract from that."
Keeping this in mind, Ryan began tracking which news stories week after week generated the most traffic.
"The biggest story every week is our Athlete of the Week," said Ryan. "Since I know subscribers are going to go looking for it, I put it in the middle of the newsletter, and then put the most important stories I needed them to see at the top — so in order to get to the interesting story, they had to see the important ones first."
They have crafty subject lines.
Part of increasing email click-through rates is, of course, needing to increase open rates — which all has to do with the subject line. While Ryan hasn't done much A/B testing, he does have a couple tips that have brought success:
Use emojis! Emojis increase open rates by nearly 45%.
"We use the notepad and pencil for our weekly updates, and then the horse emoji for our 'Mustang Monthly' email," said Ryan. "This has helped us because, really, how many people get a horse emoji in their inbox? They recognize it, and it's out of the ordinary."
Worried about emojis showing up properly? "While some inboxes have their own rendition of an emoji, I haven't spoken to anyone who says the emojis aren't showing, which is great," said Ryan.
Brand your subject line.
Immaculate High School doesn't complicate things. Their subject line is "Weekly Updates + Date + Emoji." This recognizable brand has helped the school increase open rates because subscribers know what they're getting and what to expect.
Make your sender something recipients will recognize.
Sending emails from a "donotreply" address is just asking for low open rates. Immaculate High School's emails come from firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as real names and other departments, like admissions.
Most importantly, they listen to what their subscribers want.
Immaculate High School is all about following trends, and keeping up with the kind of content today's audience needs and craves. By taking the risk of completely re-vamping their newsletter, they were able to increase engagement and website traffic. Future plans include more A/B testing and longer, more engaging news stories.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.
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