How we got a 127% increase in email click-throughs by redesigning our blog email

By Aaron Beashel on 12th August 2014

Campaign Monitor has been doing content marketing before it was even a recognized marketing approach. Looking back over our content, our Founder, Dave, has been publishing blog posts and guides to email marketing since 2004.

So, when I started at Campaign Monitor as Director of Content, I had some pretty big shoes to fill.

One of the opportunities I immediately noticed was the email we sent to blog subscribers when a new blog post was published, so we decided to run some tests on it..

This is the story of how we redesigned our blog subscribers email and landed a 127% increase in click-throughs.

The old blog subscribers email

The old blog subscribers email was being sent automatically via our RSS to Email feature. Each time we published a new blog post, our own Campaign Monitor account automatically pulled the summary and a link to the article from the RSS feed and sent it out to subscribers.

The old email looked like this:

As you can see, it wasn’t the most visually appealing email and it didn’t align with the rest of our marketing assets which were all beautifully designed by our fantastic design team.

The new blog subscribers email

Having just launched our new email builder, Canvas, we decided to use one of its new styles to redesign the blog subscribers email and A/B test the new design against the old one.

Here’s the new email:

The result? Well, we kind of gave it away earlier but we received a 127% increase in click-throughs on the first test we ran.

Still not completely satisfied with that, we continued testing the old design against the new design on the next few emails we sent. Every time, we saw a similar result. It became clear the new design was working very well.

But why? What was it that made this new design convert so much better even though the text content and the offer were exactly the same?

Here are some thoughts on why it converts so much better:

  • Content prominence - In the old design, the most prominent element (and therefore the first thing people saw) was the large Campaign Monitor logo. In this new design, the blog title is the most prominent element, drawing people into reading the post summary and increasing their desire to click through to the blog to read the full article.
  • Better design elements - The typography and layout were dated and tired in the old layout. This fact didn’t instil much trust in the reader and likely had a negative effect on their perception of the blog post’s quality. The new design features modern imagery and typography and increases people’s motivation to click-through by subtly reassuring them the post will be high-quality and worth their time reading.
  • Stronger CTA - In the old design, the only link to the blog post was a small text link at the bottom of the email. The new design, however, features a large, high-contrast button that draws the reader’s eye and makes it easy to take the next step and click-through to the post.

Other tests and changes

Given that this is one of the most frequent emails we send (and is a significant driver of blog traffic), we like to run an A/B test each time we send in an effort to further improve the effectiveness of the email.

Here’s an outline of some of the tests we’ve recently run:

  • Microcopy - We tested using generic button copy like ‘Read the full post to learn more’ against button copy that was specific to that email, such as ‘Learn the 3 ways to improve your email marketing’. Each time we tested this, the email with specific microcopy won the test by about a 10% margin.
  • Heading Link - We also tested whether or not having a link behind the large blog post heading at the top of the email improved click-through rates, or whether it was better to just have the link behind the button at the bottom. Not surprisingly, it’s better to link the heading text as well. Hey, we couldn’t know until we tested it!
  • Subject Lines - The majority of the time, we A/B test potential blog headlines against each other using a subject line test. The headline is one of the most critical factors in the success of a blog post, and A/B testing two headlines helps us find the best one for the post. For instance, in one of our recent blog posts that featured a video we got an 18% increase in opens just by including the word ‘Video’ in the subject line.

Through constant testing, we’ve been able to increase the click-through rate of our email campaigns beyond the initial 127% lift. It still varies from email to email, but we can often see 50% click-through rates on our blog subscriber email—and that’s something to be excited about.

In Conclusion

It took me about 30 minutes to redesign the blog subscribers email using Canvas, and that 30 minutes worth of work scored us a 127% increase in click-throughs on our email campaigns. These results held up over multiple tests.

Bottom line: We’ve doubled our click-through rates for every one of these emails we send with a few small changes that took less than an hour. Not a bad result.

Between Canvas and our A/B testing features, it’s easier than ever to redesign your email templates and test them against each other. So give it a go today, and maybe you’ll get an even better result than we did!

Have you ever tried testing different templates against each other to see if you can get a significant increase in click-throughs? Let us know how you went in the comments!

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4 Comments

  • Simon
    13th August

    How did you bold the “3x more email accounts” in the redesigned version compared with the standard (non-bold) text in the original, if it’s from an RSS feed? Wouldn’t they both have that in bold, or was there specific styling preventing it in the old design?

  • Ros Hodgekiss
    13th August

    Hi there Simon, the short answer is that we cheated :) For the purposes of this A/B test, we manually set up a campaign, then ran an A/B test on two versions of the email content. Thus, we were able to make tweaks, like making the text bold. Sorry if we gave the idea that the new email was totally automated, like our RSS-to-Email feature usually is!

  • Nick
    18th October

    I think another good practice would be revising your content prior to publishing. If you want to promise high quality to your visitors or subscribers, ensure there are no grammatical or spelling errors.

    For example, this published post reads “Did you know there are 3x more email accounts then there are Facebook & Twitter accounts combined?

    This message should have read: “Did you know there are 3x more email accounts than there are Facebook & Twitter accounts combined?”.

    This error popped out at me the first time I read the message. Publishing simple errors such as this reduces credibility.

    Outside the grammatical error, I can see why the CTR improved. The design is much more appealing.

  • Ros Hodgekiss
    18th October

    HI Nick, nice catch. Perhaps we could have received an even larger increase in clickthroughs if it wasn’t for that typo! Sounds like that could make an interesting test in its own right :)

    You’re right though, it’s definitely worth giving email copy a second or third pass, to ensure errors like this don’t slip through. Very glad you like the new design :)

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