Quick Tips for Successful Email Marketing

Email is a great communication tool but with CAN-SPAM regulations, SPAM filters and the technical requirements of various email browsers, including mobile devices, you need to make sure you follow a few simple rules to ensure your message gets delivered and acted upon.

Subject Lines

Keep your subject lines short and to the point. A subject line is not a headline in an ad so be clear and direct rather than cute and catchy. If you can reference a pain point, grade or subject, do so. The more relevant the subject line is to the recipient the more likely she is to open it and read it.

  • The rule of thumb is 5-6 words or 30-50 characters in length
  • Test subject lines. It is the best way to determine what works and what doesn’t
  • Avoid using punctuation – it can be a SPAM filter trigger
  • Icons in subject lines have not been shown to trigger SPAM filters but be aware that they are not supported in Outlook 2003 or Lotus Notes. Some symbols are converted to boxes by iPad, iPhone and many webmail programs. If you plan to use a symbol in your subject line be sure to test broadly across email clients.
  • Avoid SPAM trigger words such as FREE (in all caps), new, %, increase, boost, and offer. If you follow our advice in #1 – keep it clear and direct – you’ll likely avoid using trigger words.


  • Keep your content focused on a single message with a single call to action. People spend about 3-5 seconds with an email so they need to be able to quickly know what you’re offering and what you want them to do.
  • Make your message relevant. Reference grades and subjects taught, key times of year, and any other information that makes it important that someone read and act on your message now.
  • Segment your messages. Send separate messages to classroom teachers versus school or district personnel. The concerns of these groups are different. If you want your message to be compelling and relevant it’s important to tailor it to specific audiences and their specific areas of interest.
  • Personalize your message. Using someone’s first name and/or school name is a simple way to grab people’s attention. Take personalization to the next level with Personalized URLs (PURLs)

Technical Elements

  • If not using fluid or responsive design, keep your HTML message between 450 and 600 pixels wide to fit comfortably within most mobile and desktop email browsers.
  • Keep your text message 80 characters wide for easiest reading.
  • Include multiple links to your web site or landing page so that people have many access points. Be sure to include your first link “above the fold” so that if people do not read or scroll through your message they can still click through.
  • Include a link to a web version of your email such as “View the email in a web browser”. If people have trouble downloading images or are viewing the email on a mobile device that doesn’t render HTML emails very well this will give them an easy way to view your message.
  • Do not put key content – such as offers or headlines – in images. Most email browsers still block images and require that users download them so most people will first see your message with no images. Make sure your message is compelling with no visuals.
  • Be sure to use Alt tags with your images – this is good real estate for reiterating your offer or key messages. (Alt tags display text where images are prior to the images being downloaded.)
  • Keep the number of images you use low – no more than 3. A high image to HTML text ratio is a SPAM filter trigger.
  • Keep the size of your images small. The combined image size should be less than 60 KB.
  • Images cannot be embedded within the email. All images must be hosted on a server and pointed to within the HTML code. (ex. <img src: http://www.agile-ed.com/images/mathproduct.jpg>).
  • Inline coding of fonts and styles is preferable – Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013 and many web-based email programs strip out style sheets. If using style sheets they must be embedded within the code. If style sheets are placed at the end of the code (rather than the beginning where they typically appear on web pages) they are less likely to be stripped out by email programs.
  • Populate the Title field within the HTML code. A blank Title field is a SPAM trigger.
  • Close all of your tags. Make sure all of your HTML tags – Body, Table, P Styles, etc. – are closed. Open tags are SPAM filter triggers.

Designing for mobile devices

The number of educators receiving and reading their email messages on mobile devices is on the rise. There are three design and programming options for accommodating the smaller screens of mobile devices.

Mobile aware or mobile first – This is the easiest way to deal with mobile devices and simply means that you design and program a single email but keep the needs of mobile users in mind. A few examples include:

  • Designing your email to be 400 pixels wide versus 600 so that more of your message will appear on a small mobile screen without having to scroll right.
  • Programming your font sizes to be 14px or larger and your line height to be 150%+ so that text is easily read on a mobile device.
  • Keeping your call to action in the upper left corner so that mobile users can see it without scrolling right or down.
  • Designing your call to action buttons and links to be “finger friendly” – large enough for someone to click on easily with their finger on a small screen.

Fluid design – This is a programming technique that enables an email message to shrink and grow based on the screen size on which it is viewed. This is done by setting table and cell widths and heights as percentages rather than set pixels. A drawback of this method is that on large monitors the email will stretch to the full width and can often appear stretched and difficult to read. Fluid design works best with a very simple, single column design with images that are not designed to take up the full width of the email.

Responsive design – This is the most complex way to deal with mobile devices but it’s also the way that delivers the best results across email browsers. Responsive design uses media queries to specify what fonts, colors, images and even layout to use based on screen widths. Responsive design can be as simple as increasing the font sizes a few pixels for mobile devices or as complex as switching a two column layout to a single column and displaying different images.

Because media queries are written as part of style sheets, responsive design does not work in all email browsers. Older versions of Android devices in particular do not support media queries.

If you’d like assistance with creating a CAN-SPAM compliant email that is SPAM filter and mobile device friendly, please contact your Agile Account Executive for more information about our email design and development services.

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About Agile Education Marketing

We're the go-to people to build brand recognition and generate leads. Using our comprehensive EdConnect™ database of early childhood, K-12 and higher education institutions and personnel, Agile Education Marketing helps you reach educators at school, at home and online.