Why is sending an email message like launching the Space Shuttle? Because you have to perform a thorough email quality checklist to make sure all systems are go before you can hit “send.” A successful email campaign launch has a lot of moving parts, and they all need to work together correctly.
An effective email quality-control checklist will help you spot and correct problems before they can wreak havoc on your list, your email deliverability, your reputation and your bottom line.
Here are just a few of the blunders that can see daylight if nobody is checking:
- Misspelled email subject lines
- Test messages sent to the whole email list
- The wrong image used
- Images missing or broken even with images enabled
- Coding errors that wipe out all text and images
Sure, it’s every email sender’s nightmare to launch a bug-filled email marketing campaign where everyone will see your mistakes. But, if you exercise strict quality control all along the production line, you’ll reduce your potential exposure and send email campaigns with confidence, even the last-minute ones.
The 10-Point Email Quality Checklist:
1. I am sending to the correct email list.
You might think this would rate as “duh,” but there are actually a lot of ways you can go wrong with this, even if you have only one mailing list that you never segment in any way. We all know people who have accidentally sent live email to their do-not-email database of unsubscribed addresses.
More commonly, this happens when you send a test or targeted message to your entire list. Click carefully! When you send duplicate or irrelevant messages, you increase the chance that you’ll irritate recipients into reporting you as spam or disengaging from you.
2. I proofread all the text in Notepad before having it coded for my HTML messages.
One of the ways proofreading works is if you look at it in a different medium. Once it’s in HTML, text or graphic elements in the message body can trick your brain into overlooking typos, especially if you’ve been working on the copy for a long time.
If you created your text copy in Word or other formatted word-processing programs, paste it into Notepad or other plain-text programs and eyeball it again, or read it backwards to take the words out of context. This can make misspellings pop. Don’t rely on your spell-checker to catch usage errors (to-two-too, your-you’re, there-their).
3. I verified that the offer or other purpose for sending the email is the correct one.
Once again, this should be a given, but mistakes happen. Always check first by clicking through on your test messages and verify your destination is correct.
4. I included an unsubscribe link and street address as required by CAN-SPAM. (Or, I included all the elements my country’s commercial-email regulations require.)
For U.S. email senders, the law specifically requires adding an unsubscribe link and your company postal address. If you have redesigned your email template or switched to a new one, you should double-check to make sure these crucial elements are there and easy to find.
5. These identifying elements are present and accounted for:
•The email subject line is filled in with text that accurately represents the email message content. We aren’t even talking about branding the subject line or making it compelling and concise. Don’t overlook it as you build your message in your list software, and don’t leave any placeholder text like “subject line to come” in it.
•The “from” line shows my company or brand name, not an email address. You want the email to stand as a reliable presence in the inbox. An email address is not as reliable as a company name or brand.
•Any dates, especially copyright, reflect the correct year. This is important, especially if you work far ahead, and is often overlooked in January when the year changes. Having the wrong date makes you look amateurish, and amateurish mistakes look spammy.
•My company contact information, including name, street address, telephone numbers, Web site and email address for questions or concerns. If you want your customers to feel more confident about interacting with you, give them many ways to contact you.
6. I clicked every link and link-connected image to make sure they all work, and checked to make sure each image has an alt tag describing the content.
This is a simple troubleshooter, but it seems to get overlooked frequently, judging from all the broken links we see. Broken links mean recipients can’t act on your email even if they want to and actually makes your entire message useless.
The alt tag is important because it gives you another way to deliver information when your readers have disabled images. The alt tag can either describe the image or house a call to action.
7. I previewed the email in my preview pane and with images disabled, in different browsers and on different computer platforms.
Your email software should allow you to test-send your message before launching it to your list. Do this every time, even if you’re sending a message using an email template that has been thoroughly debugged.
Read it on different platforms – PC, Mac, mobile – and in different browsers, mainly Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari (for Mac users), with the preview pane enabled and images disabled. Now you see your email as your subscribers do. If it isn’t pretty, go back to the drawing board.
8. I proofread my text message and included the link to my email on the Web.
Repeat Step 2 with the copy in your text message (not formatted in HTML or using pictures or other images). The text message has re-emerged in importance for mobile email readers whose devices don’t read HTML. Also make sure the Web link is present and working for mobile readers who can decode HTML or for subscribers whose alternative or nonstandard browsers don’t render HTML well.
9. I had one other person look it over before I hit “send.”
Here you ask someone who was not involved in creating the email message to give it a once-over before a launch. You want a fresh pair of eyes and a brain that hasn’t looked at the same mistake 10 times without seeing it.
10. I tested my body copy and HTML coding with a delivery monitoring tool to make sure it doesn’t trigger spam filters.
You should always ask someone to look over your email message before you send it, but a fresh pair of eyes doesn’t always know what will trigger an ISP or email-server’s spam filters. A third-party delivery monitoring service, such as EmailAdvisor, stays tuned to the most up-to-date filter quirks can reveal potential problems before you commit yourself.
A service like this can spot filter triggers in content or formatting, show you whether your email is more likely to get blocked outright, to get filtered to the junk file or be delivered straight to the inbox, or check to see if you landed on a blacklist.
Yes, it adds another step to the message launch, but the few minutes it takes to check your email campaign can save you thousands, and your email sender reputation, down the line.