When is the best time to send email? (Part 1)

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What’s one of the most frequently asked questions in email marketing? (and social media marketing, too)

When is the best time to send email?

Today we’re going to definitively answer this question for you and provide you with exactly when you need to send. The answer is: when your subscribers want it the most.

Probably not the revelation you were looking for, was it? The follow on question might be: when do my subscribers want it?

The answer is to follow this recipe.

First, assuming your list is large enough to be sent out over a 7 day period, pick a week to send out a mailing. Make sure there are no holidays or other anomalies that would significantly skew your results if possible.

Create a strong message that has a valuable call to action that subscribers are likely to want to act on, such as a free white paper or something requiring little or no commitment. Purchase as a call to action is fine as well, but it has to be something that can be tracked as an online conversion and something that’s going to be appealing. If your email service provider supports conversion tracking, make sure it is enabled. WhatCounts customers should enable Google Analytics in your realm and make sure that goals are set up to record the desired conversion behavior.

In your email service provider of choice, schedule a send to be metered and distributed on the hour for 168 hours, or 7 days, beginning at midnight on a Sunday. For WhatCounts users, divide your subscriber list by 168 and then input that number in the advanced deployment options, then schedule the send to begin at midnight on Sunday.


Give your campaign about a week for results to finally settle down, then log into Google Analytics. Choose Custom Reporting and create a new custom report, then select Total Goal Completions, Source/Medium, Day, and Hour as your metrics and dimensions. It should look like this:


Set the time period in Google Analytics to be the week of your campaign and the week after, for a two week total period total. In the list of sources, look for your email service provider. WhatCounts customers will obviously click on WhatCounts/email.

Once the custom report loads, click on Day to sort, and you’ll have a neat list of how many conversions per day during the testing period you got, including the day of the week:


Click on any given day of the week to see what times of day your campaign resonated most with subscribers:


As you can see, this campaign clearly generated the most results at 9 AM Eastern Time, and on Thursdays. More people opened the email, read it, and then went on to the web site and clicked through to a conversion on Thursdays at 9 AM than at any other time during the day.

So let’s review the process:

  1. Set up a strong message with an offer likely to be acted on.
  2. Turn on Google Analytics and configure it to track goal conversions.
  3. Set up a campaign for a 168 hour send.
  4. Send evenly over a 7 day period so that you have even audience reception.
  5. Wait a week after the campaign ends.
  6. Create a custom report to analyze by time of day.
  7. Identify the time of day when conversions are highest.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully figured out exactly when to send email to maximize the conversions you’re looking for. This is absolutely vital to understand: you’re not checking when people open your message the most, you’re checking to see when they perform a valuable behavior for you the most. Your audience has told you through objective data exactly when they are most receptive to a valuable offer and are willing to act on it. Change your subsequent mailings as appropriate.

By the way, this method works for every other source in the list, too. If you want to see how Twitter, Facebook, or any other referring source is performing and when you should be tweeting, use this methodology. It will revolutionize how you make decisions about when to market on any given channel to maximize the one true metric you care about: business generated.

If you’re a WhatCounts customer and would like help setting this up, please contact your Account Manager and they’ll be glad to help you get rolling. If you’re using our Campaign Production Services and would like to develop this kind of testing campaign, again, get in touch.

Christopher S. Penn

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