The WhatCounts Blog

Everything you need to know about smart, personalized email marketing.

Images in Email: 5 Things All Marketers Should Consider

strip by miemo, via FlickrEveryone knows the age-old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s important as a marketer you put extra thought into the images in your emails. Picking out the first stock image you find isn’t going to cut it.

Let’s walk through some key elements to consider when tackling your email image strategy.

1. Your Brand

This may seem obvious, but remember the images in your email should resonate with your brand. If you want to stand out in the inbox, make sure you’re including thoughtful, carefully curated images that connect with not only the topic of your email, but also with your brand’s overall personality.

2. Audience Demographics

Take a second to contemplate the most important factor in the success of your email: the audience. Look at your subscriber demographics and tailor your images accordingly. If your subscribers cover a wide demographic range, consider segmenting and sending slightly different images to different groups. Maybe with your younger subscription base you can push the envelope with your creativity, but with your more mature subscribers, take a more conservative approach.

You won’t know what works best until you do some testing. Try out different tactics and see what performs.

As an example, if you send a newsletter, try performing a split test with your audience. Send one batch a newsletter with (relevant) images for each article. Send another batch the newsletter with just one main image that goes with your feature story. See what happens.

3. Nature of the Email

Consider the type of email you’re sending to help you determine what type and how many images to include. For example, including visuals can be exceptionally valuable in promotional emails, where an attention-grabbing element is a must. If you want an image to be the focal point of your message, keep it above the fold to grab a reader’s attention from the get-go. In a letter-style email, images may not fit and should be limited in use.

No matter what the nature of your email, steer clear of sending a message consisting solely of images. It’s also in best practice to keep all important text in HTML and not in your images. This will help ensure the actual content of your email will display no matter what.

Note: The unsubscribe link should never be a graphic, including part of an image map. Email best practices dictate image maps are no-nos anyway.

4. Platforms and Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Consider user experience both before selecting images and after you’ve made your selections. Responsive email design is critical—according to Movable Ink, 66 percent of emails are opened on a mobile device or tablet. Pay attention to how many subscribers appear to open your emails on a mobile device as their experience with images may be different. Using responsive design, images can be scaled to the optimum size for your mobile readers, which should help you with email performance and conversion rate.

Test against all platforms and ISPs once you have created your email. Also, be aware many ISPs block images. Make sure you include descriptions in your image’s alt text so if people can read something relevant if images aren’t turned on.

5. The Images Themselves

Last but not least, if you’re going to take the time to put images in your emails (which you should!), make sure they’re awesome, unique, creative images. Read: No clip art. With the abundance of sources for public domain images, you should enjoy finding the perfect pictures for your emails. Check out this article from WP Tavern for some helpful public domain sites.

Victoria Lopiano
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts

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This Monday, Let’s Shine a Spotlight on Content

valuable original content by 10ch, via flickrBack in July, we wrote about How to Overhaul Your Content in 3 Steps. Today, we have curated five articles from across the web to help you with content production. These articles will help motivate you to come up with that killer new content for your email marketing campaigns, blog or website.

Using Video in Your Email Marketing | MarketingProfs

This article proposes that if content is king, video is the king’s golden crown. Including a video in your next email campaign could significantly increase your click-through rate; it has been reported to up to triple the amount. Check out this article for more reasons why it could be a good idea, and how to properly execute.

7 Ways Limitations Can Boost Your Content Creation Productivity | Content Marketing Institute

Indecision can be crippling to creativity, so I am always a fan of articles that suggest you can do more with fewer options. This article suggests that setting expectations and limitations on your content creation can keep you focused on the right things, enabling you to produce timely content. There are lots of tips in this article on how to restructure to accomplish this.

These Bad Blogging Habits Are Stunting Your Growth | Hubspot

Blogging is probably a key component to your content marketing strategy, so naturally you want to see your blog flourish. This article by Hubspot identifies four common but unsavory habits that all bloggers should avoid. Thankfully, solutions are listed.
(Bonus points to this article for mentioning ice cream and Game of Thrones.)

7 Ways to Simplify Complex Content While Maintaining Sophistication and Nuance | copyblogger

Step one of seven ways to create effective content is to ask dumb questions, according to this article published on copyblogger. While at first that may sound ridiculous, this article is full of impactful, clear-cut advice about how to convey your smart ideas in a way that resonates with your audience, both novice and advanced readers.

Produce Content Marketing that Customers Care About | Harvard Business Review

Most marketers can agree that good content marketing usually comes from a relevant, knowledgeable source and provides customers with answers to the questions they have been asking. What I found interesting about this blog post, published by the Harvard Business Review, is that it mentions multiple unique forums where you can establish credibility through your content. For example, speaking at events is a place where you can share content face-to-face with consumers.

Read a great marketing article in the last few weeks? Share it in the comments below, or tweet it to our handle.

Victoria Lopiano
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts

Download our latest eBook

Your email list is your most valuable asset. Learn 57 tips for building it today!


The Automatic Unsubscribe Link is here to Stay

Stop Sign by Kt Ann, via FlickrWhether you like it or not, you no longer have a choice about where the unsubscribe link appears in your emails. That is, at least when it comes to Gmail.

As an email sender, you may have noticed the small gray Unsubscribe text at the top of some of your Gmail messages over the past few months. Gmail announced its automatically-inserted Unsubscribe link months ago, but just this week made the feature official. On its G+ Gmail page Wednesday, Google announced the feature is now a permanent fixture on Gmail.

One interesting item from Google’s announcement is to which messages the Unsubscribe link will apply. Only those emails routed to the Social, Promotions, or Forums tabs in the Inbox – not the Primary or Updates tabs – will offer an automatic unsubscribe option. Google’s post indicates its automatic unsubscribe link will be attached to any mail arriving in one of these tabs that includes an opt-out link. Technically, though, the “list-unsubscribe” value in the message header is what will trigger the link’s insertion.

Gmail’s application of this feature has been inconsistent so far. Even now, after the announcement, you’ll most likely find some emails that should have the automatic unsubscribe don’t. Hopefully now that Google has made the feature official, the utilization will be more consistent.

What does the permanent automatic unsubscribe link mean for email marketers?

First, understand if your CAN-SPAM compliant marketing emails appear in the Social, Promotions or Forums tabs in Gmail, an automatic unsubscribe link will be added to the top – if not now, then in the near future.

Second, it’s more important than ever to make sure subscribers have given you permission to send them emails. Otherwise, the combination of the “I didn’t ask for this” content and the automatic unsubscribe button will be too tempting for them not to opt out.

Third, and much in the same vein as the previous point, it’s important you’re sending personalized, relevant content. Even subscribers who’ve opted in for your messages will feel the call of the automatic unsubscribe irresistible if they don’t see content and a design that speaks to them.

As this new feature sees widespread release, our deliverability team is keeping an eye on developments and we’ll certainly communicate any news on this blog.

There’s no doubt Gmail is moving towards more and more ways to eliminate spammy, unwanted emails. The automatic unsubscribe link is a step in that direction.

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl

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Your email list is your most valuable asset. Learn 57 tips for building it today!


Ready for the Weather: Real-Time Messaging that Wins

What’s better than real-time messaging going to people when they take actions – buy a car, book a trip, abandon their online shopping carts?

Marketers get the most bang for their bucks from auto-response messages because they work. They’re everything a subscriber wants in an email: relevant, timely, personalized.

But did you know in addition to setting up auto-response campaigns, you can send a different kind of real-time message that wins big with readers?

Sending weather-related emails to the right person at the right time adds a wow factor to your emails. It’s just a matter of proactively preparing the campaigns.

First, create segments of your list based on location if you haven’t already. If you’re a national company, large areas may work best: the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest. If you’re a smaller company within one of those regions, you can segment by city. Just remember to dynamically populate the content of your email with area name or city name, depending on how your segments are set up.

The best part is you can create templates way in advance of a weather-related event actually taking place. Make them now; send them later.

Personalized Summer Emails

For example, Starbucks could have created this email months before sending it out. The company knew that at some point, summer – and high temps – would come to many areas of the United States. They simply customized the subject line with an area name tag, and hit the send button when the temperatures spiked.

Subject line: It’s getting pretty warm in the Newburyport area

Starbucks sent this warm weather email.

When Snow’s Coming

Dunkin Doughnuts took a similar approach with its cold weather email. You can safely assume winter storms hit the Northeast and Northwest regularly for 5-6 months a year. Pre-populate a winter warning email, and send it when the weather forecaster starts predicting a big winter storm.

Subject line: A storm’s-a-brewin’

Dunkin' Doughnuts prepares for stormy weather.

Here’s another snow-themed email. Save those who are suffering from cabin fever during a snowstorm with a snow-inspired email (and some shopping on your website).

Subject line: TODAY! FREE shipping (happy snow day)!

West Elm encourages subscribers to shop online during cold weather.

Prepare for Bad Weather

Another good idea is to have a disaster preparedness message ready to send. This is especially important for financial institutions, insurance companies, and power supply organizations. Remind customers of your contact information and educate them on what to do in emergency situations. Here’s an example:

Subject line: Esurance is here for you 24/7

Esurance provides helpful information in the face of bad weather.

Even if you’re not one of the previously mentioned types of companies, you can prepare an email offering sympathy to those in the area affected by the severe weather. Even if you decide not to create a dedicated email for this type of event, make sure your already scheduled messages are appropriate in consideration of the natural disaster. The last thing you want to be is an insensitive brand during a time of emergency.

What Not to Send

The last thing you want to do is send a weather-related email to the wrong person. A snow day email opened by a subscriber in sunny, hot Arizona? It has a damper effect on the relationship. Keep mistakes like this from happening by carefully segmenting your list, and double checking you’ve chosen the appropriate segment for your message before hitting send.

Also, if you decide not to create weather-related email campaigns, you can still personalize. If there’s a heat wave hitting the whole country one week, why not make reference to it or include a pun about it in your messaging? That small touch of personalization will help subscribers see you’re human. And that’s what building a relationship with them is all about.

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl

Download our latest eBook

Your email list is your most valuable asset. Learn 57 tips for building it today!


Marketing as Baseball

Baseball glove by Andrei!, via FlickrWhatCounts’ founder Allen Nance is fond of reminding the marketing team that any project we do needs to be measurable. One of the most measurable things in life is baseball.

I’m a numbers guy. Always have been, always will be. In this particular case, an 89 – 91 mile-per-hour fastball in high school baseball got me scouted before my knee exploded, and I was really bummed about that … until I examined everything. I knew I did one thing really, really well … then after I took a look at my full statistics from my high school days, I realized that I sucked at pitching outside of throwing a ball really, really hard.

My curveball was getting golfed about half the time, and I didn’t really understand how to throw a change-up without “tipping” it with my delivery. As a result, my pitching repertoire was being limited — not by ability, but by myself.

I wasn’t looking at my blind spots, I wasn’t looking in the rear-view window, I was riding on one number that took me to success without considering the peripherals that were screaming that I was going to hit a very harsh wall of diminishing returns.

If you’re in marketing, you need to be willing to look at everything from a holistic perspective. Just because one number says you’re great at what you’re doing, that doesn’t mean you’re great at everything you’re doing.

Now, the great thing about both pitching and marketing is that if you totally whiff on something, or launch a meatball that your competition tees off upon … it’s only marketing, it’s not rocket surgery.

You can always hit your spot with your next fastball.

Tim Brechlin
Inbound Marketing Manager, WhatCounts

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call: 5 Marketing Articles You Should Read Now

Alarm Clock 1 by Alan CleaverIt’s Monday morning and you might be wishing you were still in bed. So, take a couple of minutes while you get back in the swing of things to read through some of our favorite marketing articles from the past few weeks.

17 Insanely Actionable List Building Strategies That Will Generate More Subscribers Today (Backlinko)

Looking to boost your email subscribers? This article will give you 17 quick fixes to help build up your list with the right kinds of subscribers (hint: the kinds that are actually interested in what you have to say).

3 Myths About Duplicate Content (KISSmetrics)

Last week, WhatCounts was busting open some of the most famed email marketing myths (watch the webinar here). This week, check out KISSmetric bust some myths about duplicate content. There are numerous misleading stats and thoughts on this topic out there. Put the questions to rest by reading this article.

Building Better Content By Improving Upon Your Competitors (Moz)

This article about building authoritative, useful content (and using your competitors as a valuable resource) is like that friend you have who just tells it like it is—no-holds-barred. Read this to pick up some extremely useful SEO & content tips and tricks.

Six Steps to Turn Jargon-Monoxide into Human Speak That Connects (Convince & Convert)

Jargon, gibberish, balderdash…: whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t belong in your marketing messaging. Often, though, that is easier said than done for marketers. Keep these six steps in mind next time you write to keep your message customer-friendly.

10 Things Every Email Marketer Can Relate To (HubSpot)

If you are an email marketer, you will appreciate this hilariously accurate blog post from HubSpot on the trials and tribulations we experience on the regular (PS- the gifs in this article are amazing).

Read a great marketing article in the last few weeks? Share it in the comments below, or tweet it to our handle:

Victoria Lopiano
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts

Download our latest eBook

Your email list is your most valuable asset. Learn 57 tips for building it today!


Too Many Users? Solution: Subaccounts and User Permissions

Does your company have multiple branches, entities or groups that each requires its own email marketing strategy?

Is it hard for you to set up workflows for different members of your marketing team?

Maybe you’re a media company that supports several radio stations, newspapers and other outlets. Maybe you are an agency or retailer with several individual clients or locations, and don’t want users from one group to see or access other group’s data. It’s a struggle to keep the lists, templates, reports and other email marketing items separate for each of these items in one account within an email marketing platform.

If these pain points sound familiar, you could benefit from the Subaccounts and User Permissions features, both of which can be found in the WhatCounts Publicaster platform.


A subaccount is a child account under a parent account that has completely separate data, including lists, creatives, reports and users. A subaccount is the same as having a brand new account, but email volume for all sub-accounts is aggregated. This means you can have multiple subaccounts and it won’t cost you a penny more in addition to the cost of your main account.

Creating a Subaccount only takes a few clicks in our Publicaster platform.

Creating a subaccount is just a few clicks away.

Step 2 of adding a subaccount.

Once you’ve created your subaccounts, you can give different users different levels of access. Just as with creating a subaccount, adding a user is easy.

Add a user to different subaccounts.

User Permission

After giving the members of your team access to the platform, you can set up your workflows. With a simple click, decide what subaccounts and features each person has access to.

Each permission level represents a primary tab in the application. Granting a user access to a section gives them access to all the features and functionality found within that tab. Grant users different permissions based on their role in the organization. Users can be assigned to one or more accounts and have different permissions in each account.

If someone gets promoted or leaves the company, you can edit these permissions quickly.

Give different users different permission levels.

The final item to note about these features is users can easily move from one subaccount to another from the account dropdown menu.

Move from one subaccount to another easily.

Subaccount and User Permission features allow you to easily house all of your different email marketing entities under one roof, while managing the different workflows for your team.

Instead of having to log out and then back in to a different account, you can easily move from account to account. The best part about this feature in the WhatCounts Publicaster platform is there’s no extra charge for up to 10 subaccounts. (Hint: If you have to use multiple accounts in your current provider, you’re probably overpaying.)

If this is a feature you think you can benefit from, contact today!

John Sivewright
Business Development Manager

Just Ask

We have said, time and again, that your email list is your most valuable marketing asset. Those email addresses, as long as they have been collected via opt-in, are digital gold. But here’s a question for you:

How are you acquiring your subscribers?

I’m not talking about the traffic acquisition channels you see in Google Analytics (referral, direct, search), nor am I talking about getting addresses via a pop-up or a sign-up widget on your homepage or an opt-in box on a purchase page. I’m talking about something even more informative for you as you gather intelligence about your marketing efforts: How have people even found you in the first place?

Seven months ago, we implemented a progressive opt-in form for the WhatCounts Weekly newsletter. (Sign up today!)

We use a progressive opt-in form to ask subscribers questions.

The first few questions are pure demographic information: First and last name, industry, whether or not the subscriber is a current customer. We ask these questions to allow for more personalized and segmented messages – if we have news about a shift in the email marketing landscape that drastically affects travel and tourism marketers, then we have a segment of our list ready to go and we can communicate with them directly, as opposed to communicating to our entire list and making marketers in the sports marketing industry ask, “What the heck is in this for me?” But what I feel is the most important part of this form is the final question: “How did you hear about WhatCounts?”

Note that this question isn’t answered via a drop-down, or with pre-made radio buttons. Those can be useful for collapsing information into a few buckets, but it’s also artificially constraining, because the odds are that question can be answered in more ways than you can think of. That’s certainly been the case for us.

For example, one person signed up for the newsletter and said she did so because she used WhatCounts Publicaster Edition at her previous employer (which was great news for our sales team). Other people have said that they found us through industry partners we work with (which helps reinforce the mutual value of those partnerships). Some have found us through popular blog posts that have been re-published on other websites (which helps us refine and hone our content strategy). Some have been referred by friends, others have simply wanted to learn how to whitelist an email. The long and the short of it is that we would never have gotten that intelligence with a drop-down menu. As I have said time and again, we are not our audience … but our audience is our greatest source of intelligence and feedback regarding the health of our marketing efforts.

The most important takeaway from this, however, is that we never would have gotten this information, this intelligence, this feedback without, you guessed it, asking. But by asking, we get, on a daily basis, a better idea of how people are finding us on the Internet – and this is information that not only allows us to refine our processes, but also to proactively identify gaps in those processes before they become gaping chasms.

Just ask. The worst they can say is “no.”

Tim Brechlin
Inbound Marketing Manager, WhatCounts

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From the Blog

Learn digital marketing tips, tricks and strategies from some of our top blog posts:

The ABCs of Email Testing: Learn about top strategies for testing your emails.

5 Easy Tips to Make Your Subject Lines Stand Out: Get noticed in the inbox with these subject line tips.

The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Do: Keep your email marketing program healthy by following this one, easy-to-do tip.