“Our designer already tested these templates, they’re good to go.”
“I used this same design last week, nothing has changed since then.”
“We sent the email around internally. It looked fine on Sally’s machine.”
We hear these statements all the time and—I’ll let you in on a secret—sometimes catch ourselves saying them, too. But the truth is that every email deserves to be tested—even if you (or someone else) tested the template you’re using yesterday. Email programs and apps are not only capable of breaking your design, but also butchering links, subject lines, images, and more.
Each and every time your finger hovers over the send button, you should check for these 11 critical mistakes that can affect opens, clicks, conversions, and most importantly—your brand.
WHY SHOULD YOU CONTINUOUSLY TEST?
Whether you’re creating each and every email from scratch, or using a pre-existing template, it’s still a necessity to test before every single send. Here’s why:
EMAIL CLIENTS DROP SUPPORT WITHOUT NOTICE
Not only is rendering inconsistent across desktop, webmail, and mobile inboxes but, on occasion, email clients drop support for HTML and CSS attributes without notice. This causes major headaches for email designers. For example, Outlook.com dropped support for margin and an update to Yahoo! Mail created a bug with the align attribute.
Regardless of whether you have a pre-tested template that has rendered correctly in the past, it will still be affected by unannounced updates and changes. Your emails could be looking strange in your subscribers’ inboxes without you ever noticing.
BROKEN + INCORRECT LINKS
Broken, incorrect, or untracked links—we’ve all been there. And, it sucks every time. Unless you’re sending a plain text email, URLs are typically masked behind a hyperlink or a button, making them difficult to verify with the quick scan of an eye. Not to mention that clicking through them all can be quite the pain.
Don’t miss out on a conversion opportunity by sending your subscribers to a 404 page—test all of your links before every single send. You can either manually click on all of the links in your email to ensure they are going to the correct landing page (and that they have the correct UTM parameters on them for post-click tracking), or you can save time by using Litmus Checklist.
Check your links in Litmus Checklist
Link checking and tracking are included with every Checklist test in Litmus. With a single click you can:
- Verify all your links are going to the right spot.
- Confirm that click-throughs are being tracked and double check your Google Analytics tracking terms.
- Start a landing page test to verify that the pages you’re linking off to are displaying as intended.
INEFFICIENT PREVIEW PANE VIEW
With subscribers only spending 3-4 seconds deciding if they are going to view your email, it’s important to optimize your email in the preview pane. You have to encourage that open. As a result, it’s important to make sure your from name, reply-to address, subject line, and preview text are all optimized—and don’t include any errors.
You can manually test these fields, or use Litmus Checklist, which includes actionable insights on optimizing these crucial items.
FROM NAME + REPLY-TO ADDRESS
Are they correct? Are there any spelling errors? Ensure that the from name is easily recognizable by your subscribers. For reply-to addresses avoid using email addresses like “firstname.lastname@example.org,” which appear spammy and don’t encourage an open two-way communication with your subscribers.
Did you remove your placeholder subject line? Is it correct? If you are using emojis or special characters, are they supported across the various email clients? All important things to check before every campaign send.
Since some inboxes—namely Gmail, Outlook and the iPhone/iPad—use preview text next to the subject line, it’s important to use this additional space to your advantage. This text is usually limited to about 100 characters and is pulled from the first few lines of text in your email—it’s the perfect place to further encourage your subscribers to open your email. Unfortunately, it’s also another place for you to make an error!
Ensure that you’re using this crucial space to your benefit by testing your email in the preview pane for desktop email clients and in mobile inboxes. If you’re using hidden preview text, ensure that you’ve replaced your placeholder text and that everything is spelled correctly. Similarly to the subject line, if you’re using emojis or special characters in this portion of your email, ensure these elements render correctly.
SPELLING + GRAMMAR ERRORS
Despite every marketer wishing it were true, there is no undo button after the send when it comes to email. Once you send an email to hundreds, thousands or even millions of people that contains a spelling or grammar error, there is virtually nothing you can do; unless, of course, you send an apology email (which is appropriate for some—but not all—instances). Take this example:
Uh oh. Check out that spelling error in the subject line!
The subject line is supposed to say, “Now get it” rather than “Not get it.” Oops! A little extra quality assurance (or QA) time before the send could have prevented this simple mistake.
While minor spelling and grammar errors are common and often go unnoticed by subscribers, there are a few simple steps to avoid these issues. First of all, always proofread your email yourself—numerous times. In addition, a second pair of eyes (or a third, or a fourth, or…) is helpful. If you’re writing the content yourself, or placing it in the email, it’s sometimes difficult to spot the error. Having a fresh set of eyes look at it can be helpful. Here at Litmus, we have at least three people review each email before it’s sent.
Copying your email text into Notepad or Microsoft Word can also help detect spelling errors! What other tricks do you have for spotting spelling errors in your email?
Unless the content in your emails is always static (it shouldn’t be!), then you should be checking for spelling errors before every send. The slip of your finger on a key could cause a simple, easily avoidable error. Spell check before you press send.
BROKEN IMAGES + MISSING OR INCORRECT ALT TEXT
When it comes to images in your email, you need to ensure that they are loading properly when images are displayed and that you have proper backup for when they aren’t. Test your emails to ensure that you’ve replaced placeholder images and the correct imagery is in the right place.
Even if you’re using a template, or have certain emails that are sent out daily, it’s important to consistently test your emails and catch any potential mix-ups. Perhaps someone moved around files, and the image source changed? Or, maybe you switched ESPs and the image URL no longer matches for your email? All important things to keep in mind and test.
Since images are blocked automatically for many subscribers—due to their email client’s default setting or a personal preference—the use of ALT text (short for alternative text), which shows up in place of an image, is encouraged.
During your QA process, be sure to test your emails with images disabled to ensure that you’ve replaced placeholder ALT text, it’s spelled correctly, and it’s appropriate for the image it’s representing.
You can either manually check this, or run a Litmus Checklist—which includes images off views, as well as image load speeds. You can rest-assured that your images are displaying as intended, have ALT text, and aren’t taking too long to load.
MISSING OR IRRELEVANT PLAIN TEXT VERSION
Emails sent using multi-part MIME (something we highly recommend!), not only have an HTML version that needs to be tested, but also a plain text version that needs to go through your testing and QA process. For starters, you’ll need to make sure that you’ve removed any placeholder content and updated the copy if you’ve made changes to the HTML version.
Just like the HTML version, you’ll also need to check the links and URLs in your plain text version to ensure that they are working and keep an eye out for spelling errors. In addition, ASCII characters, such as trademark, copyright, smart quotes, etc., aren’t supported in plain text. You’ll want to verify that these characters aren’t corrupted in your plain text (especially if you’re copying over the content from the HTML version).
Like other email QA steps, you can either manually test your plain text version (most email clients allow you to view the plain text portion of a multi-part MIME email), or be sure to check the “plain text” check box when starting an Email Previews test in Litmus.
BROKEN DYNAMIC CONTENT
If you have dynamic content in your emails, it adds another step to your QA testing process. It’s important to test your emails to ensure that your ESP’s merge/personalization tags are working properly and pulling in the correct information. In addition, ensure that fallbacks are present for instances where you are lacking subscriber data.
If you have switched ESPs, it’s especially important to test. ESPs often have different merge tags, so you’ll have to verify that your dynamic content is still working. You certainly don’t want your subscribers receiving an email that starts with “Dear %%first_name%%.”
To test dynamic content, you should send tests directly from your ESP. You can either send yourself a test, or start a Litmus test.
UNWANTED BLUE LINKS ON IOS DEVICES
Phone numbers, addresses, dates, and (somewhat random) words like ‘tonight’ frequently turn blue and underlined in emails viewed on an iPhone or iPad. These links trigger app-driven events, such as making a call or creating a calendar event. While these may come in handy for some scenarios, in others they can be a nuisance and ruin your carefully-planned branding, even decreasing legibility.
These blue links can reduce legibility.
While we have a solution to ban blue links on iOS devices, we still suggest testing your emails in these clients to ensure that all blue links have been fixed. You can either manually send yourself a test to your iPhone or iPad, or—you guessed it—test in Litmus.
ANY CHANGES COULD AFFECT DELIVERABILITY
Running a spam test before every send is also a crucial part of any QA process. Your content, as well as any changes to your IP address or authentication methods, can impact your deliverability. If your email doesn’t reach the inbox, then all of your time spent optimizing your content and design has been wasted.
Get your email scanned by every major spam filter before you send with Litmus Spam Filter Testing. Rest-assured that you’re reaching the inbox.
…OKAY 12 REASONS…WE CAN’T FORGET PEACE OF MIND!
We all know the fear that one feels before pressing the send button on an email campaign. Dan Murphy, from Netted, put it perfectly in his talk at The Email Design Conference 2013:
The fear, the crippling, crippling fear. While the fear won’t be completely eliminated (we’re human, after all), if you have a proper QA strategy in place and are testing your emails before every single send, the fear will be drastically reduced. Continuous testing enables you to send with confidence.
CONTINUOUSLY (AND EASILY!) TEST YOUR EMAILS
With Litmus Checklist and Spam Filter Testing, you can easily test your emails in over 50 desktop, webmail, and mobile inboxes, and get a guided check of the critical elements that affect email performance and deliverability before sending. Test before every send with Litmus and receive peace of mind.