Email Marketing Audit – Everything You Need to Know

Written by: Scott Cohen

In email marketing, there’s no such thing as “set it and forget it.” Responsible marketers know that good marketing requires continuous assessment and improvement. In this article, we’ll be exploring the intricacies and benefits of email marketing audit.

What Is An Email Marketing Audit?

An email audit helps you identify what’s working and what’s not working. Through an audit, you will assess your email data, analytics, and strategy to understand the performance of crucial email marketing variables including contact data, audience and list segmentation, email templates, design, and more.

An email marketing audit gives you the data you need to review progress and make necessary, data-driven changes to optimize your email marketing strategy. The audit will also help you stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends so you don’t lag behind competitors.

Why Should You Do An Email Marketing Audit?

Why Should You Do An Email Marketing Audit?

When done right, an email audit can steer you in the right direction and help you improve key performance metrics like click-through rates and conversions. With this data, trends, and insights in hand, you can make the right decisions for lasting business success.

An email marketing audit is essential for a number of reasons:

1. Understand Your Audience

An email audit helps you better understand your audience’s preferences and the type of content they best respond to. Using these insights, you can tailor your email copy and design to meet their expectations and deliver value.

Example
: You may discover that your subscribers are more likely to open emails with subject lines with discounts or offers. You can then use this insight to be creative with subject lines, and A/B test different versions to pinpoint the trends in top performers.

2. Improve Deliverability Rates

Through an deliverability audit, you’ll evaluate your email lists and segments and potentially uncover deliverability issues. By finding these now, you can enhance your deliverability and minimize your risk of landing in the spam folder.

Example: You may find that a specific domain is facing deliverability issues (i.e. Microsoft) when compared to other domains. By gaining the knowledge of the make-up of your lists, you can address these issues head-on by splitting sends by domain and engagement levels to customize content and send frequency to improve your email deliverability rates.

3. Boost Engagement

The audit can help you identify your best-performing emails and allow you to replicate their success in future campaigns, increasing engagement rates and ensuring your emails stand out.

Example: Your audit may show that emails sent on a Tuesday morning generate more engagement than those sent on other days. With this knowledge, you can then change your sending cadence to maximize your best days, improve engagement, and potentially grow your list.

4. Identify Gaps and Uncover Growth Opportunities

An audit can help you both find “the holes” in your program as well as discover hidden growth opportunities you may have missed and capitalize on them for better results.

Example: You may notice that specific segments of your list have better engagement rates than others. You can prioritize these segments in your campaign strategy in the short-term to boost conversion while building broader test plans for other audiences.

5. Stay Up to Date with Trends:

Audits also ensure you stay competitive in your industry and capitalize on these changes to keep your campaigns fresh and engaging.

Example: You may find that certain types of visuals or subject lines are trending in the industry and can test incorporating them into your campaigns to drive engagement.

6. Measure Success

It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day or week-to-week grind of email marketing. It ensures that you are looking at both short-term and long-term performance metrics to determine the places where you’re seeing success and the places where you’re not. It also ensures you’re looking at the right data points, and not just “vanity” metrics.

Example: You may be tracking open rate, click-through rate, and other metrics but not paying attention to the overall ROI. An audit can help you spot these gaps and improve your campaigns.

7. Increase Return on Investment (ROI)

This is ultimately what you want: Revenue and ROI. The audit provides a basis for you to optimize your email marketing strategy, send more relevant and engaging emails to your subscribers, and ultimately improve your ROI.

How To Do An Email Marketing Audit

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A good email audit takes time and diligence. Let’s examine the steps to successfully performing a comprehensive audit.

Find Your ‘Why’

What’s your goal? Why did you launch your email program in the first place? You need to define clear goals for your email program and align with your entire team so everyone is on the same page.

Set Your Benchmarks

You can’t know where you want to go until you know where you’ve been. And no audit can be completed without setting a baseline against which to measure your progress.

Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) immediately. Focus on practical metrics like orders, purchase rates, revenue per email, SQLs generated from emails, etc. View “vanity metrics” like open rate as directional and never the end-all-be-all. Then establish what those current performance metrics are so what you know what to measure your program changes against.

Define What You’re Auditing Specifically

Make a list of email elements you want to audit, such as subject lines, content, sender name, etc. This will help you structure the audit process and ensure that every element is evaluated confidently.

Gather Data

Gather all the data required to evaluate each email element and compare it against your set KPIs. This should include past performance reports, customer feedback, industry benchmarks, survey results–basically anything that is relevant to your program and your business.

Analyze And Identify Patterns Within The Data

Dig into the data and see what’s working and what’s not working. Look out for trends in engagement rates, list growth, bounce rates, order rates, average revenue, etc. Look for patterns in engagement and conversion–particularly around time-of-day or day-of-week sends, customer segments, or targeted content and messaging.

Identify Opportunities For Improvement

Call the baby “ugly.” Declare no “sacred cows.” Whatever it takes to be honest and straightforward to get a good solid list of necessary improvements and test ideas down on paper (or OneNote, or whatever). No great email program is ever finished.

Take Action

Implement your changes and track their performance over time using the KPIs you set at the beginning of the audit process. This will help you understand whether actions taken are making an impact.

Here’s a bonus step plus a free general tip:

Bonus Step: Put your next audit on the calendar to review regularly

We just said it. No great email program is ever finished. So go ahead and schedule your next audit to repeat this process. Reviewing your email program regularly is important to adjust to changing email trends, customer needs, and performance.

Tip: Always optimize for mobile

Mobile devices are increasingly becoming the main channel of email access. So it is vital to optimize your emails for mobile viewing. This means ensuring that all content is formatted correctly and appropriately displayed on various devices.

How InboxArmy Performed an Audit – an Example

How InboxArmy Performed an Audit an Example_Banner

InboxArmy was tasked with conducting a thorough email audit for a New York-based seafood retailer to assess their current email campaigns and identify areas for improvement.

Here’s how we went about it:

Established Key Performance Benchmarks And Gathered Key Data

We first aligned with the business on their key performance metrics. We gathered automated flow and campaign performance data from the previous 90 days as a start. These key data points included, among others:

  • Unsubscribe rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Average cart size
  • Average order value
  • Order return rate

Analyzed Email Campaigns And Automations

One of our goals was to identify any inefficiencies or areas of improvement within their automations. Our analysis focused on their welcome, browse abandon, and post-purchase thank you email series. We also thoroughly analyzed various automations, including:

  • Feedback auto-reply
  • Facebook welcome series
  • Delivery, in-transit, and shipping messaging

Conducted A Design Analysis

As part of the audit, we conducted a design analysis, focusing on the visual elements, call-to-action (CTA) placement, and overall navigation of the emails. We provided suggestions for significant design improvements, including consistent branding, prominent CTAs, an improved navigation bar, better social media links, and increased usage of images and icons.

Identified Areas of Improvement

Based on our findings, we made several recommendations to optimize PescatoreNY.com’s email campaigns:

  1. Send campaigns to engaged and unengaged subscribers separately and on different days to maximize engagement.
  2. Implement significant design improvements, such as consistent branding, prominent CTAs, an improved navigation bar, better social media links, and more use of visual elements.
  3. Conduct A/B testing of subject lines and CTAs to identify which resonates best with subscribers.
  4. Optimize automation to drive repeat sales better, ensuring that customers receive timely and relevant messages.
  5. Implement segmentation targeting based on location, price, and level of interest to provide personalized experiences.
  6. Maintain list hygiene to improve deliverability and ensure emails reach the intended recipients.
  7. Decrease copy length and add more visual elements to emails to make them more engaging and easily scannable.
  8. Continuously conduct A/B testing of subject lines, CTAs, day and time of sending, etc., to refine and improve campaign performance.

By implementing these and more such recommendations, PescatoreNY.com can expect to see improved results from their email marketing campaigns, including increased engagement, higher conversion rates, and, ultimately, a boost in revenue.

Email Audit Checklist

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If you plan an email audit anytime soon, this would be a good starting point. Based on where you are in your campaign process and what your goals are, you can use this checklist to understand how to improve every key campaign variable.

Email lists

  • Do you have an up-to-date list of customers?
  • Is the list segmented according to customer interests and preferences?
  • Are you proactively removing inactive customers to clean your email lists?
  • Are your email lists compliant with data privacy laws and regulations?
  • Is there a strategy in place to build and grow your email lists?
  • Have you implemented double opt-in to ensure quality over quantity?
  • Are bounced emails being tracked and cleaned regularly to maintain list health?
  • Are you personalizing and customizing your emails based on the segments of your email list?
  • Are you regularly analyzing your unsubscribe rate and making the necessary adjustments?

Email content

  • Does the email content reflect your brand values and voice?
  • Is the language used appropriate for your target audience?
  • Is your content easy to read and understand?
  • Is there a clear call to action included?
  • Is the content optimized for mobile devices?
  • Are images used to enhance the content?
  • Is the content clear and concise?
  • Are you using A/B testing to evaluate how users interact with different content versions?
  • Have you included social sharing buttons to encourage engagement on other platforms?

Segmentation And Automation

  • Are you segmenting your customers based on where they are in your product or service lifecycle?
  • Are you leveraging personalization tactics to increase customer engagement?
  • Is the email content tailored to reflect customers’ buying behavior and interests?
  • Does the automation strategy prioritize relevant content for each customer segment?
  • Are you using dynamic content personalized for individual customers based on their preferences?
  • Have you implemented segmentation rules to ensure customers receive the right emails at the right time?
  • Is there a email testing process to measure the effectiveness of content and email marketing automation?
  • Have you created specific customer journeys for different stages of the purchase cycle?

Marketing Performance

  • How well are subject lines performing?
  • Do your preheaders engage customers and communicate the value proposition?
  • Are your hero images and headers effective in driving customer engagement?
  • Are you leveraging compelling visuals to support your message?
  • Are customers clicking on the CTA buttons?
  • Are you using tracking links to measure performance across campaigns?
  • Are you A/B testing different versions of your content to identify peak engagement?
  • Do you have insights into customer loyalty and churn rates across campaigns?
  • What are the average open, click-through, bounce, and unsubscribe rates?
  • What days of the week drive the best engagement?
  • What times of day drive the best engagement?
  • What types of content drive the most engagement?

Design And Customer Experience

  • Are customers able to view the email content on any device?
  • Is the email design responsive and optimized for mobile devices?
  • Does the email follow a consistent brand style guide?
  • Is there enough white space between elements to make it easy to read?
  • Are all visuals, fonts, buttons, and colors uniform across different campaigns?
  • Are the emails visually appealing and inviting to drive customer action?
  • Have you implemented accessibility standards in email design to support users with special needs or disabilities?
  • Is there enough contrast between background images, text, and other elements on the page for better readability?
  • Are you providing an easy way for customers to opt out of future emails?

Frequency And Timing

  • How often are you sending emails to your customers?
  • Are the timing and frequency of emails appropriate for each customer segment?
  • Are you using time zone settings to ensure emails reach customers at the right time?
  • Is there a consistent cadence in email campaigns, or have they become sporadic over time?
  • Are you taking into account customer preferences in email frequency and timing?
  • Are there any seasonal or holiday trends that may influence the timing of emails?

Infrastructure And Deliverability  

  • Are emails being sent from reliable email service providers with high deliverability rates?
  • Is the sender domain configured correctly to maximize inbox placement?
  • Are you using sender authentication mechanisms like DKIM and SPF to ensure that your emails are not marked as spam or suspicious?
  • Do you have insight into email delivery performance over time, including open and click-through rates?
  • Are you using tracking technologies like Google Analytics to monitor the campaigns?
  • Are emails being tested across different devices and browsers for a better user experience?
  • Are you optimizing content for mobile users more likely to access emails on their phones?

Accessibility

  • Are emails being tested for accessibility issues like color contrast and font size?
  • Are images, videos, and other assets accessible to users with disabilities?
  • Is there enough visual hierarchy in the design to make essential elements stand out?
  • Are you correctly using semantic HTML tags like headings and list items for better accessibility?
  • Are you using Aria tags to enhance the overall accessibility of email campaigns?

Code & Compliance

  • Are emails being coded using semantic HTML that follows web standards?
  • Are all images and assets optimized for faster loading times?
  • Is there enough text in the design to ensure compliance with CAN-SPAM laws?
  • Is the unsubscribe link clearly visible at the bottom of each email?
  • Are you including a valid physical address in the footer of each email?
  • Are you providing a clear link to update personal information with each email?
  • Is there a privacy policy link at the bottom of each email?
  • Are all links valid and pointing to the right destinations?
  • Are emails being subjected to anti-spam tests before they are sent out?

Analytics & Reporting

  • Are you tracking the performance of each email campaign?
  • Are all important email metrics being collected and analyzed, such as open rates, click-through rates, conversions, etc.?
  • Is there a process in place to track revenue generated from emails?
  • Are you using A/B testing to optimize messaging, subject lines, and design?
  • Are you using segmentation to target different audiences more effectively?
  • Are you tracking user engagement across multiple channels, such as website visits, social media interactions, etc.?
  • Is there a system in place to monitor customer feedback about emails?
  • Are reports being generated regularly to track email marketing performance?

Automation, Schedule, And Workflow

  • Are you leveraging automation to streamline your campaigns?
  • Are emails being scheduled at optimal times for higher engagement?
  • Is there a workflow in place to ensure timely delivery of emails?
  • Are automated emails personalized with relevant content for each customer?
  • Can the team keep track of customer preferences and interactions to personalize emails further?
  • Is there a process in place to test and optimize automated emails?
  • Are automated emails being tested on multiple devices before they are sent out?

These questions are just an outline for how comprehensive a good email audit should be. It should cover all facts of a successful email marketing program and help you get your program to achieve peak performance.

What Should You Do After Your Email Audit?

A great starting point would be to compile all the information you gather into a digestible report to share with your marketing team and other stakeholders. It will give everyone on your team a better understanding of performance, what your plans are to improve performance, and hopefully earn you buy-in to complete them.

The next step, as previously mentioned, would be to schedule the next round of the audit–set at a time in the future when you’ve had a reasonable amount of time to take action on your recommendations. This way, you have it on your calendar to regularly review both your past audit reports as well as your current KPIs to maintain a current view of your program’s performance.

About Author

Winner of the ANA Email Experience Council’s 2021 Stefan Pollard Email Marketer of the Year Award, Scott Cohen is a proven email marketing veteran with nearly 20 years of experience as both a brand-side marketer and an email marketing agency executive. He brings to our clients a unique blend of experience building and managing larger CRM and retention teams, sending millions of emails and SMS per week, and award-winning copywriting chops. For more information, follow him on Linkedin

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