The Anatomy of an Effective Email

Article first published in November 2015, updated June 2019

What makes an email work? It isn’t one thing that convinces
subscribers to open your email or click on a call to action; it’s
a combination of things. But, first, why choose email in the first
place? In 2019, isn’t social media the place to be?  

The answer to that is a hard no—and here’s why.

What are some advantages of email?

Social media is a great place to be when it comes to the daily
interactions between you and your audience. However, did you know
that 61% of consumers actually prefer to be contacted by their
favorite brands through , not through social media?

When it comes down to receiving
promotional content
and other marketing materials, 72% of
people prefer to receive it through email, not through their social
media channels. Also, in terms of overall return on investment
(ROI), marketers see an average 4400% ROI and $44 for every dollar

This is why , so it’s wise for your marketing team to hop on
that gravy train, if they haven’t already.

How can I write an effective email?

Like the human body, an effective email relies on a series of
high-functioning components to thrive. Any weakness in the system
takes a toll on the entire body. It’s the same with your emails.
If the subject line is weak or the links are broken, your email can

To help you write a catchy email that’ll get your
subscribers’ blood pumping, we’ll dissect some real-life
examples and explain the anatomy of an effective email.

“From” label

The “From” label is the face of your email. Your face makes
you easily recognizable, which is exactly what the “From” label
does. It tells subscribers who sent the email. Use your company
name so the “From” label is professional and instantly

From name

Subject line

The subject line is the heart of your email. Just like your body
can’t function without your heart, your email can’t function
without a good subject line.

Like the heart, subject lines have a lot of power. Thirty-three
percent of subscribers decide whether or not to read your email
based on the subject line alone. That’s a lot of pressure.

subject line

How do you write a must-read subject line? Here are some

Keep it short.

Subject lines should be 40-50 characters or 5-6 words.

Describe what’s inside.

Think of a subject line like a newspaper headline. It tells
readers what they’re about to read by describing the article in a
brief, interesting, and descriptive way. A subject line should do
the same.

Use urgent language.

When creating a subject line, use the present tense and create a
sense of urgency. Use words that encourage
swift action
, like “Act now” or “Join today.”

Be creative.

A subject line that’s funny or maybe even a little weird can
encourage subscribers to open your email. Don’t be afraid to be
creative. Maybe even test out using emoji and see what they do for
your open rate.


The preheader of an email is like your posterior nares. The
what? Most people aren’t sure where or what that is. It’s part
of your nose that allows you to breathe. It’s a little-known body
part that’s vital to your survival, just
like the preheader.

preheader text

Take a look at the example above. The preheader text follows
the subject line in the inbox preview pane. What’s so special
about this little snippet of text? It gives subscribers more
information about your email message. It’s one of three pieces of
information (after the “From” label and subject line) that
subscribers use to decide whether or not to open your email. Think
of it as the wingman to your subject line, providing an extra bit
of context to your subscribers about why they should open your

Email copy

The copy of your email is the brains of the operation. The text
of an email is responsible for stimulating subscribers to think and
act, just like your brain.

The text should be short and to the point. Convey your message
quickly. Now isn’t the time for long sentences or super-detailed

If your message contains a list, consider using bullet points to
keep everything organized.

What if you’re sending a newsletter? It’s true that
newsletters are supposed to contain a lot of information, but you
don’t have to include an entire article in your email. Take a
look at the newsletter from Rolling Stone.

Their newsletter gives small snippets of each article with links
to read more, rather than putting the entire content in the

rolling stone newsletter example

Consider using different fonts or colors to make certain aspects
stand out. In the example above, the headline is in a bigger,
bolder font to grab attention.


Remember to add a few links to your email. Hyperlinks represent
the arms of an email’s anatomy. Your arms help you explore the
world around you, just like links.

There isn’t a magic number of links that you should include
in each email. You should do what works for each message. You can
link to product pages or a page that answers frequently asked
questions. There are a ton of options.

And be sure to always test your links before sending
any email to make sure they work properly.


What part of the anatomy do images represent? We could say that
email images represent your stomach. Your stomach craves food just
like subscribers crave visual stimulation.

There are two basic types of imagery. You can include an actual
picture of a person, place, or thing, or you can include artwork.
The examples from Campaign Monitor customers below showcase

imagery example from Rip Curl

Birchbox email example

Need help obtaining images? Turn to sites like Death to the Stock
and Stocksy for high-end
images without super high-end prices.

Call to action

Every email needs a call
to action
. It’s an instruction that encourages action. The
call to action is like your legs. You need your legs to get from
one place to another, right? Well, the call to action should
encourage subscribers to go from reading your email to the next
stop on the digital journey.

It could lead subscribers to a company website, product page,
blog article, or social sites.

Take a look at this example from Mazda. It’s well done

CTA example from Mazda

Color selection

The color red, which is used sparingly throughout the email, is
visually appealing. It draws a reader’s attention to it.

Button creation

The call-to-action is a button, which also makes it stand out.
Consider using a button rather than using hyperlinked text for your
call to action.

Social buttons

Your social buttons represent the mouth of your email. After
all, social media is all about digital word of mouth.

Make sure every email has links to share your message on social
channels and, when appropriate, to follow your business on social


The unsubscribe option at the end of every email is like your
fingernails. Your fingernails require maintenance, just like
subscribers do.

Including an unsubscribe button is not only a better
user-experience, but it’s also required.

The standard placement for the unsubscribe link is at the bottom
of the email. Here’s an example from Global Fund for Women. It
explains why the subscriber receives the message and provides a
link to unsubscribe.

unsubscribe example

In addition to your unsubscribe link, consider creating
a preference center
 that allows subscribers to change things
like email frequency. It gives subscribers more control over their
inbox and could keep them from removing their name from your list

Examples of effective emails

Ready for a few more real-life examples of effective emails?
Here are a couple we came across that we thought were stellar
examples of what an email should look like.


This email from WordPress caught our attention because it
included several of the crucial pieces of information we’ve

First of all, the email subject line instantly captures the
reader’s attention by addressing a pain-point that many website
owners have—creating shareable content for your website.

They continue to capture the reader’s attention by moving on
to the preheader text, where they ask the question that website
owners are probably asking themselves: “What type of content gets
the most shares?”

Just that alone makes the reader want to open this email because
it’s addressing a common pain-point and is more than relevant to
the reader.

Just that alone makes the reader want to open this email because it’s addressing a common pain-point and is more than relevant to the reader.

Source: Gmail

Once we open the email, we get to see that WordPress has checked
off each of the essential pieces of an email. Their copy is
relevant; they have working, relevant links for readers to click
on; and attractive, simple to use call-to-action buttons that lead
the reader to pages they’ll find useful. Readers also have the
option to click on their social buttons to follow the brand, or
they can easily unsubscribe by clicking the link at the bottom.

Once we open the email, we get to see that WordPress has checked off each of the essential pieces of an email.


Alaska Airlines

This email example from Alaska Airlines caught our eye for
several reasons. First of all, instead of using high-quality stock
photos throughout their message, they made use of beautiful
artwork—something many email marketing teams avoid because they
believe it’s less relatable.

There’s nothing wrong with turning your email into a beautiful
piece of art. As long as you’re sticking to a central
theme—such as the light, airy feel that Alaska Airlines has
accomplished here—then swapping out traditional stock photography
for artwork and other imagery is a great idea.

They still tick off every other checkbox on the anatomy list,
including catchy headlines, compelling text, a call to action,
social buttons, and an unsubscribe option.

They still tick off every other checkbox on the anatomy list, including catchy headlines, compelling text, a call to action, social buttons, and an unsubscribe option.

Really Good Emails

Wrap up

There’s a reason doctors learn anatomy first. They have to
understand how the body works in order to help patients stay
healthy. It’s the same with email marketing. By understanding the
anatomy of an email, you’ll be able to keep your marketing in
tip-top shape and treat any problems that come your way.

You know the bare bones of effective email writing; now it’s
time to up the ante by adding personalization into the mix. Check
out our
5-step guide to effective email personalization
to take your
email campaigns to the next level.

The post
The Anatomy of an Effective Email
appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

Source: FS – Email Marketing Blogs!
The Anatomy of an Effective Email