A/B testing and CTAs are fundamental elements of any successful email marketing program, but there can be a lot of nuance when it comes to getting them right. In our recent webcast, Stellar Email Marketing: A/B Testing & CTAs, our Senior Director of Revenue Marketing, Carly Brantz, and I walked through a bunch of tips on how to do just that.

We received a ton of great questions throughout the presentation, but weren’t able to get to all of them live. Since email calls to action and content are my sweet spot, I’ll answer questions on those topics in this post, and Carly will follow up with all other questions about A/B testing in another post.

Let’s get to it!

Q: For content marketing purposes, what’s your take on best practices for a newsletter template that has multiple modules—each module highlighting a separate piece of content? Is there a minimum/maximum number of modules that you’ve seen to be successful?

A: There isn’t a hard and fast rule here—it will depend on your industry and product/service. But first, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that this is something you should test. What might work for some subscribers, might not work for yours.

Just be sure to not clutter your email and modules with too many offers or CTAs, because this can become confusing for readers. If you’re not clear on what you’re asking your subscriber to do…they won’t do anything! So test out a few combinations of different modules to see where you’re getting the most engagement. Just be sure that each module is straightforward and has a clear and actionable CTA. Also, try to add as much personalization to the modules you’re using as possible. For example, if you’re a retailer and you’re sending out information about a sale or new merchandise, tailor the images you’re using to match previous purchases from that subscriber.

Q: I usually hear that you should only include one CTA, so as to not dilute your message and distract your audience from your main message. Can you speak to why you would want to include more than one CTA?

A: Having one CTA is usually the most direct way to get a response from your subscriber. However, there are some instances when your subscriber doesn’t want to take the action that you’re asking in your primary CTA, so it’s ok (and beneficial) to have a secondary (or sometimes a tertiary) CTA to help them engage. For example: if you’re emailing subscribers who attended a recent event to ask for feedback, your primary CTA would be just that: “provide feedback here,” “let us know how we did,” etc. But what if your attendees don’t want to provide feedback? Does your email just go to waste?

To prevent this, a secondary CTA can be a great option for you. This CTA should be a lower urgency ask, so as not to compete with the primary. It could ask subscribers to follow you on social media to get notified of more events near you, or could point subscribers to a photo gallery of recent events. Just make sure that the secondary CTA provides value.

Q: What do you mean by “CTAs should always be above the fold?” 

A: By “above the fold” we mean placing your CTA above the area where your subscribers have to scroll in your email. This is important because a lot of our subscribers are skimmers (me included!)—they just look for the biggest, boldest points and then move on. If you bury your CTA at the bottom of your email, there’s a chance they’ll never get to it at all. So get to your point quickly! Our Technical Account Management team has some other great suggestions for CTA placement, so you can check out their tips in their post: Email CTAs: 6 Design Tips to Make Sure Your CTAs Don’t Get Clipped.

Q: By evolving your email design over time, how much is too much? Do you inch forward one subject line at a time and one little CTA at a time?

A: Testing requires a LOT of patience! While it’s best to take cautious and small steps (one subject line and one CTA at time) and then iterate based on your findings, sometimes we’re not given the luxury of having that much time. If you need to make large sweeping changes, (not recommended!) realize that you won’t be able to isolate what precise element (color, template, logo, etc.) was responsible for your increase or decrease in engagement. You’ll just have to start a new testing benchmark after those larger changes are made. If you have the time, (which we know is a luxury!) try to keep your email evolution to a gradual change based off of findings from testing specific elements of your design and content. 

Q: What was the image/text percentage you quoted? You said 60/40, but which one is text and which one is image?

A: Our Email Delivery Consultant, Jacob Hansen, has a great saying “Get the point across first, look cool second.” Which means make sure you’re providing valuable content before focusing too much on design. So he suggests staying between a 70% text/30% image to 60% text/40% image ratio. For more tips from Jacob, check out his 5 Common Email Misconceptions video.

Q: Have you noticed any increase in open rate when using a tiny URL vs. a large URL hyperlinked on a CTA?

A: Yes! We actually don’t recommend that you used shortened links/tiny URLs in your email, because they can sometimes make you look like a spammer. To avoid that confusion, stick to HTML or create your own link shortener. Our compliance team offers more tips in their post Link Shorteners are Great…But Not for Email.  

CTAs are one of the most powerful pieces of your email program. Make sure you’re testing your design, placement, and content to see the most return on each of your sends. For a more detailed walkthrough of CTAs, check out our Stellar Email Marketing webcast, or download our CTA Guide.



Jillian Wohlfarth
As SendGrid's Director of Content, Jillian is responsible for ensuring that SendGrid provides valuable thought leadership content through the blog, whitepapers, webcasts, and more. When not writing and editing, you can find Jillian frequenting Denver restaurants in search of the best queso.