Using 2017 Email Success to Springboard into 2018

By: Claire Loxsom
Date: 14th March, 2018
A line chart showing that USAGov email open rates rose to peak at 32.5 percent in 2017.

Email is an easy, time-saving way for us to connect the public with government information and services. We strive to provide clear information about relevant topics to our more than 850,000 subscribers, in hopes that our emails will stand out in inboxes overflowing with news alerts and sales offers.

We set a target of a 15 percent open rate and a 1.5 percent click rate for all of our emails in both English and Spanish, based on past performance and industry benchmarks. In 2017, we developed new tactics and fine-tuned our approach. As a result, we surpassed our engagement goals and ended the year with a 18.6 percent open rate and a 1.65 percent click rate. Multiple emails doubled our initial goals.

Here is what we did that worked, lessons learned, and how we will continue to optimize the way we communicate with our subscribers through email.

What We Tried:

  • Delegating to an Email Team: Instead of having one person managing our email campaigns, with some content support, last year we designated a team of content and marketing specialists. This allowed us to share the responsibility of brainstorming, scheduling, drafting, and organizing emails on a weekly basis.
  • Targeted Messaging: Throughout the year, we sorted and created email lists based on the topics subscribers in specific locations were requesting information about, in order to send relevant information to targeted groups. This was particularly beneficial during the hurricane season when we were able to send recovery messaging to people in Texas post-Hurricane Harvey while simultaneously sending preparation resources to people in Florida and Puerto Rico. This meant people only received information that applied to them, and resulted in engagement rates that were steady or above expectations.
  • Thoughtful Day and Time: Through analysis of our past sends, we were able to see what emails and, more specifically, what topics performed well at different times. For example, we’ve found that Mondays and Fridays are optimal days for sending email, and clicks and opens peak on those days in late afternoon. Some emails, such as job postings, perform well no matter when they’re sent. This gave us the opportunity to be more strategic about the ‘what’ and ‘when’ with ease.

What To Expect in 2018:

  • More List Creation: We've been analyzing email performance data over the past few months and we're beginning to think more strategically about who wants to receive what type of message. We’ll be experimenting with creating lists based on past email engagement and segmenting based on location, subtopic, and activity, as well as working to develop surveys to learn more about our audience.
  • Links and Call-to-Actions (CTA): Our emails either direct subscribers to new resources an agency releases, or consistently promote the same important, in-demand information while changing the language in the call-to-action (CTA) button of the email. We’re testing the language, length, and resources our CTA buttons link to in our emails, and potentially standardizing a few links around each of our main topic areas that tend to perform well and provide the best information.
  • Length and Type of Content: With the increase in mobile views and the need for more digestible information, we’re experimenting with shorter paragraphs, more bullets, and more infographics in emails to see how our subscribers need to use what we send out.
  • Efficient Topic Tracking: As you may expect from a platform providing broad cross-agency information, we have topics that consistently perform better than others. We also have subjects that need more frequent updates, which make us gravitate towards promoting more of that information. With the help of an organized team and automated records showing what emails we send on each topic each week, we can work to address military and health as often as we address other subjects like money and shopping.

We’re bumping up our goals in 2018 and working to understand what information is most important to the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on these messages. We’ll share what new tactics are helping us surpass our new 25 percent open and 2 percent click rate quarterly goals!

Claire Loxsom is an Outreach Program Analyst for USAGov/GSA.

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