Are your emails set up correctly? 7 back-to-basic tips not to forget


Setting up and checking your email campaigns is one of the most important tasks in email marketing. I’m not talking about anything analytical, such as split testing or testing time of day. I’m talking about the basic set up.

Far too often, the set-up of each email is assumed to be correct and taken care of by each Email service provider.

7 Points of your set up to test in your email campaigns:

Marketers are so busy juggling too many demands that very often it’s the basics that get overlooked. Especially if it is part of the set up. Based on the templating and system this can seem to be a task for your email service provider to take care of.

Instead, the goal should be to work with your ESP on testing every part of your email, ensuring it has been set up correctly. This is a checklist with 7 Points of your set up to test in your email campaigns.

1. Email headers

Email headers are included in the set-up of automated emails and campaigns and seldom looked again after set-up. These include your FROM name, FROM address and reply address.

a. The ‘FROM’ name indicates who the email is from. Remember that customers open emails from brands they know, so check for consistency across emails. Check the spelling too.

b. The ‘FROM’ address is the email address that displays in email clients and appears next to the FROM name. Look out for any placeholders here such as

c. Your Reply address is often the same as the FROM address, but you should implement a process to ensure that the reply is tested (even those with a no-reply). The email address should work and a no-reply email should result in an automated message back to the customer informing them of alternative contact details.

2. Tracking

You should be testing every single link in the email , especially those that are tracked. The test should include clicking on the link to make sure it takes you to the right page, but also go back and check the reports. Each of your clicks should show up on the click tracking report.

3. SPAM Checks – Content and IP address checks

Again, ask your ESP if they have an automated test (most do) to give you an indication on whether your content could be seen as spam. This gives you a chance to rephrase some of the wording.

You should also check to see if your IP address is black or grey listed on any servers before giving the go ahead to do this – this ensures that your email has the best chance of delivery. You can check your IP address by visiting a site such as mxtoolbox.

4. Text version

HTML emails should be sent in “multipart-alternative” format. This means that the email is embedded with a plain text version and an HTML version of the message. When a server can’t view HTML email, the plain text version displays instead. Make sure to test your text version, as well as the HTML.

5. Rendering in various environments

With mobile being such a hot topic and the need to get emails not only looking good on a mobile phone, but also easy to act on, it has now become vital to check the rendering in various environments.

Two ways to check this:

  • Ask your ESP if they have an automated test to check the email in various environments, including Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook and mobile platforms. If they do, check the results of those tests to make sure your email looks good.
  • If your ESP doesn’t have an automated test, set up a test seed-list across as many email clients as possible – don’t feel bad to rope in colleagues to test on different phones too. Alternatively, you can check your email on Litmus or Email on Acid – this will give you the required results.

6. Images

This is usually the one aspect that is not checked – especially if your ESP is coding the email for you. If you have images, here are some basic checks:

a. Are image sizes specified?
If the images looked stretched before you download them, they haven’t been specified. If this is the case, a number of email clients will create their own default size for the images. Ensure that the dimensions are the true dimensions of the image. Certain email clients will ignore the width and height attributes stipulated in the code and use the image’s actual width and height instead.

So, in order to keep your structure as sound as possible, check that the image sizes have been specified. You can do this by viewing the source of the email – look for the images (ask your ESP how they name them) Ctrl-F and check the width and height.

b. Is alternate text included in the background?
If the images are blocked or are linked but not downloaded, one should still be able to read what that image is about. The way to do this is to include alternate text behind the image. Check each email, before downloading images to check this.

c. Are all images purchased?
Emails have been sent with images that haven’t been purchased. Simple enough to fix after the fact but add it to the check list to remove that panic.

7. Online version

Many email marketing emails carry an online version, allowing customers to click through if their email doesn’t display correctly. The online version should be checked as thoroughly as the email. Check the following:

a. If your email has personalisation, does the customisation and personalisation pull through to the online version?
b. When you click on a link, does it open a new page? You don’t want the link to replace your email page.
c. Ensure that the online version link does not appear on the online version.
d. If your customer is logged into Skype and has browser add-ons, telephone numbers will be converted to a specific style with a flag, which could break the template, so check how it looks when you’re logged into skype and have the add-ons enabled.
e. Are the landing pages named correctly? Check the top of the page / tab –they should carry the name of the campaign or the subject line.

It’s important that you consider each of these 7 points when testing all your email campaigns. They’re quick checks that can make all the difference to your emails.

In the image: Jerminah Mooka from the Striata operations services team giving a thumbs up after a correct set up.

Mia Papanicolaou

About Mia Papanicolaou

I work in and with email and I love what I do. I am constantly inspired by cool new ideas and new thinking, as well as new ways in which we can adapt to help our clients wow their customers. I am passionate about ensuring that my customers get great strategy advice and consultation. As the COO for Striata in the US, I get to steer the team to do just that! Among the customers Striata serves are the biggest and most innovative across a wide range of vertical sectors. If you're looking for more innovative and efficient ways to reach your customers, contact me.

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  • W. Jeffrey Rice

    Thanks for sharing

  • W. Jeffrey Rice

    Great post Mia.
    I especially liked the advice to check for email header consistency across
    emails. I find it troubling when companies send emails from three or four
    different addresses when you are signing up for a trial or service. In these
    cases I have received emails addressed from the likes of,, and As companies strive to build
    strong relationships with their subscribers, I would encourage them to take it
    slow. Introduce one team member at a time, and reduce the number of blatant automated
    emails. Just as in life relationships take time to earn credibility and trust.

    • Mia Papanicolaou

       Hi Jeffrey,

      Thanks so much for the feedback. As you can imagine, I agree with you wholeheartedly. It’s the details that count and often it’s the details that are forgotten. Start slowly and do it well is great advice.