By Elizabeth Yin, CEO and Co-founder of LaunchBit and  NewsletterDirectory.co, an ad network for high quality email newsletters. 

I’m pleased to release Email Newsletter Report Card, a free tool to help email marketers grade their emails in 2012 and show specific areas of improvement for the new year.  We built this tool, in part, to help us understand what to focus on in our own email marketing.

Here’s what we learned from using the tool to analyze our own email campaigns from 2012:

1) Using too many links

Presumably, most marketers send out emails in effort to convert their subscribers on some call-to-action or upsell.  As it turns out, the best way to do this is to have fewer than five links and place the call-to-action in link #1 or #2.

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At the time of this writing, the average number of links is 23.3 per newsletter (the average changes as more people use the tool), and our newsletter called Startup Frontier has on average 9.4 links.  I did not realize before that I had been including so many links — it turns out it is really easy to go link-crazy!

2) Sending newsletters at the wrong time

For our newsletter called Anime Goodies, I typically send our newsletter at 7pm GMT, while most people on open our newsletter at 6pm GMT — almost a whole day later!

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Although the ideal time to send email will vary across newsletters, for this particular newsletter, I know that I can definitely change our send-time to get our message in front subscribers sooner.

3) Sending too much

We have a Beauty newsletter, which I send out, on average, twice per week.  As a marketer, I would have thought that sending twice a week would be better than sending just once per week.  After all, it gives me 2x the chances of getting clicks.  However, in looking at the actual data, it appears that our click-through-rate of 7% is abysmal.

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Not only that, it turns out the typical frequency of an average email campaign is approximately once per week.  As a rough proxy, these campaigns have an average click-through-rate of 16%.  Although we are sending our newsletter twice your average newsletter, as you can see, we are not even reaching half the click-through-rate on a typical send!  In other words, this means that it is actually worse to send this newsletter twice per week at our current click-through-rate than it is to send once per week!  Sending more does not lead to greater engagement.  (Note: it is hard to actually prove this, though.  A true accurate test would require split test sending half of our subscribers with emails once per week and the other half twice per week.)

We’ve certainly learned a lot about how we can improve our email marketing on our various lists in 2013.  Get your free Email Newsletter Report Card to learn more about how you can improve yours.