Good content becomes great when it’s opened and consumed, otherwise, it’s plain useless. For our clients and customers, it’s important to maximize the effectiveness of the content they share. While the actual content (i.e., the subject line, the body, the images, etc.) is absolutely critical, we believe there are a few secrets that are just as important.
When I was growing up in Moldova, I took piano lessons. Before my first recital, my music teacher gave me a boiled egg and a piece of dark chocolate to eat. She said, “you’re too young to have coffee, but not dark chocolate!“ Trusting my teacher, I immediately devoured the snack. I went on to play my recital piece without any mistakes. It could have been preparation and luck, but my takeaway at the age of 10 was that minor alterations to your routine can deliver outsized outcomes. I was recently reminded of that moment when my colleague reached out and asked if we have any data on the best time of day to send LiveSend content, as well as the best-performing content sent by LiveSend.
While we had some basic data, I couldn’t help but think that a deeper dive could unlock significant insights for our clients. I found that we could significantly improve content performance by controlling a couple of variables – almost like getting an energy boost from eating an egg and a bite of chocolate.
I’ve parsed through loads of Seismic proprietary data in search of finding a few simple tricks that can enhance content performance and maximize time invested in creating and delivering content. Here’s a look at my initial findings.
I began my research by looking at Seismic’s entire book of business. I found that the top three industries that Seismic serves are Technology, Asset Management, and Business Services. In each of these Industry segments, I compiled and sorted LiveSend data by volume activity and per user activity:
- Total LiveSends: Total number of lifetime LiveSends sent for a particular client
- LiveSends per user: Average LiveSends per user for a particular client
I reviewed the top three accounts per industry and metric (total LiveSend and LiveSend per user), for a total of six accounts per industry. Given that different industries have different use cases for Seismic, this article only focuses on results from the Technology industry.
One account within the Technology segment made the top three list for total LiveSend activity, as well as LiveSend activity per user. Therefore, Technology consisted of five unique accounts. Now that I had my data set, it was time to analyze the engagement for the top-performing content.
To do this, I used LiveInsights to harvest engagement data. This business intelligence tool can track usage data and it offers valuable metrics on how LiveSend recipients interact with what they are sent. LiveInsights provides view rates, engagement rates, open rates, and the number of sends, among many other important data points.
The data included internal communications engagement, which typically has much higher engagement than external communications (e.g., marketing content sent by a sales rep to a lead is not usually as well received as a company memo sent to end users by their boss). In order to smooth out these sorts of distortions, I applied the following filters to the data:
- Exclude internal assets using a Content Property;
- Exclude recipients with the same email domain as the client;
- Exclude Seismic employees;
- Exclude unpublished content; and
- Set time period as year-to-date 2022.
These filters allowed me to look at the most recent data without internal and irrelevant engagement metrics that could inadvertently skew results.
The golden hour
The first analysis was global open rates over the span of 24 hours. The findings would tell us when users opened content that was sent to them using LiveSend and other trackable delivery options like Email Blast and Digital Sales Room.
I took the data set from the top-five Technology clients and, before plotting them onto a bar graph, I surmised that there were three possible outcomes:
Outcome 1: Open rates are indifferent to time (i.e., there is no peak, the series is mostly flat)
Outcome 2: Open rates are random (i.e., there are random peak times, and those peak times differ among the top-five clients)
Outcome 3: Open rates are consistent (i.e., bell curve with concentrated occurrences (LiveSend opens) at a specific hour or hours)
A flat series would mean, on average, that people open LiveSends equally, no matter the time of day. Random spikes would indicate that there is no correlation and the results are inconclusive. And, finally, if there was a concentration of opens during specific times, we would see peaks in open rates.
These are the results… (drum roll, please…)
|Series||Highest number of Opens||Peak Hour (GMT)|
|Client 1||50||13:00 and 14:00|
The graph shows two distinct curves between 8:00 – 10:00 GMT and 13:00 – 16:00 GMT when plotting average open rates by time.
The data informs us that the LiveSend “Golden Hour” is 14:00 (2:00 PM) GMT for every client except Client 5. Client 5’s peak hour is in stark contrast to its peers. Client 5 actually had high activity (1,010 LiveSends per user) but, as evident in the table above, its open rate is extremely low, with the highest number of opens at only nine. This is typically a result of poor targeting and/or sending irrelevant content.
I also looked at the time zone for when a LiveSend was sent, as well as when it was opened. While time zones are important, the data set is based on a significant volume of total sends across the top five clients. So far in 2022, these five clients have collectively sent more than 400,000 LiveSends. While these clients were headquartered in North America and Canada, the LiveSends were sent around the world, so we can assume that the time zones were relatively distributed. In other words, open rates in this analysis are global open rates.
Here’s a brief summary of our insights so far:
- The curve indicates increased opens between 13:00 – 16:00 GMT (9:00 AM – 12:00 PM ET)
- Best/max time to send content at 14:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET)
Content engagement by content type
I used the same five Technology clients to examine the correlation between content type and engagement. It proved to be a difficult task – still, there are three central observations:
- Content with the highest engagement focused on value-selling rather than a traditional sales pitch.
- Top-performing content contains external URLs.
- It pays to have a targeted approach when sending content because fewer sends yielded a higher view rate.
Many clients use Content Properties to differentiate content by assigning asset type, industry, theme, audience, and more. Content Properties are unique to each individual client. All five clients in the sample set used Content Properties to classify their content type: blog, events, webinars, videos, weblinks, eBooks, etc.
Using each clients’ content type classifications, I examined engagement in minutes, view rate, and the number of sends. Top-performing content was different among the sample. In other words, I couldn’t easily determine, using Content Properties, that high-performing content across clients is of the same content type.
The difference among high-performing content types for each client could be a result of nomenclature. A blog, for example, can be an article that features an event and a link to a video or webinar. Therefore, the content type can be confusing to tag as just a blog or just an article because there isn’t a consistent standard to define the content type. The following table shows that it’s difficult to ascertain if there is one single high-performing content type:
Top content by engagement
|Metric||Client 1||Client 2||Client 3||Client 4||Client 5|
|Top content by engagement||Blog||Events||Webinar||Videos||Web Link|
|AVG Engagement in minutes||8 minutes||2 minutes||9 minutes||5 minutes||9 minutes|
|Number of Sends||2,529||16,714||12,684||21,206||44,268|
Top content by engagement varies from client to client, but that may be due to difference in content type classifications
The best-performing content samples I reviewed prioritized value-driven selling. The samples I examined provided expertise on a specific topic or subject. For example, some content included webinars featuring subject matter experts, while others offered a perspective on a solution. While there isn’t empirical data because this observation is based on context rather than metadata, it became evident that high-performing content was associated with information that could be valuable to the recipient, such as research and advice.
There is one more surprising commonality: almost all published content contains external URLs that link back to the client’s website. Incorporating external URLs was a strategy employed in nearly all high-performing content.
Analytics are a key benefit of using external URLs. External URLs are embedded in LiveSend and opened in LiveSend Viewer. LiveSend Viewer allows recipients to view and interact with a web page, similar to an iFrame, while Seismic clients capture valuable information like view rates, duration of each engagement, and more. This information can be used by marketers and sales teams to understand content effectiveness and audience behavior.
Another observation from spending a lot of time with the raw engagement data is that there’s a relationship between view rate and the number of sends. The higher the number of sends, the lower the view rate.
The following tables detail the average view rates and the number of sends for each client’s top-performing content.
Top content by view rate
|Metric||Client 1||Client 2||Client 3||Client 4||Client 5|
|Top viewed content||Marketecture/ Visual||Sales Resource||Whitepaper||Report||eBook|
|AVG Engagement in minutes||2 minutes||1 minute||1 minute||> 1 minute||1 minute|
|Number of Sends||1,730||18,552||6,576||1,722||4,816|
Top content by number of sends
|Metric||Client 1||Client 2||Client 3||Client 4||Client 5|
|Top sent content||Case Study||Sales Resource||eBook||Blog||Data Sheet|
|AVG Engagement in minutes||2 minutes||1 minute||1 minute||4 minutes||2 minutes|
|Number of Sends||182,128||18,552||154,108||26,674||74,310|
There is one anomaly in the dataset. Client 2 has an incredibly high average view rate of 12.32%.
In an effort to understand how Client 2 achieved such high view rates, I broke down the data. Client 2’s number of sends per content ranges from 1 to 971 with a median of three sends per content. The view rates by the number of sends per content is charted here:
Client 2 demonstrates that the view rate of content declines as the number of sends increases.
Client 2’s high view rate is actually a result of having a significant amount of content benefitting from less than five sends. In other words, a low number of sends is synonymous with higher view rates.
My takeaway from Client 2’s data is that a focused and targeted approach to outreach pays off. This may be attributed to:
- Meaningful outreach perceived by the recipient
- End user is sending fresh content
- Recipient believes that content is relevant
Having normalized proprietary Seismic data, I believe it’s clear that the Tech industry can benefit from our research. So what do the results suggest?
It may seem obvious that the best time to send emails is approximately 14:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET) given that it’s when most emails are opened.
And despite it being difficult to distinguish any particular content type as having more engagement and view rates, it seems as though it’s in our best interest to invest in value-selling and embed in our LiveSends external URLs that link back to our own websites.
But before we decide to blanket our mailing lists with LiveSends, it might pay to take a more thoughtful approach as fewer sends typically mean higher view rates.
I recommend looking at your LiveSend campaigns multi-dimensionally. In order to determine how to maximize our LiveSend content, we should ask ourselves:
- Is the content I am sending relevant to the recipient?
- Am I using value-driven statements in the context of the email?
- When my communication achieved its intended outcome, what did it look like?
- What specifically resonated with recipients when the outreach accomplished the intended outcome?
- Can our success be replicated?
Answers to these questions will give us a holistic view of our efforts and will ultimately increase the effectiveness of our emails.
Lastly, it pays to combine these factors together. And, perhaps, a little creativity can go a long way. One of our top-performing LiveSend end users has experienced a lot of success, which she credits to sending targeted emails around the time of the Golden Hour. She tracks her sends through Engagement Center and follows up the next day with any recipient who has viewed her content. That way, the follow-up email was relevant to the recipient because they recently viewed the content that was sent using LiveSend. These small steps can improve any seller’s open rates and view rates which, in due course, will drive ROI and close more deals.