Direct Email Marketing Best Practices

5 min read

Cassandra Kenning

Direct Email Marketing (DEM) is a tried-and-true marketing strategy that allows you to effectively reach your target audience with the right message at the right time. In today’s buzzing world, research shows that students view their inbox and email as a quiet place where they can consume important information without distraction.

According to Keystone's 2023 State of Student Recruitment report, students overwhelmingly prefer communications via email (76%)

However, there is a strategy for curating a great email campaign.  Based on internal evidence and external research, here are our top 5 DEM best practices that will optimize your email campaigns.


1.  Engaging Image 

The first thing users see when they open an email is the header image.  This is your chance to immediately capture the attention of your audience.  Incorporate visual storytelling by choosing photos that help future students understand what life is like at your university.  

  • Show off your unique campus or the perks of studying in your city or country. 
  • Choose candid images of happy students over basic stock photos.
  • Include your university logo to promote your brand but avoid putting too much text on the image. 


2.  Clear and short copy 

Less is more! The majority of emails are opened on mobile devices, so it’s never been more important to keep your email body text short, appealing, and to the point.

We recommend your email text to be between 50-100 words.  This will allow the call-to-action button to be visible “above the fold” — or without scrolling. 

The campaign text only needs to be a teaser that makes readers want to click to learn more.  Focus on the value you’re offering to students and keep the tone friendly and personal.  


Kickstart 2024_email quote_for blog-2

Ashley Budd, Director of Advancement Marketing at Cornell University (U.S.), spoke about leveraging better emails for students as part of Keystone's Student Recruitment Survival Guide webinar.

Access the full guide for tips on how to better leverage student communications here. 


3.  Catchy Call-to-Action 

The call-to-action (CTA) motivates your audience toward your goal.  While it needs to be creative and catchy, it’s important to remember that many of our student-users are in the awareness stage of their international study journey and aren’t ready to commit to a program or university just yet.  

Therefore, avoid using “register now” or “apply now” for your CTA.  Instead, intrigue and guide your audience along their journey.  Our popular CTAs feature questions or fun statements focusing on a university’s location: 

  • Want to learn more? 
  • Discover more
  • Take me to London!  



4.  Only one click-through URL 

For optimal student conversion, choose only one tracking link per email campaign.  This will drive all clicks and traffic to one specific landing page— so it’s equally important that the landing page is high-quality and offers value to students, like a list of course offerings or scholarships.  

When choosing a click-through URL, ask yourself: What is the main goal of your email campaign?  If it’s to generate overall interest or promote applications, be sure to include an option for students to leave their email address so you can contact them with more information. 

Be aware:  Including 3+ different hyperlinks in one email could cause the campaign to end up in the spam folder. Less is more for links, too.  


5.  Tracking link   

To effectively measure the results of your email campaign, it is crucial to use a tracking link. This will allow you to see exactly how many visitors reach your landing page or register for an event through a specific email campaign.

With Apple's Mail Privacy Protection impacting email marketing metrics, using tracking links is a reliable way of measuring overall engagement.

You can easily create a tracking link through a Campaign URL Builder, enabling you to measure custom campaigns in Google Analytics or other web analytics services.  If you need help getting Google Analytics set up for your site, please reach out to your Customer Success team.

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