The 3 things you need to know for your email marketing content in 2024

Algorithm-independent and direct reach, the new Gmail standards, and more open email marketing doors

Email marketing, old-school or the next best thing? The opinions differ; in my humble opinion, email marketing is still hot and the most overlooked channel by modern-day marketers.

From February 2024, Gmail raises the standards for email marketing, and that's a good thing. You're forced to take another look at your content to lower your spam rate. It's not the size of your database that matters; it's the quality of your content that will be your CMO's new KPI. 

Email marketing still works. It's based on first-party data, cheap and fast content production, higher conversion rates, and a direct line to your customer inbox without being dependent on social algorithms. 

On this page, you’ll read what you, as a marketer, need to know.

→ New Gmail email marketing standards
→ Reasons why email marketing is still hot
→ Golden rules for email marketing excellence
benchmark data by GDMA


These golden rules are… 

  1. Add value; it’s about the receiver of the email, not about you, your product, or your features
  2. One main topic per email: your email should not be an unsolicited newspaper
  3. Easy to scan, from the subject line to the content
  4. Mobile-first in writing, visuals, layout, and formatting
  5. Why personalization is a barrier
  6. List ‘easy to unsubscribe’ as a reason to subscribe


Let’s start with the technical, boring Gmail stuff, then dive into the more interesting content and marketing elements, followed by two case studies for Arc'teryx for subject line excellence and Medium for easy-to-scan content. 


Key takeaways

TLDR: be aware of the new email marketing industry standards by Gmail → ask your tech department to do a check. And all you as a marketer have to do is to get your content for email marketing sh*t together. 

Step away from the aggregated newsletter and say hello to the one-topic, easy-to-scan-and-delete, mobile-first email. 


Navigating Gmail's 2024 requirements

‘Gmail’s AI-powered defenses stop more than 99.9% of spam, phishing, and malware from reaching inboxes and block nearly 15 billion unwanted emails every day.’ (Gmail)

As most of your audience probably will have Gmail or workplace accounts, those new requirements matter. Besides, where Google goes, probably the others will follow.

Without getting too technical, this is what you need to know and understand about the new standards per February 1st. In random order, all three new requirements are equally important. 


Is this relevant to you? 5.000 subscribers or more

These requirements apply to ‘bulk senders’; ‘If you send more than 5.000 messages to Gmail addresses a day, you’re a bulk sender.’ In other words, if you have a subscriber list over 5k, you should comply. Better safe than sorry.


Requirement 1. Authenticated emails only

This means you have to authenticate your email sender address. My advice is to go to your tech guy or girl and ask them to dive into this technical stuff with email verification via SPF, DKIM, DMARC, ARC, and to configure your infrastructure with a PTR record for your IP address.


Requirement 2. One-click to unsubscribe

Mostly, you hide the unsubscribe in the footer in a smaller and light-colored font. The more difficult you make it to unsubscribe, the bigger your database and success. Right? Wrong! It’s not about the KPI of the number of subscribers; it’s about the quality.

You don’t want people in your database who don’t want to receive your email marketing. So, the more people unsubscribe, the higher the opening rate and the click-through rate, and the fewer people will mark your email as spam (requirement 3).

Two things matter

  • One-click to unsubscribe, not the usual three-click process with click-to-website, give the reason for unsubscribing, and then submit.
  • Effective within two days

one click unsubscribe email header


Requirement 3. Spam rate lower than 0.3%

This is a new email marketing industry standard and means you have to stay under a reported spam threshold of 0.3% of your database. Simpler said; you must ensure you’re sending wanted emails.

If you have a 0.3% or higher spam rate, that means Gmail considers you as a spammer, and that’s obviously not good. You should aim for a 0.1% spam rate.

With this new spam rate, it’s good to know that the delivery rate nowadays is also important as a metric. This is an indication of the quality and validity of your database. You should monitor the number of emails that never reach the inbox; this is the number of actual emails that are delivered. Aim for 95% or higher.


More to keep in mind

Last but not least, stick to the common practice of clear, not-too-long message headers, clean code, and other nerdy, not-marketing-related best practices. In this, your tech guy or girl is your best friend and can help you.

Now we have the technical stuff figured out, it’s time for what marketers can do.


Algorithm-independent and direct reach: email marketing is still hot in 2024

Let’s start with the essence of effective email marketing. These are the reasons why email marketing is still hot.

  • It’s cost-effective, cheaper as social, and with higher conversion rates
  • Not depending on algorithms; direct, consistent reach with a long-term reach relationship
  • Maximize impact across all channels
  • Is measurable


What you need to know as a marketer: the open doors and golden rules

Below, you’ll find what’s important for you as a marketer; in other words, these are the golden rules for email marketing.

  1. Add value; it’s about the receiver of the email, not about you, your product, or your features
  2. One main topic per email: your email should not be an unsolicited newspaper
  3. Easy to scan, from the subject line to the content
  4. Mobile-first in writing, visuals, layout, and formatting
  5. Why personalization is a barrier
  6. List ‘easy to unsubscribe’ as a reason to subscribe

And for your email subscriber list, ‘a big list is good, but a smaller, engaged list is even better.’ It’s about quality, not quantity.

Disclaimer: I’ll dive into email marketing for thought leadership, insights, and news for B2C and B2B. Email marketing for performance for, e.g., a fast fashion retailer, is a different ballgame and has its own specific rules.


Rule 1. Add value

This is such a no-brainer, yet the most overlooked requirement for email marketing success. Every email you send to your database should have a ‘what’s in it for me’ from their perspective. You have to add value by giving insights, relevant updates, and other stuff that’s relevant and matters to them.

  • Email marketing is not about you collecting the so-called news of the last month, squeezing everything together in one email, and sending it to your entire database. Nor is it a check-the-email-marketing-send-box in the content calendar.
  • Email marketing is not something you MUST do every week or month. Yes, frequency matters; however, being relevant matters more. As if your subscribers are eagerly waiting for your newsletter and are disappointed if they don’t get it. I don’t even remember what email marketing I got yesterday, let alone that I keep track of your schedule, and I noticed that you didn’t stay on track.

Don’t send an email for the sake of sending an email. Keep it relevant for the reader; it’s not about you, it’s about them.


Rule 2. One topic

Unless you call your email marketing a ‘magazine’ or ‘newsletter,’ there should be one main topic per email. You could add a few related topics at the bottom, yet the subject line and main highlighted content should cover one topic and one topic only.

If you squeeze in more topics with the same level of importance, it becomes confusing and cluttered. And I, the receiver, get stressed out with too much, too scattered information.

We all know how much people (don’t) scroll, and there’s a legitimate reason why you want your main content above the fold and in the first view.

If you stick to one topic, your topic will always be in first view and in the subject line.

Reasons why this ‘one topic’ is that important

  • You can perfectly align the subject line with the content, making it faster and easier for the receiver to read or not, and manage their expectations of what they’ll read.
  • There is no clutter and useless aggregation; it’s one topic and one topic only.
  • You can spread your topics over the content calendar and email your database when it’s relevant.
  • It’s easier to maximize impact across channels. Align your email marketing topic with the topic on your socials.


Rule 3. Easy to scan

Make it as easy as possible to scan your email, from the subject line to the content. The easier it is, the more people will read your content.

Subject line
For the subject line, this means managing expectations of what they’ll read in the email. Keep it sweet, short, simple, direct, and to the point: no buzz, no fuzz, no jargon or cliffhangers. Say it what it is.

Bring hierarchy to your content — the most important on top and in the first view, the other content below. Highlight your main topic in line with the subject line.

Visually sexy
I strongly recommend making your email marketing visually sexy not only by using great visuals but also in the layout. Vary between copy and visuals, use infographics or icons, and bring variation in the length of the paragraphs. Play with colors, and don’t forget to optimize for dark mode as well.

For the copy, it means you spend time on the meticulous details of formatting. Use a clear header and descriptive sub-headers, and benefit from the white space with short lines. Needless to say, you need to write in clear human language, free of jargon and buzz. Sweet and short to the point is always more fun and easier to read.


Rule 4. Mobile-first

Most people will read your email marketing on their mobile. So, you should optimize your email for mobile reading. That means the ‘easy to scan’ rule, as just explained. This also means you do your reviewing and final tuning and tweaking in the details on a mobile screen, not your desktop.

  • Copy on a big desktop looks and feels totally different than on a small mobile screen. What looks like a Sesamestreet-simple toddler-optimized copy on the desktop is usually perfect on the mobile.
  • A visual on a big screen may look super, but on a mobile, it can become a blur as you’re not seeing the details on the smaller screen.
  • Don’t forget to optimize for dark mode; about 80% use this setting.
  • You can easily toggle the mobile view on your desktop; use that. For iOS, it’s cmnd+option+I in Chrome.

visual on desktop and on mobile


5. The art of personalization

With email marketing, you can personalize if you have the right data. 

Often, the personalization consists of addressing me by my first name. And that’s about it. There’s nothing personal about that; it’s just repeating what I entered in the data field. And I know it's automated, so I still don't feel special. 

Real value-adding personalization is sending me custom-made, bespoke content tailored to my needs.  However, I will not tell you my needs, as I am not aware of them, and besides, I change my mind frequently. Next to that, is your content labeled in the right way, and do you have your business rules in place to send me personalized content? Do personalization based on data really well, or not at all. 

So why bother asking for my details if you can’t really tailor the content?

A one-click subscription process with just my email address also simplifies and speeds up the subscription process. 


‘6. ‘Easy to unsubscribe’ as a reason to subscribe

Make it as easy to unsubscribe as to subscribe. And list that in the reasons to subscribe to your email marketing.

Sounds a bit contradictory, yet I think it’s quite brilliant. Knowing that it’s super easy to bail out if you don’t like it takes away the barrier to enroll.

Give it a try and monitor what happens. 

The worst that can happen is that you have more fluctuation in your database numbers. 

The best that can happen is that the quality of your database improves, you’ll have a higher opening and click-through rate, and fewer people will mark your email as spam.


Email marketing benchmark data

This research, with the email benchmark from 2022, is golden. In the tab ‘Industries,’ you can use the drop-downs to select your region, industry, target group, and campaign size to get more details. Source: GDMA International email benchmark 2023. 

On average

  •  Open rate 31,3%
  • Click-through rate 3,44%
  • Click to open rate 9.04%
  • Acceptance rate 98,46%
  • sending time: weekdays, end of the morning


Case study: subject line excellence by Arc’teryx

This is one of the best in class that plays around with the subject line. This is excellence in on-brand copywriting and tone of voice. 

Arc’teryx is a high-end outdoor apparel brand. I don’t know how they do it, yet their subject lines are so on point and bring a smile to my face. 

Short, sweet, fun, and on-brand. The subject line is a seamless match with the content and relevance to the time of the year.

  • ‘No more Novembrrr.’
  • ‘No tricks. Just treats.’
  • ‘Have adventures. Make memories.’

Arc'teryx is one of the few marketing emails I want to receive. Not only because it's a great brand with an amazing story and superb products, it's also brand excellence and fun copy writing. 

Arc'teryx email


Case study: easy to scan content ‘Daily insights’ by Medium

Medium is a writer's platform with an amazing algorithm and simplicity in formatting. No fuzz, just content. Their daily notification of new stories is super clean and easy to scan, and within a second, I know if it’s relevant to me or not.

Their subject line is also the main story in the first view. They do show more stories below the highlighted story. Because I know the algorithm is very good, and their email content is very easy to scan due to formatting, I’m rarely disappointed.

This Medium Daily Digest is one of the few marketing emails I read every day. 

Medium daily insights


Wrapping up

Email marketing is still the best and most overseen channel to build a relationship. These are the tips for 2024 to excel in your email marketing.

  1. Add value; it’s about the receiver of the email, not about you, your product, or your features
  2. One main topic per email: your email should not be an unsolicited newspaper
  3. Easy to scan, from the subject line to the content
  4. Mobile-first in writing, visuals, layout, and formatting
  5. Why personalization is a barrier
  6. List ‘easy to unsubscribe’ as a reason to subscribe


And you should check in with the technical department to make sure you're complying with the new Gmail standards to make sure your email marketing gets delivered.

  • Requirement 1. Authenticated emails only
  • Requirement 2. One-click to unsubscribe
  • Requirement 3. Spam rate lower than 0.3%


Remember, ‘a big list is good, but a smaller, engaged list is even better.’

It’s about quality, not quantity.