Eye Tracking Research in Email Marketing

Think back to the last marketing email you received – can you remember what caught your attention first?

Understanding how eye tracking works can help you to improve the content and overall effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.
Companies can spend thousands of pounds investigating and tracking users eye movements to record what they’re looking at when opening emails. Having the ability to understand where recipients are initially drawn to can determine how to construct your email and where certain components should be placed.

Unfortunately, not every business has the budget for this type of research or software. With this in mind, and to help users of our own email marketing software, we’ve pulled together some key points to gain insight into the eye movements of recipients and how to make use of this information when building your email marketing campaigns.

Eye Scanning Patterns

The ‘F’ Pattern

There have been multiple experiments surrounding this pattern where users sweep from left-to-right a couple of times and then downwards in an ‘F’ shape. This is linked to the natural reading flow of our language being in a left-to-right direction.

From this we have learnt that the left-hand side of an email is actively looked at more than the right-hand side, so the most important pieces of information should be placed on the left.

The ‘Z’ Pattern

There is also a ‘Z’ pattern. This is similar to the ‘F’ pattern, however, the route users take to look at information is in the shape of a ‘Z’ instead. This can be implemented if you are wanting to have a slightly more adventurous layout.

This pattern shows the eye scans information left-to-right, down diagonally and then left-to-right again. Again, the most important pieces of information should be placed on the left.

Tips for Your Email Layout

Be Precise and to The Point

Readers scan emails quickly to find information that is relevant or useful to them. Emails with long wordy paragraphs and big blocks of text can cause readers to become distracted, causing them to skip over the text and not digest the information being provided. This can have an impact on the number of clicks generated from your email campaign.

It’s natural to want to get as much information to your readers as possible, but less draws the eye. Use bold titles, bullet points and call-to-actions that stand out for those scanning your emails. Give them just enough information to encourage them to click through to your website.

Guide Your Readers

Using an inverted pyramid or funnel shape to lay out certain items can subliminally guide the reader’s eyes to follow the information downward. This can be used to guide them to a specific call to action, which can encourage click throughs.

Place Important Information Above The Fold

Most marketers are aware of ‘the fold’ which was originally used to describe the area of the newspaper on display when folded. With email, it’s the section visible when a recipient first opens an email. The information above the fold should catch the reader’s attention, generate interest and encourage them to scroll down and read the rest of the content.

Draw Attention Through Images

In the world of photography, it’s well known that when looking at a picture of a person we can’t help but follow the direction that person is looking in. For example, by using an image of a someone who’s looking directly at an image of a product, a piece of text or call to action causes your reader to also look in that direction. This is a clever way of drawing your reader’s attention to the information you want to get across.

Use Numerals Instead of Text

There’s evidence that suggests that one of the best ways to grab the eye of a reader is to use numerals, along with bullet points and short paragraphs. The shape of digits varies quite heavily from alphabetic letters, so they catch the eye of the reader. Numbers are also associated with facts and statistics which some readers love!

Use Bold Call to Actions

Readers are drawn to bold call-to-actions as they are purposely placed to be eye catching. The use of contrasting colours and short striking words can grab the reader’s attention over all other text and images within an email to instruct them to follow the required action.


Effective call-to-actions

Call-to-actions are an essential part of any email.

Getting them to grab the readers attention to achieve those all important click-throughs is paramount. So what makes an effective call-to-action?


Making your call-to-action catch the reader’s eye is key, hence why you will often see orange buttons as a result. As a rule of thumb, your call-to-actions should be in a contrasting colour to the rest of your email. However, if this isn’t possible, then you will need to give extra consideration to the placement of your buttons.


It’s unlikely your subscribers will read the entire email, in fact, you may only have a few seconds to grab their attention. Therefore, make sure you keep your call-to-actions above the fold so that your subscribers don’t have to scroll. If they can’t easily see how to respond, they won’t know what to click.


There is almost no reason why the words ‘click here’ should exist on a call-to-action. Instead, use the text to describe the benefits – ‘Download your FREE Guide’ or ‘Save 20% NOW’. Make sure it’s clear to the recipient what the call-to-action does. The use of icons alongside the text that are descriptive can also help to tell the subscriber what is the other side of the click.

Draw attention to them

There are some simple techniques to draw more attention to call-to-action buttons. This might be an arrow pointing to it, or if you have pictures of people in your hero image get them looking in the direction of the button.

Mobile friendly

When viewing your email on a phone, it’s important to remember that the pointing device is big fingers. Your call-to-actions need to be bigger on a mobile screen as a result.


One of the best ways to identify the most effective call-to-actions for your audience is to conduct a split test, comparing two different theories against each other to see which works best. Perhaps this may be the placement of your call-to-action or the text used to entice the recipient to click-through.


Best email Call to Action rules

Marketers send emails for many different reasons, but mostly their goal is to encourage their subscribers to action or to “call them to action”.

A well crafted call to action can make or break the effectiveness of any marketing email. I have highlighted 5 good examples of email marketing calls to action. Click on the images below to see how the call to action fits into the marketing email as a whole.

1)   Above the Fold Call to Action

Whether you design websites or marketing emails, you will know that important content is best placed above the fold. While informing and enticing subscribers is obviously important and worthy of the prime position above the fold, so to is the call to action. This email from Firefox is a great example of giving the call to action more visibility by putting it near the top of the email.

Consumers are busy, so email marketers need to make it as easy as possible for their subscribers to click on the call to action. Don’t expect a customer to go looking for it.

2)   All Roads Lead to Call to Action

If you find that your call to action would not fit above the fold, then you need to make sure that it is still easy to find. This email from Catch effectively leads the reader on a journey through the email, with an obvious destination, which is the call to action button requesting you to “Go To Wonderland”.

3)   Highlighting Everything, Highlights Nothing

Many people are afraid of white space when designing an email, thinking that it makes the email look unfinished or cold. They then decide to fill the email with colour. In some cases this is fine, but there is also a danger that if you highlight everything you end up highlighting nothing.

Contrast is vital for any call to action and having a white background makes it easier to achieve a good contrast. The below example illustrates this point to great effect. Your eye is immediately drawn to the brightly coloured button.

4)   Why Should I Heed Your Call to Action?

Put yourself in your customers shoes and think would I click on this call to action and is it enticing enough. Consumers respond to your marketing emails only when there is a perceived value in them doing so. In some cases the chance to see a retailers latest line of clothing is enough of a reason to click through, for other retailers a more tangible incentive needs offering to encourage customers to click on the call to action.

Whatever the value or incentive is, it needs to be clearly conveyed.

5)   Short and Powerful Call to Action

Keep your calls to action short so that consumers get the message even if they just skim over the email. If it is compelling enough, subscribers will be more likely to spend some time reading the email further.

Also, you are trying to call someone to action so make sure you use a verb in your wording, doing words get things done!

Other things to consider

  • Text Link: Don’t rely solely on image based call to action links. A well crafted text link can look just as eye catching and has the added benefit of displaying even if images in the email are turned off.
  • Deliver on your promise: Customers click on a call to action because there was the promise of value. If this promised value is not delivered or not easily found once the customer is on your website, the customer will be less likely to click through in future. “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” Actually I think this is the correct idiom.
  • Test different calls to action: Try a different colour button, different wording or test the difference between a text or image call to action.  With A/B split testing or Multivariate Testing (MVT) you can find the best performing button or variation of call to action elements.

How to create the perfect welcome email?

Most businesses know they need to have a welcome email; it’s one of the most engaging emails you will send with open rates in excess of 50% and unique click through rates 105% higher than any other form of email.

But with that said I still see some very poor attempts at this first point of contact with the customer. Below are some hints and tips on how to create the perfect welcome email:


Ensure your newsletter sign-up form is easy to find and fill in. You should also clearly detail the incentives and benefits of signing up. 


It’s important that your welcome email is sent immediately after your customer has signed up, strike while the person’s interest is at its highest. If you leave it to late, people will presume something has gone wrong and this might put doubt in their mind with regards to your brand.

Subject line

Even with engagement so high with a welcome email it is important to get the subject line right, personalise with the customer’s name and remember to give customers a reason to open, include the incentive where possible.


Here are 3 recommendations for the perfect welcome email content;

  1. Remind the customer how they signed up – make it clear how and why you got there email address.
  2. Offer an incentive – while you’ve got the customers attention offer a discount for a repeat or first time purchase.
  3. Gather more info – include a link to gather more specific information from the customer leading on to better segmentation and targeting in later communication.


Instead of cramming all the above into one email, a series of welcome emails can work well.

  1. First email – immediately after sign up thanking and welcoming the customer
  2. Second email – 2-3 days after sign up offering an incentive
  3. Third email – 5-7 days after sign up asking for more information

There can also be room for some cleansing at this early stage, sending an email to non openers of the first email with the incentive and the opportunity to unsubscribe would be good practice. It’s better to remove people who no longer wish to be on the database now, rather than later.


Its easy once the welcome programme is set up to just forget about it and leave it, but there’s always room for improvement. Set up a testing plan to constantly push for higher engagement rates. Test the subject line test and tweak the call to action, to make the most of this first point of contact with your customer.

As one of the email marketing consultants here at GraphicMail I would be happy to review your current welcome programmes. If you would like to talk about welcome emails further, please to get in touch.


What is the optimum frequency of send?

There is always pressure on marketers to send more and more email. But how to deal with “list fatigue”.

There are a number of factors to consider that will help you to choose what the right email frequency is and determine whether it is advisable to send that extra email.

First of all how often would someone purchase your product or service? If it is relatively infrequent then you cannot get away with a one email a week strategy like some retailers. Imagine receiving 52 emails throughout the year and you are only in a position to take up the wonderful offers for maybe a 3 week period when you are looking for a holiday. You can see why it can be too much.

This example not only relates to holidays but purchases ranging from annual car insurance through to buying a car. The approach to take here is to increase the frequency when you know it is of interest (when people sign-up, request a brochure, click on a link in an email etc) rather than blast throughout the year.

Another factor is making sure you send when you have something worthwhile to say. Again different people will put a different value on your emails but this is perhaps where you can allow people to choose how often they want to hear from you. This could be daily email alerts versus a weekly or monthly digest.

Then there are those people that never open your emails or have not purchased anything in a long time. It does not make sense to carry on bombarding these people with a high frequency as it will only lead to a negative association with your brand and complaints. It might work in your favour to send infrequent emails as these at least will be of novelty value and perhaps catch the eye.