Email Tags Can Create Engaging Customer Journeys

email tags cover image with email icon and a paper tag

Email tags are labels or keywords assigned to individual subscribers on an email list to categorize them based on their preferences, behaviors, or other relevant criteria. 

But are email tags just a current marketing trend, or is there more to them? Well, we won’t keep it a surprise for too long; we think email tags, or merge tags, are one of the best features an email marketer could use.

“Tag” along as we explore how they can elevate your email game!



What are Email Tags or Merge Tags?

Email tags are essentially labels you can assign to subscribers on your email list. Such labels help marketers categorize contacts based on various criteria, allowing for smarter and more targeted email marketing campaigns

Email tags are often referred to in shorthand as simply “tags,” but they can also include a nested organization that includes parent tags or child tags, which has more of an administrative purpose.

Using tags to organize email lists and targeting subscribers accordingly can lead to higher open rates, click-through rates, and overall engagement with your emails.

For example: Tagging everyone who clicked through to a piece of content related to ‘Facebook marketing’, would be a great way to identify in advance who may be an ideal prospect within your larger list if you were to start promoting a paid offer related to ‘Facebook marketing’.

Being able to identify and specifically target a subset of your audience based on the previous behavior is a powerful way to increase relevancy, conversions and reduce overall list fatigue or burnout. This will ultimately lead to lower email marketing costs, fewer unsubscribes, and more revenue as it unlocks the ability to send even more, highly targeted, offers to the right parts of your email list.

Email Tags and Merge Tags are NOT the Same Thing

Don’t confuse email tags with merge tags. 

Merge tags are placeholders that represent contact data in an email campaign; they are used for email personalization. A typical example would be the use of a merge tag like {{user_name}} in an email campaign. During sending, this variable would be replaced by the actual recipient’s name.

So merge tags are placeholders in the email editor whereas email tags help email marketers segment their contacts more effectively. Merge tags follow a syntax or format of stored data on a contact record for personalizing content whereas email marketers can use any word or phrase as an email tag and apply the same tag to a wide number of contacts.

Email Tags for Email Users is Different

The term “email tags” is used both by marketers as well as regular email users. While both utilize tags, their purposes and applications differ. 

Personal email users primarily tag emails for efficient organization; creating categories like “Work” or “Travel” can help them sort through their inboxes. These tags are static and user-defined based on the email content

Email marketers, on the other hand, leverage tags for strategic segmentation and targeting. They assign email tags based on subscriber data like demographics, website behavior, or email interactions. These tags allow marketers to send targeted campaigns with relevant content and offers, ultimately aiming for higher engagement and conversions due to increased relevancy.


Email Personalization: A Critical Part of Your Email Marketing Strategy

Email tags play a crucial role in personalizing email marketing campaigns, allowing marketers to tailor content and messaging to recipients based on their preferences/behaviors.

Using merge tags must be a part of your strategy because it:

  • Boosts engagement: People are more likely to open and read emails that speak directly to them. Personalized emails feel less like marketing blasts and more like a one-on-one conversation.
  • Increases click-through rates (CTR): When emails offer relevant content and recommendations, subscribers are more likely to click on links and explore your products or services.
  • Drives conversions: Personalized email campaigns can nudge subscribers further down the sales funnel. Imagine an email reminding someone about abandoned items in their cart with a personalized discount — the chances of a purchase are high!
  • Builds loyalty: When subscribers feel valued and understood, they’re more likely to become loyal customers. Personalization shows you care about their unique interests and needs.

In crowded inboxes, generic emails get lost in the noise. By using merge tags in your marketing efforts, you can send emails that stand out and resonate with your subscribers — this is critical for a successful email marketing strategy.


Use Email Tags to Segment Your Audience

Segmenting your email list using email tags is an effective way to divide your subscribers into smaller, targeted groups based on specific criteria. Here’s how you can leverage them for effective segmentation.

Define Your Segments

Identify subscriber groups with shared characteristics or interests. This could be based on demographics, purchase history, website behavior, or email engagement.

Tagging Strategy 

First, collect the necessary data from your subscribers through signup forms, preference centers, surveys, or interactions with your website or product. 

Once you have this data, use merge tags to categorize subscribers into different segments. For example, you might tag and segment subscribers with their geographic location (for example, US/UK/Canada), purchase history (High Value, New Buyers, Highly Interested), or interests (like Automotive Enthusiasts, Interested in Leather Shoes, Football Lovers, etc).

Create the Segments

Use your email marketing platform’s segmentation tools to create groups based on shared tags. For example, you can create a segment of “Widget Buyers” by selecting subscribers with that specific tag.

Run Targeted Campaigns

Once your segments are ready, send email campaigns customized for each group’s interests and needs. “Widget Buyers” might receive a welcome email with a discount code, while “Football Lovers” could get updates on new football apparel.

Don’t limit yourself to single tags; you could combine them for even more specific segments. For instance, you could target “Chicago-based NFL fans” with a local football game. You should also automate tag assignments based on subscriber behavior, such as who clicked or opened specific emails or links.


Email Tags: Advantages 

Email and merge tags offer a treasure trove of benefits for both you and your subscribers, making them mandatory tools in your email marketing plan.

If you’re curious about their benefits, this list should convince you:

  • Craft emails that feel like a one-on-one conversation by using tags to reference interaction history or past purchases; it creates a more personal experience.
  • With merge tags, you can create personalized email templates and dynamically fill in specific details for the recipients.
  • With custom automation and conditional flows, you can further organize your recipients into different groups and assign new tags based on interest or engagement.
  • Merge tags enable you to scale your email marketing efforts without sacrificing quality. 

Whether you’re sending emails to a handful of contacts or a massive subscriber list, merge tags allow you to maintain a personalized touch. As your audience grows, merge tags adapt seamlessly, making it easier to reach more people while still delivering relevant content.

If you don’t already use email or merge tags, you should start ASAP!


Types of Email Merge Tags and When to Use Them

You can use email tags for all kinds of strategies; you can even assign multiple tags to contacts to help you more accurately organize your segments.

Common Email Tags in Email Marketing

Curious about the tags you could use on a regular basis?

Here are the most common types of email tags and their use cases:

Tag typeWhat do they do?
Engagement tagsCategorize subscribers based on engagement level like active, inactive, or unengaged.
Interest tagsSegment subscribers based on their interests, likes, and dislikes for personalized content.
Customer journey tagsThese tags indicate where the subscriber is in the sales funnel.
Sign-up source tagsTells you how the lead signed up.
Campaign tagsThese tags track data about the email campaign itself, such as the campaign name they are actively going through.
Product tagsThese tags hold data related to the recipient’s past purchases or browsing history.
Behavior-based tagsCategorize subscribers based on behavior such as purchase history, browsing behavior, or interactions such as clicks.
Demographic tagsSegment subscribers based on demographic information like age, gender, location, or job title.
Action-based tagsAssign tags based on specific actions like signups, password resets, or form submissions.
Automation tagsTrigger automation workflows for timely follow-ups and relevant content delivery.
Security tagsMark users with special access to sensitive/confidential content.
Common email tags explained

Besides these, you can create custom tags specific to your needs; this lets you categorize subscribers based on unique data points you collect, like webinar attendance or loyalty program membership.

Advanced Email Tags

The above examples are common examples of tags usage in email marketing, but there is more to it.

Check out the advanced email tag types and strategies you can use:

  1. Conditional email tags: Advanced email tags support conditional logic, allowing marketers to show or hide content based on specific conditions or criteria. For example, you can display different content for subscribers who are VIP customers, have made a recent purchase, or have not engaged with previous emails.
  2. Dynamic content: With advanced tags, marketers can create dynamic content blocks that change based on assigned email tags.
  3. Third-party integration: Using third-party tools to update your tags based on user behavior outside of email, from sources such as CRMs or e-commerce platforms, can greatly increase the effectiveness of your tag-based segmentation.

These methods are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what’s possible with email tags. If you’re excited to get started with merge tags, the next section shows you how.


Email Tags: Where You Can Use Them

There are interesting ways to use email tags to enhance your marketing emails.

  • Product recommendations: Go beyond just suggesting similar products. Use purchase historical email tags to recommend complementary items or accessories. For instance, if someone buys a camera, suggest a camera bag or extra lenses based on their specific purchase.
  • Abandoned cart: Tag subscribers who abandoned their carts and send them reminder emails or special offers to encourage them to complete their purchase.
  • Survey feedback: Use tags to categorize subscribers based on their email survey responses and tailor future emails to address their preferences.
  • Welcome series: Craft a multi-part welcome email series using a sequence of tags. Introduce new subscribers to your brand story, highlight products based on their interests (pulled from signup form data), and offer a special welcome discount.

Remember to continually A/B test different creative tag applications and track their impact on open rates and click-through rates.


Merge Tags: Where You Can Use Them

Personalization is an incredibly powerful way to increase conversions and relevance to your emails.

  • Personalized subject lines and preheaders: Advanced merge tagging systems may allow for custom email subject lines and preheader text based on the email tags assigned to the subscriber.
  • Reward programs: Integrate tags with your loyalty program. Send birthday emails with special discounts based on a subscriber’s birthday tag.
  • Points system: Create a points system based on email engagement. Use tags to track opens, clicks, and purchases. Send personalized emails with bonus points or exclusive offers for subscribers who reach certain milestones.
  • Weather-based personalization: Utilize weather-related tags to customize email content based on the recipient’s local weather conditions.
  • Milestones: Celebrate subscriber anniversaries with personalized messages.
  • Location-based references: If you have a brick-and-mortar store, use location tags to send emails with local references. For instance, “Hey John, looking for something to do this weekend in Seattle? Check out this awesome gig happening near you!”

Saving bespoke information that is specific to each contact and being able to seamlessly integrate that data later into the content of your subject lines, emails, and URL parameters is immensely powerful!


Best Practices for Email or Merge Tags

Using email tags efficiently is what sets the amateurs apart from the pros. Using them on a basic level isn’t enough, knowing their full capability will bring you closer to your email marketing goals.

These 8 guidelines can help you extract maximum value from email tags:

  1. Establish a clear tagging system that aligns with your marketing goals. Decide what criteria will be most relevant for future email campaigns.
  2. Use clear tags that everyone on your team can understand. Avoid jargon!
  3. No need to limit yourself to a single tag per subscriber; use different tags to create a more comprehensive subscriber profile.
  4. If your email marketing platform supports advanced tagging features, take advantage of them. Automated tagging features can save a lot of time!
  5. Combine merge tags to personalize email content with subscriber information (for example, name, city, purchase history). This increases engagement and can feel more relevant to the recipient.
  6. Ensure you assign tags on links within emails you send — this allows you to track performance metrics across different links in the same email.
  7. Don’t hold on to older, unused tags; remove them and update them as your marketing strategies evolve.
  8. It’s not just subscriber information that may need updating, email tags need to be periodically updated, too.

Following these best practices will help you leverage email tags to their full potential!


Campaign Refinery’s Smart Tag Manager: Email Tags Simplified

At Campaign Refinery, we love email tags. They’re the secret to building attentive and interested audiences out of your email list and we consider them the foundation of our automation and contact management system.

Take a look at the image below. 

Campaign Refinery Tag image 1
Campaign Refinery: Email tags dashboard

You can see how tags give you a behind-the-scenes preview of your contacts, letting you know how well your email marketing strategy is working. Tags also give you a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

At Campaign Refinery, it’s extremely simple to set up an action and assign tags, as this image demonstrates:

Assigning email tags on Campaign Refinery
Assigning email tags on Campaign Refinery

You can assign tags for opens, specific clicks, or purchases — with interest-based tagging, you will have a clear idea of how and when to target your customers. You can integrate it with Zapier and even trigger automated email campaigns when a tag is created.

By using our tagging system, you will be able to understand your customer a lot better. It’s the ultimate tool to help you plan your nurture campaigns!


Campaign Refinery: Fine-Tuned for Peak Performance

We also have other powerful features that can enhance your email marketing:

  • Powerful automation: Creating robust automation flows on Campaign Refinery is extremely simple. You can design complex conditional campaigns with ease thanks to our intuitive interface.
  • Analytics: Our analytics dashboard is one of our best features, keeping you updated on how your campaigns are performing, consistently and accurately. 
  • Gamification: Want to use tags to track and improve your engagement rates? Try our Gamification feature, your subscribers will love it!
  • Goals: With our Goals feature, you can guide your subscribers through sequences and also halt sequences when the goal is achieved (which is based on tags!).
  • Automated list-cleaning: Invalid emails can wreck your sender reputation, so we built a tool to fight the problem. With our list cleaner, you never have to worry about spam traps, seeder accounts, etc. And it works well — our clients report a rise of 37% in open rates after using it!

If you seek elite email marketing performance, Campaign Refinery is the place for it. Apply to be a customer today!

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