You wouldn’t think an email marketing technique designed to help you deliver more personal messages could cause you to lose subscribers, but it’s possible.

Placing subscribers in different groups, also known as segmenting, can help you create more personal, relevant emails that yield more responses. However, this wouldn’t happen if you don’t know the difference between a good segment and a bad one.

If you don’t create your segments carefully, you might end up losing even more subscribers and even get more spam complaints.

Since segmenting can be a beneficial tool for your email marketing campaign, it’s important to know what you should do with segments and what you should avoid.

Don’t: Only Rely on Answers Given at Sign Up.

If your web form has a preference center, or a couple questions just to get an idea of what new subscribers want, that’s a great starting off point. However, it’s important to keep in mind that what they wanted at sign up may not remain the same.

Needs and wants can change over time. This is why looking at subscriber behavior can help with creating more accurate segments.

Do: Respond to Subscriber Behavior.

You can see what subscribers like by looking at what they’ve opened, clicked on and purchased on your subscribers search page. You’re able to select what you’re interested in by using the drop down menu:

Analytics packages like this one from AWeber allow you to track sales and clicks through your website, so you can learn even more about your subscribers.

You can sort out your subscribers based on these results and set up segments according to what they are interested in.

Don’t: Base Assumptions Off of One Click.

Your subscribers might read, click or buy something for a number of reasons. While it might be because they’re interested for themselves, they could also be buying a gift, or maybe they know a friend who is interested in a certain topic you’re talking about.

Regardless of the reason, you don’t want to make too many assumptions about your subscribers based on one response. It shows them that while you are watching what they’re doing, you aren’t looking for patterns that will actually teach you more about them.

Do: Look for Trends.

Do some subscribers keep looking at a certain topic? Do they prefer a certain brand?

When you’re looking at subscriber behavior, you’ll want to find trends. On your subscriber search page, there are multiple search fields available for you to find out if subscribers are consistently opening certain messages or clicking on links for a specific topic:

Watching for these trends will allow you to have even more targeted messages.

Don’t: Use Segments to Test Minor Changes.

Segments are not as simple as comparing one version of your message to another. Segments are meant for sending more relevant information to a particular group. A lot of things can be different about the message content in these segments: the links, the main topic, the call for action, etc.

If you are looking to test different versions of a particular message to find out what works best, there is a separate feature for split testing.

Do: Make Segments Relevant.

The main purpose of segmenting is to send more relevant messages, so make sure you’re using it for that.

Once you learn what your subscribers are interested in and start coming up with different segments, think of what each segment would benefit from. If you’re stuck, just ask the subscribers in that segment.

You can ask them why they like a particular topic, brand, item, etc. and their answers may give you what you need to know. Udi’s did a good job at this in a recent email:

Once subscribers give their feedback, Udi’s can start segmenting according to what subscribers are interested in. You can set something like this up by asking a question in your message, and hyperlinking possible answers, and you’ll know what subscribers think based on who clicked each link.

When you monitor subscriber behavior, you’ll be able to pick up on new trends and use them to segment your segments, allowing your messages to continue to get more personal.

What Segments Have You Used?

You can set up your segments based on trends and by what your subscribers are telling you, but there are certainly other ways to set up effective segments.

What do you think the most effective segment is for your campaign? The least effective?

Crystal Gouldey is an Education Marketing Associate at AWeber, the leading email service provider for small-to-medium businesses. Crystal’s spent the past three years teaching email marketers how to optimize their campaigns. She currently writes for the AWeber blog, which you can visit for more tips on marketing with email.