Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these apps, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy one. Please do not spend any money on these apps unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
Join our newsletter and we'll send you our guide of how to create high-converting product pages.
August 22, 2022
The success of an email campaign is usually measured by the number of people who click a call to action within the message. But before your subscribers get to that point, they first need to open the email. If you want your email campaigns to be successful, it's important to consider how to increase your open rate.
In this article, we help you understand the open rate metric and how it works. We also offer some strategies to improve yours.
(Don’t have any subscribers yet? Check out our full guide on building an email list.)
Your open rate refers to the percentage of your recipients who open a particular email, after subtracting the number of bounces.
Let's say you send an email to a list (or a segment of a list) of 1350 people, 12 of those emails bounce, and 217 people open the email.
Open rate = 217 / (1350-12) = 0.162 or 16%
How does your email service provider (ESP) know that a subscriber opened an email? The ESP adds a small, transparent image to each email you send. When a subscriber's email client makes a request on the ESP's server for the image, the ESP knows the email was opened.
As you can imagine, this isn't a perfect solution because some subscribers turn off their images. If a subscriber doesn’t have images enabled, the ESP also knows an email was opened if a link within the email is clicked.
When subscribers consider whether to open an email, they evaluate a few factors:
Generally speaking, the average open rate for email was 21.3% in 2020. It was a bit higher - 24% - between 2015 and 2018, but that doesn’t mean email is on the decline. It’s been bouncing around 20% for a long time. Based on historical data, we can see that it always comes back up.
Keep in mind, however, that industries, countries, and audiences are all different. Some open emails from brands far more than others. The average isn’t that important. Instead, look at your own open rate and continually find ways to improve it.
Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to boost your open rate. It depends on the nature of your content and what your subscribers expect. However, we can give you a list of strategies to try.
Your “from” name should be something your subscribers recognize right away. It should be a name they see on your social media profiles and website. Your goal is to attach a face, name, and personality to your brand for subscribers to connect to.
A popular and effective technique is to use a person’s name and a brand name, like you see in the following image. This gives your organization a human name, but retains the brand name in case the person changes at some point. Research from Pinpointe marketing found that using a specific name can increase open rates by 35%!
A common piece of advice you’ll hear about subject lines is to spend as much time writing them as you spend on the rest of your email content. We think this is spot-on. A good subject line isn’t the first one you think of, it’s the one you choose from a group of carefully considered possibilities.
So what makes a good subject line? First, let’s talk about the mechanics.
Retention Science found that subject lines with six to 10 words deliver the highest open rate. Eight words is ideal. If the subject line is too long, email clients will cut it off, and your readers might not understand the full thought. This is especially important for subscribers who check their email on mobile devices, which accounts for 81% of email users.
Using the recipient’s name can help too, but not by much. Putting their name in the subject (such as “Hey Michael!”) can increase open rates by about 2%.
Emojis used to be seen as unprofessional, but they are quite common now. Use them to show emotion and create curiosity, but don’t get carried away.
In terms of creativity, subject lines that generate curiosity are usually the most effective. Take advantage of their fear of missing out by teasing something special or unique inside the email.
Humor is another useful tool because it's personal and attention-grabbing, but you have to be careful here. If your subject line is too silly, clever, or witty, there's a chance your subscribers won't understand it. This will make the email seem irrelevant to them.
Subject lines that announce free offers are also effective. After all, who doesn't love something for free?
But, be careful because too much promotional language could result in the email going to the Promotions tab in Gmail (not ideal) or even worse, in Spam.
If you email your subscribers too often, they may become overwhelmed with the volume and unsubscribe just to keep you out of their inbox. How much is too much? It depends on the nature of your business and your subscribers’ preferences, so you’ll need to figure it out yourself. Some audiences are happy to hear from you every day, especially if your content is quick to consume. Others prefer less often.
That said, you should still send emails often – at least weekly. Otherwise, your subscribers will forget who you are and whether they signed up for your list.
Most email marketing platforms have an option to resend a campaign to subscribers who didn't open it the first time. In the second send, however, you’ll need to use a different subject line so it stands out. Using the same subject line will convince your subscribers that you’re just spamming them.
If your email marketing tool allows it, give your subscribers the opportunity to adjust their email preferences. For instance, you could let them choose the days, times, or intervals that they receive your emails. This kind of control increases the odds that they’ll open your emails.
You can also give them the ability to affect the types of content they receive. For instance, someone who only wants to receive information about sports and entertainment wouldn’t get emails about politics.
Every list has some subscribers that fail to open any emails. They joined your list because they made a purchase or entered a giveaway, but don’t really care about your content. There’s no sense keeping them around if they don’t open your messages, so prune them regularly. If you send weekly, we recommend removing anyone who doesn’t open an email for three months.
There’s no sense sending content to people who don’t care about it. This is key to staying relevant. You can deliver relevant content through segmentation.
According to Lyris, 39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced increased open rates, 28% experienced reduced unsubscribe rates, and 24% experienced better deliverability and greater revenue.
Add tags to subscribers based on their behavior. If someone purchased dog food on your site, give them the “dog owner” tag. Then send relevant dog-related offers, but don’t send offers for bird owners (unless they also bought a bird cage, in which case they would get the “bird owner” tag). You can also segment based on demographics, geographics, website behavior, email engagement, or interests.
An email that gets marked as spam will never be opened, so it’s your job to create messages that aren’t mistaken as spammy or scams. Spam filters are very sensitive these days, so you might end up in spam even if you’re sending a legitimate message. Just follow these tips:
Since there aren't too many variables that affect whether your subscribers open your emails, split testing can be a powerful way to improve the effectiveness of your campaigns. An A/B test is when you send a portion of your subscribers one version of an email and the remaining subscribers another version of the email. This helps you discover which version is more effective.
Some email marketing tools will manage this entire process for you. They’ll send one version to, say, 15% of your list and another version to another 15% of your list. The remaining 70% receive whichever version was most effective. Take advantage of these features.
You can use all of the tricks we've outlined in this guide to convince your subscribers to open your emails, but none of it will matter if your email content is poor.
If your subscribers love the content of your messages, and they look forward to opening your emails, then nothing else really matters. They will click into each message right away in order to get to the content they love. On the other hand, if your email content continually displeases them, It won't be long before they ignore all other signals and unsubscribe.
Your final job, therefore, is to make your email content awesome. Don’t send an email just because it's been a long time since you sent one. If you pack each message full of value and make sure that it relates closely to your subscribers' interests, they’ll become loyal followers who open every campaign.