11 Ways to Increase Your Email Open Rate
You probably already know how important email marketing is, but if no one is actually reading your emails, your campaigns aren't doing you much good. Luckily, there are lots of ways you can entice more people to click on your emails. Here are 11 tried-and-true strategies for improving your email open rate.
Write a Great Subject Line
A subject line is to an email what a headline is to an article. If it doesn't beg to be clicked, people won't bother, and your painstakingly-crafted email will go unseen. If you're not happy with your current email open rate, your subject lines are a good place to start improving.
A few rules of thumb for clickable subject lines: make them concise, specific, and action-oriented. If you can, add a sense of urgency, or make people feel like they'll be missing out on something great if they don't click. Whatever you do, don't be generic or bore people. For example, write something like "Grab our marketing guide while it's free!" instead of "Special offer inside."
Try not to sound too promotional or salesy in your subject line, or your emails might get snagged by the spam filter. Don't use all caps or multiple exclamation points. Use words and phrases like "buy now," "cash," "winner," and "sale" sparingly, if you have to use them at all.
Send Emails from a Trustworthy Name
What name do you send marketing emails from? This little detail can make a big difference in your open rates. If your brand is small or personal, make sure your name is in the "From" field, not the name of your business. People are more likely to open emails that are sent from a name they recognize and trust.
There are some times when you might want to use your brand name instead of your personal name for sending emails, though. If your brand is very recognizable but your name isn't, you may get better results by putting your business' name in the "From" field. There's no single right answer here, so put yourself in your subscribers' shoes and take the approach that makes more sense for your situation. A/B testing is a great way to see what works best. In the screenshot below, you can see how Agency Analytics makes it easy to compare campaigns. Clearly, whatever was done in "copy 02" vs. "copy 01" makes a big difference (ex: who the email is from!).
Use a Double Opt-In System
When it comes to subscribers, quality is more important than quantity. You can ensure that all your subscribers are actually interested in your business by using a double opt-in system. With this type of system, your subscribers have to open up your first email and click a confirmation link to be added to your list. True, you probably will get fewer subscribers than you might have otherwise, but you're only losing the people who didn't care that much in the first place. This is also a good way to prevent bots from joining your list.
Popular email marketing systems like MailChimp and ConstantContact allow you to use a double opt-in system, which can be another great use of the Agency Analytics platform to see different open rates when using this system vs. not.
Clean Out Your Email List Regularly
Just like anything else, your email list needs regular maintenance to stay neat and tidy. Go through your list periodically and do the following checks:
- Fix common typos, such as firstname.lastname@example.org or seomarketer@yahoocom.
- Remove alias email addresses, like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Check your feedback loops. If people are reporting your messages as spam, it could damage your reputation with ISPs. Remove the complainers from your list so they can't keep sending your emails to their spam folder.
- Look at your bounces. A hard bounce means there's a permanent problem with an email address – it may be deleted or blocked. Whatever the reason, you should take it off your list right away. A soft bounce indicates a temporary problem with an email address, like a full mailbox, so it's okay to keep soft bounces on your list.
- Identify subscribers who never open your emails. Don't delete them right away – give them one more chance to re-engage with you. For instance, you could send an email offering them a discount, or just ask them if they want to keep getting emails from you. If you don't hear back within a week, cut them – they're dead weight on your list.
Segment Your Email List
Segmenting is the process of categorizing your email list, so you can tailor your marketing more effectively to different facets of your customer base. There are a ton of ways you can divide up your list. Consider segmenting by:
- Job title
- Purchase history
- Frequency of opening your emails
The more data you gather about your subscribers, the easier it will be to segment your list effectively, so consider conducting some informal polls or surveys to find out more about your customers.
Personalize Your Emails
Everyone loves hearing (or reading) their own name. To get your subscribers' attention, talk directly to them by using their name in your emails, preferably in both the subject line and the body. You can also personalize your emails based on your subscribers' location and any other pertinent information you've gathered about them. Segmenting your list will help you do this more easily. Below is a great example from CampaignMonitor:
Keep Your Tone Casual
Nobody likes reading stiff, formal marketing emails. You can get more people to open your emails by making them fun to read. Don't focus on the fact that you're sending each email out to a lot of people – write like you're talking to your favorite subscriber. Don't be afraid to throw in a joke or a pun every now and then, too. Of course, you should also keep your emails in line with what's appropriate in your industry. You've got more leeway in an artistic field than you do in finance, for example.
Deliver Great (and Alternative) Content
If every email you send is too promotional or boring, people will catch on and stop opening them. Maintain a good reputation with your subscribers by sending emails they'll actually want to read. Here are some ways you can provide excellent value in every email:
- Don't email your subscribers unless you have something good to say. It's hard to be interesting when you're just emailing for the sake of emailing.
- Write well. Use a lively tone. Proofread every email to make sure you haven't made any easily-preventable grammar or spelling mistakes.
- Link to something your subscribers will like, such as a useful article or video.
- Give something away. Send your subscribers an ebook, some case studies, a coupon code, or an invitation to a webinar.
When it comes to writing alternative content, get creative. Infographics works great if they're short and sweet (and load quickly), and Boomerang's are all the rage. Keep things fresh so that in the future, people will always open emails when they see they're from you.
Time Your Emails Right
Want more people to read your emails? Send them at the right time. The day of the week and time of day you send an email both have a huge impact on whether people will click on it or not.
Figuring out the best time to send your emails can be tricky. It varies from industry to industry. In general, though, weekdays are better than weekends, and the middle of the day is better than evening. Whatever you do, don't send emails in the middle of the night, or your open rate will probably take a nosedive.
Analysis from Mailchimp shows that subscribers open more emails on weekdays – especially Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday – than weekends.
MailChimp also found that open rates are highest during the middle of the day, particularly between 9 AM and 2 PM.
Good email timing is somewhat field-dependent, so you'll probably have to experiment to find a time that works well for you. If you're not sure when to send your emails, the next tip can help you figure it out.
Run Split Tests
As you improve your email marketing, you probably won't get everything right on the first try. Split testing is a good way to learn from your mistakes and improve more quickly. By trying out two strategies at once and comparing the results, you'll get a good idea of what works with your audience and what doesn't.
You can run split tests for subject lines, what time you send emails, CTA buttons, and almost anything else. Just divide your email list into two groups, send both batches of emails, and see which group you get better results from. Make sure your two testing groups are as similar as possible – your results might not be accurate if your groups have significant demographic differences.
The more of the story: analytics matter. Connect you ConstantContact or MailChimp accounts to Agency Analytics to stay organized and run successful split tests and analyze what is really worked for your open rate. Learn how to make the connection here:
Make Your Emails Mobile-Friendly**
Are your emails easy for your smartphone-loving subscribers to read? They should be, because two out of every three emails are opened on a mobile device instead of a desktop computer, and that number is growing all the time. You can make sure your emails are mobile-friendly by:
- Using short subject lines that will display fully on a mobile screen. Aim for an upper limit of 30 characters or so.
- Giving your pre-header text some thought. Mobile devices display the beginning of your email (the pre-header) to give your subject line some context. Start your emails in a way that will make people want to open them.
- Breaking your text into short, easy-to-scan paragraphs. Long, dense emails are tedious to read on a mobile device.
- Making sure your emails look good without images, since not all mobile devices display them.
- Making your CTA prominent and easy to tap. A big button is a good choice.
Your email marketing success depends on a lot of factors, but luck isn't one of them. That's good news, because even if you're not happy with your email open rate now, there's plenty you can do to change it. Start by writing better subject lines, and then move on to optimizing other things, like the time of day you send your emails and how your list is segmented. Before long, you'll notice your open rate going up and your conversions increasing along with it.
Written by Joe Kindness
Joe is the CEO of AgencyAnalytics, but often spends his day programming, designing or executing marketing tasks. And like most Canadians, he can be found playing or watching hockey!