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7 Ways to Improve Email Open Rates

how to improve email open rates

7 Ways to Improve Email Open Rates

Despite what you may have heard, email is not dead. In fact, email marketing drove 18.4% of all online sales in 2016, outperforming social media (1.5%) and display advertising (1.1%). And, it’s expected to grow even more this year. If that isn’t enough evidence that email should be a part of your marketing mix, consider this interesting stat – email delivers a $44 return on investment (ROI) for every $1 spent. Now, do we have your attention?

email open rate

What’s a Healthy Email Open Rate?

To reap the rewards of email marketing, you must have a healthy open rate. Your open rate is calculated by dividing the number of opened messages by the total number of emails sent out (minus bounced messages). According to recent study from GetResponse, the average open rate across all industries is 22 percent. If your email open rate falls below the industry average, it may indicate that you are missing out on additional revenue opportunities. Although a poor open rate is never good, don’t panic just yet. We are here to help.

Ways to Improve Email Open Rates

If you are tired of your emails going unopened, or worse, having people continually unsubscribe, consider these seven ways to improve email open rates.

Grab Their Attention

The subject line of your email is basically your salutation. Get it right and people will engage with you. Research shows that 47 percent of email recipients open their email based on the subject line. Conversely, 69 percent will report it as spam, if the subject line seems vague or spammy. For best results, keep your subject lines simple and transparent. Do not use capital letters or tons of punctuation!!! It’s also a good idea to keep the tone conversational and in a style the subscriber would use when speaking with friends. Be sure to A/B test to see which subject lines get the best results.

Make it Personal

One of the most effective ways to increase your email open rates is to personalize your emails. This not only includes adding the recipient’s name in the subject line, but also writing your body text in first-person form. Even if the same message is going out to thousands of people, the recipient should feel as though you are speaking directly to him or her. Just as important, make sure your email signature is from a person and not a company. Emails from companies are typically marked as advertising, which can increase the chances of it being sent to the trash folder. Those coming from a person are much more likely to be opened.

Avoid Spam Filters

There are a variety of reasons why your email may end up in someone’s spam folder, but you can follow some basic rules to help decrease your chances of winding up in the digital trash bin. First, make sure you are sending emails to people who have given you permission to communicate with them. We strongly encourage using the double opt-in method. Single opt-in is sufficient, if you clearly state how you will use the email address. Next, make sure you are sending from a good IP address and not one that has a history of being flagged as spam. You’ll also want to follow these best practices:

  • Include an opt-out option that is easy to find and use
  • Send through verified domains
  • Avoid spam-triggering words and symbols in the subject line, such as “$$$,” “100%,” “cash,” “clearance,” or “free!”
  • Limit links in the email to no more than two

There are also free tools available that will check your email content for potential spam triggers, such as Postmark.

Segment Lists

Most people will open an email if it contains information that is relevant to them. That’s why segmenting your email list is a must. You can separate email subscribers by demographics, geographic location, past purchases, browsing history, content topics and a variety of other factors. For example, you would send a completely different message to someone who left items in his/her online shopping cart than a past customer who hasn’t come back to your website for a few months. In a recent study by Lyris, researchers found that 39 percent of those who used segmented email lists had higher open rates and 28 percent experienced lower unsubscribe rates.

email list segmentation

Keep it Fresh

Over time, subscribers may change their email addresses or simply decide that they no longer need your services. It happens to everyone, so don’t take it personally. You should, however, be proactive when it comes to keeping your email list fresh by removing bad addresses. You should also remove anyone who hasn’t interacted with your emails for at least six months. If you want to make one last effort to keep subscribers on the list, try sending out a survey to gauge why they stopped using your services or engaging with your emails. Another way to keep your list fresh is to send out bi-annual emails requesting subscribers update their information and email preferences. Anyone who doesn’t respond can simply be removed.

Don’t Buy Leads

Purchasing an email list is never a good idea. For one thing, the people on the list have not given you permission to communicate with them. This means there is a high probability that your emails will go unopened or land in the spam folder. Secondly, most purchased email lists include bad emails, which means your bounce rates will soar. More importantly, if you use a questionable email list, you could be reported for email abuse. Don’t risk your company’s reputation or your ability to send communications through your email service provider (ESP) by buying email leads.

Be Mobile-Friendly

Did you know that smartphones are the most commonly used device for checking email (Adobe)? With 81 percent regularly reading email on their phones, creating mobile-friendly communications is essential. To ensure your mobile subscribers respond, be sure to follow these tips:

  • Use large call-to-action buttons that are easy to tap
  • Don’t place links adjacent to each other
  • Use simple, single-column formatting
  • Use smaller images to reduce load time
  • Increase font size to make emails easier to read
  • Keep subject lines to 20 characters or less

Although these tips can help improve your email open rates, don’t expect it to happen overnight. Email marketing is an evolving science that takes time to fine tune. Follow best practices and give yourself time to experiment. Eventually, you will find the right combination of elements that allows your open rates to explode!

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