How to Increase Email Open Rates


Thanks to all of you who have sent great questions and comments about our blog posts. Because of all the interest, we’ve started a new category called ‘Mailbag’.

Our first Mailbag post is from a reader who responded to our Email List Building Ideas and asked for some tips to improve the average email open rate.

This is a GREAT question and one I’m sure other readers also wondered about, so I’m going to give you some suggestions. This is Part 1; the second part will follow shortly.

Simon gave a great answer in the comments section of Email List Building Ideas, when he explained why you should not be overly concerned with email open rate statistics. If you haven’t read that comment yet, please do so.

I concur with his observation. My email client, Thunderbird, does not display images unless I request a specific email. So, even though I could be reading and re-reading your newsletter, you’d never know it because I won’t be included in your email open rate tracking.

This does not mean that email open rate statistics are useless. Using them as a guideline for making comparisons, such as comparing Test Mail A vs. Test Mail B, is certainly feasible. Just don’t consider them to be exact measurements of your readership.

While there’s nothing we can do about ISP, email hosts and email client programs, there are still things we can implement to improve open rates. Below are a few I’d like to share with you. (If you have more….or have questions about the list… please let us know!)

Easy Email Open Rate Ideas – Part 1

  • Can I recognize you or your product by your “From” line? When you email me, what will show in the From line? I’d suggest it be your name, your newsletter or product name, or something that will be immediately recognized by the reader.
  • Is your Subject line specific or does it create curiosity? I get a LOT of email every day. The two things that determine if I will read your email immediately, delete it, or put it in the “when I have time on my hands” pile, are: the From line and Subject line. If the From line doesn’t ring a bell – Strike One! If the Subject line doesn’t make
    me stop and wonder what it’s about – Strike Two!The easiest way to demonstrate this is to give you some current examples of what Subject lines I like and which ones would immediately get deleted. (This may or may not conform to any “rules”; they are just my opinion.)My likes:

    Tele-Sales Tip of the Week, (weekly newsletter; easily identified)
    (Newsletter) Link Building and Blog Marketing – Outsourcing Secrets, (curiosity)
    Your Daily Motivation – Thursday, Sept 5, (daily tip; easily identified)
    How to Beef Up Proof in your copy, (maybe I could learn something!)

    My dislikes:

    Final Notice – your tickets expire at 4PM today! (What tickets??)
    Debbi, in case you were waffling… (What are you trying to sell me??)
    Debbi, before It’s Too Late… (Sorry; it’s ALREADY too late!)
    Exclusive offer! (Yeah…exclusive to everyone you are spamming)

    Just because an email passes my “From” test, doesn’t mean I’ll open it. In fact, all the emails in my dislike pile were from recognized names in the From line.

    But – can you see which group looks value-driven and probably has some great content vs. the group that is just going to send me to a sales page or affiliate link? If your email box is full, which group will you check out and which will you delete?

  • Do you email on a schedule? If you look at the lists above again, you’ll notice that the first list ALL mail on a schedule. Some are weekly and one is daily. But the senders have trained me to anticipate their next mailing because I know when to expect it.Personally, I like to send emails weekly or bi-weekly. Although many marketers mail several times a week (or several times a day) – you and I will quickly part ways if I feel you are badgering me. The only exceptions are daily emails recapping blog posts.On the other hand, if you email too infrequently, people will forget who you are, why they signed up for your list, or even IF they signed up for your list. The very outer time-limit I would consider would be monthly, IF you promote a monthly newsletter.
  • Do you provide valuable content? I remember when I started online in the late 90s. The rule of thumb was two emails of content for every promotional email. That may have disappeared about the same time as floppy discs, because there’s enough content-less emails to last me the rest of my life!If you want to build a brand, virally build your subscriber list, and have them begging for more; give before you receive. Don’t simply hammer people for money.
  • Does your email have personality? Creating curiosity convinces me to open your email, but if your message is bland and boring, that will be the last time. You don’t have to be the Last Comic Standing for your personality to shine through. But if your email has no LIFE, your bank account will be DEAD.Be sure to check back or, better yet, sign up for our RSS Feed. There are still 9 more tips about how to improve your email open rate that I’d like to share with you.As always, your comments, questions and suggestions are welcomed. If these questions hadn’t been asked, I may not have thought to even put this together! (And… for those of you who are marketers and want some publicity, I always attempt to get email approval to use your name and website in my posts… so it’s a great opportunity to build some traffic and get another backlink to your site!)

See you soon!

Debbi Bressler
Email Marketing Specialist