11 Ways to Improve Email Open Rates

11 Ways to Improve Email Open RatesOpen rate is one of the most telling email marketing metrics. Open rates determine click rates, conversion rates, and the overall performance of an entire email-marketing program.

Even deliverability can be affected by open rate and open rates are also a key way to measure subscriber engagement.

Top ways for Improving Open Rates

1. Get the sender name right.

Make sure your emails’ sender name (also called “from name”) is easily recognized and consistent. On iOS devices, sender name is more prominent than the subject line of your message.

Email marketing experts have a name for how recognizable your sender name and address are — it’s called “sender familiarity.” Email service provider Campaigner published a study earlier this year that showed sender familiarity is especially critical on mobile devices, where sender name was ranked as a more powerful “mobile email motivator” than even the email subject line.

2. Get the from email address right.

This is similar to sender name. The goal here is to keep the sender address the same, and make it look professional and recognizable. Changing the sender email address can hurt deliver-ability rates, because you’ll no longer be mailing from the email address that some of your subscribers white-listed.

3. Get the subject line right.

Subject lines matter. Testing subject lines is a good way to find out which words engage your audience best. Maybe they’re more likely to open an email about a “flash sale” than a “monthly sale,” or they prefer you to tie your messages to current events, not holidays. Or maybe your audience loves subject lines with numbers in them, or subject lines with special characters.

  • Whatever it is,
  • do some A/B testing to find out what works.

4. Personalize.

Every quarter there’s seemingly a new study showing how powerful personalization is in emails, especially in email subject lines. Email service provider MailerMailer’s 2013 “Email Marketing Metrics Report” showed a clear lift in open rates for messages with personalized subject lines. GetResponse, another email service provider, ran an analysis of its customers’ email messages and found “emails with personalized subjects averaged 26% higher open rates and over 130% higher CTRs than emails without personalized subject lines.”

5. Optimize pre-header text.

After subscribers have scanned the sender name and from address of your message, and decided the subject line is worth review, they’ll likely read the preheader text, which appears in smaller grey type right after the email subject line. Ideally, it’s about 50 characters long.

6. Segment.

If you segment your list well, you’ll be able to easily deliver content that’s much more suited to your audience’s interests.

7. Give your subscribers what they want.

This technique affects your entire email program, but it will increase open rates too. It’s simple. Find out what your subscribers really want to know, then deliver it. You can find out what they’re interested in with surveys, polls, or via social media listening.

8. Send at the right time.

Open rates can vary dramatically depending on what time of day and what day of the week the emails are sent. The best way to find out your audience’s preferred time for emails is to test, but you can also check some recent industry reports for clues.

9. Send with the right frequency.

One of the most common symptoms of an over-mailed list is a weak open rate. List fatigue is a sticky problem that requires a series of changes to fix, but one of the best places to start is by mailing less often.

10. Test (and A/B test to continuously improve)

Included testing in other techniques, above, but it’s such a key process for improving anything that it deserves to be counted alone. Here’s the best way to do more testing: Figure out what it would take it make testing easier and faster. Too often, testing gets bogged down in technical headaches and by being seen as an add-on, a nice-but-not-necessary thing to do. Change that.

11. Use double opt-in

Signing people up for an email list with single opt-in vs. a double opt-in can have a huge effect on open rates, months after people have subscribed. Double opt-in (sometimes called “confirmed opt-in,” where subscribers have to confirm their email address before they’re subscribed) ends up being well named. Using a double opt-in can, well, almost double open rates. MailChimp has reported that double opt-ins receive a 29 percent average open rate versus a single opt-in getting an average 17 percent open rate.

About Michael Stuart

Mike's experience in the technology industry is quite extensive, serving both as a designer of complex enterprise applications and as a corporate executive. In his previous life, Mike was founder and CEO of AssetWorks Inc. the industry leader in facility management solutions. Currently living on the Texas coast helping with digital strategies using Amplified Content Marketing.