7 Ways to Increase Your Email Open Rates


Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing techniques for the businesses. According to a study by ExactTarget, 77% of consumers prefer to receive permission-based marketing communications through email. Emails works best in communicating and engaging both targeted as well as current customers. Not just that, it requires comparatively less investment and yields a very high ROI. To go by the stats, “For every $1 spent, $44.25 is the average return on email marketing investment.” But for emails to out perform, your customers need to open the mail first. In 2012, “144 billion emails were sent per day during the year” which experienced 19.7% open rate on an average. Though this is not the case with every one, companies have seen an open rate as high as 44% too. We have earlier talked about 15 biggest email marketing mistakes to avoid, so here we will talk about some ways to achieve higher email open rates.

1. Have a Strong Subject Line Strategy

Subject lines are one of the most important factors influencing email open rates. These are the gatekeepers of your email marketing campaign as one of the first things a recipient gets to see even before opening an email is the subject line. A good email subject line compels your target audience to open the mail whereas a bad one immediately instigates them to trash it. It’s absolutely necessary to be able to create a very good first impression on the recipient’s mind.

Keep It Short, Simple, Crisp and Interesting

For any email campaign, an ideal subject line should be as short as possible, so that it can be read at a glance. If a person can read it quickly and easily make out what’s inside, chances are higher they will open the mail. Those couple of seconds and your email subject line actually determines fate of your campaign. Not only this, it’s almost mandatory to keep a subject line created within 50 characters as most of the email service providers don’t completely display a subject line larger than 50 characters. As a marketer you surely know how harmful a truncated subject line can get for your campaign.

Make It Personalized and Targeted

As per the reports, “Personalized subject lines are 22.2% more likely to be opened”. It’s a proven fact people like personalized emails. An email subject containing the name of the recipient makes it look like very much personalized and is enticing enough to get the first click to open the mail.

Tip: Try to tell them what’s in it for them through the subject line instead of trying to sell.

2. Mind Your Timings

Timing of emails is important to improve email open rate. Though its tough to pinpoint best time and day to send a email campaign, test your own best time of the day to send the mail. Experiment with the days and timing to determine what works best for you. 

Studies suggests that it’s always better to send the emails when the audience is busy, like for example mails sent on Tuesday have a higher open rate than mails sent on Friday or weekends. Similarly, mails sent in early hours or in the late evening have a higher open rate than the late nigh mails or the ones sent in the second half of the day.

As per stats, breakdown of open rates for best timing throughout the day:

Midnight to 6am : 5.9%

6am – 12pm : 38.7%

12pm – 6pm : 25.8%

6pm – 12am : 29.6%

But always remember, preferable timings vary with business type and the industry.

3. Find Out the Best Email Frequency 

Another factor which is very important for increasing email open rate is the sending frequency. Experts have contradictory views regarding the same. Some of them believe the more frequently you send emails to the target audience the more people will open, read, engage and click through it, whereas the others think bombarding the audience with your emails will accelerate value depreciation of the email list. 

As a matter of fact, it has been seen, the audience loses the urge and excitement of opening the emails if the email frequency is too high. At a point the email open rate starts dropping significantly. The marketers should take up this strategy under only one circumstance, that is if there is a dead end date for the whole email marketing campaign, and after which there will be no need of the email list. Only in that case you can afford to keep a very high sending frequency to reap maximum benefit. The best example supporting this view is ‘2012 Obama Campaign’.

Keeping this aside, for most of the marketing campaigns, it’s neither recommended to set the email sending frequency too high to get the audience irritated and leading to unsubscribes, nor should it be too low to give them enough time to forget about you. But always remember, engagement is not independent of frequency; in fact both are negatively correlated. “In one study 73% said that frequency was the main reason for opting out.” So the marketers should find out the frequency sweet spot to hit it right. Also remember this frequency will differ from industry to industry, even from country to country.

Tip: Ask your audience how frequently they would like to receive mails from you, and give them options – daily, weekly, by weekly, fortnightly monthly etc. Also, always give them an option to unsubscribe from your email list.

4. Avoid Spam Filters

To potentially increase email open rates, you have to be very cautious about one thing, the email spam filters. As an email marketer you should have thorough knowledge about this, so that you can keep your campaigns safe to avoid getting caught in spam filters. To avoid spam complaints you should first know what spam is and how the filters work? Then you’ll be able to finalize the strategy to combat it. Brace yourself with:

  • Email Firewalls and its mechanism
  • Common mistakes which you should avoid
  • Ways to prevent false complaints

There is a long list of criteria on which spam filters decide whether your email is a spam or not and this list gets longer and longer with each mail marked as spam. These spam filters look for spam criteria in the campaigns and gives you spam score. Different spam criteria has different spam scores attached to them. When your campaign exceeds a particular spam score your emails will start directly hitting the junk folders and if your audience doesn’t get to see your mails in their inbox there is no chance of getting it opened. To avoid this remember to avoid some common mistakes:

  • Avoid spammy phrases like: “Free”, ”Click Here”, “Buy Now” etc.
  • Avoid using the word “Test” in the email subject line
  • Using ‘Exclamation Marks’ or special characters in subject lines is an absolute no no
  • Don’t use fonts colored in Red or Green to highlight the words
  • Never ever write the subject line in “ALL CAPS”
  • Don’t try to convert an image into a HTML-ised email content as the spam filters can’t read images

How to Avoid Spam Complaints

“70 percent of “this is spam” complaints from recipients are actually legitimate newsletters, offers or notifications that people are no longer interested in receiving. – Return Path “Email Intelligence Report Q3 2012″ (2012)”. To avoid these kind of spam complaints make sure you email list is regularly updated and you have your company name in either you ‘from’ field or in the subject line.

5. Use Professional and Domain Specific Email Address

Use Professional from name and domain specific email Ids for sending business emails.
It’s very much recommended to mention the company name in the from field instead of sending it from the personal and unidentified email address.

As per the stats, “82% of consumers open emails from companies.” Email from an unidentified name or email ID increases the chance of it getting trashed as people can’t recognize the sender and dump it without even opening it. Even worse, emails from unfamiliar ID’s or personal names often causes abuse complaints, i.e. people report the mails as spam as they fail to remember you without the brand name in the ‘From’ field.
In fact, not only the company name ‘From’ field, you should also have particular departmental email ids to send different emails from.

6. Keep Your Emails Mobile Device Ready

“Mobile email will account for 15 to 65% of email opens, depending on your target audience, product and email type.” eMailmonday – “Party safe mobile email stats” (2013)

This shows how important it is to make the emails mobile ready. But studies suggests that most of the marketers are still reluctant about this, “the new 2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Report from Marketing Sherpa that says more than half of email marketers aren’t designing their emails with mobile devices in mind.” It’s absolutely necessary to create emails, specially the subject lines keeping small screen size of the mobile devices in consideration. The subject lines should be very short otherwise it will appear truncated on the screen and there are increased chances of getting it deleted without being opened. “5% Of Smartphone Owners “Highly Likely” To Delete Emails They Can’t Read On Their Phone”.

7. A/B Test Your Email Campaigns

Last but not the least, A/B testing your email campaigns is very important to improve your open rates. A/B testing works by dividing your audience into two sets and test your emails taking one criteria at a time. For example, test your subject lines, send emails with two different subject lines to the two different sets and check which one has the higher open rate, take up that particular subject line strategy for you campaign. Similarly, you can do split testing to know the best suitable email sending frequency for you. For example, send weekly emails to one set of audience and daily emails to the other set, now compare the results and find out the ‘frequency sweet spot’ for the particular campaign. Likewise you can do a split test for everything to find out what is best suitable for your campaign. ‘2012 Obama Campaign’ is the best example for the email marketing A/B testing success.


Apart from all these you should also make sure your email list is a 100% opt-in one. You can even go for a double opt-in list but that’s upto you. Building an email list  is one of the most important thing you can do for your business. Also, learn ways to increase your email subscribers and update the list at regular intervals. You can get this list segmented according to the content preference of your customers as it’s always better to send mails to them who want to listen from you; this definitely helps in achieving a higher open rate.




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