8 Simple Techniques to Improve Your Email Open Rate

Improving your email open rate will undoubtedly have a direct effect on your bottom line. After all, email marketing generates more money per dollar spent than any other medium.

Per $1 dollar spent returns are:

  1. Email: $41

  2. Search Engine Marketing: $22.24

  3. Display Advertising: $19.72

  4. Social Media: $12.71

  5. Mobile Marketing: $10.51

As you can see from these numbers, email marketing works. It’s one of the best methods for engaging your audience as well as selling your products or services.

But that doesn’t mean that email marketing is always easy. Take for instance the fact that 55% of your customers don’t check their email regularly.

Plus, the number of emails a person sends and receives each day is expected to reach 117 by 2019! That’s a lot of competition.

So how do you ensure that your brand’s message is read and spread?

You’ll have to work on a few things…

And the first thing you should do is work on improving your email open rate.

But first, you need to know exactly what email open rate means.

What’s Your Email Open Rate?

ESPs (email service providers) calculate your open rate like this: the number of emails opened divided by the number of emails sent minus the emails that bounced.

For example, 200 emails were opened. Divide that by the 300 sent minus the 20 that bounced (so 200/280) = 71% email open rate. Of course, this is an extraordinary rate and is just an example of how you can calculate yours.

What’s The Best Email Open Rate?

There’s no single best answer. According to Mailchimp, it varies by business type (B2B or B2C), company size, and industry. It even varies by country!

The lesson here is that your email open rate isn’t the end-all-be-all. In the end, you know your subscribers better than anyone else. Your email open rate might be below your industry’s average, but your campaign could still be delivering good results.

So Why Improve Your Email Open Rate?

If you’re experienced with email marketing, then you probably measure the success of your campaign by measuring your email open rate and click-through rate. This is fine.

If so, you should also know that the CTR is entirely dependent on your email open rate! You won’t get any clicks without any opens.

The good news is that it’s not hard to maintain a good email open rate. Across all industries, email open rate remained fairly consistent at 22%-25% from 2006-2017.

But what if your email open rate isn’t as high as you’d like it to be? Is it really worth trying to increase your email open rate?

Benefits of a High Email Open Rate

Your email open rate will definitely affect your bottom line. For example:

  1. your click through rate is 5%

  2. your conversion rate from the sales page your reader lands on is 3%

  3. you have 15,000 subscribers

  4. you increase your email open rate by 5%

The results would be:

  1. Extra 750 subscribers opening your email

  2. At least 37 extra readers going to your product page

If you have an expensive product or service valued at around $1000, then that’s what you’d earn just from tweaking your emails and improving your email open rate.

But perhaps it’s better to look at things from the opposite perspective.

Consequences Of A Poor Email Open Rate

If your email open rate is poor, instead you’ll see:

  1. fewer click throughs from your promotional emails to your product pages

  2. fewer signups for your offers

  3. less shares and exposure

  4. wasted opportunities with your big ticket promotional events

  5. fewer sales

So now that we’ve established why it’s important to improve your email open rate, we’re going to show you 8 easy ways that you can improve it. Most of these tips are quick and simple to implement.

Techniques on How to Improve Your Email Open Rate

1) Optimize For Mobile

Did you know that over 2/3rds of people use a mobile device to check emails?

Furthermore, 70% of people immediately delete emails that aren’t optimized for mobile!

To optimize your emails for mobile devices, there are three main areas that you need to focus on. Following the steps in this section will ensure that your emails are optimized for mobile devices.

From Name

To improve your email open rate, ensure that your “from” name fits on mobile devices. Shorter names are better – names with more than 20 characters are cut off on mobile screens.

Optimizing your email preview text for mobile devices will directly improve your email open rate.

Follow these 5 steps to optimize your email preview text on mobile devices:

  1. Add a call to action.

  2. Continue the train of thought of your subject line, but don’t replicate it word for word.

  3. Keep in mind that the preview text maximum character length also includes your subject line!

  4. Get to the main point of the email.

  5. Test several different preheader summaries.

Email Formatting

When your emails are user friendly for mobile users, they’ll be more likely to open your emails again in the future, thus indirectly improving your email open rate.  

Here are some formatting tips for optimizing your emails on mobile devices.

  1. Make sure your formatting is simple and responsive so your email loads easily.

  2. Mobile phone screens are small, so make sure that your subject lines aren’t too long.

  3. On mobile devices bigger fonts are better; smaller fonts are more difficult to read.

  4. Don’t assume that your pictures will load on the user’s end. In fact, on Android phones this is turned off by default. So make sure that your email content can stand well enough on its own.

  5. To reduce loading times, use smaller images.

  6. Use bigger call to action buttons to make it easier for users to tap them.

  7. Don’t put links too closely together or users might accidentally click the wrong one.

2) Get Whitelisted

Something that you must know about is whitelisting.

Did you know that, as an unknown sender, your messages are more likely to go straight into their spam folder? And you’ll never know it.

The best way to handle this is to ask your new subscribers to whitelist you.

What is Whitelisting?

Whitelisting simply means asking them to add your email address to their trusted contacts list.

But most people don’t know how to do this, so you’ll have to walk them through the process. You can guide them from your “thank you” page after they opt in.

For example, here’s how you can whitelist somebody in Gmail:

Use A Double Opt-in

And speaking of opting in, one surefire way to beat the spam filter is to have new subscribers do a double opt-in. This means having them confirm twice that they want to receive communications from you.

Make double opt-in a part of your email marketing strategy today. In fact, it’s now required by law in the EU from the new GDPR for marketers.

3) Avoid Spam Filters

Did you know that more than 20% of emails don’t get into a subscribers inbox? Spam filters are getting better and better, so you must be aware of these top tips on how to avoid them.

Top Tips For Avoiding Spam Filters

  1. Use a good IP address to send emails from. This is an IP address that hasn’t been used by anyone else to send spam emails in the past.

  2. Send emails with verified domains.

  3. Keep your code clean.

  4. Make your “to” field personable by using merge tags.

  5. Mention your location.

  6. Make it easy for subscribers to opt out of communications with you.

  1. Don’t do “bait and switch” tactics with subscribers, especially in your subject lines.

Cut Out Spam Words

When it comes to spam words, these generally fall under the category of “salesy” language.

Try to avoid the following words as much as possible:

  1. buy

  2. clearance

  3. discount

  4. cash

  5. big bucks

  6. upgrade

  7. earn per week

  8. free money

  9. no credit check

  10. winning

  11. confirm

  12. feature

Why are these words red flags for spam filters? Because these words are often used in unsolicited emails, and these tend to carry viruses.

In fact, just to be on the safe side, you should never use these words at all in your subject lines.

And speaking of your subject line…

4) Improve Your Subject Line

When it comes to improving your email open rate, your subject line is the single most important element. You want your subject line to be engaging while clearly conveying the main point of your email.

Use the following tips to improve your subject line:

  1. Using numbers in your subject line can grab attention and improve email open rate.

  2. Make your subject line entice curiosity, but don’t make it too confusing or difficult to understand.

  3. According to Retention Science, the subject line length that gets the best email open rate is 6-10 words.

  4. Simply including the recipient’s name in the subject line can boost your email open rate by 20% according to MarketingLand.

  5. Avoid superlative words. These are adjective words that are exaggerated to the extreme. For example, using the adjective “big” is fine. But using the superlative adjective “biggest” will have a negative effect on your email open rate.

  6. Try to use emojis as part of your message’s subject line. Your subscriber’s inbox is surely busy with emails coming from several brands and contacts, so stand out from the rest by incorporating emojis. In fact based on a study, using emojis in subject lines can increase open rate from 4%-7%. Just be sure not to force them into your subject lines if they are not relevant to the campaign. For instance if you are running a campaign about cats, you can use 😺

Use Double Opens

Marketing guru Noah Kagan coined the term “double opens.” He recommends sending the same email again one week later if it remains unopened. All he would do is change the subject line (again stressing the importance of the subject line for email open rates).

According to Kagan, this resulted in 30% more email opens.

And according to Forbes contributor Neil Taparia, you can also enjoy a 54.7% greater email reach with this technique.

5) Make Your Content Top Notch

There are many things that define top notch content in email marketing. When writing a marketing email, you must have a unique mindset. The way you should write is by…

Writing To One Person

The tone of your email should be like you’re writing to just one person. Like we said, this requires a unique mindset that may seem counterintuitive, especially if you have an email list including thousands of people. But this is really the best way to go about it.

And in order to do this, you need to intimately know your buyer’s persona.

To know it, try sending out an email to your list asking for a 5 minute phone chat to learn more about what they’re looking for. During the call you should ask questions to learn how your audience thinks.

This information will help you down the road with sales as well as improving your email open rate.

And when you’re writing to that one person, you should speak to them like you’re…

Writing To A Friend

In this age of information overload, everyone’s looking for reasons to ignore your emails. This is a humbling fact to accept, but accept it you must.

The best way to overcome this major hurdle is to appeal to your subscribers at a personal level. You can do this by writing to your subscribers like you’d write to a friend, from the subject line to everything else.

And yes, even with your promotional offers. Especially with your promotional offers.

For example, you wouldn’t want to say “we’ve got a great deal for our loyal customers today.” That sounds too formal, stuffy and corporate. Instead you’d want to say something like “you have to see this amazing deal!”

Also keep in mind that it’s perfectly fine to use the following things in the right contexts:

  1. emoticons

  2. common acronyms

  3. hashtags

  4. popular sayings or memes

  5. whatever appeals to your target audience

With all that being said though, don’t try to force these things. Just write your email with the mindset of writing to a friend and let these things appear naturally.

So we’ve talked about the person you’re sending to. Now let’s look at the other half of the equation: you the sender.

Sending From A Person

For most small businesses, it’s better to send your emails from a person’s name, and not your company or business name.

This is for a few reasons.

  1. An email from a company will get marked as advertising immediately. This may get the email sent to the trash bin by the ESP or the user.

  2. In Gmail, it can automatically get sent to the “promotions” tab.

  3. For most small businesses, it’s easier for subscribers to associate the business with a person than a company name.

But whatever you decide, your “from” name should represent who you really are, whether you’re a solopreneur or a big company.

And if you’re a combination of both, then why not combine your real name with your brand name?

The lesson to takeaway here is that it’s a bad idea to use your brand name if people associate your business with your real name, and vice versa.

The next thing we’re going to talk about goes hand in hand with “writing to a friend.”

Be Funny

We mentioned how in the age of information overload, you have to appeal to your subscribers on a personal and emotional level. Nothing does this better than humor.

And don’t worry, adding a little humor to your email marketing is easier than you think and will pay off dividends.

Using a conversational tone that is fun (and sometimes joking) in your emails will make an instant connection with people on a personal level. The main point of your emails will also stick in their minds longer.

But what if you think that you’re not funny? Don’t worry. These three tips will help you start to bring out your inner comedian for your subscribers:

  1. Insert a funny animated GIF to help prove the point you’re making.

  1. Create a funny video to include in your email.

  2. Add the type of funny content it is in the subject line to increase your email open rate. For example, emails with the word “video” in the subject line get more opens according to superoffice.

Finally, the key to maintaining a good email open rate long term is to…

Provide Quality Content

Of course, the subject line is important. But it’s the content inside your emails that will determine whether subscribers will want to open your emails again in the future. Your content will determine whether they’ll anticipate your emails, or delete them immediately, or even worse unsubscribe.

So you must provide top notch, quality content.

But what is quality content?

In email marketing, it boils down to emails containing uncommon information that’s informative, interesting, and engaging.

Remember that quality is better than quantity. The higher value your emails are, the more loyal your subscribers will become.  

So make your emails awesome and give out links to huge free resources.

But who should you send your free resources to, and when?

6) Segment Your Lists, Don’t Buy Leads

Who you send which emails to will depend on how you segment your lists.

Segmenting your list simply means sending the right emails to the right people at the right time.

And how great is email segmentation? According to Mailchimp, segmented email campaigns have a 13.07% higher open rate.

With segmenting, your emails will be highly targeted. Subscribers will respond to your emails with more interest and will be more likely to move down your sales funnel.

How You Can Segment

There are many different ways that you can segment or separate your email subscriber list. We list a few of the best ways below:

  1. By engagement: For the people who opened your last email, send a new email. For the people who didn’t open your last email, send the same email again but with a different subject line.

  2. By the buyer’s journey: new subscribers may need more informational emails. On the other hand, those further in your funnel will be looking for more social proof or discounts before they’re ready to buy.

  3. By demographics: you might be targeting a specific age group. For example, baby boomers don’t want to read something targeted towards millennials.

You can also segment your lists based on behavior. For example:

  1. What they buy

  2. What they do with your product

  3. Are they free or paid users?

  4. When did they last open an email from you?

  5. How often do they purchase or use your products?

  6. When do they usually buy your products? At a discount or full price?

  7. What device do they usually use to access your content, mobile or desktop?

  8. What time do they prefer to open your emails?

Now we know that’s a lot of information to think about. That’s why it’s important to stay organized by adding tags to each customer based on their behavior. This will make segmenting your lists easier and more effective.

Don’t Buy Leads

If you want to improve your email open rate, then don’t buy leads. This is one of the worst things that companies do, because usually these leads are the opposite of segmented and well targeted.

Unless the leads are people who are actually interested in your business and know who you are already, then don’t waste your time and money trying to market to them.

There are many simple ways that you can build your list organically. For example, by offering new subscribers a freebie for joining.

The main way to build an organic list is to…

7) Build Excitement

Every business knows that generating excitement about the product or service is important. With email marketing, this is a four step process.

  1. Train Your Subscribers

This means telling your subscribers when they can expect to receive your emails.

Don’t think that you should just “surprise” your subscribers with your emails out of the blue and think that they’ll be happy to see them. They won’t be happy; they’ll just be annoyed, confused, or indifferent.

So you should take the opposite approach. Let them know how often you’ll be reaching out to them with your emails. It’s also better that you tell them the specific days and times that you plan to do so. Following through with this simple step will improve your email open rate.

  1. Strike When The Iron Is Hot

You should keep this one in mind when creating your email follow up sequence. For example, take advantage of when someone new subscribes and offer them something valuable on a day by day basis. But also keep in mind that if you don’t follow through with this and you disappoint them, you’ll hurt your email open rate.

  1. Generate Buzz

What’s the best way to generate buzz with email marketing? The best way is to add a simple P.S. call to action at the end of your email. If you want to make people eager to open your next email before you’ve sent it, then this is the way to do it. This is an easy and effective way to increase engagement as well as improve your email open rate.

  1. Create Consistency And Urgency

This one goes hand in hand with training your subscribers and generating excitement.

Consistency in sending out emails will create loyal subscribers. Urgency will improve your email open rate and generate more sales. Ways that you can incorporate urgency into your email marketing are:

  1. Using a simple, no nonsense tone in your email.

  2. Mixing some dramatic humor into your pitch. For example, writing a dramatic/funny last ditch email to an inactive subscriber.

  3. Mentioning something controversial or shocking.

  4. Adding numbers and lists.

  5. Personalizing your message.

  6. The classic “scarcity tactics” such as “don’t miss out”

And speaking of timing…

8) Change Your Timing

There are many different tips about email timing from many different sources.

Here’s some data from Experian:

And here’s some more data from Mailchimp:

But in this article we’ll just list a few key ones from KISSmetrics:

  1. 6AM-10AM: this is the best time to target consumers with typical “day time” offers. For example, clothing, dining out, and normal consumer goods.

  2. 10AM-3PM: not a good time to send emails since this is when most people are working.

  3. 3PM-5PM: for some reason you’ll find many people looking for financial and property information at these times.

  4. 5PM-10PM: this is the best time frame to send your promotional emails out!

These are just a few of the different timing factors. There are many other sources with their own advice on the best timing to send out emails.

But the bottom line is to find out what works best for your audience. Try to imagine a normal day in their life. What is their daily schedule like?

When deciding when to send emails, it’s important to do A/B testing. Because you won’t know the perfect time to send emails right away.

A/B testing isn’t just for websites and landing pages. It’s essential for email marketing as well. So, be sure to do some tests to find good potential sending times, and then you can try them out in future campaigns.


If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of this information, please don’t feel that way. You aren’t alone. Many other businesses are in the same boat.

The best place to start is to just add your whitelisting instructions to your “thank you” page. Then go through your email list and start segmenting it. Keep the rest of this article fresh in your mind and then everything else will flow from there.

If you ever need help along the way, then feel free to reach out to us and we will get you started in the right direction. We’d love to help!

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