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6 Ways To Increase Your Email Open Rates

Posted 19th August, 2014 by Aliysa

Email is a powerful tool for businesses and marketers. Combined with a clear strategy for gaining subscribers, regular email communications can provide all kinds of benefits to your brand, organisation or project. They can enhance brand awareness, encourage customer engagement and generate conversions, for example.

The issue with email marketing though, is the sheer volume of emails that are sent and received over the Internet each day. Too many emails pop up in our inboxes - we don’t have the time to look at them all. In fact, we barely spare a second on passing judgement to whether an email is worth opening or not. We have three options with a new email: open and read, straight-up delete or ignore (yes, we’ve all had one of those poor, mis-managed, ‘17,000 unread’ email accounts). So how can you maximise your email open rates and get your messages read?


• Think About Your Subject Lines… A Lot

There’s a bit of an art to creating awesome subject lines. The most effective entice the recipient, encouraging them to click through and open the email, whilst outlining what to expect once opened.

Your subject lines should decisively sum up your email's content. Tricking your subscribers into opening your message by providing a false or irrelevant subject line that doesn’t reflect the contents will only decrease your open rates (and subscribers too) in the long-term.

Generate curiosity in your audience and provoke an emotional response, which will push people to open. For example, an email about new WordPress features could be titled ‘Have you seen the new WordPress?’ as opposed to ‘New WordPress features’ - it directly forces a response and sparks curiosity in the reader. Or grab the reader's attention with a bold or captivating statement from your content: ‘It’s Official - SEO Is Dead’ will likely spawn a strong response in readers (for the record I do not advocate this idea). Again, just make sure it makes sense as a summary of your messages content.

Another thing, don’t overdo it i.e. don’t make your subject lines too long! Cramming as much description into the title as possible is pointless - many users will use their phones to manage emails, which of course means there’s limited display space, typically 6-7 words tops. Keep it short and sweet, with the important stuff at the start of the heading, incase it gets cut off and not all of the subject line is displayed by the recipients email client.

Don’t be afraid to try different things and test what works. Experiment with different subject styles and wordings and get to know what works best for your content, and for your audience. A/B testing is without a doubt an effective way to get an insight into what’s most effective. By testing two subject line variations on a sample of your subscriber list, you can identify which one gains the highest open rate, and send it to the rest of your subscribers.


• Segment Your Subscriber List

There’s absolutely no point in sending emails to people who definitely aren’t going to be interested. In fact, it’s actually detrimental to do so, as it increases the chance that people will be put off by an irrelevant message and won’t open your emails again in the future.

A key variable to segment your subscriber list by may be product. A campaign may be of interest to some customers of certain products, but completely irrelevant to other product customers. This may also apply to customer location too. As the Internet is (more-or-less) immune to national boundaries and geographical distance, your subscriber list will likely be comprised of all kinds of people from different towns and maybe countries. Your emails may only be suitable or relevant to those from specific areas, e.g. you’re informing customers that your support is open as normal over a bank holiday - this would be irrelevant to those outside of the UK.

And being able to do this all stems from how you actually build your subscriber list. You need to go beyond just collecting email addresses, but also save other variables too. If your subscriber list is built through financial transactions, this is obviously a lot easier, but regardless, the more information you can extract from users, the more options you have. And through segmenting your subscriber list you can better personalise your emails, linking to my next point.


• Add A Personal Touch

Inserting personalised details into your emails, including names and possibly recipient location or product information, is a nice touch which can positively affect your subscriber open rates for future messages.

Seeing our name at the start of an email (‘Hi Will’) captures our attention, and it makes us feel - without sounding too pathetic and lonely - special. We feel like we are being spoken to directly, as opposed to being forwarded a catch-all, ambiguously-targeted message. It instantly adds a friendlier tone.

Furthermore, this can be applied to subject lines. Including the subscriber's name in the emails header not only adds the personal touch, but also encourages the recipient to trust the sender, as it shows they provided their details to the sender to begin with, which in turn improves open rates.


• Share The Good Stuff!

For long-term email success, you must provide some sort of value to the recipients. Whether it’s interesting content, important information or promotion deals, your message needs to be worth opening. Your subscribers will quickly form opinions on whether your emails deserve to be opened, and good content is the key to retaining your ‘openers.’


• Watch The Clock

OK, timing isn’t as significant for emails as it is for other communication mediums - we’re not going to miss an email like we can miss a phone call or a Facebook post. But time is without a doubt important.

For instance, an email sent at the weekend, when most people aren’t working and have ‘switched off,’ is probably going to be less effective than during the working week. You may find that emails sent first thing in the morning perform worse, as recipients perhaps haven’t had their coffee and are yet to engage. Or it may be that early morning emails return a higher open rate, as checking through emails is part of a morning routines. It’s all about testing, and finding the times that work best for you.


• ‘DON’T DO THIS!!!’ (Be Spammy)

Spam is the one thing the entire world is completely united on in hating. ...A little dramatic - yes, but really the ultimate way to absolutely ruin email as a means to communicate with customers and prospective customers is by being spammy.

Avoid subject lines that are comprised of ALL CAPS, an abundance of exclamation marks, and overly-salesy and typically spammy phrases such as ‘CLICK HERE!’ and ‘FREE, GET NOW’ etc. Spam filters are pretty smart, and can identify many of the tell-tale signs of spam. This tool provides a spam score for your prospective emails to ensure you’re not making any mistakes.

Even if you send a spammy email that makes it past email client spam filters, spammy-ness is the quick fire way to get your emails deleted, unopened by users, and you can expect long-term open rate issues and a shrinking subscriber list. Make sure you adhere to email guidelines!


The important point to remember is that there isn't a uniform set of techniques to get your emails opened; it’s a case-by-case practice. And this is by no means a definitive or conclusive list of sure fire tactics to guarantee your emails are received positively, but these best practices are a step in the right direction. By testing and refining your email strategy over time, you’ll find what works best for you, and you’ll see open rates increase, and your email efforts rewarded. Do you have a tactic to add?

Categories: Tips

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