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Blog / Beginner's handbook / How to Increase Your Email Open Rate

Beginner's handbook

How to Increase Your Email Open Rate

How to Increase Your Email Open Rate
Téa Liarokapi

By Téa Liarokapi

17 min read

Email marketing has become more than just a buzzword in 2023. In fact, most marketers know how a good email campaign can get you great results:

email roi

Source: K6 Agency

But what is email marketing exactly? And how can a subject line increase deliverability? Or maybe you’re wondering if your email list plays a significant role in ROI? 

Let’s take it from the top. Email marketing is the act of creating and sending messages to a specific segment of your audience through email. In 2023, email marketing is as relevant as ever—not to mention as easy as ever. Marketing automation platforms optimize the process and create a more holistic digital marketing plan by connecting your content with your target audience.

To measure an email campaign’s success, it’s necessary to identify key metrics for email marketing.

Your email open rate is one of the main things you should be looking at. The number of people opening your emails influences other crucial metrics, like your click-through rate (CTR). And metrics that come after a user opens your email directly depend on your open rate. These metrics include your conversion rate, your bounce rate, and your unsubscribe rate.

In this post, we’ll take a look at how you can incorporate things like A/B testing, different subject lines, and adjusting the content of your emails to increase the email open rate of your average email. That way, you’ll boost your chances of success with everything that comes after.

The importance of an email open rate

Let’s start by defining email open rate. This metric indicates how many recipients opened your email marketing message out of the total number of emails delivered. Here’s the formula:

email open rate formula

Source: Moosend

Your open rate can give you valuable insights about your audience (and how well-versed you are in avoiding the spam folder). It’s one of the most important metrics marketers look at when determining the success of their email marketing campaign. But it’s not just that.

Your email open rate can show you if you resonated with your target audience and if your email content was well segmented. Overall, your open rate shows the quality of the first interaction between your audience and your email marketing campaign.

Higher open rates demonstrate that your email campaign content was segmented and tailor-made to perfection. And if you gained email subscribers through a landing page on your website, it shows that you created a landing page that’s relevant to your audience (and they’re ready to opt-in). 

Your open rates can give you a pretty accurate image of user engagement with your email content over a specific period. Lower open rates could mean problems with your contact list, that you’re using the wrong demographics (i.e., the wrong segment), or that your subject line is just not it.

For now, let’s see how you can create and maintain a healthy open rate.

What affects email open rates?

Email open rates depend on many factors. Luckily, most of them are under a marketer’s control. These include the quality of your email list, the quality of your content, and focusing on the right target audience.

Email list quality

This is one of the parameters that are completely in the hands of a marketer. Your email list will impact your open rates in many ways. To avoid triggering spam filters, it's important to keep your email lists up-to-date and relevant. Additionally, inactive subscribers are unlikely to open your emails, so it's essential to maintain email data hygiene best practices.

Leads interested in your brand will give your content a chance from the first email you send. So, your email list needs to contain relevant leads. If your list has subscribers who are in it just for a one-off discount or freebie and wouldn’t normally give you the time of day, your open rates could suffer.

Your leads should also be relevant to your industry. You need users who understand your niche and think your product can help their day-to-day lives. This type of interaction is what fosters engagement. 

Subscribers with no interest in your product, fly-bys, or users who are looking for cool marketing ideas but don’t really care about your brand are less likely to interact with your email campaign. And users who haven’t engaged with your content in a long time (if ever) need to be eliminated from your email list. They’ll still be able to interact with your content on social media, should they want to.

An email list that’s pruned frequently will get more users to open emails. Why? A clean email list means no inactive or invalid email addresses, very few bounces, and improved email deliverability rates. Whether they’re aimed at new subscribers or seasoned users, your email campaigns will have more success. 

Here are some useful tips:

  • Ask permission from users to be included in your email list—they’re more likely to be interested in your brand since they’re choosing to subscribe

  • Use double opt-in (users sign up and link a click to confirm the subscription) to ensure you don’t have invalid or inactive addresses on your list

  • Create personalized subject lines and personalized emails to keep users interested

The right target audience

Your specific audience should be interested in your niche. Even if you create an email marketing strategy that includes a powerful call to action, it still won’t be enough if your audience just isn’t interested.

Eager audiences come in all shapes and sizes, but a relevant audience doesn’t always mean an interested one. Make sure you’re targeting users who match up with your niche and are into what you’re offering.

Another thing that happens is that sometimes users can’t be bothered to engage with your content anymore. This is where re-engagement email campaigns will save the day. Rethink your approach, invest in the perfect subject line, and focus on a clever CTA to bring users back into the fold.

However, if your audience falls into the “signed up to get the incentive” category, re-engagement efforts should be broken down into a series of emails that will end in a notice:

re-engagement email

Source: Splitwise

As you can see here, the “We won’t bother you like this again” bit says everything. If they don’t engage, they’re getting deleted. This allows marketers to prune their email lists—and saves users the trouble of having to unsubscribe.

Of course, you shouldn’t forget to always ask for permission. Whether or not your email recipients are on point lies in how you’ve acquired your email list. This means that you need to ask for explicit permission to include someone in your email list, either via your landing page or by having users sign up to receive specific types of newsletters. As BuzzFeed does:

buzzfeed newsletter

Source: BuzzFeed

Making sure recipients line up with your target audience and are a good fit for your content will positively influence email open rates.

Content quality

The quality of the emails you send out also significantly impacts your open rates, perhaps even more than you think. A tailor-made, successful email needs to be relevant, clear, and engaging.

To be relevant, create triggered emails that’ll be sent out at the right time. Triggered emails are, by definition, emails that are sent after a user action triggers a response. For example, a welcome email is a triggered email series sent after a subscriber signs up. Here are the numbers on the power it holds:

welcome email open rate

Source: Folajomi Ballo

Using email automation to create triggers and super-specific campaigns is one of the most effective email marketing tactics to increase open rates. Platforms like SendInBlue and other alternatives will help with email automation and creating triggered email campaigns.

Including a very specific email subject line will also help guarantee higher open rates for your campaign. 

Of course, once the email is opened, it needs to lead users somewhere. This is where clarity comes into play. An email with a clear goal and purpose will seamlessly lead users from point A to point B. Use action verbs and concise language to guide readers.

Never forget that the clarity of your content can make or break your email campaign. An email that gets straight to the point and skips over-complicated explanations scores higher engagement rates. Couple that with a subject line that showcases what the email is about right off the bat and interactive elements like an in-email quiz and a call to action that nudges users in the right direction, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

And make sure your emails are easily readable across all devices. Mobile devices score more email opens by the minute, so test your content and optimize it for mobile and desktop screens.

However, even the best-written and most entertaining content from writing services can face technical difficulties. Create well-designed content with no broken links or typos that could give off spammy vibes. Let me show you what I mean:

email example

Source: Avast

This is an email scam that a user could fall for if they were to read the email in a rush. And while a typo is an honest mistake, it could lead to low open rates.

Finally, remember to keep a friendly, professional tone when inviting users to open your emails—it’ll only encourage more engagement. 

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How to increase email open rates

As we said above, email open rates are one of the key metrics of an email marketing campaign’s success. High open rates point to interested audiences, engaging content, and more revenue. But what is a good average open rate?

email open rates by industry

Source: Smart Insights

As you can see, it differs across brands and industries. But this doesn’t mean that increasing your open rates doesn’t come with some best practices, like knowing the best day to send out an email or when to create holiday email marketing campaigns. Email list cleaning, A/B testing to optimize your campaigns, and including unique sender names are also super useful. But we’ll discuss these tactics at greater length in a minute.

Use lead generation tools to grow your email list

When we talk about lead generation tools, we mainly talk about landing pages and subscription forms. Such tools can help you draw in more users. The difference between the two is the following:

  • A landing page is a standalone page that promotes a specific action. It mainly consists of a small description of the action, a CTA, and not too many buttons and actions. Here’s an example:

airbnb cta

Source: Airbnb

  • A subscription form is a type of form that can be found on any page of your website. It consists of a hook and fields that users can use to enter their data, and can be created using various tools to help you create a form that meets your needs.

newsletter signup form

Source: Really Good Emails

Landing pages

Lead generation tools can help you target your ideal audience through content. For example, landing pages should target users that are there for the action you’re promoting. Here’s what I mean:

masterclass cta

Source: Masterclass

This landing page explicitly targets users with little time. “Gain new skills in 10 minutes” sounds enticing for users with busy lifestyles. This is a clear-cut way to encourage users to sign up for your email list.

Include a compelling CTA that’s actionable and clear—users should know what they’re signing up for and take informed action. And don’t forget to optimize for mobile devices, it makes it easier for users to interact with your content.

Well-designed landing pages also promote trust and credibility. Including social proof can help with that:

sleeknote cta

Source: Sleeknote

Comments like these show potential customers how popular your product or service is. It also gives you valuable user data that’ll help segment and personalize your email content down the line, making the process easier and more efficient. For more tips on how to design your landing page from scratch, check out this awesome guide from Pixpa.

Subscription forms

The other lead-gen tool you should consider is a subscription form. Subscription forms are designed to increase the number of subscribers. Just use one on any page of your website or blog and allow users to opt-in to your email list while they’re already engaged with your content. Here’s an example:

subscription form example

Source: Moosend

As you can see, Moosend has used interesting email benchmarks and highlights the best day for users to send out their next campaign. Ensure the efficiency of your forms by using a CTA that entices visitors. 

Placing the form front and center will also help build an email list with interested leads and boost your email open rates. After all, they’re already curious about your brand and browsing through your content when the form is presented to them.

Segment and personalize your emails

Segmentation and personalization are two things that marketers have been using for ages. Remember the case of retail giant Target and the pregnancy reveal?

forbes article

Source: Forbes

Segmenting your email list is the action of cutting it up into smaller, digestible groups that can reveal behavioral patterns. These groups will have specific criteria that bind individuals together:

demographics vs psychographics

Source: Foundr

Using demographic criteria will give you insight into users' time zones, earnings, age, profession, etc. Psychographics will help you understand preferences, interests, or whether or not you should use emojis in your subject line.

You need both to understand the type of email campaign that’ll score you higher open rates. For example, if you’re an eCommerce store, you could segment based on age, location, hobbies, or order history. That way, you’ll promote just the right thing at the right time. Don’t be afraid to use micro-segmentation tactics as well, and invest in an email service provider that’ll give you the ability to create micro-groups for leads.

After segmentation, personalization follows. Email personalization is more than just using your subscriber’s name in your subject line. It’s about understanding the type of impression you need to make in their inbox to stand out. 

This includes using subscriber data like browsing behavior. For example, a cart abandonment email that mentions the abandoned item in the email subject line can bring higher value and engagement. It’s a subtle reminder about something that you were actually interested in.

When you use cold email templates that can be highly personalized and email service providers (ESPs) that offer features like custom fields and dynamic content, you can’t lose. You’re sure to score a higher open rate and increase user loyalty, conversion, and your bottom line. Brands that understand what users need won’t fall under the category that follows. 

Don’t be spammy

Not using email personalization and creating email blasts with non-segmented content can harm your open rates. The reason is quite simple: your users need to see content that correlates with their needs.

This information is especially important for small businesses just starting out with email marketing. It’s easy to think that generic content or over-the-top subject lines will attract more opens, but this is simply not true. Here’s why:

  • Being spammy can trigger email filters and harm your deliverability. Too many spam complaints will send your email straight to the spam folder, and subscribers may never see them. This will lead to lower open rates. To remedy that, simply segment your content and refrain from using capital letters or exclamation points on your subject line. Also, steer clear of words like “urgent” or “attention” and symbols like “$$$.”

  • Ensure your emails are super relevant and sent to the right segment. Irrelevant content is often treated like spam content and can lead to many unsubscribes, which will obviously reduce your email open rate in the long term. Remember that managing your data and understanding how it can transform your content is essential, but so is having an unsubscribe button in a visible place. It’s better for users to unsubscribe than mark your email as spam, which will happen if they don’t know how to leave your list.

  • Creating unsuitable content will also reduce engagement. Bad content can be anything from non-segmented email campaigns to typos, too many exclamation points, or if you use emojis too freely. This type of content gives off spammy vibes, and fewer users will engage with your email campaigns.

Creating content that’s perceived as spammy will harm your open rates, your email deliverability, and your sender reputation. But don’t think it’s just a matter of flying under the radar with Gmail or Yahoo. More than anything, it’s a matter of creating content that users won’t perceive as spammy. It’s users who can flag your content as spam, and they’re the ones who’ll make or break your brand’s reputation. Make sure you’re following best practices and creating and sending relevant, engaging emails that will get opened.

Send just the right thing at the right time

Sending the right content at the right time is tricky, but it’ll do wonders for your email open rate down the line. For example, research from Moosend found that sending an email campaign on a Thursday around 8 or 9 a.m. could do the trick for your audience. Although choosing the right day and time can sometimes be industry-specific, it’s a pretty good rule of thumb (especially for small businesses).

email send times

Source: Moosend

As for what to send, you’ll need to rely on more information. 

Read into your data, your demographics, and your audience’s habits to understand how to be relevant. For example, Millennials have an “inbox-zero” mindset, more than their Gen X predecessors. So, if you’re marketing to Gen X, you’ll need to keep this in mind and understand how it may affect your open rates down the line.

If your segment consists of C-level professionals, email them outside working hours. On the other hand, stay-at-home parents could engage with your emails in the early morning. 

But, apart from the right time, content, and time zone, you should think about the purpose of your email as well.

A thank-you email campaign should be sent right when a user signs up. A birthday email campaign shouldn’t be sent after a user’s birthday. And a limited-time offer email should be sent right before it expires. Personalizing your email templates and A/B testing can help—we’ll get into that in a bit.

At the end of the day, sending the right thing at the right time needs to be a data-driven action based on concrete information that’ll help optimize email performance and lead to results.

Optimizing your content

Sending out an email campaign is all about creating content that’s useful and stands out. And this goes beyond your subject line.

First, including a customized sender name is key. Users will more likely open an email from:

custom email sender

Than an email from: 
 
standard email sender

This is because creating a unique sender name makes users feel like they’re talking to a real person, connecting with a representative of a brand, not just opening another automated email.

Second, ensure your email’s subject line is “dressed to the nines.” Don’t use an excessive amount of characters, about 45 should do the trick. Segmentation and A/B testing will show whether your audience wants to see an emoji in your subject line or not.

But let’s assume your audience has opened your email. Does this mean that you’re all set and ready to increase profit as well? The answer is no. The actual content of your email is just as important to the open rate as the email campaign itself.

Use email design that’s pleasing and scrollable, create infographics that are engaging and full of brand colors, and make sure your user finds value in your email’s content. Consulting expert resources from authority figures in your niche could make all the difference.

When you’re writing your content, don’t hesitate to use action verbs that’ll lead users to a logical conclusion—and, by extension, a logical action. Create a CTA that will be a direct result of those verbs. Here’s an example:

cta example with action verbs

Source: Weatherads.io

This content is perfect at the right time for the right person. And even if they don’t need your product at the moment, if the email works, they’re sure to engage with your brand in the future. You can use email marketing not only as a way to sell but also as a means to nurture relationships with potential customers.

A/B test your content

Not knowing what your users want is more than just not having studied your data correctly. It’s also a matter of not having tested your attempts at engaging with them. A/B testing can potentially boost your email open rates.

Here’s an example:

email a/b test example

And here are the results: 
email a/b test example

To A/B test your email marketing efforts, create a subject line or content that differs in one key parameter and send it to specific segments of your audience. When the test is done, compare the open rates for each subject line to better understand which is more appealing. 

A/B testing will help you understand what drives more email opens. It could be a straightforward email subject line that takes the cake rather than a creative one. Or perhaps your audience has an appetite for more cryptic rather than descriptive. Testing different types of subject lines (funny, excited, direct, professional, etc.) will let you see what your audience best responds to.

Once you’re done testing and determine the winning variation, send that campaign to your email list. You’ll see how a simple subject line can build brand awareness and create buzz around your brand. 

Remember to pair A/B testing with other strategies like segmentation and personalization to increase its value. 

Optimizing for mobile devices

Our last pointer is mobile optimization—or, creating emails that work well on mobile devices. Optimizing your email marketing campaigns for mobile users is imperative in 2023. Here’s why:

open rate by device

Souce: Superoffice

According to the stats above, ignoring mobile users can greatly harm your email open rates and make your email campaign tank. So, the first step would be to use mobile responsive email templates.

No user wants to open an email and hit the back button immediately, and no brand wants to send an email with cut-off subject lines and hard-to-click links.

When optimizing for mobile, single-column content is your best friend, as well as large fonts and compressed images that can load faster. Using a larger CTA button is also a must, as well as placing links right where a user can press them. This means not on top of each other or next to each other.

Also, make sure to use alt-texts in case the user can’t load the picture properly on mobile, and always check the way the template looks on different screens. This is a feature that most ESPs carry, so make use of it.

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Takeaways

Your email open rate has been called a “vanity metric” by many marketers, but this simply isn’t true. Email open rates are valuable and informative—they can help you understand your users better and help you get ahead of any type of competitor.

As we’ve seen, a great email open rate comes from a combination of many things. Prioritizing the needs of your audience and using the best practices mentioned above, you’re sure to create a successful email campaign with the open rate of your dreams.

Ready to see your email opens rise and your bottom line thrive? 

author

By Téa Liarokapi on Apr 6, 2023

Téa Liarokapi

Guest author

Téa is a Senior Content Writer for Moosend (an email marketing and marketing automation platform) and an obsessive writer in general. In her free time, she tries to find new ways to stuff more books in her bookcase, explore different content ideas, and find more cats to play with.

Téa is a Senior Content Writer for Moosend (an email marketing and marketing automation platform) and an obsessive writer in general. In her free time, she tries to find new ways to stuff more books in her bookcase, explore different content ideas, and find more cats to play with.

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Téa Liarokapi

By Téa Liarokapi

17 min read Apr 6, 2023

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