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The magic behind successful email open rates

So you’ve integrated email into your platform or app. But how can you know whether your users are reading your messages? Learn how to use email open rates to measure your campaign performance.



So you’ve integrated email into your platform or app. But how can you know whether your users are reading your messages?

After all, sending an email is one thing, but ensuring your recipients open the email is another. Your email open rate is based on a particular subscriber list and is one of the key metrics for success. If you’re sending emails but nobody’s opening them, chances are there’s something in your email strategy that’s interfering with your email open rate.

Let’s dive into how you can understand your email performance, what a good email open rate is, and the factors that affect your open rate. Then we’ll look at some ways you can fix a low open rate to help you perfect your email campaign.

How can I understand my email performance?

We’ll start with something more general first: How can we understand the performance of your email strategy in general? We mentioned the open rate above, but actually, there are various factors:

  • Open rate: The rate at which your users open your emails.

  • Click-through rate (CTR): The rate at which your users click and follow at least one link in your email.

  • Click-to-Open rate (CTOR): The percentage of users who open your email and click through.

  • Unsubscribe rate: the rate at which your recipients unsubscribe.

The email benchmarks for these rates vary by industry and type of email.

Why are email open rates important?

Email open rates are a vital email marketing metric because they tell you how your email campaign is actually performing. For instance, open rates will tell you:

  • If your email made it to your recipient’s inbox.

  • If you targeted the right segment.

  • If your email subject line was compelling.

  • If your preheader text was engaging.

Now that we have an idea of why email open rates are important, let’s look at what makes a good email open rate.

What’s a good open rate?

Open rates depend on the type of email you're sending. For instance, most transactional emails have an average open rate of 80-85%, while most marketing emails are between 20-25%.

Transactional emails tend to have a higher open rate because it's the kind of information people tend to view immediately or repeatedly revisit, like password resets or receipts for purchases. It's not uncommon to see a high open rate there.

Email marketing is trickier, which is why at Mailgun we always recommend to keep transactional and marketing emails separate. That way, senders can prevent the lower engagement rates in email marketing from impacting your triggered messages.An email rate of 20-25% isn’t bad, but let’s look at some qualities for good email open rates:

  • Your open rate is steady or constantly improving. Observe your own open rates over a period of time, like a quarter or a year. Use your own open rate to gauge if your email strategy is healthy.

  • Your open rate meets the average for different devices. The open rates vary based on whether your subscriber is opening your email on their mobile device or on a laptop. Take a closer look at your metrics to see if you meet the benchmarks.

  • Your rate meets the industry average. Though each industry is different, having an open rate near or above the industry average shows you’re keeping pace with your competitors.

On average, most transactional emails have an open rate of 80-85% and most marketing emails are somewhere between 20-25%.

What affects my open rate?

Now that we know what a good email open rate looks like, let’s dive into a few factors that affect it:

  • Reputation: Your sender reputation is a big factor in open rates because it determines if your message is actually landing in your email recipient’s inbox. After all, if your message isn’t being delivered, your subscriber obviously isn’t going to open it. Check out your bounce rate to see if your emails are failing to deliver. That being said, there are a ton of best practices to help with your sending reputation.

  • Clean mailing list: Maintaining your mailing list is important to ensure the email addresses on your list are relevant and aren’t just spam traps. Validate and verify emails before sending them to increase your open rate.

  • Brand recognition: Does your audience recognize your brand and know who you are? Have they received emails from you recently enough to know who you are? Only sending to users that have opted in to receive your emails and using techniques like BIMI to increase brand recognition will help you drive higher open rates.

  • Subject line and preheader: Readers won't open your message if your subject line isn’t well-crafted, relevant, or convincing. But you should also avoid clickbait subject lines so you don’t look like a spammer. A/B test your subject lines and preheaders to find what works best with your subscribers.

Accessibility: Is your subscriber not only able to receive your email but also able to properly read it? When designing your content marketing and subject lines, keep screen readers in mind to improve accessibility and increase open rates.

All of these will help you achieve a healthy open rate.

What can I do to fix a low open rate?

Unfortunately, it’s hard to pinpoint what goes wrong if you’re unfamiliar with these best practices. If you’re still struggling with a low open rate, we always recommend starting by conducting a detailed email deliverability audit. This audit will help you determine what’s working and what isn’t, and will allow you to identify issues and potential threads.

Lower open rates are often caused by low quality email lists. If you’ve had your email list for a while or built it through shady means, the subscribers on your data base might just not be interested in what you have to send.

Instead, clean out users who haven’t engaged with your messages depending on how often you send emails. For example, if you send a newsletter out once a month and a user hasn’t opened the past three, it’s time to let them go. In an ideal world, they’d unsubscribe and clean your list for you, but people may forget or stop using that email address entirely.

Think about the content you’re putting out there. Is it relevant for your audience? Are you using personalization tokens in your subject lines and in the body of your email?

Little changes like these can make a big difference in getting someone to open an email. Even something as simple as “Hey Natalie, we think you might like our new product update” does leagues better than “Our new product update will surprise you!”

Wrapping up

We know how frustrating a low open rate can be, but don’t be discouraged. Tracking your opens allows you to understand your email performance and pinpoint possible deliverability or engagement problems.

And if you’re still dealing with deliverability issues and want some extra help, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our team of email experts is ready to help get your email open rates back on track.

Learn about our Deliverability Services

Deliverability Services

Looking to send a high volume of emails? Our email experts can supercharge your email performance. See how we've helped companies like Lyft, Shopify, Github increase their email delivery rates to an average of 97%.

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