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How to improve email open rates

Increasing your email open rates can be difficult—but these tips and tricks will help you boost your deliverability.



Sending emails that don’t get opened can be frustrating—you’ve crafted the most engaging content, used a witty subject line, and even included a hilarious, relatable gif from The Office. What is going on with your low open rates?

The reality is that nobody knows for certain which emails will be opened by their target audience. In an age where email marketing has become commonplace, consumers can receive dozens of commercial emails per week. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that very few people have the desire to open that many messages, much less read and engage with all of them. Catching a reader’s eye at the right time in the right way can feel difficult.

However, while getting your audience to open your emails can feel difficult, it is certainly not impossible when the right approach is used. In this article, we’ll give you some tips on how to improve your email open rates. Ready? Let’s get started.

Why are your open rates low?

If you want to improve your email open rates and increase your engagement and ROI, you’ll first need to understand what might be going wrong. There are several reasons why your open rate might be lower than you want:

  • Your emails could be landing in the wrong folder. Emails that don’t make it to the inbox are sometimes sent to alternatives tabs, like the Promotions tab, or even to the spam folder. Spam is any email program’s biggest archenemy, so following deliverability best practices is a must if you want to improve your email open rates.

  • Your emails aren’t standing out in the clutter of your addressees’ inboxes. Witty subject lines can help, but when you’ve got 10 or 20 unread emails, even the wittiest emails can be left unread.

  • Your email frequency is not optimal. You could be sending too many emails, which could lead to a decrease of interest. Or maybe you’re not sending frequently enough, and your recipients have forgotten who you are and why they signed up to your list.

  • You could have an unengaged mailing list. Our subscribers’ interests and needs change, so it’s natural that some of them lose interest and stop opening your emails. However, if you’re not sunsetting inactive contacts, you will end up with a large number of unresponsive or apathetic recipients and your email open rates will decrease.

What are some ways to increase your email open rate?

Get your emails into the right folder

Let’s get right down to it. One way you can easily boost your open rate is by following deliverability best practices that prevent your email from landing in the spam folder.

Make sure you’re validating your email address and don’t purchase mailing lists. These lists often contain unused accounts and spam traps that are being used to catch spam. If your sending address is marked as spam too many times, your messages are likely to get caught in your audience’s spam folders—or go undelivered entirely. This is, obviously, bad news for your open rates. Following the above email best practice tips will help you avoid these common pitfalls.

You can also use tools like Inbox Placement to see which folder your emails will land in once they’ve been sent. They may land in a user’s primary inbox, or they may go under another tab (like “promotions” or “social”). You’ll also see if your emails will go to the user’s spam folder, which gives you the advance notice you need to optimize your emails before sending. 

Clean your mailing list

Another way to boost your open rates is to simply clean up your mailing list. In email marketing, more does not always mean more—especially when you have a lot of old, unengaged email addresses that are never going to open your messages. 

Get these addresses off of your list and focus on the ones that have opened your emails within a reasonable amount of time—say, the last three or six months. Although your mailing list will be smaller, clearing out unwanted emails will help you tailor your content to the desires of your true audience. It will also likely give your open rate a boost, as a larger percentage of your mailing list will be people you can rely on to engage with your messages.

Segment your audience

You can also boost your open rate by segmenting your audience. Develop a series of categories to help you divide your mailing list—for example, people who have opened your emails, people who have clicked on a link or attachment in your emails, and people who have followed your call-to-action (like purchasing an advertised service). These segmentations help you know who to target and how to engage with them. Focus on trying to move less-engaged segments (openers) to more-engaged categories (those who click through and make purchases).

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%.

Help your emails stand out in the inbox

There are a few important ways you can help your emails stand out in your recipients’ inbox. Two important components of any email are the subject line and preheader. Since these are the first things a recipient sees, it is crucial to use them to convey your email’s information in a concise, engaging way. 

But sometimes, even the best subject lines are not enough. In a cluttered inbox, being at the top of the unread messages is the best way of standing out. That’s why finding the optimal time to send an email is so important. There are some general recommendations you could follow, but finding the best time to send your messages ultimately depends on your email list and your individual recipients.

You can use Send Time Optimization, which figures out when your email has the highest chance of being engaged with based on user data, and delivers your messages at that optimal time. Similarly, a View Time Optimization tool uses collected data to see when your intended recipient tends to actively engage with their inbox, and places your email at the top of their inbox during this high-engagement time. These tools can help you attain higher open, click-through, and conversion rates.

What are the benefits of higher open rates?

Tracking your open rates is a great way to gauge your email deliverability. Higher open rates mean that most or all of your emails are getting where they need to go, and you’re not being hindered by spam issues or low-quality IP addresses. Your current open rate is a quick snapshot of your reputation and sending abilities, and everyone wants a pretty picture.

Confused woman meme with "Thinking about open rates" text

Additionally, higher open rates often tend to correlate with higher click-through and purchase rates. It doesn’t take much explaining—the larger the amount of people who open your emails, the more likely it is that some (or many) of them will read the email’s contents and follow your call-to-action. Keeping a consistent high open rate ensures that there is steady interest in your company or organization.

Higher open also rates allow you to track aspects of your business more accurately. Low open rates that are influenced by bad addresses and weak deliverability don’t tell much of a story. But open rates that correctly reflect your audience, your abilities, and your progress let you see what parts of your strategy need improvement, and which parts you’re excelling at. Everyone likes positive feedback, right?

What are the key takeaways regarding email open rates?

Email open rates are much more than simple statistics. They help you track the health and reception of your business or organization, and they enable you to reliably engage with your consumer audience. 

By making a few changes like list cleaning and using an Inbox Placement tool, you’ll ensure that your emails land in your recipients’ primary inboxes. This allows your emails to obtain the greatest visibility once they’ve been sent and makes it more likely that they’ll get the attention they deserve.

After making sure that your emails are correctly optimized and your list is clean, you’ll need to consider sending times. You can use Send Time Optimization and View Time optimization capabilities to ensure your emails reach your recipients when they’re most likely to open them. 

By utilizing these best practices, you’ll create a better, more accurate picture of your email open rates and reap the benefits of improvement. You’ll be able to improve consumer interest and business and leverage the biggest strengths of your email campaigns. Best of all, you’ll cultivate higher levels of engagement and consumer loyalty.

So, if you want to keep your funny gifs in your campaign, go ahead. Just make sure that you’re also making the improvements that will lead to higher open rates and better business down the line. The upside is clear—and, as Michael Scott would say, it’s a win-win-win.

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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