30 Easy Ways to Improve Your Email Open Rate

Posted on Monday, 14. August 2017 in category Email Marketing. 5 min read • Written by

Urša Perko

Let me admit right away: this title is grossly misleading. I don’t know anyone who would look forward to e-mails from advertisers and open them eagerly. And even if such enthusiastic recipient and such a great sender do exist, I have no shortcut in the form of 30 tips how to build such a relationship.

This title was of course written when thinking of the senders. To attract those whose regular work duty is to make people happy with e-news or mailings and newsletters.

Let me guess: one of these days you wrote the nth mailing of the month. You struggled to form sentences, how to rearrange pictures in the template to make it look like it was designed by a professional, pulled your hair to find a good subject, fought with Excel to create a database, carefully UTM-ed all links and experienced a small shock when sending (what if I sent mail with a typo to the boss’ wife … and what if the lady who unsubscribed a few times and threatened with a lawyer is among the recipients- AGAIN?).  Then, when you check the results of your work the next day, the crushing statistics knock you down and demotivate you.

Maybe you are one of those people who gave up and fell into a routine: always the same subject, “copy-paste” contents with current campaigns, with appropriate results, as you lack the time and a good platform or software for sending to achieve anything more.

But there are still some of you who smile happily, because your opening rate exceeds 20 percent, your conversion rates are above average and your ROI is enviable. You guys still believe in this channel and prove that  with a serious approach it is possible to improve the results.

That is why we prepared an extensive list of advice for all of you.

As mentioned, this is not a shortcut to success. We can say this is the “easier part of the homework”, a kind of checklist to motivate you for improvements, but the hard work remains on your shoulders – the active acquisition of leads, segmenting, testing, improvements, testing, improvements, testing …

1 – Where to start

Define your audience. Do you know who the recipients of your mailings are? What is their average age? What are their interests? Do you know which content is interesting for them? You can only prepare good e-news once you know your recipient.

Segment your database. If you are not doing it yet, you should reconsider. Is your database really that small and homogeneous, so you can address everyone in the same way? Segmentation can help you achieve a higher relevance and efficiency of your emails.

Build your database actively. There are several ways to acquire or improve the acquisition of new e-mail addresses or leads, but this topic is too extensive for this article. You can use pop-ups, you can offer a benefit, but above all things, emphasize clearly what the user can get by registering to your e-news. Don’t fool yourself, surely they don’t wish to receive news from your product range.

Ask for permission. Did you obtain an explicit permission from users that they are happy to receive your advertising message? If not, you are violating the law.

Send a greeting message after entry into the database. Use it to announce what kind of content you will be sending.

Don’t buy databases. Usually this practice doesn’t bring any result.

Avoid spam filters. Research this issue and check the status of your messages regularly. A quick spam testing tool can be found here: https://www.mail-tester.com.

Analyse. Don’t stop at the opening level and display/click ratios. Follow each link separately, see what bounce rate and conversion rate it has. Calculate the ROI of your messages.

2 – Content

Adapt the content to the recipient. If you perform segmentation and know your recipients, you can do it.

Be personal and human. Don’t forget: you are not addressing a group of people – you are talking to one person. When composing the content, imagine you are writing to a friend. Don’t use an overly corporate and professional language.

Address emotions. Try to provoke emotional reactions with the content – you will more likely attract the recipient to engage or get involved.

Always use the CTA – Call To Action. Tell user what you wish them to do. Don’t leave them in a dead end. And don’t be too restrained and humble. Links only in the text are not enough, and one link usually is not enough either. Recipients don’t read messages with concentration and thoroughly, but rather scan over them. So, they need several links and a clear, graphically highlighted CTA.

Allow scanning of the content. Avoid condensed text and long text blocks without breaks. Use subtitles. On the web, a text needs a lot of empty space; this applies to emails as well.

Use pictures. Pictures divide text and make the message more attractive. But keep in mind that an e-mail must relay the key message even without pictures, that is for all users who won’t load the pictures for technical or any other reasons. Link them whenever reasonable.

Always send a text version as well. Let it be available for all e-mail clients that block HTML with pictures.

Don’t overdo the personalization. If you repeat the recipient’s name in the e-mail several times, this might appear intrusive, suspicious.

The e-mail should reflect the brand. Your e-mails should have a consistent form reflecting your (visual) corporate identity.

Contact. Don’t miss the opportunity to offer users other channels where they can reach out for you.

Adapted to mobiles. Mandatory.

Ask for feedback. Let the users tell you what they wish for. E-mails not allowing answers are a frequent, yet not good practice.  E-mails are a two-way communication channel.

3 – Email subject line

Would you open it, seeing that subject line? Although you might not be the target group, this can be a very useful test before you are happy with the message subject.

Two things: short and striking. Attract curiosity. Ask questions. Use numbers. Numbers catch the eye and attract attention. Offer something. Provide useful information. Promise a good deal. Limit the offer, by time, amount, as a stimulation to act.

Predefine the preview text of the e-mail. This is a text following the subject of the message, and is exactly this – a preview of the message contents. If you don’t set it, the email software will take it from the contents of the email; this usually looks like the example below. Use the little space you have to grab the recipient’s attention!

Unused preview message:


Learn from the best. Subscribe to the e-news of your competitors and those who do it perfectly.

Experiment and test. Before sending, test on a small part of the database; send only the version with better results to the entire recipient database. Always test only one parameter. Test the subject, sending time, diverse buttons, various databases – also depending on how you obtained them.

Don’t forget the sender. It is a frequent practice for the sender to be a person with a name (and surname). In this way, you stand for your words and promises. This is more personal.

4 – Sending

Send regularly. Be consistent.

Send frequently enough. How many times in a month is frequently enough? Look for the optimum number for your database and content type. Test. Consider also what you want to tell the recipient. Do you have enough content of good quality? If no, once a month will be enough.

When to send? Test the day of the week, time of the day. There is no rule, each database is different.

Test before sending. Send the e-mail to another person for review.

I hope you found some useful tips for your work here. I believe it will inspire and encourage you to make a new test before your next e-mailing. Start with changes you can implement right away. This is the path to success – continuous testing and optimization.

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