The first indicator for a successful email campaign is how many people open the email you sent. Setting a target will help you analyze success or failure in the campaign.
Defining that target brings us to the question: what is a good email open rate?
If you’re interested in finding out what open rate benchmark you should set and what you can do to improve it, this post is for you.
Let’s consider statistics, open rate factors, and walk-through actionable steps for improving your email open rate.
Let’s start by defining what an open rate is.
- What Is An Email Open Rate?
- What Is A Good Email Open Rate?
- 5 Factors Why You Have A Low Email Open Rate
- Proven and Tested Steps to Improve Email Open Rate
- Author Bio
What Is An Email Open Rate?
An email open rate is the percentage of people who open the emails you send. The higher the percentage, the higher the likelihood of the campaign resonating with your audience.
But you may ask:
How is an open rate calculated?
Email service providers calculate this rate by counting the number of unique people who opened the email and dividing it by the total number of emails sent.
But that’s not all, the denominator is computed by taking the number of emails sent minus the number of emails that bounced.
So if you sent a total of 200 emails and 50 of those bounced, 150 would be the denominator.
To put it simply:
Unique opens/Emails sent – bounced emails = open rate
Now you know how an open rate is calculated, let’s consider what rates you should be targeting.
What Is A Good Email Open Rate?
The email open rate depends on the industry you are in. But just to get the ballpark digits, we’ll consider the average industry rates.
According to constantcontact.com, the average open rate is 17.13%.
For Mailchimp, the average open rate is 21.33%.
Campaign Monitor’s “Ultimate Email Marketing Benchmarks for 2021” reports an open rate average of 18%. But in another email marketing post by the same website, they report a larger open rate window of 15%-25%.
These 3 platform reports fit into that window.
If you want a detailed by-industry report on open rates, here’s one provided by Campaign Monitor.
After checking the table, comparing it with your email campaign’s average rates, and finding out you fall short of the industry’s average, you may be wondering what the reasons are.
Let’s now consider 5 factors why you have a low email open rate.
5 Factors Why You Have A Low Email Open Rate
Any or all of the reasons listed below could be the cause for a lower than average industry rate for your email campaigns.
Let’s check these out so you can compare them with your current email campaigns and address the issues quickly.
1. Boring Subject Lines
Your email subject line is your 1-second window to get the reader interested. It’s a make-or-break element in your campaign.
Let’s face it, the lackluster subject line like: “This is a content marketing guide” won’t even get you interested.
However, if you turn that boring subject line into: “An In-Depth Marketing Guide That Pros Follow Will Increase Your Conversions by 20%” gives a lot more punch to your email campaign.
Improving open rates means creating enticing subject lines.
Another example is from Recipefairy. She has a blog about creating Starbucks coffee at home. Instead of just saying “Starbucks Recipes”, she said: “25 Best Starbucks Copycat Recipes”.
The latter is more specific with the number and adding the word “best” will make the reader feel he’s in for a treat when he tries the recipes out.
And here’s 3 more examples from our blogs:
2. Unqualified Subscribers
If your big move to increase your subscriber list is to buy an email list, you’re definitely in the wrong direction.
Avoid buying an email list at all costs!
You have no guarantee that the people on the list you bought have an inch of interest in what you have to offer.
Let’s say you’re promoting dialer software. Normally, your target audience for this is business owners and sales teams. Buying an email list can mean you’re sending emails to a 60-year old war veteran or a 15-year old high schooler who doesn’t have any use for what you offer.
That’s wasting a lot of effort and money on someone who has no interest in buying anything from you.
3. Lots Of Inactive Email List Subscribers
This is another disadvantage of buying email lists. But other than that, even if you have a targeted audience in your list but haven’t engaged with your emails for a while, your inbox deliverability will crash and hurt your email open rate.
4. Not Segmenting Your Email List
Sending the same email to every person on your email list won’t do you any good. Specific people have specific interests even if they belong to the same target audience.
Let’s say your target audience is eCommerce business owners. All of them don’t have the same interests. Some will be interested in knowing more about the best email marketing software, others about ads, and some about SEO.
Segmenting your list will likely increase the engagements you’ll have with your email campaigns.
5. Not Optimizing For Mobile
In recent years, more and more people have been using their mobile phones instead of their computers for surfing the internet and opening their emails.
Adobe “Email Use 2017 – US Report” reveals 81% of people open their emails using their mobile devices.
If campaigns are not optimized for mobile usage, then you’re missing out on a huge percentage of your audience.
After all, why would a mobile user take the extra effort of reading through an email that’s difficult to read on a mobile screen?
Unless you improve your email campaign for a great mobile experience, your open rates would stay low.
Having said this, what can you work on to fix the situation? I’ll walk you through the steps you can take to help you get more people to open your email campaign.
Proven and Tested Steps to Improve Email Open Rate
We don’t want the reader to feel that your email is just another boring and spammy campaign out to squeeze money from them. Right from the subject line, you should be able to convey value – making your email worthy enough to get opened.
So what can you do? Here are actionable steps you can apply to your email campaigns.
Relevant and Interesting Subject Line
A lot of blog posts along the lines of “how to make money online” and “different business opportunities” were made during the height of the pandemic. These posts were popular and have attracted a lot of traffic during that time.
Why? Because it was relevant as some people lost their jobs due to the pandemic. And if an email were to have the same subject line, it would have gotten a decent open rate as well.
As we talked about earlier, no one would ever be interested in opening an email with an irrelevant and generic subject line.
According to superoffice.com, the subject line and the sender name are 2 of the most important factors in getting someone to open the email you sent.
33.90% of email recipients open an email because of the subject line.
Make your subject line interesting with these tips:
Your subject line shouldn’t be too long
Short and catchy must be your goal especially because most people read their email using their mobile phone. It’s suggested to keep the subject line under 90 characters.
Make the subject line descriptive
While being trendy has its benefits, being descriptive will yield better results. Being catchy is one thing, being descriptive brings people to action.
Learning copywriting techniques does a lot of help with this, it’s what will sell your campaign to the reader.
Instead of saying: “Check out this cool kitchen tool!” which paints a very boring picture, you can say: “Try out this easy to use kitchen cutting tool that gets the work done in 1 minute”.
The latter uses 88 characters in total, including spaces and it clearly tells the reader that the kitchen tool is “easy to use”, “it’s used for cutting”, and “it gets the work done in 1 minute”.
It’s very descriptive, the reader knows the benefits right there and then.
Limit the use of punctuation marks to 3 and emojis to 1
It’s helpful to give the user a rollercoaster of emotions, but too many punctuations can make your subject line look spammy. If it looks spammy, it’ll go straight right to the trash bin.
Avoid hashtags (#) and question marks (?). Dan Zarella’s research shows subject lines with these are less likely to get opened.
As for emojis, it can help make your subject line fun to read and it supplements words. However, it shouldn’t replace them so you can still get your message across to your readers.
Aura has a chatbox feature with an initial message containing an emoji. It’s not intrusive and you can clearly understand their message even without it.
Additionally, double-check the emojis you will use, different operating systems render emojis differently.
You don’t want your reader to be left wondering what you meant because as I said earlier, we have to be as descriptive as we can.
Personalize subject lines
A personalized subject line makes the reader feel a little bit more special, it makes your message personal to them, thus increasing open rates.
For this you can use merge tags to include the recipient’s name or you can use marketing automation for post-purchase follow-ups.
Words to include and avoid
Still, according to Dan Zarella’s research, subject lines with words like: “e-sales”, “secrets”, and “awesome” are the emails with the most open rates.
However, subject lines with the words: “upgrade”, “confirm”, and “features” are the ones mostly reported as spam.
Test your subject line
After applying the first 5 tips, the next thing you can do is A/B testing. Try out different variations of the subject line to see which resonates with your readers most.
You can draft 2-3 subject lines and make them part of your email strategy. This way you can ensure you’re using the best variation of the subject line-the one that appeals to people the most.
Segment Your Email List
As we talked about earlier, segmenting email lists means increasing engagements because you’re ensuring the campaign is tailored to their wants, needs, and customer journey level.
It’s all about relevance. The email campaign should get to the right person at the right time so you can get the results you’re aiming for.
Imagine a new customer, someone who is still in the awareness stage. The tone you use for this audience should be different from the one who is already in the conversion stage.
It makes no sense to keep the tone similar to both people because they’re at different levels. One still needs to realize that there’s a problem and the other already has to prove to themselves that you can provide the best solution.
So how can you segment your audience?
Choose a segmentation strategy
You can segment your audience using the buyer’s journey or you can segment using interests, location, or activities.
Segment but don’t go too far
The segmentation process can lead you to have a super-defined market with barely any audience. This can result in reaching few people and wasting time and energy creating campaigns for each of these super-specific segments.
Segment but keep the groups broad enough to cover all the fractions of your customer base.
Test your segmentation strategy
Just like the subject line, segmentation has a trial and error process. Create a few combinations of your audiences and create email campaigns specified for those groups. Test other combinations afterward to see what’s most effective in reaching the interest of your audience.
Utilize different channels
Instead of relying solely on email campaigns, reach out to your audience on different channels. Explore social media platforms to see where your audience is most engaged. Doing this improves your audience relationship and increases their response rates to your campaigns.
Remove Unqualified And Inactive Subscribers
As the saying goes, there’s no use beating a dead horse. It’s wasted effort, you won’t get anything out of it.
You might think it’s wasteful to remove potential customers from your list but think about it, there’s no potential with them in the first place.
Removing them from your list can mean you’ll be focusing on the right people and improving your email open rate.
Make The Email Campaign Mobile Friendly
Don’t miss the opportunity to reach out to the 81% of people reading emails using their mobile phones. In fact, it should be a major factor in crafting your email marketing strategy.
How can you improve the mobile experience for your email campaigns?
Create a preheader text
A preheader text is the first line of your email copy that supports the subject line, this is what adds context to it.
Often this gets overlooked but truthfully is very important to make mobile-friendly email campaigns.
Creating an attention-grabbing preheader text will whet your readers’ appetite about what you’re about to say next and make it irresistible.
Make the copy short and concise
Simply said, avoid fluff. Other than having the screen smaller than a desktop computer, mobile users are mostly skimmers and scanners.
A wall of text will make them tap on the exit icon. Be short and concise, go directly to the point to keep them interested not just with your current email but with your next ones as well.
One thing that could help in learning to speak confidently, is something Preply can help you with.
Avoid being too dependent on images
Some mobile gadgets don’t display images by default. Plan your email campaign in a way that stands to convey the message clearly even without an image.
According to Web Marketing, blocked images are still a current problem. This is another reason why your campaign needs to be as descriptive as possible so it can paint a picture even without seeing an image.
Make the images support the text, not the other way around.
Always position CTAs front and center
Again, mobile users are skimmers and scanners, they’re on-the-go readers so you want to be upfront with the action you want to make them do.
It’s best to make your CTA button at least 44 x 44 pixels and placed on the top of the email. This location ensures high clickability.
Take Finli and Everytale for instance. Their call to action button is right on top so you immediately know what they want you to do.
Don’t stack links
In many cases, putting links on top of the other will result in clicking the wrong link. This is bad for user experience especially for mobile where people mostly use their wide thumb to scroll and tap on links.
Don’t fret upon finding out your email open rates are below the industry average. Applying these actionable techniques will help you improve and optimize your email campaigns so it gets to the right person at the right time and they’ll get the right information they need right there and then.
Try them out and tell us how these techniques helped you increase your email open rates.
Burkhard Berger is the founder of awesomex™. You can follow him on his journey from 0 to 100,000 monthly visitors on www.awesomex.com. His articles include some of the best growth hacking strategies and digital scaling tactics that he has learned from his own successes and failures.