How to Improve Your Email Open Rate

12 Ways How to Improve Your Email Open Rate

Want to improve your email open rate? 

However well written your emails are, if you can’t convince people to open them, your email marketing success will be limited. In this guide, we walk you through 12 ways to improve your email open rate

Why Improve Email Open Rates?

The answer to this question may seem a little obvious, so we won’t spend too much time on this section. However, it is worth taking a moment to remind ourselves of exactly why we should be working to increase our email open rates. 

Boosting your open rates is beneficial for several reasons:

  1. You earn yourself an opportunity to communicate with those who matter to your business
  2. It helps your increase the return on investment on email marketing software and time spent on creating great marketing emails
  3. It is an indicator that you are delivering emails that resonate with your audience 
  4. It helps you build brand recognition and trust through constant communication 
  5. It can help you generate more sales (for every $1 you spend you could generate a $42 return)

12 Ways How to Improve Your Email Open Rate

Now we know why we should seek to improve our email open rates, let’s take a look at how we can do this. 

1. Consider Your Data Source 

When it comes to email marketing data, quality is more important than quantity. 

The best place to start is at your data source. Ask yourself how you have built your list in the past and how you are building it now. Is that process well geared towards collecting data from relevant individuals? 

For example, in the past, you may have chosen to build your list by incentivizing sign-ups by entering everyone who inputs their email into a prize draw for a $100 gift card. Although this would likely have driven sign-ups, the majority of those sign-ups are unlikely to be future customers (they just wanted to win the gift card). 

On the other hand, if you only ask people to sign up to your email list when they request a quotation for your product or service then your mailing list is much more likely to be built up of individuals who are interested in what you offer and are interested in buying. 

It is easy to see that a huge email list from the first example is worth very little compared to a small, quality email list built from the second example. 

When collecting data, you should also consider your audience’s motivation. Consider a marketing agency that uses a free ebook ‘How to Win More Marketing Clients’ as an incentive to join their list. Although the ebook is specific to their niche, they are more likely to collect the emails of competitors than potential customers. 

Take the time to assess your customers’ needs and then deliver an incentive that meets these needs to build a high-quality list. 

2. Clean Your Data

Even if you are collecting high-quality data, over time your list can become stale. List members may stop engaging with your content for several reasons such as having found a different solution or simply no longer being interested. 

You can keep your list fresh by removing any members who have not engaged with any emails you have sent in the past 6 to 12 months. However, you may also try to re-engage them with a punchy follow-up email asking if they still want to be on your list. 

Some lists will also get spam sign-ups. Take the time to check and remove these from your lists. After all, there is no point in spending time and money marketing to an audience who are entirely uninterested in your business or don’t exist. 

3. Personalize with Segmentation 

Segmentation is a popular and important part of successful email marketing. Segmenting your list based on several criteria can help you ensure that people only receive emails that are both relevant and useful to them. 

You can segment in countless ways, including: 

  • Location 
  • Age 
  • Gender
  • Industry
  • Job Title
  • Income
  • Previous Purchases 
  • Interests
  • Preferred Formatting 
  • Abandoned Shopping Cart 

Segmenting data and tailoring your emails to their specific needs is a great way to increase open rates. For example, by segmenting by age you can tailor your tone of voice to appeal to the wants of needs of different age ranges.

4. Use the Right Tools

Picking the right email marketing tools for the job will make it considerably easier to increase your open rate. Choosing an easy-to-use email service provider will seamlessly take care of the technicalities of email marketing, letting you focus on the finer details which will boost your open rates.

A good email marketing platform will support your efforts in many other tips included in this article such as offering tools to help you clean your data and providing tips on writing better subject lines. 

5. Get Your Timing Right 

If you have never taken the time to consider the best time to send your emails, you will be surprised by how much of a difference good timing can make to your open rates.

To put this into perspective just consider when you are most likely to open and act upon an email: 

  1. When you are asleep
  2. When you are watching an episode of your favorite series
  3. When you are driving to work
  4. When you first get into work
  5. When you are taking a break 
  6. When you are at your busiest during the working day

Each of these times will perform differently. 

There is considerable advice online regarding when the best time to send your emails:

  • 12 a.m. to capture people who open their emails as soon as they wake up
  • 1 p.m. for people to check after they finish their lunch
  • 4 p.m. for people who are looking for distractions at the end of the workday

These times are a great place to start. But finding the very best time will depend on many factors specific to your circumstances such as the types of individuals you are targeting, the product or service you are selling, and the tone of the emails you are sending. 

You can use best practices as a starting place but should take the time to test different times to assess the days and times that impact the open rate of your emails. If your audience is spread between different time zones, using segmentation to send emails to different time zones at different times can also drastically boost your success. 

6. Write a Must-Open Subject Line 

Arguably, there is no part of your email more important than your subject line. With peoples’ time stretched and their inboxes overcrowded, your subject is just the couple of seconds of attention you get to try and convince your audience that the email is worth opening. 

There is lots of advice on how to write an awesome subject line, most of which boils down to a few simple rules: 

  1. Make a promise of substantial value
  2. Keep it relevant 
  3. Create intrigue 
  4. Don’t use overly salesy language 
  5. Keep it short and to the point.

Traditional subject lines tend to focus on a product or service. Applying these rules and being creative is a sure-fire way to get more opens. For example, instead of using: 

“Download Our Marketing eBook Now”


“Want to be a better marketer?”

Maybe even put in an emoji in the subject line, since evidence shows that this can increase open rate.

7. Develop Audience Trust & Deliver Insane Amounts of Value

Which emails do you open and which ones do you delete without a second thought? 

Those that come from people and businesses you know are much more likely to be in the first camp than the second (unless you REALLY don’t like them).

Developing brand recognition and trust is easier said than done. But doing so is a highly effective way to get your emails opened. This can be done by always sending great emails that help your audience solve a problem. 

If you know that ‘Business X’ always sends you super relevant, helpful, and insightful emails then you are always going to open their emails quickly and excitedly. On the other hand, if you know that ‘Business Y’ always sends emails that try to aggressively sells their products, you are more likely to quickly delete their message and may even block them. 

8. Make Your Content Shareable 

Leveraging your audience and the relationships they have with others is a great way to capitalize on the trust you have built with your audience. 

By working hard to make your content insanely valuable you will prompt those you send it to share that content with others. Not only is this a great way to build a bigger mailing list, but it will also help you boost your open rates. People who receive a forwarded email from someone they know and trust are much more likely to open that email. 

Creating better content isn’t the only way this can be achieved, you can also explicitly ask your audience to forward your email to anyone they think would benefit from it. 

9. Keep it Snappy 

Keeping your emails short may seem counter-intuitive when you are thinking about adding as much value as possible. However, you should also consider the fact that most of your audience won’t have the time to read long, sprawling emails. 

Try and add as much value as possible in as few words as possible. Do this by being direct and only saying exactly what you need to get your point across. Of course, some subjects warrant much greater detail, but the email itself isn’t always the best place to do this. 

Take for example the subject of this article “How to improve your email open rate”. If we were to send an email on this subject, we would just include a summary of the key point before providing a link through to a longer blog post should the reader want to learn more. 

Regardless of how much value you provide and how engaging your writing is, the simple fact is that many people will not even open an email if it looks like it is going to take up a considerable amount of their time. 

10. Break Up Text

Picking whether to send a plain-text or beautifully designed email can be a tricky decision. Plain-text emails can make your email seem more personal, whereas designed emails benefit from attention-grabbing graphics. 

If you opt for a designed email, use a mixture of content types to break up the text and grab your audience’s attention. Relevant images are a good way to do this, but you may also use other elements such as embedded videos, podcasts, and colorful infographics to deliver key messages engagingly. 

A note of caution. When using images, video, and other content you need to ensure that the recipients will be able to view that content on any device they may use.

11. Make it Personal

People are more likely to open and engage with emails when they feel the content is directed at them. One simple way to do this is to write with one individual in mind. 

It is easy to get trapped in writing for a large audience (because you are), but when you write your emails with a single person in mind you create content that will better resonate with each audience member. 

Creating a buyer persona can be a quick and efficient way to ensure you are always writing directly to each recipient. It will also help you take a more friendly tone and inject a little humor into your emails, which can drastically increase your open rates. 

12. Avoid the Spam Folder

Spam folders are where potentially great marketing emails go to die. Here are a few quick tips to avoid your emails finding their way to the spam graveyard: 

  • Keep your data clean and permission-based
  • Chose images carefully
  • Monitor email size, keep it as low as possible whilst keeping quality high
  • Stay honest (align your subject line, content, and business offering)
  • Avoid overusing sales language (buy, free, prize, win, etc)
  • Consistently send from one trusted account 
  • Send high-quality emails regularly 

Email providers are getting smarter at detecting spam. Although there are several technicalities to consider, by focusing on sending high-value content to a list of relevant, quality contacts you shouldn’t need to worry too much about your emails ending up in the spam folder. 

Improving Email Open Rates Conclusion 

This article has made it clear that there are a lot of ways you can increase your email open rate. Which ones will work best for you will depend on many factors ranging from which individuals make up your audience to how your business operates. 

Start by applying those which you believe will make the biggest difference, but also test the others and assess your results. You will be surprised how a small number of changes can impact your email open rate success.

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Author Bio

This guest post was written by Owain Williams. Owain is a professional copywriter, speaker, and digital marketing agency owner based in the UK. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and spending quality time with the family. You can contact him on LinkedIn.

Hero photo by Yogas Design on Unsplash

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  1. I have used email marketing in the past but it is not effective. Luckily I read this post. After applying a few strategies, my email open rate has increased significantly. Thank you very much.

  2. Hey,
    open rates provide a good measure of engagement over time. What you want to see is a steady or increasing percentage rate. If the number of opens start to dip, it’s a sign that you need to review your sending frequency, or perhaps your content.

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