How to Improve Your Email Open Rates

Illustration by Mary Delaney

Did you know email open rates vary widely by industry? The shopping industry, for example, sits at an average of 41%, while emails sent by marketing and advertising companies are open at a rate of just 25%.

Here at MailPoet, we class an excellent open rate as 30% or higher and a good open rate above 10%. Below, you can see how we display stats to MailPoet users.

If your open rate is below 10% it’s time to take action! In this guide, we’ll cover all need to know to improve your email open rates, whether you’re a beginner or expert.

The Smaller the Sender, the Higher the Open Rate

When you start a new list, you might have a few hundred subscribers. As such, your open rates could be sitting between 30% and 50%.

But over time as your list grows, so will subscriber fatigue. This is why it’s important to keep your subscribers engaged and create smaller sub-lists through segmentation to better target your subscribers’ interests and behaviors.

By the time you reach 100,000 subscribers (which some of our users have!), you can expect open rates between 10% and 20%. Make sure your forms are continuously working hard to get you new subscribers since you do want to increase your signups!

Subscribers Love Welcome Emails

Epsilon found that in Q1 2018, triggered emails such as welcome emails had open rates that were 60.2% higher than standard newsletters. Typically, welcome emails receive high open rates since subscribers have just signed up to a newsletter and are anticipating the welcome email.

Another reason why is special offers, ebooks, and other signup incentives. All of these tactics, and others, provide ways to entice people to subscribe to your email list.

Use a Clear “From” Name and Email Address

It’s critical that both your “from” name and “from” email address are clear so subscribers don’t doubt for a second who your email is from.

In Gmail’s inbox, this is what MailPoet’s emails look like:

On iPhones, the name is prominently displayed in bold:

There’s no dodging this simple advice since 43% of subscribers click the spam button based on these two aspects alone. Here are some other simple rules for you to follow:

  1. Your “from” name should be that of your brand or business. If you want to individualize it, use your name and your brand’s name. For example, “Jack from MailPoet.”
  2. Ensure your “from” email address is sent from your domain. Never use a Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail or any other free email address as this comes across as unprofessional. If you’re a MailPoet user, we don’t allow “from” emails from @yahoo.com, @gmail.com, and @outlook.com accounts.
  3. We recommend avoiding no-reply@ email addresses altogether. It’s best to be transparent and available with your communications rather than putting up an invisible barrier, which effectively tells subscribers you’re not interested in talking to them.

Nailing the Subject Line

Did you know that 35% of email subscribers open emails based solely on the subject line? And another 69% of subscribers report an email as spam based solely on the subject line?

These two statistics from Convince and Convert reveal just how important it is to create the right subject line, and even test different email subject lines so you can find the right ones for your emails.

If you’re struggling to craft the perfect subject line for your email have a look at our guide on writing the perfect subject line.

Don’t Forget the Preview Text!

But just what is preview text? The preview text is the text that shows to the right of the subject line in your inbox.

Here’s an example of the preview text on an iPhone from a campaign we sent:

According to Litmus, 24% of respondents look at the preview text first when deciding whether or not to open an email.

By default, email clients will show the first sentence or paragraph of your email’s content. This is not ideal, since your emails will usually start with a greeting such as “Hi! In this edition we cover lots of interesting topics…

You don’t want to miss out a chance to entice your subscribers to open your emails rather than delete, archive, or simply ignore them.

MailPoet allows you to explicitly set the preview text when sending your newsletter. So take advantage of this and test to see if your open rates increase.

Here is what the preview text under the subject line in the MailPoet user interface looks like:

Interested in learning more about preview text? Sendgrid has put together a great guide.

Sending at the Right Frequency

Sending too often is a sure fire way to see your open rates tumble. According to TechnoglyAdvice.com, 43% of subscribers would like businesses to email them less frequently. Similarly, HubSpot research shows 78% of consumers have unsubscribed because a brand has sent too many emails.

We’ve written extensively on the MailPoet blog about sending frequency, so I’ll keep this short:

When in doubt, you should send fewer emails and not more emails! We recommend sending as often as you need. Don’t send for the sake of sending, but if you have something of value to share with your subscribers, share it!

How Else Can I Improve My Open Rates?

Remove Inactive Subscribers

An inactive subscriber might be someone who hasn’t opened an email in the past six or more months. These subscribers add up after a year or more.

One of the best ways you can improve open rates is to remove inactive subscribers. This can help raise your open rates by 10% or more in some cases.

Subscribers can become inactive for many reasons. Often, we see it on old lists that user have had for many years and hasn’t cleaned. People leave jobs and change email addresses all the time, so it’s important to stay on top of your list so it doesn’t stagnate and the information you have on your subscribers is fresh.

According to VentureBeat, 78% of email marketers experience challenges with list fatigue and content relevancy.

At MailPoet, we have a feature that automatically marks inactive subscribers. We highly recommend our users to keep it turned on since we’ve seen unengaged subscribers make up to 40% of lists that are over a year old.

Use Segmentation to Improve Your Open Rates

Email marketing experts Mailchimp ran a survey where segmented campaigns showed a 14.31% higher open-rate than a non-segmented campaign.

And the same report revealed that segmentation by interests groups also saw a marked improvement, with a 9.92% higher open-rate than non-segmented campaigns.

What does this mean for you? It’s clear that segmentation is a sure fire way to improve your email open rates—and MailPoet includes built-in tools for subscriber segmentation to help you do it.

Start a Second List If You Publish Enough Content

If you publish enough different content, you might want to start another list for readers who prefer specific types of content.

You could also create a second list just based on frequency. For example, a weekly and a monthly newsletter.

Pick a Reliable Sender That Ensures Good Deliverability

Host are free, albeit slow, to send, but they don’t monitor deliverability like SendGrid or MailPoet.

What we do differently at MailPoet:

  • Automatically handle your bounces and remove bounced emails from your list without any intervention on your part.
  • Monitor your sending automatically and log all bounces with specific reasons.
  • If you have an issue with delivering to specific email addresses we can work with you to find out more from our detailed metrics we hold.  
  • We consistently monitor blacklists for any issues with sending reputations ensuring your emails reach their destination.

Don’t Send to People Who Didn’t Knowingly Sign Up

While there is no foolproof way of avoiding the spam folder, there are some golden rules to follow. The number one golden rule is simple: avoid purchased or recycled email lists.

Purchasing a list or recycling an old list is a great way to destroy your sending reputation and your open rates, not to mention the fact you could end up being blacklisted permanently from some of the largest email providers in the world.

In fact, Mashable included using purchased lists as one of its 12 ways to be banned from Gmail. Our own user interface and knowledge base has a checklist before you import subscribers to avoid you falling into this trap.

Don’t Send to Inactive Subscribers

Any list will quickly start collecting subscribers that disengage. They will not unsubscribe, but simply ignore you. After a while, Gmail and other providers will start filtering your emails out of the inbox of your subscribers. You might even end up in the spambox of certain subscribers.

Many email tools offer options to segment your list based on user engagement. Use these tools to clean your list to keep active subscribers only. At MailPoet, a feature to do this automatically by default is turned.

Another often overlooked fact is that staying in touch can help you avoid the spam folder as described by marketing guru Neil Patel: “Sending emails once every two or three months can be more detrimental than sending multiple emails daily. Why? Your customers might forget all about you.”

How Can I Track My Open Rates?

The easiest way to track open rates is with MailPoet. The free version lets you monitor campaigns after they’re sent so you can get an overview of who many people have opened your campaign.

If you need more details about your open rates, MailPoet Premium provides advanced open statistics on a per newsletter basis, allowing you to see subscribers have opened your emails and which ones haven’t.

Here’s an example of campaign stats that we recently sent to MailPoet subscribers:

Wrapping Up

As evidenced throughout the post, there are a range of actions you can take to improve your open rates, from taking the time to craft the perfect subject line to saving subscriber confusion by having a clear “from” name. These are straightforward tactics you can put in place fairly easily to achieve big results.

What methods have you used to improve your open rates? Maybe you’ve come across advice you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.