Email Marketing: How to Improve Open Rates


Want to stretch your marketing dollars a little further? According to a study conducted by Experian, email marketing is 20x more cost-effective than traditional media. Once a prospect has given you his or her email address, you can continue sending promotional messages for as long as the prospect remains subscribed.

But if you want to leverage the power of email to reach a larger audience and grow your business, you’ll need to optimize your campaigns for a higher open rate. Conventional wisdom should tell you that promotional emails are only effective if they are opened by the recipient. If you send 1,500 emails, only 20 of which are opened, you won’t generate many leads. So, how can you improve your email open rates?

What is Open Rate?

In email marketing, open rate is defined as the percentage of users who open an email after receiving it. A 20% open rate indicates that 1 out of every 5 people to whom you sent your email opened it. If your email marketing campaign has 10% open rate, just 1 out of 10 recipients opened it.

SmartInsights published a study revealing average open rates across different industries. They found open rates varied depending on the industry, with gambling emails having the lowest open rates (17.10%) and hobbies having the highest open rates (28.85%).

Clean Up Your List

First and foremost, go through your list of email addresses and remove any invalid addresses. If a user entered the wrong email address when subscribing to your newsletter, for instance, there’s no point in keeping that address in your list. Sending emails to invalid addresses will only dilute and lower your open rate. You can verify subscribers’ email addresses manually, or you can use a “list cleaning” service. Either way, cleaning up your list is a great way to improve its open rate.

Personalize Subject Lines

Another highly effective way to improve open rates is personalizing email subject lines. The subject line is the first thing a recipient sees upon receiving an email, and it’s often the single most influential factor in determining whether or not that recipient will open the email.

Rather than using a generic subject line, try personalizing it with the recipient’s name. According to a study cited by MarketingSherpa, emails with personalized subject lines have 29.3% higher open rates than emails without personalized subject lines, attesting to the power of this tactic.

Beware of Spam Filters

If your email gets flagged as spam — regardless of whether or not is spam — it’s doubtful the intended recipient will see it, let alone open it. This is why it’s important to carefully create your emails so service providers don’t perceive them as spam.

Here are some tips to avoid tripping spam filters with your emails:

  • Only send emails to subscribers who’ve “opted” to receive your emails.
  • Send emails from a reputable Internet Protocol (IP) address with a strong Sender Score.
  • Include an easy way for subscribers to opt out of your emails — this is a requirement of the CAN-SPAM Act.
  • Keep the code of your emails clean.
  • Avoid spam trigger words.
  • Don’t repeat the same phrases over and over.

Split-Test Sending Times and Frequency

You should get into the habit of A/B split-testing different times and frequencies for your email campaigns, as this will also affect your open rate. Sending emails to subscribers on Monday may yield a higher open rate, and more conversions, than sending the same emails to the same subscribers on Thursday.

MailChimp conducted an internal study, which revealed that recipients are more likely to open emails sent on a weekday as opposed to emails sent on the weekend. The only way you’ll know what works for your business, however, is by conducting your own test.

To learn more about how to improve your marketing strategies, give us a call or send us a note today at Small Dog Creative 661-702-1310!

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