The Key to Great Open Rates in Email Marketing is NOT Your Subject Line



How do you get as many people as possible to open your promotional emails and become convinced by your brand through reading your content? Throughout the web, you will find guides that explain just how important subject lines are to capturing your audience’s attention in a crowded inbox.

We’re not here to rehash that idea yet again. Yes, the subject line matters, and you need to be snappy, to the point, direct, yada yada yada… But if your email never makes it to your audience’s inbox, that part doesn’t even matter. That’s why we’re convinced: the key to great open rates in email marketing is NOT your subject line.


What is it, Then?

Fair question. If subject lines are not the greatest determining factor in getting your audience’s attention, what is? Here’s our answer: Your email’s ability to move past both automated and manual spam filters.

In today’s email-centric age, we’re pretty much showered with messages in our inbox every day. In fact, the average person now receives 91 emails per day. Filtering through the clutter becomes crucial to find out which messages matter, and which are irrelevant.

One tool to clean up the noise: spam filters. Email clients comb through the deluge of messages and automatically send those to the spam folder that they determine to be spam. Factors like unknown sender domain, trigger words in the subject line, and average emails marked as spam all factor into an email client deciding that your message is not even worth showing to their users.

And even if you make it there, the danger is not over. You users can determine your email to be spam and mark it as such, adding it to a ‘blacklist’ that will lead every future email from your domain to automatically get redirected for all users on the client. Needless to say, your open rates will be lower if a large portion of your audience never even sees your message.


Avoiding Inbox Purgatory

The question, then, becomes how you can design emails that don’t get caught by spam filters or draw the ire of your audience. That process can be complex, but this guide by MailChimp is a great start. As mentioned above, a trust worthy domain, a kosher subject line, and a history of credible emails all play into the equation.

Trigger words particularly deserve closer consideration. Specific words automatically flag your email to hosting clients like Gmail, giving them an indication that you are overtly selling or promoting your brand. Words and phrases such as 100% freeclick below, and (ironically) this isn’t junk in your subject line may mean that your audience never ends up seeing your message.


Taking Care of the Basics

Most important, though, is following some basic guidelines that keep your email on the good side of your audience and their inbox clients. It all starts with your email lists: sending emails only to an audience that has opted in to receiving them avoids unhappy recipients who mark it as spam. Consistent content that follows through on the promise of the subject line also keeps up audience goodwill and minimizes your chances of a manual spam marking.

And then, of course, there’s the CAN SPAM Act of 2003. You may not know it, but your email is actually by law required to include a physical business address and an easily visible opt out link in its body. Failure to comply will not only draw your audience’s ire, but actually breaks the law.

Of course, you should focus on highlighting your brand and drawing visitors to your page in your email marketing efforts. But without first ensuring that it stays out of the spam folders of your recipients, your efforts may be for naught. It’s a crucial first step that will impact everything from your open to your conversion rates.

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