7 Tips for Better Email Open Rates

It feels great to create email content that you know rocks. Not to harsh your vibe, but it doesn’t mean all that much if no one sees it. 

If you are creating email content, you want the recipient to, you know, see it. To do that, they need to open the email, which is what email open rates are all about.

How can you increase the likelihood that they do? With input from Peta Serras, Founder of Professional Babe, we’re giving you some hot tips to help boost your email open rates and your overall email engagement too.

What you need to know about open rates

Real talk, email click-to-open rates, or open rates, are just one metric that you should keep tabs on when building and assessing your email marketing strategy. You definitely want to shoot for high open rates, but this isn’t going to be your be-all-end-all for judging your email strategy, especially with the ever-changing updates made in the name of user privacy.

A prime example is when the updates to the iOS 15 and 16 operating systems made it harder than usual to determine email open rates. For any Apple users who opt in, the update “prevents companies from seeing whether [users] opened their emails when using the Apple Mail app. Instead, an open rate of 100% would be reported, subsequently impacting how DTC marketers report on the success of their mail efforts.”

Thankfully though, the changes have become the new normal since their implementation in 2021. If you didn’t know about this change before now, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with it so you can approach email open rates with a better understanding and more realistic expectations. You can read more about this in Hubspot’s article: How Apple iOS 15 is Impacting Email Marketers.

Setting real open rates goals

Before the changes to the iOS 15 and 16 operating systems, average open rates were around 21-22%. Now that Apple has created this extra hurdle though, it is a good idea to reassess the goals you are setting for your open rates. 

Thankfully, this month’s contributor has an effective way to assess where your open rates should be: Grab 10 of your last campaigns, add them all together and divide by 10 to get the average to use as your benchmark on which to improve.

Peta also points out it is important to remember that different emails will garner different levels of interest. “You’ll notice your open rates will vary depending on what you send,” Peta says. “For example, [my rates] for welcome sequences sit around 92% and for standard campaigns about 55% so anything lower than that could flag an issue for me to fix!”

The more detailed you get about your open rate goal (i.e., segmenting welcome sequences from product announcements), the more realistic your numbers will be and the better your idea of when you are exceeding expectations or need to adjust your strategy.

“It all starts with your subscribers’ first experience with your emails — as soon as they opt in! The best way to start any relationship on good terms and to set the tone of what’s to come is to give your audience a taste straight up,” she explains. “[Craft] a stellar welcome sequence that people receive as soon as they opt-in that would give them something relevant and interesting that they couldn’t wait to open.” 

Peta Serras, Founder of Professional Babe

Improving email open rates

Even as things change, you still want to do what you can to encourage your audience to click on your emails and look at your content. Let’s discuss some ways that you may be able to improve your email open rates.

1. Make your mark from the start

We asked Peta what her best tip for improving email opens is and the short answer was to make an impression. We’ll let her explain it in her words:

“It all starts with your subscribers’ first experience with your emails — as soon as they opt in! The best way to start any relationship on good terms and to set the tone of what’s to come is to give your audience a taste straight up,” she explains. “[Craft] a stellar welcome sequence that people receive as soon as they opt-in that would give them something relevant and interesting that they couldn’t wait to open.” 

2. Make sure to create a good subject line

The subject line of your email is one of the biggest factors in whether or not someone opens the email. Creating a bad email subject line is like giving a bad handshake–it’s just not a good way to start things off and seriously reduces the chance that people will interact with you further. 

Consider using subject lines that pose a question, give direct commands, list information, or make an announcement. Your subject line should 1) match the content of the email and 2) grab interest and spur your end user to click because you are offering them something they want.

3. Double check your “from name” and “from email address”

Have you ever received an email from a sender that had a concerning name or a sketchy looking email address? Maybe it made you double check that your spam filter was even working. 

You aren’t the only one who would be skeptical of an email from a name or email that you had no memory of. According to an article from ConstantContact, “For 68% of consumers, familiarity with the person sending the email is the top reason why they decide to open.” This means that you want to make sure that your name and email address make it easy to see who the sender is and that they are legit.

For example, an email for muffins from “Stacy’s Sweet Tooth Cafe” with the email stacy@sweettoothcafe.com is going to come across much better than one from just “Stacy” with an email that looks like, “cl736366354@gmail.com.” And that last one is a real example from our own inbox!

You probably guessed by now that yes, even in your email name and email address, your branding needs to be consistent. 

4. Avoid common subject line spam triggers

Did you know that your email subject line can get you into trouble? It’s true! Your email subject line may flag a spam filter and immediately get dumped into the end user’s junk folder, likely unseen and eventually deleted in bulk.

There are a few key things to avoid when creating the subject line that would otherwise send up red flags for that spam filter:

  • Avoid words like “free,””giveaway,” or “prize”
  • Try to keep out language involving money (i.e., best deal, buy, cash, etc.)
  • Anything involving the word “no” such as “no catch”, “no cost,” or “no fees”
  • Nix legalese or jargon terminology (i.e., marketing, marketing solutions, web traffic etc.)
  • Subject lines that include 100% more/free/satisfied, etc.
  • Always avoid exclamation points at the end of your subject lines

Depending on what you do, some of these may be harder to avoid than others. You won’t always be able to keep every potential trigger out of your subject line, but if there is a different way to word it that is still engaging and doesn’t increase the risk of the email getting dumped into the spam folder, we’d say a rewrite is a good idea.

5. Consistently deliver good content 

If you create an amazing email that brings in click-throughs and conversions one week and then send a lackluster email the next, your audience isn’t going to know what to expect in the future. You want to create good quality content on a regular basis.

It isn’t exactly reasonable to expect every email to create incredible results. However, you never want to create email content that doesn’t show you are putting your best foot forward. Make sure that you are always doing your best to create eye-catching email content.

One great way to get the most from powerful and engaging content is to repurpose it for multiple platforms such as a social media post and an email campaign. 

6. Segment your recipients for better delivery

Not all goths/metalheads/hippies/marketers/[insertyourchosenidentifierhere] are the same. So don’t create content that treats them all the same. 

Here’s where knowledge about your buyer personas or target audience is going to pay off. The more accurately you can segment your audience members into specific categories, the easier it is to craft email content that accurately targets their  interests or needs. 

When they discover what you’re offering is aligned to what they’re looking for , that’s when you start to build trust. Once that is established, you will start to see more consistent open rates.  

7. Bonus tips for staying out of spam folders

Your subject line is just one part of your email that can get you into trouble. There are other factors to stay on top of that can increase or decrease the chances of your email going straight to spam jail. 

“Set your email marketing software up properly to ensure your deliverability is on point,” Peta advises. “The biggest things are using an email attached to your domain name, not adding anymore than 20:80 image:text per email, compressing all images, and always getting proper consent for your subscribers to avoid being marked as spam.”

A well-crafted email that comes from a correctly set up source is far more likely to get through than one that is cluttered, contains too many large files, or is sent without the end user’s permission. Doing your due diligence to check these boxes off will help not only your open rates but your conversion rates too.

Other email metrics to remember

Open rates are just one part of your email marketing metrics. Make sure to consider other metrics to get a comprehensive idea of how your emails are going over.

Peta advises keeping tabs on deliverability, click-throughs, and conversions.

“Deliverability is the most important metric and we should be aiming to get 100% with every email sent,” Peta explains. “Keep in mind this could be a subscriber issue like full inboxes, but it could also flag large email sizes thanks to picture-heavy campaigns.”

Peta goes on to say clicks and conversions are also highly important because they indicate that the emails are breeding results. 

“Emails are never the end point,” she states. “We always want our subscribers to take the next step — so what are you wanting them to do? Click the link in the email and purchase!” 

Getting someone to click to open your email is just the first step. You need to have a comprehensive email marketing strategy that takes open rates into account along with everything else. If you aren’t sure where to start or how to start improving your emails, you can reach out to us for one-on-one email marketing consulting to help.

Contact RM Creative Services by sending a message to rachael@rmcsofficial.com or visiting our Contact page.

Written by Brianna Fries, a California-based writer, editor, bookworm, and mother of two. You can contact her at brianna@rmcsofficial.com and discover more of her work at brigibbsis.wordpress.com.

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