11 Steps to Improving your Email Open Rates

Avatar for Kat Garcia Kat Garcia
Avatar for Kat Garcia Kat Garcia

September 8, 2021

12 min read

11 Steps to Improving your Email Open Rates

How to improve your email overall open rates for email marketing. We’ve talked about the importance of your sender reputation score, so now once your emails have landed in their desired inboxes, it’s time to make sure they get opened. Here’s how to get your email open rates to skyrocket.

Did you know that by 2022 there will be over 347.3 billion emails sent per day (Statista)? Despite what the future of technology may hold, email marketing remains one of the best marketing tools available.

Let’s Get Started

You’ve completed the first step, getting your emails to the inboxes. Next is having its recipients open them. Your marketing campaigns are only as strong as your email open rates. Anyone can write a great email, it is the emails that actually get read, that matter.

The benefits of tracking your open rates are infinite. They provide you with valuable insight into how your email marketing campaigns are running and a great way to estimate your return on investment for these campaigns.

In short, to get the most out of your campaigns, you need to have recipients click on your emails. Here we will describe the best steps to take to increase your email open rates. These simple steps can take your open rate from good to great.

1. Have an updated email list

While you may have loyal clientele, they may not always want to hear from you. It’s important to try to have a good ratio of people who receive your emails, and who actually want to receive your emails. To keep your list fresh, it’s good to go through and remove inactive subscribers.

Rule of thumb: We define inactive as anyone who hasn’t engaged with any type of email from you in the last six months.

Before you start deleting left and right, here are a couple options to get your subscribers re-engaged. AKA, your win back efforts.

Start by crafting a win back campaign where your emails will grab the attention of recipients to notify them that they will be removed from your list. The best way to do this is by stressing the importance and value of your emails, you don’t want them to miss out on an exciting opportunity.

Here are some example emails you can send to revive your snoozing recipients.

As a last-ditch effort you can use subject lines such as “Do I Bore You?”, “Is the Love Gone?”, “It’s me, not you” or lastly, “Do you hate me?”.

These subject lines give a sense of relationship between you and the recipient. The more they feel that it’s a personal message, the more likely they will open your email.

To further check in with your subscribers, you can see if they actually want to hear from you anymore. Give them the option to unsubscribe to your list. You don’t need to be asking them every week if they’d still like to hear from you, but once in a while or if they haven’t been active in a while, you can ask them for a quick update.

Lastly, you can even try conducting a survey to get a higher response rate because of the incentive you put to receive responses. Incentivize them by giving them a free Amazon gift card or special discount for your product if they participate. This not only increases email open rates, but also increases engagement on your website. Kill two birds with one stone. Incentivize your clients to interact with you while receiving the information you need to continue to engage with content they will love.

All in all, you do not want your email list to go stale. Keep them up to date and filled with engaged and interested users. You will see your ratio increase after removing inactive and uninterested recipients.

2. Segment Your Lists!

By segmenting your lists you can start targeting your audience on a more individualized and personalized basis. You will no longer be sending irrelevant or uninteresting information to your clients. When you send targeted emails, you will see higher email open rates because the recipients are actually interested and engaged with the information you are giving them.

Fun Facts: Did you know that 39% of marketers who segment their lists experience higher email open rates and 28% saw a lower unsubscribe rate while 24% saw a better deliverability and result in revenue?

How to segment

To start segmenting your lists you need to start putting tags on your emails. These tags should be specific to the different categories your clients fall into. For example, you can target clients based on their buying preferences or if they become paying customers versus on your free plan. Or segment based on specific products they’ve purchased, demographics or interests. If they’ve selected the opt-in option on one of your promotions, even better! You know exactly what to send them!

Once you’ve segmented your lists, you will have a much better understanding of your recipients and what their interests are and what subject lines will make them engage with your marketing campaigns.

Your emails should give clients an asset with every click meaning they provide value. When you continuously give something to your customers via email, they will want to open your emails.

By segmenting, you are delivering valuable information to customers that are genuinely interested.

3. Avoid Spam Filters

This step is crucial in any successful email. You want to make sure that your emails are getting delivered and you’re not putting your business name in risk of landing up on a blacklist. As technology advances, so does email security and spam filters. They have gotten more sophisticated and have no remorse for throwing your email in the spam folder.

Your emails, yes, even your best emails, can end up in the spam folder if you’re not taking the proper precautions.

These are a few steps you can take to avoid being labeled as spam:

  • Take into account how many people actually want to receive your emails. You should double check how many recipients actually have opted in on your email lists.
  • Send your campaigns from a good and reputable IP address, meaning it hasn’t been blacklisted or flagged as spam.
  • Send to verified domains, AKA send to valid email addresses.
  • Use merge tags to personalize your campaigns and make it more individualized to the recipient.
  • Show subscribers how to whitelist your emails, show them how to mark your email address as a verified address and that they add you to their address book.
  • Avoid salesy or spammy words in your emails. Try to minimize the amount of times you use words like ‘buy now’ or ‘discount’.
  • Don’t bait and switch with your subject lines and the content of your email. For example, don’t have a subject line that promises a 50% code but talks about an upcoming holiday sale without delivering.
  • Always have an easy way for your subscribers to opt out of your mailing list. Most commonly email marketers include an ‘unsubscribe’ button at the bottom of every email they send.

In order to maximize your email campaigns you need to do everything possible in order to avoid being flagged as spam. By following the suggestions above your emails should deliver with ease.

4. Choose the right time to send your emails

As the saying goes, ‘timing is everything’, this proves true even in email marketing. Timing can have a huge effect on whether or not your email gets opened. Keep in mind the day and time of when you’re sending your emails.

Pro Tip: you should also remember time changes if you have an international list and segment your them accordingly.

We wish there was a recipe for the perfect time to send your emails but in reality it depends on your subscribers. One method we suggest is through A/B testing. This can help you identify which timeframes your address book is more likely to open your email. You can carry this information over to future marketing campaigns and improve your email open rates as time goes on.

However, to get you started on deciphering the best time of day to send your emails, MailChimp has conducted their own survey. Their results state that the best time to send your email campaigns is during the weekdays versus the weekends. And generally speaking, 10AM has shown the highest open rate. Additionally, their study shows that the type of content you send is just as important as the time you send it.

If you think about it, their study makes sense. All of these factors have an effect on what time a recipient will be most likely to check their email - during the work week, during the work day. The type of email they receive such as hobby related may be checked earlier than work related emails.

Another study done by Experian also concludes the same results such as higher open rates during the work weeks, but the time of day differs. In Experian’s data, they show that the highest email open rates are during the afternoons (whereas MailChimp was during the morning).

Taking into consideration that these two companies agree that during the work week and not too early or late in the day will have a better email open rate but proves that their recipients differ so you should still run your own tests based on your subscribers.

Try to get into the mind of your subscribers, what do they do? Are they morning or evening people? Do they have purchasing patterns? All these factors can be taken into account when perfecting what time to send your email marketing campaigns.

5. Make your subject line POP

Subject lines can be ‘make it or break it’. There is a lot of pressure on your subject lines because it is the fist snippet your recipients see then decide if your email is worth opening or not.

Because email marketing is not a new medium, many companies have recycled and reused subject lines so now subscribers have tuned them out. To break away and stand out from the competition, you need to have subject lines that are more creative and more personal.

Here are a few tips to crafting the perfect subject line:

  • Spark curiosity. You want your subject line to have a subscriber curious in your offer, but not too vague or clever that they have no idea what you’re talking about.
  • Use numbers. There is something so alluring about numbers in a subject line that seem to boost credibility and confidence in readers.
  • Make it personal. You can use a joke or conversational tone that makes the recipient feel like they’re receiving a message from a friend.
  • Use the same language your subscribers speak. We don’t mean this as their native language, but have a subject line that uses the same words or phrases as they would.

Subject lines can be tricky as email marketing continues, however it’s important to try to be creative and personal so your recipients are eager to see what you have to say.

6. Write as if you’re writing to just one person

When you draft a subject line it’s natural to think that it’s for thousands of recipients. However, it is far more effective and efficient if you start writing as if you’re writing to one individual. The key to this effective form of email marketing is to really know and understand your buyer persona. You need to know their likes, dislikes and values. Really tap into the type of subscribers you have.

How to know your buyer persona

Buyer personas are great because it reminds you to put the wants and needs of your buyers ahead of your own.

  • You need to conduct thorough audience research. This will be based on real world data, not just gut instinct. Compare details such as age/sex/location/language.
  • Learn which channels your customers engage with the most with. This will help you target sites that they are already using.
  • Identify pain points. What problems are your customers trying to solve? What’s holding them back? Use this information to craft the best and most personalized marketing campaign.
  • Understand how you can help. Identify and express where you can alleviate some of the pain.
  • Craft your buyer persona. This breakdown will help you better understand your customers. For example, you can be targeting a Male, 40 years old, with 2 kids, in San Francisco who works at a tech company.

Use all the information above to individualize your marketing campaigns and watch your email open rates increase.

7. Write like a friend to improve your email open rates

We’ve touched on this idea, when crafting your emails, you should be writing as if you’re talking to a friend, not like you’re talking to thousands of clients. The most effective form of email marketing is when your recipients feel a level of trust.

You be the judge: Take a look at these two subjects, which one are you more likely to open?

“We are offering savings for our customers”


“You’ve got to check out this deal”

The second option is going to be clicked on a lot more (and if you don’t think so you should probably re-read this article from the top). With the second option, it makes the email seem a lot more personal and with a lot less pressure to be a consumer.

8. Write amazing content. Every. Single. Time.

Your emails should have great and valuable content every time you send them out. Unfortunately, users will remember the bad, boring, non valuable emails more than the great ones you send out. Don’t jeopardize your campaigns by sending out subpar emails.

The hardest part is getting a user to open your email, so why quit while you’re ahead? As a rule of thumb, your emails should always have an added value to your customers. This can be in the form of discount code, case study or something that will benefit them.

When you repeatedly deliver high quality and valuable content to your customers, you start to build a relationship and reputation with them. Some may start eagerly looking forward to your emails. So how can you make sure your subscribers are happy with your emails? Make them amazing, valuable and interesting. The key is to not send emails just to send an email. You should only deliver high quality and resourceful information.

The Equation for Successful Email Marketing: the higher the value of email you write, the more loyal your subscribers will become, and your email open rates will increase.

9. Provide some humor

Humor has proven to help cultivate strong and more personalized connections, even between strangers. So why not take this practice into your email marketing? It’s personal, entertaining and it sticks out in readers minds.

It may sound intimidating if you feel you’re not a very funny person. However, don’t worry. The key to mastering humor to capture your subscribers attention is to really know your subscriber. If you know their likes and dislikes, it will be so much easier to pull off a joke pertaining to them. This makes it much more personal.

You can even use a GIF or funny meme that’s relevant to your company or pop culture to get your readers attention. And if you’re feeling really funny, you can even make a video to send to your customers that has a joke. A video will give them the opportunity to see the face to the name of all these emails.

10. Never forget about mobile users

Now that today’s technology fits in the palm of our hands, it is so important to remember to keep your emails mobile friendly too. Mobile email accounts from 15%-70% of all open emails (EmailMonday).

While according to litmus.com, in 2018 mobile opens accounted for 46% of all email opens.

You cannot neglect your mobile users! The obvious tip is to make sure all your emails are mobile friendly aka responsive formatting and loading. But also consider that mobile screens are smaller than a desktop so subject lines can be cut in half or not entirely viewable.

A few tricks for mobile formatting:

  • Keep the formatting simple (single-column), under 600px wide.
  • Use a larger font– small fonts are difficult to read on mobile.
  • Don’t assume images are being displayed (Android turns images off by default). Make sure it looks good without them.
  • Use smaller images to reduce load time.
  • Use a large call-to-action button– larger buttons are easier to tap with a finger.
  • Don’t place two links next to, or on top of one another. That way, the user won’t tap the wrong one by accident.

11. Have a clean email list

By having a clean email list you are ensuring that your emails make it to their desired inboxes. If you are a big company or recently purchased an email list, you need to clean it. The best practice to do so is by running it through a bulk email verification service. With a clean list you’re able to guarantee that your emails will deliver. The first step in any campaign is to clean your email lists before sending it out.

Save yourself the headache and use a service like Emailable. A lot of lists are outdated, with typos or fake email addresses. If you start sending emails to an unclean list you run the risk of blacklisting your IP address and ending up in the Spam folder. When you have an amazing email, you need to send it to valid email addresses. The most efficient and competent way to clean your lists, no matter the size, is with Emailable!

All these tips can help improve your email open rates, however, never get discouraged if you don’t see an immediate turnaround. Email marketing is like a tango, give yourself and your subscribers some time to adjust and find what tactics work best for your subscribers.

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