The term “open rate” is very familiar to veteran email marketers, and it’s no doubt even on newbies’ radar – after all, it’s one of the industry’s most-important metrics.
Determining open rates is a pretty straightforward proposition.
“Email service providers (ESPs) calculate the open rate by taking the number of people who open the email and dividing it by the number of emails sent that did not bounce, i.e. failed to reach the recipient,” writes Steven MacDonald at SuperOffice.
In simpler terms: Open Rate = Unique Opens / (Number of Emails Sent – Bounces)
Now, what’s a good open rate? According to MacDonald, who cites data from SmartInsights, the average open rate across all industries last year was 24 percent. He suggests that “If you have an open rate of 25 percent or higher, then you’re doing great.”
However, open rates vary widely by industry and by country, so savvy email marketers will do their own benchmarking to ascertain how well campaigns are working.
“Despite knowing the industry average open rates, you can’t set a truly realistic goal for your email open rates without benchmarking your current results,” writes Mary Fernandez at OptinMonster. “That way, you’ll be able to see what works (and what doesn’t work) for your own email list.” She suggests a five-step benchmarking process that includes charting past open rates, establishing an average, identifying outliers, looking for patterns and setting goals.
Once you have a goal in mind, you can focus on ways to improve your open rate. Here are eight tips to help you do that:
1) Qualify your subscribers – Before asking anyone to join your email list, make sure to qualify them with a relevant lead magnet,” writes Fernandez. “Do not try to attract anyone and everyone to your email list. For example, avoid using giveaways that most people would want, such as an iPad giveaway. Instead, give away something that only your target customers would want, such as a free sample of your product.”
2) Nail the subject line – “The subject line is the first thing a customer sees on any email,” writes Sujan Patel at Entrepreneur. “If you haven’t tested and optimized yours, you’re leaving money on the table. A/B testing isn’t just for websites and landing pages – it’s essential for email marketing as well. Aim for a casual and personal opening line, and test, test, test.”
3) Consider the sender name – “Instead of sending the email from email@example.com, utilize the first and last name of a company employee,” suggests Ashley Zeckmen on the Top Rank Marketing blog. “Setting up an email to send out messages on behalf of a company CEO or president can have a large impact on open rates.”
4) Optimize the pre-header text – “After subscribers have scanned the sender name and from address of your message, and decided the subject line is worth review, they’ll likely read the preheader text, which appears in smaller grey type right after the email subject line,” writes Pamella Neely at Practical eCommerce. “Think of the preheader text as the email’s subhead, or think of it as a way to slip a clever message to your readers just at the moment when they are deciding whether or not to open your email.”
5) Don’t use words that trigger spam filters – “Because many unsolicited emails carry viruses or promote illicit activities, email programs automatically filter messages that appear to deceive and scam readers.” writes Danny Wong at the Huffington Post. “One of the ways our inboxes do this is by checking for specific keywords that are typically associated with spam,” such as “free offer” and “guarantee.”
6) Segment your lists – “If you segment your list well, you’ll be able to easily deliver content that’s much more suited to your audience’s interests. This results in better open rates,” writes Pamella Neely at Practical eCommerce. She shares several examples of segmentation, including: For a recruiter: employers vs. job-seekers; for a real estate broker: buyers vs. renters; for an ecommerce company: buyers vs. non-buyers, or buyers segmented by purchased product category.
7) Format for mobile devices – “If your company’s email messages don’t read well on mobile, you’re in trouble,” writes Sujan Patel at Entrepreneur. Depending on target audience, product and email type, up to 70 percent of emails are now opened on mobile devices, says EmailMonday.
8) Personalize your message – “Personalizing your email campaigns is a proven way to increase your open and click-through rates. In fact, studies have shown emails with personalized subject lines are 26 percent more likely to be opened than those without,” writes Campaign Monitor. “This is because personalized emails are more relevant to subscribers. Instead of receiving a campaign with generic, one-size-fits-all offers and messaging, your subscribers will receive an email that is targeted directly at them.”