6 Ways To Improve Your E-mail Open Rates

Once you design the perfect template for your e-mail newsletter, you want to make sure the most people see your message.
June 07, 2011

Once you do the work of collecting those precious names and designing the perfect template for your e-mail newsletter, you want to make sure the most people see your message. I’ve compiled six top tips to improve your open rates.

1. The art and craft of the subject line

A well-crafted subject line is the best way to ensure your message gets across. What calls to action entice you to open an e-mail? You’ll find a relevant, compelling subject line at the top of the list.

Ways to craft a great subject line include:

Take the time to write your subject line instead of adding it right before clicking send.

If your e-mail service provider has the service, try A/B testing to determine which different subject lines work best for your audience.

Personalizing the subject line boosts open rates every time. Subject lines containing the first name of the subscriber always perform better than e-mails without. You can also include other subscriber details such as special offers, purchase history or products of interest.

Put as much relevant information into your subject lines as you can. If you’re sending out an offer e-mail, a clearly worded subject with both the offer details and product name can boost open rates.

2. Timing is key

E-mailing at an inappropriate time or on the wrong day can negatively affect your open rates. Promoting an event that takes place this weekend? Better results could be yours with a Thursday campaign instead of a Tuesday send. Most e-mail marketers say that midweek emails (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or even Thursday) result in the best open rates.

E-mailing a business audience? Try to avoid sending first thing in the morning. Late morning or early afternoon are more lucrative times of day.

Timing can also refer to economic timing. Find industry-appropriate statistics and look over the results of your e-mails from the last year (or more if you have them). Open rates are dropping across industries, and you want to make sure you have a reasonable benchmark.

The only way to know which day and time works best is to test campaigns on your list. As with your subject line, if your e-mail service provider has the option, try A/B testing.

3. Frequency awareness

"List fatigue" is a term we all can relate to. List fatigue happens when your campaigns are sent too frequently and recipients become tired of hearing from you. Avoid list fatigue by sending e-mails less often or by offering frequency options at sign-up.

To complicate matters, sending too many e-mails scares away subscribers and sending too few e-mails also causes you to subscribers. Sending newsletters on a regular basis, however, supports higher open rates. Check your open rates, cancellation rates and click rates, and calibrate accordingly.

It’s difficult to sustain open rates when sending more than two marketing e-mails each week to a list. The same thing goes when you’re sending e-mail once a month or even less frequently than that. You’re looking for the happy medium between fatigue and forgetfulness.

4. Avoid spam filters

Spam filters check the content of your e-mail to make sure you’re not sending spam. Thanks to less scrupulous marketers, almost all e-mail servers filter e-mails that contain certain subject line keywords.

Avoid words and symbols such as $$$, free, ad, cheap, earn $, business, income, credit, fast cash, assets, make $, opportunity, order now, refinance, mortgage, unsubscribe, remove, promise, weight loss and the brand name of any male enhancement drug to make sure your e-mails get through. Also avoid using exclamation marks and all capital letters in your subject lines and e-mails.

Many e-mail service providers offer a service to check the content of your e-mail against spam criteria. This helps you fix your e-mail to ensure deliverability.

5. Content quality

The best way to improve your e-mail open rates is to send interesting e-mails that are relevant to the reader’s interests. When subscribers trust that there is something valuable on the other side of the subject line, your open rates will continue to increase.

Offer something of value in every e-mail you send. Help your subscribers look better to their bosses and colleagues by including tips and tricks, industry research and discounts. Sending compelling e-mails not only helps you be seen as an expert, it reduces spam complaints.

Consistency in e-mail also encourages recipients to open. We all are drawn toward the familiar. This is also true for e-mail campaigns. Campaigns with a consistent look and feel are more effective in helping your recipients understand your message. Of course you can mix up the creative, but maintain brand standards in colors, design and personality. Also, use the same "from" name and e-mail address for all your campaigns.

6. List segmentation

It’s hard to know what groups are in your e-mail list if you don’t get to know your readers. If you want to deliver great content, it’s important to understand what your subscribers care about. Don’t know what your subscribers care about? Try an online survey or ask for specific information in alternate e-mails.

For list segmentation, nothing beats a special offer based on the recipient’s specific interests. If you have already collected this information on your audience, use it! Strangely enough, statistically, as an e-mail list grows by the thousands, the open rate goes down. If your list has many thousands of recipients, test different offers through segmentation and your open rates can rise once again.

Do you have any tips that have helped you improve your e-mail open rates? Please share in the comments!

Helen Jane Hearn is a designer and home entertaining expert based in California’s beautiful Napa Valley. She posts entertaining tips several times a day @hjentertains.