Sick Of Emails Not Being Opened? 39 Ways To Increase Email Open Rates
Imagine this - yesterday you sent an email to your subscribers about this amazing new thing..!
Now you can't wait to see the response to that email - your followers must have loved it!
You take a look at the stats...
And you think to yourself - "the open rate should've been better..."
Have you ever felt this way?
Or if you simply want to boost your results with email marketing...
In this post, I'll share with you almost every imaginable way to increase your open rates.
Top 4 Ways To Boost Your Open Rates
I've split the 39 ways into 4 main categories. They are (NOT in any particular order):
1. Increase Deliverability: This is about getting your emails into your subscribers' inboxes (instead of their spam boxes or wherever). Most of this stuff is handled by your Email Service Provider (ESP, such as Aweber or GetResponse), but there are still a lot of things you can do to make sure your emails get delivered.
ESPs VS. self-hosted email marketing solutions: This blog post was written for people who use ESPs such as Aweber or GetResponse (or something else!) to do email marketing - not for people who use self-hosted solutions. There are so much more to do in terms of increasing deliverability etc. when you have a self-hosted autoresponder, so it's better to leave that stuff for another time.
2. Build Your List Better: It's important to get a good start with your subscribers. Under this category I list some list building tactics you can use to attract more responsive subscribers.
3. Increase Visibility: How to get those precious eyeballs glued to your emails instead of to your competitors'.
4. Increase Relevancy: It's the oldest marketing rule in the bag - "be relevant". These are methods to get your subscribers more interested in opening your emails.
Bonus Report: Top 5 Resources To Crafting Open Rate -Boosting Subject Lines (Including Swipe Files To 500+ Subject Lines)
With that said, let's get to it -
Ask your subscribers to whitelist/prioritize your emails
Ask your subscribers to whitelist your emails.
Most people already know how to do it, but if you want to give more detailed instructions, you can use this "whitelist email instructions generator".
You should also be mindful of Gmail tabs and their priority inbox -
Use a spam checker
Most ESPs have decent built-in spam checkers.
They will scan your email content and give you a score based on how likely they think your email will end up in spam folders.
Make sure you're not on email blacklists
First, use MX Lookup Tool to check your domain's IP address.
"What domain do I need to check with it?"
Basically, any domain that's involved in you sending emails:
- The domain in your "from:" email address (eg. if your "from address" is [email protected], check example.com)
- Your mailing server's domain (if you use an ESP, you don't need to worry about this)
- Any links you have in your emails
Now that you have the IP address, insert it into this Email Blacklist Checker. It will tell you if the domain is on any blacklists.
If your domain is on any blacklist, find the blacklist with a search engine and ask them to remove the domain from the blacklist.
If they ask you for a reason, you can say something like "I use this domain to send content-filled emails to double opt-in subscribers via [your ESP]".
Format your emails properly
Bad or messy HTML can get your emails caught in spam filter. So does the overuse of colors, styles and other formatting.
If you use the email templates your ESP provides and your text is not-too-fancy, you should be fine.
Use more text, less images
Images are fine.
But when you overuse them, not only it looks messy when images are disabled, your emails can also get caught in spam filters.
That's why it's better to avoid graphics-heavy templates.
Instead, make your emails content-heavy.
Your sender reputation with the ISPs and email services is built over time.
The same can be said about the relationship between you and your subscribers...
Keep sending good content to an engaged audience and your deliverability will increase little by little...
Don't change your "from name and address"
By "from name and address" I mean the name and the email address that is show in the "from:" field when you send emails.
Keep them consistent and you won't confuse or anger your subscribers. Also, you won't have to start over building a relationship with ISPs and email services.
Update your SPF record
Let me quote an article from Aweber.com:
Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is a standard for authenticating email. It is used by ISPs to ensure that purported senders of email messages are actually the ones presenting the messages they review.
Aweber recommends you to add "include:example.com" (replace "example.com" with the domain name of your mailing server) to your domain's SPF record.
This can help you increase your deliverability.
Don't use a free email as your "from address"!
When you're sending emails via an ESP, use an email address from your own domain as the "from:" address.
If you use a free email address (such as Gmail or Yahoo!) instead, it will decrease your deliverability... especially now that your emails won't simply get delivered to many email services.
Don't put full URLs as-is in your emails (if you use tracking links)
If you do it like that, it will decrease your deliverability.
When you send emails via an ESP, they will change your links into tracking links, for example like this:
It creates a "mismatch problem" - the URL you are showing is different to the actual link URL (even if the tracking link redirects you to the right address!):
The ISPs and email services look at your URL... and they might think you're trying to trick people by claiming one thing and doing another thing.
Instead, do your links like this, with an anchor text:
<a href="http://example.com/something">Click here to see something!</a>
Or like this, the URL without the "http://" part:
If you send HTML messages, include a plain text version as well
Here is a quote from Aweber.com:
Spammers send a lot of HTML-only messages. ISPs know this, and so messages that have only an HTML version are more heavily filtered.
ESPs usually have a feature to send emails with both HTML- and plain text -versions attached. Use that.
Avoid spam trigger words
But don't stop using them completely!
Some words are hard to replace...
And it's better to be clear in your messages than to waste time checking every word in your email and trying to come up with something different.
Use confirmed opt-in (aka double opt-in)
There are so many ways double opt-in vs. single opt-in affects your response rates...
- Anyone can add any email to your list (including a spamtrap) if you use single opt-in
- Many ESPs use separate servers to send emails to double opt-in and single opt-in subscribers - the double opt-in servers tend to have a better reputation and deliverability
- Double opt-in subscribers have shown more interest towards getting emails from you
That said, there is one good thing about single opt-in (aside from you getting more subscribers, which really isn't the concern of this blog post) - you'll get to send your lead magnet and interact with the new subscriber much sooner (see point #18) than if you used double opt-in.
Despite that, it's generally better to use double opt-in for higher response rates.
Build Your List Better
Send an email to new subscribers immediately after they subscribe (with an autoresponder)
Get your subscribers used to you sending them emails - from the very beginning.
Set expectations and meet them
Make sure your subscribers know what your email newsletter is all about:
- When do you send emails?
- What do you usually send?
- Why should people open your emails?
- What should they do with your emails?
How do you set these expectations?
First, you tell them straight on - on your landing page, on your confirmation page, on your thank you page, on your first few emails and so on.
Second, you show up - set the expectations through example.
Drive more targeted traffic
I could now go to somewhere like Adfly, get cheap advertising for a few bucks and get hundreds of new subscribers... in a matter of hours.
But I know those people wouldn't care too much about my emails, no matter how good my funnel was... I know it because I've tested it.
The point is - your traffic source affects even your response rates.
Deliver your lead magnet to new subscribers ASAP
When someone subscribes to your list to get a lead magnet...
Don't distract them with offers.
Don't make them jump through hoops.
Don't make them wait for it.
They are busy and if you want to keep their attention long enough to establish some kind of a relationship with them, just give them what they want ASAP.
Time your message right
a) By time of day
Let me just say there is a LOT of data on send times. That's good news for us...
Here are just some of the studies:
- According to MailChimp's data, the optimal send time for many people is 10 AM (in the recipients' time zone)
- Campaign Monitor concluded that over half of email opens happen during working hours. The peak seems to be at around 11 AM.
- Vertical Response recommends trying out sending at 6 PM or 11 PM.
- GetResponse says that "9 AM seems like the perfect time to send out a newsletter".
- DigitalMarketer.com has done a lot of email split testing and say that 4:30 AM CST is the best time to send emails.
A lot of them seem to agree... The best time to send emails is around 9 AM - 11 AM.
That's probably a good starting point for most people.
But if you want to optimize your send time even further, you can do testing (we'll talk more about that later).
Tip: Subscribe to your competitors' email lists and see when they send their emails. Test sending a little bit before or a little bit after they send... or test sending when none of your competitors send emails.
b) By day of the week
When it comes to the day of the week, there's less of an agreement between the studies.
Over the years I've heard many different reasons on why a specific day works the best...
"Through tuesday to thursday, people are most in their routine, which usually involves checking email."
"In my niche, X day is the best because of Y."
"On weekends, people have time to check their emails."
"On weekends, people are out doing fun stuff - they don't want to ruin their free time by checking emails."
So... pick your favorite hypothesis and test based on that.
Or... you could just send every day...
c) By day of the month
For some people, the best days of the month are near the turn of the month and near the middle of the month because that's when most people get paid - they either feel free to spend the rest of their cash right before payday or they start spending their newly acquired cash right after payday.
For some people, it's the beginning of the month because it's a "new beginning" and people feel inspired.
Again, these are just hypotheses, not hard truths.
d) By day of the year
Think about your market...
Do they feel inspired at the beginning of the year (such as in hobby markets)?
Do they want to achieve something before summer (such as in the weight loss market)?
Do they spend a lot of money during holiday season (such as in the handicraft market)?
Time your emails based on that kind of brainstorming.
Send to unopens
Most ESPs have this feature that you can re-send an email to people who didn't open it when you first sent it.
If you change the subject line of the second email, you'll increase the chances of them opening it.
Unfortunately, open rate tracking isn't 100% accurate so some people will probably get the same email twice. To counter that, use images regularly on your emails - open rate tracking is based on images, and it will track an open only when the recipient has enabled images in their email client.
Switch it up
Have you been sending a lot of how-to article to your subscribers recently? Try sending interesting stories instead.
Have you been using a lot of numbers in your subject lines? Try a subject line with no weird symbols instead.
Have your competitors been promoting the latest hot launch? Try promoting an alternative solution instead.
Switch things up and you'll stand out.
Use unicode characters
They stand out in the inbox.
At least, if you don't overuse them.
How can you use them?
First, go to Unicode character table.
Look for a good icon.
Copy it (the icon itself, not the "unicode number" or the "HTML code", unless your ESP supports them).
And paste it into your subject line. (And send a test email to make sure it works!)
Pre-test your subject lines with cheap ads
If you have a few spare bucks, you can test your subject lines on PPC networks, such as these. See which subject line candidates get the highest click-through rates.
Make it easy to unsubscribe
People who aren't interested in your emails will just drag down your response rates.
Make it easy for them to unsubscribe.
Most ESPs handle this just by putting an unsubscribe link at the end of your emails.
But you can also insert it somewhere in the middle of an email, in context - you could send an email that's whole point is to ask uninterested people to leave, for example.
Let your subscribers choose what kind of emails they'd like to receive and how frequently
Give your subscribers a choice...
For example, between "sock knitting emails" and "cap knitting emails".
Or between daily emails and weekly summaries.
If your ESP doesn't have the feature to do this with checkboxes, behavioral segmenting or things like that, ask your subscribers to re-subscribe to their preferred list using a web form.
Clean your list of subscribers who don't open/click your emails
Many ESPs have a feature to remove subscribers who haven't opened any of your emails in X months.
Unfortunately, open rate tracking isn't 100% accurate, so you might be removing active followers too. :(
An alternative, more accurate, method is to remove subscribers who haven't clicked any links in any of your emails in X months. Unfortunately, this is not very easy to do in a lot of ESPs.
Once you've cleaned your list, only subscribers who have responded to your emails in some way in X months will remain, which obviously increases your open rates.
Also, possible spam traps will be removed.
Send emails worth opening
This is such a huge topic so we're going to cover this in more detail later..!
But the idea is to demonstrate to your subscribers that your emails are worth opening by delivering them content that is relevant to them and that wows them. Make them used to the fact that you send some good stuff.
Study good subject lines
There are so many subject line formulas, I'm not going to list them all in this post (we'll get to that later).
Here are some ideas:
- State a clear benefit (eg. ”how to tie your shoelaces”)
- Refer to a problem (eg. ”can’t tie your own shoelaces?”)
- Use authority (eg. ”see what Dan Kennedy said about Product X”)
- Current/topical (eg. ”save 50% this Halloween!”)
- Invoke curiosity (eg. ”do you want to know how to do this?”)
- Controversy/shock (eg. ”don’t believe what they say about list building”)
- Incongruous juxtaposition (eg. ”a dead man discovers a new way to tie your shoelaces”)
- A numbered list (eg. ”top 10 nutrituous foods for your pet squirrel”)
- State results (eg. ”how I built a list of 1,345 subscribers in 13 days”)
- Refer to something familiar (eg. ”the Dr. House guide to treating your pet squirrel”)
For more ideas and formulas, search for something like "best subject lines" with your favorite search engine. Really - there are a lot of good stuff out there!
There are a lot of how-to articles, swipe files and whatnot about subject lines out there... It can be pretty daunting to find and go through all of them... So let me give you a little helping hand in finding the best resources:
Bonus Report: Top 5 Free Resources To Crafting Open Rate -Boosting Subject Lines (Including Swipe Files To 500+ Subject Lines)
Spy your competitors
Find and subscribe to other email newsletters in your niche.
See what subject lines they use and what kind of emails they send.
Then create a swipe file out of the best emails.
But don't just mimic them - also do the opposite to them.
Study what's popular
Use keywords from your niche to find out what's popular in your niche.
And use your competitor's URLs to find out what's popular on their sites.
Use open loops
Tease and hype your next emails.
Use cliffhangers at the end of your emails (and make your emails multi-part emails).
For example: ”Those were the first 5 of the 10 tips to greening up your living room. Tune in tomorrow for the rest!”
Use open loops wherever you can.
For example: ”It’s not always easy to remember what you can and cannot recycle... I actually have a useful memory trick so I always know what to do in the recycling center. But we’ll get to that a bit later. First, I’d like to share with you...”
Learn more about this from Andre Chaperon.
Test changing your "from name" from your brand name to your personal name (or vice versa)
For example, if you are sending emails with the name "Doe Knitting Inc.", try using your personal name "John Doe".
Or you can go for a "hybrid" like "John Doe from Doe Knitting" or "John @ Doe Knitting".
Tie your emails into current and relevant events
Here are some ideas:
- "Earn $X before black friday"
- "Usain Bolt's guide to eating right"
- "How to knit socks like the pros at the International Sock Knitting Competition 2015"
Segment your list
Instead of trying to write an email that would please a large group of people with a wide variety of interests... why not send a more tightly themed email to a smaller group of people who have shown interest in that particular topic?
That's what segmentation is about.
And you can read more about it here.
Split test your emails
One thing you can do with split testing is to send two versions of an email to two smaller segments of your list before sending the better email to your whole list.
You can test elements like the subject line, call-to-action or images.
Once you're ready to do split testing, here are 163 email split testing ideas.
Personalize your emails (or not)
The idea of personalization is to include your recipient's name, location, website (etc.) to your email to increase the email's relevancy to the subscriber.
This can be done in most ESPs with tags like *FIRSTNAME* if you have that information in your list.
Establish, maintain and improve relationships with your subscribers
The #1 thing in your email that affects open rates is NOT the subject line - it's the "from name".
You want to make sure your subscribers know who you are, like you and trust you.
We're going to talk a lot more about this in this blog in the future - so stay tuned.
Ask your subscribers what they want and what they're having trouble with (and solve that)
Poll your subscribers with something like Polldaddy or simply ask them to reply to your email.
Here are some good questions to ask your subscribers:
- Why do you want X (eg. " to lose weight" or " to make money" etc.)
- What are the steps you need to take to reach your goals?
- What is preventing you from reaching your goals?
- What can I teach you that would help you?
Next, deliver what they want and help them solve their problems.
Remove the header-area from your email template
It seems like emails with a header-area, like this...
...will end up in Gmail's "Promotional" tab more likely than emails without the header (meaning, you'll get lower open rates).
Seems like an idea worth testing - when you're sending personal emails, you don't put logos and stuff in your emails..!
Improve engagement that ISPs can measure
These are the factors ISPs look at when they measure how good your emails are:
+ Mark as "Not Spam"
+ Move to folder
+ Add to address book
- Mark as "Spam"
- Delete without open
Note that they aren't measuring clicks... Because they can't.
The more opens, replies etc. you get and the less spam complaints and deletes you get, the higher your deliverability rate will rise.
Test which GMail tab your email will land into
If you use GMail, you know they have different tabs for different kinds of emails, like "Primary", "Social" and "Promotions".
If you want to increase your email open rates, you want to land in the "Primary" tab.
Your subject line, email formatting and content affects where your email will land. That's why you should test these different variables before sending the email to your whole list:
Step 1: Write your email like you normally do. (Use the Bullet Hook Formula to maximize your click-through rate.)
Step 2: Write your subject line like you normally do.
Step 3: Send a test message to your Gmail account.
Step 4: Make sure the test message is delivered to your Primary Inbox.
Step 5: If it isn’t, adjust the subject line and body of the email until it is.
Step 6: Once it successfully delivers, send the email to your list.
I’ve found it takes an additional 5-10 minutes per email to get this to work, but last week it was the difference in 739 additional people getting and opening my email.
5 things you can adjust in each email to make sure your readers open it
My testing has shown several variables in your emails getting delivered:
Variable #1: The subject line itself
Variable #2: The number of links in the email
Variable #3: The length of the email
Variable #4: The size and number of images in your email
Variable #5: Don’t use naked links (i.e. don’t paste a link in your email. Instead, link a section of natural text.)
So, if you’re having a hard time getting your email to hit the Primary Inbox, adjust these 5 variables until it does.
And there you have it - the ultimate guide to increasing your email open rates.
Or is it the ultimate?
If you know of any other methods, let me know and I'll probably add it to the list (and give you credit, of course).
TOP 5 FREE RESOURCES TO WRITING irresistible SUBJECT LINES
Before I write the "ultimate guide to subject lines" myself... ;)
Here are some hand-picked resources you can use right now to come up with subject lines that attract more opens: