The money is in the email list, right? I am sure you’ve read this before but for this to happen, the first step is for people to open your emails and this is exactly what I will discuss in this post: Easy ways you can use right now that will dramatically increase your email open rates.
Before getting into how to improve your email open rates, it is important to understand the real value and power of email marketing. There are many statistics from different organizations that outline a number of important facts about the effectiveness of email as a marketing tool. Some of the most interesting are:
- It is expected that by 2017, the total email accounts will be more than 4.9 billion (radicati)
- 91% of consumers check their emails at least once per day (exact target)
- Email is almost 40X better than social media in getting new leads and customers (mckinsey)
- Aprx 40% of people purchased something based on a promotion they received by email (convience&convert)
The bottom line is that email marketing marketing is not dead (or even close) and it is still a very important tool in your digital marketing arsenal. If you want to utilize email marketing the first step is of course to create an email list and get people to subscribe, but this is not enough.
Besides having a large email list you also want subscribers to open your emails and engage with the content otherwise you won’t have anything to gain from it.
Fortunately when you send out an email to your subscribers everything is measured so you know how many people opened your email and clicked on your links, how many people marked it as spam and how many people unsubscribed from the list. Knowing this information is important since you can compare your statistics before and after you do the changes below and see the improvement.
#1 – It all starts with a good subject line
One of the first things that you see in your inbox is the subject line. If you find the subject line interesting you may click to see what’s inside, if not you probably delete the email without opening.
It is not surprising that according to statistics, almost ⅓ of email recipients open an email because they liked the subject line.
How can you make your subject lines interesting?
- Keep it short, less than 50 characters.
- Don’t make fake promises not supported by the content of the email.
- Don’t use all capitals or exclamation marks
- Avoid words that give the sense that the recipient has to do something hard (like reading a long report) but use words that describe benefits. If you landed on this post from my email list, check again the subject line I have used.
- Test different types of subject lines to find out what works for your audience. You can do this through your email marketing tool, or by simply segmenting your list and sending out the same email (with a different subject line) and measuring the results.
#2 – Write to first person, make it personal
Until recently I was sending my emails from ‘Reliablesoft Blog’ or ‘Digital Marketing Pro’ but after I changed it to my name, my email open rates increased.
Also, within the email content try to make it less formal by adding a welcome message like ‘Hi [Name]’ (if you have the name of the recipient) and also end up the message with your name and a friendly message like ‘Until next time’ or ‘Best’.
#3 – Stay away from spam filters
More than 20% of emails send never make it to the subscriber’s inbox. Why is that? They get caught by spam filters. Why does this happen?
Because of the subject line – As mentioned above avoid using symbols, exclamation marks, words like ‘Free’, ‘Buy’, ‘Rich’. When mail servers find these in the subject line they may proactively move the emails to the spam folder. Companies have strict rules about incoming email and you want to avoid that.
When a lot of recipients mark your email as spam – When a lot of people mark your email as spam this passes a negative signal to the spam filters and the end result is all your emails to end up in the spam folder even before people see them. This can happen with microsoft emails (hotmail, outlook.com) Gmail and Yahoo.
Too many links in the email content – This is another reason that can lower the integrity of your emails. Avoid having too many links in the content especially if they link to different domains.
#4 – Find the best time to email your audience
When you have an email list and you are not sure when is the best time to email them, try this:
Start by choosing statistically proven dates/times to send your emails.
After you send a couple of email campaigns take a look at your campaign statistics especially the dates/times that you had most email opens and adjust your sending time/dates accordingly.
Do this A/B test for a number of weeks and you will end up with the best time that works for your list.
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#5 – Content Quality
In many cases people configure their email marketing platforms to send out an email automatically whenever they publish a new post on their blog or website. While this is a great method to save time, it is not the best when it comes to the quality of your email content.
Instead of sending automated emails from your RSS feed, try to manually create your emails by making the content more useful and interesting for your readers.
Tell them exactly why you are emailing them (without too many details) and give them easy ways to find out more about your new post or new product by adding clearly identified links in your content.
People that find your content interesting once will open your email again and this will gradually increase your open rates.
#6 – Mobile Compatibility
The majority of people read their emails using smartphones. This means that if your email is not optimised for viewing on mobile, you are in trouble.
Take a look at these mobile email statistics by hubspot and you will understand the importance of sending mobile friendly emails. In summary, 74% of mobile owners use their phones to check their emails and 51% of all email opens, comes from mobile.
There are many tools to help you with previewing and optimising your emails for different devices, Litmus is the most popular but it’s very expensive for small businesses and bloggers.
The easiest way to ensure that your emails are mobile friendly is to use a responsive email template (check with your email marketing tool) and to make simple tests by opening your emails on different mobile clients. You don’t have to test everything but start with the most popular: Gmail, mail app on iphone, inbox and Yahoo mail.
#7 – Review and update your list
A misconception that many people have about email marketing is that the bigger your email list is, the better. This is wrong, a better approach is “the most engaging your email list is, the better”.
For example if you have an email list of 10,000 subscribers but your open rate is 10% then on average the active people on your list is 1000.
If on the other hand, you had a list of 5,000 subscribers but your average open rate is 25% then you have 1250 active subscribers.
Don’t forget that a smaller list with a higher engagement rate can avoid spam filters easily than a bigger list with a low engagement rate.
The fastest way to ‘clean up your list’ is to check your statistics and remove subscribers that have not opened an email from you in the last 6 months. There are of course other ways to ensure that your list is active by asking people to re-confirm their subscriptions every couple of months but this is a more advanced and time consuming task rather than doing regular clean ups.
#8 – Earn your subscribers the hard way
It goes without saying but sometimes it’s good to mention it: Do not buy email subscribers, it’s not a good practice, it can damage your domain and reputation and you won’t have anything to gain from them.
Buying email lists from other ‘companies’ will not help you in a way. Sending people emails that did not ask for, it’s a spam action and will definitely lower your open rates with a number of negative consequences.
#9 – Use email authentication
Email authentication is a way to convince email providers that you are allowed to send emails from your domain (using a third party provider). It’s a bit of technical stuff but successfully implementing email authentication will definitely help in improving your open rates.
Most known email marketing providers (i.e. mailchimp, aweber) offer this service to their clients and even if it comes at an extra cost, it is certainly something you need to consider.
#10 – Make it easy to unsubscribe from your list
How is this related to open rates?
When someone wants to stop receiving messages from you, they usually unsubscribe from your list and everything is good.
If the unsubscribe button is nowhere to be found in your email (or too small to see it), they will most probably mark your email as spam so that they don’t get it in their inbox.
If a lot of people do the same thing, your open rates will gradually decrease.
Don’t be offended if someone wants to unsubscribe from your list, it happens all the time so play it safe and give them the opportunity to do so easily. At the end of the day you need active people in your list that like to get your emails and not people who don’t want to hear from you.
What other tips can you share for improving email open rates?