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Tips and Strategies to Improve Email Open Rate

Our friends at SubscriberMail shared this useful content in a recent newsletter. With their permission, we share it with you.


A short preface on open rates

Like Conference Calling, email marketing has many tricks and tips to be successful. Open rates have been falling in the email industry recently. This trend is not necessarily reflective of fewer people actually opening emails. The general decline is due to the fact that many of the new email clients that people are using have images turned off as the default, and also because some users prefer to have images turned off. In order for an "open" to be accurately tabulated by an email marketing service provider, an image - usually one pixel and transparent - needs to be displayed. The calling of this image from the service provider's web server indicates that the email has been opened. If the image is not downloaded from the server, it will not be counted as an "open," even though the recipient can still see and read all of the text-based content.

This being said, it is still important that email marketers take steps to optimize their open rates. Counted or not, opens are what drive your program's overall success.

Optimizing the From Name

With spam and phishing scams ever more prevalent in the inbox, making sure your recipients can clearly identify the sender of your email is increasingly important. Don't try to personalize the from name with a salesperson's name that your recipients may not recognize. Don't use a product brand name that someone outside of your company may not be familiar with. State your organization's name simply: ABC Company. Recipients should be able to clearly and quickly identify and recognize your company from your from name.

Testing subject lines

Never underestimate the importance of a compelling, well-constructed and effective subject line. If you can increase your open rate from 17 percent to 20 percent with a simple subject line test, that's an almost 18 percent improvement (not 3 percent!). If your list isn't big enough or you don't have the resources to do a true random split test (those of you using SubscriberMail can do this with our built-in split list feature), recurring A/B split tests will show patterns that will dictate what makes a subject line successful for you. (For more information on email testing, see our white paper. For help on creating winning subject lines, see our previous article.)

Maximizing the preview pane

While a passing glance through the preview pane may technically be counted as an "open" in your email reports, if your recipients never look any further, that glance isn't going to lead to a click-through. Optimize this area with text that compels readers to open the email to read more. Better yet, place your key call to action in this area to drive immediate click-throughs. As always, be aware of how your email will render in the preview pane if images are disabled, and design accordingly. (For more information on how to maximize email design, see our white paper.)

Checking content for Spam triggers

It goes without saying that if your email is delivered to a junk mail folder due to triggers that flag your message as Spam, it's much less likely to be opened than a message delivered to the inbox. While spam filters have customizable settings that are beyond an email marketer's control, making sure your message falls within the default values of popular Spam filters will be effective in the majority of instances. (For help on how to avoid being labeled "Spam," see our previous article.)

Keeping a squeaky clean list

A list in need of cleansing can not only drag your open rates down, it can also in worst-case scenarios hurt your delivery. An email sender's reputation is a critical factor in whether your email is delivered to the inbox, bulked, or bounced. Repeatedly sending to dead email addresses will negatively impact your sender reputation. SubscriberMail automatically removes these email addresses from your list and blocks them from re-import so you don't accidentally resend to them. We also closely monitor the sender reputation and overall delivery of our IP addresses.

Periodically cleansing your list of recipients who no longer take action on your messages is also a good idea. You may wish to employ a win-back strategy to first try to save these addresses or try to reach them in a different way, such as direct mail.

We are frequently asked what industry averages are but we don't like to quote these because open rates will vary among organizations. It's important not to focus on reaching "industry average" open rates, but rather to evaluate your own open rates in the context of your own email initiatives. Employing these strategies in your email marketing efforts can help drive your open rates, whatever they are currently, and more important by extension improve your other metrics as well.

September 24, 2007 in customers in the news | Permalink