We at Bounceless know the importance of a well-oiled, smoothly running Email Marketing Campaign. We know that having a marketing campaign that provides the maximum return on your investment is dependent on multiple factors, including bounce backs, your deliverability scores and open rates.

In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about open rates. First thing to tackle is the question…

What are Email Open Rates?

Your email rate, to put it simply, is the percentage of the total number of your subscribers who have opened your email. Depending on a number of factors, including what is on the subject line, how relevant the subject is to your subscribers and more, the exact percentage varies.

Why should you care about Email Open Rates?

If you are reading this article, you are very likely an email marketer or are somehow related to an email marketing campaign. Otherwise, you are lost. Chances are, it’s the former. And if you are an email marketer, your main goal is to increase your subscriber list, reach out to a larger audience and so, get a better result on your email marketing campaign.

Just having a massive number of contacts in your subscriber list does not guarantee success. Success of your campaign is dependent on a number of things, including your open rates. If your content is not received and opened by your subscribers, your email marketing campaign is not doing much.

This is why you should care about your open rates and work on boosting them. There are number of steps you can take to improve your open rates and reach as many followers as possible and we will take a look at them in this article.

It goes without saying that the more followers engage with your content, the more effective your campaigns will be. Is there a specific number that we can say is the definitive percentage you should aim for? Unfortunately not. However, the average across several industries falls at around 20% according to MailChimp. You should aim for around 20% to 40% to achieve the best results as a general rule. You should also look at the open rates for your industry so that you have a realistic sense of both what to expect and what to set as a goal for your email marketing campaign.

How to calculate Open Rates?

The open rate for your email marketing campaign is calculated by a simple equation:

Open Rates = Unique Opens/(Total Number of Emails Sent--Number of Bounced Emails)

It’s a relatively straightforward equation that takes the number of unique opens (not counting the same person opening the same email several times) and dividing it by the total number of emails minus the number of emails that have been bounced back.

Your email marketing campaign is something you need to consider holistically, taking into account all parts, and an example of that is the fact that your open rates are affected by your bounce rates. You should seek to improve all aspects of your marketing campaign, and Bounceless has a guide to help you improve your email marketing campaign’s bounce rate.

Getting back to the topic of open rates, it is also important to understand that open rates are not a 100% accurate measure and that they should always be taken as an approximate and not a definite number. That is not to say that your open rates are wrong, it is simply a fact that you should be aware of, as part of having a thorough knowledge of all aspects your email marketing campaign.

How are Email Open Rates tracked?

Open rates are tracked via an ingenious method. A tracking pixel – literally just one pixel, 1x1, transparent and invisible – is included in all the HTML emails sent out. When your intended recipient opens the email, that minuscule image is downloaded and that download marks that email as opened on your side.

The accuracy can be either over- or under- and there are a number of reasons for that. Your intended recipients could have an email client that is incapable of displaying HTML with images, they could have turned off the option to download images – both of which, amongst other reasons, could lead to an under-reporting of open rates.

At the same time, interference by anti-virus software – which scans emails when they arrive – sometimes triggering the download of the tracking pixel, emails being previewed but not opened and other similar reasons could lead to your open rates being over-reported.

As stated above, whether over-reported or under-reported, your email open rates as displayed by your choice of email marketing client are something you can use as a guideline, and whatever it is, you should strive to improve on that percentage by increasing it. By not settling, you can attempt to gain an edge over your competitor’s by increasing your open rate to something that beats the others in the industry.

You know what email open rates are, how to calculate open rates and why they are important. Now, let’s move on to the important question:

How to improve Email Open Rates?

In this guide, we will look at 10 methods you can use to improve your email open rates and in turn, improve your email marketing campaign and achieve the best results possible.

1) Personalize your emails

People like being acknowledged and studies have shown that a personalized subject line increases email rates by 50%. You can take advantage of the fact that consumers want personalized service and boost your open rates by a whopping 50% by simply including your intended recipient’s name in the subject line.

If possible, you can also customize the actual email to specifically cater to your intended recipients, but the subject line is a start. Your email marketing client should have tools that allow you to add a tag to add your contacts’ name in the subject line and just having that is an excellent start to boosting your email open rates.

2) Segment your campaign

You can, and should, take the above method a step further by segmenting your email list.

What is email list segmentation? Email list segmentation is the process of dividing your contacts into smaller groups based on a number of categories, like purchase history, geographical area, their interests and more.

Segmenting your email list makes it infinitely easier to send your subscribers content that is actually useful and relevant to them, which will easily boost your email open rates. Most people who conduct email marketing campaigns send their emails to every contact on their list without any form of segmenting, and this lazy method of email marketing actually does more harm than good.

According to MailChimp, segmenting your email list can lead to a 14.31% increase in your email open rates. So, there is really no reason not to segment your email list.

Keep that fact in mind and segment your contact list by several categories and target specific audiences with your email marketing campaign. For instance, if you are doing a localized promotion within a certain geographical area – say the greater Chicago area for instance, use your segmented email list to find contacts who reside in the greater Chicago area and send them and only them an email about the promotion. By doing this, you allow your subscribers to be more engaged with your campaign and avoid spamming their inboxes with emails that are irrelevant to them.

3) Qualify your subscribers

While it might seem like a good idea to get as many subscribers as possible, have as many contacts as possible… it is not. If you have subscribers who aren’t remotely interested in your actual industry or the service you provide, it will reduce overall engagement and open rates and that is not good.

Make sure you qualify your subscribers before they join your email list by using a relevant lead magnet. A lead magnet is something that attracts potential customers and gives them an option to opt-in for your marketing campaign.

Instead of using something that catches the attention of everyone – say a giveaway for a 100$ coupon or something of the like – use something that will catch the attention of your target customers. If you provide an email list cleaning service, for instance, give a discount on your services for those who opt-in.

By aiming to attract only people who are relevant to your field, you increase the likelihood of a larger percentage of your contact list engaging with your emails, increasing the effectiveness of your campaign as a whole.

4) Use your subject line effectively

One part of using your subject line effectively is targeting your intended recipient personally, by addressing them by name. However, you can do more with the subject line by using it to grab their attention.

Using subject lines that are direct and to the point is one method you can optimize how you use your subject lines. With a subject line like “How to Double the Number of Subscribers in A Week” you are grabbing your intended recipients’ attention by being bold and to the point, telling them exactly what they will find in the email (obviously, make sure the email does deal with the actual subject, else you risk alienating them).

You can also utilize their curiosity by using a subject line like: “You Won’t Believe What the CEO of ABC Company said about…” A subject line this exploits the curious nature that is part of every human being to make your intended recipient click open your email.

There are other ways you can optimize your subject line, like using offers (“Free Stuff For You”), urgency (“50% off XYZ Product, Only for 24 Hours”), human interest (“The Story of John Smith, Founder of ABC Company”), news (“Studies Report that…”) and more.

The point is that you should be maximizing the effectiveness of your subject line. Instead of sticking to just one of the methods listed above, rotate between a few as needed and keep things fresh. Doing that allows you to keep things interesting and make sure your subscribers open more of your emails.

5) Consider the time

While it may not seem immediately obvious, the time you send your emails at is also quite important and is a significant factor that contributes to your open rates.

There have been studies conducted on this matter and their results provide a guideline for the days and times you should be sending out emails. As far as days go, Tuesday is the best option, followed by Thursday (useful if you are sending two emails a week) and then Thursday.

For time, a general guideline to follow is to send your emails early in the morning, 6:00 AM or around 10:00 AM. 12:00 PM, 2:00 PM are other popular times and then there is also the stretch of time from 8:00-12:00 AM.

By sending emails on these days and at these times, you maximize the chance that your subscribers engage with your email and boost the effectiveness of your marketing campaign.

6) Clean your email list

As an email marketer, you should know that having inactive contacts on your email list, who don’t open your email, don’t engage with the content you send them, will hurt your deliverability score. A surefire way to boost your open rates is to get rid of these specific contacts from your email list.

You can monitor inactive subscribers for a certain amount of time – say 3 to 6 months – so that you don’t purge contacts who are only temporarily unavailable, but if they do not engage with any of your emails over a long stretch of time, there is no benefit to keeping them on your list.

Using an email list cleaning service is the best way to deal with clean your email list. Doing it manually takes a lot of time and manpower, but you don’t need to be worried. Power email list cleaning tools exist, and Bounceless is amongst the best of them.

7) Optimize subject lines for mobile

As of 2018, 70% of all internet traffic comes from mobile devices and 75% of Americans say they check their emails from their smartphones. Further, 61% of email accessed in 2017 was from a mobile device.

It is undeniable that we are moving towards a more mobile world and you need to cater to that. In addition to following the guidelines for subject lines mentioned above, you also need to keep your subject lines relatively brief so that they are visible on mobile devices at first glance. Research shows that 7 words/41 characters is the optimum figure you should aim for.

8) Use the 'From:' field effectively

If your recipient doesn’t recognize who has sent the email, the chances of them deleting it, or worse, reporting it as spam is higher than usual. To avoid this tragedy, utilize your “From” field to its maximum. Include your individual name or your brand name, so that it is immediately recognizable to your readers.

9) Avoid the spam filter

You should avoid making your email look like spam, both in terms of its contents but also by its subject line. Avoid any keywords that might be associated with spam, avoid ALL CAPS – which we all know is the equivalent of yelling over the internet -- and avoid the excessive use of exclamation marks.

Keep an eye on your email marketing campaign’s statistics and if you see emails with higher than average bounce rates, dig deeper and see if you can’t find if your emails are being identified as spam so that you can go about fixing this critical issue.

10) Quality is still key

In the internet, much like elsewhere in life, people still look for quality. You have a choice between sending low-effort emails or sending emails that are well put-together and have some value.

You should always, always choose the latter. There is no scenario where sending a low-effort email is anywhere near a good idea. Your recipients will tolerate one or two bad emails, but if there is no quality in all your emails, they will cease to engage with your email marketing campaign. Make sure your emails are well-written, engaging, well-formatted and provide your readers with value.

Remember: Always, always provide quality content.

As we mentioned earlier, the success of an email marketing campaign is dependent on a variety of factors. As someone carrying out an email marketing campaign, you need to monitor your performance by paying close attention to key email marketing metrics, which includes your open rates. Learning the data that drives your email marketing campaign and exploiting it to your advantage will definitely boost your success.

If you need a little help in perfecting your email marketing campaign and making it more efficient and effective, look no further than Bounceless for all your email list cleaning needs.