Increase email open rates with these strategies

Increase email open rates

The consensus in the email marketing industry is that a good email open rate is between 15-20%.  If you are below this, there are some simple things you can do. But with a little more work you can get your email open rate much higher.

Increasing your email open rate directly impacts the click rate too. This leads to more conversions. And conversions directly impact the success of your email marketing campaign.

Below are strategies to get the highest possible email open rate.

Increasing email open rates requires getting to the inbox

Your first objective with any email campaign is to get to the inbox and not the spam/junk folder. Seems obvious, but too often important steps are skipped.

So, before spending your time tweaking subject lines, A/B testing, or doing everything else this article outlines, make sure you’ve setup your email marketing for success.

And, while this may sound surprising, we constantly find marketers sending marketing emails with simple email marketing fundamentals completely ignored: Bad sender domains, missing DNS records, and so on.

These technical email setup details are not part of the purpose of this article. We’ve put together a separate article on Email inbox placement and avoiding the junk folder.

Once you have confirmed your email isn’t landing in the spam/junk folder, it’s time to focus on increasing your email open rate.

It starts with the subject line.

A great subject line increases email open rates

The subject line is the first thing people read when they receive your email. The subject line is the determining factor when they decide to open your email, ignore it, trash it, or mark it as spam.

Writing a clear, concise subject line is often the difference between a successful email marketing campaign and a failed email marketing campaign.

Below are some recommendations for how to craft a great subject line:

  • Ask a question – this can be as simple as, “Mark, what is your biggest marketing challenge?” A question is a great way to capture the readers attention. This is especially useful if you target your question to fit the audience.
  • Announce a product or offer – “15% off today for fitness friends like you, Anne“. A offer or announcement that is relevant to the recipient will have a high likelihood of getting read.
  • Offer a solution to a problem – “Our SMS marketing delivery rates are 95%“. By addressing a problem the recipient is facing, perhaps with sending SMS marketing, you are positioning yourself as a solution to a problem.
  • Educate – “Update your terms of service to adhere to new CCPA laws”. Providing education creates value for the recipient and gives them information they may need – before they knew they needed it.

There are many other opportunities. The point is to craft a meaningful subject line that the recipient finds useful and relevant.

Read more: 12 tips for email subject lines that won’t get ignored

Personalize your subject line to increase email open rates

In the preceding examples of email subject lines several included the recipient’s first name. While you may not always have this data available, personalizing the subject line is a great way to achieve higher open rates.

What should you consider personalizing? First name and company name are the most obvious candidates. However, depending upon the data you have, you can go even further. For example:

  • Mark, you’re an O+ donor and we’re low on your blood type
  • Amy, we know you love spin class and we just updated our schedule
  • Tom, your favorite whey shake mix is back in stock
  • You made your 3rd purchase – thank you, Kayley, here is a 15% coupon

In the examples above, the bold text is an example of content that is personalized.

Use emojis to help your subject line standout

Most email subject lines are pretty boring. To increase email open rates, your goal is to standout! While not appropriate for every email, use emojis and other non-standard text in your subject line. For example:

  • Amy, the [🎥 Webinar] on SMS marketing for💪 fitness gyms is tomorrow
  • [Cheat sheet for you]🔍the ABCs of A/B testing your emails

Both the bracketed, e.g. [Webinar], text and use of emojis helps the email standout in the inbox. It provides some visual cues to the reader about what the topic of email is about.

Here is a list of the 100 most commonly used emojis. Just copy/paste into your email subject lines.

Consider different subject line lengths

Marketers love to debate which works better: a short focused subject line or a longer more detailed subject line.

Use a subject line too short and you miss out on content you could have included. But, long subject lines get clipped on mobile email clients. This Prevents them from even being seen. And, a long subject line negates the benefit of the email preheader.

Aim for the goldilocks zone

The goldilocks zone for your subject line is not too short (more than 40 characters) and not too long (less than 60 characters).

Therefore, the ideal subject line length is between 40  – 60 characters. This ensures your subject line is readable on any email client. A mobile client allows for less space than a desktop client and in both cases, a longer subject line may get trimmed.

Staying in the goldilocks zone allows you to optimize the preview text of the email. Set in the preheader.

Use this tool to check how many characters your subject line is. DailyStory has built in tools to help you optimize your subject line length.

Always use a personalized preheader

Modern email clients show a preview of an email in the inbox – this provides additional information beyond the subject line. Email clients determine what is shown exclusively by what text comes first in the email.

Set email preheader to increase open rates

While the subject line is the most important factor for your email open rates. The preheader is a very close second. And you should always take as much time writing the preheader as your do the subject line.

A preheader is text content, usually not more than 100 characters, that is added to the top of an email using some advanced HTML. The preheader is a feature provided in modern email marketing platforms.

When the email is opened, the preheader is hidden from view. But, by adding the content to the very top of the email, the preheader ensures that it is the content displayed when the email is previewed.

Learn more about the technical details about how an email preheader works.

Writing an effective email preheader

The preheader content should not be the same as the subject line. It should be personalized and it can include emojis, but the preheader should treated like a small ad or continuation of the subject line.

If the subject line captures the readers interest, the preheader is often used to validate the expected content. For example, here is a sample subject with preheader:

Subject: “📅 Amy, we updated our spin class schedule

Preheader: “more spin classes at 5:30A, 6:00P, and 7:30P be sure and sign up soon as classes are likely to fill up.

The end result is something like:

📅 Amy, we updated our spin class schedule – more spin classes at 5:30A, 6:00P, and 7:30P…

In the above preheader example we include more copy that we expect to be shown in the inbox preview. The overflow copy is replaced with ellipses. But that’s ok. Too much is better than too little!

Remember, if you don’t set the preheader you are letting the email client pick the text is shows. If you care about email open rates, always set the preheader.

DailyStory has built in tools to tell you if you have the right length for your preheader text.

Don’t ignore the from address

You’ve written a killer subject line. Optimized it with personalization, emojis, and complimented it with a preheader that just begs for the reader to open an email.

Don’t hit send just yet. There is one more thing to do: set the from address.

A basic email address is “hello@example.com”. But an email address can also include a more friendly name. For example, “Rob Howard <rob.howard@example.com>”. So why not use something descriptive for your marketing emails too. For example,  “Marketing Webinars <hello@example.com>”.

Your marketing emails should always come from an email address that identifies who the sender is.

Want to make the email important, make it appear to come from someone senior on your team that customers know. Like your CEO, “[Elon Musk] <elon.musk@example.com>”. Is the email about an upcoming webinar? Set the address to include the company name and the focus “Tesla Webinars <hello@example.com>”.

The goal is to use the email address to signal who and what the email is about.

Should I send from a no-reply address?

Generally we’re not fans of sending from a no-reply address.

Email is meant to be used for discussions. Furthermore, it’s possible to set a reply address when sending the email so that the email comes from one address, e.g., “Tesla Webinars <hello@example.com>” but replies are sent to support@example.com.

A/B test to optimize email open rates

Finally, once you’ve optimized everything, test.

A/B testing works best if you are sending to a large audience and you have some good ideas about your subject line and preheader variations. A/B test  through your marketing automation solution and track the results.

In conclusion

Start by focusing on getting your email to the inbox. Then turn your attention to the subject line and preheader. Optimize these and use personalization. And don’t forget about the from address.

Following these strategies will help you craft better email marketing campaigns that lead to higher email open rates.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get best practices, recommendations, and tips for digital marketers