Increase your email open rates with these 8 strategies

In the email marketing industry, the consensus is that a good email open rate is between 15 percent and 20 percent.

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(s).

Below are eight 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 (or junk) folder. Seems obvious, but too often, important steps are skipped.

So, before spending your time tweaking subject lines, A/B testing or doing anything else this article outlines, make sure you’ve set up 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.

Dive into these technical email setup details with our guide on email inbox placement and avoiding the junk folder.

Once you have confirmed your email isn’t landing in spam, 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 one.

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.” An 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, for example), 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 the information they may need – before they know they need it.

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

See our 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:

  • Bill, 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.

Find out more about the email personalization available through DailyStory.

Use emojis to help your subject line stand out

Most email subject lines can be pretty boring. To increase email open rates, your goal is to stand out!

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 đź’Ş 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 stand out in the inbox. It provides some visual cues to the reader about what the topic of the 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. A long subject line also negates the benefit of the email preheader.

Aim for the ‘Goldilocks zone’

The “Goldilocks zone” for your subject line is not too short and not too long.

Therefore, the ideal subject line length is between 40 and 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 you 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 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 while it can include emojis, the preheader should be treated like a small ad or the continuation of the subject line.

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

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

Preheader: “More spin classes at 5:30 a.m., 6 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. Be sure to sign up soon as classes are likely to fill up.

In the above preheader example, we include more copy that we expect to be shown in the inbox preview. Any overflow copy will be 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 it 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, included emojis and complimented it with a preheader that just begs for the reader to open an email.

Don’t hit the “send” button 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 it.

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.

See our nine tips for effective A/B testing.

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.

As you’re improving your email open rates, consider leveling up your digital marketing with DailyStory. Features include automation, dynamic audience segmentation and more. Schedule your free demo with us today.

8 expert tips to create an email onboarding sequence that converts

It’s one thing to convert website visitors to email subscribers. It’s another to convert those subscribers into paying customers.

That’s what makes an effective email onboarding sequence so critical to your sales efforts.

An email onboarding sequence is a series of emails intended to deepen the relationship they have with your brand, show them how to make the most out of your product or service and/or get them to use your product or service as much as possible.

A recent study found that about 80 percent of marketers have reported increases in email engagement, while the ROI of email marketing has increased to $55 for every $1 spent on it.

With effective email onboarding, you can increase your customer lifetime value by about 500 percent.

And email marketing in general boasts a high ROI when used strategically.

Onboarding is about nurturing your email recipient with valuable information that builds a trusting relationship and guides them to decide to purchase a product or service from you. It can’t be forced (and there is an art to it), but there are several best practices that can help boost your conversion rate.

The good news is that your subscribers are already interested enough to give you their email addresses in exchange for engaging content and/or more information. (Check out these six ways to collect email addresses without a website.)

You can dive deeper into email drip campaigns (with examples) for further inspiration.

The following are eight expert tips to create an email onboarding sequence that converts leads into paying customers.

Begin with a confirmation email

It might sound simple enough, but you’ll want to verify that every new subscriber is a real person with a legitimate email address.

A concise confirmation email can do just that. The email is sent immediately with a link requesting the recipient verify his or her email address by clicking.

While most will likely confirm right away, you’ll want to include a follow-up confirmation email for anyone who fails to do so.

Of course, when it comes to confirmation emails, the simpler and more direct the better. Focus on a clear call-to-action, which asks the recipient to click to confirm his or her email address.

Seize the welcome email opportunity

This is the first official step (and possibly the most important) of the email onboarding sequence.

It’s your opportunity to make a strong first impression and show your subscribers why they should open future emails from you.

Consider taking the approach of offering guidance and expressing your appreciation for their subscription. Remember, this is about starting to build a relationship. Treat it that way.

Consider multiple sequences

Logic and thinking through engagement scenarios is critical for effective email onboarding sequences. Not all subscribers are going to engage with your business in the same way or even engage with your emails in the same way.

You’ll want to segment your audience to account for these differences so that you’re sending the right messages to the right people at the right time.

Different actions they take (like making a purchase) or actions they don’t take (like failing to open an email) should trigger different sequences.

Personalization helps

Personalizing your email onboarding sequence can increase both your open rates and click-through rates. It can also boost the overall user experience with your emails.

However, the trick to personalization (like including the subscriber’s first name in the subject line of your email) requires data about your audience.

Email addresses alone won’t cut it.

Look at including additional fields to collect more data, such as name, city, age and/or any other information that can help you better personalize your messages.

You also could include a “complete your profile” email in your onboarding sequence as a call-to-action to obtain more data about your subscribers. You can even include an incentive, such as a discount code, to encourage subscribers to do so.

Think mobile first

About 46 percent of all emails are opened on mobile devices. Therefore, mobile optimization for your email onboarding sequence is critical.

Tactics that can help you optimize your emails for mobile include (but are not limited to):

  • Use a responsive email template that automatically resize across devices and screen sizes.
  • Choose simple images that are a smaller file size, which will load more quickly.
  • Keep the character count in your subject line as short as possible since most mobile devices only show so much.

Focus everything around your call-to-action

Setting and achieving goals with your onboarding emails comes down to using the right CTAs at the right time while focusing each email on that CTA.

It’s common to be tempted to stuff too much into any one email. 

Remember who you’re writing to. More than ever, you’re writing for subscribers who often skim more than read.

Time is a valuable resource. No one will feel the need to invest a lot of time reading a long, unfocused email. An email with more than one CTA can also lead to confusion and a loss of subscriber engagement.

Focus your content on capturing the attention of your subscribers and then incentivizing them to take a specific action.

Engaging. Direct. Incentivized. 

Don’t overthink it. Pair your CTA with the right visuals, but the simpler the better.

Think through valuable content for your subscribers

Whether your sequence is educating your subscribers with tips, showing them how to best use your product, sharing how they can get the most out of your service or something else, your content has to be just as well-thought-out as your CTA.

This can include, for example:

  • Video tutorials
  • Freebies, like an ebook or webinar
  • Behind-the-scenes content
  • Q&A with industry-related experts

Whatever the specific content thread, map out each sequence. Then, balance out the anticipated actions that your subscribers could do so that you can meet them where they are every step of the way.

Test as much as possible

Email onboarding sequences shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. Testing will help you best understand what will work best with your subscribers.

One way to do this is with A/B testing. It’s about showing two variants of any particular element to different segments of your audience at the same time. You then compare which variant is more successful. A/B testing is also known as split testing.

Check out our nine tips to help you get the most out of your A/B testing efforts.

Plus, you can level up your email marketing skills with any of these eight online courses.

While you’re thinking through your possible email onboarding sequences, consider using DailyStory to optimize your digital marketing process with automations, audience segmentation and more. See more about how we can help, and schedule your free demo today.

Plain text or HTML email – which to use in your next campaign

Plain text emails focus on content versus design.

We’ve read a lot recently about a resurgence of plain text email. And, some email marketers even promote writing exclusively plain text emails instead of using HTML.

We at DailyStory want to share some of the research we’ve done and the recommendations we give our customers.

What is a plain text email?

A plain text email is devoid of images, colors, styles, tables and everything else marketers typically use to make emails as visually attractive as possible. It then sends as text/plain in the body of the email.

It includes no HTML, and any HTML that was included is stripped out.

Below is an example when viewing the raw email content:

An example of a plain text email

Should you send plain text-only emails?

No, you shouldn’t. And writing plain text-only emails is terrible advice.

With today’s modern email clients, there is no reason to send a plain text-only email.

Why?

Because writing an email that isn’t overloaded with images, colors, and styles can be a solid strategy for connecting with your intended audience.

Confused? Let’s dig in a little deeper.

Technical background on text/plain email

An email message can include both HTML and plain text content in the same email. And, some email clients now support a third option, AMP content.

This is called Multi-part MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions).

Don’t let the technical jargon scare you. All it means is your email may contain two versions: a plain text (text/plain) version and/or an HTML (text/html) version of your content.

Note that we said “versions” and not “copies.” This is because the text/plain and the text/html content can be different.

Mail clients can be (but usually are not) configured to only display plain text. In fact, configuring an email client to only display plain text is a lot of work.

And most email marketing platforms, including DailyStory, enable you to set both the HTML and plain text versions of your content.

For example, in DailyStory, you can switch between tabs to edit your HTML or text content (or use the drag-and-drop HTML designer).

DailyStory plain text email editor

While we don’t recommend sending plain-text emails, we do still recommend including the content in your email.

Always include plain-text content with your HTML content

You should always include an edited plain-text version of your content in your email in addition to your HTML content. The following are some of the reasons why.

Accessibility is important

People who have difficulty reading for any reason can use accessibility features to read email. Although many readers are capable of reading HTML, make sure to provide an alternative just in case.

Increasing popularity of Internet of Things (IOT), mobile devices, and smartwatches

Including plain text versions of your email content is important to ensure these devices properly display your content in alerts and notifications. Some devices may not have a browser built in to parse HTML content.

Decreased spam score

While some older anti-spam platforms have the ability to flag HTML-only versions of emails as spam, the real culprit is link and image to content ratios. Email with lots of images and links (but very little content) is a red flag. But your sender score and properly configured SPF and DMARC are much more important as it relates to spam scoring.

Some people do choose plain text

Some email clients, such as Microsoft Outlook, provide an option for users to only display the text-only version of an email. And some clients are exclusively built for plain text emails, such as Bat and Mutt. But keep in mind that users of these clients are not the target audience for most marketers.

As an example, SPAM Assassin, a popular Open Source anti-spam platform includes a rule MIME_HTML_ONLY. This rules triggers when an email message “only has text/html MIME parts” and is missing a text/plain alternative.

It should be noted that while the points about people choosing plain-text email readers are a real possibility, they are remote and the exception. The majority of modern email clients only display HTML.

While we recommend including content in the plain-text section of your email body, this content doesn’t need to be an exact copy of your HTML version. In fact, you should include only a summary and instead redirect them to an HTML version on your website.

The tactic that you should use as part of your email marketing strategy involves writing HTML emails that appear to be written as plain text.

Write HTML email that looks like Plain Text

So, what is the reason for writing an email that looks like a plain-text email?

  • Improved delivery: As an example, Gmail identifies HTML-dense emails as non-personal and thus less important. Because of this, it filters those emails to the “Everything else” category or worse, as “Spam.” This makes these messages more difficult to find.
  • It looks more personal: Email that isn’t HTML-heavy is perceived to be more personal. Because of this, it has a higher open rate than HTML-heavy emails.
  • It is easier to read: Simple emails – such as the ones you send to your friends or co-workers – are easier to read. This is both because of substance and style. Expect these emails as less formally written and not overloaded with links.
  • Readability on mobile devices: Related to mobility and the Internet of Things (IOT), more and more people read emails on mobile devices. And reading complex HTML emails on mobile devices can be frustrating.
  • Support for linked text: HTML email can use anchors to hide complex links. And the links can be as long and complex as required to capture click tracking data. A plain text-only email can’t use links and must include the full URL.
  • Track when the email is opened: Embedded tracking tags enable your email marketing platform to detect when an email is opened or viewed. This is only possible with HTML email.
  • Brand affirmation and identity: Logos and brand colors ensure that the recipient quickly identifies with the brand. This can create a level of trust beyond what can be accomplished with plain-text email.

Hopefully, by now, you realize that the best strategy is to use varying levels of HTML in your email marketing.

How much HTML to use in your email

We’ve laid out the case for HTML email and to avoid plain text-only email. Next, let’s talk briefly about how much HTML you should use.

For the sake of simplicity, we’ve identified three categories.

In reality, there is a continuum of very light HTML to very heavy HTML. The guidance below should give you a general idea of where you need to be based on your objectives.

  • Plain HTML email: HTML formatting used to look like it is text only. It may include basic stylings, such as bold text and links. An image may be included as part of the signature.
  • Light HTML email: Light HTML formatting. Typically a logo or other image, and some light formatting beyond a plain HTML email.
  • Heavy HTML email: HTML formatting that makes no attempt to appear as plain text. Typically with lots of images, colors, and laid out with tables.

Let’s look at some examples.

Plain HTML email

Check out this simple example of a cold email below that’s written to appear as a simple email. The objective here is for Anna, your recipient, to click the link or reply to the email.

Light HTML email

Here is a simple example of an email with light HTML markup. We’ve included images and some light styling.

Heavy HTML email

Here is an example of an HTML email that makes heavy use of HTML.

Choosing when to write a plain HTML email, light HTML email, or heavy HTML email depends on several factors:

  • Sender: Is this email sent from an individual or an alias?
  • Audience: Is the email meant to appear personal or impersonal?
  • Personalization: Is the email personalized to the recipient?
  • Purpose: Is the email communicating status or requiring an action?
  • Reply: Is a response required from the email?

Deeper dive into factors for the amount of HTML used

Plain HTML Email Light HTML Email Heavy HTML Email
Sender Appears to come from a person, e.g. anna@example.com Appears to come from a person, but on behalf of an application, e.g. anna@example.com Clearly comes from an application, e.g. orders@example.com
Audience Personal, one-to-one communication. One-to-one communication, but more formal. One-to-many communication. Formal.
Personalization Speaking to the person. Written for the person. Written about the person.
Purpose Solicit a direct reply. Generate a call-to-action. Solicit a call-to-action or is purely informational.
Reply Desired outcome Optional Not expected

Recommendation: For HTML-heavy emails where you don’t expect a reply, don’t use a no-reply email address.

Key points

Instead of writing plain text-only email, write HTML-light email. The majority of modern email clients all support HTML, and there are many benefits from even light use of HTML.

Always include a plain-text version of your email content along with your HTML version. The plain-text version should be a synopsis and ideally references a URL.

Choose the right amount of HTML to use depending on factors, such as the audience and the purpose of the message.

Personal communication should be light on HTML whereas broad impersonal communication can use heavier HTML.

Share your tips and ideas. We’d love your feedback!

DailyStory can help you optimize your email marketing. Our platform features dynamic audience segmentation, automation features, and more. Schedule your free demo with us today.