Email Open Rates: What's a Good One and Tips to Improve

Email open rates are a critical barometer when it comes to campaign success.

It’s tempting to think email marketing is all about the conversion, but overlooking your email open rate is a mistake.

Prospects can’t even see your best offer, call to action or other vital points unless they actually open and read your email.

Learning more about optimizing your emails to improve your open rate metrics can also help improve your conversion rates since more people are opening and reading your content.

How can you boost this all-important metric?

Small tweaks to the way you target your marketing, the subject lines you choose and even enhancing your deliverability can help improve your stats and your overall conversion rates.

In this guide, we will walk you through the average open rate for email and how to improve your open rates.

Make the most of your email marketing ROI by taking the following steps to optimize your messaging before you launch your next campaign.

What is an email open rate?

Your email open rate is a metric that describes how many of the people you send an email to actually take the time to open it.

Your email open rate is calculated as a percentage, using the number of emails you sent and the number of emails opened by recipients.

You’ll subtract out any bounced emails since a prospect can’t open something they have not seen yet.

To calculate your email open rate for a specific campaign, use the following formula:

email open rates = emails opened divided by the total number of emails that hit inboxes

Source: Campaign Monitor

Rates can vary by campaign or email sent. Thus tracking this information can help you determine what type of content resonates with your audience members and what doesn’t.

What is the average open rate for email marketing?

Your business is unique but comparing your stats to the industry average can give you a sense of how well your marketing team is targeting your specific market, how compelling your content is and what kind of ROI you’re getting on your email marketing investment.

Our friends at Campaign Monitor shared with us their recent research into Industry Email Marketing Benchmarks, and it outlines the average email open rates across all industries.

Across all industries, the average email open rate currently sits at 17.92%; this metric is a good place to start but checking your specific industry average will give you a better idea of how well you are doing.

For example, a business specializing in advertising and marketing should have an open average of around 18.65%, while an organization offering healthcare or dental services would average about 19.12%.

Looking at your specific industry can let you know how well you are performing overall.

Knowing the open rate for your industry allows you to properly compare your results and understand how well you are doing with your niche-specific prospects and competitors.

How can I increase my email open rates?

There are several steps your team can take to boost your email open rates; most take only minutes but will have a big impact on your email marketing metrics.

From correctly targeting your message to coming up with a compelling subject line and even ensuring your reader knows who the message is from, these tips will help you boost your open rate on your next campaign.

Enhance deliverability

Make sure each of your messages is getting through to your audience’s inboxes and that you are not being flagged as spam.

From your subject line to maintaining good list hygiene, your prospects can’t open your messages if they do not see them.

Regularly updating your contact list and sending verification emails to those who sign up ensures that your recipients want to hear from you.

A verification email is typically sent once a user has subscribed to your emailing list or has set up a profile on your website. These emails verify data such as their email, phone numbers, or other information to ensure that the right person is creating this profile and not a fake using someone else’s information.

In this example by Webflow, they simply ask that their new account holders verify their email address by clicking either a simple call-to-action button or by copying and pasting a hyperlink into their browser, should the CTA button not work correctly for whatever reason.

webflow asks users to verify account in order to keep their information up to date

Source: Really Good Emails

Segmenting your list to customize your messaging can help as well. By targeting the right message to specific prospects, you can be sure your emails will really resonate with readers.

Sender information

Make sure your messaging gives a clear indication of who is sending the content.

Your branding, logo, and even your name should be shown, and the “From” portion needs to clearly reveal you as the sender.

This email is from Bernie Sanders' campaign, clearly explained in the From field

Source: Gmail

In this example from political candidate Bernie Sanders, they clearly state not only in the “From” section whom the message is coming from, but their logo is a clear testament as to who this message is from.

Recipients don’t like surprises, and letting prospects know you’re the one sending that message will help boost your engagement and open rates.

Personalization matters

Personalized emails simply perform better than generic content.

Think about your actual paper mail – which envelope is more likely to be opened first; the one addressed to “occupant” or the one with your actual name?

Including personalized messaging can help build trust, boost engagement, and encourage a user to open your mail.

Now, it’s worth noting that personalization in email marketing goes a lot farther than simply adding a person’s name to the message. Personalized content is content that is relevant to each and every reader. Depending on how your email lists are segmented, personalization can be created based on:

  • Location
  • Gender
  • Viewing history
  • Purchasing history
  • User statistics and more

Use your subject line

You only have a few words—one line at most—to convey what your message is about and tempt the reader to take the next step and look inside.

You’re going to need to make every word count, and even throw in a few extra tricks to ensure you’re getting the opens you want to see on your campaign.

The length you choose for your subject line matters quite a bit.

Too short and your reader will have no idea what you are sending. Make your message too long, and it won’t show up in its entirety on mobile devices and even some laptops.

Since mobile devices account for about 61% of the emails opened worldwide, choosing the right length for mobile will help boost your success.

The most recent email marketing research suggests that instead of focusing on word-count, you want to pay particular attention to character count in your subject lines. The more compact you can make your subject line, the better since more emails are viewed on mobile devices, which allow for an average of 41 characters before the device cuts off the text.

This length may not work for every email you send, but it is an excellent starting point for your next campaign.

Include pop culture references

Want to boost your email open rates? Include a song or movie quote and watch this metric soar.

Simply using a movie title or other popular reference If the tie in makes sense or is a funny pun, try incorporating a bit of pop culture in your next message and see if this piece outperforms your average.

Trigger emotions—But in a good way

“Insider,” “confidential,” and “thrilling”: They may not be magic words, but these emotional words and phrases have a slightly magical impact on your open rate.

If your subject line is compelling and invites curiosity, your readers will click on the open button – just make sure the content lives up to what you’ve promised.

Know what not to say in an email subject line

While some words will inspire curiosity, and compel readers to click, others will make them scroll on by, or even click the dreaded unsubscribe button.

Any word or phrase that sounds like spam will likely be disregarded; a stroll through your own trash bin or spam file can give you a good idea of what spammy subject lines look like.

Use the “$” sign, offer a way to “make money at home” or even include how to “lose weight fast” and you’ll be looking at plummeting open rates.

Include an emoji

We use them on mobile devices, Facebook and there’s even a summer movie planned – emojis are here to stay!

How do these little symbols impact your open rates?

According to some recent research, they can boost your open rates, provided the emoji is relevant to the reader or content. In fact, a recent report by Experian stated that 56% of brands using emojis in their email subject lines had a higher overall unique open rate.

We’ve given the rundown on emoji here, but including one in your subject line can help boost your open rate and give you an edge over the text-only competition.

Something to keep in mind when using emojis is the fact that there are hundreds of different email clients being used by consumers worldwide. With that said, not all email clients will allow the use of emojis in email subject lines.

The good news—the most popular clients do.

When using emojis in your subject lines, it’s essential to remember that you want to use them only when appropriate. Simply slapping in a smiley face at the end of your subject line does little good for your open rates. However, when applied appropriately, emojis can help get your message across much easier than trying to stuff words into 41 characters.

This subject line includes the phrase "Email subject lines we" and then has the heart emoji.

Source: Campaign Monitor

Watch your frequency

Striking the right balance for frequency may take a while, but it is well worth tracking.

Send too many emails, and your unsubscribe rate could jump up – but send too few, and your customers could go elsewhere.

The balance for your business will depend on your industry, what you are sending, and your overall open rate so far.

Wrap up

Learning more about why email open rates matter and taking the time to calculate what your open rate is and how it relates to your industry average can help increase your email marketing ROI.

Use this critical metric to fine-tune your messaging and create emails your prospects won’t be able to resist.

Need to make sure those emails are arriving, and that you make the most of your investment? Check out our Tried & Trusted Guide to Email Marketing! It’s packed with 32 tips proven by our customers to get more engagement out of your email campaigns and help increase email open rates.

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