5 Tips to Increase Your Email Open Rate

If nobody reads your emails, writing them is a waste of time. Who’s even seeing your marketing, let alone clicking through and taking the actions you want them to take?

For some organizations, low open rates create a self-fulfilling prophecy: their email list isn’t performing well, so they don’t put in the effort to help it perform better.

But there’s no reason why a bad email list has to stay bad. And even a good one has room to improve. Wherever your list is at, there are always things you can do get people to respond to your emails.

Here are five tips to increase your email open rate.

1. Try more than one subject line

A/B testing is a powerful tool when it comes to optimizing your email open rates. When your email list isn’t performing at the level you want, test variations to find out what’s going wrong. Are you trying too hard to be “cute” or trendy? Is it clear what the email is about or who it’s from? Are your subject lines just plain boring?

Every audience and every list is different. Depending on your industry and your brand voice, As you test your email subject lines, you’ll start to see trends in what works and what doesn’t, so your future subject lines will improve, too.

For starters, you might want to test a simple, direct subject line that clearly describes what’s in the email against one that sounds more intriguing or even “click baity.” You might be surprised to discover that your audience really just wants an accurate description of what they’re going to read.

Testing subject lines that are very different from each other will give you the best information about what your audience responds well to. If they’re too similar, it’s harder to tell why one is better or worse.

As you test different subject lines, you’ll want to keep track of your results over time and review them periodically. Previous results can help inform future tests, and viewing the results of each in context of all other test results can help you avoid drawing incorrect conclusions.

2. Personalize your message

Nobody likes to feel like they’re just a number. Even if you’re emailing thousands of people at a time, there’s no excuse to write impersonal, generic messaging. You might feel like you’re talking to a crowd, but every person on your list should feel like you’re talking to them privately (because that’s how people read their email).

Here are a couple of tips for personalizing your message.

Use people’s names

If people give you their names when they sign up for your email list, your email service provider should be able to dynamically include that information in your emails. You could test including people’s names in the subject line, or write every email as though it’s only going to the individual, more like an email they would receive from a friend or a colleague:

Hi [First name],

Thank you for . . . I thought you might like to know about . . .


[Real employee’s name]

Segment your list

Another way to make your list more personal (and make every email more relevant) is to segment your list. Instead of sending the same emails to your entire list, segments allow you to isolate groups of people based on their behavior or other information you have about them.

Your customers probably shouldn’t get the same emails as your prospects.

Your blog subscribers probably aren’t looking for sales announcements or product updates (unless your blog is about your product).

Ideally, you segment people according to their interests. Some organizations collect information like this up front, but you can also ask for it in your drip campaign or confirmation emails.

The point is to make sure that your emails are as relevant to your list as possible. As your messaging becomes more pertinent, your audience will become more engaged with your list, and your open rates will go up.

3. Find the best time to send

Think about how many emails you get in a day. Even an important email can get lost in the noise if you aren’t staying on top of your inbox. And depending on your job, you might also have some days that are far more busy than others. (Pastors, for example, are pretty busy on the weekends.)

That’s why it’s important to test for the best time to send your emails, too. The right email at the wrong time is going to have low open rates. And again, every audience is a little different. So there’s no universal “best time to send an email.” You just have to test it.

Finding the ideal time to send ensures that every email has the best shot of cutting through the noise.

4. Optimize for mobile

In case no one has told you: most people read their emails on their phones. Still, some organizations code their emails to only be easy to read on desktops. Over time, this is guaranteed to kill your open rates. Nobody wants to have to zoom in or scroll side to side to read every sentence of your email.

If your emails aren’t optimized for mobile, then your subject line, images, and email copy are all having to compensate for a terrible experience. Improve the experience, and your open rates will improve, too.

5. Write better emails

This is the obvious answer you might expect from a snarky coworker. But it’s true. When you write good emails that empower, inform, encourage, or entertain people, every person who reads them is more likely to read your next email. The next time they see your name in their inbox, they associate you with their previous experience.

If your open rates are low right now, odds are you haven’t written memorable emails. Writing better emails isn’t a quick tweak, but it can drastically improve the effectiveness of every email you send after.

Set goals you can achieve

Average open rates vary widely from industry to industry. If you’re concerned about your open rates, be sure that you’re comparing to either what’s normal for your industry or what’s normal for your organization.

Every business has their own standards for determining what’s a good open rate. Yours might be higher than your industry standards, based on how your emails have done in the past. Or maybe you need to start by aiming lower, because your email list has always struggled. The important thing is to set goals that your team can actually reach. Then you can set new goals.

Every list’s open rates can improve. The question is, are you willing to do what it takes to get there?