How to Improve Your Email Open Rates

man lounging on couch, scrolling through his email on his cellphone

Email marketing was a huge piece of the marketing puzzle in 2016. Virtually every company with any kind of CRM system was emailing their contact list on a regular basis. And who can blame them? It’s hard to ignore a marketing channel that averages a 3800% return.

Despite the fact that email marketing has been utilized for over two decades, many brands still aren’t optimizing their processes to maximize exposure and engagement. Creating marketing emails is a relatively simple task, and the potential cost of a non-efficient email program can be immense, so there’s no excuse for ignoring modern email marketing best practices.

If you’ve had any experience with email marketing at all, you should be quite familiar with open rate metrics. Open rate is a measurement of how many people viewed your email for a specific campaign. Systems can collect this data via an image embedded in the email that gets downloaded to a server when someone views said email.

In a report by GetResponse, researchers asked 1,831 marketers from all over the world about email marketing. Here are the results:

  • 57% will increase their budget for email marketing while only 2% said otherwise
  • 21% said that email marketing shows the highest proof of Return on Investment (ROI)

Open rates differ from one industry to another, but the consumer goods industry boasts the highest average open rate at 41.40%. There are three major factors that affect your email open rates:

  1. Subject line (does it compel users to open the email?)
  2. Who you send the email to (are email recipients part of a relevant audience?)
  3. How you send the email (are you sending them at the optimal time?)

Read on to find out how you can tweak your existing email marketing strategy to give open rates a much-needed boost. Similarly, if you’re just starting out, then here are the dos you should take note of:

Email Subject Line Tips

Write a Killer Subject Line

1. Create a Subject Line That Grabs Attention

Subject lines are the first thing a user sees before deciding to open an email. Most people are busy or flooded with emails daily, so it’s important that your email stands out from the rest and compels the user to see what’s inside.

Here are some tips for making your subject line more appealing to users:

  • Keep it short and sweet
  • Use a conversational tone
  • Fit the style to your target audience
  • Stir their curiosity

The best advice you can possibly get is to test different subject lines and to see which ones work best for your audience. A/B testing isn’t just for landing pages and ads; your subject lines can benefit from this too.

2. Tell Users What’s Inside

Although creating a sense of mystery can occasionally encourage curiosity, not telling the recipient what to expect from your email is usually a bad thing. Your best bet here is to tell the user how your email is going to benefit them in the shortest time possible (e.g., How to Improve Office Productivity in Less than Five Minutes).

Don’t use click-bait titles! It’s always a bad idea to try to get your email opened by making false promises. Your audience will get annoyed and learn to avoid opening your emails in the future. Even if they do end up opening an email, you’ll probably notice fewer clickthroughs and higher unsubscribe rates.

Tips for List Segmentation


1. Be Mindful of List Segmentation

By doing this, you’ll create a more focused email list. You can segment your contacts by industry, purchase behavior, demographics, or by online behavior. When someone receives your email, the first thing that comes to their mind is how relevant the email is to them. If your email doesn’t address a topic that sparks immediate interest, you can be sure that it won’t get opened.

Great content marketing has always been about context, so the more specific you can be, the more success you can expect to have.  

2. Keep Your List Fresh

Two things to consider when it comes to database decay: contacts might have changed their email address over time, or they don’t want to hear from you anymore. So you should update your contact list every six months or so.

If leads haven’t engaged with any of your communications in this period, it might be time to remove them from your email list. Another way to deal with this is to send a “check-up” email to ask the user if they’re still interested in receiving your emails.

Tips for Sending

Sending Mail

1. Contact One Person at a Time

Write your email as if you’re talking to one person. Although you’re aware that you’re sending the same email to a lot of people, the recipient might not realize this is so. If a user feels like they’re just another contact in an email blast, the likelihood of engagement is greatly reduced.

2. Be Personal, Not Institutional

Some email users already filter emails as soon as they see an email address from a company. A good practice is to use an email address that represents a real person (i.e., [email protected]). People want to feel like they’re important, and one way to make them feel special is to personalize. Using first names in your emails is the first step to achieving this.

3. Avoid Spam Filters

Nowadays, a lot of email servers have built-in spam filters. If your marketing email gets caught by these filters, your open rates will undoubtedly be low. You should avoid words like “free,” “sale,” “buy,” and “discount,” overlinking and a few other tactics.

4. Find Your Timing

You’ll be surprised at how much timing matters in email marketing. There are a few things to consider like economic period, the day of the week, and the time of day. If you’re not choosing a good time to market a specific product or service, your open rate will plummet.

Emails should be sent on the middle days of the week (e.g., Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), either in the late morning or early afternoon for the highest chance of being opened.


Follow these simple tips, and your email marketing should be good to go! That being said, don’t expect a complete turnaround in your open rates within the first few weeks of implementing changes. As soon as your email list gets used to the changes (1-3 months), that’s when you can expect to see results.

Ready to start building your next email marketing campaign? Check out our data solutions to make sure you’re reaching your ideal in-market audience.