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You know what is painful to watch? Seeing online businesses with huge potential send out mediocre email campaigns and end up with low open rates.

Even though they started doing email marketing with the best intentions, sometimes – unknowingly – they have created habits that kill their open rate.

That’s why I’ve compiled a comprehensive guide with common email mistakes that harm your open rate and actionable tips to get your open rate back on track.

Before we start…

Let’s be clear about what an email open actually is.

The open rate is the percentage of unique people who opened your email campaign.

The GetResponse email marketing benchmarks report, shows that the overall average open rate hovers around 25%.
Email opens can vary between industries, countries, types of email,… so you might want to look up the exact benchmark for your specific business.

If your open rate is below 20% consistently, you need to take action. Ideally, you optimize your open rate until you reach 30% – 50% with a click rate around 1/6th of your open rate.

Let’s get your open rate back on track.
Here’s what might be happening.

You’re sending too many emails.

Like in every relationship, there needs to be a balance between together-time and me-time. If you are sending too many emails to your subscribers, they get annoyed, stop opening them and eventually, break up.

Try some A/B testing to find your sweet spot. Split your database in 2 segments and increase or decrease the sending frequency in one of them. Don’t change the sending frequency of the other segment. After a while, look at the open rates and click rates. Is there a difference?

Your subject lines, preview pane texts or headlines are ineffective.

People receive dozens of emails every day. A crowded inbox is one of the biggest frustrations people get to face. In order to stand out and distinguish your mailings from others, it is incredibly important to pay sufficient attention to your subject lines, preview pane text and headlines.

Use different approaches and set up A/B testing on each campaign to find out what works best for your audience.

How to write great subject lines:

  • Use short and actionable language.
  • Personalize your subject lines using data such as the first name or location of the reader.
  • Never make false promises in your subject line.
  • Always make sure that your subject line matches the main message of your email.
  • Mention what the newsletter is about.
  • Make your readers feel special.
  • Create a sense of urgency.
  • Use numbers.
  • Ask an intriguing question.
  • Be mysterious once in a while.
  • Your preview pane is the subjectlines’ partner in crime. It enforces your message and entices even more to open.

Your sender name or sender address is unclear.

The sender name and address tell who the email is from. Both must be recognizable and trustworthy for your reader. Otherwise, your email might be ignored.

Some A/B testing can show you which sender name works best. You can try switching between a personal name and the company name. Or maybe a combination of both?

Do not repeat your company name in the subject line if you’re already using it as the sender name. Your mailing will look a bit strange in the inbox when it shows the name twice. And as a consequence, you also lose valuable space in the subject line.

Your email template is not optimized for mobile devices.

According to a study of Litmus, 47% of all opened emails are read on a smartphone or tablet. If your email does not adapt to smaller screen sizes, it becomes less readable and it is more likely that your email will be deleted instead of read.

Mobile-friendly templates adjust themselves automatically. All blocks are nicely stacked, buttons are made larger and images adjust to the width of the screen. This makes it easier for the reader to navigate and click through to your website.

You’re not sending segmented, targeted or triggered emails.

What happens when you receive emails that were made especially for you? Right, you open them. Segmented campaigns and personalized emails simply perform much better than one-size-fits-all bulk emails.

Mailchimp has discovered that segmented email campaigns have a 10.64% higher open rate and a 100.95% higher click rate than non-segmented campaigns.

There are many creative ways you can segment your email list to create smart and effective email campaigns that your audience will love, from interests and activity to previous purchases and industry. When you collect more data about your audience, you have more opportunities to craft appealing, personalized emails.

Your content is dull, irrelevant or annoying.

If you’re not meeting the promises you made when someone signed up for your email list, the interest of your readers will quickly disappear and they will stop opening your emails.

Write emails from your audience point of view. You are not selling a product or a service, but a solution to their problem. Help them to understand. Guide them to the right decision.

Sharing valuable and tailored information or inspiration with your readers is a must to keep high open and click rates.

Your emails get caught in promotional tabs.

Mailclients like Gmail and Outlook.com have introduced specific tabs for promotional emails. This means that most emails coming from bulk email services are seperated from personal email messages and sent to a distinct seperate inbox instead of the primary inbox.

Unfortunately, there is little you can do about this. I could say “ask your subscribers to add your sender address to their contact list” but let’s be honest… who’d do this anyway?

The best way to get a shot at the primary inbox privilege is to focus on creating epic emails that people love and will actively search for. Also in the promotional tabs.

The positive side is that when people check their promotional inbox, they are often more open-minded and receptive to sales offers and marketing messages.

Your emails get caught in the spam folder.

Getting caught in the junk folder can be a pain in the back. It hurts your email performance and your brand.

According to a 2017 study of Return Path, 20% of marketing emails never reach the inbox. One in five emails gets marked as junk or was even filtered before it reached the inbox. A painful reality, even for the most seasoned marketers.

Spamfilters are constantly adapting to new spam techniques so what reaches the inbox today, might be filtered tomorrow.

There are several best practises you can follow to help you avoid the spam filter:

  • Build your own list. Never send emails to purchased, rented or scraped email lists.
  • Don’t assume you have permission to email someone.
  • Use a double opt-in process to keep your list clean.
  • Set expectations when someone signs up
  • Authenticate your sending domain name with SPF and DKIM records.
  • Always include an unsubscribe link.
  • Remove bounced email addresses, unsubscribers and inactive contacts from your email list.
  • Re-activate sleeping contacts.
  • Don’t use a no-reply email address but use a real, verified email address.
  • Send genuine and valuable content.
  • Add your contact details in your emails.
  • Provide a preference center.

Email isn’t dead. It’s alive and kicking but the rules have changed and they will keep on changing. By following these tips you should see a siginificant improvement in your open rate.


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