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5 Simple Tips to Improve Your Email Open Rates

Email open rates are generally the first email marketing metric that businesses focus on when it comes to the success of their email campaigns.

There are 5 things that you need to pay attention to that are impacting your email open rates and, consequently, the overall success of your email campaigns. These include:

1. IP Reputation (Your “Sender Score”)
Email open rates are impacted by more than just your reputation scores (i.e. Sender Score).

The reason we refer to the Sender Score, in particular, is because it is widely used in the industry for overall evaluation of the health of your email program.

While a bad overall email reputation can almost guarantee low open rates among other things, a good reputation doesn’t guarantee inbox placement and subscriber engagement.

Having said, that... your IP reputation IS important. And this is really the first place you want to look when examining the health of your program.

This requires a lot of proactive management, ensuring that your list hygiene is optimal, spam complaints are low (and complainers immediately removed from your list), and regularly monitoring blocks and bounce logs to resolve any issues quickly.

So... the first step is to find out what your IP “score” is and take any necessary steps to improve it.

NOTE: If you are using an ESP (email service provider), you are probably rotating through dozens, if not hundreds of IP addresses that you’re sharing with dozens, if not hundreds (maybe even THOUSANDS) of other marketers.

Assuming that your scores are 90 or greater, these primary issues are probably not a factor with regard to your email open rates. (If your scores ARE lower than 90, you will need to correct some fundamental issues first and foremost.)

Low scores are often due to poor list quality (old, outdated, lists with a lot of bad email addresses, and often spam traps), high spam complaints, problems with infrastructure, blacklists, or general email content.

Naturally, if your messages aren’t making the inbox, your email open rates are going to suffer.

NOTE: Even if you are using an ESP, you’ll want to pay attention to list hygiene (although they typically have pretty strict rules in place to guard against this particular issue), spam complaints, and message content.

Remember, if your email messages aren’t making it to the inbox, your subscribers can’t open your messages, read them, or take action on them. As a result, you can guarantee that your email open rates will be low!

If you are hosting your own email, which will always give you greater control over your email program, you’ll also want to verify that you have the proper headers in all of your emails including DKIM, domainkeys, SPF and SenderID.

Now… if all of these are in place and you are still concerned about overall performance including email open rates, click throughs, etc., there are several things to look at:

  • List Quality
  • Subscriber Engagement
  • Message Content
  • Timing

2. List Quality
Are you uploading old leads? Leads that you have purchased? Co-reg leads? (Basically any leads that did not specifically opt in to your list or engage within the past 12-18 months.)

For obvious reasons, you will see lower email open rates here simply because the relationship is stale.

Segment these leads from your current/high quality leads so that you can get a realistic picture of what’s going on with different segments of your list.

Consider sending from different IPs/domains based on engagement AND creating a re-engagement sequence for older leads.

NOTE: If you are adding a lot of these leads to your existing list, not only can this affect your open rates, but it can also affect the overall inbox placement of your emails.

The ISPs pay attention to engagement metrics and are doing so more and more as of late. (See the next section).

3. Subscriber Engagement
Subscriber engagement is key, and it is becoming more and more important as the ISPs change their algorithms.

In the past, you could continue to mail to subscribers as long as they didn’t opt out or click the “spam” button in their email client.

However... that’s changed!

For example, say that your entire list is double-opt in. If, over the years, subscriber A stops opening your emails, eventually, all of your emails for that subscriber may be filtered into his/her junk folder. The ISP simply uses that particular subscriber’s engagement, or lack thereof, to determine where they should place your particular emails for this person.

When this happens on a large scale, overall inbox placement can be affected - even if you have an absolutely perfect reputation.

To help combat this, consider teaching your subscribers to whitelist your email address at the point of opting in. Here is a free subscriber-level whitelist generator you can use: http://www.emaildelivered.com/whitelist-generator.

TIP: Be sure to use the “From” email address that your emails come from in the generator.

The other thing to consider with regard to subscriber engagement (i.e. increasing email open rates, clickthroughs, etc.) is where you are getting your metrics.

For example, many ESPs provide you with TOTAL opens while many self-hosted email applications provide unique opens. If this is the case, then naturally, when comparing old results to new, the statistics will almost certainly be skewed.

So, you may not be comparing apples to apples if you’re using different systems to compare your results/trends.

TIP: Consider dropping your less frequent openers to a lesser frequency and/or putting them through a re-engagement series.

4. Message Content
Message content is one of THE MOST IMPORTANT components in getting your emails to the inbox AND opened.

Some of the things you should consider with regard to message content:

Split test subject lines…

Subject lines are the single most important “content” factor when it comes to improving (or even maintaining) your email open rates. It is important to split test your subject lines to see what your subscribers respond to.

While you can be creative with your subject lines in order to entice subscribers to open your messages, but it is important that you not mislead your subscribers. While you may see an increase in open rates, you may also see an increase in spam complaints and unsubscribes if your people feel like you are misleading them.

This can do more harm than good in the long term (not to mention, misleading subject lines are an absolute violation of CAN-SPAM).

In addition, you can guarantee that deceptive subject lines will have an adverse effect on clickthrough rates. In other words, they may open the email, but they won’t actually take action or click through on your offer.

Review your message content…

Make sure that your content is relevant to your subscribers and in line with what was promised at the point of opt-in.

5. Timing
Test the days of the week and times of your emails. What works for one marketer does not necessarily work for another. For example, if you’re in a B to B space, weekend open rates will be significantly lower than if you’re marketing to a biz opp audience.

We have clients that have better results mailing between 2-4pm Eastern while other customers with the same general market have best results mailing at 4am. TEST FOR YOUR LIST.

The other thing to consider is time of year. Overall Internet activity declines over the summer. Open rates drop, interaction drops, etc. People are simply not as engaged during the summer months.

Conversely, in the fall and winter, engagement tends to increase.

In addition, during times of year when email volume is at it’s peak (i.e. Thanksgiving through New Years), your particular email open rates may drop because subscribers are getting much more email than they do during other times of the year.

Bonus TIP: Follow Email Best Practices

Lastly, it is always a good idea to verify that you are following the best practices for the ISPs. All of the major ISPs provide specific best practices and it’s a good idea to review them regularly.

This impacts deliverability, inbox placement, and consequently clicks through rates and email open rates. If you find that you have a good reputation, and are not hitting the inbox, we can contact several of the ISPs and request whitelisting of your IPs.

One Final Note!

ISPs often tighten their filters from time to time. Generally, within 2-3 weeks, things go back to normal, but in some cases, they may actually change their recommended best practices.

Our goal as your email partner is to help you achieve the best results with your email marketing by managing your reputation, keeping your scores high, alerting you of potential problems, and going to bat on your behalf with the ISPs.

As the marketer, it’s important to constantly be looking at your list quality, interaction, relationship with your list, and overall campaign strategy.

Author: Heather Seitz

Attention Readers, Publishers, Editors, Bloggers and Marketers: You may republish or syndicate this article without any charge. The only thing I ask is that you keep the newsletter article or blog post exactly as it was written and formatted, with no changes. You must also include full publication attribution and back links as indicated below:

This information has been provided by http://www.EmailDelivered.com and written by Heather Seitz. To find out how you can increase your email open rates, visit http://www.emaildelivered.com/email-delivered/5-simple-tips-to-improve-your-email-open-rates) Don’t forget to sign up for the EmailDelivered Pulse newsetter for articles, tips and recommended resources related to email marketing and email deliverability.

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How to Get Your Emails to the Inbox

If you want to get more of your emails to the inbox, you need to know the secrets that the Email Service Providers AREN’T willing to tell you. For a limited time, I’m sharing some select tips that top Internet Marketers know... for FREE.

Here’s what you’ll get right now...

  • The How to Guide for getting your emails back to the inbox.
  • How to find (and improve) your email “reputation” (how the ISPs see you).
  • 5 Email KILLERS that your email service provider is purposely hiding from you.
January 6, 2014
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