This article offers advice on increasing your overall campaign open rates.
What's the relationship between campaign open rates and deliverability?
Often senders will see a low open rate and assume poor deliverability is to blame. That's sometimes true, but more often, it's the other way around. Lots of times, your deliverability is suffering because your open rate needs to be higher.
If Gmail sees that your open rate is low, they can safely assume that:
- Not many people want to receive your messages
- The list needs to be cleaned
Both of these are red flags, and even if contacts opted into your list, Gmail and most other ESPs will put your message in the spam folder.
If you suspect your deliverability is subpar, it's likely because your open rates are low. You are in the right place! The following tips will help you improve. By taking a few steps and boosting your overall open rate, you will see immediate and noticeable improvements to your deliverability and, hopefully, revenue.
It’s not possible to define an average open rate. Different industries, lists, and brands have entirely different metrics. Each of them has its own “average open rate.”
That said, as a general rule of thumb, you can consider something around 12-15% as an "average" open rate if you need a benchmark. If your open rate is below this, it's likely hurting your deliverability, and we recommend taking measures to improve. This is not a scientific or analytic benchmark — it's just the rate at which we generally see deliverability issues start to occur.
You can read here if you would like more information about deliverability.
Send to people who want to receive your messages
We recommend that you take the following steps to ensure your list is healthy and contains subscribers who want to hear from you. Doing so helps you improve your campaign open rate.
Make sure your list is opted in
You will only see a good open rate if contacts on your list opt-in properly. Ensuring that no one is on your email list accidentally or against their will is extremely important. Some common blunders include affiliate or pay-per-signup campaigns, where subscribers sign up for one product or offer and then get mailed about another brand or product. This is not considered opt-in (by our standards) and leads to poor open rates. Ensure your subscribers are fully aware of the content they opt to receive. Make your forms clear, and send them an immediate welcome message to ensure they know what you will email them about.
Segment your list
Find ways to identify your contact's interests. Collect information from them on your subscription form and use Site Tracking to see which pages on your site contacts visit. When you send a campaign, send it to a segment of your list so that only the people who would be interested in that content receive the message and, just as importantly, the people who wouldn't be interested won't receive the campaign.
Use double opt-in with your subscription forms
Doing so adds one more layer of security to your opt-in process, ensuring that all your subscribers want to receive your content. You can take a softer approach by sending several welcome messages and simply tagging the contacts who open versus the ones who don't.
Ensure list subscriptions were made by humans and not bots
Is there a chance a bot is filling out a form? After signing up, bots never open campaigns, so they can really decrease your open rate. Check some recent signups and if they look suspicious, implement CAPTCHA to protect your forms.
Regularly clean your list to maintain good open rates
You will lose anywhere from 25-50% of your list each year due to natural list churn. Someone who opted in several years ago is no longer considered an "active" contact unless you know they are opening and engaging with your campaigns. It's essential to regularly remove subscribers from your list(s) who haven't engaged with your emails. If you aren't comfortable removing them from your list, tag them as "inactive" and send campaigns to them much less often or try to reach them in another channel (site messaging, retargeting ads, SMS, etc.).
Think about your sending frequency
Marketers often err by sending too much or too little. There's no golden rule, and each brand's proper frequency is different. We also recommend testing different sending days/times to see what works best for your readers. You can use our testing tools to do this.
Ask “why” when someone unsubscribes
Our solution has a feature that allows you to ask your subscribers why they unsubscribed. If they’d like to, they can fill out a form after unsubscribing, giving you their reason for unsubscribing. By knowing why your subscribers unsubscribed from your campaign, you can change your messages or send practices to reduce the unsubscribe rate for your future campaigns.
Set up email authentication
It's no longer optional to have email authentication on your messages. As of February 2024, Gmail and Yahoo require all senders to set up DKIM and DMARC for their domains. If you are seeing low open rates and have not set up authentication, we highly recommend you do so. We have a native integration with DNS providers that makes this process easy for you.
Learn more about and how to set up DKIM and DMARC.
For more information on these changes, see our blog post, A Guide to Google and Yahoo Authentication Changes in 2024.
It's all about good content
Brands with the highest engagement and best deliverability have a unique voice, with exciting content that their recipients genuinely want to receive. Try to imitate those brands that you love getting emails from. If you can send content that people want, they will open it.
Send targeted, timely messages using automated campaigns instead of direct campaigns
A common mistake some marketers make is sending too many campaigns to as many email addresses as possible — the idea being that the more people you send to, the higher your response rate will be. Unfortunately, this isn’t usually the case. By sending personalized, targeted automations, you are reaching only the people who are genuinely interested in your content at the right time, and you are refraining from irritating those subscribers who aren’t interested. This will usually reduce the number of unsubscribes, and increase the number of opens.
Hyper-personalize your campaigns
You can accomplish this with Conditional Content, segmentation, Message Variables, Personalization Tags, and all automation triggers. You can also personalize campaigns based on a contact's geography, purchase history, site behavior, and other available data. Studies show that 4 out of 10 marketers saw improved open rates after simple personalization and segmentation techniques were implemented.
Test your campaign as much as possible
Run split tests for subject lines and content variations, and be bold and use split tests in your automations too. These are very effective ways to identify the content and sending style that resonates with your recipients. We recommend testing different sending times to see what works best for your readers.
Rethink your campaign's content and style
Try revamping your style to be more personal, include more humor, add more images, and try including giveaways or freebies. Try to determine the real value of your content to your readers and focus on that.
Write a great subject line
Your email's subject line greatly impacts your open rate and sets you up for great link click and conversion rates. You’ll want it to be catchy and interesting — but you’ll also want to avoid any “spammy” sounding phrases, which your subscribers may find off-putting. It can be difficult achieving the perfect balance, but we have some suggestions for improving your subject lines here:
Use proper spelling and grammar
For example, writing a subject line in all capital letters or all lowercase letters, misspelling words, or using multiple exclamation points at the end of your subject line are all things that detract from the legitimacy of your message, and should be avoided.
- If there’s anything time-sensitive, mention it
You want to promote a sense of urgency while keeping it clean. If your subscribers feel they might be missing out on something if they don’t open the message, they’ll be more likely to check it out. Examples of these types of subject lines might be “[Event] registration ending soon!” or “Last day to pre-order [product].”
Personalize the subject line
Any custom fields you’ve created in our software can also be typed into the subject line. Using this method, you can reference your subscribers’ specific interests, geographical areas, past purchases, and other information in the subject line to make it relevant to each subscriber.
Avoid “spammy” sounding phrases and keywords
Words such as “free,” “sale,” “50% off,” “you are a winner,” “guaranteed,” etc., are all common phrases that can be found in spam message subject lines.
- Leverage our split test tool with your subject line to see what's working and what's not.
Though endless suggestions exist for improving open rates, these are great starting points. Campaign content and sending practices will be customized and different to suit every business’ needs. There is no guaranteed way to improve open rates for all email marketing campaigns — but following these suggestions might be all you need to kick-start your email marketing efforts and make your email campaigns more effective.