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How to increase your email open rates – 12 actionable tips

16 min
Updated:

Struggling with low open rates and ineffective email campaigns? We’ve got you covered.

This article will teach you 12 effective ways to boost your email open rates and drive real results.

From crafting the perfect subject line and sending your email campaigns at the optimal time to writing effective preheaders, we’ll cover all the tactics that’ll guarantee your emails will get opened more often.

Get ready to take your email campaigns to the next level.

Here’s what we’ll explore:

What is an email open rate?

Email open rate is a performance metric that indicates the percentage of email recipients that opened your email. To calculate open rates, you need to divide the number of email opens by the number of delivered emails and multiply that ratio by 100. It’s one of the most important metrics used by professionals to monitor their email marketing programs.

Email open rate = (# of email opens / # of emails delivered) * 100%

You get to know this metric because your email marketing software places a small, transparent image or a 1×1 pixel into your messages. When your subscriber opens a message and clicks on the embedded element, your host server identifies it as an “open event.”

The percentage is a standard way to calculate your email campaign’s reach.

Example of an email analytics report from one of our campaigns at GetResponse featuring key metrics like the open rate, click-through rate, bounce rate, spam complaint rate, and unsubscribe rate.
Example of an email analytics report from one of our campaigns at GetResponse featuring key metrics like the open rate, click-through rate, bounce rate, spam complaint rate, and unsubscribe rate.

Related: Crucial Email KPIs to track your email campaigns’ performance

OK, but how can you figure out if you’re doing good or underperforming here?

What is the average email open rate?

Although there are email marketing players who are crushing it and impressing others with open rates above 50%, the reality for the majority of email marketers isn’t that extreme.

According to our annual Email Marketing Benchmarks report, where we’ve analyzed 7 billion messages, we’ve found that the average global email open rate is 19.66%.

But that’s a global average. Your open rate can be significantly higher or a bit lower when several factors come into play, such as:

  • Location: if you’re in Europe, you can set an open rate benchmark at 25.18%, and if your business centers around North America, you can aspire to achieve an open rate close to 23.53%.
  • Industry: you’re born under a lucky star, if your business is about Restaurants & Food (32.04%), Non-Profits (31.73%), Automotive (30.87%), or Real Estate (28.57%) 
  • Business type: your subscribers can engage with your emails differently if you send them consumer content (B2C) or business-related (B2B).
  • The type of email you send: is it a weekly newsletter, a webinar invitation, or a Black Friday deal? In each case, the numbers can go both ways.

Disclaimer: Due to Apple’s changes to Mail Privacy Protection, measuring email open rates has become more difficult. While this metric isn’t as accurate as it used to be, it’s still valuable for measuring the overall health of your email list and deliverability.

12 ways to increase email open rates

Now that you know our email marketing statistics, it’s time to reinforce your know-how regarding effective email marketing campaigns that learn how to increase email open rate consistently.

1. Segment your audience

Segmenting your email list opens our list of best practices. And this is not a random shot. Understanding your audience — what drives them and what bothers them – is the key to every successful marketing program. And email marketing is no exception.

There are four basic segmentation categories you can take into account:

  • Demographic (useful if you’re in B2C): based on individual attributes such as geography, gender, education, or income.
  • Firmographic (useful if you’re in B2B): based on company attributes such as industry, location, number of employees, or revenue.
  • Psychographic (which works for both – B2B and B2C): based on values and aspirations.
  • Behavioral (as above – perfect for B2B and B2B): based on users’ behavior, product usage, and purchase decisions.

The last type of segmentation is the most vital in terms of your email strategy. People who tend to engage with your marketing emails once a month would go to a different segment than your subscribers who open your every message.

Related reading: Email segmentation strategies and best practices
Behavioral segmentation examples & strategies

Learn how Submission Technology, a lead generation agency, achieves over 7% average click-through rates using segmentation to divide its audience by gender, subscription date, and engagement.

Impact of effective segmentation in email marketing campaigns.
Targeted email campaign results – segmentation based on gender.

2. Deliver valuable content

This best practice comes as a result of proper customer research and segmentation. Once you know who your email subscribers are, you can increase email open rates by delivering content that will be precisely what they’re looking for.

While the tone of voice of your email content will depend on segment characteristics (not everyone will fall for emojis and humor), there are several aspects that will play a vital role in crafting your messages:

  • Personalization – it’s not only about using your users’ first names and adjusting the wording to the buyer persona. It will also involve knowing where they’re at in the customer journey.
  • Relevance – “Why the heck did I get this email? What does it have to do with me?” You wouldn’t like to make that kind of impression on your recipients. That’s why it’s essential to know what will matter for each segment and send relevant emails.
  • Solving problems – whether you’re in B2B or B2C space, your role as a brand is to get rid of your customers’ headaches. Be explicit with naming their villain and highlighting the benefits of your product or services.

How often can you push your sales emails? Brian Dean from Backlinko suggests implementing an 80/20 rule. It works like this – 80% of your emails should provide value with no pitching, while the remaining 20% can push your sales offers, bundles, and upsells.

Pro tip: According to the latest Email Marketing Benchmarks report emails containing videos, images, or personalization in the email body continuously observe higher-than-average open rates.

3. Sharpen your email subject line

Writing enticing subject lines is often the first tip to improve email open rates. It’s essential, yes. As a sender, you have seconds to trigger people to open your message. Considering those people scan dozens of new emails daily, most of them will be ignored.

Remember that you’re competing not only with other newsletters and offers but also with busy meeting calendars, project deadlines, and your subscribers’ having a rough week. 

So your goal is to master stellar headlines. Some experts say that short email subject lines deliver higher open rates. Others – that funny will always beat the boring.

There are several hacks that you can experiment with – making your subject lines:

  • intriguing
  • controversial
  • humorous
  • personal
  • benefit-oriented
  • special offer-oriented

But first, your subject lines must be related to your customers’ interests and pain points.

Only after can you start improving your subject line with additional elements such as emojis, personalization, numbers, or so-called power words.

If you’re looking to dive deeper into this topic, consider reading our guide to writing effective email subject lines. It gives you ten proven strategies to follow and shows a ton of examples of compelling headlines you may want to replicate for your business.

Pro tip: Our study also found that emails that include an emoji in the email subject line observe an average open rate of 20.45%. Emails that didn’t include an emoji observed an average OR of 21.94%. Personalized subject lines also performed worse, observing an average OR of 18.79% vs. 22.14%.

💡 Struggling to come up with effective email subject lines? Try GetResponse’s new AI subject line generator and never start with a blank page again.

4. Double down on your preheaders

If you think of a subject line as the title of your email message, a preheader (also known as a preview text) will be your subtitle. 

Preheaders are equally important in getting people to open and read emails. Even if your subject line is minimalistic and contains only three words (for instance, “Email Marketing Strategy”), you will have more space to plug something valuable and enticing in the preview text.

Here are some compelling examples:

Compelling preheader example 1.
Compelling preheader example 2.

Pay attention to how clean and straightforward the above subject lines are. And now imagine that there is no preview text right next to it. Would you click on the “Drop the Ego” email without an additional hint on what it is about? Probably not. But then comes the preheader nailing it with “shares what he wished for a profitable business.” 

How do you set up a preview text before you start to send emails? In GetResponse email creator, it’s effortless:

How to add a preheader in GetResponse Email Creator.
Email settings inside the GetResponse Email Creator

Note: If you don’t provide a preheader in your email’s settings, most mailbox providers will display the first line of your message instead. This can sometimes cause confusion or simply offer no value to your audience. If you want to have full control over your email campaigns, I suggest that you take the time to fill out this extra line of text.

Example of a good preheader that builds upon the email subject line.

Subject line: [PIC] From zero to $4,500/month…
Preheader:... with just ONE CLIENT
Example of a good preheader that builds upon the email subject line. Now imagine if it said, “Images not working? View this message online” instead.

Pro tip: Our study also found that emails that include a preheader observe an average open rate of 25.83%, over six percentage points higher than the industry standard.

5. Work on your From Name

A sender name or a From Name is one of the three elements people see in their inbox before they even open your email. And while subject lines and preview texts are vital for drumming up email open rates, email marketers also highlight the meaning of the sender name:

Sender name – one of the top elements to improve your open rates.

Unless you’re an influencer with a recognizable name, I suggest trying out one of those approaches (or mixing them up):

  • [Your first name] from [Your brand name] will help your brand show a human face. That a real person looks after your subscribers instead of a distant business organization. It will work like a charm, especially for giving valuable tips and solving problems for your customers. Here’s an example:
Email from name example.
  • [Your brand name] + Team – here, you won’t be putting a person in the spotlight, but you will point out that your company is a group of friendly folks that sync to help your customers. It usually works better with product announcements or special deals. An example of that approach:
Email from name example.
20 Ways to Improve Your Email Marketing Metrics

20 Ways to Improve Your Email Marketing Metrics

Unlock the full potential of your email marketing efforts. Discover 20 actionable ways to improve your metrics and drive success in your campaigns.

Download guide

6. Find the best time to send emails

Optimizing your send-out time is one of the critical factors for email opens. And at the same time, it’s still one of the most common aspects of email campaigns that businesses try to figure out.

There is no silver bullet that will guarantee that all emails sent at 8 AM each Monday will improve email engagement rate – always, for every industry, and everywhere. No, two many variables can influence the results.

However, according to the Email Marketing Benchmarks report, it turns out that the best time is to send emails very early in the morning (4 AM-5 AM), and after an office-time plateau, there’s another spike at 6 PM.

Results by hour – data from the Email Marketing Benchmarks report.

And what about the day of the week? The same data shows that it doesn’t matter which day you choose (as long as you stick to working days) because their differences are so tiny.

If you’re unsure which time will work the best for your audience, and you don’t have time to take chances, you can try out GetResponse’s Perfect Timing feature:

Perfecting timing – GetResponse.

Pro tip: Our study found that emails that were sent using Perfect Timing observe an average open rate of 22.75%, over three percentage points higher than the industry standard.

7. Add your logo to your emails

What also drives people to open emails depends on how much they trust the sender. Do they recognize the brand? Do they associate the brand’s name with positive emotions? 

If your brand goes in hand with authority, security, and fame, you can directly capitalize on that by embedding your logo into your emails.

And you can do it by authenticating your email domain with BIMI — Brand Indicators for Message Identification. There are two ways to handle it — with the help of your IT team (because it might get tricky) or setting it up directly in a Google account (click here to get more details).

Is it worth a shot? Take a look at this picture:

Logos in email after implementing BIMI.
Image source

8. Stay out of the spam folder

Unfortunately, with email spam filters becoming more advanced, the chances are that some of your recipients will never see your messages because they will be categorized as spam emails.

How to avoid landing in the spam folder? Here is what you should focus on:

  • Make sure you have permission to send emails to people from your email list. With the latest, strict regulations, you are only allowed to send emails based on explicit user consent. So, avoid dirty tricks like “hey, why don’t we purchase email lists?”
  • Be transparent from the start. When users opt in, be upfront about what kind of messages and offers you will send them. It’s also a good practice to repeat it in a welcome message and mention the email frequency.
  • Be on the safe side with a trustworthy email marketing platform. Here at GetResponse, we look after your IP reputation, process bounces, spam complaints, unsubscribers, and feedback loops, and collaborate with top ISPs and anti-spam organizations.
  • Avoid using unverified and freemail domains in your email marketing campaigns. Sending marketing messages from a Gmail or Yahoo! email address is a red flag. Always use your own custom domain, and if the domain is young, build up its reputation slowly.
  • Make it easy for users to unsubscribe. Imagine that someone wants to opt out of your email list and can’t find an unsubscribe button in your email. That might lead to frustration and manually marking your email as spam. So, don’t hide it because the stakes are high.
  • Be mindful when writing your subject lines. Avoid click-bait over-promising headlines, all-caps text, and misleading phrases like “FWD:” or “Re:”.
  • Pay attention to the design part. If your email marketing messages are packed with images and little text, and the design and code leave much to be desired, you’re in trouble.
  • Be careful with the frequency. If you flood your recipients with emails daily, even subscribers that genuinely like you, can feel choked. And one day, they will stop opening your emails, which will send a negative signal to the ISP. And you will end up as a brand sending spam emails.

Here you’ll find more guidelines on why emails can end up in spam folders and how to avoid them.

Also, another aspect that influences both – being marked as spam and increased email open rates is your email list hygiene.

9. Keep your email list healthy

Different scenarios can affect your email deliverability and your sender’s reputation. People:

  • give fake emails when they subscribe to email lists
  • change their jobs (if they are using their professional account to opt in) 
  • abandon their old inboxes

That’s why you need to invest your time and keep your email list clean.

But your email list hygiene comes down to more than just verifying old emails (here you’ll find a complete list of email list cleaning best practices). It’s also about checking the engagement of your subscribers and taking action according to users’ behavior. 

Based on their historic low or high engagement, you can use marketing automation to:

Win-back marketing automation workflow.

Your email list hygiene also calls for another tactic:

10. Resend your emails to dormant contacts

Even the most compelling subject line, fine-tuned preview text, and optimized send-out time won’t trigger most of your contacts to engage with your email. In fact, a big chunk will remain inactive no matter what happens.

But that’s OK. Life happens – work, lack of time, personal issues – so we all skip most newsletters. That’s why there’s nothing wrong with sending a followup. 

When preparing re-engagement email campaigns, remember to:

  • Not to do it too often, and only once per email
  • Resend your email a day after the original one got delivered (potentially at a different time)
  • Twist your subject line not to be the same as the original one
  • Only resend meaningful emails, not just regular email newsletters
  • Exclude people who’ve opened your first email or who’ve already converted on your offer
  • Monitor your email deliverability regularly

11. Make your emails mobile-friendly

Your emails must work perfectly, not only for folks who open their inboxes on their laptops. Each email campaign has to be optimized for mobile users. The stakes are high, especially having your fresh subscribers in mind. Just imagine — they’ve opted in to your list recently, so they’re likely to open your first one and check your quality. If that happens to be on their mobile devices, and when it’s not responsive or slow to load, they will rather not open your emails in the future.

So make sure that you:

  • Design your emails that will look good on any device – smartphone or tablet, which comes to responsiveness. 
  • Remember that large image files will take longer to load, so don’t test people’s patience and use smaller images.
  • Use larger fonts and finger-friendly CTA buttons, and avoid placing links close to each other.
  • Go for a simple and uncluttered structure. Make it easy to go through and take action wherever your subscribers open your message.

And if you don’t want to take chances in designing your email for mobile, try GetResponse email creator, where every email template comes together with a mobile version:

Desktop mobile email design inside GetResponse Email Creator.

12. A/B Test your email campaigns

Running A/B tests is one of the most exciting and efficient methods to achieve email marketing success. To remind you, A/B testing (also known as split testing) means evaluating two versions of a given element of your email. You can test many aspects of your email content (more about that in our comprehensive guide on A/B testing), but for the sake of increasing email open rates, we suggest you focus on testing subject lines and preview texts.

Once you add up to 5 different subject lines in GetResponse’s A/B testing tool, you can then set up how many recipients will receive each variant and the duration of testing:

GetResponse AB Testing configuration.
Configuring email campaign A/B tests in GetResponse

Wrap-up + Bonus tips

Alright! At this point, you know that to make your open rates go up, you need to master the following:

  • Audience segmentation
  • Valuable content
  • Effective email subject lines
  • Preheaders
  • From name
  • Email send time
  • Avoiding email spam filters
  • Keeping your email list healthy
  • Resending emails 
  • Mobile email optimization
  • A/B testing

But the list of email marketing tips doesn’t end here! What you can also put into action is:

  • Making an outstanding first impression with a welcome email. If you do provide something special, you can plant a habit of engaging with your future emails.
  • Experiment with those messages: myth-busting emails, “my number one mistake” emails, or actionable tips emails.
  • And last – start implementing your strategy with a top email marketing platform. Try GetResponse for free!

Michal Leszczynski
Michal Leszczynski
Meet Michal Leszczynski, Head of Content Marketing and Partnerships at GetResponse. With 10+ years of experience, Michal is a seasoned expert in all things online marketing. He’s a prolific writer, skilled webinar host, and engaging public speaker. Outside of business hours, Michal shares his wealth of knowledge as an Email Marketing lecturer at Kozminski University in Warsaw. You can reach out and connect with Michal on LinkedIn.
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