5 Easy Ways to Increase Email Open Rates

How do you get people to open your emails? While there isn’t a definitive science to the mastery of high open rates, we do know some surefire ways to increase your email open rates. With the help of some email marketing experts, I’ve put together a short list of five simple ways to increase your email open rates.

Test Subject Lines

Subject lines can make or break an email. This aspect is key to grabbing attention and making a good impression. To determine what works with your subscribers, you need to run tests. Test your subject lines on small portions of your list before sending it to your master list.

Stacey Herbert from Brazen Profit Lab runs split tests in this fashion:

“With clients, we tend to split test subjects on 5k segments. First we’ll test two subject lines. Next, we’ll send the winning subject to everyone who didn’t open the losing subject. We’ll then send the winning subject line to the master list or appropriate segments.”

Simple tests like this are great ways to increase your open rate, and you can run them even if you have a smaller list.

Try Different Send Times

Like most things in life, everything is in the timing, and emails are no different. This might seem like a no brainer but sending your emails at the right time to your audience can sometimes make all the difference.

It’s important to also note that there is no one time fits all. You need to consider your audience and determine when they are most likely going to open a message from you. Here are a few guidelines to determine the optimal time to send emails:

  • Who is your audience? Are you marketing to other businesses? Maybe weekday mornings are best to reach business owners. Running a DIY blog? Fridays and Saturdays could be your best bet to creating excitement for projects.
  • Where are your subscribers located? Segment lists based on geo-location. No point in sending an email to an individual in Australia at 3 AM. 
  • What kind of email is it? Look for behavioral patterns and see if there’s anything you can take advantage of. If click-through rates are higher in the afternoon, you may consider actionable emails after lunch time.
  • Use the data you have. Email marketing produces a lot of useful data which you can use to improve send times. Do some digging, you’ll be surprised what you find!
  • Test, Test, Test! Your audience is unique which means you need to find what works with your subscribers. Write down some hypotheses based on the guidelines above and then run some split tests!

Address Deliverability

Deliverability is the percentage of sent emails that actually end up in the contact’s inbox. Common reasons why your emails may not be delivered are unsubscribed, soft bounces, hard bounces, and invalid email addresses. You also have to keep an eye out for spam folders. The general idea here is that the more emails you can get delivered into someone’s inbox, the greater chance you have of getting them opened.

Daniel Kohn of Smartmail.io gave me some insight on how he deals with deliverability:

There are many different elements to addressing deliverability but on the most basic level, the first step would be to look at your list, understand which email clients (Gmail, Yahoo etc.) the majority of your list are on and start to better understand which words to avoid using in your subject lines to avoid spam and promotional filters.

For example the words“free” and “coupon” are big no no’s across the board. Making some simple changes to your subject lines could make all the difference.

Clarity over Creativity


In a typical email inbox, people only have three pieces of info to consider when deciding whether or not to open an email: the from name, subject line, and pre-header text. Very little information to display the value of opening to the subscriber. At a time when people have shrinking attention spans and itchy delete fingers, it’s crucial that you get it right.

Cynthia Price, the VP of Marketing at Emma, provides some insight on how to win in the inbox territory game:

When it comes to these three fields, simpler is better. Or to put it another way, prioritize clarity over creativity. People are bombarded with emails, are quickly scanning their inboxes and want to avoid risk (aka spam), so be totally clear about where the email is coming from and the content it contains. It’s the best (and quickest) way to get more people opening your emails.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be creative with your email subjects and preview text. Just make sure that it’s simple and captures the purpose of your email. At the end of the day, email marketing is about effective getting your message across and keeping it simple is the best way to achieve this!

Use Email Series and Lifecycle Campaigns

Consistency is key in establishing relationships and trust with your readers. It’s also a great way to condition subscribers to receiving and opening your emails. This is why email series are such an effective tactic.

At the very least, you should have a welcome email series. This could be an onboarding series for your software, a showcase of your top tier content, or quick looks at your top products. Then, you can feed contacts into other lifecycle campaigns. Need some inspiration? Check out these 20 lifecycle email campaigns.

joy_bird_lifecycle_email.pngJoy Bird engages their subscribers with this content email to help shoppers measure their living space for furniture. This process is an important process of buying furniture. This lifecycle email is encouraging subscribers to start the process required to purchase furniture which sends prospects further down the sales funnel.

Keep your Email List Fresh


In order for your emails to get opened, they need to be sent to active contacts. Your email list will have turnover over time and this is just something you have to deal with. People will change emails and unsubscribe so it’s important to maintain an active mailing list.

Remove unsubscribed email addresses and email addresses that have caused your emails to bounce several times. This allows you to get accurate data on your email campaigns plus, it’s nice to clean house sometimes. If you want to run a reactivation or resubscribe campaign, create a segment for inactive subscribers.

The simplest way you can keep a fresh email list is to continue to capture emails with an email signup pop-up. New subscribers are much more engaged and it’s always good to get fresh eyes on your newsletter. Here are six tips for increasing email capture.

Get to It!

These five tips will help you improve email marketing ROI. By increasing email open rates, your marketing message will get more exposure and you’ll open up more opportunities for click-throughs and sales. What other ways do you increase email open rates? Share your tips in the comments section below!

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