In this article we discuss 5 reasons why your email open rates might be low or are decreasing, and how you can fix it, test it and hopefully see an improvement so you can inspire more people to take action.
I remember it vividly: My very first email I sent out to my newly created email list, years ago when I started out my marketing coaching business. I was using MailChimp back then. They had this funny image of a nervously sweating monkey that was about to hit the “send” button, just above the actual button that you need to press to get your email out in the world.
I felt just like that monkey, nervous. Although I spent days perfecting it, I didn’t feel quite sure about my email. Was it good? Would there be a typo in it that I had overlooked? Did all the links really worked? Would it resonate with the people on my email list? Would they respond, maybe send me a comment?
Little did I know that hitting the “send” button is just peanuts compared to the agony of the “report” button, that will show how well your email performed!
How many people opened your mail?
First thing that shows is always how many people opened your email. It’s a percentage of the total emails you sent and it’s called the “open rate”. Now, whatever your open rates are, it’s important to know it’s perfectly normal that A LOT of people don’t even bother to open your emails at all! Don’t get yourself too disappointed about that. It’s part of the game. Your job is to get better at it. Because if you want impact, touch peoples lives and get paid well for that – well you have to become better at marketing!
Here’s a good place to start.
What is normal?
A 100% open rate is very rare and maybe only the case when you have a tiny, ‘warm’ list of people who you know you very well and are expecting to find great things in your email. But for most of us, our general list, will consist of a bunch of random people. The so called “cold leads” that somehow stumbled upon your stuff and lo and behold joined your email list. Open rates of 15-25% are normal. Yes, that means that 75-85% of the people who got your email don’t even open it. But if that’s the case with your emails, I’d say you’re actually doing great!
Track your stats
What you would like to do though, is tracking from the start (or from the point that you realize there’s room for optimization) what your open rates are. What’s get measured, gets improved. And like every other marketer, you’d always want to focus on optimizating your results. Improving the things you do. And one of your marketing metrics, that you want to monitor, would be your open rate percentage.
Adopt the optimization mindset
Second, it’s necessary to adopt the mindset of “marketing means optimization”, and to accept to having to fix multiple problems instead of thinking there’s only one quick fix. This mindset is crucial for your perseverance. It’s easy to give up if you put so much energy and effort in something, but you don’t see the results. And sadly, a lot of women entrepreneurs give up too soon. Don’t let it happen to you.
Check, Fix and Test
Now let’s take a closer look at 5 common reasons why your email open rates might be low or are decreasing, how you can fix it, test it and hopefully see an improvement.
#1: Your Subject Lines fail
Your subject lines really have one, single job: To get someone to open your email. I think this is by far the one overlooked feature of any email campaign.
A lot of people think that the subject line just needs to reflect the content of your email. Like you would do when you would send your collegue an email “subject: meeting next Friday”. Well that typically won’t work very well for commercial emails.
There are some types of subject lines that work very well. I’m testing out all the time new subject line strategies to see what’s working well and what’s not for my audience and I help my clients testing different types for their campaigns. And I encourage you to do the same.
Use your email service providers’s A/B testing tool to see which subject lines are able to improve your open rate.
There are 5 types of email subject lines that work really well:
#1: The Story Subject Line
These subject lines bring the reader into a story they’re curious about. Make sure you’re delivering on the story you promised to tell and that the story is relevant to the thing you do.
Example: “How my client got 1,000 new subscribers”
#2: The Curiosity Subject Line
Subject lines that make people curious about what’s inside your email OR totally unsure of what’s going on and wanting to know more tend to do really well.
Example: “Ever tried THIS to increase your followers?”
#3: The Offer Subject Line
These subject lines focus entirely on what you’re offering, and nothing else. Example: “Enrollment in MBA Accelerator is open again”
#4: Self Interest Subject Line
These subject lines make sure your subscribers feel that they have something to gain if they open your email.
Example: “Up to 85% OFF when you enroll now.”
#4: Urgency Subject Line
A subject line that stresses urgency makes subscribers motivated to open your email so they don’t miss out on whatever it is that they will be missing out on.
Example: “For a VERY limited time available for you.”
If you checked and tested your email subject lines, the next thing is to check the content of your emails that prevent high open rates.
#2: The Email Is Too Big
I’ve been testing different kind of email formats over the past few years. They range from plain emails without any pictures in it, to long-form emails to full newsletter-type of emails with different content and images. I discovered that an email can get too big to get opened.
Emails sent to Gmail addresses get “clipped” when they’re bigger than 102KB. When an email is clipped, a Gmail user can’t see the entire email like they can a smaller sized email. They have to click on “View Entire Message” to load the email in their browser.
Apparently lots of people don’t bother with clicking on a blue hyperlink to open the browser (unless they suspect it’s really, really going to be good). They prefer to have their entire email accessible as soon as they open it.
So to avoid having your emails clipped, make sure they’re less than 102KB large by sending yourself a test-email that you view in Gmail to make sure the entire message loads without the [Message clipped] notification. Once this fix is solved, you should see an increase of open-rates.
If your email open rate stays really low, there might be something else left to improve.
#3: You’re using Spam triggers
Spam trigger words: They are so common in copywriting that we don’t even know we’re using spam words to market our business! The problem is that email providers like Gmail are going to throw your email right into the spam folder.
To protect their users, they mark hundreds of words and phrases as spam. Google on “spam trigger words” and you get dozens of hits that will provide you with 100’s of spam words.
Here are just a few Spam Trigger Words to give you an idea: affordable, bonus, click here, free, promise, unlimited, action, order etc.
Luckily, some email hosting platforms like ActiveCampaign what I use, will run your email content through a spam test before you hit send, so you know your email passes the test. Removing as many of these spam words as possible from your emails will keep your email out of the spam folder and in their inbox.
Now, if your emails have great subject lines, are smaller than 102KB and you’ve taken out anything that could be considered as spam—but you’re STILL seeing low opening rates, you might want to have a look at the following, more **painful** flaw:
#4: They lost interest!
This one can hurt, I know. And because it hurts, we tend to avoid doing something about it. But see it this way: Who is the content for? Your subscribers. If they lost interest, it’s your job to figure out what they do want. You know you can help them, so just help them with the things they know they need help with!
The best way to figure out what went wrong is to ask them. Using a survey platform like e.g. Surveymonkey you can ask them what they want to read from you. Or try to segment your list. Instead of having a huge master list of every subscriber that you send every email to, segment your list based on how they came into it. Then make sure the emails they get from you are relevant for them. Especially when you have different segments that you serve and you have multiple entry points for getting on your list, into your different funnels you might want to consider this.
# 5: Your reputation needs an upgrade
How often have you experienced that you meet people and they ask your business card just to put you on their email list to send you unsolicited emails? Annoying yes. Especially when they give you no option to opt-out. These people aren’t familiar with email regulations. And sometimes it takes a while for you to let them know you don’t want to be bothered.
Make sure you don’t make that mistake! You are building a reputation as an authority in your niche. Your marketing needs to reflect that same level of professionalism!
So if you experience low open rates, and happen to have build your emaillist that way, make sure you fix it asap. Give people the option to unsubscribe and clean your list. You can do that by sending a “make-it-up-with-you” email to introduce yourself again, includes your top 3 of valuable free resources and a clear invitation to subscribe by clicking a link (yes, not to unsubscribe) if this isn’t what they are looking for. And you can do this regularly and see how people behave based on open and click-rates to plan on your next moves and strategies to keep them on your list and turn them into fans.
So these were 5 possibilities to increase your open rates: 1) improve your subject lines 2) decrease the size of your emails 3) avoid spam trigger words 4) give content they want 5) upgrade your reputation.
Low open rates don’t mean you have to give up on your list. It just means that something can be improved. Always keep in mind that people need you and that it is your moral obligation to help them out. That means you need to go uplevel your marketing at every level possible. Including your email open rates!
Insights? Questions? Please comment below. I’d LOVE to hear from you.
👉COACHELLE GLOBAL, led by Sandra Fisser, is a boutique marketing company that helps purpose-driven women business owners to get real results FAST, so they ultimately can spread their message to thousands of people globally and get paid well to make an impact in the world. For more: Go HERE.
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