7 Valuable Email Marketing Strategies to Increase Open Rates

SMS Text
7 Valuable Email Marketing Strategies to Increase Open Rates

Email is the preferred method of communicating with businesses for 72% of adults in the United States, according to a recent study conducted by MarketingSherpa. Like any other marketing initiative, email requires a strategy to inspire your audience and grab their attention. When used correctly, email has proven to be the most influential and cost-effective marketing platform.

The goal is not to get your message into that crowded inbox. Your goal is to have your subscribers open your message, and it is the content’s job to reel them in and complete that call to action.

The standard open rate for a marketing email message is 11-15%, with a click-through-rate of just 2-5%, laid out in an infographic by MarketingProfs. If you’re falling behind the curve, you need to fine-tune your strategy, adding personalized and humanization to your campaigns.

To increase open rates, you need to inspire your customers to click your message. Half of all emails will be opened within the first six hours after delivery. As emails pile up, make sure yours doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Once the email is opened, you need to grab their attention with valuable information like a promotional offer or image. Customize your subscribers, understand what they’re looking for, and tell your story in a unique fashion. Your first impression has to hit home to keep your customer engaging with every email you send.

Marketing is all about testing and trying to find a strategy that leads to success. You can’t talk about conversions when your emails aren’t being opened. If you’re encountering a low open rate, test and try these strategies to improve your deliverability and increase open rates.

Subject Lines

7 Email Marketing Strategies to Increase Open Rates | SEJ

A presentation by Jay Baer entitled “What Your Customers Really Think of Your Email Program,” revealed that 35% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone.

The subject line will make or break or open rate. Personalize the subject lines and make them descriptive so your subscriber has a reason to open. Subject lines must be inspiring, strong, and eye-catching to stand apart from the crowd of emails your customers are staring at and weeding through.


The most effective emails are those with short subject lines. A recent study by SendGrid found that three-word subject lines have the highest engagement rates (21.2%) although just 1.6% of emails are that concise. Make sure your subject is well-crafted and descriptive without overwhelming your reader with buzzwords.

Avoid “Spammy” Buzzwords

Although you might think that your reader will want to take advantage of your “sale” or “reminder,” MailChimp advises you to avoid those terms. Having words like “free,” “x% off,” “guaranteed,” or “click here” can negatively affect your campaign and open rate.

If you’re consistently using these buzzwords in your subject lines, many subscribers won’t see your messages as they’ll be directed to spam folders in their inbox. Even if your message lands in the inbox, spammy words often deter readers from your campaign.

It’s okay to promote a sense of urgency if a sale is ending or the time to register for an event is closing. An example like “Sale ends tomorrow at midnight!” shows a user that action is required immediately.


If you can add a custom field into your message, and speak directly to your subscriber, the open rate will increase significantly. MailChimp offers you tools to strategize your customization to see what is most effective in your campaign.

Spelling and Grammar

Always remember to use proper grammar and spelling. Punctuation is an essential component of your message, but don’t come off as too salesy or speak too urgently.

A subject in all capital letters, one that includes misspelling, or uses unnecessary exclamation detracts from your message. Asking your users a question and ending the subject in a question mark has a 44% higher open rate than exclamations about your promotion, according to a study found on ClickZ.

One of the biggest factors that influences open rates is to test multiple subject lines with various strategies. Evoke emotion and reel in your audience.

Inspire them to open your message by asking a question that you will answer in the email. Keep it personal, keep it casual, and speak to your customers directly.

List Segmentation

7 Email Marketing Strategies to Increase Open Rates | SEJ

List segments help you further personalize and narrow your audience. You can choose the subscribers on your list that you want to receive a particular message. Segment based on custom fields to utilize your message more effectively.

  • Occupation
  • Location
  • Interests
  • Industry
  • Date Subscribed
  • Purchase/Conversion History
  • Gender
  • Age

Plus, take it a step further and think about the topics and content that your subscribers have engaged with in the past. Be as personable as possible. When your subscribers provide you with information that makes it easier to target your messages, use the data to your advantage.

Look at your list, and analyze the metrics to see the content that your subscribers have opened in the past. Move away from mass email blasts that deliver the same message to hundreds and thousands of people. Econsultancy shows how important this tactic is for numerous industries that group their email list.

Learn the program you’re using, and access the list segmentation options to break down your subscribers. You’ll see that some segments have a better response and open rate than others. Build on the data you’re experiencing through segmentation for a high-performing campaign.

When you’re not segmenting your list to deliver personalized messages, you can’t craft relevant subject lines for your audience. Segment your lists, offering unique content that addresses demands. The better your segmentation, the more effective your email marketing will become.

Split Testing

7 Email Marketing Strategies to Increase Open Rates | SEJ

What aspects can you test to get the most out of your campaign? Try variations and tests on your subject lines, body text, call to action, personalization, or the design of your email. Send different versions of the same message to different portions of your list.

Tools like MailChimp and Active Campaign offer support for simplified A/B Testing, or you can split up your subscribers manually to test your campaigns. The initial goal is to get your subscribers to open the email. If you do not see the improvement you anticipated with two versions of the email, try additional versions to see what your audience responds to.

Every aspect of an email affects your conversions. Your open rate is affected by the quality of the subject line. Look at your overall campaign and determine how you want to improve. Experiment with different styles of headlines and personalization.

Variations of split testing include:

  • Send Time (Morning vs. Evening or Morning vs. Afternoon)
  • Sender/From Name (noreply@example.com or Joe from Example)
  • Length/Terms in Subject Line
  • Personalization in Subject Line

When you’re testing different strategies, keep to a minimum sample size of around 100 subscribers. Accurate testing will help you figure out which strategy leads to higher engagement. Get to know your list and watch how a small difference in your strategy impacts the performance of your campaign.

The unsubscribe rate for every email sent is between .11 and .2%. For every email that is unengaging and feels like you’re pushing your products or services will result in unsubscribes from your campaign.

Test engagements for multiple emails with the same overall message. Your email marketing platform should allow you to test factors and differences in your message quickly and efficiently.

Mobile Mindset with Responsive Design

7 Email Marketing Strategies to Increase Open Rates | SEJ

Your email has to have a responsive design. Maintain a consistent user experience no matter the device they’re using by optimizing your campaigns for a mobile-first environment.

Mobile devices account for 51% of all emails opened, per a recent study by Constant Contact, and over 75% of subscribers will delete your email if they can’t read it on a mobile device.

It’s best to assume your audience is viewing your message on a smart phone. Make sure your entire subject line will display on a standard smart phone screen. While your customers are on in a meeting, waiting for coffee, or on the train, they’re screening their emails from their mobile inbox.

If your open rates have dipped in the last year, mobile screening could be a leading factor. Follow the behavior of your audience with a mobile responsive email campaign. Increase the open rate by using the words in your subject line more effectively (keep it around 30-40 characters), and design the layout for mobile.

Even if your user opens the message, can they read it? Does the width respond to the display? Do the images take too long to load? Are there multiple columns that force a scroll? Simplify and modify your design.

Send Frequency

7 Email Marketing Strategies to Increase Open Rates | SEJ

The frequency in which you contact your subscribers presents numerous challenges. Should you be contacting your list just once a month, as much as once per week, or every quarter of the year? The answer varies across industries.

Keep in mind, your customers are receptive of your communications and messages, but they don’t like untimely messages that are irrelevant. There is no perfect frequency, but there are risks associated with sending too many or too few emails.

According to the DMA’s National Email Client Report in 2015, email marketers are becoming strategic with their approach, contacting their audience less. Most companies are now sending between five and eight emails per month.

You want to stay relevant to your audience without overwhelming them. You can get a better grasp of how often to send messages to your subscribers by testing and segmenting your audience. What works for one brand will fail miserably for another.

Marketing Sherpa published a study asking consumers how often they’d like to receive promotional emails from companies. They found 91% of Americans want to receive your emails, but only 15% like to receive them daily.

For the 85% that want an email at least monthly, where is your middle ground?

  • Give customers an option to sign up for their desired frequency.
  • Reduce frequencies automatically for subscribers that aren’t opening your message.
  • Change the frequency for various segments in your campaign.
  • Change the tone to provide useful information instead of promotional materials.
  • Send active subscribers more frequent emails, and cut back communication with those who haven’t been interacting or opening your material.

If you’re overwhelming your customers, they’ll delete your message before they read what you have to say or see what you’re offering. Test your list to determine how they interact with your brand. Once you get to know your customers, you’ll see the open rate of your email campaign increase through an appropriate frequency of messages.

Time Sent

7 Email Marketing Strategies to Increase Open Rates | SEJ

As your marketing campaign is under way, track your data and click-through-rate to determine your engagement patterns. Timing is everything when it comes to your open rate. WordStream goes into great detail about the best times to get your audience to open your emails.

According to WordStream, weekends have low open rates, as well as Mondays and Fridays during the beginning and end of the work week. Tuesdays through Thursdays during business hours (1-3 pm) is the optimal time to ensure your email’s open rate is increased.

You must know your target audience and the message you’re sending. Understand the time of day that your subscribers are typically checking their emails and the device in which they’re using. Still, it’s the subject line and the words in your message that make the most impact. Make them count.

Update Your List and Keep it Fresh

7 Email Marketing Strategies to Increase Open Rates | SEJ

Your open rate suffers when you have a list of outdated email addresses or inactive subscribers.

Companies go out of business and employees leave company email addresses behind. Accounts are abandoned as new ones are created. If you have the same list from five years ago, you’re losing money by sending emails to abandoned inboxes.

To improve your results and leads to increased sales, a clean email list leads to better deliverability.

Take the time to look over your subscribers to ensure everything is in order. If you see a misspelling like “@gmal.com” instead of “@gmail.com,” fix it. Don’t waste marketing efforts sending to an email address that won’t receive your message.

Here are a few more ways to update your list:

  • Eliminate Duplicated Addresses
  • Check for Accuracy
  • Reconfirmation Campaign
  • Update Details & Change of Information from Contacts

Think about what updating your list means to your bottom line. Make sure your message gets delivered. If your deliverability rate is low based on your list, email service providers will mark your messages as spam.

Many platforms such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, iContact, and AWeber help manage your list to avoid duplicate accounts and check for accurate addresses. Setting up your campaign with a reliable platform gives you access to plugins and API’s that allow signups to your email marketing campaigns directly from your site.

Update your segmented lists and place all subscribers that haven’t opened your messages in the past few months into one list. Send a customized message with a subject line tailored to them.

Reintroduce your brand to their lives. Surprise them with a bonus offer and give them a fantastic customer experience.

Keeping your email list fresh presents your brand to interested consumers. If you keep your messages relevant and list updated, your open rates will grow, and your audience will maintain its engagement.


7 Email Marketing Strategies to Increase Open Rates | SEJ
Don’t be afraid to try new techniques and approaches. Steer away from the same bland approach to your subject lines and newsletter content. Even if your message appeals with images, videos, GIFs, and a unique design, the campaign is failing when your subscribers are just moving your message to the trash.

Customize your strategy to jump-start your marketing efforts and reach your goal of an increased open rate. Email is core to your business. Answer questions your subscribers have, continue testing, and get creative.

When your message arrives in a crowded inbox, how are you enticing your user to open that message and click-through to your next goal?

Deliver your audience a thought-provoking subject line and segment campaigns to deliver relevant messages to every subscriber on your list. Effective email marketing will increase your bottom line and engage new customers in a cost-effective manner.

What is holding back your email marketing campaign? As your subscribers grow, so too should your sales. Make sure your message is heard. Keep testing and keep trying new techniques to meet your goals.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Gabrielle Frake. Used with permission.
In-post Photos: Image by Gabrielle Frake. Used with permission.

Ryan Clutter

Ryan Clutter

Ryan Clutter is a Content and SEO Specialist at 1SEO.com Digital Agency. He works for clients in numerous industries, creating relevant content through comprehensive SEO... Read Full Bio
Ryan Clutter
Ryan Clutter

Latest posts by Ryan Clutter (see all)

Subscribe to SEJ!
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!
  • Greg Strandberg

    Those are some good numbers to keep in mind. Despite all the effort and all the money we throw at email marketing, all we can manage is a measly 5% click-through rate.

    That’s pathetic. What’s worse is that we accept this. Hey, I don’t have the answer, and I’m frustrated by that!

    • Charles Bodner

      The problem isnt throwing money at it. If you wanna increase your CTR you need to write more convincing email copy.

    • Ryan Clutter

      Thanks for reading, Greg. The biggest challenge is getting
      your email to stand out and opened by the end user. Once opened, it’s the
      design and copy’s job to get that click-through to your site. Think about what
      your readers are looking for, and persuade them to take the next step in the
      conversion process.

      • Greg Strandberg

        Great idea, but why, despite tons of posts on email marketing, are click-through rates so low? Let’s face it, open rates are pathetic as well.

        Our advice isn’t working.

      • Ryan Clutter

        As consumers are increasingly checking their emails on the go, that CTR may be skewed as the conversion path will change if a customer goes directly to your website or goes through different channels.

        Find an opportune time of day/week that you’ll be at the top of the inbox and not lost in the crowd. After the first few hours, chances are slim that the email will be opened unless it triggers attention.

        Track data through your email marketing service for a couple of months to see when your subscribers are opening their emails, and adjust accordingly. Every audience varies in the time they’re checking email.

      • Greg Strandberg

        We don’t know what to do, do we?

  • manoj

    thank you for good information