Open Rates and How To Improve Them

Posted on December 16, 2016 at 9:18 am Written by

Open Rates

A fundamental part of the email KPI. The email open rate is the amount of people that have opened your campaign, expressed as a percentage. Open rates are calculated by the amount of people that have opened the email divided by the total amount of emails sent. A 20% open rate means that for the 100 emails sent, 20 were opened.


There is not a typical open rate, there are a lot of different variables can have an effect on them. The way email list was compiled, when it was sent, the size of the list and a million other potential factors has an influence on them. There are a lot of benchmark figures reported, but even between these figures you will find variations in the open rates.

Here are few tips that will increase your open rates.

Subject lines

The subject line is the first thing a subscriber will see and by having a relevant and compelling subject line, it will give you a greater chance that subscribers will open the email.

When creating your subject line, take your time and think about it instead of adding it in at the last minute. Include as much relevant information in the subject line as possible. Sending out an offer? Make sure it states that. A clearly worded subject with the product and details of the offer increases opens. Also remember to test, some subject lines will work better for your subscribers and some won’t. Pick the ones that receive the best open rates and continue with those.

More tips on making a great subject line can be found here.


Segment your lists

You should always have segmented lists. Subscribers will have different interests and needs and should not be grouped into one big group. Having a list of 10 cat lovers and 10 dog lovers then sending content about dogs to all your subscribers, your open rate is already handicapped by 50%.

Segment your database into different groups and send group specific content to each one. Doing this will ensure that the correct people are receiving emails increase the chances of your emails being relevant and interesting to the subscriber.


Delivery times

It is important to send your campaigns at the correct times, ideally when your subscribers are actively checking their inbox and when there is less competition for their inbox. Some people suggest 10am or 5pm are the best times to send emails. This might work for them but your subscribers could behave differently. Test different days and times for your next few email campaigns and choose the one that is consistently showing higher open rates.



Keep your content as clean as possible and do not use phrases that are associated with SPAM. Inbox providers will automatically filter emails that appear to mislead and trick readers. One way inboxes do this is by checking for specific keywords which are normally related to spam. Words like No fees, Cash, Sex, Winner, Free and 100’s of other words can often get the email flagged as SPAM.

This stops subscribers receiving the email directly into their inbox, which can have a negative effect on your open rates.

You can read more about avoiding the SPAM trap here.


Unengaged subscribers

Sending campaigns to subscribers who have not opened an email from you for a long time is also effecting your open rates. Having a list of 1,000 contacts and 500 have not opened an email from you in 3 years, your open rate will be limited as soon as the campaign has been sent out. Remove those contacts or send them a re-engagement campaign, this will help you remove the subscribers that are no longer interested and can help reengage subscribers that have forgotten about you.

Contact lists

Send to subscribers that want to receive emails from you. Do not expect to have fantastic open rates with a database that has been purchased. Even if the list has been obtained legitimately the chances are the contacts on that list have not signed up to receive emails from your company. This means they will are more likely to mark your emails as SPAM. You will see higher open rates with an organically grown database, which will be full of people who would like to hear from you.


Final thoughts

Open rates are a great indicator of how your email campaigns are performing. If the open rate is good, it usually means your subject lines are relevant to your subscribers and they are expecting emails from you. A low open rate can mean that the subject line is not relevant or attention-grabbing enough. You could be sending your campaign to all of your subscribers and some of those subscribers may not be interested in this particular email, you could be sending out too many emails or not enough.

Remember to send out consistently great emails and apply some of these tips to your campaigns, test them and watch the opens rise.


Josh from NewZapp  Josh Pinto

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