I get asked this question all the time: What is a good email open rate?
Unfortunately, there’s not a definitive answer. If there were, I wouldn’t have to write an entire article on the subject.
However, there are a few things you should know as a marketer to improve your email open rate and make sure your email deliverability stays high. If you’re participating in opt-in email marketing — and you should — data can provide the answers to your most pressing questions. That’s what we’re going to cover today.
What is Email Open Rate?
Email open rate is a metric marketers use to determine what percentage of their subscribers actually open the emails sent to them.
Let’s say that you have a list of 1,000 email subscribers in your desktop database. You send out a marketing email, then check your open rate. Based on your data, 500 people opened your email.
That makes your email open rate 50 percent. Half of your subscribers actually opened your message.
Of course, that doesn’t tell the whole story. However, it’s a good indication of how well your email marketing campaign is progressing.
Why? Because when people don’t open your emails, they never get the chance to discover what you have to say in the body of that email. You wind up with inconsequential emails that do nothing to help you grow your business.
Of course, you can’t expect everyone to open your messages. But you can use your email open rate to gauge your marketing campaign’s health.
What Does Open Rate Indicate?
Before we can answer the primary question — What is a good email open rate? — we need to figure out what open rates mean.
Imagine you’re sending out wedding invitations to 500 of your closest friends. You get the address wrong on 25 of the invitations, another four don’t make it because the recipients have stopped their mail, and the post office fails to deliver 50 of them.
That cuts down on the number of guests who will show up to celebrate your nuptials.
What you don’t know is how many of the people who actually received your invitation opened them. That’s the great thing about email as opposed to direct mail.
How Do You Calculate Email Open Rate?
It’s easy to calculate your email open rate. You divide the number of people who open your emails by the total number of subscribers, then multiply the result by 100.
Let’s say you have 7,500 subscribers and 6,600 opened your email. You would divide 6,600 by 7,500, which is .88. Multiply .88 by 100 to get your email open rate percentage: 88 percent.
What Is a Good Email Open Rate In 2018?
You can get a benchmark to determine what is a good email open rate by looking at email marketing statistics. We don’t have benchmarks for 2018 yet, but we know that the average open rate across all industries was just shy of 25 percent in 2017.
Does that depress you? It shouldn’t. It’s just a number to be aware of. If you are achieving higher or lower open rates, you know where you stand.
What is The Average Email Open Rate Of Each Industry?
When we break down email open rates based on industry, we don’t see a ton of disparity. The open rates tend to range between 17 and 25 percent across the board.
However, some industries have incredibly high open rates. Arts and entertainment emails, for instance, get opened nearly 35 percent of the time. Then you have marketing emails on the low end at around 17 percent.
Why Is Your Email Open Rate Low? 4 Possible Reasons
Maybe you have a really low open rate. For instance, if only 3 percent of your subscribers open your emails, you probably need to change your email marketing a bit.
Let’s look at the four potential reasons for low email open rates.
1. You Need to Work on Better and Catchier Subject Lines
Email subject lines are the lifeblood of your marketing campaign. If you have a bad subject line, you don’t get to present your message to your audience.
Of course, you need good email copywriting skills, too, but that’s another issue. First, we need to get people to open up so they can read.
A good email subject line arouses curiosity, evokes excitement, or engages the reader’s interest in some other way. For instance, if you let people know that there’s a surprise inside — such as a discount code — you’re more likely to get good email open rates.
Frequently Asked Questions About Email Subject Lines
There are a few questions about email subject lines that get asked frequently, especially by new marketers. Let’s look at a few of them and their answers.
- Should you personalize subject lines? Yes, if you have your subscribers’ names, test using them in the subject lines to increase open rates.
- Can you use emojis? Yes, but only if they’re relevant and tasteful. Make sure you don’t offend your audience — or, perhaps worse, confuse them.
- Do shorter subject lines work better? In some cases, yes. Since many people open their emails on mobile, they see less of the subject line on their screens.
2. You Are Probably Not Segmenting Your Email List Well Enough
Email segmentation is critical. I can’t stress that enough.
Make sure you’re sending emails to the right people at the right time. For instance, you don’t want to send a bottom-of-the-funnel email to someone who has just encountered your brand for the first time.
3. You Have Too Many Inactive Email Subscribers
People become inactive for lots of reasons. Maybe they’ve already made a one-time purchase, so they no longer need to hear from you. Perhaps they’ve closed their addresses or decided they’re not interested in your products.
There’s nothing wrong with any of those scenarios. Regular email list cleaning will remove inactive subscribers to make sure you’re getting accurate metrics.
4.You Are Not Getting Qualified Leads
There’s a huge difference between a lead and a qualified lead. A qualified lead legitimately wants to hear from you and has a strong likelihood of buying from you in the future.
All you have to do is sign in to your Hello Bar account and create the type of asset you want. For instance, an exit intent popup will appear when someone decides to leave your site.
If you’re using a discount as your incentive, you can let people know so they’re more motivated to sign up. Plus, it shows purchase intent.
4 Steps to Set Realistic Goals to Improve Your Email Open Rates
One problem I see a lot is unreasonable expectations. If you’re a brand new business, you can’t expect to collect 5,000 email addresses and get a 50 percent open rate in the next month.
It’s next to impossible.
Set realistic goals so you’re working toward something that you can achieve.
Step 1. Chart Your Email Metric Rates From Past Quarters to Get Visual Representation of Your Numbers
A great place to start is with historic data. If you’ve been tracking your email metrics over time, you can pinpoint trends that might help you improve your current numbers.
Export the data to a spreadsheet. You can also create graphs to help you see them more clearly. It all depends on how you best process data.
Step 2. Identify Good or Bad Email Outliers
Every email you send will have a different open rate. What you’re looking for are the outliers.
Let’s say you have one email that achieved a 26 percent open rate. That’s impressive. But why was it so successful? Examine the subject line, offer, power words, and other features that might help you replicate that success.
Similarly, if you have an email that only got opened by 10 percent of your subscribers, figure out why it failed. Compare it to the “good” emails so you don’t make similar mistakes down the road.
Step 3. Check For Patterns You Can Explore for Future Campaigns and Get Better Email Open rates
Patterns are extremely useful.
For instance, maybe your email open rates go up significantly over the holidays. If you’re running an ecommerce email marketing campaign, those increased numbers might have to do with seasonality.
Step 4. Set Up Future Campaign Goals
Benchmarks can be useful simply for knowledge purposes, but don’t obsess over them. Instead, review your data and set a reasonable goal for your next campaign.
Moving the needle by just a few percentage points is a great goal. What is a good email open rate? One that helps you boost conversions and revenue. It’s that simple.
How to Improve Your Email Open Rate: 13 Amazing Tips
We’ve gone over some of the logistics regarding email open rates, but how do you apply that knowledge to your own campaigns? I’ve prepared 13 tips to help you succeed with email marketing.
1. Get Better and More Qualified Leads
It all starts with learning how to build an email list. If you don’t have subscribers, open rates don’t matter.
It’s easy to create a bar in Hello Bar that allows you to collect more emails. You decide what your headline and call to action say.
If you’re not getting qualified leads, test your offers. Hello Bar allows you to set up A/B tests in a matter of seconds. If a plain offer to learn about your business doesn’t work, try something more appealing.
2. Use Industry-Specific Lead Magnets to Get More Qualified Leads and Increase Email Open Rates
Your lead magnet should be specific to your industry. In other words, it can’t just be something “everyone wants.”
Will people sign up for your email list to get a brand new iPhone? Absolutely. But that means they’re not qualified leads. They’ll take the iPhone, but will probably never buy from you.
Create a lead magnet your target customer will want. It might be a tool, a calculator, or a checklist. Make it unique.
3. Constantly Segment Your Lists to Improve Your Email Open Rates
As mentioned above, a properly segmented list will enjoy better open rates than one without segmentation. Your leads fall into categories based on where they sit in the buyer’s journey.
New subscribers need to be eased into your campaign. People who are familiar with your brand might be ready to purchase. Send them discount codes and other incentives to buy.
4. Constantly Clean Up Your Email List to Keep Email Open Rates High
A clean list is a healthy list. If you’re letting your email list grow without pruning out the inactive subscribers, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Clean your email list at least once a quarter. If it’s extremely big, make it once a month or even once a week. You can’t clean too often.
5. Avoid Getting Your Emails Getting Caught By Spam Filters
Spam words are death to an email marketing campaign. If you don’t want Gmail, Yahoo!, Outlook, and other providers to direct your emails directly to users’ spam folders, avoid words that trigger spam filters.
Words like free, zero percent, code, and no money down are all dealbreakers. Stick with casual, engaging language.
6. Use Catchy Email Subject Lines to Get a Good Email Open Rate
My best advice for writing catchy email subject lines is to experiment with language. Open a thesaurus and find new words to express the same things.
Consider this email subject line, provided by Digital Marketer:
Your private invitation expires tomorrow night.
The wording here is unique. It could say, “Your invitation ends tomorrow night,” but it doesn’t. The word “expires” elevates the headline and evokes urgency.
7. Perform A/B Tests to Figure Out he Best Time to Send Your Emails
A/B testing is worth its weight in gold. Figure out the best time to send your emails by testing different days and time frames.
Maybe your audience is most likely to open your emails if they get them on their lunch hour or right after the workday ends. Perhaps they check their email in the morning and like seeing a surprise from your brand.
8. Personalize Your Email Subject Lines for a Better Email Open Rate
There’s nothing better than getting a little personal. Simply adding the subscriber’s name to the subject line can increase open rates.
Why? Because it feels more intimate. And people naturally respond to the sight or sound of their own names.
9. Be Personal With Your Email Subscribers
Instead of writing a promotional email, consider writing a letter as though you were addressing a friend. Write in a casual tone and keep the subject light. You might even share a secret about yourself — a time you failed, for instance, or a problem you suffer from.
When you’re willing to get personal, people look forward to seeing your emails. They know you’re not just going to espouse the same marketing gobbledegook everyone else writes.
10. Write Amazing Content and Use Storytelling to Convey Your Message
Building on the latest point, focus on telling stories. Why do you think personal and corporate blogs became so popular? People were being open and honest about themselves.
These days, businesses want to cover up the battle scars and mistakes. If you’re different — if you’re willing to actually live in a transparent space — your audience will respond.
Start with those subject lines. Let them know you’re about to tell a powerful, moving, entertaining, or inspiring story.
11. Use Humor If Appropriate
Humor can break down a lot of barriers. If you make people laugh, they’ll come back for more.
Think about what you do when you’re stressed out, frustrated, or angry. You might watch stand-up comics on Netflix, watch funny cat videos on YouTube, or call a friend who always makes you laugh.
We seek out humor because it reduces stress and relieves anxiety. If your emails provide that, your open rates will soar.
12. Optimize for Mobile Devices to Improve Your Email Open Rates
I don’t know about you, but I always have a mobile device of some kind within arm’s reach. It’s a habit most people have begun to develop.
It’s easier to pull out your smartphone and check your email than to walk to your desktop or laptop computer. Consequently, your emails need to be mobile friendly.
13. Write Amazing Welcome Email Campaigns
A welcome email should introduce your brand in a unique and endearing way. Don’t try to sell to anyone. Instead, make them feel appreciated and involved.
A little humor goes a long way here. So does giving your elevator pitch in terms of your brand story or USP. Don’t make it salesy. Just think of it as an introduction to someone at a conference or trade show. You’re opening the doors and hoping your subscriber steps through.
2 Complementary Questions
While we’re discussing email open rates, there are a couple other subjects I thought we should hit.
1. How Many Email Campaigns Should You Send Per Month?
Your email open rates might decline if you’re sending emails twice a day. People don’t want to hear from you that often, no matter how awesome you are, because they’re bombarded with tons of other messages.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve unsubscribed from a list that initially intrigued me, but wound up becoming a burden. I received so many emails that I associated those brands with disruption and annoyance.
It’s like a fly buzzing in your ear, but you can’t quite swat it away.
Unfortunately, the spam folder is a big fly swatter. If you’re emailing too often, you’ll get the wrong end of it.
So how often should you email? Start with once per week. See how it goes. Later, you can poll your audience and ask if they want to hear from you more offten.
2. How Are B2B Open and Click-Through Rates Different From B2C Businesses?
There’s a slight difference between the open and click-through rates of B2C businesses when compared to B2B businesses. In most cases, B2B businesses tend to get better conversions.
There’s a reason for that, though. When you’re marketing to a B2B audience, you’ve likely done more qualifying work. You’re selling a specific product or service to a specific customer. You’re less likely to attract people who won’t be interested in what you sell.
How to Create an Email List From Scratch
I can guess what you’re wondering right now: How to build an email list from scratch. It’s not hard, but it takes effort.
Start with email collection. Use an exit intent popup that makes signing up for your email list impossible to resist.
As you can see, Hello Bar makes it easy. You can change everything from images and text to the type of button you use.
Keep collecting email addresses, but make sure you send them into the right categories. Segmentation is critical.
From there, optimize your subject lines and body content for your audience. Give them a reason to look forward to your next email so your open rates increase.
What is a good email open rate? A better one than what you have right now.
You should be working consistently to increase your open rates. You’ll reach more people and get more opportunities for sales.
No, it’s not easy. However, it will result in a stronger business.
What is a good email open rate for your business?