4 Solid Fundamentals Guaranteed to Increase Your Email Open Rate

Alexandra Kozma   37

Updated on March 1, 2022

We all know how awful it feels to be ignored.

You may spend hours of your life researching, crafting, and sending newsletters. Hours you’ll never get back. Just to realize it was for nothing.

Your hard-earned subscribers keep refusing to read your emails.


You may be wondering: “Is there something wrong with me? Should I just give up on sending newsletters?”

Email marketing is tricky. An average office worker receives over 80 emails a day. Nobody ever reads that many emails on a daily basis. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

If you let this happen, you’ll very soon find yourself in the email blackhole: the spam folder. If people don’t open your emails, you won't get clicks, which results in lower conversion rate - which means less revenue.

Avoid this snowball effect with four essential yet powerful ways that will get your subscribers to choose your emails even after a long day at work.

#1 Segment Your Audience

In the era of re-targeting ads and recommended YouTube videos, people expect the internet to know what they want.

With generic emails that want to cover everything, you’re going against this. If you try to talk to everyone in your copy, you aren’t actually talking to anyone.

Unless you only deal with one, extremely specific and narrow topic, one mailing list is not enough.

Using your email marketing provider, you can create multiple mailing lists based on the differences in your audience: their hobbies, nationality, gender, age, lifestyle and so on.

Have a separate mailing list for vegans and for meat eaters; for beginners and for advanced students; for those who want to lose weight and for those who want to be healthier. You get the idea.

This way you can avoid sending emails your subscribers don’t care about, making the content more relevant to them.

Once you set the multiple mailing lists up, make sure you get the right subscribers on the mailing lists. There are a few ways you can go about this:

  • Use a multi-step opt-in form. On a multi-step opt-in form you can show several options to your readers so that they can choose the topic they’re most interested in and only subscribe to the related mailing list. This allows your subscribers to only get emails about the given topic. Learn more about multi-step opt-in forms here.

  • Use targeting. Decide where you want to display your opt-in forms - and where you don’t. This can be a given page, post, a category, or even the combination of these. This way only those can subscribe to a given mailing list who already showed interest in the topic.

#2 Timing Is Essential

Do you know your subscribers’ daily routine, habits and lifestyle? Learning this about your audience can save you from a tanking open rate.

If your mailing list is full of busy entrepreneurs, they might not start the morning with your emails, unless it helps them be more productive for the day.

Friday afternoon, exhausted after a long week, they may be way more open to something more entertaining and less informative.

Christmas is coming, but your subscribers are so busy they don’t have time to buy gifts. Send them an email with tips to get over the Christmas madness without leaving their laptops.

If you know where your subscribers’ head is at and send related emails, your emails will be more compelling to your audience.

  • Learn more about your target audience’s habits. You can do it by reading their comments, but if you really want to get to know them well, send them a survey, a quiz, or schedule a call with them

  • Email them individually. You don't always have to email everyone on your mailing list at the same time. Email people right after they sign up to your list or to a course; when they left a product in cart; after they purchased and you want to recommend related product; or even on their birthday.

#3 Take Care of Your Mailing List

Sender reputation shows how trustworthy your IP address is and it keeps changing depending on your email sending habits and the responses of your recipients.

If you have bad sender reputation, your emails simply won’t get delivered. It’s hard to read emails we never receive in the first place.

You can easily destroy your sender reputation if you’re not careful - but it takes a hard work to restore it.

The most common ways to ruin your sender reputation score are sending emails inconsistently, or to those who don’t want your messages. You can check your score here.

What you should do to avoid this:

  • Unsubscribe inactive people from your mailing list. Having a ton of people on your mailing list looks nice, but if you have many inactive subscribers, it does more harm than good. Remove everyone from your list who hasn’t opened your emails in the last few months. You can use this technique to make sure not to unsubscribe people who want to keep reading your emails.

  • Send re-engagement emails to your subscribers. If they do not engage with your emails, unsubscribe them from your list. This way you only keep engaged contacts which will boost your open and click through rates.

#4 Write a Compelling but Relevant Subject Line

Let’s be honest: do you put the same effort into writing your subject headline as composing the email?

When your subscribers check their inbox, the only thing they see is the name of the sender and the subject line. Nothing else. That’s all you have to work with if you want to get those clicks.

If your subject line is so boring not even your dad would click it or makes people think you’re trying to scam them, people won’t bother wasting their time on it.

Writing a subject line that is good, relevant, interesting and doesn’t sound scammy takes time and practice.

We have a few tips for you to get started.

  • Pique your readers’ interest. Don’t give away too much in your subject line but make it interesting enough to make your readers want to find out more. Asking a question can be very effective.

    E.g. "Are you making the most common mistake in list building?" - If you're building your list, you want to know what the most common mistake is and whether you're doing it right or not.

  • Keep your subject line short. It’s easier to read and many mailbox providers cut the subject line short, which makes only the beginning of it visible. Keep it shorter than 50 characters to make sure your entire subject line is visible on most devices.

    E.g. "We analysed YOUR funnels" - this subject line is short enough for any device.

  • Personalize it. Adding a single name to your subject line will increase your open rates - it sounds as if the email was only for that one person!

    E.g. "Are you doing this with your opt-in forms yet, Alexandra?"

  • Use numbers. It’s easy to read them, gives your readers a timeframe and implies that the content is skim-friendly.

    E.g. "2 things you MUST fix on your website." - if you see this headline, you know that you only need to read two sentences to see if the content is valuable for you or not.

  • A/B test different subject lines. Most email marketing providers have this feature. Write a few strong subject lines and run an A/B test to see what works best for your audience.

  • Avoid spam-trigger words. Here is a long list of words you shouldn’t use in your subject line if you want to avoid this.

    E.g. "Get rich while you sleep!" - Come on, it's 2016. Your readers know that it's probably not true.

  • Test for spamminess. We recommend Mail Tester. Send your emails to their app to check your spam score. The tool will also tell you what is wrong with your email (e.g. there is a broken link, your content is not safe, you’re blacklisted) and what you could improve.

  • Avoid dishonesty. Don’t promise anything in your subject line that you can’t keep.

    E.g. "The secret to losing 20 kgs in 4 weeks" Do you really know the secret? If not, you'll just come across as fake. 

How Will Your Next Newsletter Be Different?

Which tips did you find the most useful? Have you found other ways to increase your email open rate?

Let me know in the comments below what changes you're going to apply to your newsletters.

by Alexandra Kozma  December 14, 2016


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Leave a Comment

    • I’m glad you find it useful Murrey. The subject line depends on the subject of your newsletter, not the job.

  • I love this post! Very helpful. Do you also have advice on how to get higher quality opt-ins? Many of my subscribers opt-in for the lead magnet and then instantenously they opt-out again. What are the techniques to filter subscriber quality at the opt-in stage?

    • Hi Gabriel, the most important factor here will be your opt-in offer and how you frame it. The welcome email will also play a big role.
      If in the welcome email you tease them with more content to come, you might be able to keep them around long enough to provide value and gain trust.

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