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How to Improve Email Marketing Open Rate and Click Rate

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.

Learn how to improve your open and click rate.

Learn how to improve your open and click rate.

If you thought it was hard getting email subscribers to opt-in, you're in for another uphill battle after they finally do: Getting them to actually open the emails you send and click links.

Here are some ideas on how to improve email marketing open rate and click rate.

How to Determine Email Open Rate and Click Rate?

If you are using one of the leading email marketing providers (examples would include Mailchimp, AWeber, Constant Contact, Vertical Response, Infusionsoft, etc.) as you should be, you should not even have to ask this question! Providers like these offer marketers a wealth of reports that show open rates, click rates, and other helpful metrics.

What Is a Normal Email Open Rate?

Marketing email open rates vary by industry and/or topic. According to email marketing benchmarks reported by Mailchimp, average open rates ranged from a low of 15.11% up to 28.44% (stats as of January 3, 2017). It's good to look at what is an average rate for your industry or topic to see how you compare.

Why Your High Email Open Rate May Not Be That Great

Let's say that you're looking at your stats from your recent email campaign and your open rate is a super fantastic 60%. Wow! You're beating even the best average, right? Maybe . . . maybe not.

A consideration in determining if your open rate is problematic is looking at the size of your list. For small lists, high open rates may be common. For example, if you have 10 people on your list and five of them open up, you have a 50% open rate which is enviable. But that's still just five people. Then let's say your list grows to 100 people and 25 open up, giving you a 25% open rate. Your open rate has gone down dramatically, but the number of people you've actually reached has increased.

Monitor both open rate and email list size over time to determine if you have an email open rate problem.

Monitor both open rate and email list size over time to determine if you have an email open rate problem.

— Heidi Thorne

Why Your Email Open Rate Might Be Low

Reasons why subscribers don't open up marketing emails can be the same as the reasons they don't opt-in: Too busy and already getting too many emails. But there are additional issues—some of which you may be able to control—that can affect whether your subscribers will open, read, and respond to your email campaigns.

  • Use Short and Specific Subject Lines. The subject line is probably the most important aspect of any email campaign. Within the span of a few dozen text characters (around 30 characters is recommended since that's the limit of what might appear in a mobile email inbox list), you need to describe the primary benefit or content you're offering inside.
  • Don't Use Spammy Elements. Though they may be attention-getting, exercise caution when using spammy elements such as all capital letters, crazy punctuation, or emoji symbols in subject lines. Not only could it turn off some subscribers, but email systems may also bounce these messages or send them to a spam or junk message folder. Also, until the technology becomes more widespread and reliable, using emojis could cause subject lines to show strangely in your subscribers' inboxes. (Seen it happen!)
  • Emails Should be Sent by Real People. With the sophistication of today's email systems, marketers can easily note the person who is the "From:" contact when preparing a campaign. Always make it from a real person or from an organizational name that subscribers will recognize or want to hear from. Can't tell you how many e-blasts I see in my inbox list with "Info" or some other generic or unrecognizable name. Delete!
  • Only Send to Opt-In Subscribers Using a Trusted Email Marketing System. Never, ever use your regular email address or Microsoft Outlook to send your broadcast emails! Your messages could bounce or be sent to a junk folder because they look like spam. Your subscribers can't open what they don't get! You could also be violating terms of service.
  • Only Send Emails to People Who Have Officially Subscribed to Your List. Also, always use a trusted email marketing broadcast system (e.g., Mailchimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, etc.) with a track record of high deliverability and compliance with email marketing laws.

What Is Email Click Rate?

Email click rate is the number or percentage of times recipients click a link that is in the body of an email marketing message. While open rate is important, this can be an even more important metric since it can show how successful your message was in getting people to take action.

What Is a Good Click Rate for Email Marketing?

Again referencing Mailchimp's benchmark reports, average click rates for email campaigns across several industries ranged from 1.26% up to 5.17% (as of January 3, 2017). So "good" might be in the single-digit percentages.

Email Click Rates Do Not Equal Conversion Rates

Yay! Your subscribers are actually opening your emails. What will they find inside? It better be something that they value and that helps you build your business!

Remember, marketing emails are advertising. You are selling your subscribers something, whether it's something to buy, content to view, or getting them to reply to your email. If your click rate is high, but your rate of "sales" from the campaign is not, your conversion rate is a problem. This warrants further investigation as to why people are not "buying" your goods, your content, or your invitation to engage.

... There should be one clear call to action in the email.

— Heidi Thorne

Email Marketing Success Factors

Marketers have mere seconds to grab attention and engage their email subscribers. A marketing email packed with too much content will often go to a virtual garbage can or put in a never-to-be-seen-again "Save for Later" folder.

Even for emails promoting content, as opposed to sales, consider whether a "one email, one goal" strategy might increase engagement. What that means is that there should be one, clear call to action in the email. Decide what that action should be (e.g., read your blog post, buy an item, visit a page on a website, etc.). Then write and design the email so that this goal is obvious for subscribers. This can make it easier for your subscribers to take action and easier for you to measure what made your email a success . . . or not.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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© 2017 Heidi Thorne


Lawrence Hebb on February 12, 2017:

What I do I want to do well! There are so many who don't do this part well.

I subscribed to some sites that didn't do it well, and got fed up with the 'pushiness'. A couple of other sites do it so well I always enjoy what they say, and seriously consider the product they have on offer, even if it's just a 'visit'.



Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 20, 2017:

Thanks for stopping by, Larry! Happy Weekend!

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on January 20, 2017:

Very informative.

Kenerek from Nigeria on January 20, 2017:

A friend should help you progress

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 20, 2017:

Well, Billybuc, friends don't let friends get stagnant. :) You're welcome. Thanks for stopping by, as always! Have a wonderful weekend ahead!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 20, 2017:

Hi Kay-Cee! Thanks for stopping by and chiming in. Have a great day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 20, 2017:

Flourish, I've had the same experience with some of my favorite bloggers and sites. Loved their emails until they got too sales-y. Time for these folks to do an audit of their activity. Thanks for adding your personal experience to the conversation! Have a great weekend ahead!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 20, 2017:

There you go, pushing me out of my comfort zone once again. And I thought we were friends!!!!! LOL

Thanks, as always, for sharing your expertise with us all.

And Happy Weekend!

Kenerek from Nigeria on January 20, 2017:

Very much on point

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 19, 2017:

Great information from a true expert. My favorite recipe/cooking blog site sends me emails daily and it was good until she added all kinds of ads onto the email. Now it's hard to get the recipe for all the distracting superfluous content. I don't even open them half the time anymore because of that.

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