Do This to Improve Your Email Open Rate

Can I be honest with you, guys?

Email marketing is hard work. Sure, the process of sending an email is easy, but everything else takes work. From building your email list to coming up with the perfect subject line to driving your subscribers back to your website—it’s definitely not the stuff of magic and fairytales.

However, email marketing is one of my favorite brand building strategies. There’s nothing quite as effective at remaining “top of mind” as a well-oiled email marketing strategy.

But, you’ve got to get people to open your emails first. So, how do you do that?

Let’s discuss my favorite ideas for getting more subscribers to open your emails, starting now:

Here’s an easy step by step checklist to boosting your email open rate.

Focus on the Subject Line

The subject line is one of the most important elements of your email. If you don’t get it right, your subscriber may not open your email. Or, worse yet, the subscriber may actually report your email as spam.

That’s definitely not good news.

So, how do you improve your subject line? Here are two of the best tips I know:

Make it short.

Short subject lines are a must. According to this study performed by Return Path, the ideal subject line is about 41-50 characters in length, or 10 words or less.

Image Courtesy of Marketing Sherpa

Get to the point.

Attention spans are already short and only getting shorter—and the inbox is no place for long titles that require your subscriber to do a ton of thinking. Explain what benefit the subscriber will receive from opening your email. Here are two examples: Here’s Your Exclusive Backstage Pass or How to Become a Better Reader Overnight.

Make Use of the Pre-Header

Do you know what the pre-header is? A pre-header is the text shown immediately following the subject line. Most (though not all) email clients offer a preview of the email this way. Here’s an example from Gmail:

Image Courtesy of David Bruce Jr., Flickr

Here’s why pre-headers are important:

If the subject of your email is too vague, your subscriber will generally use the pre-header as an additional filter. This is your chance to hook them into reading your content.

Don’t do like this guy:

… And waste your pre-header opportunity with a, “Having trouble reading this email? Click here…” spiel. It’s seems helpful, but it’s utterly useless. Chances are, if your subscriber has trouble reading your email, they’ll just move on to the next message in their inbox.

Make use of that pre-header and start off with your most engaging content, even if that’s just a question.

Choose a Friendly Sender Name

Here’s one of the biggest mistakes many brands make: Sending emails as the brand, ie. “The Waldorf Corp.” or “Harcourt Breads, Inc.”


It’s not friendly. It’s not human. And it feels really impersonal and business-y.

Every email you send should feel personal. That starts with your sender name. Instead of “The Waldorf Corp.” consider “Nicole at The Waldorf Corp.” This little tweak can create a sense of intimacy and warmth. The subscriber feels like there’s an actual person behind the email, not a mass-emailing robot.

Strike a Friendly Tone

Speaking of friendliness, extend that concept to the email itself.

You should never sound like a salesperson making a high-pressured pitch, or a high-brow intellectual that’s talking down to your audience. And you shouldn’t sound removed, either.

Dude, you’re writing an email.

Your email should sound informal, relaxed, and familiar—like you’re speaking to your friends.

And this brings me to my next point: Whenever possible, address your subscriber by his or her first name. Most email marketing services allow you to personalize emails with their first name (as long as you capture their name within the email opt-in box). Here's how to personalize your emails in ConvertKit.

Go With a Trusted Email Service Provider

Speaking of ConvertKit, I wanted to share with you one of the reasons why I love this tool so much. ConvertKit can actually improve your email open rate. I know—it sounds weird, right? But here’s how:

Email clients (such as Gmail and Outlook) determine whether or not your email is junk or spam based on several criteria, one of which is the reputation of your email service provider. ConvertKit has one of the best reputations among email service providers and enjoys a high deliverability rate. Mariah Coz’s open rate went from 30% with MailChimp to 60% by switching to ConvertKit. That’s because half of her list wasn’t even seeing her emails.


Image Courtesy of Twitter

The moral of the story is, your email service provider matters. Don’t just go for free/cheap, because in the end, you get what you pay for.

Purge Your List

Has the time come to say sayonara? It happens.

And when it happens, don’t try to hold on to what can never be.

A lot of people get starstruck by the amount of subscribers they have on their list. They think that quantity is the most important aspect of an email list. And I’ll admit, it is nice to have a huge email list. However, numbers don’t mean anything if no one is opening your emails. If you have a list of 100 subscribers, but only 25 of them are actually opening your emails, then it’s time to cut the 75 who aren’t.

It stings, doesn’t it?

But here’s why it’s so important that you purge your list periodically:

Unread emails affect your future deliverability. If you are sending email after email that never gets opened, your future emails may suffer. The email client is watching and analyzing how their users respond to your emails. If a huge percentage of your subscribers don’t open your emails, the email client will assume your content is spam-ish, and may route your emails to the spam folder. And not just for that one subscriber but for everyone who uses the same email client (i.e. all your subscribers with a Gmail address).


So, that’s why I highly recommend cutting inactive subscribers from your list periodically. Do a check every six months.

But! Before you cut inactive subscribers from your list, initiate a winback campaign. Send out a, “Hey, do you still want to be my friend?” email to any inactive subscriber. This is their final opportunity to stay subscribed. If you get no response, it’s time to cut them loose.

Close With a Call to Action

Don’t just end with a, “See ya next time!” or “Thanks for reading!” sign off. Drive them into a more meaningful relationship with your brand. How? With a call to action.

A call to action can be anything from a, “Check out my recent blog post” to “Here’s a free eBook I think you’ll love”.

The point of the call to action is to engage your subscriber and pull them back to your website. You don’t want to develop a passive relationship with your subscriber. You want them to be a part of your community and interact with your content. So, that’s why it’s necessary to have a call to action at the end of every email you send.

The more you can get your audience to engage with your emails now, the more likely they are to open your emails in the future, thereby boosting your future email open rate.

Additional Resources

Here are two resources that go along perfectly with this post. Be sure to check them out!

Don’t forget to download this easy step-by-step checklist to boost your email open rate.




Oh! And I'll send you a FREE Tech Toolkit as a thank you :)