Getting the Best 'Open Rate' for Your Emails

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By Sarah Miller    8/1/2019

Update 4/9/2020: CorpNote 3.0: more tools, more power, more possibilities...
The open rate for email has many variables when it comes to email marketing.

For many of our members, the 'open rate' of their communications is very important. In simple terms, the open rate is the number of people that have viewed your email, divided by the total number of email you sent, shown as a percentage. (A 100% open rate means everyone saw your email.)

I've been helping my customers with their email campaigns since 1996 so this is a topic I've seen in action for many years. When I'm asked the question "What's a good open rate for my emails?" or in a pre-sales call "What open rate can I expect with CorpNote?", I'm hesitant to give a response because there are so many variables.

These variables include the quality of your email list, factors like when and how often you send your emails, and the goal or purpose of your email campaign.

What is the goal of the email campaign?

There are many articles and blogs on the subject of the best time of day to send your email or what the average open rate for your specific business should be. For example, on average, most mass email campaigns (such as email newsletters) average between a 10-30% open rate and email campaigns focused on employee recognition will average between a 50-90% open rate.

But 'general' or 'average' statistics are just guidelines and can actually mean very little when examining a specific customer's email open rate. The part of the equation that is often missing is 'what was the overall goal of the email campaign?' Were you looking for more website visits, for more sales or some other measurable result? For example, you could have a 10% open rate on an email campaign but it resulted in a 50% increase in sales for that week. I would consider that an effective email campaign even though the email open rate was 10%.

But even if you meet your goal, there is always room for improvement...

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Factors that affect Open Rate and Strategies for Improvement

To follow are the factors and strategies I consider when putting together an email campaign to ensure that the 'open rate' is going to have its best chance for success.

  1. Email List Quality

    I put this first because it's one of the most important factors in determining the success of your email campaigns. How well do you know the person you sent the email to and have they given you their permission? Are you removing unsubscribed and/or bounced emails from your list? Keeping your email list up to date is a key factor in improving your open rate.
  2. The Day and Time of Day

    I have found Tuesday morning is the most successful time for us to send our email communications. I encourage you to analyze your own statistics. See instructions below on how to look at your CorpNote email open rate statistics to see what day of the week and time of day is getting you the best open rate results.
  3. The Subject Line

    I could literally write an entire book on subject lines but analyzing your statistics will help you best hone in on what's working.

    Here are some general guidelines:
    • Clearly identify yourself or your company and summarize the purpose of the email
    • Create an honest, descriptive email subject line that is 50 characters or less
    • Avoid 'spammy' phrases like the ones you see in your own inbox
  4. Consistent Sending

    I have found consistency in when email campaigns are sent to be one of the most effective tools in improving email open rates. When a person is expecting an email communication that they look forward to every Tuesday morning (a sales flyer, a news briefing etc.), then they will start to open the email as soon as they see the sender name. They may not have even paid attention to the subject line if they are conditioned to reading your emails on that day of the week.

    For example, if I discover from my statistics that I have the best open rates on Tuesdays mornings, I will make sure to send my weekly email on that day of the week.
  5. Look at Your Own Email Viewing Behavior

    It's amazing what you discover when you examine your own behavior when it comes to opening emails. Chances are that your habits may be similar to the people on your email list.

    For example, I've noticed that I open more emails first thing in the morning when I'm enjoying my morning cup of tea and I'm in a 'reading' or 'listening' state of mind. I've also noticed I do this on my mobile device while sitting at the breakfast table rather than at my desk using my computer. Conversely, when I receive emails in the late afternoon, I'm generally too busy to be in a 'listening' frame of mind so any newsletters or flyers I receive either get flagged for later (if there is an interesting subject line) or I delete them.

Even if your email isn't seen as 'opened,' it's important to note they will still see the company name or your name as the sender and the subject line. This type of view counts towards the total number of 'brand impressions' but it isn't measurable.

How to View Your CorpNote Email Statistics

Looking at your email statistics will help you improve the above factors so you can create your best strategies for improving your open rates. There are several ways to get statistics on who has viewed your emails.

  1. Stats for Each Email

    Every email in your sent email bin contains statistics on the 'open rate' percentage based on the number of recipients and how many of those recipients viewed the email. You can also download an excel report with this data by choosing 'Download Excel Report' from the options drop down menu.
  2. Aggregate Statistics

    You can quickly view your aggregate email statistics for the past 7, 30 or 60 days on your Account Overview page, which you see when you sign into your CorpNote account.

    You can also search your email history by entering a specific date range. On the search results page, you will see a button for 'Download Excel Report.' The excel report contains the date and time each email was sent, how many recipients it was sent to, the open rate percentage, the email subject line and other helpful information.

Your actual open rate most likely exceeds our numbers. The 'open rate' we record may not be 100% accurate because we only measure unique open rates if:

  1. your recipients email inbox images are set to display, or
  2. your recipients click to view an email in a browser.

We use these methods to respect your recipient's privacy, and to be most widely compatible with people's browsers, devices and privacy settings. Consider your open rate statistics as a success indicator, not as an absolute number.

Did you Accomplish your Goal?

Every email campaign should have a goal so you can measure its success. I've hopefully helped you see that statistics such as 'open rates' are not 'good or bad,' they are simply benchmarks on which you can measure your own campaign improvements over time. I've often seen my clients get so absorbed in 'statistics' that they forget to celebrate their success when they have met a goal. Only you know the goal of your email campaigns and you will need to put a plan in place for how to measure whether the goal was successful.

Do you have a suggestion for a topic you'd like us to cover? Let us know!

Related: Email Campaigns, Email Marketing

Sarah Miller
President, Set Now Solutions and CorpNote

For over 20 years, Sarah has helped small businesses and nonprofits grow their business through email marketing. She specializes in email marketing, website design and SEO.

Connect with Sarah:
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