Improve Email Open RatesAs you may have noticed in the past couple of years, open rates have declined, making it harder and harder to reach the inbox. This is due to the large anti-spam systems that ISPs have had to put in place to thwart spammers. Unfortunately, permission-based mail also gets treated as spam. So how do you improve your open rates?

Well first, let\’s talk about what an open rate is. An open rate is the percentage of mail you have sent, divided by the number of unique people that have opened your message. So if you successfully sent an email to 100 people, and 50 of those people open your email, then you would receive a 50% open rate (that would be a nice figure huh?).

A lot of marketers feel the larger the list they have the better things will be, but this is simply not true. It\’s all about the quality of a list, not quantity. Why would you want to continue to send emails to people who don\’t care? People who don\’t open your email (and we aren\’t talking about plain text emails here), don\’t care about your content. You need to get real with yourself and face the facts. The first thing you should do is go back over the last 10 campaigns you sent, and remove all of the people who have not opened your email.

\”But Jared\”, you might say, \”there are a lot of programs out there like Gmail and Outlook 2007 that automatically strip images so there is no way for us to know if those people are opening my emails\”. Ask yourself a simple question. If you use a program like Outlook 2007 that strips images, and you receive a campaign from a brand you opted in to, chances are you would choose to display the images so you can see the message correctly. Once the user does this, their open will once again be recorded.

By removing your non-opens, your list will definitely go down in size but your open rate percentage will go up. If you sent 100 emails and you only get 50 people opening (for a 50% open rate), then you removed the other 50 people who are not opening, on your next send to 50 people you would see a 100% open rate. You will be sending your campaign to people who are really interested in your brand.

Now let\’s take a look at another way to improve your open rates. 33% of email addresses change on a yearly basis; think about that for a moment. That means a third of your database is going to disappear. As these people change jobs and cancel their free email accounts, you have to make sure their email addresses are removed. Sure, most email programs or ESPs will remove hard bounced emails, but what about spam, unknown or soft bounces that need to managed also? Make sure you can run a report which shows how many times an email address is bouncing and the reasons why.

Here are some general rules: If a soft bounce occurs more than 5 times in 30 days, get rid of it. If an email is rejected because of a spam block more than 10 times get rid of it. And if an unknown bounce bounces more than 10 times, get rid of it. By removing these bounces you will be removing addresses that will affect your total campaign size (in a good way), thus increasing your open rates.

There is a lot to talk about on this subject especially when it comes to creating your content and opt in best practices. I will soon be writing another article to discuss these issues, but I want to leave you with this. It\’s not all about the open rate anymore. Curve ball huh? More to come\”¦.

Jared Reitzin
Small Business Help