Increase email open rates and click throughs

29 September 2017

Email marketing is dead. Open rates are abysmal.


It’s true that our inboxes are bulging, and it’s harder to be heard above the noise.

But email marketing is still one of the most affordable and effective ways to consistently engage customers and prospects, and far outshines social media, search engine marketing and display advertising in terms of return on investment. It is reported that for every dollar spent on email marketing, an average of $44 dollar return on investment is realised. (Source: Campaign Monitor, 2016).

The statistics for email marketing are still incredibly compelling.

To my mind, it is far from dead.

But to ensure that your messages are read, you need to be mindful of 3 important metrics: open rates, click-through rates, and forwards.

Let’s have a look at what these mean and how we can improve your current results.

If video is more your thing, I ran through this blog on a video too.

What are open rates? And how can you improve it?

The open rate is quite simply, the amount of people who received your email and open it – it’s often noted as a percentage. So if you send to a list of 500, and 50 of them open it, your open rate is 10%.

Your open rate is an important indication of how much your recipients value the content that you’re sending them. To give your open rates a boost, here are five methods you could try out:

1. Resend unopened emails

This is such a biggie.

We throw our heart and soul into our content, and when your have a really low open rate, it not only feels disheartening, but it feels overwhelming as you know you need to go through the process all over again, with different content. If you’re gaining results, that’s not an issue, but for those of us who don’t gain any traction with the original content, it’s very demoralising.

But there’s another way. Simply resend the email using a different subject line. Only this time, simply send it to those who didn’t open it, so you’re not pestering the people on your list who read it first time round.

Most email marketing platforms enable you to do this.

MailChimp is a popular platform, and makes it very straightforward.

Segment list

2. Test delivery times

As an entrepreneur yourself, you know how busy life gets.

So have a look at the report from your previous mailings and see when people are most likely to open your emails. Don’t go with common advice, as every audience is different, so look through your stats and check what works for you.

MailChimp will even help you decide the optimum time to schedule your next mailing:

Optimum time

Test different delivery times for your next few mailings, then select the times that consistently lead to higher open rates.

3. Segment your lists

list segmentation

People who subscribe to your list are all individuals. They have different challenges, needs and interests. Sending generic emails which don’t take into account their personal situation is going to train them to ignore your emails. Send topics which are relevant to them is going to have a huge impact on your open rates.

If I’m starting out in business, and I receive an email about advanced online marketing techniques, it’s unlikely to resonate with me, because I don’t need it yet. But an email about how to register my first domain name and set up a professional email address is probably something that’s going to be really useful.

So think about where your subscriber is in their own journey and what information you can give them which will help them.

MailChimp reveals that segmented campaigns have a 13% higher open rate than those which aren’t segmented.

4. Beware of spam filters

Having your email land in the spam folder is a surefire way to ensure that it won’t be opened.

Avoid using common spam words that may trigger an email client’s junk mail filter. This is a great article which can help you avoid landing in the spam folder.

If you’re worried about the deliverability rate of your emails, you can use a tool like MailMonitor to check it. They offer a free trial.

5. Consistency

We’re naturally creatures of habit. If know to expect something, we’re more likely to respond to it.

What are click-through rates (CTR) and how can improve them?

If you send an email with a link in the content (which you should by the way, as every piece of content should have a purpose), every time someone clicks on the link, it counts towards your click through rate.

There are two ways of measuring CTR.

  1. the number of people who clicked a link within the email divided by the total number of email recipients.
  2. the number of people who clicked a link divided by the number of people who opened an email within a campaign.

The second is a more accurate measure of the engagement of your list.

Here are some surefire ways to increase your CTR.

1. Focus on one specific action

If your email has a scattered focus, eg. an upcoming event they should subscribe to, a new employee who’s bio they can read, a new contract just secured and a case study which is available for looking through, you’re going to overwhelm your reader with too many choices.

Focus on one clear message in your email, and don’t deviate from it.

2. Play on curiosity

If your readers feel as though they may be missing out on something by not clicking the link, they’re more likely to click! So make the link text enticing.

3. Include video

Video can be really effective at capturing your reader’s attention and motivating them to click so try including it in your emails and see if it has a positive effect.

4. Add more than one link

Remember that you should only be focusing on one call to action? But you should present it a number of times throughout your email.

And don’t always use the same link text. So one of your links may be:

  • Read the full blog post here.

Another may be:

  • Discover the best way to increase your email open rates

Another may be:

  • Find out the easiest way to resend your emails to people who haven’t opened them already

You get the idea!

mobile5. Do your emails look good on mobile?

Test your emails on different devices. Reportedly over 60% of emails are read on mobile devices now, so be sure that yours look good, are legible and are easy to navigate through.

Encourage Shares

Don’t forget that you can invite your subscriber to share the information with their friends.

If your email is simply delivering content, rather than a call to action, ‘forward to a friend who would also find this useful’ is a great request!

An email which is forwarded from a friend also carries more weight than one which is sent from an organisation. It’s like a personal endorsement, so is more likely to be opened and clicked.


Remember that all your marketing is a test. Try not to become discouraged by low open and click through rates – think of this as a work in progress.

You may have heard the famous story about how many attempts Thomas Edison took to perfect the light bulb. Over 1000. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

The video version

I ran through some training on this topic in my WordPress Happy Community. If you’d like to join a growing community of entrepreneurs where we share our experiences with our websites and online marketing, and where I run regular training, feel free to send in your application. Don’t forget to answer the questions, because you’re unlikely to gain access without!

Vicky Etherington

Vicky Etherington has been running her own online marketing agency since 2003, and in 2015 transitioned to working with coaches and therapists to teach them how to create their own client-attracting websites. 

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