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10 ways to improve your email open rates


Nov 5, 2020
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Email marketing is one of the most valuable tools a business can use because it allows companies to target an audience with personalized messaging. These communications can help build trust, position a business as an industry leader, educate customers, and increase sales, just to name a few benefits.

But email has to be done right. It starts with getting emails opened.

If an email recipient doesn’t even bother to open an email you’ve painstakingly planned, crafted, and sent, then the content of your message doesn’t really matter. We know, this all sounds a bit deflating, but it’s a reality that businesses need to be aware of since email marketing is so widely used as a way to improve a company’s bottom line.

If you’re one of the few who’ve never experienced email open rate woes, consider yourself lucky. Most businesses who utilize email marketing will come across times where their emails just don’t perform. That’s okay! An important indicator of an evolving business is one where digital marketing strategies are constantly refined, including email.

Once you know how to improve email open rates, you should start seeing better conversions. Here, we’ll talk about 10 awesome ways to ramp up your open rates so you can be sure customers are getting the most out of the valuable information you’ve worked hard to provide.

1. Set expectations at opt-in

You want email subscribers who want to receive your emails. That’s why it’s extremely important to set a subscriber’s expectations from the start by giving them a reason to sign up, telling them what they’ll get in return, and by letting them know how often they’ll be hearing from you.

Giving a subscriber control over the experience is an important first step in ensuring your emails will get opened and read. Start the relationship off on the right foot by being transparent, by providing value, and by having open lines of communication.

At Kajabi we have monthly Virtual Meetups (VMU) that fill up quickly. We started offering an opt-in form so people can sign up for early access to the next VMU. From the get-go we tell people exactly what they’re signing up for on the registration page. We also make sure to tell them they can expect emails to come their way with important information.

This opt-in form gives us a focused list of active users who are anticipating information about an event they want to attend. The result is an open rate of over 50% for the early access email! The follow-up emails with sign-up confirmation and reminders also perform really well and average a 75% open rate.

2. Who’s the email from?

This might seem obvious, but the “From” name matters in email. Imagine receiving an email from a company you subscribed to, but it’s from some random name you don’t recognize. You probably wouldn’t open it.

Be sure to triple check your email settings to ensure your “From” name corresponds to your business and that the reply email incorporates your business name as well. If you have multiple departments within your company such as customer support, billing, IT, etc., make sure each “From” name is your business name and corresponds to a unique email to encourage open rates. Here’s an example:

FROM: Kajabi

FROM: Kajabi

3. Get the length of your subject lines right

A subject line is the first line of text that readers see in their inbox. It’s one of the most important steps to consider when thinking about how to improve your email open rates. In fact, 47% of people open an email based solely on the subject line, so clearly this is a critical component of an email.

Get to know your audience a bit before you plan out your next email. What devices do the majority of your subscribers use to read your emails? Mobile or desktop? This is an important thing to factor in before sending emails because most major desktop emails (like Yahoo! And Gmail, of course), only display the first 60 characters of text.

On the other hand, mobile displays roughly 40-70 characters depending on type of phone, email service, and whether your mobile device is in landscape or portrait orientation.

Based on an analysis of 1,000 emails, AWeber found that 36.5% had a subject line anywhere from 21 to 40 characters, with the overall average of emails containing 43.85 characters in the subject line as seen in the graphic below.


Shorter subject lines don’t get cut off in a recipient’s inbox, so they’re more likely to get opened and read than emails with long subject lines. When crafting your next subject line, strive to be succinct and convey the gist of your email in as few characters as possible. This gives readers an idea of what your email is about before even clicking on it, so make it interesting!

4. Scrub your lists

You should be continually cleaning up your email lists. Scrubbing email lists several times a year is an email list management best practice that will help you weed out emails that aren’t providing value to your business. If you notice any of the following, it could be time for a clean-up: 

  • Low-performing open rates – Businesses should be shooting for an average open rate between 15-25%.
  • A stark drop in your click-through rates Average click-through rates should land at around 2.5%.
  • Multiple unsubscribes at once
  • High spam complaint rates
  • High bounce rates and poor email deliverability 

Keep in mind that open rates vary by industry, so as you consider how to improve your company’s email open rates, remember that a lot of performance feedback is relative to the type of business you have.

For instance, as of May 2020, the Education sector has one of the highest email open rates, at 27.13%. On the flip side, the technology industry has one of the lowest open rates at a mere 9.65%, highlighting the differences between two very distinct industries.


5. Segment your lists

As you grow your email list, continually think about how you’ll be targeting your audience(s) based on varying attributes like: a person’s values, geography, purchase history, stage in the buyer journey, how long they’ve been subscribed to your emails, etc.

If you’re sending blanket emails to your entire email list, you can be guaranteed they won’t perform well. Tailoring emails via segmented lists ensures subscribers are receiving relevant emails. In fact, list segmentation can improve email open rates by 203%!

So, before you even draft an email, think about how you’ll provide the maximum value to that unique list of subscribers, then plan the exact steps you want them to take—including how you’ll get them to open your email to begin with!

6. Send emails at the right time & on the right day

Figuring out the right time and day to send email is a topic that’s been long debated when it comes to how to improve email open rates. And, like everything else in the digital world, it’s ever evolving.

As of today, HubSpot reports that the highest open rates occur at 10 a.m. (21%), 1:00 p.m. (22.5%) and increase around the 6:00 p.m. mark. This valuable insight lets us know that most people check email when they have time either in the mornings or evenings as seen below:


Additionally, the best days for open rates were Mondays and Tuesdays coming in at a near tie as seen below:


Keep in mind that every business is unique and has different types of customers. Dive into your analytics to really get to know your customer personas, so you can be sure to send your emails at the right time on the right day.

7. Keep emails short & sweet

We live in a busy world with limited attention spans, so nobody wants to devote too much time towards reading email. In terms of how to improve email open rates, keep emails mobile friendly first and foremost and then get straight to the point.

Emails with about less than 100 words of copy are most likely to receive higher open and response rates. Additionally, emails that are easy to scan and have high-impact imagery tend to be the best performing.

Overall, emails should incorporate a delicate balance between an eye-catching subject line, body copy, imagery, and a call to action (CTA) to be impactful and engaging. Remember, email is no different than any other customer experience and a bad one can send your emails straight to the trash.

We love YUNI Beauty’s example below, which utilizes simple, straight forward copy advertising a limited-time sale along with powerful imagery and clean design. It’s super easy to skim over and follow their CTA to purchase a product at 20% off.

8. Make it feel personal

There’s nothing better than receiving an email from your favorite company that feels like it was written just for you. A little personalization can go a long way, so we’ll give you a couple of how-tos. Improving email rates through personalization is a wonderful way to not only get people to open your emails, but to also establish trust between you and your customers.

Personalized Partner Program emails at Kajabi reach ideal open rates for a number of reasons. By signing up to be a Kajabi Partner you receive a 30% lifetime commission for any new member that signs up for Kajabi and stays active past their trial period. Kajabi Partners reach different levels as they progress and our emails reflect those personal achievements. The open rates for these emails are as high as 84% to 100% because:

  • They go out to someone who is anticipating moving up a level in the program
  • The subject line recognizes a personal achievement, like “Congrats, Silver Kajabi Partner!”
  • Free stuff is offered

Emails with personalized subject lines have a 29% higher open rate than those that don’t, yet 70% of brands don’t use them. This is a small, but very powerful way to get people to pay attention and open those emails you’ve worked so hard to create.

Try the following in future subject lines and see which garners the best open rates:

  • Use a subscriber’s first name
  • Highlight milestones like birthdays or the anniversary since a user joined your subscription list
  • Touch on the things your users are interested in
  • Send reminders about important deadlines
  • Create a sense of exclusivity or urgency without actually saying “urgent”
  • Use words like “you” and “yours” to make it feel like you’re speaking directly to your customers
  • Utilize a customer’s geography to send relevant emails
  • Keep readers curious with a cliffhanger and make readers want to open your email to find out more

Target’s simple, but effective use of the word “your” makes this email feel like it was tailored to the user’s specific interests, which hopefully makes them want to click-through to see what’s inside.

Avoid, at all costs, spammy, salesy language. If a subject line sounds sleazy (“Hey! Win a brand new car worth $75k today!”) it’s probably not worth your time to click-through.

There’s an entire list of spammy trigger words that you can review to make sure you don’t use them in your next email.

9. Re-engage dormant users

Sometimes email subscribers fall off the bandwagon. Maybe it’s because they’re genuinely too busy, they forgot about you, or they’re just not interested in what you have to offer. There’s no way to know unless you reach out. If it’s been six months or more since someone opened your emails, it’s time for a check-in.

Be direct and ask subscribers if they still want to hear from you. Remind them that they can update their email preferences to customize their experience like the example below. It might also be a good idea to throw in some sort of incentive to get them back on track like a discount code or access to a free, downloadable resource.


There will be times where you just can’t get a subscriber back on board, and that’s okay. Remove them from your email list and move on with your life. There’s no sense in sending your amazing emails to someone who isn’t invested in what you have to offer.

10. Try out an email drip campaign

Every email marketer knows there’s a fine line between sending out just enough emails per month and sending out too many. One of the ways to sift through all the numbers if you’re unsure, is by setting up email drip campaigns.

An email drip campaign is a series of automated emails that are “dripped” or sent out to targeted recipients on specific days and times. Not only that, but this type of email campaign is triggered by certain actions that users take as well. An effective drip campaign is highly personalized and guides a user through the buyer journey (awareness, consideration, and decision time). That journey can take someone anywhere between 4 and 11 emails spaced between 4,7, or 14 days apart.

With these numbers in mind, how can your business utilize a drip campaign to reach your users? Whatever your campaign is based around, make sure it’s curated for your segmented audiences to get the best open rates. 

Here are some ideas for your next email drip campaign:

  • Welcome series
  • Register for an upcoming event
  • Drive user engagement 
  • Collect valuable customer feedback and testimony
  • Promote your newest product or offering
  • Re-engage dormant users
  • Increase brand awareness 
  • Grow your social media channels

Make improving your email open rates a priority and see the results

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to how to improve email open rates, but you can start by making these 10 steps a priority in your email marketing plan. You’ll also need the best email marketing software to get the job done, and Kajabi has your back when you’re ready to take your business to the next level.

With the right strategy, time, and a little patience, we know you’ll start seeing better open rates very soon. Help keep the convo going by commenting below with what works best for your email marketing and open rates!

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