How to Increase Email Open Rate (With 10 Proven Tips!)

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How to Increase Your Email Open Rate (10 Proven Tips!)

Do you want to learn how to increase your email open rate?

Your email marketing campaigns can only be effective if they’re getting opened in the first place. Only then can you entice subscribers to click your links and buy. Thankfully, there are concrete strategies available that are proven to improve open rates.

At OptinMonster, we’re experts on all things related to email marketing. After all, we offer the world’s most powerful lead generation software, specializing in helping businesses build great email lists with targeted website popups.

In this article, we’ll share our top tips for getting more people to open your email newsletters, product promotions, and other email campaigns. You’ll learn how to optimize your email marketing strategy and get more eyes on your email messages.

Let’s get started.

  1. Optimize your subject lines
  2. Experiment with sender names
  3. Keep your list fresh
  4. Segment your list
  5. Avoid spam filters
  6. Perfect your timing
  7. Write great content
  8. Be a friend
  9. Add some humor
  10. Appeal to mobile users

How to Improve Email Open Rates (10 Proven Tips)

Before you start your efforts to improve open rates, you’ll want to closely examine your current open rates. This may lead you to wonder:

What is a good open rate for email?

The average open rate for email marketing in 2023 ranges from 18%-44%, depending on the industry.

Maybe you’re still trying to reach the average email open rate. Or perhaps you’ve already reached that benchmark but want to do even better! Either way, you can use the following strategies to increase the number of people who read your emails.

1. Make Your Subject Lines Stand Out (for Up to 3X the Open Rate)

47% of users decide whether to open an email based on the subject line alone.

When it comes to email open rates, your subject lines are critical. Just think about how you check your own inbox.

If you get a lot of marketing emails, you scan through the subject lines to decide which ones are worth the effort of opening and reading.

Screenshot of an email inbox, featuring subject lines of marketing emails from many different companies.

But how do you make your subject lines stand out? Here are a few tips for crafting creative subject lines:

  • Entice curiosity, but don’t be too clever. You want to make them curious enough to open, but don’t be so cryptic that the subscriber has no clue what your email is about.
  • Experiment with adding emojis to your subject lines. However, only use them if they’re relevant, and use no more than 1.
  • Unlock the power of FOMO (the fear of missing out) by promising something exciting.
  • Use a fun, joking, or conversational tone.
  • Write benefit-driven subject lines. Address a specific need of your subscribers, and hint at a solution inside your email.
  • Create a sense of urgency by giving a deadline.

Here are a couple of smart subject lines that use some of these strategies:

Screenshot of a mobile email inbox. It shows a promotional email from Jimmy John's with the subject line "You look like you need a treat" and an email from Land's End with the subject line "Mystery sale, today only!"

The subject line from Jimmy John’s is the perfect use of an emoji since the email is about the restaurant’s tasty cookies. It also explicitly addresses a specific need and has a conversational tone.

Land’s End‘s subject line is short and simple, but it does the job. In just 4 words, it leverages FOMO, curiosity, and urgency.

Focusing on your subject lines can transform your email marketing success., one of our clients, increased their open rates 3x by improving their subject lines.

Case Study See how Digital Marketer increased sales using OptinMonster!

When In Doubt, A/B Test It

No single subject line strategy will be right for everyone. Each brand has its own voice, style, and goals, and every subscriber list is unique.

That’s where A/B testing, also known as split testing, comes in. The email service provider (ESP) that you use for your email marketing most likely offers this kind of testing.

Basically, you can test 2 different subject lines for the same email campaign. Your ESP will send your campaign out to a small percentage of your list, with half of those subscribers seeing each of the 2 subject line variations.

Your ESP will monitor which subject line gets the best open rate and then will use that subject line for the full email campaign.

Want to explore subject lines more in-depth? We’ve got you covered. Here are 2 great resources:

2. Experiment With Your Sender Name (Improve Open Rates by 50%!)

In addition to the subject line, there’s one other thing subscribers see when deciding which emails to open:

Your sender name.

In fact, 42% of users say the sender name is what they look at first when browsing their inbox.

Usually, the sender’s name is simply the name of your company or website. But you can catch extra attention if you switch things up.

For instance, most of our marketing emails for OptinMonster come from “Angie at OptinMonster.”

Marketing email from OptinMonster that has the sender name "Angie at OptinMonster"

Angie is OptinMonster’s General Manager. We use a personal and friendly tone in our email marketing, so having our emails come from her name adds to that brand voice.

One case study showed that using the name of a real person can improve open rates by 50%!

Again, this strategy might not be right for everyone. But if you want to give it a try, here are some ideas:

  • Do you have a “face” of your company? Try using their name as the sender.
  • Send testimonial emails, with the sender name as the customer or user who is endorsing your company. Just make sure your brand or product name is prominent in the subject line.
  • If you have an email newsletter for a blog or publication, use the names of some of your most popular writers.

As with your subject line, you can always run a split test to find out which sender names your subscribers respond best to.

3. Keep Your List Fresh (Delete Inactive Subscribers)

Do your subscribers still want to hear from you?

You’ve probably heard the advice that it’s important to email your subscribers on a consistent basis so your list doesn’t go stale.

But even so, over time, email subscribers can still go stale. Some people may have changed email accounts, or maybe they just aren’t interested in your brand anymore. Or if you’re a brick-and-mortar business, some subscribers will inevitably move to other areas.

So to keep your list fresh and filled with engaged subscribers, it’s a good idea to periodically remove inactive subscribers. An inactive subscriber could be anyone who has not engaged with any email in the past 6 months or more.

It may feel sad to see your subscriber count go down. However, if a large percentage of your list never engages with your marketing campaign, then you have a false measurement of your actual audience. And you’ll have an artificially low open rate metric.

But before you delete them from your list, try sending a win-back email campaign to re-engage your inactive subscribers.

Here’s an example of a re-engagement email from the Mayo Clinic:

Email from the Mayo Clinic with the header "We've Missed You!" The body text reads "We know it’s been awhile, but here’s a free special report from Mayo Clinic Press that we thought you’d be interested in—“Understanding Immune System Health.” Learn about four ways to strengthen your body’s natural defenses, suggestions on managing stress, healthy eating and exercise tips, how to break a disrupted sleep cycle and more at the link below. Click here to access your bonus report"

The subject line for this email was “We miss you! Enjoy this complimentary special report.” This subject line reminds subscribers that they haven’t opened your emails in a while. And most importantly, it offers an incentive to re-engage.

You can also occasionally ask subscribers if they want to update their information and their preferences. This way, they are reminded that they can take control of how they want to engage with you.

If you are trying to revive a cold list, try conducting a survey. In exchange for answering your questions, they get a free gift, such as a $5 gift card.

This kills two birds with one stone. First, it incentivizes them to engage with you. It also provides you with the information you need to continue to engage them with content they will love.

For more, check out this post: Email Scrubbing: Why and How to Clean Your Email List (Step-by-Step)

4. Segment Your List to Send More Relevant Emails

When people decide whether or not to open an email, one of the most important factors is whether or not they think the email is relevant to them.

The best way to increase the relevancy of your emails? By segmenting your email list.

Your list can be segmented by a wide range of data points, including:

  • Geolocation
  • Demographics, such as age or gender
  • Email engagement level
  • Purchase history
  • Sales funnel position
  • Or many other personal details, sales data, or metrics

Instead of sending every message to your entire list, you can target your email marketing to get the right messages to the right people.

In this case study, the entertainment company Skybound used segmentation to reach open rates as high as 80%.

You can start by adding tags to your subscribers based on behavior, such as purchase behavior. So when someone becomes a paying customer, you send them different types of emails than you would send to someone who has not purchased anything yet.

But how can you get started segmenting your list?

The easiest way to segment your list is to use OptinMonster for your on-site email signups.

With OptinMonster’s list segmentation features, you can automatically sort your new email signups to the appropriate lists and segments.

For instance, OptinMonster lets you track which subscribers downloaded one of your lead magnets. Let’s say some users signed up to receive a free ebook of photography tips. You can create a segment of those people, so you can send them more emails that feature content and products related to photography.

Once you have these segments, you can precisely tailor your subject lines and messages for your target audience. Then, your email marketing campaigns will be more relevant to each subscriber, enticing them to open and engage.

Unlock the power of segmentationSign up for OptinMonster today!

5. Avoid Spam Filters

Spam filters have gotten more sophisticated in the past several years, but they’re still not perfect. Even the best emails can still get caught in the dreaded spam folder, never to see the light of day.

If you want to maximize the reach of your email marketing campaigns, you’ll need to do everything possible in order to avoid being flagged as spam.

Here are some best practices to improve your sender reputation and keep your emails from falling into spam folders:

  • Make sure all recipients have actually opted-in to your emails.
  • Send your campaigns from a good IP address, one that hasn’t sent spam in the past.
  • Keep your HTML code clean.
  • Show subscribers how to whitelist your emails, and ask them to add you to their address book.
  • Don’t “bait-and-switch” by using deceptive subject lines. Doing so can cause subscribers to mark your messages as spam.
  • Include your physical address. In fact, it’s legally required.
  • Include an easy way for subscribers to opt out of your emails. This is also legally required.

In short, you first want to follow all email marketing laws and make sure you’ve squared away the technical aspects of avoiding spam filters. Then, you should make sure you’re sending quality emails to people who want them, so you don’t get flagged as spam by users.

Exclusive BonusDownload the free Email Deliverability Checklist to make sure your emails always reach the inbox!

6. Perfect Your Timing

Timing can have a huge effect on whether or not your subscribers open your emails, so think carefully about what time and day you send your emails out.

You won’t be able to figure out the perfect time immediately, but you can perform some A/B tests to identify which timeframes perform best.

But you may be wondering, has anyone else already done some tests that you can benefit from?


In fact, we’ve put together this handy list of some of the top studies:

Decoding the Best Time to Send Emails: Insights from Top Studies

For instance, Brevo, one of our favorite ESPs, has some helpful charts showing the results of their own testing.

best time to send email - Brevo

You can use data like this as a starting point for your own testing.

There is no single best day or time of day to send emails. But the bottom line on email send time is this: imagine a day in the life of your particular audience. What are they doing in the morning, afternoon, and evening? What does their workday look like? How late do they stay up at night? How early do they rise in the morning?

All of these questions will help you decide the best time to send your emails.

7. Write Amazing Content, Every Time

When a user opens your email, you’ve essentially won the battle, right? So why is the actual content of your email important to the open rate?

Because if your subscribers are happy with the content inside your emails, they are more likely to open your emails in the future. They may even begin to eagerly anticipate your emails.

Conversely, if a subscriber is displeased with what they got in your email, they probably aren’t going to open your emails again. They may even unsubscribe.

So how do you make sure your subscribers are happy with your email content? Simple: make every email a really good email.

The best emails offer something valuable, like a free eBook, a special coupon, an epic blog post, or a webinar.

An email from The Well-Equipped Cook by America's Test Kitchen. It features a link to a post called "Tips for Carving a Turkey Without the Mess."

The email above is from The Well-Equipped Cook, an email newsletter from America’s Test Kitchen. They sent this email about a week before the U.S.’s Thanksgiving holiday, when millions of families would be eating turkey. The email features a blog post with tips for carving a turkey.

This is exactly the kind of content that the target audience of a cooking newsletter wants, and America’s Test Kitchen sent it at the perfect time. When subscribers see that all of your emails include helpful information, they will start to open emails from you more and more.

The key is to make sure that you aren’t sending emails just to send emails. Focus less on the number of emails you send out and more on the quality, helpfulness, and relevance.

Every single time you email your list, you need to deliver something of real value. The higher the value, the more loyal your subscribers will become, and you’ll see higher open rates.

Bonus Tip – Great content will also help you improve your click-through rate (CTR)!

Learn more here: 13 Ways to Boost Your Marketing Email Click-Through Rate

8. Write to Just One Person, and Write Like a Friend

When you draft your subject line and message content, it’s natural to think of the hundreds or thousands of people who are about to receive it.

However, it’s far more effective to write as if speaking to an individual person, with a personal subject line and a personalized message.

In order to write this way, you have to really know your buyer persona. You need to understand their problems, their desires, their values, their likes, and their dislikes.

Then, it’s often a good idea to talk to that one person like you’re their friend. Put your corporate hat to the side, and talk person-to-person.

For example, a corporate phrase like, “We’re offering savings to our customers!” comes off as distant and stuffy.

A more friendly alternative could be something like, “you’ve gotta check out this deal…”

Here’s another example of an email from Angie at OptinMonster.

Email from Angie at OptinMonster. Subject line says "I dropped a Lead Generation Strategy, can you pick it up for me? Thanks." Body of email starts: "I lied in the subject line. I’m sorry. I didn’t drop anything, but I’ll make it up to you. If you click the link below, you’ll find multiple lead generation strategies. These are proven and tested by grizzled marketing veterans. And you’ll see they work for any kind of business."

This email is casual, friendly, and even a bit silly. If it makes sense for your brand, try out a bit of silliness in your email subject lines and content.

That makes the email seem a whole lot more personal and makes it less likely that your recipients will simply delete your message and move on.

9. Inject Some Humor

Let’s explore the idea of silliness a bit more. Humor has a way of making a strong, instant connection with people. It’s personal, entertaining, and sticks out in peoples’ minds.

Thankfully, you don’t have to be a comedian in order to pull off a humorous email. What’s more important is that you understand your email recipients intimately. If you know their likes and dislikes, it will be so much easier to pull off a joke or insert a tongue-in-cheek reference.

Let’s say you have an automated email series that goes out to leads who have expressed interest in a product demo. You can add some humor to your re-engagement email for leads who have yet to schedule their demo:

Hey [first name], I tried to contact you regarding [value proposition] and haven’t heard back. Let me know if:

  1. You’re all set and I should stop bothering you.
  2. You’re interested but just haven’t responded yet.
  3. I should follow up in three months.
  4. You’re being chased by a hippo and need me to call Animal Control.

Photograph of a hippo

The funny tone softens the email and makes it feel less like a hard sales tactic.

You could also insert a funny animated GIF to make your point.

For example:

“My inbox on Black Friday…”
Cat Gif

Remember: in this age of information, everyone is looking for a reason to ignore your emails. They aren’t looking for a reason to read them. If new subscribers see that they’re likely to get a laugh from your emails, you’ll stand a better chance of getting an open.

10. Don’t Forget Your Mobile Users

Between 26% and 78% of emails are opened on mobile devices. Your exact number will depend on your industry, target audience, and other factors.

This means you simply can’t afford to ignore your mobile users. You have to appeal to them.

The obvious tip here is to make sure your email is mobile-­friendly. Most ESPs automatically make your emails mobile-responsive. However, you should still consider the smaller size of mobile screens when designing your campaigns.

First, you should avoid long subject lines that won’t be viewable on mobile devices. Or at least make sure you include the most important information in the first few words.

Aside from keeping your subject lines concise, here are some more tips for appealing to mobile users:

  • Keep the formatting simple, with only a single column
  • Use a larger font. Small fonts are difficult to read on mobile.
  • Use a large call-to-action (CTA) button. Larger buttons are easier to tap with a thumb.
  • Don’t place two links next to or on top of one another. That way, the user won’t tap the wrong one by accident.

Here’s an example of an email from the delivery service DoorDash:

Mobile email from DoorDash. It says in large text "Don't miss out on 35% off Group Order!" Then there is a coupon code and a large red CTA button that says "Order Now."

The large text and CTA button are perfectly optimized for mobile use. This is an especially smart strategy for DoorDash, since many of their customers order through the company’s mobile app.

The key takeaway? Make sure your emails don’t turn away mobile users. Many people use email primarily on their smartphones. If your emails are clunky or difficult to use, then mobile users will likely unsubscribe or stop opening your emails.

A Great Email Open Rate Starts With a Great List

These tips can help any campaign get higher open rates, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t see a turnaround right away. Email marketing is an art and science, so give yourself some wiggle room to experiment and find what tactics work best for your business and your subscribers.

But regardless of which of the above tactics you try, there is one universal truth to email marketing:

Building a great subscriber list is the first key to success.

That’s where OptinMonster can help!

Our lead generation software lets you grow your email list fast. We offer a variety of popup campaign types for your website’s email signup forms:

You can use our extensive targeting and triggering features to show the best offers and lead magnets to each website visitor.

This will help you add more leads to your email marketing contact list. And you’ll have all the data you need to have a highly segmented list, an important factor in email open rates and overall conversion rates.

Learn how SnackNation gains 1200 segmented leads each week with OptinMonster!

Are you ready to transform your email marketing?

Get started with OptinMonster today!

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that we believe will add value to our readers.

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