14 Ways to Become the MacGyver of Email Open Rates


As with all digital marketing methods, you have an abundance of metrics to track and analyze in email marketing.  While many of these metrics are important to assessing the success of an email or email campaign, your email open rates remain the threshold and leading indicator as to how an email will perform. Nothing else happens if your email doesn't get opened.

The Radicati Group's Email Statistics Report 2017 - 2021 shows that email usage continues to grow. It predicts 269 billion business and consumer emails will get sent each day during 2017 and will reach 319.6 billion per day by 2021. So that's a lot of email for people to sort through. That's why average email open rates from a range of industries range between 17 and 27%.

Getting your email noticed is hard.

But like MacGyver with some paperclips and a pack of chewing gum, we've got some hacks to make sure your email open rates get above industry standards.


Making it to the inbox

Emails that "bounce" – that is they can't be delivered because the recipient email address is bad – aren't included in the email open rate calculation. But emails that end up in spam folders are delivered, they're just not delivered to the intended inbox. That's a chunk of emails cut off the top that depress open rates.  So stay out of the spam folder.

  1. Take out any words or phrases that look like something a cheerleader in an informercial would say. Cut out the multiple exclamation marks. No ALL CAPS. No "BEST DEAL EVER!!!!!"
  1. Be creative with your fonts, but not too creative. Obscure, specialty fonts don't translate well across multiple email platforms. Your design creativity – with the stunning lettering – can be expressed in the images you include (just remember compress them first so the image file isn't too big).
  1. Have an annual purge…of email addresses on your list that haven't engaged with any of your emails in a long time. Having a high volume of inactive email accounts on your list will red flag you to spam filters. Run a last chance, highly motivating campaign to this segment of your list and then purge the non-responders. A clean, up-to-date list is your greatest asset.


From/ Subject line headers and preview text that capture attention

  1. Clickbait is dead. The days of teaser email subject lines is over. The subject lines that get the best click rates are those that are clear, concise, and descriptive. Subject lines don't have to make the case that reading this email will change the reader's life, just click to find out how!! If the email is your quarterly newsletter – say so.  If the email is a 24-hour flash sale – say so.
  1. Concise, around 50 characters, is good. And it will get your full subject line visible on mobile devices, where over half of emails are now being read.
  1. Brighten things up with an emoji or two. Don't use generic smiley emojis. If you're sending out birthday emails to people on your list, include a cake or horn. Put a little rolled up newspaper in your newsletter subject line. Get creative. Use emojis that fit the personality of the personas and industries you're targeting.
  1. Personalize the subject line. This may include using the recipient's name, but you can also personalize it in other ways. If the email is promoting a local event, indicate that. If you're sending an email to people who spent a lot of time reading a certain category of posts on your blog, allude to that topic – as long as your email is touching on it as well.
  1. Use a person's name in the From line. People connect with people. You can include the company name as well, say "Rick, from OverGo Studio."
  1. Set your own preview text. Preview text is that short snippet of the email that appears with the subject line, particularly on mobile email. If you don't set your own preview text, the email app will just pull text from the body of your email. MacGyver would never be so passive. Build your own preview text. You have around 50 characters to add one more clear, concise reason to click open this email.


Sending your emails at the right time

  1. Strike while the iron is hot. As soon as someone subscribes to your list or downloads some content, they should get an immediate welcome email. The email should confirm their expectations about what sort of content you'll be sending and how often. Don't worry that this will cause people to immediately unsubscribe – only a miniscule number will at this point. And frankly, you want them to because those are the ones who would've started marking you as spam.
  1. Use behavioral triggers to send the right email at the right time. Abandoned cart? Send a reminder email within a few hours. Someone's been visiting the website and downloaded an ebook, send an email with more information or contact call-to-action relevant to the content they were viewing. Using email marketing automation makes setting up these sort of behavioral trigger emails easy.
  1. Pick the right day. Emails that aren't opened within 24 hours of being sent have less than a one percent chance of being opened at all. You can find tons of studies showing why to send emails on this day or that day. Tuesdays and Fridays seem to have the best generic numbers. But your list is your list. Look at your own numbers to find the best days to send emails.
  1. Don't assume there's one best day for your entire list. Look for spikes in email open rates by market segment, email type (e.g special offers versus educational content), and "From" lines.
  1. Hacks 12 and 13 hold true for the time of day you send an email as well. Do "offer" emails tank in early morning, when people are gearing up for work, but do better in early evening when people are more open to shopping? Maybe. Maybe not. Find out what times people on your list like different types of emails.

Email marketing has ridiculous ROI and it all starts with open rates. Boost your open rates and watch your other email marketing metrics follow suit.