Watch Email Marketing Open Rates for Customer Insights

Email marketing open rates offer great insights into newsletter clients and what kind of content they want to receive.

Email marketing open ratesEmail marketing open rates offer great insights into newsletter clients and what kind of content they want to receive.

Highly variable open rates will reveal a great deal about client preferences. Highly stable open rates will reveal very little.

For anyone new to email marketing, the open rate is the number of subscribers who open the email that is sent to them. Even if they open an email, it doesn’t mean they will click on anything. Average open rates across multiple industries are usually around 20 to 30 percent.

The open rate is one of the most important metrics in tracking the success or failure of an email newsletter. The other one is the click rate or how often a subscriber clicks on a link and goes to a website, social media account, ecommerce site, etc.

Subject Lines Make the Difference

Open rates that jump around from email to email often are the result of using a unique subject line. A unique subject line is much more likely to increase the open rate, especially if it is compelling.

Many of my clients are news organizations. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a subject line of “Gunman Kills 3 Bystanders” will get opened much more often than one that says “City Council Holds Budget Meeting.”

A static subject line — i.e., “This Week’s Newsletter” — will get opened only by people who know what to expect in the newsletter and who value the content on a regular basis.

Whether the newsletter is about local news, travel tips, event, store sale or some other unique subject, a unique subject line is essential to understanding the customer and what encourages them to open the email.

The way that the subject line is written also matters. Subscribers are more likely to read a short sentence with simple and action-oriented words than a subject line with many dull and complex words.

Patterns of Behavior Develop Over Time

Over time, a pattern will arise by watching the open rate for each newsletter and comparing it to the subject line.
As a side note, it helps to use a simple tracking system such as a spreadsheet that lists the email date, open rate, click rate and subject line for comparison purposes. It may include the unsubscribe rate because high unsubscribes indicate a problem with the newsletter content (or the list if the publisher bought one).

Eventually, newsletter publishers will grasp which subjects matter the most to the client list and which ones don’t.

The pattern leads the email marketer to look for the item in the newsletter that creates the best possible topic for the subject line and then to the best ways of writing the line.

After a while, it also becomes obvious when the newsletter’s content doesn’t have a subject that is likely to generate a high number of opens.

It benefits the marketer to go looking for that content and making a point of getting it in the newsletter. It’s even better to plan a schedule of topics for the newsletter going out over a period of time to ensure high-quality subjects.

For the Sake of Click Rates

But the publisher also should make sure that the content isn’t so thorough and compelling that the subscriber has no reason to click within it to go to the website to see more.
(There is one exception. A paid subscription email newsletter is the only type that should stand on its own legs.)

After all, both the open rate and the click rate are important. For most marketers, the entire point of increasing the open rate is to increase the click rate.

I did a study of 20 email marketing lists that I either managed directly or helped manage. I found that the average open rate was 29 percent and the average click rate was 9 percent.

Smaller lists whose subscribers opted-in had the highest click rates while larger lists that used other tactics to acquire subscribers had the lowest click rates — and the highest unsubscribe rates.

While the way in which the subscriber was acquired affects the open and click rates, the way the content is presented also affects the click rates.

There is one other compelling reason to watch open rates, gain insights about the client and create unique subject lines. High open rates and high click rates lead to higher retention and lower turnover.

As many of us in media know, retaining a client is easier than acquiring a new one.

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