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6 Reasons Why You Have a Low Email Open Rate

October 23, 2018

People are overwhelmed with email. According to a recent study, the average business user wades through 121 emails per day. That’s why open rates are falling, while “scan inbox and delete” is becoming common practice. Low email open rate is continuing to be a common problem for marketers.

As a marketer or a business owner, your goal is to achieve a high open rate from your email marketing campaign strategy. Without people opening your emails there’s no way for them to take action based on your content.

If your email open rates are low or suddenly falling, here are six reasons why this could be happening:

1. Poor subject lines

Subject lines are the gatekeepers to your email campaign and the first thing that readers see in their inbox. A boring subject line is deadly – it tells the reader that your email is not worth opening. Get into the habit of running A/B tests on different subject lines to see what works and what doesn’t.

2. Boring content

People sign up for emails because they expect interesting content that adds value to their lives. They’re looking for tips, advice, or something useful. If you’re constantly blasting ads, coupons or sales messages, people will not open your emails the next time around. Focus on offering content that helps people solve their problems. Thus, when you do use your email channel to sell, subscribers will be more receptive to your message.

3. Irrelevant content

Sometimes it’s not that your content is boring, it’s just not relevant to your subscribers. This happens a lot when you have different types of audiences subscribed to your email list. Sending the same email campaign to “as many addresses as possible” is a losing strategy. Instead, send targeted emails to smaller segments of your list in order to reach only those who are interested in specific types of content. This will not only improve your open rate, it will also reduce the number of opt-outs.

4. Blocked images

These days most email clients block images by default. Without images being loaded, you cannot track whether the email was opened or not. The only way the email can be counted as opened is if the recipient enables images, or clicks on a link. Use ALT-text for any HTML email newsletters you send. This code allows you to add a text description of an image where the space with an image would appear. Also, always ask your subscribers to “please add our address to your address book or safe sender list” so that your email images can be loaded automatically. Always include a text version as an alternative in case they can’t receive HTML messages. Be sure to include JPEG image files instead of PNGs, because PNGs are not compatible with all email applications.

5. Over-sending

It could also be that you are sending emails too often. When people first subscribe, set their expectations by letting them know how often they’ll hear from you – then keep your promise. It’s also a good idea to give them a preference page where they can update their interests and the frequency of receiving emails, e.g., weekly, monthly, or quarterly.

6. Poor email list

Low open rates could also be a result of a poor quality email list. If you purchased an email list from a vendor, then obviously the users are not familiar with your brand, products, or services and will probably not open your emails. Or, it could be that your email list is too old. Older email addresses generally tend to have lower open rates. Older email addresses might not even be in use anymore, which would negatively affect your open rates. For example, the contact could be an employee who no longer works at the company, or the contact could work for a company that was acquired, resulting in a new email address. Make sure that you build your email list from scratch, from your own sources. Be sure to provide fresh, interesting content to attract new enthusiastic subscribers. If an email account never opens your email, don’t be afraid to remove it.

Your Turn: These email tips and best practices should help you to improve your email open rates and achieve a more successful email campaign. How is your open rate and email marketing working for you? Contact our San Diego branding agency for help with email, SEO, paid search, social media, and brand development.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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