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What is a good open rate for email campaigns?




email open rate

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email open rate

We’re going to take a look at what a good opening rate for email should be. 

Email marketing has emerged as a highly effective way of driving traffic to your site and engaging and selling to an online audience.

Despite being around for donkey’s years, this form of direct marketing is only now getting the attention it deserves as people recognize that it’s for way more than pushing your latest blog to someone’s spam folder!

Affiliate marketers like you and me are recognizing that a subscriber list is a significant asset as Email Service Provider (ESP) platforms can be used to generate massive traffic and revenue with targeted online and offline campaigns.

Once you know how to work and grow your list you will be in the position to use email as a supplementary channel for your affiliate marketing that is 100% owned by you.

Before we get started: if you are wondering how email campaigns are relevant to your fast-moving affiliate site, then you need to get up to speed on why email subscriber lists and email marketing matter to affiliate marketers by reading

“How to get your first 5000 email subscribers”

All set, email subscriber list in hand and ready to take notes on what a good email open rate is?

Then let’s get into this!

In this article, I am going to explain to you why email campaigns are only as good as their open rate.

For many marketers, the leap from accruing a decent email list to managing responsive and highly transactional campaigns at scale is overwhelmingly large.

And even if you have had success gathering names and email addresses, your email campaigns may be sinking like a lead balloon.

For business people like us, ROI counts, so knowing a bit about metrics like email open rate can help you assess if your efforts in email marketing are worthwhile and help in assessing the effect of any tweaks you make to your campaign.

If you are not sure what an email open rate is, an email open rate is simply a percentage of the number of email subscribers who open a particular email out of the total number of subscribers on your email list. The email open rate can also be calculated for a specific email, email campaign, or your entire mail list.

Your email open rate is the key metric for assessing your campaigns and will vary with each email you send.

convertkit free plan

I use Convertkit and started with their FREE plan and then upgraded as I grew.

A good email service provider should give you a detailed report for open rates and average click through.

Why is your open rate so valuable?

  • With over half the people on the plant having an email address, the potential pool of subscribers is vast. For most website owners even if only a small number of their website visitors opt-in to emails, they will be dealing with thousands of subscribers very quickly.
  • With email, your content is going directly to a subscribers inbox – no Google, Facebook or even dodgy hosting is getting in your way. If you want to know where you will be able to consistently locate your online audience, it is in their inbox and that connection once established can only be terminated by either you or your subscribers.
  • You can craft personal communications that are designed to generate maximum engagement. When you blog, you are writing for a general audience. But with email subscription you are able to segment subscribers by their location, demographics, interests and preferences, making it even more likely that your targeted emails will generate sales conversions and a high CTR.
  • It’s what your audience wants. According to HubSpot, almost 60% of a survey group said that email campaigns influence their purchase decisions. 
  • Email marketing packs a punch when it comes to ROI, with HubSpot mentioning that email marketing is capable of generating $38 for every $1 spent.

When it comes to email marketing, your email open rate is a vital sign that lets you know that your campaign is alive and kicking.

The email open rate is an almost direct measurement of user engagement with your email marketing meaning you can use it to instantly determine if you have a viable campaign or one that is dead on arrival.

To add a little more detail to what an email open rate is we have to add in a couple of other factors beyond simply how many people you sent the email to. 

  • You are looking for unique opens. The email software provider that you use will not count repeated openings of a particular email as separate events. Only the first open is counted.
  • Your total number of emails sent should exclude bounced emails. Again software tracking will monitor the authentic delivery of each email in your broadcast so that the open rate is calculated using emails that landed in an inbox. 

The formula for calculating email open rate is:

The number of unique opens / (the number of emails sent – bounced emails) = email open rate.

The percentage you end up with will determine if your email marketing is on track.

For example, a very low open rate would indicate that your email content does not work for the subscribers you have; either you have targeted the wrong people or you have sent them something they do not want.

You may also have a large number of people who are unengaged and may need to be removed from the lists.

This type of inactive subscriber who never clicks on your emails should not be held onto for long as they can increase the likelihood of your email address being flagged by spam filters which can be hard to recover from.

So you can see that the open rate is an indicator of the health of your email list. 

How do I know what a good open rate of email campaigns is?

When you calculate your email open rate percentage you need to know the significance of the figure you come up with.

After all, a 100 or even 50 percent open rate is relatively rare.

The most effective way of doing this is to come up with some type of open rate benchmark that sets a standard for the open rate, so you can gauge the success of various emails and campaigns over time.

Benchmarks are a great way of measuring your performance against a commonly accepted standard.

Open rate benchmarking usually varies between industries sectors and the types of audience being engaged. 

Use the common benchmarks and average opening rates provided by your Email Service Provider (ESP) to set a reasonable target for your email marketing campaigns.

What is the average email open rate?

Email service provider Campaign Monitor suggests to its users that the average open rate in email marketing can lie anywhere between 15 and 25% in a list that is well managed and up to date. 

email open rate
Looks like I’m doing ok then!

I think if you are consistently getting 1 in 4 of your emails being opened, read and hopefully acted on, you are doing well. In reality, the real-world rates may be far lower.

The 15-25% range is generally accepted in the email marketing industry but can vary widely depending on the type or subject of the emails you send.

But the industry does affect the open rate of your emails, so if you are blogging in the automotive sector you should expect an open rate of about 17% whereas emails about the arts or entertainment have an average open rate of just over 33%.

Charities and religious organizations are known to command even higher open rates.

Apart from industry, let’s take a look at other factors that affect email open rate. 

If you are scratching your head at a persistently low open rate, I think that it is important to remember that benchmarking isn’t a precision science and other factors will come into play.

For example, as your email list lengthens, the email open rate gradually drifts down.

The other factors to be aware of and perhaps tackle in some cases include:

  • The quality of your email list. Your strategy for email opt-ins on your site, landing pages or social media should be targeted to people who will find your emails relevant. If the open rate is low you may need to adjust the targeting or specificity of your opt-ins. 
  • Why the email is being sent. People respond far better to emails when they know why they are being sent. If your content is related to a product launch or competition they are interested in, you will see the open rate lift.
  • Recognition of your brand. They may have subscribed because they like your content, but without a recognisable sender name and email address, they may not know who is emailing.
  • What you have written in the subject line. Subject lines make a massive difference to whether your subscribers will open or not and require attention-grabbing, high-conversion copy that lets them know it’s you. Relevance in the subject line has been shown to not only affect the open rate but also click through rate and other key metrics discussed below. 
  • Time of day. This was not something I thought about too deeply, but I have found that the time of day you send your emails does count. The optimum time of day varies obviously by region and also the time of week too. According to Send In Blue, the best times to send an email for maximum open rate are 10 am, 3 pm and 4 pm, which is understandable really as people will probably check in to their email at their desk at the start and towards the end of the working day.

There are other key email marketing metrics you need to know. 

When I first started out using email marketing, the opening rate was the headline metric I could instantly see and interpret.

But one of the great things about a decent Email Software Provider (ESP) is that they provide very detailed analytics to let you know everything you need to know about what is happening with the health of your email list and campaigns.

Here are 6 key email marketing metrics that it is well worth casting your eye over: 

  1. You want to keep up to speed with your list size. Simply, the more people you have opted-in with, the larger the number of unique opens you will receive. 10% of a 50K email list opening your emails is more than 25% of a 5K list. You also want to regularly weed out inactive users.
  2. Bounce rate will give an idea of the deliverability of your emails. Most of the causes of a high bounce rate, like a subscribers email inbox are full, are outside your control. However, if an email is too large, the bounce rate can be tipped. 
  3. Click-Through Rate (CTR) is always a critical metric for conversions. CTR is always important to check as it will tell you how many people are clicking on the links in your emails.
  4. Conversion Rate is all about your bottom line. In email marketing, the conversion rate will tell you how many of your subscribers are following through to complete the desired action and ideally transactions.
  5. Keep a close eye on your spam percentage. The spam percentage will tell you how often your emails are headed to spam, most ESPs will alert you if this metric is too high. 
  6. Opt-out/Unsubscribe Rate. This is the number of people who no longer want to receive your emails. If this runs high, you may need to adjust your opt-in, so it is more targeted.
email open rates

Do your email open rates need a boost?

The sign of a good email marketer is that their open rates will never be high enough until they are 100%.

And like our websites, it’s the little tweaks and adjustments that can optimise your open rate.

Here are five key ways I’ve found to lift your open rate. 

  • Send your subscribers a welcome email when they first opt-in. Often, when your energies are going into generating your subscriber list, you end up neglecting all the people who have opted in. But taking the time to send an introductory email can get you open rates of over 80%. Use the welcome email to explain more about your emails and perhaps alert subscribers to the frequency of your mailshots so they can expect your messages.
  • Nail your subject line. That single strip of words will make or break your email, so it is important to keep it punchy and relevant.
  • Segment segment segment! I don’t know why but we expect our emails to be everything to everyone. I’ve had to learn the hard way that it is better to separate your list by demographics, geography or interests to create emails that connect.
  • Uses personalisation wherever possible. If you have the subscriber name as well as email, it’s well worth including the name in the email to engage your subscribers better. Most of the leading ESPs will have email personalization features that can tailor the emails you send according to the subscriber data you have. 
  • Never buy emails!!!! This is the absolute worst thing you can do for email marketing which is why I am including it here. Purchased email lists at best will yield no results as the people did not opt-in. At worst, you could find yourself blacklisted. 

I hope that this run-through on open rates for your email campaigns has given you some food for thought.

How email marketing dovetails with affiliate marketing is still evolving and I am definitely drawing from the playbook of experienced email marketers for ways in which I can make this channel effective. 

What I have found is that if you want to create high converting email campaigns,  you cannot take your eye off the ball.

Remember it’s all about serving your subscribers with what they actually want and creating tailored and engaging communications that will generate the revenue you are looking for. 

Before you go!

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