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How to improve email open rate

Luca MicheliJul 24, 2023
How to improve email open rate

Running email campaigns is hard when you don’t know how to properly run them. Here we will cover the best practices on how to improve email open rate and deliverability to get better results for your business.

Improve email open rate - Microsoft - Outlook - Gmail

What is the email open rate?

When you send an email campaign, the open rate is the percentage calculated from the number of people that opened the email to the number of people that received it.

The Open Rate can be considered a good email marketing metric to evaluate the campaign’s success.

How do you calculate the open rate?

The open rate formula is calculated by getting the total number of unique emails opened divided by the total number of emails delivered multiplied by 100.

The open rate formula

We sent this campaign to 1.6K people in the email below, leading to 530 opens. A 33% open rate.

Open rate 33%

In this other email campaign, we reached a 48% of open rate out of 2.3K sent with 1.1K opens.

Open rate 48%

Definitely, the second one performed better than the first one. But why one performed better than the other one?

Before answering this question, we need to understand what’s a good open rate.

What’s a good open rate?

You can have an open rate of up to 90% for your campaigns. It all depends on various factors.

Our data at Customerly (gathered from the 28K businesses using our emailing services) shows an average campaign has an open rate ranging from 30% to 50%.

Below that number is either considered spam or a very low-quality subject.

Above 50% is when you are really good at communicating with your customers.

What influence the open rate?

The factors that influence the open rate are multiple. Some of them are in your control, and some others you just can’t control.

These are the critical factors for a great open rate:

  1. A good subject
  2. The selected audience
  3. The preview text
  4. The email’s body words
  5. The profile picture
  6. How often do you send
  7. Your deliverability rate

gmail subject inbox notification

Let’s start with the subject

A short quick line like “quick question” can bring you up to 80% of the open rate, but your subject will depend on what you will communicate to them.

The more the subject resonates with the selected audience, the higher the open rate will be.

How do you find a good subject?

#1 Tip: fit in the customer’s shoes and think as they would.

What would I be curious about?

What’s grabbing my attention?

#2 Tip: use what triggers their attention the most

One of the most important things we like to hear is our name.

So when writing a subject, always use the customer’s name. It will, of course, increase the open rate.

This is how you can add a contact name or any other custom property on the Customerly email builder.

use customer name in email subject

#3 Tip: keep it short

60 characters are the suggested max length for a subject, but the more concise you are, the better.

#4 Tip: Use magic words

When you include words like RE: or FWD: at the beginning, it creates the false illusion that someone forwarded or replied to your message. So using them is an excellent trick to get their attention.

Choosing the right audience makes the difference

While you can tweak things to get a better open rate, one of the most powerful hacks you can use to improve email open rate is to deliver the email campaign to the right person at the right time.

Better targeting your audience will increase your chances of getting opened.

Let’s imagine you have an international business with Italian and English-speaking customers.

If you send a campaign to all of them in English, you will have a lower open rate because of the Italian segment.

These are other examples of audience segmentation that will lead to a better open rate:

  1. Product-related interest. Let’s say you sell multiple products, and I’ve signed up for your cold reach email system. I’ll be more inclined to read about cold-reach strategies instead of your additional Twitter scheduler SaaS.
  2. Most active readers. If you select a list of your most active readers, you will inevitably have a better open rate.
  3. Behaviour triggered interest. Someone is interacting with your SaaS or app feature, and you can immediately send an email with a tutorial on how to get more value from that feature.
Create a segment based on the user behaviour

Improve your Preview Text

The preview text is the piece of text shown from email clients just below or close to your subject.

How to improve open rate email with preview text

As the subject, the preview text is so important to catch the reader’s attention toward the first lines of the text of the email they are about to read.

Again fit in their shoes here with a few lines that spark curiosity.

The email’s body words

How will the email body affect the open rate?

Well, the email content is analyzed by email clients like Gmail every single time, and what seems to be a promotion will end up in the promotion tab.

Guess what? If you end up in the promotion tab, people will likely never open it.

Some words are triggering the Gmail promotion tab filter, such as:

  • Offer
  • Deal
  • Upgrade
  • Purchase
  • Order

There are plenty of other tips to avoid getting to the Gmail Promotion tab, and here you can read our article about it.

Your Google profile picture

While most of the emails we are getting show a boring colored circle with initials, you can do something better to catch your prospect and customer’s attention, like the animated profile picture you see below.

Animated profile picture gmail to get more open rate

If you are curious, this is how I’ve created mine.

How often do you send

You will probably have a lower open rate if you send email campaigns often.

What’s the sweet spot?

Well, it depends on the value you are sharing.

One of our clients offers a daily photography course via an automated email sequence. Their open rate? 42%.

They have got 57 lessons. Aka, 57 daily emails.

And still, people open them.

Different thing if you are “spamming” with very little value added daily.

Consider your client’s email inbox as a precious channel to keep clean and valuable.

Ultimately, you want them to open and read your valuable content.

Your deliverability rate

When you send a campaign to 1000 emails, most of them will fail to receive it.

Why? Cause delivery issues.

When that happens, they usually bounce back.

There are 2 types of bounces: soft and hard.

A Soft bounce is when an inbox is full or not reachable at that moment, and the email will bounce back.

A Hard bounce is when the email address doesn’t exist anymore or is wrong in the beginning.

Let’s say your list is super clean. You will get up to 1% of the bounce rate.

Meaning your open rate will be lower on the initial sending.

At Customerly, we automatically manage the bouncing emails and calculate the open rate excluding the bounced.

Email bounces to calculate open rate

Configuring your SPF and DKIM records also improves your deliverability rates cause your email will be signed by you, and Google and other providers trust you.

Verify your domain by adding the SPF and DKIM to your Customerly email preferences.

Email domain verification to improve email open rate


You now have the knowledge on how to improve your email open rate with plenty of tricks to implement today in your strategy.

A key factor is how your email marketing software performs during your campaigns. Customerly has one of the best email marketing software in the industry. Each email campaign reply goes straight to your inboxes so you can continue your conversation without interruptions.

Luca Micheli

Luca Micheli

CEO @ Customerly

Luca Micheli is a serial tech entrepreneur with one exited company and a passion for bootstrap digital projects. He's passionate about helping companies to succeed with marketing and business development tips.

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