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The Truth About Open Rates

written by Maggie Sale Ostara, PhD

By 6-Figure Newsletter and Email Marketing Expert Linda Claire Puig

emailMany coaches and service professionals new to email marketing get discouraged when they look at the measurement called “open rate.” Those who’ve been at it for a while do, too.

Why is only a third of my contact list opening my emails? There must be something wrong. Is it worth all this effort if only a few people are reading what I send?

Before you throw in the towel, I want to let you in on a secret that a lot of folks don’t know:

Your open rate isn’t really your open rate.

As a measurement, the open rate is highly unreliable, imprecise and inadequate.

To show you why that is, I have to explain a little about how open rates are calculated and tracked.

The open rate is actually a ratio calculated as the number of people who opened your email divided by the total number of emails that were successfully delivered to your list.

Email marketing software automatically adds a tiny, invisible image to each email delivered. When this invisible image is called to show up (invisibly) from the server where it lives, that tracks the email as being opened.

But this number is skewed — perhaps significantly — by what are known as “image blockers.” More and more people use web mail providers (such as Gmail or Yahoo) or applications (such as Outlook) that allow users to decide whether to view their emails with the images turned on or off.

When you see things showing up in your email with all the images turned off, that’s what’s happening: you have a setting somewhere that is saying “Ask me first if I want to see images.” Your images are “disabled” until you click to “enable” them. So…

If a person elects not to view images when reading an email, it will NOT count as an open.

Likewise, the people that elect to receive text-only emails from you (if you give them the option of text or HTML), also will not register as an “open.” Some mobile devices only allow emails to be viewed in text form.

Your open rate reporting could actually be off anywhere from 11% to 35%, according to generally accepted metrics in the email marketing world. That’s quite a bit!

So while it may look like nobody is opening them, your emails may actually be doing quite well.

So should you just ignore open rates then?

No. Despite their shortcomings, open rates can still provide valuable marketing information. Tracking your open rates can help you:

1. Spot trends. For example, if you notice a significant downward trend in your open rates over time (not just occasional dips, say during summer when folks are out of town more), it may be a signal that you need to do something to re-engage your subscribers.

2. Learn your audience’s preferences. You may be able to notice what days and times of day are better for sending by comparing your open rates.

3. Test subject lines. Split your list into two or three groups, and send the same email with different subject lines to see which one generates more opens (which may indicate more interest).

Is there anything you can do to improve your open rates?

Yes, absolutely! It may not be the most accurate measurement in the world, but there are proven ways to improve your open rates. And improvement is always good.

Of course, your list should be an opt-in (permission-based) list. If not, that’s the first place to start improving. Otherwise, look to some of these areas to improve your rates:

1. Make sure your content is relevant and valuable. Know what your audience wants, and provide it. Relevant content is read content.

2. Examine your frequency of emailing. Too much emailing can cause “list fatigue” and too little can cause the “who’s that?” syndrome.

3. Write HOT subject lines. These short phrases are often the golden key to unlocking your open rates. Make people hungry to open your emails and see what’s inside!


A NOTE FROM Maggie: Linda offered a free training on how to create HOT subject lines yesterday, Tuesday, April 23, but it’s not too late! Sign up now for one of two encore trainings happening. Among other things, she’ll be showing you how improving your subject lines can double your business, the 7 biggest subject line mistakes sabotaging your email results, and the #1 secret to avoid getting your emails reported as spam!

Maggie Sale Ostara, PhD left her prestigious job as the Director of Women’s a Gender Studies at Columbia University when she realized she’s not built to work for anyone else. Since then, Dr. Ostara has become a Certified Human Design Specialist (Level 4), a Certified Clarity Breathwork Practitioner, a highly sought after teacher-mentor, who teaches high-achieving women how to develop their personal sovereignty, to activate their super powers, and to unleash themselves from society’s prescription of success.

She’s the creator of the Soul Signature Self Awareness Project, the Wheel of Power of the Visionary Entrepreneur, and over 20 educational programs focused building soul-inspired businesses that positively impact the world and taking command of your life through personal sovereignty. She’s hosted 5 multi-speaker online conferences, and spoken on over 15 such conferences reaching audiences of over 200,000 participants.

With two decades of experience supporting 20,000+ students and hundreds of clients through her online programs and conferences, Dr. Ostara teaches how to avoid overwhelm and burnout, how to make reliable decisions, how to create a bigger impact with less effort, and how to transform inner liabilities into powerful assets and allies.