How To Increase Your Emails Open Rate
By Abbie Drew
Mar 16, 2006, 13:00
Are you worried about getting your email promotions delivered and opened by prospects?
If not, you should be. . .
Consumer email studies show that 70% of email received in the US is perceived as spam. To market successfully by email you need to make sure your emails are not being labeled in this 70% spam category.
Yes, even email an individual has requested to receive can get pigeon holed as spam if you're not careful. When your email is seen as spam it then either ends up in the trash, or filtered into the junk folder or in worst case scenarios reported as spam and all your other messages to that domain (think AOL, Yahoo) are then blocked.
Email is a great marketing tool but it only works if your email gets delivered and opened. All to often email marketers send out their messages to a list of subscribers oblivious to the fact, it may not be getting through or seen. If you're not paying attention, you may not even realize your emails are being blocked or junked.
With so much email being junked, larger companies are now starting to pay to get a guarantee that their emails will be delivered and marked as "requested" (i.e. not spam) in users inboxes. See my article from the 2/15/06 issue of DEMC on Goodmail CertifiedEmail to learn more.
For small and home businesses the costs involved to pay to send email are out of reach. As a small business to get your email delivered and opened you should understand how email deliverability works and use best emailing practice.
Yes, it is realistic to get 10%, 20% and even higher returns from your email list. Just imagine the money you'll make with this kind of response!
Is it really possible . . .
The first step to email success is getting your email delivered and opened.
Below are the 4 key rules to effective email marketing. These rules are compiled from my experiences of working behind the scenes with our SendFree Autoresponder service. When you are responsible for getting the email delivered of 15,000 SendFree members you know how it's done.
1) Your List
Deliverability starts with your list building practices. You should focus on growing your list with individuals who request and confirm to be on your list. Purchasing generic optin lead lists and bulk emailing people is not the right way to build your list.
You want your list members to have registered for your list specifically. Those who request your specific offer and grant you permission to email them further will appreciate and respond to your emails. They will not complain or provide bad addresses as generic optin leads often do - both of which cause delivery problems for you.
2) Your Software
The system you use to send your email affects deliverability. Using bulk emailing software from your desktop computer is not going to work. Nor is trying to bulk email using your regular ISP, as they're not set-up to send mass emails. Don't even bother with these options.
You need to be using software designed for mailing to lists. You can establish an account with an email service provider that is designed to send to mailing lists. Or you can purchase mailing list software and install it on your own server that you'll then have to host and maintain. Having your own server gives you more control, but you'll need more technical know-how and it will be more expensive. An account with an email service provider, like SendFree, is designed to be user friendly and as you share servers with other users itís less costly.
You want to make sure the software system or email service provider you select for sending your emailings does the following:
a) Is set-up with reverse DNS lookups. Most receiving ISP will not accept email from a mail server that is unable to identify itself with a reverse DNS.
b) Capable of meeting ISP volume thresholds. ISPs such as Yahoo and AOL have limits on how much email they'll accept from a server at one time. Your software needs to manage the connection to the receiving ISPs so your email does not become blocked.
c) Use authentication protocols such as SPF/SenderID or DomainKeys. These protocols inform ISPs that you are who you say you are so they then allow your email through.
d) Clean your list regularly of bad addresses. Undeliverables and removals should be eliminated from your list immediately. Receiving ISPs will block email from sources that continually send to bad emails.
3) Your Message
The content of your message has considerable influence on whether or not it will be delivered. There are numerous content filter hazards your message has to navigate. Let's review the most prominent filters you should be aware of.
a) Edge network filters. These filters block spammy looking content before it even gets to the ISP. The most well known of these types of filters is Brightmail who works with MSN/Hotmail.
If your message has content that Brightmail deems to be spam, your message gets eliminated before it ever gets to the MSN/Hotmail email box. Thus your email doesn't even end up in a junk folder. Nor does the message get bounced back as bad, instead the email just disappears. You may think your email is going through but in fact it's going no where.
b) ISP's reputation filters. This type of filter monitors users' complaints about messages. If there is content in your message, specifically URLs, that the ISP has received a lot of complaints about, the ISP will block your email. AOL uses a reputation system to block or allow your email. When you have content in your message that AOL rejects, they'll return an error code to you saying you have a URL in your email that is generating substantial complaints.
c) Third-party filters such as SpamAssassin. These filters evaluate your message's content for spammyness. If you have too many spam triggers they'll reject the message from being delivered.
How do you help your message negotiate the spam filters?
Keep your message short. The shorter your message the less likely you'll have a word / phrase that triggers a filter. Rather than sending your full sales letter or newsletter in the body of your email, send a short teaser with a link to a web page.
Don't be afraid to go short. The word on the Internet right now is that short emails are better. People read email quickly, just scanning it to see if there's something in to respond to or if the email should be trashed. A long email message won't get your readers full attention. A reader who commits to going to your site from a link in your email, in order to get your full message is much more likely to focus on what you have to say.
What's more studies show most people read their email in the preview screen. So if you can keep your message inside the first preview screen, where readers won't have to scroll, you'll get the best response.
You also want to check your messages content for deliverability to the main ISPs - Yahoo, MSN/Hotmail and AOL. Studies show these 3 ISPs make up about 60% of all the email addresses individuals use to optin to email communications. The easiest way to test to these 3 ISPs is have an account with each. If your messages get through to you at your test accounts, you know you're passing through the filters.
You also should test your message for spammyness with a free online content checking tools. Here are 2 free tools you can use -
4) Your Subscriber
Once your message has negotiated the filters of the ISPs, now you have to get past your subscriber's inbox filters. Your subscribers will have 2 types of filters.
The first type of filters are external.
* Email program settings. Most email programs are defaulted to not show images and some do not show links. If youíre not sending text only messages, this can severely effect the presentation of your HTML message.
* Third party software. These programs scan the content of messages to determine if the email is legit. They often are based upon the users own choices. Theyíll place what they deem spam into a users junk folder.
* Challenge/response. An email is triggered asking for the senderís confirmation before delivery. You therefore have to respond to the confirmation email before the email you sent will go through.
* Bulk/junk folders. Email programs and/or ISPs place spammy looking messages into these folders. Messages in these folders automatically get deleted unless acted upon by the user.
* "Report spam" button. Many people use this button rather than the unsubscribe link for email they've decided they don't want. It doesn't matter if your email is spam or not, you can get reported. (If youíre reported too often your messages go to the junk folder and can even get blocked by the ISP all together.)
The key to getting through these external filters is to get your subscribers to "whitelist" your "From" address and place your "From" address in their address book. A whitelisted address gets you past all the above filters and into their inboxes.
In order to get your address whitelisted, you have to ask! Therefore your confirmation page, or confirmation email must instruct your subscribers how to whitelist you. You can find a free Whitelisting Instructions Generator tool at:
The second type of filters to bypass are internal filters.
Think of your email as being guilty of being spam until proven innocent. Your subscribers get a lot of email. They view the majority of it as spam (70%). Your email is spam to them until they recognize it as email they want.
You have to get your email recognized. Recognition is based on 2 main factors.
a) The "From" address. 65% of email users state the "From" address is what compels them to open a message. If they recognize who you are in the "From" your email gets opened.
b) The "Subject line". 31% of email users state the Subject line" is what compels them to open a message. If they are enticed by your message's subject your email gets opened.
What are some enticing subject lines?
* Discount Offers
* Compelling information/news
* New product announcements
* Free shipping offers
When your subject line grabs your readers attention and the user knows who you are based upon your "From" address, your message gets the all important click to be opened and read.
If your email promotions aren't converting as well as you would like, your first step should be to review these 4 rules to effective email marketing. Make sure you're taking the necessary steps to get your email delivered, opened and read.
© Copyright 2005 by DEMC.com