Increase open rate? – It’s NOT the Subject Line!

increase-open-rate-1Everybody who does email marketing has the desire to increase open rates. Open rates are one of those things that can really get under your skin. What’s worse than sending out 1000 emails and only getting 20 to 30 people to open it up? Why is everyone else not opening your emails?

Part of the problem is that you keep focusing on the “subject line” of your emails because that’s what you keep hearing everyone talk about.

Well, that advice is about to change with this new research I came across today.

But before I get into this new best practice advice that makes subject line optimization secondary, let’s first do a quick review of what is an “open rate” for those of you who are unclear.

Open rate is the percentage of emails opened vs. the emails sent.  So if you get 30 people to open your email and you sent it to 1000 people, you would divide 30/1000 to get an open rate of 3%.

Before I started writing this post, I did a quick Google search of the term increase open rate and all the advice on the first page was the same: focus on the subject to increase open rate.

Even internet marketing icon Pat Flynn advises that one of his 4 key factors to increase open rates is to “have an enticing and eye-catching subject line to grab your subscriber’s attention” while overlooking the real surefire way to increase open rates.

So what is it?

Simply put, the FROM LINE is the most important factor that impacts your open rate not the subject line.

Data published by titled For Emails, Name Recognition Drives Opens confirms this.



As you can see in the data above, the from line has a 33% greater impact on open rates than the subject line.

In addition, another stat from the article that doesn’t show up in this particualr grahp is that consumers are 70% more likely to open up an email from a brand they’ve bought something from in the past.

What this means for you is that it’s likely that people are not opening your emails because of one of two reasons:

1. They don’t know and trust you well enough or

2. They know you very well, and don’t like you enough to prioritize opening your emails, but like you enough not to unsubscribe.

If most of your subscribers fall in bucket 2, you have a hard road to climb to increase your open rates. This will require that you do some very segmented subscriber nurturing that must include offering something extraordinary.

If most of your subscribers fall in bucket 1, you have a good chance to increase open rates by implementing a well thought out personalization strategy.

Three Recommendations to Increase Open Rates

First, I would start out reading this post that shares a great infographic detailing out what you need to create your best email newsletter.  In that post, I share multiple strategies to increase your open rate including two segmentation strategies.

Next, I would try using a different from line for the subscribers who are not opening my emails. Don’t try more than two from lines at a time, and make sure you keep date, time, and subject line factors the same so you can do an apples to apples comparison.

Finally, I would tighten up my opt-in policies.  Make sure you are not optimizing for the largest emails list by adding users to your list who imply an opt-in.  Go for the explicit opt-in instead.

The New Best Practice

The bottom line is that it’s time we all adopt the new best practices for email marketing. It’s better to have a smaller highly engaged email list than to have a larger disengaged email list.

The best way to do this is to make sure each person who subscribes knows and trust either you or your brand very well.  Next, make sure you know which one it is (you or your brand) that they have the highest affinity with. Then send your emails with that name in the from line.


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