Why is the Open Rate of Mails So Low?

Email marketing plays one of the most important roles in communicating with users and selling more after the first purchase. There are many metrics with the help of which it is possible to evaluate the effectiveness of email marketing strategy. However, open rate remains the most important one. Here, we’re going to speak about how to improve it.


What is Open Rate in Email Marketing?

The open rate shows how many times subscribers open emails. It is a percentage which you can calculate the following way: divide the number of open emails by the number of emails delivered (excluding those which failed delivery).

To track the open rate of emails, many marketing platforms insert a small transparent 1×1 pixel image into a sent message. The host server records the fact of opening when the browser or client sends a request to download this picture. Opening counts only if the recipient opens the letter and includes images or clicks on a link.

This method is not always accurate, as some users prefer to open the text version of the email, and email platforms often block images by default. 

Why is the open rate important? Many argue that this metric is much more important than any other. It shows how many contacts have looked at your letter and are interested in your offer.

But some marketers believe that this metric is practically useless. It is illustrative but does not reflect the real impact of campaigns on performance. In addition to the open rate, there are several more indicators of the newsletter success. They are:

  1. Click-through rate shows the number of clicks on links inside emails. It is a percentage of the number of recorded clicks to the number of successfully delivered emails.
  2. Unsubscribe rate shows how many users clicked on the unsubscribe link – usually in the footer – and opted out of receiving any future emails.
  3. Conversion rate shows how many people responded to your letter. This rate is calculated by dividing the number of actions by the number of delivered emails.

Despite the open rate’s inconsistency, it is still important to know this indicator and pay attention to it. It reflects the reach of the audience and makes it easy to compare campaigns sent to different audience segments, for example.

Many factors influence the open rate or views. The concept of “good” value varies across countries, industries, companies, and individual campaigns. But there are two main criteria you can focus on:

  • Average open rate in your industry;
  • Average metrics in your country.

Perfect Open Rate for an Email Campaign

There is no ideal indicator that you should focus on when analyzing openings. They depend on many factors. An open rate of 20% is considered a good indicator, below 10% is already an alarming sign.

A decrease in Open Rate is a signal that indicates problems with deliverability, the selected segment or topic. Usually, there are 3 standard indicators that affect the opening – subject, sender, and time of sending. In practice, there are many more such factors. Let’s look through them all.

What Affects the Open Rates?

Factors influencing the opening of letters can be divided into basic and strategic.

Basic Factors

Look at any message in your inbox and you’ll see four elements:

  • Sender’s name
  • Subject line
  • Headline
  • Time of sending

In some cases, the initial lines of the letter are visible.

Your recipient decides whether to open the letter or not on the basis of them all. If the sender is unknown or not trustworthy, most likely no one will open the email, and your open rate will be zero. A boring or unremarkable topic will not attract much interest as well.

In fact, we have a few seconds to interest the addressee and be up to par in all respects. There are several common characteristics of attractive themes:

Numbers. The numbers in the headings and in the subject line increase the interest to the letter and improve open rate;

Words associated with profit. Bonus, earnings, profitable offer, and the like. Mail services like such words, and people go for this as well.

Personalized subject line. Test email subject lines to find out what kind of email delivery is more interesting for your audience. Never stop trying new tactics and do not believe in universal formulas – they simply don’t exist. If you follow those rules, you’ll certainly improve the open rate.

Strategic Factors

These indicators affecting the open rates of emails include work with the database:

  1. Way to collect contacts
  2. Age of the database
  3. Email database segmentation

The success of your email campaign does not depend on the number of contacts to which you send the newsletter. It mostly depends on the quality of the database. Create incentives so that the client is happy to leave his email for mailing. Use double opt-in to save the database from possible errors in email addresses.

Who shouldn’t Get Your Emails?

There are several groups of people who don’t want to get emails from you. You can send thousands of emails to numerous recipients, but it all will be in vain if you didn’t notice that they are not your target audience. So, who is it useless to send emails to? 

  1. To those who have not given consent to receive the newsletter
  2. Participants of seminars, webinars, presentations – if they left their email in the form and did not mark the questionnaire that they want to receive the newsletter.
  3. Social media followers will not open emails and decrease the open rate.
  4. Buyers who indicated their email to send delivery information and did not consent to getting promotional mailings.

Sooner or later so called “sleeping” contacts appear in any database. Some of these subscribers can return to active state after the reactivation campaign. Although, there are users who simply do not need mailing. For example, people once subscribed to get a thematic gift. Further emails simply don’t interest them – and they delete future messages. It decreases your open rates and you don’t understand what’s happening. Mail services react to the quality of such campaigns, considering the sender as unreliable and placing all letters in the Spam folder.

There is also the concept of “dead” subscribers – those who subscribed but did not open a single letter. View the activity of your contacts and remove “dead weight” – thus you will improve the performance of the mailing list and not spoil the reputation of the sender’s name.

Base Segmentation

One of the most common mistakes many companies make is to send one email to their entire contact base. If you sell products in different categories (for example, women’s clothing, men’s clothing, and children’s clothing), some recipients will ignore emails that don’t interest them. This will surely lower the open rate and negatively affect your reputation.

While you can’t set up a mailing list for every single contact on your list, you can create emails based on specific criteria using segmentation. It will help you improve engagement and improve conversions from your mailing list.

This is one of the main factors affecting the open rates of emails. Competent base segmentation improves all mailing indicators. You can send fewer emails while getting more value. That is, without spending money on sending emails that will never generate high conversions. The more information you collect about your subscribers, the better the segmentation and open rate will be.

There are several basic segmentation parameters:

  • Geography (location data and related data)
  • Demographics (age, gender, social status)
  • Psychography (interests and opinions)
  • Behavioral factors (purchases, opens, clicks)

Behavioral segmentation factors for mailings are a priority. Consistently segment your contact base and send the right messages to the right people. Your subscribers will begin to understand that every time they receive an email from you, the content will be of interest to them. You’ll improve the open rate and get tons of glad readers.

The whole point of segmentation is to provide more relevant content to your newsletter recipients. But it won’t work if people don’t open your newsletter – they won’t buy what you sell. Using database segmentation, you can send emails with different subject lines and improve the rate of openings.

What is the Reason for the Low Open Rate?

Sometimes interest fades a little and open rates may decrease. But what to do when it’s not just a short decline but a rapid and unexpected one?

If you suddenly start sending emails at night, expect people not to open it.

If working with the content and rearranging the segments wasn’t enough – look more deeply. There’s a probability that the mailings end up in spam. If your mail doesn’t get into the main folder and even is of suspicious nature, your open rate will be extremely low. It is worth checking the statistics by domains – spam hits will be displayed there. If the indicators sag a lot for any of the domains, then the mailing goes to spam, and your open rate lowers.

Having determined the domain with which you have problems, you can contact their technical support. Such an opportunity is available in almost every mail service. The gmail mail system is a bit more complicated, it does not have technical support, all processes work automatically. If you need to solve a problem with this mail system, find the answers to most questions in the technical information.

Another way to check whether your mail is in spam is to send a message to several test email addresses and check the result. If the letter arrived in the Spam folder, you need to work out all the points described above to improve the open rate again.

Sender’s Reputation

The interaction between the sender and the recipient is an important factor in determining open rate. If email providers and spam filters see little attention to your messages, they will most likely start sending your emails to the Spam folder.

The reputation of the sender is not much different from the reputation of the person. It is not built right away – you need to earn it. If someone has a bad reputation, they are unlikely to be invited to a party or wedding. The same goes for emails: messages with a bad reputation go to spam, and you get low open rates. Different mail systems have their own algorithm for monitoring and determining reputation, but there are a few basic rules.

Correct Your Specifications

Don’t forget about the settings of your electronic signature – this is mandatory for mass mailings. SPF and DKIM settings will help protect your mailing from scammers and reduce the risk of emails getting into spam. Therefore, you’ll be able to raise the open rate. If there are no such settings on your domain, mail services – such as Gmail – can send the newsletter to the Spam folder. If you see your mailing in spam and open rate dropping off, make sure that the SPF and DKIM signatures are correct.

Improve Letter Structure

In addition to technical indicators, the structure of the letter affects the reputation of the sender and open rate. Mail systems analyze whether there is plain text or HTML, the opportunity to unsubscribe from the mailing list, the ratio of text and images.

Mind the Number and Regularity of Newsletters

Imagine you’ve never sent an single mail before… and suddenly send 100,000 messages a week. Increase the volume of mailings by gradually warming up the domain – this will add points to your reputation and improve the open rate.


Open Rate is an indicator of success of the newsletter. You should pay closer attention to it. Who will learn about your perfect offer if your amazing newsletter gets into spam? 

However, it’s impossible to evaluate the quality of the distribution solely on it. You can get 40% of opens but at the same time 5% of clicks on links, and even less purchases. Therefore, always evaluate the big picture and consider the purpose of your newsletter.

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