Two Key Ways You Can Increase Your Open Rates

You can put all the effort you want into crafting your emails, but if your subscribers are not opening them, the time spent won't be rewarded. That's why you need to make sure you are getting a good open rate- you put all that effort into acquiring subscribers, but then you have to follow through and convey your message. There are two really big things that influence whether or not someone opens an email.

The Subject Line

First, let's talk about the first thing anyone sees when an email comes in- the subject line. The subject line is crucial. It is the email equivalent of a first impression, and you have very little room to work with- about 90 characters at most. The amount of a subject line that the recipient can see without opening the email is pretty small, especially if they are on mobile. So you need to make it count.

Crafting a subject line comes down to making the email seem interesting and valuable. You have to show them that opening the email will be worth their time, and that's not easy. How many emails do you get a day? Of those, how many do you read? Your subject lines need to give a hint at what's in the email and intrigue the reader so they want to learn more.

This is called building an information gap. You acknowledge what the reader already knows and give a preview of what they could learn from the email. Their curiosity and desire to fill the gap by completing their knowledge will drive them to open the email and read it. From this description, you can see how hard it can be to create the right subject line. You need to incentivize the reader with valuable knowledge without ignoring what they already know or getting too technical.

Many good ideas involve mentioning the general subject and then illustrating how you will approach it. For example, look at the title of this post. It mentions open rates, so you knew that it was about getting people to open emails. It also described the structure by telling you that the post would be about two ways to improve open rates. So the title tells you what you should expect from the post and offers a personal benefit by addressing the reader directly: you knew that you would gain better open rates by reading this.

One good idea is to try some A/B testing. Write one email with two different subject lines. Split your subscriber list in half and send one version to each half, then compare the results. That will help you learn which kinds of subject lines do better.

Building Expectations

By far the most important reason people open emails is not catchy subject lines- it's that they know they will benefit from the read. You have to establish the value of the contents of your emails to get people to open them. If your subscribers trust you and your content, they will read what you send them. The way to do that is to make sure that your emails are highly valuable from the very beginning. You only get one shot to make a first impression- if you can anchor those expectations with a strong email, the subscribers are much more likely to open subsequent ones.

This is simple, but not easy. Making sure that every single email contains real value takes effort and time. The first email or two are the most influential, because they set up how each subscriber feels. If you come out flat and don't give them value right away, they will lose interest. After all, it is incredibly easy for them to just ignore your emails, so it really takes a lot of value to induce them to keep coming back.

One of the best things you can do is establish yourself right away with good value. Pick some useful thing you can offer- a tip, an example, anything- and package it into an email so that it becomes useful and actionable within five minutes. That's instant value. Make that an email that every subscriber gets right away. As soon as they sign up, you reward them with something that is immediately helpful and that takes almost no time to implement. For example, you can send them a short newsletter that has best practices and advice for your industry. That will show them they can gain from your emails and also establish the kind of content they can expect in future emails.