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Q&A: Help! I have a dip in email open rates!

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JPEG image-943F64903446-1I love being able to take re-life information and questions I receive to turn it into applicable lessons for my readers. I received this message from a client recently:

Help! My open rates have dropped from around 32% to around 18%. We have to fix this. I think it is because I changed my email address in InfusionSoft. Emails are going to spam since the change.

I can see why this statistic looks alarming right? If the statistics your email marketing software are providing show that your open rate has decreased by half right before you launch your course, you would be freaking out too! But often times the numbers that we see aren’t an accurate reflection of what is really happening (as they weren’t in this case).

In order to “show all the cards” here, it is important to know that yes, this particular person DID just change their domain and redesign their website, which means that the “show” email in InfusionSoft was now @adifferentdomain.com in their email address.

Here’s what we did:

  1. Could there be a problem with the email address/domain itself? Maybe, but it is unlikely. Just to be sure, we had the client check the SPF (no, not sunscreen) settings on the domain and hosting. (Here are some easy instructions from InfusionSoft on how to do that.) Again, unlikely to be the cause, but best to cover all the bases.
  2. Look at the bigger picture. “Open rate” isn’t a great way to judge list engagement. In fact, its kind of a terrible way. I still have NO IDEA why InfusionSoft and other providers make it a priority to show that number to you. Especially when to quote InfusionSoft “open rates are estimates and are not the best way to judge engagement.” Now that I mention it, I think they show that number because its higher and it probably makes the newbies hang in there for a few more months of their service.A much better number to look at is “click-thru rate.” For this client, when we looked at the click-thru rate, we actually found that the number was trending UP despite a lower open rate. And that the emails with the new domain and design had a much higher click-thru rate and engagement. We even took the step of manually calculating this to avoid duplicates and opt-out clicks being counted. The most recent email did reflect lower overall numbers but more on that later.
  3. Examine Other Factors. As I mentioned, there are lots of a reasons a particular email may not get opened or clicked. And in this case, the data certainly indicated the reason this emails open rate was at 18% was more likely one of these other factors.Timing: When you send your email broadcast is paramount. Send 60 minutes past the optimal time, it will likely get buried in an inbox and never even seen. Sometimes this takes some split testing, other times you can figure it out based on your client base. In this particular case, the client targets corporate business employees. The email in question with 18% open rate was sent at 9:30 in the morning, when all of the others went out at 7:00 am. The difference is clear, by 9:30 everyone is at working and emails get buried or there is no time for reading newsletters.

    Subject lines: Too many people write subject lines that are 120 characters long. Think of your inbox…how much of that subject line do you see? I know in Gmail it isn’t much. Only about 49 charaters show in a subject line, and less than that on a mobile device (80% of online interactions happen on a mobile device). Make sure your subject lines are catchy and short, gives more people a reason to open your email. If your content is as cool as the subject line, then they will click.

The key take aways here are to find your sweet spot and send it at the same time, on the same day each and every week, have great subject lines and that is the BEST way to increase/maintain open rates and engagement.

Do you have a marketing question you need answered? No worries…post it below and we will include it on our Q&A.