Many email marketers have traditionally used open rates to gauge the health of their mailing lists.
While this may seem like a logical thing to do, the value of this particular metric is not as great as it once was. In fact, open rates are becoming less relevant, and it is important for today’s email marketers to put this gauge in the proper perspective.
If you have been using open rates to track the success of your email marketing campaigns and tweak your mailing lists, that habit can be hard to break. Even so, it is important to look at your marketing campaigns as a whole, rather than focus on one area – like open rates.
Why Open Rates Are No Longer as Important
A low open rate can certainly be discouraging. You may think that an email marketing campaign is not worth the time or trouble if less than a third of your subscribers bothers to open your messages.
That low open rate could even lead you to believe that there is something wrong with your list, and that could lead you to spend lots of money buying new lists and attracting new subscribers.
The problem is that open rates are not necessarily a reflection of how many subscribers actually open and read your marketing messages. In fact, the open rate is one of the most unreliable measures in the email marketing world. The open rate can be quite unreliable and imprecise, making it a wholly unreliable measurement of either your mailing list or the overall success of your latest email marketing campaign.
The problem lies in the way open rates are calculated and reported. All email tracking tools (like TrackReports) adds a small undetectable image to every message you send. Each message you send is considered opened only after that invisible image is called up from the server where it resides. This process can skew the numbers, often quite significantly. That is because many email clients allow users to turn images off. When recipients have their images turned off, the statistics will say that the message was never opened, even after the reader has opened and read your email. This simple glitch in the reporting of open rates means your own rate could be off from 11 to 35 percent – certainly a significant problem if you are using those open rates to measure your success as an email marketer.
What Can I Do to Improve My Open Rates?
While open rates are not as accurate as they could be, that does not mean you should ignore them altogether. Open rates can be an important measure of your email marketing campaigns, as long as they are used in the right way.
For instance, open rates can be used to spot trends. Tracking your open rates over time is a legitimate way to measure your success. If you notice a significant drop-off in your open rates, it could indicate a problem with the quality of your email list. If you notice such a decline, you might want to focus on reengaging with your subscribers through special offers, contests and other such means.
You may be able to use the trends you spot to tweak your messages and ultimately improve your open rates. You can, for instance, experiment with various dates and times for your messages. Simply moving your marketing campaigns to a different day could improve open rates and get you more business.
You may also be able to improve open rates by coming up with more interesting subject lines. The subject line is often the only thing the recipient sees – if it is dull or generic your subscribers are likely to ignore it. You can test various subject lines by dividing your list into thirds and sending the same message – with a different subject line to each list. Once you get a feel for which subject lines get the best response, you can tweak your message to improve your open rates and response percentages.
In the end, open rates are important – just not in the way you might think. A low open rate does not necessarily indicate a problem with your mailing list, but it can serve as an important early warning signal. Learning what to look for and how to tweak your list can improve not only your open rates but your overall email marketing success as well.