Building your email list and ensuring that the emails you send get to your audience and are opened is something of a mystery to a lot of people in internet marketing. It comes as a shock to some when they find out that just because someone subscribed to their list doesn’t mean that they will actually get your emails, much less open them!
This guide is going to provide you with multiple tactics that you can use to increase the deliverability and open rates of your emails. A lot of things have changed over the years when it comes to email marketing and there is more you need to do to ensure that when you send emails to your list, they actually reach your audience and get opened.
The Reality of Email Marketing Today
Each time you send out emails to your subscribers, you are guaranteed that the emails are sent. After that, however, there are other factors that come into play, some of which you have no control over. Some people on your list may not be getting your emails in their inbox at all.
Studies have shown that over half of all emails sent are spam. This means that email providers work very hard on spam filtering to protect their users from the relentless onslaught. These filters use a variety of data points to determine if a message is junk or legitimate. In addition to provider-level spam filtering, there is also the user-level filtering that is in place.
If it’s flagged as spam, the user doesn’t get it. Technically, the user got the email but since it’s hidden inside the spam folder, the odds of them seeing it are next to nil.
According to some estimates, about a fifth of all email is caught in this net while the rest make it through to the inbox. Filtering on the clients’ side gets more of the spam, for example, Gmail’s ‘Promotions’ tab. If you’re in marketing and your emails end up in the Promotions tab then you can be sure they will go unread.
If your email does make it through all those filtering levels, now you have to worry about whether the subscriber will even open it, or not. There’s so much going on in email marketing these days and so many emails being sent that people are getting really picky about which emails they open.
The rest just get deleted without a second glance. This is one of the reasons why email open rates have been declining lately with numbers as low as 47% in arts and entertainment, 28% in marketing and advertising, 25% in various hobby niches, and 16% for e-commerce.
These sad figures mean that you can expect only about a quarter or less of the emails you send to your subscribers to be seen. While these are just estimates, and the numbers differ for each industry, there are still things you can do to ensure that more of your emails get to your audience and that you get higher open rates.
Focus On Engagement, Not Size
When it comes to internet marketing, a lot of people still mistakenly think that it’s about how big your email list is. The truth is that list size isn’t really what’s most important, engagement is. Your open rates, as well as your click-through rates, matter more than the size of your list.
Imagine someone with a list of, say, 100,000 email subscribers. If they aren’t getting adequate levels of engagement from their list then they could be sending out that many emails but only a tiny portion of those are getting opened.
Because so few of his emails (in proportion to his list size) are getting opened, and because a lot of his emails are routinely getting deleted or left unopened by subscribers, the big email companies such as Google and Yahoo start to notice this and they use this collective intelligence to better serve their users.
This sender’s emails start getting thrown into the promotions tabs or spam folders. The bottom line is that the best way to define the real size of your email list is by the average number of subscribers who actually open your emails.
The good news is that there are some things that you can start to do right now to grow your REAL email list even without adding any new subscribers to it. But if you do both, that will be even better.
10 Easy Ways to Grow Your Real Email List
1. Engage Your Subscribers Regularly
Today’s email marketing is about engagement. It’s the key to higher open rates just as in social media. If you want people to open, read, click, reply, and so on, then there are three things that you can do to make this happen.
First, be yourself. Show your true personality and be the kind of person that your audience wants to hear from. Authenticity will take you a long way in this type of marketing.
The second point is, be relevant. Talk about interesting things that your audience cares about and wants to know more about.
Third on the list is frequency. How often you communicate to your subscribers is important. As long as you craft interesting, informative, helpful emails that they look forward to, then your audience will be eager to hear from you regularly.
2. Don’t Blast, But Segment Instead
If you’re just ‘blasting’ your entire list over and over and not engaging them, you will undoubtedly be seeing a drop in your open rates. No one wants to be marketed to relentlessly especially when they signed up for your list for one thing that they were interested in, but now you’re sending all kinds of messages that may not even be relevant to them.
Instead of sending the same message to everyone on your list each time you’ve got something to say, why not segment your list using factors like other interests so that when you send a message it’s targeted at someone who actually wants to hear it?
According to studies, segmented emails have higher open rates as compared to non-segmented ones and they have almost twice as many click-throughs.
3. Perform Regular Purges
Even if you implement everything outlined in this article, you will still always have people on your list who grow less interested and just stop engaging. In fact, some people may have just signed up to get your free lead magnet. Other times they may just be too busy to open your emails even if they are genuinely interested.
No matter what it is, if you continue to send emails to such people even though they are not opening your emails, it will hurt your overall email delivery rates. This artificially drops your open rates and it can even impact your delivery rates in the future as it ‘tells’ the different filters out there that no one is paying attention to your emails.
This means that it’s vital to regularly run re-engagement campaigns on any inactive subscribers that you have. If anyone still hasn’t responded after the campaign, you must delete them. Painful, but necessary.
4. Avoid Obvious Spam Practices
Some things seem spammy when you do them in emails, even with the best of intentions. Things like using link shorteners, sloppy HTML code, having one big image (this is common in advertising emails), emails that don’t adapt to mobile screens and are too wide, and using spammy phrases such as ‘cheap’, ‘quick cash’, ‘100% free’, and so on.
These kinds of practices are usually associated with ‘hypey’ ads so it’s best not to go there when crafting your emails. If you do the same thing as what known spammers are doing, it’s definitely going to hurt your email delivery. Try using a service such as iSnotSPAM to see if your email scores well in the spam department.
5. Focus on Your Subject Lines
According to research, a third of emails are opened based on the subject line alone. Also, almost 70% of all emails flagged as spam are only marked that way thanks to the subject line.
You already know that headlines make or break blog posts, but did you know that email subject lines are the most important factor for determining your open rates?
To further your cause, here’s what you can do with email subject lines:
Personalize – Someone is going to notice an email that says “Hey Sarah” much faster than one that says “Hello Friend”. Mention names and get personal rather than being generic. Don’t stop at the name only. Use their birthday, city, geography, or anything related to their history of browsing through your site.
Urgency – Tap into your subscribers’ fear of missing out (FOMO). Put deadlines into subject lines whether it’s an offer or limited spots. Don’t use this tactic too often, however. It only works if they are really interested in something, but overuse can land you in the spam folder.
Curiosity – Make them wonder what’s in the email. This type of subject line works very well. You can do this in various ways. I’ve seen some marketers just use the word ‘oops’. This gets people wondering what the screw up was. A better way is by using the open loop. Put a teaser into the email subject line and the only way for your reader to satisfy their curiosity is to open and read the email.
Free Stuff – Who doesn’t like free stuff? Promising something ‘free’ in the subject line almost always increases open rates. For example, ‘Free download’ works quite well.
6. Only Use Reputable Senders
The IP address used to send your mail is very important. Use an email service with a good reputation. If they have been associated with spammy practices before then that can have an adverse effect on your delivery rates.
This is the reason why reputable email services such as Aweber, MailChimp, GetResponse and other providers will kick you off their service if you make a habit of sending spammy emails.
They work hard to maintain the high reputation of their servers so that they can maximize delivery rates.
This is also the reason why it’s not a good idea to send emails from your in-house server. While this may seem tempting, the habits of other senders will affect your own delivery rates.
7. Keep An Eye On Your Metrics
Your practices will have cumulative effects on your delivery rates over time, but each email you send is its own thing and keeping an eye on the important metrics you get from your email provider such as open rates, click rates, unsubscribe rates, and so on will be of immense benefit to you.
Watch these numbers and look for outliers and trends and make a change if something is awry. For example, say you have a 7-email autoresponder series going out but when you look at the metrics, you notice that email number 4 is getting an unsubscribe rate that is higher than others, you may want to change a few things on that one.
8. Keep Your Name And Address Consistent
Keep the FROM name and email address consistent if you want to maximize email delivery. It builds your sender reputation. For example, you can have your name on all the emails that you send and your support address could be the sender.
Changing it frequently reduces your open rates. In addition to that, never use a free email service as your return address on mass email (eg Gmail, Yahoo, etc). Always use a domain-based email address for that.
9. Make It Easy For Them To Unsubscribe
Don’t ever make it hard for someone to leave your list. This hurts your sender reputation. Besides, if they want to get off your list then they’re not a good fit for your business anyway so let them go. There are laws stating that every email has to have an easy option to unsubscribe, and most email service providers will auto-insert it anyway.
But, you can go the extra step and give the subscriber the option of unsubscribing only from that particular campaign. This way they don’t have to leave your entire list. This way they can tell you that they are simply not interested without you losing them and also without having a negative impact on your sender reputation.
10. Check Your Automation
Sometimes when using a marketing automation tool, people may find themselves on more than one list simultaneously which means that they may be receiving too many emails from you.
When people get too many emails from one sender at the same time, they are more likely to unsubscribe (or just ignore you) so this is something that you should watch out for and try your best to avoid.
When it comes to internet marketing, your email list is more or less the most vital online asset you have. However, it’s important to remember that it’s not about the number of subscribers that you have, but the level of engagement you achieve with the subscribers you do have.
Use these tactics in this article to increase your email open rates and to get improved email delivery starting right now.
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Updated: Originally Published May 18th 2018