Email newsletter open rates can be fickle, but here are some useful and effective ways I’ve discovered that will boost your open rates substantially.
In the previous post How to analyse your email newsletter effectiveness a couple of points (and the readers who left comments on that post), made me take another look at further ways to get those open rates up – and keep them there. Here are the results of my research.
1. Split test your subject line before your main email newsletter mailing
Last year we celebrated the second anniversary of our agency and wanted to send out a nice newsletter to share the good news with our clients and prospects:
Knowing that the subject line is the most important factor in determining the open rate for an email newsletter, I decided to use the A/B split testing feature that MailChimp provides. This is very easy to set up; all you need to do is select what type of test you want – in this case, email split testing of the subject line – and decide on the size of your sample groups. MailChimp then performs the test and feeds back which option works better.
Here are the two subject lines we chose for the split testing:
A) Thank you…
B) 2 years of delivering WordPress magic
And as you can see from the results, our line B won hands down over line A:
Line B’s open rate was more than 10 percent better, and the click-through rate was double that of line A! That’s a significant difference, and the simple split-testing exercise is a low-cost way of ensuring you avoid potentially expensive mistakes. I strongly suggest you use email split testing on subject lines for every campaign of yours from now on. I know I will with all our campaigns.
2. Don’t send your email newsletter with the winning subject line, to the people who didn’t open the loser
In the comments under my earlier article, someone suggested that I could resend the campaign to people who did not open it the first time, using a different subject line.
MailChimp uses segments to help you send highly targeted campaigns based on very specific criteria. Using these segments, I was able to select the precise group of people who did not open our first email newsletter.
What a great feature – BUT!
The downside is that MailChimp tracks the open rate using pixels that will be downloaded from their servers – but only if a user chooses to display the images in your newsletter.
If for some reason readers choose not to display images when reading your newsletter, MailChimp will track it as an unopened email. That creates a bit of a dilemma: some people may have acknowledged your newsletter, but didn’t have the time or inclination to display all the images, or read more. For them to receive the same email newsletter again will be just plain annoying.
So my recommendation is that much as it may be tempting to use this type of feature to recapture the non-openers from the first time around, don’t resend your email newsletter to them again in its new guise. It’s just not worth taking a chance of alienating them and having them reach for the unsubscribe button.
3. Start your email newsletter with some text – not an image
Still on the topic of whether or not readers choose to display images, when putting your newsletter’s content together you want to ensure that readers get a strong message from you as soon as they open your email. If all you have to begin with is an image, this is what they’ll see:
The rest is hidden below the fold (of their email client.)
This is about as interesting as watching orange paint dry. Even worse, it does nothing to encourage readers to make the necessary change so that the images are displayed. In fact, it offers no value at all; absolutely nothing “in it for them.”
Fortunately, there is a simple, and highly effective way around that: start with some attention-grabbing text that expresses your key message. Here’s how I used text to solve the problem in our email newsletter:
As you can see, this way, the main message is displayed despite images not being loaded.
So: are email newsletters spam – or splendid?
Although emails and email newsletters are considered as spam or annoying to lots of people, they are still very effective tools to help you keep in touch with your clients and prospects.
I personally believe they can produce a significant return on investment if they’re done the right way. I hope this article helps you to improve your email campaigns.
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