Most people assume the best way to increase your email open rate is to use compelling subject lines.

If only it was that easy! 

The truth is, you could be a subject line ninja and you can still have crappy open rates. 

Yes, of course you can lift open rates with a good subject line in the short term. But that won’t guarantee long term open rates will remain high.

Far more important than the subject line is the “sender.” High email open rates have a lot more to do with positive associations and emotions your reader has when they see WHO the email is from, rather than WHAT the content is.

How excited, positive and warm they feel about your email – and therefore the likelihood that they’ll open it – comes down to a LOT of factors beyond the subject line.

So, with that fundamental truth in mind, let me give you 26 proven ways to increase your email open rate. 

1. Send More Emails

I’m not suggesting you spam people (see tips #2 & #3).

But you do need to become a regular part of your audience’s lives. 

If you only send emails occasionally (i.e., more than 2-4 weeks between each send), then your audience won’t develop a strong enough connection with you or your business. More regular contact will increase trust, loyalty and open rates. 

If you currently email once a fortnight, go weekly.

If weekly, go twice a week.

If twice a week, go daily.   

2. Use the Golden (Email) Ratio 

Send two “free content” emails for every one “sales” message – you want to prime your list to expect great content that doesn’t always require them to reach for their credit cards. 

By sending more free content than marketing messages, your audience will associate your emails with a positive experience. 

3. Be Useful

Always try and include at least one piece of useful news, advice, tips, opinion or free stuff. 

The goal is to reinforce positive associations with each email contact.

And that goes for your promotional emails too! 

4. Be Human

Avoid the usual bland corporate updates signed off by a business or team.

Instead, make sure your emails are from one person, so there’s a familiar name there that your reader recognizes and begins to trust.  

5. Get Personal

Address one person, using the term “you” as often as possible.

It will increase trust, lower resistance and increase long-term loyalty.   

6. Ask for Feedback

Opening a channel to your readers will help you create better content, establish a two-way conversation, and increase trust. You learn what your audience really wants and cares about and how they perceive you, your products/services, your business and industry. 

And pay close attention to WHAT they say – what are the key words and phrases they use to describe their experiences? 

The more you can begin to mirror their world through the kind of language they use, the stronger the bond.  

7. Reward Good Behavior

Passive readers do not become active buyers, so make sure every email rewards the reader for taking a desired action. 

Include links to useful resources or information. Over time readers will associate positive emotions (reward) with certain actions (opening your email and clicking a link). 

When you do ask for the sale, they’re more inclined to act.  

8. Resell Your Sizzle

From time to time, remind your readers of what you’ve helped them achieve and why it’s important to keep reading. 

Restate the positive benefits you want them to enjoy as a result of opening and engaging with your emails. 

9. Solve Problems

Make sure every email solves a problem or helps the reader towards their desired outcome.

They’ll reward you with their attention in the future and you can better serve their needs. 

10. Reply!

Whenever a subscriber sends you an email, reply to them promptly in a friendly and human way.

This creates a close bond that will mean they see you are a trustworthy sender. 

11. Use Cliffhangers

Remember the two-part cliffhanger format of the 1960’s Batman TV show?

The episode would end with Batman and Robin in some seemingly inescapable and deadly situation. The only way to find out what happens would be to tune in next week at the “Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.” 

At the end of your email, suggest something that’s coming up soon – give them a reason to look forward to your next email. 

12. Have Strong Opinions

Make sure you have a distinct view on your field or interest, or a personal take on the news. 

It will make people interested to hear what you have to say on any given story.

13. Get to the Point Fast 

Most writers tend to use the first paragraph (or more!) to warm up and waffle.

But it can usually be removed without changing the meaning.

Your audience will be scanning their inbox for useful information – make sure they don’t have to work hard to find it.

14. Write Simply

Use short sentences, simple language and no big blocks of hard-to-read text.

The quicker and easier it is to absorb the info in your email, the less likely readers are to think opening your emails require time, patience or hard work. 

Try using the Hemmingway App to determine what grade level your writing is. The App also gives helpful tips on sentence clarity and quality.

15. Use a Proofreader

If you are writing your email, it is almost impossible for you to also proofread. So ask someone else to check for spelling and obvious grammatical errors. 

This makes them easier to read and also more trustworthy.

And if you do end up with an email full of howlers…  

16. Own Up to Your Mistakes 

People respect honesty and are drawn to those who show fallibility.

If you mess up, send another email that clearly states an error.

E.g., “I apologize for the previous email….” You’ll find that these get great open rates.  

17. Send a Surprise Love Gift

Every now and then, email your list something unexpected for free – it could be a video, trial access, sample, report, e-book – anything of a high perceived value that will benefit them. 

This increases loyalty and they are more likely to keep opening emails when they know there could be a gift or bonus in the offing. 

Of course, how to increase your email open rate is not all about content and relationships. 

The following tips are practical actions you can take to increase your open rates.  

18. Test Delivery Times 

Find out when your audience are most likely to open your emails.

Email service providers like Aweber, MailChimp and Campaign Monitor offer analytics dashboards that show data on your open rate and time. Use this data to test and tweak. 

19. Clean Your List

You’ll get hard bounces and changed email addresses. 

Or people who haven’t opened your emails for years. 

Either clear them out or… 

20. Awaken the Sleepers

Identify those on your list who haven’t opened an email in over three months. 

Send them a polite, warm, personal email reminding them of the benefits of your service, checking they’re okay and asking if they want to stay subscribed. 

Some will unsubscribe but some will become re-engaged and start opening your emails. 

Why? Because you have shown a genuine and human interest in their wellbeing.   

21. Chop Up Your List

You can also raise open rates by segmenting your list into specific interests.

Send messages that are targeted to those lists instead of mass mailing people who won’t be interested.

22. Resend to Unopens

Most broadcast systems will allow you to resend the same email but only to those people who did not open the earlier send. 

Try an alternative subject line (yes, they are useful sometimes!). 

23. Beware Words that Trigger Spam Filters

These change all the time, but your email provider should offer guidance and a method of testing for these words.

24. Make Your Emails Mobile Friendly

This is easy to do on most broadcasting systems. 

For instance, when you send emails on Mailchimp, all of their templates are mobile-ready and they will show you an image of what your email looks like on a mobile device so you always know how it’ll appear. 

25. Put Your Best Content “Above the Fold”

Make sure you include the main benefit at the top of your email so it is visible in the view pane. 

26. Test, Test, Test 

Different browsers will present your email differently, so take advantage of the “test send” function on most broadcasting systems and see how it looks to your readers.