Top 5 Reasons Your Email Open Rate Sucks

Email marketing’s influence and popularity continues to surprise industry experts who forecasted it’s demise years ago. In fact, email marketing offers an astounding 4,300% ROI. So if email marketing is so successful, than why isn’t it working for your business?

Why aren’t your customers opening your emails?

There are 5 critical areas to cover when determining why your email open rate is lower than you’d like. We’ll take a quick look at each area. As always, for more information or a free analysis of your current email marketing performance contact us at


33% of email recipients open emails based on subject line alone. Your subject line is the equivalent of the first impression. Think of your own personal inbox, and the hundreds of emails you get every day. Many of them are spam. Some are from lists you signed up for long ago that you’re no longer interested in. Our time is more precious than money in today’s society, so we scan the subject line to determine whether an email is worth opening to learn more about the contents.

Mailchimp just released their latest list of best practices to help you construct the most effective subject line. First and foremost, keep your subject line as short as possible. Second, avoid spammy words such as “free” or using multiple exclamation marks. Consider adding tags that dynamically insert the recipient’s name into the subject line if it seems appropriate. Emojis are growing in popularity; however, consider whether they are an appropriate fit for your brand before you employ them. And use them sparingly without over-doing it (unless that is in line with your brand).

Think of your subject line as the headline for a story. Craft an intriguing, engaging phrase or question that will make them curious to want to find out more.


When is the best day and time to send your customers an email? Unfortunately there is no magic answer to this question. However, a good place to start is by reviewing Constant Contact’s industry average list.

Remember, these are averages, and your company may be different. The only way to truly know is to test different days and times and compare the metrics to identify winning trends.


It’s so easy to be guilty of this one. We barely have enough time to run our business, and the last thing we feel like doing is cleaning up our email list. But this is one of the major culprits for poor performance. Continuing to send emails to inactive or disengaged recipients hurts the open rate and costs you money.

Luckily, email database modules such as Mailchimp and Constant Contact make it very easy to remove recipients who have hard bounces or even soft bounces. You just have to remember to do it regularly to optimize your campaign performances.


Are your email subscribers’ expectations of what your email blasts will deliver in line with the reality? If not, then take a good, hard look in the mirror and clarify this in your sign-up forms and messaging.

An effective tactic is to require a double opt-in to join your email list. The upside is that you are requiring an extra step that increases the likelihood that the person subscribing to your list is truly interested and will want to hear from you. The downside is that you’re making it that much harder for someone to join your database. The quality of the list will increase, but the quantity of the recipients will be negatively affected.

Most experts and sources recommend a double opt-in wherever possible. I tend to agree with that sentiment, although every company and industry is unique so only you can decide for sure what works best for your business.


This was alluded to briefly in the section on the send day/time, but this is critical for everything that has been discussed. The only way to know the best answer for your specific business is to conduct on-going A/B testing in everything you do. Every single blast should include A/B experiments that you learn from and employ in future sends. Subject lines can only be optimized through sound A/B tests. The same goes for determining the best day and time to send your blasts and finding the best language/messaging for your sign-up forms.

If you are not A/B testing, you are falling behind the competition.

So there you have it. 5 areas you can work on to make an immediate impact on your email open rates. Try them out and tell us how they work for you in the comments section below.