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The open-rate is a well-known email marketing metric because it is arguably the most important metric. The open-rate is the percentage of people that opened your email. What’s the point of going through the effort of building an email list, creating a beautiful HTML email template, or writing a well-crafted message, if no one opens your emails?

The main components to a good open rate are the subject linewhen the email is sent, your sender reputation, and the email’s leading sentence.

Now let’s dive into each of these components, and what you can do to incorporate them in your next email campaign.

Subject line

This is the biggest factor related to whether someone will open your email. Does the subject line seem like an advertisement? Is it boring or irrelevant? These are obvious no-no’s.

Questions do well. Especially open-ended questions that relate to their needs and interests. Question marks also grab a person’s eye as they skim through their email.

There are other methods for standing out from the milieu of mail in someone’s inbox. Emojis. Yep, starting an email with emojis helps to cut through all the text. Emojis not appropriate for your target audience?

Another way to grab a reader’s eye is to start a subject line with a word, then a colon. Such as “Latest:…” or “Great:…” With all other email subject lines having a continuous string of text, a word, then colon, can break that flow.

And, of course, personalization. Being able to mention anything directly related to that person ensures you will get their attention. Their name or company name can drastically improve open rates.

Time the email is sent

This is a very close 2nd to the actual subject line. When the email is sent is very important. People look at their emails more at certain times of the day than other times. They are also more open to looking at non-work related emails at certain times of the day.

With a quick google search you’ll find dozens of blog posts claiming the best time to send an email. What’s interesting… is that they don’t all say the same thing. Each email or newsletter campaign should be sent out a time that depends on your audience. We recommend sending out the same email at different time periods on different days to see what works best.

There are of course best practices. Weekday mornings work well, particularly at the start of the work day. After work hours, around 7pm-8pm have high open rates as people are checking their email one last time before ending their day.

One final consideration is that your email list may not all be based in the same location. Any email list in different time zones can really throw off your efforts to find the perfect send time. If possible, segment your email list by location to account for time zone differences. But, for most people, splitting up your email list by their location isn’t possible. You likely don’t have that information, and will instead have to choose one timezone that you think is best.

Sender Reputation

Your sender reputation has a major, major impact on whether your emails are being opened. Unfortunately, many blog posts on email marketing frequently leave out the importance of sender reputation.

What is an email sender reputation?

A sender reputation is a number ranging from 0–100, applied to your sending email address (e.g. This reputation score is determined by your mailbox provider and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). It directly impacts whether your emails will reach a recipient’s general Inbox, or be automatically directed towards their much less visible Spam folder. How do they determine your sender reputation? They analyze your email related data sets, that includes information such as: Email volume, Complaint Rates, Spam trap hits, Blacklist listings, Bounce rates and more. Aka, if you seem spammy, they may allocate your email to the Spam folder. Now that will really ruin your open-rate.

Leading sentence

The leading sentence is the the text that comes up after an email subject line in recipient’s inboxes. Many people don’t realize that the first sentence of their email body is visible right after the subject line. And if people are using your subject line to determine whether your email is worth their time, then they’re likely evaluating your leading sentence as well.

For crafting a leading sentence, put yourself in the shoes of the recipient, do you think they would be more or less interested upon seeing your leading sentence? While email content is usually associated with the success of your email’s click-through rate (CTR), in this instance it does have an effect on your open-rate as well.

If you jump straight into promotional text you’re likely raising a red flag to a reader that your email is just a sales pitch. Starting an email with a personalized touch, such as ‘Hey [Name]’, or with natural, informal language, such as ‘I was checking out your company’s website’, should pique your recipient’s curiosity enough to open your email and give you and/or your company a chance.

The importance of the open-rate is pretty apparent, and you will see the open-rate percentage % displayed for each past email campaign in most email service providers.

But even more telling is whether that open rate % is any good. After finding the open rate of your email campaign it is important to compare that rate with an industry average. In general, a good target for an open rate is 20%, but average open rates vary from say industry to industry. A quick google search for ‘open rate for X industry’ should steer you in the right direction. Either way, don’t let the average of 20% set your sights too low.

Now you have the tools to make sure your email is getting the chance it deserves! Next part, making sure the email itself is any good…