Tips for Getting Recipients to Open Your Email

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Email has become one of the world’s favorite marketing tools, but it’s a big flop if you can’t get your recipients to open the mail!

People decide in seconds whether or not to click, quickly weighing a number of factors based on what the subject line says and, secondarily, who sent the mail.

A recently updated study of 200 million emails by MailChimp, an email marketing service provider, examined emails with open rates of 0.5 percent to 93 percent. They included personal mails, those sent by clubs and associations to members, and promotions and newsletters sent by marketers. Of course, the personal ones had the consistently highest open rates.

(Note: You can get metrics about your own emails by subscribing to a service, such as ConstantContact.)

Here are some of the tips that emerged from MailChimp’s study:

  • Three words to avoid: The study found the words “help,” “percent off” and “reminder” to be a major turn-off. MailChimp surmises that “help” sounds too much like a scam mail: “Please help, stuck in England, wallet stolen.” “Percent off” falls under the lethal category of too commercial. The more commercial the subject line, the less likely it is to get read unless it has something else going for it, such as timeliness. “Reminder” tells the recipient the email’s contents are old news.
  • Personalize with geography: Recipients favor subject lines that include a reference to a place they know, such as their city or neighborhood. But personalizing with their name does not significantly help.
  • Don’t use the same subject line over and over again: While some might argue that reusing a subject line will help recipients immediately identify the content and brand the sender, MailChimp found open rates decrease with each repeated use of a subject line.
  • Be sure the “from” line clearly tells recipients who the sender is: Don’t try to be clever or to camouflage your identity. Also, use the same “from” line for every mail.
  • Start with a good database of recipients: Make sure the people on your list know what they’re going to be receiving and from whom. For instance, a newsletter sign-up on your website that states “Get a free subscription to our weekly financial newsletter here” will produce a higher quality list than capturing emails by inviting people to download a free chapter from your new book.

Another study, this one by AWeber Communications, found subject lines that give a clear indication of the email’s content get a whopping 541 percent more clicks than those that tell the reader very little.

Here are some of the subject lines used in the study, just to give you an idea of what worked and what did not:


  • Grow Your Email List 99% Faster: How One Site Did It
  • 43 Free Animated GIFs For Your Email Campaign
  • Email Timing: A Look at 6 Marketers


  • AWeber’s AWesome Anthony A
  • Selling Digital: The Perfect Last-Minute Christmas Gift
  • Getting Earth-Friendly Beyond Email

Finally, another new study shows a word we once used to avoid like the plague is now perfectly safe. The word “free” in a subject line was said to trigger spam filters and send our emails straight to the recipients’ Junk Mail folder.

Using an analysis tool provided by Yahoo!, AWeber looked at thousands of subject lines of real emails and saw which were going to Junk Mail and which were not. “Free” sailed passed the spam filters time after time. So, according to AWeber, we’re now all free to use “free.”

And that brings me to my last point. In digital media, innovations occur daily, which means the “rules” change almost as often. What works well today may not tomorrow, so we all need to be flexible and stay up to date. The best way to do that is to look for the newest studies – or just keep reading your PR Insider!

Always open to change,

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