If you want to increase your email open rate, it’s pretty simple – optimize your email subject lines and split test what’s working. Now let’s get into the details.
Double Opt-Ins and Email Subject Line A/B Testing
1. Avoid Ineffective Email Subject Lines by Using A/B Testing
When it comes to email campaigns, your goal must always be to outperform your competitors and maximize open rates. The email open rate average in the eCommerce industry is 16.75%, so your goal must be to collect a higher rate than that from your email campaigns. At Mindshare, we’re careful about what we mail, when we mail, list hygiene, and testing whenever possible. As a result, our open rates are double the industry average, at 33%.
One of the biggest reasons for falling short of this average is list hygiene. Many people mistakenly believe that the bigger their list the better. That’s partially true. The bigger your engaged list is, the better. When you have people on your list who don’t click or open your emails, your deliverability goes down. The second most common reason your open rate is failing might be your email was directed to spam, junk, or a secondary inbox. You can minimize the chance of missing your subscriber’s inbox by:
- Avoiding subject lines with all caps
- Not using any words on spam lists in the subject line
- Controlling the amount of punctuation (do not end your subject line with “!!!!!!!”)
In order to illustrate what not to do, here is an example of Forever 21’s email campaign strategy:
This company does several things that stand out as unnecessary and overzealous, which leads to a higher likelihood of being sent to the subscriber’s junk box.
Their subject lines are often in all caps, which often reroutes them out of the subscriber’s primary inbox.
Forever 21’s subject lines are generally inconsistent. Customers are drawn to consistent messages that are easily identifiable as pertinent and worth-while. Studies show 78% of customers expect the offers they receive to be personally tailored and individually relevant to them.
You are less likely to get high open rates if your customers feel like you are spamming or giving them generic promotions. Because of this, it is important to maximize the effectiveness of your subject lines for both you and your customers’ sake. Your goal is to increase open rate, not overwhelm them. As a good rule of thumb, the ratio of content that provides value without expectation (teaching, entertaining, etc) to the amount of content which makes an offer or expects something from the user should be no less than 5:1, with higher ratios better. Some well known, highly successful marketers can be as high as 50:1.
An A/B Test is a great way to learn what your subscribers react to. To do this, send at least two batches of the same email to equal portions of your larger list. Use different subject lines for the same email and track how your subscribers respond. Some email service providers, like ConvertKit, MaroPost, Campaigner and now Infusionsoft make this relatively easy. Others may require some more effort, but it’s worth it when you consider the impact of a small improvement in open rates, click-thru rates and conversion rates.
Imagine for a moment that your business sold a $497 training program, had a list of 10,000 subscribers, that you achieved the average open rate of 16.75%, and to keep the math simple, that 10% of those clicked on your offer, and 10% of those who clicked made a purchase. In this example, 1,675 people opened your email, 165 clicked through, and 17 people purchased. A 20% improvement of each step would yield a whopping 73% overall lift in sales performance due to the compounding effect. For a $497 product, that’s an additional $6,060 in revenue. Definitely worth the effort to test and improve.
Back to split testing.
Follow these steps to see the split test through:
- Conduct the A/B test on a small portion of your email list. For statistical purposes, you need at least 1,000 emails for each version you roll out (or at least 2,000 subscribers on your email list before conducting an A/B Test.) If you have yet to reach that number, continue to build your subscriber base before you proceed.
- Once the results are in and you have a clear winner, send an email with the better performing subject line (For open rates) to the rest of your email list.
A/B tests are effective for testing more than just your email subject lines. You should use A/B testing to improve every stage of your funnel:
- Open Rate: Test this by adjusting your subject line
- Click Rate: Test this by adjusting your call to action
- Purchase Rate: Test this by adjusting your offer
If you’re just beginning, only A/B test one variable at a time. Attempting to test both your open rate and your click rate at the same time can confuse the results. Once you master basic A/B testing, you can move on to Multi-variant testing where you can test more than one variable at a time.
2. Use a Double Opt-In to Increase Open and Delivery Rates
A double opt-in is when someone enters their name on a Call-to-Action, or CTA, (typically a form on your website to receive a free report or other lead magnet) and then confirms their intent by clicking on a link in a follow-up email that restates their interest in being on your list.
Below is an excellent example of a basic double opt-in confirmation:
After the site visitor opts-in, they send an email confirmation requiring 1 additional click to receive the download. Doing so reduces the chances of having their email bounce, and tells your Email Service Provider (ESP) that you absolutely have the visitors permission to email them. Most ESP’s send email to double-opt-in subscribers from separate, higher performing email servers, increasing deliverability and preventing email bounces.
An email can bounce one of two ways:
- Hard Bounce: occurs if an email is not valid
- Soft Bounce: occurs if a subscriber’s mailbox is full and your email gets rejected (if this happens, you want to keep this email in your list for a later date and resend when the mailbox may be less full)
Takeaway: First, test your subject lines! Use the guidelines mentioned here, but also do your own testing and see what works best for you and your subscribers. Second, provide secondary options for your readers to click and engage! This will boost your list health. A healthy list ensures your emails go to their inbox, not spam. These are highly effective ways to increase open rate!
Let us know how your testing goes! Did you notice some headlines have an increase open rate, why do you think that is? Always analyze your work, and learn from it! In the world of marketing, we are always learning and asking why. Tell us about your experience in the comments below!
Now we’ve reviewed how to get your emails opened, and clicked! Next up in our Email Marketing Strategies Series is Part 3: How To Use Automated Emails and Give Your Subscriber a Personalized Touch, coming soon.