Ways to Improve Open Rates

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Ways to Improve Open Rates

Recently we've noticed our open rates flat lining. Meaning, every month we add to our database, but the amount of opens we receive remains the same. We continue to subject line test, but the same subject line always wins. We're changing up our send times to try to better align with our audience.

I'm curious if anyone else has made other adjustments that have improved their open rates? Updating alt tags? What about staggered sends? Small changes to subject lines?

To add to that, has anyone send a huge amount of growth with segmenting by time zone/location and sending based on that? If so, what did you find? Is it worth the time/resources to build out the segments?

Any suggestions are welcome!

Thanks so much!


Level 10 - Champion Alumni

Re: Ways to Improve Open Rates

I think overall, it's just getting more and more difficult to make it to the recipient's' inbox - let alone get them to open it:

  • The quality of your database is key.  Are you sending to folks who have established a relationship with your brand on their terms (e.g., explicitly opted-in to receive email from you?  Or are you primarily sending to names that you've acquired using alternate methods?
  • Many companies block email completely from Marketo (and other ESPs) - regardless of what you do to optimize deliverability.
  • Are you on a shared or dedicated Marketo IP address?  You may be on a shared IP range that has been tarnished by other customers who don't adhere to email best practices - and continue to spam their audiences.  If you don't have a large enough volume, a dedicated IP probably won't help.
  • Now if you're absolutely sure that your emails are being delivered to the recipient (a "delivered" in Marketo just means that the email was delivered to the destination email server without any error/bounce.  The server can still re-route the email and the recipient will never know it existed), then it comes down to the quality of your content.  Initially, your subject line.  I'm amazed at how many don't put enough thought into the subject line.  Ideally, less than 45 characters, make it actionable, of value for the recipient and indicative of consumable/snackable content (e.g., "top 5 ways to improve..."), etc. 
  • With all of the spam filters being installed on email servers, we're also finding more and more of our email opens/clicks are a result of those filters, causing false positives in our reporting.  Hopefully, Marketo changes the way it tracks opens/clicks.
Level 10 - Champion Alumni

Re: Ways to Improve Open Rates


Also worth looking into inbox rates if you have a tool and the time to track that on real sends.

As for Opens, I wouldn't get hung up on that. Clicks are more important for engagement and are equally, if not more, affected by inbox rates.

Time Zone management may help. There are threads on this and Marketo may be working on automating this. Staggered sends is more about ensuring major email providers aren't overwhelmed and block you immediately.

Yes you should test subjects.

Yes, you should always have ALT tags on images. There are plenty of guides on how and why this can help along with best practice email design.