Is your email open rate a good metric for your website’s performance? It might not seem that way at first — and it might not be if your emails are not related to your website. However, if your emails are designed to bring people to your website, a change in your open rate can tell you something valuable about your web content.
Just as your opt-in rate is a sign of how willing website visitors are to hear from you in the future, your email open rate shows whether your visitors are willing to continue to read your content.
It also shows whether your emails are doing their job, but that’s a different question.
We helped a client with an email experiment recently. They sent out weekly emails and they were fairly happy with them. They had a 30% open rate in July, which is pretty good. They made some changes in November, and they had a 39% open rate in January. That’s a 30% increase in just a couple of months.
What changes did they make?
- First, they streamlined their email. It ended up shorter, but also better organized so people could get more information by skimming it. This provided a better overall experience, so people were more likely to open the emails more often.
- Second, they stopped repeating elements of the email. In July, they tended to include their big marketing pushes several weeks in a row. We figured people would feel less urgency to open the email if they knew they’d get multiple mailings on the same thing.
- Third, they provided a summary of their news in the email and linked to the full story, which they posted on their website. Previously, they had tried to give their entire message in their newsletter. This encouraged people to visit the website, but it also allowed them to send a shorter, more scannable email.
Clearly, these changes were beneficial. Check out your newsletter — would the same changes make a difference for you?
The email part
The changes described were intended to improve people experience of there email and the website. That is, they encouraged people to open the emails again by providing them a better experience when they took a chance and opened them the first time.
But what about the people who didn’t open the emails at all? They had no way of knowing that the email would be a good experience for them.
People decide to open emails for two reasons: who sent it and what’s in the subject line.
If my sister sends me an email, I’ll open it. If an organization that I really love sends me an email, I’ll probably open it. Your most enthusiastic supporters and your favorite customers will open your email. And of course those people who have enjoyed and valued your emails are more likely to open those emails in the future.
But there may be people on your subscribe list who don’t love you like a sister. They may open your email because of what’s in the subject line. If you’re offering them something they want, exciting news, or valuable information, they’re more likely to open that email.
SuperOffice shared an article with a lot of tips and tricks for increasing email open rates, and one of them was to use a person’s name rather than a company name as your sender. That’s worth trying.
But here are some subject lines in my email today:
- The latest and greatest from us
- You are receiving this newsletter because you have subscribed
- Morning Roundup
- Your innovation newsletter
I would have to think a lot of the sender to be excited about those subject lines.
How to measure
You can test those tips and tricks with a single email. But you should plan, when you use open rate as a metric for your website, to average a month or a quarter.
People may decide to open your email on the basis of thereunder and the subject line. That’s logical. But we know that people don’t use an algorithm to make most of their decisions. They use a heuristic. In nanoseconds, without conscious deliberation, people include factors like how busy they are, how excited they are about getting out of the office for lunch, and whether their most recent emails have included good news or bad news.
That means that the open rate for a single email may not tell you much. Average a fair number together and compare it with previous averages to get a sense of whether your open rate is improving over time.