January 6, 2023

You’ve finally gotten into the habit of sending out emails to your list, but it seems like it doesn’t matter. Maybe you're wondering if anyone is actually opening or reading your emails. You may want to look at email open rates, but maybe not. In this article I explain why email open rates don't tell the whole story. I also give you some ideas on how to get people to open and read your emails. 

What are email open rates?

Email open rates are simple. How many people who are sent your emails actually open them? So if you have 200 people on your list and 20 people open your email, then the open rate is 10%.

Your email marketing platform will provide you with this measure so it’s easy to see but unfortunately it’s not quite that easy.

How has Apple Mail Privacy Protection changed things?

Since Apple introduced Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) understanding open rates is much harder. MPP affects users of Apple mail on iPhones, iPads and Macs. The privacy settings that Apple put in place cause emails to look like they are always opened. 

Note that if they are using Gmail or another mail program, this doesn’t happen. Most email marketing platforms are adding the ability to see how MPP is affecting your open rate.

What is a good email open rate?

Email open rates depend on many things so it’s impossible to tell what a good open rate is. Aside from MPP, open rates vary by industry and the type of email.

The best thing to focus on when it comes to open rates is improvement. Are you seeing more newsletters opened than previously? 

Improving email open rates

Are there better metrics to pay attention to?

It’s nice knowing that people are opening your emails, but are they actually taking action? Here are some things to consider:

Click through rate:

Since you can’t actually tell what your open rate is, click through rate is important. This is the rate of links clicked on your emails. Your email marketing platform will tell you what links have been clicked in your emails or the rate of link clicks (Some may require a paid or a premium plan for this). 

You can also use special links, like pretty links, bitly, or UTM codes, to determine where the traffic is coming from.


If you ask questions in your emails, you are likely to get some replies. People who respond to your emails have invested some of their time in answering your questions, so are more likely to invest in programs with you in the future.

Staying out of spam and promotion folders:

Your emails won’t get opened if the user never sees it. And they are not likely to open emails that are marked spam, or end up in the Gmail promotions folder. 

How do you improve email open rates

Great subject lines

What’s the first thing you see when an email lands in your inbox? The subject line. This is probably the biggest factor in determining if your email get’s opened. You can use subject lines that catch the user’s attention, include the user’s name. Just make sure you have set an option for when you don’t have a name. I’ve ended up as No Name on a prominent marketer’s list which just doesn’t sound very personal. Emojis in the subject line can also make it more likely that the email will be opened. 

And make sure that title is not spammy. 

Staying out of spam folders

Your emails won’t get opened if the user never sees it. And they are not likely to open emails that are marked spam, or end up in the Gmail promotions folder. Click here for a list of words that are more likely to place you in the spam folder.

Email deliverability (and where the emails end up) is also dependent on the platform you choose, so investigate this when choosing your email marketing platform.

Who’s it from

Use your name rather than your company name. This makes the email seem like it’s coming from a real person. 

I don’t like the use of Coach in the email from name (like Coach Sherry). The reason is that the from can sometimes be truncated to just the first name which would turn out to be Coach in this case. 

Including pre header text

After the subject and who’s it from, the next thing people see is the pre header text. This is something you can set up in your email marketing platform. Here are a few mistakes I see with this:

  • Copying past emails and forgetting to change the header text. Many email marketing platforms have you set this with each email, but some like MailerLite don’t and the header text isn’t obvious in this platform.
  • Leaving it out. Sometimes the platform will take the first line from the email, which is probably Hi name, or Hey name. This ends up as simply Hi or Hey.
  • On the same note, it seems that some email systems don’t handle personalizations in the pre header very well and can actually replace it with the word Name or User Name.
  • Including your unsubscribe message in the pre header. If someone is using a smartwatch they may only see the subject and the pre header on their watch. If the pre header contains the unsubscribe message it doesn’t entice someone to pick up their phone and check out the email.

Be careful with personalization

Showing someone’s name in an email or in the subject line adds a personal touch that can make it more likely that they open the email. But you’ll want to check to see how this is displayed and what is displayed when you don’t have a first name.

As I mentioned before I’ve received emails from industry leading marketers addressed to No Name. I’ve also had emails with the first part of my email address in the subject. 

I’ve also noticed that some email service providers don’t handle personalization in the preheader very well, so make sure this is working.

Being consistent

If you consistently send out emails every week or every other week, people get used to seeing your name in your inbox. 

But if you rarely email, people forget who you are and your emails are less likely to get opened and more likely to get marked as spam.

Having great content

If your email content is great, then people will be more likely to open your emails. I get tons of emails and many just get deleted immediately, but there are a few people who I open and read their emails every week because I know the content will be entertaining, inspiring or actionable.

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Final words

Although it’s difficult to know exactly what your email open rate really is, there are several things you can do to help actually get your emails opened. Use other metrics like click rates and replies to determine how successful your email marketing actually is.

If you need help getting your email marketing platforms set up, book a free call to find out how I can help.

About the Author

As a personal trainer, nutrition coach and virtual assistant I know what it takes to be successful in the wellness industry.

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