How to Improve Email Open and Click Rates

Every time an email is opened, it creates a data point. When calculated against all the possible times it could have been opened vs how many times it wasn’t, that total percentage of opens is called an email open rate. It’s a common metric email marketers use in determining the success of a content marketing campaign. Rates will vary in different circumstances. For example, a membership organization with a dedicated following sending an email newsletter will typically see higher open rates than a retailer sending out the latest additions to their inventory. A recent industry report for email marketing benchmarks showed that the average open rate across industries was 18%. At the higher end of the spectrum, non-profits showed 25.5% while Food & Beverages showed 15.2%. 

We should also note that most email tracking software will over-report ‘opens.’ This is because the way they determine an ‘open’ is when specific content in the email loads for the reader to view. But this does not necessarily mean the recipient is reading your email. It could be that they are using their keyboard to scroll down through a list of emails with a preview pane showing whichever email is highlighted. In this case, if they click past your email, and that specific tracking code is loaded, the email is understood to have been opened, even though the recipient had no intention of consuming your content. In fact, when reviewing analytics, you may often see an unreasonable number of opens from certain users. While this could mean they were highly interested in your content, it often likely means their devices were moving past your email numerous times. 

This is why, at Kompani Group, we also focus on the number of ‘clicks’ in an email – the email click through rate, or when the recipient actually clicks a link within the email. That behavior is a greater sign of genuine interest because it’s based on an action a user must initiate themselves; it can’t be automated. Thus, if you are on a sales team trying to decide who to call, ‘clicks’ often represent hotter prospects than ‘opens,’ though the ‘opens’ can still be worth contacting.  

The big thing to remember is you can’t get to clicks if no one is opening your emails. The two are unavoidably linked. So, let’s start with how to improve email campaign open rates.  

The first step is to make sure your emails are actually being delivered. Authenticating your sending domain with your e-marketing software will get you through an initial layer of spam protection. Most e-marketing providers (including us) can walk you through this process. 

Sending to only opted-in email subscribers is one of those unwritten rules that is supposed to be understood, but is often neglected. When you send to people who have not asked you to, you risk being ignored (at best) or marked as spam (at worst). The more your senders mark your messages as spam, the more likely your domain will be blacklisted, and that means other email providers will not even let you into its users’ inboxes. You’ll be sent directly to spam folders and there you’ll be stuck. This is why you so often likely receive spam emails from random email addresses like That way, when the sender is marked as spam, they just create a new address and start again. 

Assuming that your domain has been authenticated, and your email list consists of only those recipients that want your email in the first place, now you want to analyze and then optimize your emails that are not being opened. Are many of the unopened emails going to the same domain? If so, you may want to reach out to your contacts at that company and let them know that your emails are not making it through. They can add your domain or your specific address to their safe sender list. 

All of the above are technical approaches to improving deliverability and thus open rates. These are critically important because once some emails stop being delivered, more emails soon face the same problem, until, ultimately, no one is receiving your content. It’s a vicious downward spiral that takes a lot of time and effort to correct. 

If the technical elements are all in order, it’s time to review the actual content and see what needs to be done to improve open rates. This task is pretty straightforward. What do you have to see in your inbox to get you to open the email?

  • Be clear and direct while staying on brand. 
  • If you are a casual and playful company you can use an emoji 👍. 
  • If you have a video or a promo code in the email, tell them that in the subject line. ‘Watch xyz happen!’ ‘25% Off using code…’
  • If the email contains pertinent or time-sensitive information, tell them that. ‘2 days left to register’ ‘Your xyz is expiring’.

And, to whatever degree you can, something that reads like a personal email tends to perform better. People are much quicker to open and engage with an email from someone they know rather than some automated email or anonymous sender, and they typically make that determination while looking at the sending domain, subject line, and preheader text. If you can sound like you are speaking directly to them, your rates will increase. It does not mean you have to use their name, though sometimes that can help. And perhaps most important, don’t try to trick people into opening your content. The short-term boost in opens from what is essentially clickbait will ultimately lead to the recipients not trusting you. Over the long term your open rates will diminish. 

Be honest, straightforward, personal, and only send valuable content to people that want it, and your rates will be all that you want them to be.


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