Higher Newsletter Open Rates Are Within Reach. Here’s How.

higher newsletter open rates

With Facebook reach in the news feed falling off a cliff, publishers are looking to paraglide to safety by diversifying their traffic sources.

It should come as no surprise that many of these publishers are doubling down on email. Email subscribers consume twice as much content and (if you’re a premium publisher) are twice as likely to convert to a paid subscriber.

But what if you’re already sending email and you’re not seeing returns from it? What if you’re deploying newsletter after newsletter, yanking the cord on your referral traffic parachute, but you’re not getting any opens?

Your email audience can’t engage with your content if they don’t open your email, which means you must focus on giving them a reason to click on your emails if you want them to buoy your sinking traffic.

If you want to learn how to achieve higher newsletter open rates, check out these tips for getting your audience to click your emails before your traffic (and this mixed metaphor) falls flat.

1) Set expectations for your email subscribers early.

New subscribers tend to be twice as engaged as subscribers who have been around for a while. As you grow your list, it’s important to take steps to ensure you hold onto this high engagement as long as possible.

By setting expectations for your email subscribers, you help ensure that they sign up for the content they want and that they keep clicking on it. You can let your email subscribers know what they’re signing up for at 3 pivotal steps:

  • The email capture form. Don’t just ask your audience to give up their email address; give them a reason to do so. By letting the audience know the value they can expect from an email subscription, you increase conversions and potential for continued engagement.
  • The welcome email. Welcome emails have especially high open rates. Take advantage of your high likelihood of getting the open by giving your audience a reason to keep opening. Inform them of the types of content, offers, and other value they can expect to see in their inbox.
  • The preference center. Preference centers are a great way to increase total newsletter subscriptions, but you have to follow through by delivering on the content that each email promises. Let subscribers know what they’re in for when they graciously agree to receive more of your email.

2) Segment the inactive parts of your list into a re-engagement campaign.

Just because the more tenured segments of your email list don’t engage like they used to doesn’t mean you have to write them off for good.

Instead, try segmenting them into an email re-engagement campaign. These targeted campaigns are specifically designed for nudging subscribers whose engagement has fallen off. They can use catchy subject lines designed to get the open, incentives for engaging again, or they might segment these users into a lower-frequency newsletter that better fits their appetite for content.

If done right, these campaigns can help you get your open rates back up. Not only can you expect to see some of your old email engagers come back, these re-engaged subscribers are often more engaged than the ones who never went away.

3) Point your audience to more relevant email content.

Sometimes the subscribers who stop opening your email might open them again…so they can find the link to unsubscribe. When they go to unsubscribe, use your preference center to point them towards more relevant content. This might be a newsletter based on a vertical that better aligns with their interests, content tailored towards their location, or any other newsletter they find more relevant.

If unengaged members of your audience unsubscribe from one newsletter only to consistently engage with another one, it improves the open rate of both.

You can also suggest additional newsletters in your re-engagement campaigns, or when new visitors come to your site, use contextual capture to encourage them to sign up for content that matches the content they engage with on your site. The more you do to connect audiences with relevant content early in the relationship, the greater your chance of making sure they keep opening your emails.

4) Check your friendly from.

The friendly from is your sender name: the name that appears in the “from” line when your email gets to the inbox. While it’s still important to set reasonable expectations with your email audience, experimenting with the name you send your email from can help you increase open rates.

Will your audience engage with emails sent from your brand? Sent from an individual at your company? A combination of both? Some publishers might find that their audiences are particularly loyal to writing by a particular journalist. Other publishers might be the ones with the long-standing reputation for quality. Try out a different friendly from to see if it entices more opens.

5) While you’re at it, test your email subject lines and preheader text to see what best resonates with your audience.

Email testing is critical to the health of any email program, and testing your email subject lines is a quick way to score wins in the inbox. The PostUp platform allows emailers to employ multivariate testing that allows you to test all of your killer subject line ideas at once. Things like 10-10-80 split testing allow you to test two ideas with 20% of your audience (10-10) before sending the winner to the remaining 80%.

Still, in your quest to land on the most perfect subject line, don’t forget about your preheader text. While not every email client will display this line of text under the subject line, it gives you some extra real estate to draw in audiences who use the email clients that do. Consider testing this too.

6) See if a change in sending time results in higher newsletter open rates.

Want to test something else and see if that juices your open rates? Try experimenting with send time. While send times might not have as much bearing as testing times for, say, sending tweets, you may stumble onto a time that works better for your audience.

Does your audience prefer to read your newsletter with their morning coffee? Would they rather have news updates at the end of the day? Test and see. Alternately, you could always use your preference center to ask your audience when they want to receive your email. That way, they get the email when it works for them.

7) Evaluate the content of your newsletters.

Testing ways to encourage more opens can help you improve your newsletter metrics, but if your email program is limping along, it might take more than a couple tweaks to correct your course. For readers to continue opening your emails, you might have to ask harder questions.

Questions like, “Are you delivering on the value that you promised?” “Is your newsletter frustrating to navigate, leading subscribers to open once and never again?” Or put simply, “Are your newsletters worth opening?”

These questions can be harder to answer, but refocusing your efforts on what resonates with your audience can have effects that go beyond the inbox. With changes to Facebook rendering your audience relationships more important than ever, that can make all the difference.

Need more ways to combat Facebook algorithm changes? Download our Audience Development Solution Guide, updated for 2018 to address the latest industry changes.

Editor, PostUp PlayBook