Increasing email open rates is one of the easiest ways of improving the performance of your cold email outreach campaigns.
In this guide, we detail the best practices and some easy steps you can take to dramatically increase the open rates for your emails.
Before you send a single email, it’s important to make sure that your email is set up. The most obvious step to take is to make sure that you have a custom domain (as opposed to @gmail). This is easy to set up using a combination of Google Domains, and Google Workspace.
Once you have set up your custom domain, there are two steps to ensure high deliverability and increase open rates.
As much as legitimate businesses love email marketing, spammers do too. That’s why it’s so important to authenticate your email using three methods:
SPF – or the Sender Framework Policy – is a mechanism that prevents your email address being used by others.
Setting up your SPF requires you to have access to the DNS settings of your domain: if you’ve used Google Domains to purchase your account, you can access this through your domain overview settings. Once you have access to your DNS, you’ll need to add a .TXT file.
The exact input you make varies from email provider to email provider (for example G-Workspace vs Office 365). Find the settings for G-Workspace here.
DKIM – or Domain Key Identificated Mail – is a similar mechanism to SPF that relies on a unique encrypted signature to verify that you are the true sender of emails.
To add the record to your DNS, you’ll first need to generate a domain key via your email settings. In Google Workspace, you click ‘Authenticate email’, select the domain, and copy and paste the key into your DNS settings.
You’ll then need to turn on DKIM signing in your Google Workspace account.
It’s important to set up your SPF and DKIM before you set up your DMARC – or Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance.
You should have enabled SPF and DKIM over 48 hours before implemented DMARC.
As with SPF and DKIM, you will need to add a .TXT record into your DNS.
Email servers look for patterns in communication. They understand that for most email accounts, users create one, and gradually build a contact base, subscribe to newsletters, and reply to email threads.
So it’s crucial to present natural activity to avoid looking spammy. For example, setting up an email account and then one hour later sending 200 emails, all of which aren’t responded to, is a great way to get your emails sent to spam folders.
If you’re building up to sending approximately 200 emails a day, you’ll want to start slowly and send 1-5 on the first day to your close contacts. Ask them to respond, chat, and keep the thread engaged. This is a key sign to email servers that you are not a spam email address.
A major red-flag to email providers is a higher outflow of emails, than inflow. An easy way to get more emails is to subscribe to newsletters to keep your inbox active.
Another way to trigger email providers’ warning systems is to send multiple emails in a narrow time-frame. It’s not rocket science: it takes time to compose emails and most people send them sporadically throughout the day.
Your warm-up period should take at least one month.
Your headline is the most crucial element of your email. Learning how to compose a good subject line can increase opening rates almost infinitely.
And whilst there are hundreds of blogs and articles with handy lists of subject lines, it’s more important to learn the fundamental of crafting a good subject line, and easy tricks to increase the open rate.
The majority of promotional email subject lines look exactly the same: they are written in title case (with the first letter of each word capitalized), contain a qualifier and colon such as Invitation:, or a reference number.
The result is that most people can detect a promotional email instinctively.
The best way to prevent this from happening is to use what is referred to as a pattern interrupt. Examples of these include using all lower case words, specific numbers, error messages… or even just something a bit weird.
Take a look at these two email subject lines: which would you open, and which would you ignore?
Although this tip is often used by newsletters, including first names in subject lines can increase open rates by up to 29%.
Sometimes, it’s necessary to pique the interest of your readers. If you know their interests well, it’s easy to hint or suggest something in your subject line that would entice your audience to open and find out what it is.
If you’ve set up your email correctly, it’s unlikely you’ll be landing in Junk or Spam but it’s still a good practice to avoid any obvious spam words or phrases such as:
Even if your email is set up correctly, and you have the subject line of your dreams, you could still be harming the open rates of your emails by sending it to your recipients at the wrong time.
Here are some rules to follow to send your emails at the right time:
Whilst there are some common-sense rules to follow when it comes to cold emailing, some that seem intuitive actually don’t make any difference. For example, whilst you might think to avoid sending emails on a Friday (in case a decision-maker is off, or winding-down), there is little variation in open-rates between weekdays.
In contrast, weekends tend to yield higher open rates of up to 10%. The theory is that as fewer promotional emails are sent during this period, people are more likely to check and open individual emails.
However, you should take into account that emails are less likely to have action taken on them when sent on the weekend.
Just like sending emails on the weekend when fewer people are active, sending emails between 6am and 7am, or around 8pm can yield higher open rates.
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