One metric every email marketer looks forward to seeing is the open rate of a campaign.
Aside from the feelings of joy open rates produce (if they are good), email opens are also a great way to see how your email campaign is progressing.
What are email open rates?
Email open rates are the percentage of unique opens your emails receive in a campaign. Open rates can vary and are mainly influenced by the strength of your subject line and the relevancy of the email content to your subscribers.
On average, good email open rates are in the 20-40% range.
Source: Campaign Monitor
How are email open rates calculated?
Calculating your email open rates is quite easy. All you need to do is follow this simple formula:
Email Open Rate = Number of Emails Read / Number of Delivered Emails ×100
Note that the number of delivered emails is the total number of sent emails minus the number of bounced emails.
As you can see, this is a simple calculation that won’t cause you any headaches. The real challenge, however, is determining how many emails were read.
How do you track email opens?
To calculate your open rate, you will have to know how many emails are opened. So how do you go about finding that out?
If you use a good email marketing platform like Campaign Monitor, this is actually quite easy. This is because, when you send out an email campaign, the software embeds a minute invisible image in the email body.
This is called a tracking pixel. That pixel is hosted on your email marketing software. When your subscriber receives your email and opens it, their email service has to contact your email service provider in order to load it. When this happens, an open is recorded.
While this system is the best way of tracking email opens, it does have its flaws and is not 100% accurate. Some of those flaws are:
Display images disabled
If your subscriber has disabled the automatic display of images in their emails, the tracking pixel won’t load. In this case, even if an email has been opened, your email service won’t record it as an open. In this case, your actual email open rate will be higher than the recorded email open rate.
Emails “read” in the preview pane
If your subscriber has enabled images to display, an open is recorded when the email is seen in the preview pane. The problem with this is that, even though it is recorded as an open, it doesn’t necessarily mean your email was read.
Does it really matter?
While email open rates are not entirely accurate, it is still important to track your email open rates for 2 main reasons:
Know who’s active (or not)
Your email open rates are a good way to know which group of subscribers is engaging with your emails and those who are not. You can then use this data to segment your list and re-engage the dormant group.
Get a picture of your campaign’s performance
Your email open rates are also an indicator of the relative performance of your email campaign. If a campaign is not performing so well, it could be that your subject line (one of the biggest reasons why people open emails) is weak and needs to be optimized.
Now that you know how email open rates are tracked and why it’s important to do so, you can take greater control of your email campaigns.
Get into the habit of logging into your analytics dashboard and check how many opens your email campaign is receiving.
Since the greatest step towards a successful marketing campaign is to get your emails read, we’ve created a number of resources to help you increase your open rates. Go ahead and check out one such article on improving your email subject lines.