Dwindling Open Rates – What to Expect

Posted July 2, 2012 by Elmar in Email Marketing
Disclaimer: The information presented below comes strictly from my personal experience as well as my clients, collegues and partners. It is in no way a scientific data and most likely will vary from industry to industry


Email open ratesThe second most asked question that I get (right after “What is a good squeeze page conversion rate?“) is “What is a good email open rate?”.  Whether a newbie or a seasoned business owner most expect to have an open rate in high double digits.

Guess what. It does happen but only during the very first few days of building a list while the list is still fresh and small (less than 200 subscribers) and as the list grows in size the open rates start to drop.

In Internet Marketing the average open rate is around 20%. Once you start going to mega large lists that are over 100K the open rates start to drop in to mid single digits. This is normal and expected.

I know, depressing.

If your list is over 1K and you consistently getting over 30% open rate you are doing it like a BOSS !


A lot of things affect open rates. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • Age of the list. As the time goes buy people might lose interest in the subject that caused them to sign up to your list.
  • Your relationship with the list. How much value you provide in each email and the ratio of value emails to sales emails.
  • Subject lines. Learning to write interesting and attention grabbing subject lines. In email marketing subject lines are equivalent of headlines in sales letters.
  • How relevant your emails to your subscribers interests.  Its important to partition your list and only mail highly relevant data to your subscribers.


Some of the things you can do to improve your open rates:

  • Split test subject lines. Try completely different subject lines and see if your list responds more to advertising headlines style subject line or more educational/instructional headlines.
  • Write email with the subscriber in mind. It is a good rule of thumb to ask yourself “Is this email going to add value to the reader?”
  • Re-mailing un-opened emails. 12 to 24 hours after the broadcast re-send the same email to the subscribers who did not open the last broadcast (Aweber allows you to do that) with a subject line “You missed this…

The best remedy for dropping open rates is your relationship with the list. Buyers will be more responsive to your emails than leads and their compliance will increase with every product purchased/dollar spend with your company. Providing valuable products and information in your emails is the building blocks of successful email campaigns.



    Hey, Elmar

    What great information you have here. I find that obviously giving your list value is an excellent way to keep open-rates high.

    Lists that I have for my authority websites do very well because I never send them promotional emails. I provide nothing but value to them in the form of great email content, and the lists pay me back in other ways that can sometimes be worth more than what I would have got if I would have provided promotional offers.

    It also helps to actually strengthen the relationship that I have with those people. Great post.




    You make a very good point about writing with the audience in mind. A great idea for a future blog post would be to give some examples. I think most people either don’t know how to do this, or could use your article as a handy reference when they get writers’ block.

    Looking forward to keeping up with your blog,

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