A robust email list is a valuable asset. In fact, it could be the most valuable online asset your business has. Nurturing and cultivating a responsive list is crucial to online emailing success.
Today I’m going to discuss 7 ways to improve your autoresponder email campaigns by exploring how email messages are received and how to get the best response from your readers.
The 7 factors we’re going to explore deal with how emails messages are delivered, viewed, and opened, and the sort of responses they elicit. We’ll discuss:
- The delivery rate of some major autoresponder services.
- Creating a subject line that gets opened.
- What should your “from” field be?
- Is there a specific day your messages should be sent?
- What is the best time of the day to send an email newsletter message?
- What email format should you use (Text or HTML)?
- Improving the ‘quality score’ of your email account.
Before we get into the details, let’s define some common terms and phrases that apply to email analytics:
- Open Rate is the percentage of all delivered messages that are opened.
- Deliverability is the percentage of total messages sent that are successfully delivered to the intended recipient’s inbox.
- Click-Through Rate is the percentage of unique email recipients who clicked at least one of the links in your message. (The percentage is based on emails opened and not the total emails sent or delivered.)
While building a solid relationship with your list may have the most impact on how your messages are received, opened, and acted upon, this post won’t cover how to develop strong email list relationships.
As I mentioned earlier, today is about improving your deliverability and open rates. After all, if subscribers don’t receive and open your emails in the first place, there’s no chance to build a relationship.
Different autoresponders have different deliverability rates. A poor deliverability puts your communications at a disadvantage before you’ve even begun. Let’s take a look at some of the major email autoresponder services’ delivery rates.
1. Autoresponder Services
The chart below is the delivery rate each autoresponder claims to provide:
A recent report done by Email Tool Tester performed delivery rate tests that differ significantly from the rates listed above. I highly recommend you look at their study, but Aweber was rated at 75% and GetResponse was rated at 80% in 2018 and 2019. (see the chart below)
Delivery rates differ between companies because of spam filtering. (Among other factors such as the company or email client being delivered to.)
Every autoresponder service uses many different computers to send emails. Each computer is identified by an IP address.
(An IP address looks like this: 123.234.345.456)
Over time, spam filters monitor the messages sent from each IP address. When they discover an IP address that seems to be delivering spam, they block future messages from that IP so that the message does not reach the recipient’s inbox.
So in the case of MailChimp’s claimed delivery rate, we can see some of their computers have been blocked by spam filters and thus are delivered only 96% of the time.
This is not good. Before you’ve even sent a message, you’re losing up to 4% of your list to spam blocking filters. If you’re lucky, the message will be sent from an IP that’s delivering 99% of its messages according to MailChimp.
The higher an autoresponders service is delivered, the better the changes are that your message will reach the desired inbox.
Spam filters can block more than just a computer; they can also block email addresses, too. Specifically, your email address. Later I’ll give you three important tips to protect your email address from being blocked by the ever-aggressive spam filtering companies.
Now let’s take a look at other factors that can affect delivery, open rates, and click-through rates.
2. The Subject Line
First, personalize the subject line by using the recipient’s first name only if you’re going to use a persons name.
According to an Aweber study of 12,561 subscribers of a normal list, an email using a subscriber’s first name in the subject line is opened 40.9% of the time, whereas using the first and last name drastically decreased the open rate to 28.9%.
One technique that results in even higher open rates than personalizing is to incorporate a date into the subject line. For example: ABC Company News – 12/17/2011 or Limited Time Offer! Open by 01/07/2012. Emails with a date added were opened at a 51.4% rate.
Subject lines need to grab people’s attention. That’s why looking at The National Enquirer can help. If you can craft attention-grabbing subject lines that lead into the email body — and the content fulfills the promise of the subject line — then readers will develop trust and open your emails more often.
3. The “From” Field of Email Messages
The next item people immediately look at is the “from” address of each email. The rule of thumb here is consistency. Familiarity breeds trust.
If your message is from ‘info@’ one day, ‘Sam@’ the next day, and ‘support@’ later on, readers aren’t going to connect the “from” email address with your website. Even if they loved your content originally, seeing different ‘from’ addresses is likely to result in confusion and emails heading to the trash before they’re even opened.
What’s in the field isn’t as important as consistency. Remember, statistics show that people like personalization, so why not personalize your ‘from’ field as well?
An email from Sam@YourWebsite.com is more personal than an email from Info@YourWebsite.com.
4. What’s the Best Day To Send Messages?
Unless you’ve specifically told your subscribers that they’re going to be receiving a series of emails over the next X days, the day you send messages may have an impact upon deliverability and open rates.
Here’s a chart of what Aweber considers the best emailing days:
While Sundays statistically are the best day for sending email messages, many Internet marketing individuals swear that their best emailing days are Wednesday and Thursday.
Interestingly enough a study done by Vertical Response stated (quote)
“As for which day of the week performed best, emails sent on Mondays had the highest ROI, but emails sent on Friday had a higher click-through rate.
Ironically, Saturday and Sunday had the lowest volume rates, but the highest open and click-through rates in the study. So even though the weekend was not the most popular time to send emails, those who opened were much more likely to engage with emails they received, and click through or purchase.
Based on these findings, you might want to experiment with sending your emails at unconventional times – such as 11 pm or 6 pm and on the weekend – to see if it yields better results.”
Note: Vertical Response found that few companies sent emails on the weekends, but that time corresponded with the results Aweber got. The emails were opened more often, and the results of those emails were more positive in terms of actions taken.
The real takeaway here is to avoid Mondays, holidays, and important national events such as election days. On those days, people are too busy to read your email messages.
5. What is the best time of day to send messages?
The time of day a message is sent can have a big impact on whether a message is read or not.
Some reports state sending your message between 1-2 pm in the afternoon can be effective, but these tend to concentrate on business-to-business emails rather than business-to-consumer emails.
For the average Internet Marketer this is not a good time to send email messages.
Like the day of the week, there’s no “best” time, but statistics do give us some insights to what times may be better.
According to a 12,000 Aweber subscribers study the best time to send your message is at 7-8am EST. Aweber’s study also reported that waiting just one hour later and sending messages at 9am EST cuts the open rate by over 15%, meaning 15% less emails will likely not be opened. The worst time of the day, according to Aweber, is 3-4am.
This makes sense since reports show people check their email within a half-hour of waking up and within an hour of getting home from work and surprisingly within a half-hour before going to bed. (All times are based on the Eastern Standard Time zone)
This means you want your emails to land in their inbox just before people are going to check their email accounts. If you can time your emails to be sent 10-20 minutes before a time that people naturally check their email accounts.
6. HTML-Formatted Versus Text-Only Emails
This has been debated over the past 15 years or so and over the past five years the trend may be shifting since people are getting used to HTML emails. I for one am a bit old fashioned and still like my emails in plain text only.
Here’s the statistics.
The research still tips slightly in the direction of plain text. Even though HTML and plain text are opened at about the rate, plain text has a better click-through rate. In 2017, while a few years old, Marketo’s research still showed that plain text emails had a 17 percent higher click through rate which in my view is significant.
According to Tom Kulzer (AWeber’s CEO and Founder), plain text emails are opened 65% of the time, while a message sent with both a text and html option are opened less than 50% of the time.
Even more discouraging for HTML messages is not only do the HTML messages that can be delivered, not get opened, but a higher percentage of those sent will never reach an individual’s inbox at all because they often are blocked by Spam filters and individuals who prefer not to read HTML emails at all.
Having said that, HTML is much better in terms of branding. If your looking to brand yourself or your company HTML hands down is the winner.
What you use will depend greatly on what you want to do with your emails. If your branding use HTML. If that’s not a priority, use text.
7. Protecting Your Email Address and Account’s “Quality Score”
I put this last because if you take the actions suggested above, you’ll improve your email’s “quality score” naturally. But in addition to the previous suggestions, there are three very easy tips that can improve your email address (and your account) rating with the spam filter companies.
Earlier I mentioned that your “FROM” email address can be blocked by the spam filters and here’s why …
If a spam filtering company suspects your email is sending spam, they will block all emails sent from your account’s email address. (The “from” field of your messages.) This fact means you want to protect your email address from being associated with sending spam.
So what can you do to improve your delivery rate and keep the quality score of your account in good standing?
Tip One: Always check every message with a Spam Filter detection service before you send it.
Most of the major email players have built in services to do this. It only takes a few minutes and helps to protect your score and increase deliverability. Certain words trigger filters and if you’re using these words or phrases and don’t realize it before sending the message, the spam filters will take notice.
Tip Two: Remove all bounced or undeliverable email addresses from your list.
Spam filters assume that any account that is not removing bounced emails is not maintaining their list and may be a spammer (since spammers rarely care what their list looks like). The importance of having a clean list and removing all bounced and undeliverable addresses can’t be understated.
Of course, recipients may be away for business or vacation and that might be the reason they aren’t receiving email, or their email box might be full, so the message is bounced. Because of this, don’t be too aggressive. Check the bounced addresses over time and if the address bounces continually over a month or two, remove it from your list.
Tip Three: Remove all inactive email addresses from your list.
Removing inactive emails is based on the same philosophy as removing bounced email addresses.
ISPs know when an email address has been abandoned (is no longer in use), but they often don’t close the email. Instead, they continue to monitor it for activity, turning it into a spam trap.
Just as a company that does not clear bounced emails may be considered a spammer, companies that do not clear dead or inactive email addresses may be considered spammers. The ISP company assumes only spammers would continually send messages to a dead or inactive email address.
What this means to you is that if you do not continually clear dead and inactive email addresses from your mailing list, ISPs may report your email address (and therefore your account) to the spam filtering companies. And that affects the delivery of all your messages, including those to active and profitable addresses.
It may sound complex, but essentially it boils down to this: keep your lists clean of bounced and obviously inactive email addresses.
Instead of deleting the inactive addresses, move them to an inactive list. This way you’ll have the opportunity to re-engage those who are inactive at a later date. The key for inactive lists is to email them a lot less often, maybe only once every few months. This occasional email may engage them again, and more important, it will protect your active account from being black-listed as a spammer.
There are many steps you can take to improve your chances of getting your messages to their intended audience, your subscribers, and that your subscribers open your emails instead of deleting them from their inboxes unread.
The takeaways from today are:
- Use a reliable autoresponder service
- Personalize your subject lines
- Make your subject line an attention grabber
- Make sure the body content matches your subject line topic
- Use the same ‘from’ email address for every message you send
- Send broadcast emails on Sunday, Wednesday, or Saturday
- Send messages at 8am EST or 1-2pm EST
- Use plain-text formatted emails only
- Check all emails with a spam checker before you send them
- Monitor your bounce rate and remove emails that are not deliverable
- Monitor and remove inactive email addresses from your active list
If you act upon these suggestions, your emails will have a better chance of reaching the inbox of your subscriber. Your open rates and click-through rates should improve. Remember, an email message that is not received, opened, and read can’t help to develop your relationship with your subscribers. Without readers, your mailing list click-throughs and profits won’t flourish.
Talk to you soon,