Email Deliverability: How to Improve Email Open Rates
In 2018, we had an email deliverability problem.
We were emailing our full OkDork email list… but getting a low open rate. And lots of reports from subscribers that emails were going into their spam.
We knew our emails were super helpful, and the content was good.
They passed all our quality checks… but the results were awful.
Frustrated, we tried a TON of different things.
Rewriting the copy, experimenting with subject lines, using less images.
Everything failed… until we stumbled upon one strategy that actually worked — active subscribers.
Immediately, the results changed:
- Open rates and click rates soared by 2-3x
- The reports of spam reduced to almost nothing
- Our domain and IP reputation in Google Postmaster Tools went back up
Today, campaign emails we send from all our brands are to active-only subscribers.
In this post, we’ll show you how you can use active-only sending to improve your open and click rates, reduce spam complaints, and keep your email deliverability high.
What is Active-Only Sending?
Most email marketers send their campaign emails to all their subscribers.
But that puts your entire email marketing at risk.
Inbox providers — including Gmail — deactivate old email addresses and turn them into spam traps (source).
And if you’re emailing all your subscribers, that means you could hit spam traps. And the inbox providers will notice you don’t keep a cleaned list.
The way to prevent your reputation from getting damaged because of spam traps is to send to active subscribers.
These active subscribers are subscribers who have either:
- Joined your list (to be extra-safe, we recommend joined after a double opt-in)
- Opened an email
- Clicked an email
Within a certain timeframe.
We recommend trying both 3 and 6 months active subscribers, and seeing what works best for you. We’ve used both timeframes at different times to optimize open and click rates.
How Do I Send to My Actives?
Most modern email tools allow you to segment your subscribers into active groups.
And you should ONLY email your active group segment regularly.
No more emailing everyone, which can damage your sender reputation and put your emails in spam.
Here’s how to email active subscribers in SendFox — the #1 place for content creators to grow their audience.
Step #1: Create a new email in your Emails dashboard
Click the “Create” button in your Emails dashboard in SendFox to get into the email editor.
Write your email — or copy and paste your email from a Google Doc, and SendFox will retain all formatting — and click save at the bottom of the screen after you’re done.
Step #2: Make sure “Send to active subscribers” is checked
Checked by default, to the right of the list field, is a checkbox for emailing active subscribers.
When this box is checked, SendFox will send your email to only 3-month active subscribers.
These subscribers have opened, clicked, or joined in the past 3 months for the list or lists you selected. This helps keep your deliverability high, and your emails away from spam traps.
Step #3: Test your email & schedule to send
In your email editor view, you can send test emails.
Use mail-tester.com and isnotspam.com to make sure your email is configured properly, and not using any spam trigger words.
Keep editing and re-sending tests until it’s at least a 9 out of 10 in mail-tester, and it’s rated “ham” (aka not spam) in isnotspam.
And to optimize your open and click rates, follow the guide from our Sumo to schedule at the best time for your industry and subscribers.
After your email has been scheduled, wait about 72 hours after the send before you judge your results.
Especially if an email was sent during a holiday or over the weekend, sometimes subscribers are slow to check their inboxes.
After a few active-only sends, you should see see great changes:
- Your open and click rates increase
- Less reports of emails going into spam by your subscribers
- Improved deliverability scores for your IP & domain in Google Postmaster Tools
What About My Full List of Other Subscribers?
We recommend you email active subscribers most of the time…
But it’s also valuable to do a re-engagement send to your entire list every once in a while.
For our OkDork list, we do a re-engagement email to our entire list every quarter. This includes all those old, inactive subscribers.
In our experience, a quarterly inactive re-engagement email doesn’t damage reputation or cause deliverability issues.
90%+ of our emails are sent to active subscribers, so inbox providers seem to provide us with a little leeway for the occasional “bad” send.
And done infrequently, the re-engagement send is a great way to re-engage old subscribers and increase your active list.
So we don’t forget the re-engagement email, we put it in our calendar.
To send the re-engagement email to your entire list inside of SendFox, deselect the checkbox for active sending. Then, schedule your email as you normally would.
The stats for your full email list campaign will be lower, and that’s OK.
The purpose of a re-engagement quarterly is so you can bring back subscribers and grow your active audience.
Active vs Inactive subscribers
Sending to active subscribers is what we do for all our brands, and it’s made a huge difference in email deliverability.
It’s increased our open and click rates, improved deliverability, and kept us out of the spam.
Here are the steps so you can do an active-only send:
- Segment your list to 3- or 6-month active subscribers (joined, opened, or clicked)
- Test your email with mail-tester.com, isnotspam.com, or other spam testing tools to make sure your email content and setup is correct
- Do a re-engagement to your full list send once a quarter
If you do those things, you’ll see better results than ever before from your email marketing.