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We’re always thinking about ways that we can boost our customers’ deliverability and email reptutation to previously unheard of heights. And, as we’ve mentioned before, open rates are becoming increasingly important. That is because ISPs look at your open rates to see if people are really interested in receiving and reading your email.

So I got to thinking about things that can artificially suppress your open rates.

Now, webmail is one of the easiest sorts of systems for an ISP to monitor for open rates.

And, more than ever before, people are turning to webmail, such as Gmail, Yahoo, AOL and Hotmail. If they are not using webmail as their primary email service, they are using it for email access from their mobile device, or for the purpose of creating a duplicate email stream for archiving, or – and this is a big one – to create ‘throw away’ accounts that they use to sign up for mailing lists.

But they often don’t actually read their email through their web account. They either POP their email from their webmail account down to their local machine – which may or may not count as an “open”, depending on the ISP – or they forward a copy of their email to their primary email account – which definitely does not count as an open.

And, and this is becoming an increasingly larger problem when it comes to open rates – research tells us that as many as 25% of all users are reading their email on their phones! On their teeny, tiny screens, where often they will have image rendering turned off (and “no images” will usually equal “no open tracking”).

So, you may have a subscriber who has signed up for your mailings using their Gmail account, but who is forwarding all of their Gmail mail to their primary account, or reading their email on their phone. Your mailings are simply sitting there, accumulating in their Gmail inbox, unopened, while they read a forwarded copy of your email at their primary email address, or read on their phone where it may or may not be registering that they opened it.

They may read every single piece of email you send them – may be eagerly anticipating each of your mailings – but to Gmail it looks as if they have never once opened a single piece of your email.

And, if Gmail is looking at open rates as a piece of the email reputation puzzle, or to inform their spam detection processes, you’re going to take a hit.

So, what can you do about this?

Not a whole lot, directly. However it is something that you need to be mindful of and realize is out there.

But by keeping your email reputation sterling (and we can help you with that through our Get to the Inbox by SuretyMail email reputation and deliverability services), and assuming that the majority of your subscribers who use webmail are not forwarding their email (which I think is a fair assumption), you should be able to maintain an email reputation equilibrium that allows it to take the hit for the reduced open rate without it noticably impacting your deliverability.

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