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Do you have any idea what your open rates are for your mailings?

If your answer is “no”, well, you should, and I’m going to tell you why.

If your answer is “what’s an open rate?”, then, well, you probably have bigger problems than just not knowing what an open rate is, let alone what yours are – for example, you could be having serious email deliverability problems, and have no idea.

The concept of an open rate is simple: it means how much of the email you send actually gets opened. In other words, when you send a bulk mailing out – such as a newsletter or email marketing campaign – what precentage of the people to whom you send that mailing actually open the email?

This is important because the reasons that someone wouldn’t open your email include:

– they never got it (most likely because it went into the spam folder or your email is being blocked)
– they don’t remember requesting it and so either just deleted it, or ‘spammed’ it (clicked “this is spam”)
– they do remember requesting it, but simply don’t want it now and so ‘spammed’ it without opening it
– they never requested it, and so ‘spammed’ it without opening it

As you can see, regardless of the reason for their not opening it, it’s bad news for you, the sender.

An open rate of, say, 10% – meaning that for every 100 pieces of your mailing that gets sent out, 90 people are not opening it for one reason or another – is abysmal.

On the other hand, an open rate of, say, 90% would be phenomenal – and would mean that for every 100 pieces of your mailing that get sent out, 90 people are interested in what’s inside.

Most legitimate email senders have open rates somewhere in between.

So, why should you care about your open rate?

First, the obvious – because why bother sending out email if nobody is opening and reading it?

Slightly less obvious is perhaps because once you realize that nobody is opening and reading your email, you need to figure out why?

Is it because they aren’t getting it, because it is going into the spam folder, or you are being blocked? If that’s the reason, you need to figure out why this is happening, and take steps to remedy the “why” so that your email starts getting delivered.

Or is it because your message or what you have to offer, or the content of your email otherwise, is simply not interesting to the people to whom you are sending it?

This last is an important point. Particularly if you are in email marketing, or if you are otherwise sending out mass mailing for which you are hoping to induce the recipients to take some sort of action: if they don’t want what you’re selling, you are wasting your and their time, and you are wasting money.

Yes, that’s right – wasting money. Because popular belief to the contrary, every email campaign has a monetary cost associated with it. Your time, the time of colleagues involved in creating the content, the time your IT people spend on the sending system, your ISP’s time and resources, the receiving ISPs’ time and resources, and on and on. These are each tangible uses with tangible costs associated with them.

And, if someone is paying you to send those emails – those emails which are not actually generating reasonable opens – then it’s not only a waste of their money but, I would argue, a betrayal of the trust which must be inherent in any business/customer relationship.

And, of course, there’s also the argument that if you are sending hundreds or thousands or millions of pieces of email that nobody is opening because they don’t actually want them then you are, well, a spammer – even if unintentionally.

But, if none of the above reasons to care about open rates are convincing enough for you, this one will be:

You should care about your open rates because the ISPs care about your open rates.

That’s right. Some – and increasingly more and more – and very large – ISPs monitor your open rates. And guess what – if your email isn’t getting opened, you’re going to start going to the spam folder. The way the ISPs look at it is this: if your recipients don’t want your email, then the ISP isn’t going to clutter up their inboxes with it. And if you don’t care enough about your own open rate to monitor it and make sure that your email is wanted (and opened), then the ISP really has no reason to think otherwise.

Now, there are a few different ways to monitor open rates, but by far the most common (although it is still controversial in some circles) is to include a link to some sort of image – an image that is hosted on your server – in your mailing, and count how many times the image is called. If you send out 100,000 pieces of email, and that image is hit 50,000 times, then you know that you had a 50% open rate for that mailing.

If you send your mailings out through an ESP, most, if not all, ESPs already offer open tracking. (In fact, our own SuretyMailings Newsletter solution does so.)

So, do you currently track your open rate? Do you know what it is? And if so, how are you tracking it? (And, if not, are you going to start to now?)

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2 Responses

  1. An open is when a pixel is fired from the images in the email being downloaded. If users do not click download images it will not count as an open. Important bit of information considering all the major email clients are now blocking images

  2. Open Rate is really the wrong metric to be measuring. Too many clients now block images, or perhaps the open the images in a preview pane. As you scroll through and perhaps stop on an email to answer the phone, stretch, etc — the preview pane will load the image but your user may just have gotten up and will delete it upon their return.

    The real metric is the interaction rate — click throughs to your site, etc…open rate numbers are at best, “a guess” and not a very accurate one at that.

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