What Affects Email Open Rates? A Deep Dive

According to a recent worldwide study by Zippia, individuals and businesses send approximately 347.3 billion emails daily. Similar research by Earthweb shows the average email user receives 100 to 120 emails daily. 

The Earthweb study also indicates the average read rate for most emails is between 20% to 40%. What do these figures mean for your business? How does the increase in the global email volume affect your organization?

Well, it's clear that several businesses have started appreciating the significance of email marketing. The 4.2% increment in daily emails from 333.2 billion in 2022 to 347.3 billion this year shows many organizations are sending out more emails.

And that's where the problem comes in — as more businesses within your industry target potential customers with the same email marketing messages as yours, your chances of converting prospects into clients get slimmer. 

So, what affects email open rates? What's the difference between email open rates and click-to-open ratios? How can you outsmart your competition? And finally, what should you do to improve your read rates?

This article will give you a simplified step-by-step guide on these seemingly complex subjects. By the end of your read, you'll understand how to calculate email open rates and, most importantly, how to increase your read rates.

Uncover the key factors influencing email open rates with an in-depth exploration. Boost your email engagement effectively.

What Are Email Open Rates Referencing?

Email open rates or read rates show the percentage of opened mails for a specific email marketing campaign. Simply put, they compare the number of people who receive emails from your organization and the number of people who view these emails.

Why Is It Important To Track Email Open Rates?

An email marketing campaign's open rate is a very crucial metric. It can help you determine areas that need adjustments to keep your subscribers interested in your email content. Similarly, it can help you identify successful initiatives with the highest returns on investment. 

Below are a few things you can learn from tracking your email open rates:

Your Brand Awareness And The Success Of Your Email Marketing Initiatives

The number of people who view emails from your organization can help you determine the success of your email marketing initiatives and gauge your brand awareness. 

The more opened emails you have, the more likely your subscribers will resonate with your brand and gain interest in your goods or services. And the opposite is usually true.

Your Subject Lines' Success

Email open rates can also help you determine your subject lines' effectiveness. Before prospects open or view emails, they'll see your subject line. If the email's subject is catchy enough, they'll likely open it. 

If not, they'll skip or send it to the spam folder or, in worst-case scenarios, unsubscribe. 

Who's Active On Your List?

When you calculate open rates regularly, you can track your most and least active subscribers. Doing so can help you identify dormant subscribers, clean your email lists, and increase conversion rates. 

It can also help you identify prospects worth following up with, enabling you to avoid flogging dead horses.

What Do Your Email Subscribers Like?

Another importance of email open-rate calculation is it can help you identify the content your subscribers find more appealing. This intel can help you tailor your email marketing campaigns to your customers' liking, enhancing your success rates. 

For instance, if most subscribers view emails with discounts or new product offers, you can customize your email content to cover these issues.

Subscriber Behavior

Tracking your opened mails can also help you learn your contacts' behaviors and habits. For example, at what time of the day do you usually record the highest email clicks? 

Or which email content does a specific demographic resonate with the most? These details can help you understand your subscribers and increase email open rates.

What's a Good Average Email Open Rate?

Before we review what affects email open rates or delve into the intricacies of open rate calculation, it's crucial to identify ideal open rates for different industries. So, what's a good average email open rate?

There's no direct answer to this question. Different marketing experts quote varying ideal averages. There's no standard average open rate that has earned unanimous approval. 

However, based on our research and review of various reputable publications, a good average email open rate should be between 17% to 28%.

The best way to identify your business's perfect email open rate is by looking into your industry's averages. According to recent research by Litmus, the average monthly email opens for all sectors in 2022 was 1.5 billion, up from 1.01 billion in 2021. 

Another study by Campaign Monitor's 2022 Email Marketing Benchmarks Report shows average email open rate across all industries in 2021 was 21.5%, a 3.5% increase from 2020. 

Below is a break-down for a few select industries (we rounded off the figures to the nearest whole number):

How Do You Calculate Email Open Rates?

Now that you understand the importance of email open rates let's dive into open rate calculation. You can calculate open rates using two main methods:

Formula 1

Open rate = (Total unique opens ÷ Total email recipients) × 100

Note the reference to unique opens, not total opens. If a recipient opens one email multiple times, you record it as one unique open.

Formula 2

Open rate = (Total unique opens ÷ (Total recipients - Bounced emails) × 100

This formula is more accurate because it only accounts for people engaged with an email. It eliminates bounced emails ( emails that didn't reach the recipients' inboxes due to technical issues) that might result in misleading open rates.

How Do You Track The Unique Open And Bounced Email Variables?

The best way to monitor these variables is by using email tracking software, which you can add manually. These software programs embed trackable pixels, read receipts, or links to emails. 

Trackable links use links that record recipient details whenever they click them. Comparatively, trackable pixels apply HTML codes to record recipients' activities.

How To Calculate Email Open Rates For Multiple Campaigns

To calculate open rates for different campaigns, derive individual open rates for each initiative and divide the sum by the total number of campaigns. For example, let's say you had three email marketing initiatives with the following open rates.

  • First Campaign = 40%
  • Second Campaign = 15%
  • Third Campaign = 35%

The average open rate = (40 + 15 + 35) ÷ 3 = 30%

How To Calculate Email Open Rate vs. How To Calculate Click To Open Ratio

Some people use these two terms interchangeably. However, they mean different things. While email open rates focus on the effectiveness of email subject lines before inbox optimization, click to open ratio (CTOR) measures the effectiveness of emails. 

The CTOR can help you determine the number of recipients who opened your emails and clicked its CTA or performed your desired action.

Click to open rate or Click through open rate = (Total number of unique clicks ÷ Total number of unique opens) × 100

For instance, if 100 recipients opened your email and only 40 clicked the CTA, your CTOR is 40%. According to Campaign Monitor, a good CTOR should be between 6% to 17%.

What Affects Low Email Open Rates For A Campaign?

Are your email campaigns not meeting your desired outcomes? You're not alone — this common issue affects even some multinational businesses. The good news is you can fix it. But first, you must understand the problem's origin.

So, what affects email open rates? Below are factors that might lower your read rates:

Non-Engaging Subject Lines

Email subject lines are arguably the most crucial parts of an email. Boring subject lines cannot help you get your recipients' attention or persuade them to open your emails. Here's how to remedy this issue:

  • Use numbers and statistics to pique the reader's interest
  • Keep the subject line short
  • Avoid jargons or buzzwords that might confuse the reader or trigger spam filters.
  • Avoid caps if possible
  • Don't use click-bait titles with false promises or statistics
  • Apply the 4U (Useful, Ultra-specific, Unique, and Urgent) model
  • Personalize the subject line by adding the recipient's name and appealing to their preferences
  • Use pre-headers (short texts below the subject line) to give recipients a sneak peek of your email's content

Sending Frequency

Another factor we identified when researching 'What affects email open rates' is email sending frequency. Several marketers believe you can increase email open rates by bombarding your subscribers with emails.

However, based on our research, this approach usually annoys recipients. It could be one of the reasons for your worrying average unsubscribe rate email records.

How often should you send emails to your subscribers? While there's no ironclad magic number, two to three weekly emails work for several businesses. However, be open to trying different frequencies until you find what works for you.

Time of Delivery

The third item on our list of what affects email open rates is when you send your emails. Generally, when you send emails during working hours, you'll likely achieve a higher open rate than when you do so during the weekend. 

Also, a recent CoSchedule research shows the best times to send emails are 8 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. However, this factor is also subjective to your audience's location and industry.

Bad Target Audience

Businesses should clean up their email lists occasionally to remove inactive subscribers. You could be doing everything right, but your open rate is low because some contacts on your list no longer use their accounts. 

So, before you browse 'what affects email open rates' or 'how to increase open rates,' ask yourself, 'When was the last time I updated my subscriber list?'

Non-Engaging Email Content

Several businesses send generic emails with non-engaging content. The more your subscribers open your emails and find boring or unuseful content, the lower their chances of opening your subsequent emails. They'll always identify you as the 'annoying business' with bland emails.

How can you resolve this issue and increase email open rates? First, you must personalize your messages. Avoid generic terms like 'I hope this finds you well' or 'We are happy to contact you.' 

Instead, be lively and humorous. For example, when targeting a younger urban demographic, you can use pop culture references and trendy hashtags to catch their attention.

No Call To Action

Every time subscribers open your email, they expect you to direct them to do something. You can ask them to buy your products or take advantage of upcoming discounts if it's a direct promotion. 

Alternatively, you can direct them to your blog page to learn more about the email's content. 

There's always an end goal. If subscribers open your emails every time expecting a CTA but find none, they'll likely lose interest. Even if it were you, why would you read emails that offer nothing in the end?

Low Deliverability

As the name suggests, email deliverability is the ability to deliver emails to target recipients' inboxes. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have restrictions to filter spam and provide clean mailboxes to their users. 

However, sometimes even crucial messages become victims of these filters and fail to reach recipients' inboxes, leading to low deliverability.

Businesses can do the following to bypass these barriers and increase email open rates:

  • Send emails to receptive subscribers: Avoid buying email lists or emails to everyone visiting your website. Instead, only send emails to those who willingly sign up for them. Also, occasionally remove users who don't open your emails from your subscribers' list.
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe from your email updates: How will this help increase your email open rates? Isn't unsubscription counterproductive to your campaigns? 

On the contrary, no; making it easy to unsubscribe from your email updates reduces the chances of uninterested labeling your emails as spam. The fewer spam flags your emails get, the more ISPS will consider you trustworthy.

  • Build a good reputation: Most ISPs perform automatic reputation checks before email delivery. If you have a history of broadcasting unwanted messages with nefarious motives, your emails will disappear between your outgoing mail and your targets' inboxes.

Lack of Personalization

If one thing stands out in our tips for improving email open rates throughout this article, it's the need to appeal to your recipients' interests. That's the most crucial thing.

When most people talk of email personalization, they refer to including recipients' names in the email subject line and body. While this is a good start, it's not enough. 

Imagine receiving an email with your name, but the rest of the email content is irrelevant. For example, 'Mark, check out our coding classes' when you signed up for cooking classes. You'll likely feel duped and unsubscribe from the service provider's email list.

Personalization is a critical aspect of improving email open rates. Segment your audience based on their ages, occupations, demographics, genders, marital status, and other essential criteria affecting their interest in your products. 

Next, create personalized images appealing to each category's unique interests.

How To Increase Open Rates

Now that you understand what affects email open rates and the significance of improving email open rates let's review how to increase open rates. Below are a few tips you can use:

Clean Your Subscriber List

The first item on our 'how to increase open rates' list is updating your contacts. And reasonably so — even with the best email marketing strategies, you'll still record dismal open rates if you're not targeting the right people.

Use re-engagement campaigns to help you identify active subscribers and eliminate the dormant ones. For instance, you can send a confirmation email reading 'Hey Eric! Would you like to continue receiving updates on our discounts?

Doing so enables you to identify those who have a genuine interest in your emails.

Create an Organic Email List

You can be researching how to increase open rates when relying on an inorganic email list you purchased from some random guy. Email marketing is a gradual process where quality is more valuable than quantity. 

You must put in the work and build organic email lists from scratch. Otherwise, you'll always be complaining, browsing 'what affects email open rates,' and implementing half-baked solutions.

Focus On Value For Recipients

Another common mistake several email marketers make is focusing too much on converting prospects. While being ambitious is good, at times, it's better to take a step back and ask yourself — what do my subscribers want?

Before asking subscribers to buy a product, tell them how it will benefit them. You can also outline what they'll miss if they don't accept your offer. This approach can show subscribers you genuinely care about them, enabling you to create a long-lasting rapport and increase your open rates.


There you have it — a complete guide into what affects open rates and how to increase the number of people viewing your emails. We hope this article was resourceful in giving you the insists you needed to improve the success of your cold email campaign. It is not hard at all; all you need to do is fix the parts we highlighted in the article, and you’re good to go. Thanks, and we wish you all the best as you wade through the murky waters of marketing. 

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