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How to Get More People to Open Your Emails by Improving Your Engagement

Anyone who knows me will know I talk a lot about the importance of managing your engagement. That’s because it can have such a huge impact on your deliverability and inbox placement, which means that more people will see and open your emails.

Once upon a time, email marketing used to involve gathering lots of email addresses, and firing as many emails as you could muster at them. Some people had great success with this method, and it worked well for them at the time.

But times have changed since then. The world of email has changed a lot.

What’s New in the World of Email?

These days, email providers (like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo etc) are working very hard to protect their users from spam. Technology is a lot smarter too these days, so the email giants are looking at thousands of data points when deciding whether to deliver an email to the inbox, the spam folder or other “smart” folders such as Promotions or Clutter. 

The biggest and most important data point determining how your email will be handled is engagement.

In simple terms, engagement means how many people are opening your emails. Email providers pay attention, not just to the open rates for the last email you sent, but to your open rate over time. (Want to check your engagement over time? Get your Free Email Health Check).

Focusing on your engagement can improve your deliverability in two key ways:

  1. Good engagement shows email providers that you’re sending readworthy emails to interested recipients. It’s an excellent indicator that you’re not a spammer, and therefore they won’t need to worry too much about diverting you to the spam folder as a protective measure!

  2. It directly impacts your domain reputation. This is a subjective reputation that Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others build up over time. It’s based only upon the emails that you send from your own domain and is impacted by things such as the number of people who report your mails as spam, the number of people who open your emails, and so on. 

Today, I’ve got a real world example to share with you of how improving your engagement can significantly impact your domain reputation.

I’d like to tell you about a client called Fred, who managed to double his open rates in 2 months, by changing one simple thing… 

How to Double Your Open Rate

I started working with Fred in September 2019. 

At that point, he had an average open rate of 12.4% across the month of September, and was sending pretty much all of his broadcast emails to his entire list.

The first thing I did was to undertake a comprehensive email deliverability audit. It identified some minor technical improvements that were needed, but also did a predictive “what-if” analysis on his email open rates. We calculated that if he only sent emails to the people that had opened at least one email in the last 90 days, he’d have halved the number of emails that he’d have sent to get the same number of people reading his emails.

This led to the kind of tough conversation that I’ve had with many clients. People don’t like “letting go” of half their email list, but in reality, unengaged contacts are very, very unlikely to open emails in the future. 

When sending an email broadcast to the people who’ve not opened anything in the last 90 days, open rates of 2% or less are typical. Lower open rates can lead to a drop in domain reputation, which typically means that 5% or more emails would be diverted away from the inbox, resulting in an overall reduction of people opening the emails

So, the upshot of this conversation was that we made one simple but very significant change. Instead of emailing his entire list, Fred began only sending broadcasts to the contacts that had engaged within the last 90 days. 

In November (just 2 months later), he achieved an average open rate of 25.2%, as you can see below. You might notice that there’s a big drop in December – this is because Fred went back to mailing his entire list for a while (read this blog post to learn more). 

Now doubling open rates is fantastic in itself, but this also had a great impact on Fred’s domain reputation which meant that more people were getting his emails delivered to their inbox (rather than the spam folder or other places, such as Promotions or Clutter).

What’s the Learning Here?

Bottom line – stop sending emails to the unengaged people on your list!

A good rule of thumb is to only send emails to contacts who have engaged within the last 90 days.

You can do this manually using reports inside most email platforms, although Fred used Deliverability Defender to make life easier.

If you’re concerned about totally losing contact with the people who haven’t engaged in the last 90 days, it’s ok to occasionally include them in your regular broadcast, or send a re-engagement campaign to them. But sending two email broadcasts to your entire list (including the unengaged ones) in quick succession will almost certainly cause you problems, as seen here.

For those who are still unsure, while it may feel counterintuitive to send emails to less people, the benefits (massively increased engagement, which directly impacts your domain reputation and deliverability, meaning that more people are likely to see your emails) far outweigh the negatives (that uncomfortable feeling that you’re reaching less people and might miss some sales).

Wondering how Fred is doing now? The good news is after his slip up in December, he reverted to only emailing contacts who’d engaged within the past 90 days and things quickly improved for him. Phew!

How Can I Easily Manage My Engagement?

Our Deliverability Defender software makes it incredibly easy to automate your engagement management.

In particular, the Easy Engagement Management feature will automatically tag your contacts, so you can easily find the most engaged contacts and identify the ones that are no longer engaged.

Then, you can easily target your broadcasts and campaigns to the right contacts based on the tags (updated daily) showing how long it’s been since they last engaged. 

Click here to find out more.

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