Email Marketing

Published on April 16th, 2006 | by Janine Popick

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Don’t Put all of Your Eggs in the Open Rate Basket

Picture_2_2Although it’s a good metric to look at, your open rate should never be the end-all-be-all when deciding if your email marketing campaign is working. Why?

Most major consumer ISPs (AOL, MSN, Yahoo!, Hotmail) have a “feature” where a user can block images in their email reader. Many ISPs even have it as the default when you sign up for an email account. So take note of the following when creating and assessing your campaign:

  • Unsubscribes Beware – If your email campaigns ONLY contain images
    and the images in your recipient’s email reader are turned off, the
    first thing your recipients are likely to see is your unsubscribe
    message. Ouch! They may be so frustrated they click on
    unsubscribe leaving you with a negative affect on your campaign and one less happy recipient.
  • Open Rate Tracking – Most of the open rates are tracked by inserting an invisible image in the email. When this image is displayed in your recipient’s email reader, it tracks back as an open, so you can view who is opening your email. When a recipient has their images turned off the image is not displayed and the open cannot be tracked.Picture3_1

VerticalResponse’s recommendation?

When you create your email, use a little bit of everything. Have a healthy mix of graphics and text. This way if images are turned off, your recipient will see the text of the email and they know what your message is all about.

When you assess your campaign look beyond the open rate. Count your clicks and overall ROI or metric for success for your campaigns.

Got any ideas of your own? Give us a comment!

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About the Author

is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse.



6 Responses to Don’t Put all of Your Eggs in the Open Rate Basket

  1. moby wraps says:

    Sucess wise we measure bounce pages, conversions and site presence (as well as open rate) with the thinking that incomming traffic and conversions are more important than people reading the email alone.

  2. Don’t forget server side image caching as well, that can impact on mailings sent to larger lists with high numbers of webmail users.
    We run 5 daily mailings with open rates of between 17 to 25% each which we consider to be fairly good. As we take on more people they seem to stay the same but can drop considerably at different times of the year.
    Sucess wise we measure bounce pages, conversions and site presence (as well as open rate) with the thinking that incomming traffic and conversions are more important than people reading the email alone.
    It’s like the old hits vs visits argument, no one metric should be the be all and end all of reporting surely? Well, except profit of course :)

  3. Janine says:

    Hi Patrick – There are a number of things that relate to the decline of the open rate other than the obvious one I mention in my post regarding email readers not displaying images. The open rate is calculated when an invisible image is displayed and when the images are “turned off” in the reader it’s impossible to report on. However there are other factors to think about. One might be the growth of your overall list. We’ve found in our studies that generally smaller, more targeted lists always outperform those that are larger and less targeted. Another factor might be your messaging or your creative potentially changing over time. The bottom line is, if you’re clicks haven’t dramatically decreased, don’t count on your open rate.

  4. Patrick Van Basten says:

    There’s something that seriously worries me:
    Just two years ago, my “open rates” were almost always in excess of 50% .
    Nowadays, my open rates have dropped to about 25%. It seems e-mail marketing is getting useless, as 3 out of 4 recipients never open my message !!
    What’s your opinion on this evolution, Janine ?

  5. Janine says:

    Hi Jonty
    Actually from what we’ve seen for publishers, and depending on your list size, a 40% open rate is on the high end. Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!

  6. Jonty Pearce says:

    I’ve never had an opening rate of more than 40% in a niche specialist interest magazine. Is this fairly typical?

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