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December 2, 2019

7 Ways to Improve Your Email’s Open & Click-Through Rates

Email marketing is an excellent way to reach lots of your ideal customers at the same time. But effectively communicating (and selling) through email requires more than just designing a beautiful newsletter and hitting send. You’ll want to make sure as many people as possible are opening your emails and clicking through to your website, where they can find the products or services they’re looking for to solve a problem.

But what if subscribers are leaving your emails unopened, or they’re not taking the leap from your newsletter to your website? In this post, we’ve covered seven ways you can improve open and click-through rates for your business.

1. First, understand open rates and CTRs.

Improve your open and click-through rates with email marketing tips from Treefrog.

According to Content Marketing Institute’s Michael Brenner, we measure an email’s success by:

  • How many people opened it (either skimmed it or read the entire email)
  • How many people clicked on links that led to your website

Open Rates

Email open rates are pretty self-explanatory; they’re a measurement of how many people looked at your newsletter or promotion.

To calculate your email’s open rate (as a percentage):

  • Record the number of people who opened the email.
  • Divide that by the number of emails you sent that didn’t bounce.
  • Multiply that by 100.

Click-Through Rates (CTRs)

Your click-through rate, or CTR, measures the number of users who click on a link in your email to go to your website.

To calculate your email’s click-through rate (as a percentage):

  • Record the number of people who clicked on a link in the email.
  • Divide that by the number of people who opened your email.
  • Multiply that by 100.

It’s helpful to know the standards for open and click-through rates for your industry to see where your business stands and to set attainable e-marketing goals.

2. Focus on your subject line, preview text, and “From” field.

Improve your open and click-through rates with email marketing tips from Treefrog.

Your email’s preview alone can determine whether or not someone opens it. The good news is, you can encourage customers to get more information and read your newsletter by using these best practices for your subject line, preview text, and “from” field.

Subject Line

When it comes to subject lines, less is often more. According to Mailchimp, you should try limiting your subject line to nine words, or 60 characters. This is partly because more consumers are opening emails on their phones and other mobile devices (we’ll talk more about that later). So it’s essential to keep your subject line short, sweet, and to-the-point.

You’ll also want to ensure that your subject line and body copy match up—in other words, that your subject actually relates to the email itself. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it failing to do so will result in disappointed readers who may think you’re manipulating them.

Preview Text

The preview text (or preheader) is the sentence you see after the subject line and before you open the email. While this can be longer than your subject line, preview text should typically fall between 40 and 130 characters.

24% of respondents say they look at the preview text before deciding to open an email. So, this is the perfect place to further encourage people to open your newsletter. Summarizing your email or including a call to action (CTA) are just a couple of ways to craft your preview text.

“From” Field

Did you know that 42% of consumers review the sender’s name (or “from” field) first when deciding if they should open an email? This is just one of the reasons to stop using impersonal “no-reply” or “admin” addresses when emailing customers. If a reader doesn’t recognize or can’t reply to an address, he or she is less likely to open, let alone click through, the email.

Instead, personalize your sender name with a “from” field such as “Kelly from Treefrog.” This opens the door for customers to respond with feedback and ask questions.

3. Segment your audiences.

Improve your open and click-through rates with email marketing tips from Treefrog.

Orbit Media reports that emails get 14.6% more opens, 60% more click-throughs, and 18 times more revenue when you segment your audience, or send different newsletters to different subscribers based on different criteria. And a study by Lyris found that strategically splitting up your email list can lead to lower opt-out (unsubscribe) rates and fewer spam complaints.

Some business owners object to segmenting audiences, typically because they’re strapped for time and resources. However, you can still send the same general campaign to people while testing variations for two segmented audiences and analyzing which version produced more opens and click-throughs. For example, you could test emojis in a subject line for Group A but leave them out of the same subject line for Group B. If Group A opened and clicked through at a higher rate than Group B, you could conclude that using emojis in that particular email’s subject line was more effective.

If you need ideas for segmenting your audience, try these tactics from Neil Patel:

  • Demographics (age, gender, job position, income)
  • Engagement with your emails (opens, click-through rates, social shares)
  • Geography or geolocation
  • Past purchases (one-time, consistent buys)
  • Time since their last purchase
  • Place in the buyer’s journey (gaining awareness, considering a product or service, on the verge of deciding to buy)
  • Various interests (health and wellness, nature, industry news, etc.)

4. Avoid the spam folder.

Improve your open and click-through rates with email marketing tips from Treefrog.

MailChimp reports that 43% of users mark emails as spam if they don’t recognize the sender’s name or company. To avoid this, personalize your “from” field, and get customers’ permission to send them promotions first by opting in (or voluntarily giving your company their email address). After a reader chooses to give you her email, let her know how to whitelist your business’s email by adding it to her address book. Because customers are bombarded with marketing emails each day, whitelisting will help them recognize any follow-ups you send as coming from a reputable source.

Now that you’ve gotten permission to send someone an email, let’s talk about the content itself. Don’t use spam trigger words such as “take action,” “free trial,” “urgent,” “cheap,” and “no catch”— especially in the subject line. A whopping 69% of people will mark an email as spam simply because it has a suspicious-looking subject line that oversells. Instead of writing these spammy phrases, be clear, and deliver exactly what your customer is expecting to build trust and a relationship with them.

5. Make mobile optimization your friend.

Improve your open and click-through rates with email marketing tips from Treefrog.

Have you ever stopped to think about how many tasks you can complete on your phone each day? It’s pretty amazing that today’s technology allows us to check social media, search for businesses, and read newsletters, all on a relatively tiny screen. A study from Fluent revealed that we now use smartphones 61% of the time when checking emails; that’s more than PCs and tablets combined. But companies that haven’t made content accessible by smartphone will fall behind. Researchers at Adestra found that 68% of consumers will delete an email if it doesn’t display well on their phones—a compelling case for adopting responsive email design.

To optimize your emails for mobile devices, keep your subject lines short. While we discussed previews for desktops and PCs earlier, you’ll want to write 30- to 40-character subject lines to better display on smaller phone screens. Another great way to make your emails responsive is to include social links in your newsletter’s footer. Not only does this show you exist beyond an email; social icons can also boost your CTR by up to 158%.

6. Send consistent, relevant, clear content.

Improve your open and click-through rates with email marketing tips from Treefrog.

As with any medium, you’ll want to send out a direct, easy-to-read email to the correct audience when the time is right. Do this by writing consistent, relevant, clear copy every time.


Stick to the same (or similar) day or time each month so your customers know when to anticipate your email. Lesley Vox of Orbit Media says that a standard best practice is to send newsletters at least once a month. This way, your readers can expect to hear from you within the next 30 days or so, and you’re not bombarding their inboxes with an excess of promotions. Additionally, you can test sending emails at different days or times with a small portion of your audience to see how the changes affect your open or click-through rates.


Rich O’Donnell from Carney describes “inbox reputation” as “the degree [to which] subscribers anticipate receiving relevant content in [your] emails.” In other words, your newsletter or promotion should be useful enough that a reader would want to share the information (or even forward it) to a friend. Another reason to segment your audience: The content that’s relevant to a 25-year-old female subscriber may not be helpful for a 65-year-old male subscriber.


While sending consistent emails that resonate with your audiences is vital, so is writing clearly and concisely to let readers skim your newsletter and jump to the information they’re most interested in. This includes crafting summarizing subheads that are distinct from your body text, as well as breaking up chunks of copy with large images. You’ll also want to make sure your CTAs are direct so it’s obvious which action you want your customers to take.

To craft a clear, effective CTA: 

  • Use action words (Download Now), not vague phrases (Learn More).
  • Create a sense of urgency (Get Yours Today) or curiosity (Explore).
  • Focus on the value to the customer (Get Your Free Guide).
  • Invite readers to dive in for more information (Discover the Benefits).

7. Learn from your mistakes.

Improve your open and click-through rates with email marketing tips from Treefrog.

So what if you follow all six above tips and people still unsubscribe? Well, perhaps there’s still an area you can improve in. Nobody becomes an e-marketing expert overnight, and it’s normal to make mistakes, especially when you’re first starting out. While it may seem counterintuitive, you’ll be able to improve your overall open and click-through rates by paying attention to those unsubscribes and removing them from your email list.

Pay attention to your unsubscribes.

When people opt out of your promotions, this could indicate you’re not focusing on the prospects who are most likely to buy from you. Alternatively, your message may have been irrelevant to the reader, or you emailed them too often (or infrequently). 

Ask people to tell you why they’re leaving (I didn’t like the content, the emails came too often, etc.). This can help you learn why your emails are driving some customers away, as well as the steps you can take to prevent more unsubscribes. Just be sure you make this question optional, with a clear “Unsubscribe” button below the prompt. You can also try giving customers the opportunity to update their preferences (as an alternative to completely opting out). This allows readers to select which types of content they’d like to receive (or not receive), how often they want to see your emails, and so on.

Clean your list.

If people have chosen to officially unsubscribe, or a group still gets your emails but never opens them, delete those from your system. Why shouldn’t you keep them around? Because having too many disengaged subscribers will prevent you from getting accurate metrics, according to Jay Baer of Convince & Convert. 

100 engaged subscribers—those who are opening your emails and clicking through to your site—will give you better insights into your e-marketing than 1,000 subscribers who never actually read or interact with your content. As a small business owner, you probably have limited time on your hands. Your time is valuable, and so is your customers’. So, it’s best to send emails to interested readers and clean your list of subscribers who are ready to walk away.

By following these seven tips, you’ll improve open and click-through rates in no time! But while you’re achieving these results with your newsletter or promotions, it’s important to keep your end goal in mind: guiding customers and growing your business. When you create targeted, relevant, valuable email campaigns that direct people to helpful products and services, you’ll be able to serve your readers and increase revenue.

Learn the EXACT marketing strategy we use to help small businesses grow: The Flywheel Marketing Method.

Our proven marketing protocol helps companies make more money, free up time, and plan an effective strategy.

Treefrog Marketing is an agency in Lafayette, Indiana focused on small business. We specialize in strategic marketing and advertising, graphic design, web design, social media, SEO, and more. For more information, please visit our website. You can also connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Leverage Kelly’s marketing experience, insights, and leadership to grow your business.

As the founder and chief marketing strategist at Treefrog Marketing, a co-host of the Priority Pursuit Podcast, a StoryBrand Certified Guide, and fractional chief marketing officer, Kelly Rice has spent more than two decades helping small businesses take their companies to the next level by providing trustworthy leadership and building effective marketing strategies and systems.

She has dedicated her career to helping small businesses succeed because she knows, firsthand, how hard they work to make their communities a better place. 

Still, many people undervalue the strength and ingenuity of small businesses, but not Kelly. She believes they deserve to have a marketing partner and strategy that works as hard as they do.

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