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13 Reasons Your Last Email Didn’t Get Opened

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school varsity basketball team. Thomas Edison was told he was too stupid to learn anything. Albert Einstein didn’t start speaking until he was four years old. Failure is a part of the human experience. Disappointing open rates are part of the email marketing experience.

Maybe your open rate is declining from respectable numbers. Maybe it’s never been good. Either way, there’s a silver lining. You’re probably making easily-correctable mistakes. Here are 13 reasons your last email didn’t get opened.

1) You’re Not Paying Attention to the Preview Text

Good Preview Text Is Like A Good Commercial

Experts put a huge emphasis on headlines. Preview text is often put to the side. It shouldn’t be. Prospects see your headline AND your preview text before they click.

The amount of characters displayed in preview text varies. For Apple Mail, it’s 140 characters. For most other email clients, it’s 35-90 characters. Some email clients (like older versions of Outlook) don’t have any preview text at all. Your preview needs to attract users, just like your headline.

It’s tough to manually keep track of how your previews will look on various email clients. You can use paid software like Email on Acid or Litmus to test your previews. Make sure the copy is engaging for each platform. Also, don’t repeat your headline, as you have a limited amount of space.

2) You’re Abusing RE or FWD Headlines

Do you remember when this practice was at its peak? People would “hack” their headlines by putting RE or FWD in there. The RE tag makes it seem like you’re receiving a response to your email. The FWD tag makes it appear as if a friend is forwarding you something awesome. These tactics don’t work anymore. They just damage your brand’s credibility.

3) You Have Grammar Mistakes

The stats speak for themselves. According to Foster Research, 59% of people are less likely to use a product or service if the marketing materials have bad grammar. Your grammar is your credibility. Bad grammar compounds other email mistakes.

Google Docs and Microsoft Word don’t go far enough to check your grammar. There are free ways to verify your grammar that are more complete. These services include Paper Rater, and Ginger.

4) Your Email List is Stale

Is Your Email List Like Stale Bread?

Are you nailing headlines? Does your content provide amazing value? Your open rates may be low because of your list. According to Hubspot, email lists decay 22.5% every year. Are you adding fresh leads all the time? If not, then your greatest marketing asset is rotting away.

If you’re not sending to a fresh list, you need to freshen up right away. One of the best ways to do that is with email verification software. Yet, there are other ways. For instance, you can only send to people who opened a recent campaign. Still, there’s a difference between invalid contacts and non-openers. Remove invalid emails like spam traps from your list immediately. They won’t provide value anymore. Non-openers can be salvaged. Yet, they will drag your open rates in your main campaign. Segment them to another list, and market to them less frequently to increase your open rates.

5) Your Messages Are Getting Flagged As Spam

You don’t want to end up in the spam folder. According to CNET, 50% of people have never opened a spam email. As you may imagine, spam has dreadful open rates. Many people don’t see it, and those who do see it question its credibility. It’s a killer for open rates.

So why do email marketers end up in the spam folder? There are plenty of reasons. Some marketers send single image emails, which often end up in the spam folder because the ISP’s can’t read them and they mark them as spam. Other people send valueless content too frequently and get marked as spam. Still others used a purchased email list, and end up on a spam registry like Spamhaus. In other cases, your email server is blacklisted. Check out your server status on Mx Toolbox.

6) Your Headlines Have Unnecessary Punctuation

Excessive punctuation has worn out its welcome. Just like RE and FWD tags. Some of the most popular unnecessary punctuation is: multiple exclamation marks, emojis, hearts, all capital letters, stars, etc. Keep extra punctuation at a minimum, unless it has proven success via your A/B tests. The unprofessional nature of these marks will lower your open rate.

7) Your Emails Aren’t Optimized for Mobile

More people are reading their emails on their phone. According to Litmus, 53% of emails are opened on mobile. If your emails aren’t mobile-optimized, then you’re leaving money on the table.

Is mobile optimization really that important? You’re sending fantastic emails. Why can’t people just open on desktop? Why they can’t bear a small inconvenience? Two words: instant content. The internet has transformed people’s expectations. In the 1960’s, you would have to grab an almanac to learn where Tasmania is on the map. Or maybe you would have to go the library. Right now, you can ask Siri (or do a Google search) and find out in seconds. People’s expectations have skyrocketed from 50, even from 10, years ago.

Mobile optimization is vital because people just expect things to work. Also, the point has been hammered in by marketers everywhere, so many websites are optimized for mobile. If you’re not, you’ll stick out, and not in a good way.

8) You’re Sending Irrevelant Emails

Irrelevant Emails Can Be Subtle

Irrelevant emails aren’t clear as crystal. They aren’t glaring mistakes. Bankers don’t send email about lawn care. Doctor don’t send emails about home decor. Irrelevant emails are more insidious.

Let’s say you’re a veterinarian. You serve dogs, cats, and rabbits. You have data on the pets of all your customers. Sending an affiliate link for dog vitamins to customers who only have rabbits may be irrelevant content. Sure, rabbit owners may buy the product for a friend, or be contemplating a dog. It’s not necessarily a mistake to send the email to them. It’s an oversight to imply they have a dog in the email. Make everything personal.

9) You’re Using a No-Reply Email Address

This is a one-way ticket to the junk folder. Take a look at this quote from Glocksoft,

“Some ISPs, network spam filters, and customers’ personal email security settings are set up to move messages with “no-reply” addresses to the junk folder.”

Ending up automatically in the spam folder is a one-way ticket to lower open rates. Yet, no-reply email addresses are inadvisable for other reasons. They feel impersonal, a feeling that lowers the goodwill of your brand. You never want email communication to feel like a one-way street. That’s why people unsubscribe in the first place. Also, it needlessly limits business opportunities. Eliminating replies removes the feedback you need to improve your emails.

10) You’re Not Measuring What Works

What Gets Measured Gets Improved

A/B testing depends what on what email platform you’re using. You can A/B test on any platform. Mailchimp is one the most popular email service providers. They make A/B testing easy. First, you select the “Create Campaign” button. Then, under “Campaign Type” you click on A/B testing. From there, you can test the subject line, from name, send time, or content of an email.

Many marketers research great headlines and struggle over their copy. That’s good. Yet, A/B testing is an essential component of finding what works for your audience. If you discover what works for your list, they’ll keep opening.

11) You’re Not Monitoring Your Sender Score

Your credit score determines whether you can get a loan. Your sender score determines the health of your email marketing. Too many people ignore their sender score. You can’t fix a problem until you diagnose it.

The sender score ranges from 1 to 100. If you’re under 80, then you have work to do. Many metrics are taken into consideration here: spam complaints, a presence on industry blacklists, mailing to spam traps, and much more. You can check your grade at Sender Score.

12) You’re Using too Much Jargon

Industry jargon turns people off. Yet, replacing jargon is difficult. That’s why you should use Un-Suck It or Thesaurus. These websites will help you redefine business jargon.

The definitions on Un-Suck It are quite humorous. They allow you to make witty observations that will make your emails more compelling to read. For instance, they define a business summit as, “A fancy vacation with a tax deduction.” You don’t have to replace the word summit with that definition in your emails. Yet, you can make sly references to vacations and tax deductions when mentioning a summit.

This style of writing shows you know what you’re talking about. Jargon is often tossed around, and after a while it loses meaning. Redefine words and phrases. People will start opening your emails more because they’ll be more interesting.

13) You’re Not Telling Your Fans to WhiteList You

Your customer loves you. The last place you want to be is their spam or promotions folder. Ask them to whitelist you so you’ll show up properly in their central inbox.

The how-tos of whitelisting depends on the email client. With Gmail, you have people click on the photo square next to your name. Then a card will pop up. On the bottom left corner of that card is a button that says “Add to contacts”. Once they do that, you’re whitelisted.

Email Marketing Errors Are An Opportunity for Growth

Email marketing is a new discipline. There’s so much room for improvement. Think about Michael Jordan, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein. They all learned from their mistakes and excelled. You can do the same. What’s your biggest email marketing mistake? Share in the comments.


Written by

Haim Pekel

I'm the co-founder and head of marketing at Email List Verify, an email list verification service that removes spam traps and reduces bounce rate. I’m also the CEO and co-founder of Press on It, a digital marketing agency that offers growth hacking, email & ad campaign, social media and seo services among other things.

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