10 Ways to Boost Your Email Open Rates in 2023

Today you're going to learn why your email rate is so low, and how to fix it.

A low email open rate means you are doing something very wrong with your email list.

Low email open rates are caused by weak subject lines, poor list quality, and bad relationships with your readers. You can fix low email open rates with better content, list cleaning, and by improving your branding.

Let’s dig into it.

How Email Open Rates Are Calculated

An email’s open rate is calculated as the number of emails opened divided by the number of emails sent.

So if 1,000 emails are opened out of 10,000 email sent, your open rate is 10%.

2,000 emails opened out of 10,000 emails sent gives you a 20% open rate.

But here’s what most people don’t know: email open rates are not accurate.

Why Emails Open Rates Are Not Accurate

Email opens are identified through something called a tracking pixel.

It’s a tiny 1-pixel sized image that’s embedded in emails.

You can’t see them.

When someone opens an email, that 1-pixel sized image is downloaded from the server, and an email open is registered.

But there are two problems:

  1. When someone sets their email to not download images, the pixel is blocked. So emails can get opened without us knowing it. 
  2. Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection features automatically downloads the pixel on iPhones and iPads whether or not the email was opened. So an open is registered even though the email was not actually opened. This is why many people’s email open rates skyrocketed when Apple rolled out AMPP.


  •  Email opens are understated when people block image downloads; and
  • And email opens are overstated for iPhone/iPad/Mac users

This creates havoc if you use open rates for data analysis and automations.


A High Email Open Rate Is Not Everything

I brag about my sky-high email open rates on Twitter because it gets attention and makes me laugh.

But here’s a harsh business truth email marketing experts will never tell you: a high email open rate will not make you money.

Strong email engagement metrics are good, and you should try to boost them.

But they’re not a magic bullet.

The emails that make you the most money may not be the most popular ones.

That’s why I never judge my emails by opens alone.

I also pay close attention to emails that generate:

  • Sales and new clients (because I like money)
  • Clicks (because click rates are accurate)
  • Replies (shows emotional resonance)
  • Hate replies (shows polarization)

"Don't judge emails by open rates alone. Monitor sales, clicks, replies, and hate replies. Yes, hate replies." @michaelcomeau

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Now let’s talk about low email open rates.

A Low Email Open Rate Is Very, Very Bad

If people are not opening your emails, you have issues that must be fixed right now.

Here are the most common culprits behind a low open rate:

  • Your subject lines suck
  • Your content is not targeted enough
  • You are not sending enough emails
  • You set the wrong expectations
  • Your email list is dirty
  • Your list is too big 

Poor email metrics are often a sign of a dysfunctional business. 

Or at the very least, you have a dysfunctional email strategy.

A small email list should have 40%+ email open rates at a minimum.

Big lists should shoot for 30%+.

So let’s boost your email open rates the smart way.

Step 1: Improve Your Subject Lines

The #1 reason people open emails is because they are curious about what’s inside.

So you must write better subject lines that increase curiosity.

Here are 6 ways to turn boring openers into curiosity-creating killers:

A: Make It Weird

One of my best email subject lines is “Your brain is constipated so let me unplug it.”

It's so bizarre people have to find out what’s inside.

B: Use Dramatic Numbers

I wrote an email explaining how to write better emails fast. But I didn’t make the subject line “How to Write Better Emails Fast.”

I made it “80% better emails in 40 seconds.”

C: Write for Humans

You’re not Goldman Sachs or Google or MetLife Insurance. You’re one person. And even if you’re writing for a company with a big list, make your subject line sound human. The more personal the better.

People are naturally skeptical of corporate-sounding emails. This is also why I am not afraid to break grammar rules. I want the humanity factor maximized.

D: Say “You”

The most important word in email marketing is "You." Find any excuse you can to say “You” in the subject line. When people read “you,” they think “there’s something in it for me.”

E: Say “How to…”

People like to learn. A simple “how to” subject line can do wonders for your open rate.

F: Don’t Say “Frank’s Weekly Golf Newsletter”

Imply a benefit for reading in the subject line.

Like “Learn the Secret to a 175-Yard Drive.”

But that’s not all. You must…

Step 2: Split Test Your Subject Lines

A split test (also known as an A/B test) is when you test two or more subject lines to see which generates a better open rate.

Say you run an email newsletter about building a Twitter following.

You set up your email to send 2 identical emails with these subject lines:

  • Email A: How I Got 2 Million Impressions on a Tweet
  • Email B: The Secret to Making Tweets Go Viral

Which one would do better?

I’m guessing Email A.

But I don’t know for sure.

What else can you test?

Step 3: Test Email Content

Don’t just A/B test subject lines.

Test your email content to see what generates more clicks.

This sounds backwards, but bear with me.

Send two emails with the same subject line, but different content formats.

Like you could have a short email vs. a long email.

Or you test having links on the top and bottom of the email vs. just the bottom.


Because clicks are a real sign of engagement, and they improve your email deliverability

So your emails are more likely to land in people’s inboxes. And if your emails get delivered, more people can open them. (more on this below)

Plus, if you get people in the habit of clicking your emails, they’ll be in the habit of looking for your emails.

Step 4: Know What Your Readers Want

Do they want exciting subject lines?

Boring ones?

Short ones?

Long ones?

I can’t tell you that.

The crazy thing about testing is that your list may respond to things you least expect. 

Don’t listen to conventional wisdom about your subject lines.

And don’t take my opinions as gospel.

Test and find out for yourself.

Because every list is unique.

Step 5: Set Expectations for Emailing and Meet Them

When you join my email list, you find out right away that you get an email every 2 days at 12:00 p.m.

They go out like clockwork without fail.

So people get used to reading my emails every 2 days.

If I sent one email this week, five next week, and nothing the week after that, people won’t know when to watch for my emails. 

So be consistent.


Step 6: Email at Least Twice Per Week

The biggest sin new email marketers and content creators commit is not emailing often enough.

"The biggest sin new email marketers and content creators commit is not emailing often enough." @michaelcomeau

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If you're wondering how many email to send per week, you should be erring on the side of more, not less.

So if you have a weekly newsletter, you should send at least one other email per week.


Because not every person is going to read every email. 

If a person misses one email, that means they go two weeks without reading your content.

And if they miss two emails, that’s three weeks without getting your stuff.

I email every 2 days because I want every person on my list to read my emails once a week, minimum.

Step 7: Removed Unengaged Contacts from Your Email List

If people do not engage with your emails, remove them from your list.

This boosts your open rate right away through sheer math: you are sending emails to fewer people.

If your normally average 3,000 opens out of 10,000 sends, your open rate is 30%.

But if you kick out 2,000 unengaged contacts, you now get 3,000 opens out of 8,000 contacts. That's an open rate of 37.5%. 

The kicker here is that a higher open rate signals to Internet Service Providers that people want your emails.

This means better email deliverability.

You also save money because most Email Sending Providers charge by the contact. 

If you have fewer contacts, your bill goes down.

When I see problematic email lists, the biggest reason is the owner never cleans the list.

And if you use single opt-in (meaning people get added to your list as soon as they enter their email address), you must clean all the time because your list will be full of bad emails.

Remember, it’s not about how many contacts you have.

It’s how many contacts engage with you through opens, clicks, replies, and purchases.

Step 8: Be Ultra-Specific With Your Messaging

The more specific your message, the better your engagement will be.

Take my email newsletter

I don’t write about general marketing.

I write only about email marketing.

And I have a very specific message - send as many quality emails as possible, and you will make more money.

So the only people who sign up are on board with me.

Therefore, they want my emails.

This brings me to…

Step 9: Build Personal Relationships With Your Subscribers

I reply to every email I get from my subscribers.


Because email is a relationship-based medium.

And every person I build rapport with is going to open and click my emails.

So even if that person does not become a client, they help keep my list healthy, which is key to my long-term success.

Step 10: Segment Your Email List

As your list grows, you can start to think about segmenting.

Segmenting means you send certain emails to only certain parts of your list.

For example, I may teach about copywriting in the future.

I could create a segment of my list that only gets copywriting content.

I may also create an email marketing video course. 

I could choose to send sales emails to only my most engaged email contacts.

What Are You Doing?

If you do these 10 things, your email open rate will go up.

But let me turn things around on you.

What are you going to do to improve your open rate on your next email?

Let me know in the comments section below!

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