15 Sure-Fire Ways to Make Sure Your Emails Are Opened and Read

How to Make Sure Your Emails Are Anticipated, Opened and Read: 30+ Fast and Easy Ways [Part 1]

You’ve been there before.

You follow all the expert advice out there to the “t”.

You type up a stellar email for your list.

You go ahead and hit “Schedule”.

The next day, you’re excited to pull out the email stats. And you realize it’s nothing you had hoped for.

In fact, your open rates are less than the industry “norm” of 20%, and you’re stuck thinking whether your subscribers are really getting all that juicy stuff you sent their way.

It doesn’t have to be so darn hard.

There are 3.6 billion email accounts in 2013. By 2016, that number will reach 4.3 billion.

As bloggers, we hear this so often.

“Have an engaged email list.”

“Grow your list.”

“Your list is you biggest asset!”

Yet it’s so easy to make rookie mistakes and see your efforts go down the kitchen sink.

Frustrating, isn’t it?

But fret not, because there is always a way to save the day. Here are 15 sure-fire ways to make sure your emails are opened and read!

1. Send to add value

Ever receive an email asking you to buy something?

And if that happens a few times in a row, you unsubscribe.

Don’t let that happen to your list.

Share unobligated valuable content first, ask for a sale later. Make yourself useful.

2. Use your real name

Email marketing is nothing without a relationship with your readers. Right?

And how do you build a relationship if they can’t put a name to your face?

Through emails, you’re talking with your subscribers one-on-one. It’s a personal channel and you should keep it so.

Think about it — Whose emails would you rather receive: a close friend or a “company”?

That’s right, a friend. As you start sending emails with your real name in the From field, your subscribers will get in the habit of expecting you in their inbox.

That’s way more personal than “Awesome Newsletter #28”, isn’t it?

3. Use your real email address

Guess what happens when you write from “no-reply@awesomecompany.com”?

No one replies.

As a blogger, you want quite the opposite.

Smart bloggers everywhere are building a community of fans; engaging and helping their readers. A simple one-line response to a reader’s email could mean a lot and won’t take much of your time.

Start using your real, reachable email address in your emails. That way, your readers realize you’re the real deal. They start trusting you and counting on you.

Not just that, monitor replies to this address or if you’re too busy, hire a VA to keep an eye on all incoming email.

No one wants to whitelist or add a no-reply address to their contact list.

Lastly, having a no-reply address is not only plain rude but also illegal in some countries. Why do it?

4. Be ethical

Play by the rules and be sober when you’re sending emails.

For example, it’s not OK to add a person to your list if they hand you their business card or send you an inquiry email.

Not everyone who comes in contact with you is happy to be on your list.

Chances are that this person might notice your little trick the very first time they receive your newsletter. Better be respectful of people’s privacy.

On the other hand, it’s perfectly OK to ask, “Thanks for your card. I run a biweekly newsletter. Would you like me to send you some regular tips/updates on [TOPIC] to this email?”

More likely, they will say yes.

5. Use hypnotic words

There are many power words that can make your subject lines and email body super-engaging.

Some examples are “secrets”, “discover”, “unleash”, “off-limits”, “proven”, “you”, “guaranteed” etc.

Two of my personal favorites that work well are “because” and “imagine”.

In fact, psychologist Ellen Langer did a cool study done on the word “because” to cut in line. She used three variations of a request:

Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine? [60% said yes]

Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a hurry? [94% said yes]

Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies? [a ridiculous reason, but still 93% said yes]

Turns out, “because” makes people do things.

6. Use clear subject lines

33% of email recipients open email based on subject line alone.

Some people try to be extra-smart with their headlines.

But sometimes smart = confusing.

Instead, be straightforward and clearly state what’s inside.

7. Write benefit driven subject lines

People are either motivated by pain or pleasure.

Use the two to nudge them into taking action. This action should be first opening your email, reading it, clicking through or responding to it.

The first step is to identify their pain or problem. Let’s say your target audience is foreigners living in Spain. One immediate problem they face is not knowing Spanish.

You offer a solution with your email series titled “How to learn Spanish in 29 days” and send them 29 lessons.

You can even go a bit fancy and attach more pain with not taking action – for example create urgency.

8. Use a simple design

Unless you know what you’re doing and why, keep your email design simple.

Yes, it means that sidebar with tons of links? It has to go.

9. Replace “I” with “You”

When you use “you”, it’s a substitute for someone’s name. Just as you do when you’re talking to a friend in person.

The next time you’re sending out an email, do this: Reduce the number of times you use “I” and rephrase the sentence to use “you”.  You’ll build a stronger connection with your readers that way.

10. Be familiar and personal

Use their first names in the salutation to boost engagement.

But don’t overdo it by using it in every other sentence because that’s plain weird and creepy and might hurt your readership.

I was subscribed to someone’s list who did this quite often. She’d punch in my name in every other paragraph. After a point, it got tiresome to read her emails.

11. Have a personalized welcome message

I like how Pat Flynn does this:

ways to make people open your emails

12. Use the power of P.S.

Make use of a P.S. (postscript) religiously to nudge them to take an action. Avoid overdoing it though with P.P.S and P.P.P.S.

13. Give them some (white) space

Don’t clutter your email! I like how Jon Morrow sends clean, text-based emails whenever he has a new post.

 ways to make people open your emails

14. Give them everything or a teaser

Some bloggers like to send the whole post in email with some links at the bottom, while others like to send a teaser (like Jon does above).

There is no one-size solution. I urge you to do your own research and A/B tests of what gives you more engagement and boosts click-through rates.

(Pro-tip: Emails that include social sharing buttons have a 158% higher click-through rate.)

Then stick to that strategy that works.

15. Churn out insanely useful autoresponders

Let’s say you run a web design tips newsletter.

Someone who has just joined your list may be expecting a warm welcome message with a few orientation lessons.

Contrast that with a subscriber who has been on your list for a few months now. They will expect more advanced stuff. It’s also OK to promote your wares and make a sale of your products or coaching service to this person.

Autoresponders make it super-easy to match the right content with your subscriber. You can also keep a tab on where someone is in the customer lifecycle.

According to GetResponse, an average autoresponder has 8 messages and is 49 days long. Mine has 39 emails that go on for a few months.

Readers appreciate receiving high value, meaningful content that makes their lives easy.

It’s a win-win!

How about you?

Got more stellar ideas to make your readers eagerly wait for your emails? How do you make sure your emails get opened and read? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Guest Author: Pooja is an Online Business Coach + Writer & Editor. She helps entrepreneurs shine their blog and copy, and simplifies online marketing so they can make more sales and live the Un-9-5 life. Check out her step-by-step course on breaking into freelance writing.

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  • http://www.bloggingfromparadise.com/ Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Pooja,

    Excellent. Benefits-driven headlines can make a serious impact, and boost your open and read rates quickly. We’re selling a dream before all else.

    Some are interested in a feature or 2 but features don’t keep people up at night. Dreams do. And dreams are built on a bed of comfy, pleasing, rosy benefits.

    I for one like thinking about what moves me and my audience before I write a post or send out a newsletter. The idea must be emotional, tangible, something that makes you excited, or inspires you. Most people are either outright jaded or have seen the same old subject lines that they’re entirely numb to these old school, boring tactics.

    If however I explain how a cockcoach taught me – and teaches you – a blogging lesson, and I delve deeper, well, even if this isn’t a dream headline per se it’ll catch your attention in more ways than one. This is the curiosity factor.

    Be creative, inspire and most of all, intend to add value each time you publish a new newsletter. Over-stuff each update with value to become valuable in the eyes of your subscribers and to boost those open and read rates.

    Another point; when you simply send out rocking, sensational emails persistently people’ll open them immediately because you set the bar so high in the past and the promise is email gold is waiting behind a double click.

    Awesome post Pooja. I’ll tweet in a bit.



  • Uma Jaishankar

    Hey Jeff ,
    good, that gave a beautiful insight. And when it comes to E mailer campaigns , can you share a few sure ways my mailer is opened , read and responded?

    I work for a digital ad agency and take care of business development with a special focus to E commerce site development and promotions.

  • http://www.robert-craven.com Robert Craven

    Be known to write something worth reading!

  • http://sksmith.wordpress.com Sherman Smith

    Hey Jeff,

    Great stuff about how to get more open rates. I have been using some of the tips you shared and I have seen a difference. That one tip that really get the best responses is when I use their first name in the subject line. I get a lot more email opens than if I don’t.

    One thing I lack is not using enough hypnotic words as you mentioned. I can definitely see how this can effect the open rate more positive. From what I see these words are action verbs which is more cut-to-the-chase and get to the point words to use. Most people respond well to more confident words like these as oppose to others!

    Thanks for the share!

    • http://www.wellpaidwritersclub.com Pooja

      Hey Sherman,

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. If using their first name gets you more opens, by all means keep doing it.

      A lot of marketers though are asking just the email address, so that may be a tricky one for many people.

      Thanks for taking time to comment!


  • Ben Harnwell

    Thanks Pooja and sorry I didn’t read the by line and see it was not Jeff writing this one! I really did enjoy the article and took away some good ideas.

    Your reply is most helpful – I have always looked at these with a sceptical view… Maybe the more numbers means more shares which follows on from the latest post about Social Proof http://www.jeffbullas.com/2014/07/17/insights-into-the-powerful-influence-of-social-proof/

    Cheers I hope to read more from you again!

  • Amanda Hoffmann

    Sensational Post!!!! This is one I really needed to know more about!

  • http://www.emailmonks.com/ Email Monks

    Hi Jeff. This was a lot of insightful information. I cannot deny the fact that people want to hear from real people and hence using real names is extremely important as it gives a sense of personal touch to your emails. Also using a ‘you’ orientted content approache makes the subscribers feel special and valued. Besides this i would like to add that newsjacking is a great way to achieve higher email open rates as it has the ability to inject a fresh perspective to your content inorder to drive engagement. Our post on the subject may be of help to you: http://www.emailmonks.com/blog/email-marketing/newsjacking-an-eternal-weapon-to-boost-up-your-email-open-rate/