Email is still one of the marketer’s most effective tools. See how you can improve your email open rates right now!

Email has been around for so long, it’s hard to remember when we didn’t use it.

From the dawning days of dial-up to now, email has only grown in terms of its use and adoption by the Internet’s users.

In fact, email is one of the few Internet technologies that every age demographic uses.

That’s why it’s crucial to keep your email game strong.

So let’s jump into the 7 things you can do today to improve your email open rates.

1. Review your list.

One of the first things you can do to boost your email open rates is take a look at your email list.

Are there any subscribers that have been inactive and unresponsive for a long period of time?

If so, consider sending them an email asking them if they wish to continue receiving emails from you.

I recommend making these emails light-hearted and fun, rather than automatic and robotic.

To do this, try subject lines like:

Are we breaking up?

Is the spark gone?

Is it all over?

In the email, keep it lighthearted but straight to the point.

Seems like we haven’t connected in a while! Maybe it’s something we said? We don’t want to bother you. No one wants spam! So, if we don’t hear from you soon, we’ll go ahead and remove you from our email list.

Something like that. This can help you increase your email open rates by eliminating inactive addresses in your email list.

2. Consider segmenting (or segmenting more).

One of the main reasons people open emails is because they feel the email is relevant to them.

Sending the most relevant emails comes down to how precisely you want to segment your lists.

For example, I’m sure you already have segments for your marketing personas like parents, non-traditional students, prospective trad students, and current students.

But what if you could segment these groups even more?

Think about segmenting according to the programs they’re interested in or involved in currently, like…

  • Schools (Business, Science, Finance, Religion, etc.)
  • Student Clubs
  • Events
  • Post-graduate programs

Or, consider segmenting based on geography.

  • In-state Students
  • Out of State Students
  • Regional Students

Segmenting by region can give you interesting ways to talk about how your education offerings connect to your email audience.

If your basketball team is competing nearby, you could send an email to prospects in a region with the headline, “Our University Eagles are coming to your town!”

If your audience lives in an oil town, a subject line like “Engineering programs for the Energy Sector” would be hard to pass up.

The more precise your segmentation, the more relevant your emails will be…

…And the more relevant your emails, the more likely they’ll be opened.

3. Think about when you’re sending the email.

If you do an Internet search, you’ll find hundreds of studies on the best times to send emails.

Almost all of them conclude that weekends are the worst days to send emails.

Better to send emails during the week.

So what day during the week should you send your emails?

According to MailChimp, it doesn’t appear that there’s any particularly special day to send your emails.

mailchimp chart

So the day during the week doesn’t seem to matter, but MailChimp does report that 10 a.m. is the optimal time when people check their email.

Mailchimp chart - optimal send times by hour of day

Even armed with this data, you should perform your own A/B split tests to determine the optimal times to send emails to your marketing segments to improve your email opening rates.

4. Use human language in your subject lines.

Be careful not to sound “salesy” or gimmicky in your subject lines.

Avoid capital letters and multiple exclamation points like:

YOU’RE GONNA LOVE OUR SCHOOL!!!

Be human. Keep it cool. 😎

Another tactic I recommend to keep your subject lines as human as possible is to test out using emojis. 

Placing emojis like 👀 can help draw attention to your email and increase opens. 

One incredibly easy way to sound human is to simply ask questions in the subject line.

Thinking about college? 

Worried about college debt? 

Can you help me with this?

Asking a question is human, vulnerable, and non-threatening.

5. Put ellipses points in your subject line.

Lately, I’ve been placing ellipses points at the end of my subject lines to imply that there’s more to come.

So, here’s the thing… 

What do you do when this happens… 

I couldn’t believe they did it…

Using ellipses points like this has made a big difference in my email open rate…

…It’s simply hard to not read further when you see them!

6. Finish the thought in your pre-header text.

This is a cool technique.

After you place your ellipses points in the subject line, finish your thought in the pre-header text of your email to boost your email open rate.

Pre-header text is the one to three lines that appear in the email preview area of your audience’s inbox.

Even if you don’t use an ellipsis point in your subject line, you can still leverage this technique.

Thinking about college? Here’s what you need to know to choose the right one for you. 

Worried about college debt? Check out our free college debt calculator to see how much you can afford.

Can you help me with this? Getting to know what you want in a college education can help me get you to the right program.

There are so many ways to use pre-header text to improve your email open rates.

Bottom line is to keep your language human, conversational, and personal.

7. Get personal.

I’m a big believer that people tend to open emails from other people more than they do from institutions.

If they’re receiving an email from your info@yourinstitution.org email, they’re very likely to simply skip right over your email.

Especially now, people want personalization.

After a year in lockdown, we’re so sick of video conferences and isolation (even though these can be necessary precautions to keep everyone safe).

People want to be talking to people.

That’s why personalized messages with more plain text and authentic language perform better with higher email open rates than overly designed emails that start to feel impersonal.

Right now, your audience desires human contact.

If we can make our emails more authentic and more… human, more people will open them.

Including photos in your emails is another way to show that you’re not a bot spamming your audience.

These photos work best when they’re not stock photography.

Don’t get me wrong. I like stock photography and use it every week in my blog posts.

But in an email where you expect a more intimate and personal touch, do your best to include authentic (and even amateurish if the occasion calls for it) photographs to amp up that feeling of personalization.

Another way to personalize your emails is to place your photo in your email signature.

It’s great to have your school’s logo in the email signature, but there’s nothing as special as seeing someone’s smiling face at the end of the email.

8. Get technical. (I know I said 7 things, but this one’s a bonus.)

Okay, at first this might look like it’s the opposite of personal, but please keep reading.

First of all, I’m not saying that you should be technical in your content. 

Like we covered in #7 and #4, your content should be personalized and very human.

But when it comes to getting your emails to their intended destination – in front of your reader’s eyes – you need to get all your technical details in order.

The math is simple. 

If your emails are being shoved into a spam folder or simply not arriving at all to your readers, your open email rates will be severely affected.

One way to improve your email open rates is to optimize your email deliverability.

Email Delivery and Deliverability

According to the Mailjet blog, the difference between email delivery and deliverability is:

Email delivery is whether or not your audience’s ISP (e.g. Gmail) received your emails.
Deliverability is on emails that hit the inbox.

Email delivery is an easy standard to reach.

All you’ve got to do is get the recipient’s email address right.

Deliverability is harder as you’ve got to get past the junk mail filters to get into the recipient’s inbox.

Revue’s blog gives three main factors to determining an email’s availability:

  1. Infrastructure and authentication
  2. List quality and sender reputation
  3. Email content

Earlier in this post, we talked about producing quality, human-like email content. This is the front-end of your email.

Infrastructure and authentication have to do with the way your email is configured on the back-end.

It’s very technical, but the main idea behind infrastructure and authentication is that they are behind-the-scenes security features meant to protect recipients from phishing scams.

I’m not going to get into the details here, but let me suggest a tool that might be useful.

I’m going to be testing out mail-tester.com to see how I can improve my email marketing’s technical configuration. 

The goal is to see improvements in my email open rates by improving my email newsletter’s deliverability. 

Hopefully a tool like this will help you “get technical” with your emails without bogging you down with the details.

Increase Email Open Rates. Decrease Spam.

If this is your goal (it’s definitely mine!), walk through these steps and start working on them today.

Of course, higher email open rates isn’t everything in digital marketing.

But unopened emails don’t get read.

Unread emails don’t move anyone to the next step in the enrollment cycle.

So if there’s any other way that I can help you reach your digital marketing goals, please contact us today!


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Featured image by Antonioguillem via Adobe Stock
Spam Analysis image by Tashatuvango via Adobe Stock
Chart images via Mailchimp

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