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How to Increase Email Open Rates, CTR, Conversions – Email Marketing Guide 2020

I have been doing email marketing for almost 6 years now and have sent 100s of campaigns to readers and potential shoppers.

I have experimented with everything – HTML emails, plain Text, sending times, and different email service providers in the journey.

Here is what I have learned from the experience and what you can do to increase your Email Open Rates, CTR, and Conversions.

Creating Right Email Marketing Strategy for 2020

Email Marketing Guide 2020 – A lot has changed in the email marketing and especially in the last couple of years.

The open rates are down and click through rates are dwindling, so is it worth to spend time and effort on email marketing in 2020.

Email marketing is referred to as one of the best ways to make sure your readers can get back to your publication, and you can remind them that you exist and are writing some kicka$$ content.

However, there is a cost associated with email marketing. It is two-fold: the time you invest in generating leads and getting emails, writing email newsletters, and track the conversions.

The second cost is Email sending to bulk lists is expensive roughly for 2000-5000 subscribers. It may cost upto $49 per month.

Now if we are spending time and money on something we would like to know what is our ROI (Return on Investment). In this article, I have shared my experience and how we can increase the returns.

There is a considerable percentage of users that use Gmail. In my email subscriber list, it is 80% Gmail users.

Now the biggest hurdle in the email marketing for me and others is the creation of Gmail’s promotional Tab.

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Gmail and Promotions Tab

One of the most significant issues hurting email campaigns is the Promotions Tab for Gmail. About 80-90% of the users will not even be able to see your newsletter when it lands in the promotional Tab.

I still remember my email open and click-through rates tumbled to less than half when Big G kicked us with the promotional Tab.

Seth Godin, who writes a daily blog with the massive following, was furious at Google for killing the reach of email newsletters for blogs.

He wrote an article with the title, ” Please don’t kill the blogs – an open letter to Google.”

Here is What Seth Goding has to say about the Gmail’s promotional tab.

So what should you do to by-pass the promotional tab conundrum? I have done some research, and this has helped get open, and click-through rates increase.

Email Marketing for Blogging and SEO Niche Works

But there are increasing challenges in email marketing, and let’s talk if it is worth the effort. Firstly, most bloggers (writing about SEO and Blogging) will swear and say that email marketing is the best for your blog.

But there is a problem with that advice. If I have an email newsletter for Profoundblogger and I send some authentic (no sales B.S.) articles, readers will love it.

Also, the people who visit Profoundblogger or similar blogs are into reading, and if they are subscribing to the newsletter, they mean to read future newsletters.

Email Marketing for Tech Websites, Telecom, P.C. Hardware and Gaming, and other Niche?

I have experience with sending the newsletter to tech enthusiasts and especially from India.

The click-through rates and open rates are low, and it is usually not worth the effort to spend too much time on emails for me currently looking only at the stats.

Increasing CTR and Open Rates of Your Emails

Even bloggers like Neil Patel and Brian Dean has resorted to sending plain text emails to avoid the promotions tab. Your Email is dead on arrival if it lands in the Promotions tab.

My Experience With Open, Click-Through Rates, and Benefits of Email Marketing

So, I started building an email list from 2014 for Candytech. My tech blog and with time was able to gather 25,000 email accounts—a significant number.

So here are some of the stats I will like to share from the last 10 campaigns we sent to active users (who have opened an email in the previous 6 months) out of the 25k users.

The Active user base is close to 5000 users, and we removed about 12,000 users who have never opened any emails we sent. There are about 8000 laggard users.

I used a mix of HTML and plain text emails for sending campaigns for 45 days. I sent 10 emails to the 5000 active users. Also, we tried different times of the day and different days in the week.

  • Emails Sent 50,000
  • Emails Opened – 2480 (Open Rate 4.8%)
  • Emails Clicked – 447 (Click Through Rate – 0.9%)

This was not the situation 3 years back, I used to send 10k emails, and at times there were 400 to 500 clicks from a single email.

Plain Text Vs. HTML Email Stats (CTR, Open Rate and Unsubscriptions)

Here are the stats for plain text emails that landed in the Inbox for most users, and the HTML email has landed in the promotional Tab for most of the readers.

Understanding the Results of the Study

Emails Sent – nearly 5000 in each case

HTML Email – 4952 sent, 194 Opened, and 54 Unique Clicks to the Website. 3.92% is the open rate, and 1.09% is the conversion. Only 2 people unsubscribed.

Plain Text Email – 5053 sent, 702 Opened, and 84 Unique Clicks to the Website. 13.92% is the open rate, and 1.66% is the conversion. Astonishingly 27 people unsubscribed from the emails.

What are the learnings Here?

Plain Text emails offer better open rates and more clicks as it lands in the inbox folder rather than the promotional tab of Gmail.

The HTML emails mostly land in the promotional tab and hence are less visible to the readers.

There is an increaser in the number of unsubscriptions for the text email. We did a survey of the people that unsubscribed, and here are the reasons that they gave us:

  • They don’t want too many emails in the primary tab.
  • Found the email inturrpting more important work.

With the text emails you are getting more close to people and they are bound to take an action.

But still, I think if people are unsubscribing it is not a problem as most of these readers are not so much interested in what you have to offer. Or maybe their interests have changed over a period of time.

Either way it is good to not have them saves money of sending emails and you have a better list to offer your services.

HTML emails will get more clicks when they are opened by readers due to attractive images or video embeds.

Best Time To Send Email Campaigns

Email open rates were the lowest on Sunday. Other days were more or less the same. Email Open rates are better in the afternoon and morning than late evening or night.

Tuesday is the best time to day to send the email according to research but I think monday to friday is good.

Open Rates By Hour

I would suggest sending emails at around 11 am or between 2 to 4 pm as most office goers are also seeking some break during this time. In the morning there are usually some priorities and also at the end of the day there are some essential tasks people want to close before going home.

Should You Send HTML or the Plain Text Emails

Plain Text is a better way to make sure your Email goes into the Primary Tab. It increases open rates, but the Click Rates are much lower than the HTML emails.

Overall still my Plain text emails outperformed the HTML emails.

For some businesses like e-commerce, it is still more suitable to send the HTML emails as those emails are entirely promotional and sales. But it will not hurt if they can try plain Text for some of the non-promotional emails. (Brand Awareness Campaigns etc.).

Plain Text Wins in most cases.

Increase the Open Rates by Personalization

The easiest way to personalize your emails is to use the readers name and make sure that you are collecting names and emails when building a list.

Increase Relevancy and Timing of Emails

Be the first to break some of the news. If majority of your readers have already learnt about a topic you are going to see less open and click rates.

I have seen from 100s of my campaigns over the years the highest clicks have come from breaking stories.

Why? Your readers are probably hearing this for the first time. The timing of your email is very important. Same story will not get you even 50% of the clicks if you are late by a day or two.

Try to publish some breaking news or story and send it immediately to your readers. You will see a huge surge in engagement.

Use Headlines that Appeals to Majority of Readers

You may have published 4-5 posts during the week and want to send a newsletter. You must choose the top for headline that is most important for your readers.

Also, you can combine two or more topics to create a headline and subject for the email.

This will straight away give you increase in open and click through rates.

Using the Sender Name in the Subject and Opening lines

This is pretty much self explanatory that using someone’s email will lead to more engagement and increase in the open rates.

Check the Graph below, based on a study there is a significant increase in the CTR when using the name of the person in the email subject line.

Clean Up Your Mailing List

Every quarter, I clean up the mailing list removing those readers that have not opened any of my emails in the last 90 days.

If they haven’t opened so many emails they are not going to open in the future most likely.

You can even send a polite email saying if they are not interested in service they can unsubscribe or can let you know if they wish to continue.

Optimize Your Emails for Mobile

A higher number of your readers may be opening your emails on a mobile device. It is essential to test the deskop as well as mobile version before sending so that it looks good on all devices.

Some Stats Worth Knowing About Email Marketing in 2020

Do a list Segmentation to Send More Relevant Emails

Consider this: Some of my readers are interested in topics like Telecom and broadband and I send them emails related to Gaming. What will happen? They won’t open and worse can be they can unsubscribe.

Relevancy is very important and is really hard to achive. Dividing you long list of subs into sub-segments and sending custom email to each segment can sky-rocket your email conversions.

An ideal strategy is to tag a user when he signs up. You can even use different sign-up forms on different categories on your website so users get added to different lists when the sign-up.

For example instead of having one big list of readers, create listing like Gaming, Telecom, Smartphones, and Computer Hardware. Of course, this approach is for large websites that publish a lot of content for smaller websites it is good to just have one single list.

Email Costs & ROI

So to send emails to 5k subs 3 times a week, I will need the right email solution. If I use a solution like MailChimp or SendinBlue, it will cost $49 per month. It is a considerable cost.

Total Email Sends in a Month – 5000*3*4=60000

Opened Emails – 6000

Clicked Emails – 1020

Cost Per Email Click – .05 dollars or Rs. 3.75

That’s bit expensive if I consider what I am paying to sent the emails. I use a custom solution called Sendy to send emails and the approx cost for me is around $20 per month that helps me to improve the ROI.

Also, consider the time required to create an email campaign that takes about 30 minutes to an hour if I am sending a plain text email.

Typically, I can spend Rs. 300 or $4 on FaceBook ads and get more than 500 readers to the blog, and it takes 30 seconds to promote an article.

So for Rs. 1500 or $20 I can get close to 3000 readers from F.B. to my blog and spend 1/tenth of the time on emails.

But the problem with the FB readers is lower time on page and engagement. Emails are more personal and also create a much strong brand recall.

It is just not about the numbers. The benefit of email marketing is immense and it is more like Youtube where your subscribers know you and relate to you.

I have subscribed to Brian Dean from Backlinko and Neil Patel as both create highly useful content and educate the readers.

Why You should build an Email List and Try email Marketing?

There are a couple of things that can totally give a different picture than what I have shared above.

Your audience is not from India, here we show a pop-up and people enter email address and half of them never check emails. Indian audience is unlike the U.S. or readers from other countries.

ROI in India for emails is poor. Cost of using other solutions such as F.B. ads or even Adwords can give you traffic for even 1/10 of cost and time.

Bulk email providers are offering email solutions based on the pricing in the US and it can be very expensive for many marketers in the developed countries.

Further, the monetization strategy of your blog matters; if you are on Adsense, then it may be a lousy ROI strategy for you, but if you are using affiliate marketing and can sell products to readers, it can make money.

Email marketing creates a loyal base of readers, which is not possible otherwise. Even if it offers higher costs and lower returns, you can still stay in touch with some of the loyal readers.

Email marketing is magical for e-commerce stores and excellent to use it with HTML emails. Bloggers must try the plain text approach to increase open rates and land emails in the primary Tab of Gmail.

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Kanuj has 12+ years of experience in Digitial Marketing, SEO, Social Media, Blogging, Wordpress, Analytics. He is an MBA in Marketing and Consumer Insights.Follow him on Twitter to get relevant advice.



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