Improve Your Newsletter Open Rate

Whether you’re a writer, marketer, or entrepreneur, writing an email newsletter is one of the most powerful ways to reach out to your audience as well as establish an additional income stream. But once you’ve set up and grown your subscriber base, how do you make sure you have a good newsletter open rate?

In this post, we’ll discuss some powerful tips that will instantly improve your newsletter open rate and how you can apply the same. But before we dive in, it’s important to understand what exactly is the newsletter open rate and why open rates matter.

What is a newsletter open rate?

According to Influencer Marketing Hub, “An open rate in email marketing is the percentage of the total times your email campaign was opened by subscribers.” It can be better described by the formula below:

newsletter open rate

How are open rates calculated, and are they reliable?

To track open rates, email service providers (ESPs) add a tiny invisible pixel to every email. If this pixel loads, the email is counted as opened.

This in itself is not a fool-proof metric as some subscribers may have images turned off. So, even if they open the email, the pixel doesn’t load, and their opening is never recorded. On the other hand, if a subscriber opens the email from multiple locations, their opens are recorded more than once.

New updates to privacy rules: In addition, as per new updates with iOS 15, “the Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.”

This fundamental change is redefining the email and newsletter marketing landscape and how we approach the open rate metric. Over time, your “Open Rate” may be less and less reliable. This significantly affects how email marketers and newsletter marketers approach A/B testing and how they use open rate insights to run successful campaigns. We’ll follow up with more content diving deep into how Open Rates and other metrics will be affected by the latest iOS and Privacy changes. This article, however, will speak more broadly to increasing the rate at which your readers, well, read your work (trackable or not).

So, to kick us off, let’s ask one key question:

Why do newsletter open rates matter?

Newsletter open rates are an important starting point to evaluate how your email and newsletter marketing campaigns perform and what needs to be improved. When you know the open rate, you get an idea of how many people are actually reading your emails.

The open rate can give you excellent signals about the following (and how they can be tweaked for better performance):

  • The performance of your subject lines.
  • The time you send your emails.
  • Whether your email or newsletter marketing is having the effect you planned for.

In essence, a higher newsletter open rate indicates your subject lines are getting your audience’s attention. it indicates more people are reading your emails, and hence, it’s always a good idea to strive for a high newsletter open rate.

What’s the industry standard email newsletter open rate?

According to Campaign Monitor’s 2022 Email Marketing Benchmarks Report the average newsletter open rate for some industries is given below:

  • Media, Entertainment, Publishing: 23.9%
  • Wellness & Fitness: 19.2%
  • Travel, Hospitality, Leisure: 20.2%
  • Education: 28.5%

Some more industries and their data can be seen in the table below.

Industry standards for newsletter open rates 2022 for some common industries

Industry standards for newsletter open rates for some common industries (Image source)

The average newsletter open rate for all industries is 21.5%.

What factors influence the newsletter open rate?

A combination of factors determines whether or not your email newsletter will make the recipient curious enough to click on it. Some of them include:

  • How relevant the content is to your subscriber base: This can vary every time you send the newsletter depending on what you’re writing about in that particular issue.
  • How engaged are your email subscribers: This depends on how well you’ve built your personal brand and the trust your readers have in your words.
  • What time of the day you’re sending your emails: There’s no correct answer to this, and the best you can do is a test by sending the newsletter at various times and see which slot works best for your audience.
  • How much curiosity your subject lines and preview text can generate.

Now that we’ve established what’s a newsletter open rate, why is it significant, and what factors influence it, let’s dive into 12 powerful tips to improve your newsletter open rates and how you can apply them to your business.


1. Have a personal sender name

The name the recipient sees the email is coming from is the most prominent part of the email preview. It’s also your first chance to trigger trust among the readers. Naturally, the sender name will be a huge factor in influencing newsletter open rates.

A sender name that includes a person’s name makes the email sound more personal, and hence, more likely to be opened. For example, an email from “The Jakes from Swapstack” will have a higher open rate than an email from “Swapstack” because of the personal touch.

### Have a personal sender name

2. Write a clickable subject line

After the sender name, the next thing an email recipient sees is the subject line. The subject line should introduce the newsletter and give some context about what the reader can expect from the email. Aside from that, below are a few tips to increase the newsletter open rate by writing highly clickable subject lines.

3. Optimize the newsletter subject line for mobile

More than 70% of people read their email in a mobile app. Make sure your subject line is readable on a mobile device.

Test your content on different devices before you send it to make sure readers can read the text and view emojis no matter what device they use to open the email.

4. Personalize the newsletter subject line

Personalization can mean many different things: from a simple “Dear [first name]” salutation at the top of your email to customized content based on what each subscriber has purchased from you previously.

If you’re confused about whether or not your email subject line is personalized enough, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you writing for everyone or for a specific group of people who would be especially interested in receiving this information?
  • Can you personalize it by focusing on one particular aspect of your brand — like its history or how the target audience would benefit from using it — to make it more appealing?

5. Make the newsletter subject line intriguing

Some tips to keep in mind while writing a kickass subject line:

  • Use the title of your best-performing social post.
  • Try a pun. A clever subject line can make all the difference, especially when it’s funny or intriguing.
  • Use a number to provide structure to your audience’s expectations for what’s inside the email. This can be a list, a discount code, the time left to avail and offer, and so on. The possibilities are endless. Get creative without being spammy.
  • Use an acronym that’s particular to your industry or one that will get people talking. Acronyms can be particularly effective in B2B audiences where they are used frequently, but acronyms with a broader appeal like “OMG,” “FWIW,” etc. have also been shown to work well in consumer marketing newsletters.

Here’s an example of a highly intriguing subject line from one of writer Sinem Günel’s recent newsletters. Note the use of a number and a clear context of what to expect from the newsletter.

### Make the newsletter subject line intriguing

6. Use top-performing words

Some words trigger stronger emotions in readers than others and are hence more clickable. According to Orbit Media, here’s a selection of words that appeared in top-performing email subject lines. This is based on the analysis of 48 billion emails by four different marketing research companies.

### Use top-performing words

Top-performing words in newsletter subject lines (Image source)

7. Keep it short and sweet

No one likes to read long email subject lines, and research proves just that. Shorter subject lines perform better, with the sweet spot lying somewhere around seven words.

This is corroborated by the research done by the Marketing Manager at Marketo, Mike Madden, who analyzed thousands of emails. The survey found that six and seven-word headlines performed best.

### Keep it short and sweet

In fact, one of my best-performing newsletters with a 32.58% open rate only has six words in the subject line:

### Keep it short and sweet

8. Create a sense of urgency

Including a time-sensitive deal in the subject line, for example, “The first 10 buyers get 10% off…” is a great idea to generate curiosity and boost your newsletter open rates.

Here’s an example of how writer Niklas Göke creates a sense of urgency by mentioning the time left until when the enrolment in his new writing course will close.

### Create a sense of urgency

9. Court the absurd

With thousands of newsletters being sent every day around the world, an absurd subject line that doesn’t make sense, at first sight, could serve as a powerful hook. The following is an example from Tim Denning’s recent email:

### Court the absurd

The boldly titled “Looking for a Sugar Daddy?” actually talks about how it’s better to start making your own money by writing online than waiting for someone to pay your bills. But because of the shock value, I bet the open rate was high for this newsletter issue.

Note that you need to respect your reader’s intellect and not try to spam or bait them. If your subject line doesn’t match with the newsletter content, your readers will feel cheated and won’t likely open future emails from you. Don’t overpromise just for the sake of a high newsletter open rate.

10. Present a contrarian opinion

As an extension to the above, presenting something that goes against a wildly popular opinion can be a smart way to get your readers interested in what you’ve included in your newsletter.

Here’s an example of how writer Sarah Cy tells us our willpower is not enough. Notice the use of superlatives designed to trigger emotions and make the recipient curious enough to click on the email and read it.

### Present a contrarian opinion

11. Use a frequently asked question as a subject line

Take one of the most asked questions from your social media accounts, centre a newsletter around that, and include that in the subject line to get an incredible newsletter open rate. An example from writer Vincent Carlos’s recent newsletter:

### Use a frequently asked question as a subject line

12. Have meaningful preview text

After the sender name and subject line, the next thing an email recipient sees is the preview text. There’s a customizable ‘preview text’ field inside every email service provider, but only a few writers use this to their advantage.

Stand out by providing even more context on what the reader can expect from the newsletter. A short, catchy quote by an expert in your domain that’s related to what you’d talk about in the newsletter also works well.

Here’s an example of how Coach Tony uses the preview text to showcase a quote and give readers an idea of what exactly to expect when they click on the newsletter.

### Have meaningful preview text

Another example is from my own newsletter which had 17+ replies and a 29.45% open rate. Note how I’ve added an extra hook to make sure the reader knows what to expect from the newsletter. And by mentioning the age group and the theme, I’ve given a chance for readers to decide if the content is relevant to them.

### Have meaningful preview text

Some tips to write amazing newsletter preview text:

A newsletter’s preview text, just like the sub-heading of a blog post, should serve at least one of the following purposes:

  • Tell the reader what to expect from the newsletter.
  • Establish credibility, aka make it clear why you are the best person to write about that topic.
  • Set up context via a famous quote.
  • Help the reader decide whether they would benefit from reading the newsletter.

Summarizing: Use these tips to get more people to open your newsletter

A newsletter is algorithm-independent and lands directly in the inboxes of your readers. That’s what makes it one of the most successful channels for branding and promotion.

But if you don’t have a good newsletter open rate, you might as well be talking to a wall. The more people you can get to open your emails, the more effective your email and newsletter marketing strategy would be.

Summing up, here are three tips to make sure more of your subscribers read the emails you send:

  1. Have a personal sender name, as opposed to the name of your company or the brand or product you’re selling. Combine both of these for even more spectacular results.
  2. Write a highly clickable subject line that’s 7-words in length or shorter. It should intrigue the reader or answer a question they always had.
  3. Have a meaningful preview text that gives context to what the reader might expect when they click on your newsletter.

There are several nuances to each of these tips, but as a rule of thumb, think beyond “mass” communication techniques and instead focus on your subscriber base. Examine what draws the eye of each individual reader when they are deciding whether or not to open your newsletters. This analysis can be done on 20 or so of your past emails until you find the sweet spot that leaves you with a decent open rate. Once you crack the code, you’ll find yourself with a stronger bond with those readers — and find innovative ways to get them to read your newsletters.


Which of these tips on how to increase your newsletter open rate resonates with you the most? Tag us @SwapstackHQ on Twitter and definitely let us know your thoughts.