Before we dive into this, what’s an open rate? It’s simply the rate at which your email is opened when you send it to your email list. With 100 people on your email list and an open rate of 20%, 20 people clicked and opened your email. Email services like Constant Contact, MailChimp, and AWeber will track your open rates automatically.
Tracking open rates sounds like a great idea. Knowing what percentage of your email list opens your emails would be a great way to measure how well you’re doing. If everyone is opening your emails, your audience loves you. If no one is, something probably needs to change.
There’s just one problem, open rates are incredibly inaccurate.
To track open rates, email services embed an invisible image into the email. If the image displays, tracking information is sent back and recorded as a open. This sounds great in theory but the vast majority of emails will never display the image even if the email is opened.
Since people also figured out how to spread viruses through images, most email clients like Gmail turn images off by default. Now a person has to open the email AND click the “show images” button for the tracking to work. Granted, images show automatically for senders in a person’s contact list. But you’ll have to convince people to manually add you to their contacts for this to happen. People rarely do this so I wouldn’t count on it.
What does this mean? Your open rates are worthless. They’re not even worth the time thinking about.
There is one exception: running headline split tests.
What’s a split test? It’s where you send two versions of an email with a single difference and see which version is most effective. In this case, each email would have different headlines.
Judging effectiveness though open rates still isn’t ideal and you’ll also want to use click through rates and conversion data to choose the best headline.
Keep in mind that split testing headlines is a fairly advanced technique in internet marketing and isn’t nearly as important as other tasks. Don’t worry about it unless you’re email marketing is already driving a significant portion of your revenue.