Email Marketing Tips: What you can learn from 2 billion sent emails

What you can learn from 2 billion sent emails

This article consists of 2 parts. The first is about a recent benchmark report so that you can compare your stats with market data.

The second part is all about Email Marketing Tips to get higher open rates, clickthrough rates and to improve your email marketing results.

So, if you just want to learn about best email marketing practices, scroll down to the conclusion and read from there on…

Or let’s start with the benchmark…

As Email Marketer you are probably busy with trying to improve your open and click-through rates and segmenting your list to get the best out of your email marketing campaigns.

But do you know your benchmark?

Do you know how your open and click-through rates compare to the market?

  • Are these rates different for individual countries or by industry?
  • Does it matter if you’ve a big or smaller list?
  • Does it matter how often you send out emails? At what day of the week? At what time?
  • Does the length of your subject line has any influence?
  • Should you use personalization and/or emojis in your subject line?

All these questions were recently measured, analyzed and published in this article Email Marketing Benchmarks written by Michal Leszczynski, Content Marketing Manager at GetResponse – a premium Email Service Provider.

Michal and his team have analyzed almost 2 billion emails sent by GetResponse’s customers from March to May 2017, in 126 countries across 19 industries.

Of course, I do advise you to read this article yourself. But I want to share with you some of my thoughts and major findings of the report.

At the end, I will give additional Email Marketing tips.

Let’s start with the average stats for all 2 billion sent emails:

Open rateClick-through rateClick to open rateUnsubscribe rateSpam rate
All emails24.29%3.90%16.05%0.22%0.03%

However, there are huge differences between countries. For example, the open rates differs from 14.51% (in Malaysia) to 43.99% (in Vietnam).

Yes, the world is diverse. Consumer habits, legal environment, and the level of marketing expertise strongly influence average results in each country.

For example, in Germany, only the double opt-in subscription method is considered legal for list building, and open rates are typically high, compared to the rest of the world.

On the other hand, in Russia and Ukraine the level of complaints is typically higher than anywhere else, as it’s common for consumers to opt out by clicking the “this is spam” button.

So, be aware of these country specific differences. And yes, maybe you should segment your list for specific countries. I know internet marketers who don’t target the Canadian market due to the Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL), one of the toughest laws of its kind in the world.

As expected, the differences between industries are great. The industry with the lowest open (14.61%) and click-through rate (2.52%) is Internet Marketing. Surprisingly, the related click to open rate (17,27%) is above average and the spam rate (0.02%) is below average.

So, on average, internet marketers do know how to write their emails and how to convince people to click through once they’ve opened their emails. But there is definitely room for improvement to get higher open rates.

Maybe, this is a result of the fact that many internet marketers are sending several emails a day promoting the same product aggressively during a product launch. Subscribers have already seen the emails about the same subject and don’t open them again. Another reason is probably that “by default” emails from Internet Marketers will end up earlier in the spam or Gmail’s promo folder.

So, what about list size?

Although, I did expect the results to decrease with the size of the list, but I didn’t expect the impact that huge…

List sizeOpen rateClick-through rateClick to open rateUnsubscribe rateSpam rate
1,000 – 2,49931.19%5.22%16.75%0.33%0.03%
2,500 – 4,99925.92%4.09%15.77%0.24%0.03%
5,000 – 9,99919.20%3.28%17.07%0.17%0.02%
10,000 – 24,99918.58%2.81%15.12%0.14%0.02%
25,000 – 49,99915.57%2.10%13.51%0.11%0.02%
50,000 – 99,99912.42%1.98%15.96%0.09%0.02%

Apparently, the bigger your list, the more difficult it’s to engage with (and respond adequately to) your audience.

But I also think that it makes sense to segment your bigger lists into smaller lists and to clean your lists regularly.

What about Message Type?

Average Results by Message Type

As you can clearly see, the more relevant and the more segmented and automated your email campaigns are setup, the better your results. The key is to collect important data along the customer journey and use it to segment your list and personalize your marketing communication.

What are the best days in the week and best hours to send your emails?

The 2 tables about the days of the week and time of the day don’t show new insights.

During week days the open rates are (slightly) higher in comparison to the weekend.

And not surprisingly, open rates are higher during day time. Especially there are peaks in the early morning (before work), late after noon (before going home), and before going to bed.

But it all depends on your market/niche. So, test this out yourself. The average results in this report, don’t give you enough clearance to come up with clear guide lines.

What about the number of emails you send per week?

# of newslettersOpen rateClick-through rateClick to open rate

So, the more newsletters you’ll send out per week, the lower the open and click-through rates.

Accordingly, in another table in the report, you can clearly see that the more messages you’ll use in an Autoresponder cycle, the lower your open and click-through rates will be.

Does this mean that you should only send one email a week?

No, in general, with every new email you’ll send out, you’ll “loose” some of your audience. Not only will people unsubscribe and more emails will end up in the spam or promo folder. But also because interests do change over time and/or people have “solved” their problems. For example, if a subscriber was looking for a certain product to get more info about and subscribed to your email list, the moment he bought a product from your competitor he’ll loose interest.

Hence, there is no “rule” how often you should send your emails out. As long as your emails are relevant and engaging, people will open your emails.

Of course, this also depends on your subject line and preheader

The report ends with some stats about subject lines, emojis, personalization and preheaders.

To summarize, it doesn’t matter how many characters your subject line has. It’s all about quality above quantity. Use clear and engaging subject lines.

With respect to the other elements, the researchers found some interesting facts:

  • Usage of an emoji in the subject line increases open rates.
  • Usage of personalization in the subject line increases open rates.
  • Usage of a preheader (following the subject line) increases open rates.

So by optimizing the so-called envelope (sender, subject line, and preheader) and using intelligent personalization together with relevant attention grabbing emojis, you can improve your open rates significantly.


I hope you’ve learned something from this benchmark report and can use some of the tips to improve your email marketing results.

Just as quick reminder, below the main tips:

  • It’s “natural” that email rates (open, click-through, click to open) decrease over time. Your first email often get the highest rates. The more emails you’ll send, the lower the rates. Also the bigger your list, the lower your rates.
  • Be aware and take advantage of the differences in countries and industries. Consumer habits, legal environment, and the level of marketing expertise are different per country and industry.
  • Collect important data along the customer journey and use it to segment your list and personalize your marketing communication. (Segment your bigger lists into smaller lists).
  • Optimize the so-called envelope (sender, subject line, and preheader). This is what your subscribers see as first in their email application (before they’ll open your email).
  • Use emojis and personalization in the subject line.
  • Split test for the best days/times to send out your emails.
  • Clean your lists regularly. (Use List Janitor)
  • Analyze your email campaigns. At least register and monitor delivery, open, click-through, unsubscribe, and spam rates.

Some other email marketing tips…

Email Marketing ROI

  1. Optimize your lead capturing with multiple entry points, free downloads/gifts, content extensions (f.e. Post Gopher), attention grabbing (exit) popups, and more… But don’t forget to quality and segment your leads.
  2. Use your thank you/download page (or first welcome email) to give as much valuable information about yourself (brand) and what people can expect after subscribing.
  3. Your email should be delivered. Hence, use a reliable ESP or SMTP relay services (if your sending from your own server). The more engagement with your subscribers (open/read, replies, clicks, white-listing, move emails from Spam/Promo folder to primary Tab, etc.) the better delivery rates. And of course, avoid spam words and use a Spam Checker.
  4. Be sure to have Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) properly setup on your Domain Name System (DNS).
  5. Use a different IP and/or subdomain for sending transactional emails and use another setting for promotional emails. You don’t want your transaction emails (like purchase or access details) to end up in the promotional or spam folder.
  6. Throttle your emails (don’t send one email to all your lists at once). This is how it works… Send one email to just one list at a time. Then send the “same” email to another list while changing the headline after say 15 minutes. And so on. (Also a great way to find out with headline works the best – which of course, you can use to “resend” to your non-openers)
  7. Your subscribers see the envelope (sender, subject line, and preheader). Hence, optimize this for better open rates.
  8. After opening your email, your content should be primarily focused to stimulate your subscriber to read further and perform you preferred CTA. Don’t be afraid to use other content than just text. It’s a myth that emails with lots of images and links have a higher change to end up in the spam or promo folder.
  9. Use triggers (auto subscription to segmented lists) to segment your list into sub lists.
  10. Reschedule your Autoresponder series and move high converting emails to the front.
  11. Use several hyperlinks (or buttons) with command words (don’t use “click here”) in your email with different CTA messages (or Angles/hooks) but all leading to the same landing page. People do scroll through your email. Some want to see/click the hyperlink as soon as possible. Others will read till the end. And that’s why you should…
  12. Use the P.S section to emphasize your call to action with a hyperlink. Or use the P.S. section to promote something that you did not speak about in your email!
  13. Use easy unsubscribe policies. Also, give your subscriber a chance to “unsubscribe” to a segmented list for a certain promotion that they are not interested in.
  14. Think in email campaigns and not in individual emails. Every email will be followed by another email. For example, it can be a good practice to refer to the next email you’ll send (to build anticipation and create excitement).
  15. Resend “a similar” email to people who didn’t open your email. (Tip: change your headline, but keep the content in the email the same. Or just add one short sentence to refer to your prior unread email that you’ll include in your email as full “original” text)

A great tool to test your email delivery is, it also has a spam checker.

Some specific tips to avoid being banned by your ESP for sending “Spam” email.

  • Don’t promote MLM Offers and aggressive “Make Money Online” Offers.
  • Don’t send more than one broadcast a day. Several broadcasts a day will lower your delivery score.
  • Don’t use Click Rotators inside your emails.
  • Don’t use URL shorteners inside your emails.
  • Don’t add attachments to your emails.
  • Don’t send emails consisting of just an image.
  • Avoid spammy phrases and words as Free, Buy Now etc. Check your outgoing emails with spam filter tools as Spam Score Checker.
  • Don’t use too many different outgoing links in side your email. These emails look like coming from a store (with different products) and will end up in the Promo Tab (in GMail) or worse the Spam folder.
  • While importing email lists into a new ESP, only use cleaned lists and “opener” email addresses.

And some more tips…

Did you know that your sender name is by far the most important factor whether or not your subscribers will open your emails?

So, use a remarkable and easy to remember/recognize sender name with “real” accessible personal email address. Just your first name, a “no-reply” email, or sender address from a “department” (as support or info) should be avoided at any time.

Also, your first email is the most important. Explain who you are and what your subscribers can expect from you. It’s also the best moment to ask to white list your email address.

A smart way to achieve that your future emails will end up in the main folder (i.e. in Gmail’s Primary Tab, not in the promo or spam folder) is by asking a question where people have to respond by replying to your email.

Asking questions, in general, is a good email marketing strategy. You’ll improve engagement and you can get important feedback from your Tribe.

But most important, the more incoming emails you’ll get to the email address that you use for sending out your emails, the better because it shows that you are engaging with your audience and people want to read your emails and connect with you.

Think about it this way…

If you only send out emails and never get a response back, this looks like you are just promoting stuff, and your emails will end up in the promo tab (or worse in the spam folder).

Some tips to get more emails to your sender email address:
– Before subscribing to your list, let them email you (to get their lead magnet).
– Ask people to reply to your emails by asking questions and via polls.
– Give away free info/tips or a product, only in case people reply to your email. (You can ask them to reply specifically with a “yes I want”, or uncommon word/phrase so that you can easily filter these emails and/or automatically reply).

Use automation and triggers.

Split your new email subscribers into openers and non-openers and treat them differently (ultimately delete your non-openers).

Other examples of triggers…

Someone enters his email address on a check-out page without buying?

One of your subscribers checks your sales page X times?

Some clicks on a specific link on your website or inside your email?

Doesn’t someone open your emails for a while?

In all these cases, you can send out automatic emails and segment your list!

So, use an ESP/Autoresponder that allows you to do this kind of automation.

My two favorite applications are Drip and ConvertKit.

ConvertKit is the easiest to learn but still has many advanced automation features.

Drip is less easier to learn, but no other ESP can beat Drip with respect to the endless (automation, segmentation and funnel) features.

Single Opt-in or Double Opt-in?

Sometimes, it depends on your Email Service Provider, whether it’s allowed to use single opt-in or not.

But if you are allowed to use single opt-in, is it a good practice?

Definitely, you’ll get more subscribers (because there will always people who “forget to” or just don’t confirm their subscription).

But sometimes, it comes with a price…

False or fake email addresses. For example, in case “freebie seekers” just want your gift but don’t want to receive your future emails.

Plus, you’ll get often more Spam complaints because people forget or can’t remember that they did subscribe.

So, there is no general rule. But if you are getting lots of false/fake email addresses, consider double opt-in.

How often should you send out your emails?

There is no rule. It all depends on whether or not you can find a reason to send out your email.

But be in mind. Your subscribers are always wondering. Why do I get this email? What’s in it for me?

And is the sender really trying to help me? Or does he want some quick bucks?

Also, don’t make this mistake, to send the same email more than once. That’s spamming and very annoying.

It’s OK (and recommended) to resend another email to people who didn’t open your email the first time. But don’t use the same subject line.

Furthermore, it’s a good practice to remind people (especially if a product launch or discount period ends).

And yes, you can refer to your prior email that they didn’t open (you are looking after your subscribers and just want to sure that your subscriber got your message in time).

And don’t be afraid to send out promotional emails. Everyone understands that you can’t give just free information without earning anything at all.

Finally and probably the most important tip, create quality and engaging content that your subscribers want to read about. You can achieve that by caring about your subscribers and really want to help them.

Last extra tip. Start with free quality content about a subject. If people will read it and click through for more information, then you can send them promotional emails about that subject. If they don’t click inside your email with free information, then the chance is very low that they’ll like your promotional email. So, don’t bother them and only send out promotional emails to people who are interested in the subject.

Combine that with the possibility for your subscribers to easily “unsubscribe” from a (promotional) follow-up series of email about a certain subject or product launch. Of course, you’ll keep these people on your “broader list” – but you won’t bother them with info they don’t want to receive.

To end, email marketing is just one way to build your tribe. Read this post How to build your Tribe besides via email marketing? to see what other media you can use.

Questions? Contact me or leave your reply in the comments below.

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