email open rates

The Obvious Reason Why You Never Get Awesome Email Open Rates

I find that sometimes most of the problems that we find on the Internet can be figured out if we put ourselves in the place of our customers. Especially if that type of customer is based upon our own demo/psychographics.

I trawl content on a daily basis for my own enjoyment. So far I haven’t subscribed to any of the sites that I have visited.

That is a cool thing to notice because the types of businesses or websites that I build are usually focused on my age. When I didn’t know anything Internet I never targeted people who did.

I realized that I didn’t subscribe to all email lists only on certain lists. I only bookmarked certain websites and I only “social media’d” others.

Taking a further step back it dawned on me the reasoning behind those behaviors. And it wasn’t a completely new idea, it was one that is just never realized.

Below are the reasons why I would or would not subscribe.

To Email Subscribe.

I only subscribed to websites with my email that offered me something- like a bonus. Plus…would also keep me informed on a regular basis about a topic that I was interested in.

Those same websites would tell me about their sign up rates, their conversion rates etc. I then used their information on the content websites that I had just created. Which is wrong- it is hard to compare websites.

So when people check out email marketing websites and find that they have a 40% sign-up rate and a similar open rate…and tons of visitors it is like WOW! OMG! Tell me more, show me how you did it! So you want to subscribe, you want to know how these people do it. You want their techniques, you want more information over time.

But when you apply those same techniques to your content website they do not work.

People don’t care that much about your website. Unless you have targeted the right type of people.

Now Amazon is a huge company that uses email a lot. They email me like everyone else who uses Amazon. Not because I asked them to, but they send me information on my order but they also send me wasted emails on items that I don’t want. I have started to delete them now.

Due to scale it is likely that someone is going to buy through one of those emails. And with the amount of emails they send, scale dictates that it will probably be worth it for them (especially when most people buy 2 items to get the free shipping).

But it is a wasted opportunity because they know that I regularly buy from them but they have failed to engage me. They have even failed to figure out what I like and to email me why or offer something free, like an ebook/ small video from the content providers that I have bought from.

So if anyone wanted to copy Amazon they would send product recommendation after recommendation, maybe get a few sales but nothing to sustain the time and energy it requires for such a campaign.

No email subscription.

I don’t subscribe to any website if I have just looked. I also don’t subscribe to any website if I am looking for a “how to”. Like how to repair a toilet. Once I have found out that information the likeliness that I want to know a vast amount more on that topic is highly reduced.

So when people search for keywords they automatically find “how to” keywords great… and create webpages based upon those. But for me, I don’t care to subscribe using my email. No point.

But, if I found your website a bit more “pro” and I was in the plumbing trade or I classed myself as “semi-pro” then your website would give me the information that I would require. If you have new tools, new techniques that could save me money and it’s updated regularly then subscribing to your website would be a smart move- especially if you targeted the semi-pro/ pro as your prime visitor.

Flip side of that is targeting the complete novice. You would be surprised on how many people do not know how to use a screwdriver. But many websites don’t even cater to those people. There is always an implied assumption. An assumption that you have a range of tools and know what 3/5ths is.

So now, from my prospective we have 2 types of people

  • Window shoppers– like me who only check out websites that offer “one off” information
  • Browsers- who look inside and offer an olive branch of hope that maybe, just maybe the information that is on the website translates into something cool with their email. I know it is a personal, but I also know that I don’t have to look at the email. They don’t know me from the email and I can unsubscribe. There are many get out clauses

Around 1/3 of all participants asked in most email surveys ask for relevance in their email.
Obviously this means that 1/3 of email is not relevant to the client. It is such a waste of time and effort to see that stat.

I would rather have a low subscription rate and target the right type of people who would enjoy my email content which would also increase my open rate. Than to open up the flood gates and subscribe everyone in sight.


I only promote on any social network something that is going to look awesome to anyone that reads it. I might promote a place but mainly content. My friends, colleagues and people who I like to talk to are on there. So anything that gets shared needs to be of better quality, needs to be of need to the group and all out, ultimately my name is implied in the endorsement of the share.


Bookmarks are my go-to. Yep, they might be old. Yep they might be cumbersome, but to me they are the rolodeck of contacts that no-one else has. If I find a plumbing site that keeps on coming up with the answers to my toilet needs. Or the first time I arrived they nailed my issue and I found out more totally awesome information then I bookmark that website.

No email subscription.

I don’t care about them that much. I also don’t believe that constant emails is going to help me, but I know that if I get stuck then this website is going to be the go-to. As long as they keep up the content, just as I found it.

However local trades people have now clicked into this idea. I used to go direct to a plumber’s shop who was a 10 minute drive away. They took the time, opened items, accepted back items that didn’t work and even directed me to a large competitor hardware store across the road. I checked online for a rough outline of what my issue was about and then went to the small plumber’s store.

Tip of the day?

See what people are doing. Are they bookmarking, subscribing or socializing your content. Now what you need to figure out is what are they then doing.

So, if 1000 people socialized your website, 1000 people bookmarked your website and 10 people subscribed to your newsletter you would be annoyed at the email right?

But how about if you found that those 10 people contributed to 90% of your total revenue? The socializing and bookmarking did very little apart from increase your search placement.

In this case you would try every means possible to subscribe more- not changing the promotional sign-up page because that seems to be helping to sieve out people who you do not want.

In another scenario you might find that Pinterest was your number one source of traffic and income. Then you wouldn’t spend tons of cash and time on search engine placement right?

Ultimately before you build a website you really need to figure out what your audience is used to and offer that as a primary contact source. Offer the others but focus on that one primary source.

One business knew before they started that Pinterest would be their primary source of traffic, referrals and revenue. Within 2 years they were making around the $1m mark.

Now again, this is not to say you should go out and market Pinterest to death, it just means there are some ways to communicate with people much more effectively and efficiently than others.

PDF Version: Email Open Rates.pdf