Worked hard to improve my email open rate

This month my newsletter had a 60% open rate.

But it wasn’t luck. It took a lot of deliberate effort to get there. I spent the last few months trying to improve it.

Here’s what worked for me.

📖 Create a reading habit

Every week I send out my newsletter on the same day, at the same time, with the same subject.

This helps get subscribers into the habit of reading your emails.

🚫 Avoid the spam folder

I make it very clear to my subscribers that I want to hear back from them.

When someone replies, it sends a strong signal to the Gmail algorithm that all your future emails should land in their primary tab.

🧼 Keep a clean list

Every 3 months I go through my list and delete subscribers who haven’t opened at least one email.

It’s important to make sure your sender reputation and deliverability stay high.

✍️ Use a custom preview text

Every week I try to write an interesting preview text to grab my recipient’s attention.

If you don’t, make sure the snippet of copy pulled in from your email isn’t something like “click here to view this email in a web browser.”

Why do I care so much and don’t focus more on growth? Because at the end of the day, I’m not interested in having a giant list.

I mean, of course the bigger the better. But what I really want is a bunch of people who are genuinely interested in hearing what I have to say about marketing.

  1. 4

    Hi @andreboso - quick (and genuine) question: I block all trackers in emails, so does that mean that if I sign up to your email list you'll remove me after 3 months?

    1. 2

      Hey Dave, see my answer to Merott. Apparently more people than I thought block trackers so I’ll need to come up with a creative solution. I don’t want to scare people away 🙂

      1. 1

        If you can send email to a segment of your list, send a note to the segment you're about to delete and ask them to respond if they want to stay subscribed. Some email list managers make it easy to do "re-engagement campaigns" and will include a "keep me subscribed" link in those emails.

        1. 2

          That's what I usually do for other projects, but the problem here is that people with trackers disabled would end up in that segment every 3 months. Pretty annoying for them.

          A good compromise may be cleaning my list every 6-12 months.

    2. 1

      I just created my HEY email account and it does the same thing for all emails, which I appreciate, but I knew this would impact email marketing quite a bit. Even more reason to encourage replies for indie devs!

      One thing though: it doesn't block images and such. I think having your own personal tracking would work fine in that case, but it specifically blocks SendGrid tracking. Sounds like a nice little product idea for self-hosted analytics.

      1. 1

        @davedavies I saw the demo for HEY. You're the first person I've encountered whose using it. I've had my email for so long and it's part of my GSuite so I'm a bit reluctant to switch.

        But...I spoke with a friend of mine and she's thinking of trying HEY for a new domain and she wants to use it more for its organization abilities.

        So I'm on the fence -- can you share your fav thing about it and your least fav?

        Thanks! 🙂

        1. 1

          I accidently deleted my last comment 🤦‍♂️ I'm waiting for my HEY invite to see what all the fuss is about! I've been using polymail.io for a few years, which blocks trackers by default, and I've been pretty pleased with it.

          I'm guessing all the good HEY usernames will be gone by the time my invite rolls around...

      2. 1

        This comment was deleted a year ago.

  2. 3

    Thanks, this is really helpful as I'm just starting my own newsletter.

    What if some subscribers use email tracking blockers? I'm sure some do. Aren't you then accidentally deleting some readers from your list?

    1. 2

      That’s a real problem for newsletter creators, especially now that tools like Hey are becoming popular.
      How do you measure your open rate and keep your list clean? I don’t have a good answer for now.

      1. 1

        Not just "Hey".

        Gmail has had tracker blocking built-in for a long time.

        I've been taking off quite a few lists (sometimes multiple times) because of it.

        At this point, if someone scrubs their list even though I regularly read it, I just wash it up to them not understanding blockers and don't sign up again.

        1. 1

          It's not that they don't understand blockers, but if they don't scrub their lists over time their deliverability will suffer and emails will start landing into spam.

          1. 1

            I don't agree that they understand blockers :) you're probably on the smarter end if you're on IH. Most that I reply to said "you can block those?" and didn't even know that was possible.

            I think you have to send one every few months to say "click here to stay subscribed" to those users as Merott suggested.

            It's not annoying to get those emails. It shows the owner of the list cares!

            1. 1

              Haha... Yeah I will probably end up doing that, maybe once every 6 months instead of 3 🙂

      2. 1

        Just thinking about this…

        What if once every 3 months, you sent an email to everyone who hasn't "opened" any of your emails, and asked them to click a link to keep their subscription active. Otherwise you assume they don't want to hear from you, or actually never open your emails (as opposed to possibly using a blocker.)

        Too much or too complicated?

        1. 2

          It’s a good idea and I was considering it. It’s actually a best practice called re-engagement email.

          However this means that some subscribers would receive a re-engagement email every 3 month and that could be annoying!

          (Also my current email marketing tool doesn’t have that feature yet).

          1. 1

            Got it, and makes sense, although I think it would be even more annoying to suddenly stop receiving emails and have to resubscribe! 🤷🏻‍♂️

          2. 1

            Great constructive conversation here 🙂 From the perspective of someone who blocks trackers, it's important for me to block trackers in spam and unsolicited emails, and as a result all trackers get blocked. I'm guessing that you'll be able to see who clicks links in your emails though @andreboso - is that right? Are you able to measure engement that way?

            Just off to sign up to your newsletter. Hoping you don't remove me in 3 months time 🤣

            1. 2

              No I won’t 😉

              I’ll be able to see clicks but since I don’t usually put a lot of links in my emails it’s not very helpful...

              This is a problem that everyone who does email marketing is going to face.

  3. 3

    Did I understand that right, that every email you sent has the same subject? So, they don't know what it is about until they open it, right?

    1. 2

      It has the same subject except for the name of the product featured that changes every week: “How I’d grow [Product Name].

      This makes my emails recognizable but at the same time encourages people to open to see what the product actually is.

  4. 2

    Congrats Andrea. Been follwoing you since you launched. Good work. Cheers!

  5. 2

    I've subscribed for a couple weeks now and really like your content. Keep up the good work! 🙌

  6. 1

    Congrats to your success: do you have some resources to learn copywriting better?

    1. 1

      Thank you! Take a look at Copyhackers.

  7. 1

    Cool idea, nice execution! Subscribed to your newsletter.

  8. 1

    Thanks for sharing

  9. 1

    Interesting idea to delete passive list members. Doesn't sound like common practice and at first, I thought it turned the open rate into a vanity metric but it makes perfect sense to me. Thanks for sharing!

    1. 2

      It’s a deliverability best practice.

  10. 1

    And what you have to say is fascinating! You make some interesting points in the case studies, many of which can directly translate to improvements in my own product (and many others on IH).

    Keep it up!

    1. 2

      Thank you Austen, that’s the goal 🙂

  11. 1

    Hey Andrea! I do the same things as you, but there is sometimes just blind luck. I had one time 91% open rate in my previous newsletter and an average 81% over the 15 weeks period. But how do people know what's inside without opening first? I guess average open rates are what matters.

    1. 1

      Wow 91% is crazy, not even my welcome email do that!

Trending on Indie Hackers
Finally, I think I've got a good idea 19 comments Building a course to help people level up their Software Engineering careers, what do you think? 10 comments Former Head of Growth at Morning Brew (3m+ subscribers), now running media consultancy. AMA! 10 comments Find SaaS Ideas #0015 7 comments Facing issues while dealing with user queries, can someone help? 🤔 2 comments 6 Simple steps to validate your business idea 2 comments