Q&A: Dropping opens with consistent clicks?

Q: Dear EmailKarma,

I’m working with a client that is concerned that they are starting to see delivery issues with their regular email messages. They’re seeing a decrease in open rates of the course of the year – they didn’t see a decrease during the summer last year so they’re looking for some insight into why this trend might be occurring. My initial thoughts are increased number of email clients that default to disabling images. I believe this might be the case because the Click Through Rates are consistent. Any thoughts?


A: Your right in thinking that open rates are down due to the image blocking software that many ISPs, especially webmail providers, have been employing. Hotmail has released Live mail and has been rolling this out to their users around the world (Microsoft also released Outlook 2007 with images blocking features), Yahoo mail is in Beta and is rolling out to members, and AOL has disabled images in their latest web client.

All of these factors are leading to lower open rates, but this is not a bad thing and here is why:

  1. Realistic view of readers as these individuals are actively calling/asking for your images
  2. Provides insights into subject lines, relevance and targeting effectiveness

Here are a number of things you can do to help with your opens:

  1. Remember “Add to Address book” language during the; opt-in, the first welcome message and every message afterwards.
  2. Treat consistent openers differently then your infrequent/never openers. These are your loyal viewers and should be treated as such.
  3. Test subject lines on your subscribers. Try a minimum of 3 different subject lines against ~10% of list to each one [total 30% of list], send the winner to the remainder of your list [remaining 70%]
  4. Read the Email Open Rates Guide from Email Marketing Reports.

Do you have a question for EmailKarma? Email them to contact.

Author: Matt V - @emailkarma

Matthew Vernhout is a digital messaging industry veteran and Certified International Privacy Professional (Canada) (CIPP/C) with nearly two decades of experience in email marketing. Matthew is 250ok’s Director of Privacy, and he is currently the Vice Chair of the eec, after serving for several years as the Chair of their Advocacy Subcommittee. Matthew was recognized as the 2019 eec thought-leader of the year.

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