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Christopher Knight

Why Does My Email or Ezine Open Rate Slide Downhill?
By Christopher Knight

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Is your ezine "Open Rate" sliding worse than a coastline house in a mudslide into the ocean? Is there something you can do about it? An Ezine-Tips reader sent me this letter and I'll answer some of the questions or issues:
Dear Chris, As someone who's just learning the email marketing ropes, I'm grateful to have your Ezine Tips as a valuable resource. Here's my reader question: I'm noticing that spam filters are causing a real problem for ezine publishers. This month, my open-rate went down by 50% and I thought it was because my readers had come to despise me for some unknown reason.
If your open rate goes wacky once, but it's normally very stable, I'd investigate but not worry too much about it. If your open-rate is down 50% over last month, I'd question the list size, the source of your members and look for relational issues regarding your mailing frequency, among other factors.
I learned the real truth when I opened an alternate email address of mine where I send my own mailings to myself "just in case." There, I discovered two of my own ezine mailings, slumming it among the spam mails in my bulk folder. No wonder my response rate has been so poor lately! I always run a spam check before I send my ezine out, so now I'm completely confused. Why did an issue that I sent two months ago get through to this same email address with no problems, but all of a sudden I'm cast away like yesterday's Viagra ad?
Spam filters change daily, and many change hourly due to shifting patterns in spam loads... very similar to the rolling codes on a typical garage door opener (that changes access codes with each use to prevent someone from being able to open your garage door). A few years ago I was doing an in-depth spam filter analysis and I discovered that the most efficient spam filters change their algorithms hourly and with different levels of restriction in different days of the week. Spammers are often creatures of habit also and can be identified sometimes by time of day they send.
I would imagine that many ezine recipients do not take the time to whitelist their senders' addresses, despite our repeated instruction to do so. From the recipient point of view, I do notice that fellow marketing friends of mine who send me regular mailings ALSO frequently end up in the bulk folder. But at least I know to look for them there.
It is a smart idea to remind them to white list you, perhaps giving them the reminder in your:
  • Confirmation reminder / thank you page (right after they sign up)
  • Welcome Message
  • Each Email Newsletter Issue
Am I missing something I should know? Is the problem with my ezine management host? What's the best way to get your audience to whitelist you without harassing them? Your advice is much appreciated. Regards,
Dina Giolitto
Copywriting Consultant
Your email list hosting management service provider can have a lot to do with your deliverability, but if you hired a top notch email service provider... you've already overcame the spam filter penalty often given to software-based email list management providers or shady email service providers. Having 7 years in the email service provider business (I'm the former CEO of SparkLIST) taught me that direct marketers make for lousy email service providing vendors. Know who else makes for lousy ESP's? Shopping cart providers. They don't have the same motivations that an email deliverability freak would want or desire for their servers or their permission-based mailings. Trust me: You want an email deliverability freak managing your email list hosting & management needs. Here's a good ESP rule to follow: Your email list hosting service provider should be earning at least $2-5 million per year solely from permission-based email list hosting & management services. At that level, they have the proper motivation to run a clean ship and pay extra-special attention to email deliverability issues.

Open Rates Expected To Slide Further in 2006

I'd expect open rates to continue to slide slowly due to many email clients not allowing images to load with HTML emails. Without that image loading, you don't get an open-rate response. I've noticed another trend where email clients will forward an HTML email, but the forward will strip the HTML code from the emails...further making it impossible to track open rate. If you think image suppression is a problem here in the USA, a EU Working Party is proposing that it's a privacy violation to allow tracking images used to track open rate. I think they've gone too far in this fight.


If you are already asking your readers to whitelist you when they sign up, in your welcome message and in each email newsletter you send... you've already done what you can do to accomplish that outcome. The next step to troubleshoot why your open rate dropped 50% is to contact your ESP and then look for historical trends along with any list growth or list growth source that seems largely out of your norms. You may also wish to test time of day for your sends and which day of the week produces the best results. Having surfed your ezine, I think your ESP can help you sort this one out better or perhaps they will give you the needed motivation to find a replacement ESP to better support your ezine publishing goals.

This Ezine-Tip was submitted By Christopher Knight -- Email List Marketing Expert, author and entrepreneur. Get your weekly dose of Email newsletter publishing, marketing, promotion, management, email-etiquette, email usability and deliverability tips by joining the free Ezine-Tips newsletter:

Ezine-Tips for June 16, 2006

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