The email “open rate” fallacy

One of the benefits of using email newsletters is that you get stats, including the number of people who have opened them.

But… I’ve been saying for some time that you shouldn’t focus on email newsletter open rates.

It’s the wrong metric to watch.

And it could be misleading.

There are two reasons.

First, it’s not accurate. The way that open rates are calculated (and there’s no other way to do it, as far as I know) means that many opens don’t get counted. This is because opens are counted only when a tiny invisible image is shown in the email. The trouble is, many people read emails without showing all the images. And so they don’t get counted.

Second, open rate isn’t a metric that brings money into your business. Instead it’s new listings and closed transactions.

Now, you might say that a higher open rate correlates to higher activity, and to some extent that’s true. But it’s not the whole story – and I know of instances when newsletters with a lower open rate have led to more business. Just because someone opens an email doesn’t mean they are going to contact you, let alone list with you.

Take these emails you are reading, for example.

My stats show that they have a very low open rate – much lower than my clients get with their newsletters.

The open rate is low because there are no images required to read these newsletters, so people don’t click on “yes” to download images.

But I know they get me more clients because I have tracked the improvement over time.

Here’s another funny thing: the other day I sent out an email just to people who, according to my system, hadn’t opened these messages in the past four months. I wanted to know if they still wanted to hear from me (after all, I don’t want to email people who aren’t interested).

But I got several messages back saying, hey, I do read your emails.

They just weren’t being tracked as having been opened.

So here’s the thing:

Don’t worry about open rates. Instead, consider how your business has improved six months after contacting your database regularly.

That’s the only metric that matters.