Email Marketers Guide to 35% Higher Read Rates and 50% Lower Spam Rates

Colorful clips

Guy Hanson, Director of Response Consulting at Return Path, recently presented some very interesting data around email open rates. This research was centered around marketing emails sent in the Daily Deals market. Although specific names aren’t mentioned in the study, top brands that come to mind are Groupon, Living Social, and Scoutmob. Some of this data will surprise you.

Best day of the week to send – the argument continues!

Although you need to do your own testing, in this study the worst day to send was Monday and the best was Wednesday.  The rate that recipients actually read your email was 12% higher on
Wednesday. And, the rate at which internet service providers (ISPs) filter email as spam was 20% less! Why did ISPs mark less email as spam on Wednesday? Probably because Wednesday is $1 sushi day at the restaurant in the lobby of the Google building, and they are too busy eating to bother with your email. Actually it was because the read rates are so high. The more Gmail customers that open and read your email, the better. So the ISP filters less of your email out as spam. On Mondays, since the read rate tended to suck, the ISPs marked a lot more of your email as spam.

“Campaigns with “free” in their subject lines have read rates that are 12% higher than those without.”

Yes, you read that correctly. I’ve told my email marketing clients for years that you should watch out for words like “free” in your emails because ISPs tend to flag it as spam. But, based on this study, I’ve been made into a big, fat liar. And I’m not fat. There is a new normal that is forming in email marketing and that is  if recipients open, read, and click your emails, that indicates engagement. The ISP stops automagically filtering emails that contain a particular word (like “free”) if the engagement rate is high enough.  Heck, if enough recipients engaged with an email containing the word “Viagra”, Gmail would likely let it through to the inbox.

Wednesday also means less spam filtering

But there’s more about this magical day called Wednesday. Not only is it a day where Loraine in the cube next to me didn’t kill another ficus tree*, its also the day that ISPs are less likely to filter your email as spam.

Wednesday generated 1/3 as much spam filtering as other days

Subject line positioning

Which of these do you think would make a better subject line?

  • 20% off all ficus trees today through Sunday
  • Now through Sunday save 20% on ficus trees
  • Loraine, don’t come to our store, you’ll just end up killing that ficus tree anyway

Does it matter which of these you choose? The first one might just result in a 35% higher read rate. Let me explain. Since the first words of the subject line are the first thing that the recipient sees, placing the discount immediately at the far left of the subject line resulted in:

  • Read rates 35% higher
  • Subscribers are 4 times less likely to register a spam complaint
  • They are also twice as likely to re-classify false positives as “Not Spam”
  • Spam Filtering levels are almost 50% less

(Discount) size matters

Be careful! When you add a discount offer into your email subject line don’t get too carried away. Subscribers are not interested in giant discounts. They simply do not believe in giant discounts and are not likely to open the email.

Smaller discounts generate higher average Read Rates than larger discounts.

On top of that, ISPs applied a much heavier hand when filtering your email as spam. If your discount was 75% or more, the ISP blocked 50% of it. How’s that for a waste of your marketing time and money?

Test for yourself

Since this study was centered around emailers sending out Daily Deals email blasts, don’t just assume this applies directly to your business. Every industry has a different set of best times of day and day of the week to send email. If you are just starting out, it is fine to use this data as a starting point. Just test and retest to see what happens with your emails.

Suggested: Really sneaky HTML problems in your email marketing campaigns and how to fix them 

Need help with email marketing terminology? Read The Noob’s Zen Guide to Email Marketing and Social Media Speak

* Sorry, you’ve just been drug into our office humor. Our faithful employee Loraine has no proclivity to keep a ficus tree alive. Her tales are legendary though-out our blog.

About Nate Goodman

Nathan Goodman is a freelance fiction writer and the bestselling author of The Special Agent Jana Baker Spy-Thriller Series. "A terrorist on the loose, a country in panic, and time is running out..." For a free copy visit the author's website.