Are Your Emails Being Opened and Read by Subscribers?

by | Nov 5, 2019

Email Marketing SeriesWhen your subscribers receive your emails…

  • Do they open them?
  • Do they read the content of your emails?
  • Do they click links in your email?

These are key questions we need to ask ourselves. The answers ultimately can predict your level of success. Email has the highest ROI of any online marketing channel.

To keep things simple, services like MailChimp are email service providers.  These services allow you to send emails to many subscribers correctly and can track a variety of statistics.  When I say email service, I’m referring to services like Gmail, Outlook or email you get using your company domain.

It is important to understand that only HTML emails are trackable. You’re looking at an HTML email if you see images, colors, text styling (bold for example) and links that aren’t written out. If you send a plain-text email, counting opens is not possible. Counting clicks is not possible unless you use a link shortening/tracking service like

Email service providers include a tracking pixel in all HTML emails they send. This is a tiny graphic that is unique to each subscriber. They count how many times that graphic is requested/loaded. To count clicks, they do something similar by creating unique URLs for each subscriber and count the click before redirecting to the final URL.

If a subscriber has turned off image loading, the open is not counted because the tracking pixel is not requested.

Opens and Clicks

By using an email service provider like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor, you have access to a variety of email statistics.  The two big ones are Opens and Clicks.


Opens tell you how many unique opens occurred and how many total opens occurred.  An “open” occurs each time the tracking pixel graphic is requested.  This doesn’t mean the subscriber actually read the message.  If their email client has a preview pane, the message could be loaded and counted without the subscriber ever reading it.


If you have links in your message, a click is counted each time the subscriber clicks. Most services tell you how many times each subscriber clicked each link.

Others Statistics

Some other statistics to look at are:

  • Successful Deliveries
  • Bounces
  • Unsubscribes
  • Spam/Abuse Reports

Successful deliveries count how many subscribers received the message. A message that does not bounce is considered delivered.

Messages that aren’t delivered because the subscribers email service rejected it are considered bounces.  There are two kinds of bounces, hard and soft.

A hard bounce occurs because:

  • the email address doesn’t exist
  • the domain doesn’t exist
  • the email service is blocking the sending domain or all email from the email service provider

A soft bounce occurs because:

  • the email box is full
  • the email service is down

Unsubscribes and spam reports are what they are.  If you consistently get a lot each time you send, you’re going to get a call from your email service provider.  Having a high number of either means you’re likely purchasing emails and not getting them organically (using forms on your site for example) and/or sending too often.

What do all these stats mean to you?

If you’re getting a high number of bounces, that obviously lowers your successful deliveries.  Email service providers take issue with this and so should you.  You don’t want to pay for subscribers that aren’t getting your message.

If your rate of successful deliveries is 95 percent or more, you have a clean list of valid email addresses.

Dividing opens by successful deliveries gives you the open rate (%). If you’re seeing opens rates above 20-25 percent, you’re doing well generally speaking.  Open rates vary by industry though. If you see open rates lower then your industry average, you could try the following:

  • A/B test subject lines
  • Change the sender name/email address
  • Include preheader text
  • Improve your on-boarding for new subscribers
  • Change the time your send your emails and the frequency of those emails

If everything you do doesn’t change your open rate, it likely means your subscribers aren’t in your target audience.

If your email is getting opened but not getting any engagement (clicks, shares, forwards, etc.), you might try the following:

  • Change the design of the entire message or parts of it
  • Make the email mobile friendly
  • Change the structure and layout of the content

Great content is useless if it is hard to read because of design or how it is presented.  Content that isn’t getting read will not get shared or forwarded. More importantly though, calls to action will never happen.

Recent Blog Posts

Why Website Accessibility is Important

Most people rely on the Internet for information, services, and social interactions. As the online community continues to expand, it is crucial to ensure that websites are accessible to all individuals, regardless of their abilities. Website accessibility is pivotal...

Why SEO is made easier with AI

Artificial intelligence has revolutionized the world of search engine optimization, making improving your website's visibility and increasing organic traffic easier than ever. By harnessing the power of AI, you can take your SEO efforts to new heights. Here are five...