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How to Create Emails with a 47.8% Open Rate and a 28.3% Click Rate

this guest post is by Moon Hussain of Experiments in Passive Income.

Contrary to popular belief, you need great copywriting skills to make a successful income online.  For over a year, I thought publishing good material would not only help me go viral but also hurl me and my blog towards Planet Success faster than Superman gets rid of Kryptonite every time it’s in his sight.

No.  Such.  Luck!

In fact, very recently, I sent an email to my small email list and conducted a split test using Aweber.  The idea came on a whim.

Since I was releasing my new free report, why not also alert the people on my email list of it, and get a few more downloads, re-tweets, and Facebook likes from them? After all, these so-called gurus keep yelping that the money is in the list.  I decided to give it a go.

Here are the only details you need to know:

  • I have a super-small email list.
  • The only difference between the split tests was the email subject line.
  • The main email message was exactly the same for both versions, word for word.

Check out how my message fared with both groups:

How to Create Emails with a 47.8% Open Rate and a 28.3% Click Rate

The full subject line for Group 1 reads, “You Won’t Find These Details Anywhere Else [Free Report].” The second subject line reads, “I Think This Could Help Your Rankings Tremendously [Free Report].”

What is really interesting to note is that while the percentage of opens is very close (47.8% versus 41.6%), it’s the percentage of the actual clicks within the email that’s really surprising: 28.3% vs. 5.1%.

The nerd within me is ecstatic and has learned a valuable lesson here.  What if I had not tested with two different subject lines? I would have received a small number of actual clicks and would have been quite bummed that I didn’t get a good response.

For some reason, even though both email messages are the same, the subject line alone triggered the first group to take action.

Could this make or break someone’s product launch? You bet. Pay attention, small bloggers.

Do the math, kid!

Suppose someone has 500 people on their email list.  Assuming their product is in demand and their copywriting skills are top notch, this person of course would love to sell as much of their product as possible—especially on launch day.

47.8% versus 41.6%?  Who cares?!

If this person didn’t test their subject lines, and even achieved the open rate as I managed, that would mean that out of 500 people, only 210 people would open their product-targeted email message (42% * 500 = 210).

Out of 210 people only 5% would click the link to the product page.  That results in 10.5 people, rounded down to ten.  How many of those people actually buy is a mystery … but we can agree that the more people click, the better.

But now let’s image the better case. In this version, 48% of 500 people open your product email, which amounts to 240 people.  Of those, 28% bother clicking the link to your product page, resulting in about 67 people checking out your slick product page.

What sounds better?  Ten people checking out your page or 67?

Yeah, I thought so! That’s almost seven times more people!

You can use this data to tweak your sales page as well, making a huge difference in sales numbers!

If you have a blog and a small email list, and want to transition to an income-generating blog, you need to pay attention and follow these four ultimate copywriting rules… you know, so you can buy the latest tech gadget that will light up your social life (like the commercials show!).

#1.  Create hounding curiosity with your email subject line

Consider both these headlines: “You Won’t Find These Details Anywhere Else [Free Report]” and “I Think This Could Help Your Rankings Tremendously [Free Report].”

The second subject line makes the reader think a little, bit but in the MMO niche, people are tired of the same old thing.  Perhaps this subject line alludes to something these people think they’ve already read about.

The first headline hints to exclusivity (details that can’t be found anywhere else), which gets people excited and curious.  Seems like they were more curious to find out these exclusive details through my report, which is indicated by the number of clicks the link within the email received.

Send a boring subject line to your email list and you’ve failed at the start line.

#2. Tell people what’s in it for them

Of course you want fame, fortune, and money, but you can’t come off as a money-grubbing fool who uses his or her email lists for pure profit.  You have to serve your readers first, or your actions will come back to haunt you.

These people are on your email list for a reason: they want to learn something from you. Here’s an excerpt from the email that I sent to the people on my list:

“I’ve been pretty busy the last few weeks, which is why you may have noticed that I’ve scaled back my posting frequency on my blog, EIP.  However, I’ve also taken that time to create a free mini-report for you that details how I’ve managed to rank several sites in the top 10 and top 20 of Google.

“I don’t like wasting anyone’s time, especially yours.  But, you’re reading this for a reason.  You are trying to rank your sites and need some powerful information. There are details here that I thought twice about sharing but I’m really glad I did.”

Not only do I indicate what my report is all about (ranking sites) but I also remind the readers that I’m only sharing this with them because they are on my list for this type of information.

It’s a win-win. The readers get a free report and I get the traffic I want.

#3. Direct people where you want them to go

Stop being shy! It got me nowhere, and it’ll do the same for you.  Here’s how I asked people to check out my report:

“Here is the direct link to my free mini-report: [link].”

To be honest, I could have done a better job here.  This is a soft pitch.  I could have directed them a bit more aggressively by rephrasing the call-to-action to “Download my free report…” or “Check out my free mini-report…”  Words like “download” and “check out” not only tell the reader what to do, but also give the reader a mental command to go ahead and take action.

#4. Build on the curiosity to the point where readers can’t resist

If you read the two paragraphs from my email, you’ll see three key sentences in there that really made people curious.

Phrase 1: “I’ve also taken that time to create a [free mini-report] for you that details how I’ve managed to rank several sites in the top 10 and top 20 of Google.”

My readers come to EIP to see how my niche sites are doing and how I rank them in Google.  I know that they are interested in this information because they are interested in doing the same thing! I created a highly relevant report for them and enticed them by sharing the fact that I’ve managed to rank my sites in the top ten and 20 in Google.

Phrase 2: “I don’t like wasting anyone’s time, especially yours.  But, you’re reading this for a reason.  You are trying to rank your sites and need some powerful information.”

I reminded readers why they’re on my email list. I reminded them of their own need to do well with their niche sites and blogs.  If I have something powerful to share (especially for free), they could use it to do well with their own sites and blogs.

Phrase 3: “There are details here that I thought twice about sharing, but I’m really glad I did.”

That’s not some slick phrasing for the sake of a few clicks—I’d think more than twice about using that phrase again.  When I was writing my report, it’s quite true that I did think twice about going very in-depth with the details.  At this point, the readers were really curious about what I had in store for them.

What’s so smart about split testing?

Not only is split testing necessary, but writing with a purpose goes hand in hand with testing.  If you are going to put hours and hours into growing your email list, and creating autoresponder emails and guest posts, you may as well work hard to demand the utmost attention from every reader who comes across your work!

None of that will happen in great numbers if you don’t improve your copywriting skills.

Copywriting skills are the difference between making $50 a month or $5000 month online.  In other words, your copywriting skills will either make you or break you.

Moon Hussain lives in sunny Southern California and loves exploring passive income ideas.  Check out her blog, Experiments In Passive Income, to read all about her niche site experiments or download her free ebook, To the Moon & Back, in which she details everything she has learned about ranking niche sites.

About Guest Blogger
This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.
  1. Email marketing is definitely the best way of interacting with your readers and making money at the same time. I’ve always wanted to start an email list but I’ll refrain from doing so until I can get a loyal group of readers and build a core community on my blog.

    • Harshit, absolutely. I believe as long as you have great content on your site that your visitors will find helpful, why not set up an email list? A free incentive (a valuable one or this can backfire!) never hurts.

      • Moon! I followed your method for my free website directory and I got the following results:

        Subject: Review’d Newsletter – Is Your Site our Best Site?

        Industry Avg: Open Rate – 22.37%, Click rate – 2.85%
        My Avg: Open Rate 46.2%, click rate – 20%

        not bad huh?

        – tork

    • Harshit – I would strongly recommend starting an email list right away. This is not something you should postpone.

      Start with just sending out your posts to your list. This would actually help you create a loyal group of readers – people on the list would get regular emails from you which would keep reminding them about your site. Plus, they would click at times and come to your site.

      Good luck!

  2. Nice title by the way. Instantly caught my attention. And you rightly pointed out, unless we test & tweak our campaigns, we can never be sure what works. In your case, with a CTR of about 28% (which is highly impressive), I believe you’ve hit the nail on its head.

  3. Is a 47% open rate bad??

    • That rate is very good actually. A majority of subscribers will be on many email lists and get distracted or lose interest (hopefully not!) and possibly stop opening your emails. Many lists average 20%

      • I believe it’s a great open rate. I think anyone can achieve it if they plan things and do a decent job with their messages. The message was sent out to all my subscribers, very new and old.

        Thanks for commenting with your experience, Gabriel.

    • ~20% is average.

  4. So true, so true! I started split testing about 3 months ago and have been astounded by the results – though I have found that simple headlines get more results than the more traditional ‘marketing’ blag ones. Great article Moon!

  5. @Gary, I think 47^ open rate is excellent.
    I haven’t started email marketing because I am a still new pro-blogger. But I have felt the art of writing and talking, that is the art of words. Even if two persons talk about one thing, the result will be different. This phenomenon exists not only in English but also in Chinese.
    Your post is an entry level course for me:D Thank you.

  6. I just recently created a haphazard blog I want to become serious about. I’ve been reading some of your posts and they’ve definitely been eye opening. I can’t wait to start getting my first few meager checks to start dumping into advertising.

    My design is pretty terrible but it will come in time. It’s a lot to take in and I definitely don’t want to get burned out trying to over extend my promoting and growth.

    Just saying thanks!

    • Rob,

      Thanks! Remember to focus on one thing at a time or else you’ll become overwhelmed. Those first few meager checks are so inspiring.. ;)

  7. Your open rate will be drastically impacted on where your subscribers come from as well, but regardless, these are impressive numbers and a great guide to copywriting!

    Thanks for the post!
    -Gabriel Johansson

  8. This post is fantastic! Wish I had the time to make such tests… Thank you for showing me how important copywriting skills are!

    You showed me how ridiculous my email messages and their titles are. I have to pay more attention to this matter. Thank you for opening my eyes.

    • Christina, no problem. I was pretty surprised to see how much difference it made using a different title-one group felt the need to take more action.

      Fascinating stuff.

  9. Oh dear – you lost me when you started throwing percentages around. As a writer, I am awful when it comes to stats. I guess i just don’t care enough and it does reflect in my readership figures (oops there’s a stat I do care about!)

    The problem with being a creative person is that we don’t take enough notice of what works and what doesn’t. We just write what we like and hope other people do too. To be fair this works most of the time, but if there are simple ways of making things more targeted, I guess we should all take more notice!

  10. Great article here, Moon.

    I especially like the “Do the math, kid”! Just by doing the math your eyes get open to a new whole world.


  11. Martijn Le Febre says: 08/04/2011 at 4:23 am

    The results of this specific split test sound really impressive. However, there is one important thing to keep in mind: the super small sample size.

    With very small sample sizes there’s a danger of misinterpreting the results. Effects could be smaller or even inversive by using bigger samples. The bigger the sample, the more reliable the split test.

  12. We dont know the absolute number, just the percentage, but if your samples are too small, the difference between the two tests could be simply luck. You need a certain size to achieve statistical significance.

    • Alain & Martijn,

      Absolutely! However, the post is targeted at bloggers like me who have a small list. Just sending out an email to your list won’t cut it anymore: we need to split test to see what works most effectively.

  13. I noticed your screenshot – curious, what email marketing service / app are you using? Looked like it was a wordpress plugin. Thanks

  14. These are excellent open rates! Between my websites, I have a list of about 6500 in Aweber. My open rates average 25%, and clicks average 10%. Achieving the rates mentioned here would be awesome.

    Maybe its time for some rigorous split testing for me as well!

  15. Hi Moon

    You have giving me so terrific advice here! Right now, people have to go to my blog in order to get interested. Now I have another tactic. Thank you!

  16. good points Moon – i think the key is to tie each element of your newsletter together as evident in what you have done, from the title, to the body to the call to action.

  17. Some of these email marketing tools make it especially easy to do the whole split testing thing. I know MailChimp for example specifically prompts you to think about it.

    • Josh, Aweber made it really easy. Can’t remember right off the bat but it was as easy as crafting the subject lines and determining if I also wanted to alter the email message.

      But if I can do it, anyone can :)

  18. I’m a big split testing fan in email marketing and have created great results. Take care with small email lists though. The results may not be valid but just randomness, see this post on how to get your sample size correct in testing http://dmaemailblog.com/2011/07/29/split-testing-sample-size-lookup-table/

  19. Split testing is awesome. This comes from someone who has not had the opportunity (i.e. not enough traffic) to use it yet, but the benefits are obvious. Great stuff Moon!

  20. Very Interesting. We send out emails every month and monitor. We get 1% unsubscibe and over 50% click to site, so I will try variations. Thanks

  21. I am new to email marketing. This is good info for me, I will try your suggestions and tips and lets see how it works out.

  22. Would this work if you were trying to push an actual product or service rather than a free e-book?

  23. Great analysis Moon. I wouldn’t think of split testing on a small list, especially with a non-sales message. It doesn’t take much extra effort to run a split test. If nothing else it’s honing your copywriting skills which is always important.

  24. Nice, I’ve managed to get my 5,000 subscribers ticking with different headlines!… Using Charlie Sheen seems to work for some reason!… ;]

  25. The split testing is good, but I think the example was bad. Why?

    1. The list is “super small” (as the author stated) thus the results are not accurate. It’s like conducting a survey by asking only dozen of people.

    2. The bigger the list the smaller the open rate. The average rate for a solid email list (60k) is around 20%. The click rate is around 10%. Of course there are guys who’ll go above and below that but that is the average. I suppose most of the readers use Aweber but here is some research from MailChimp http://mailchimp.com/resources/research/email-marketing-benchmarks-by-industry/

    3. BTW @Moon Hussain, the click rate percent is not calculated from the people who opened the email. It’s calculated from the number of people that email was sent to.

    4. As I’ve said split testing is good but for a solid result you need a volume and many trial/errors.

    • Vlatko–your point about the volume of the list is very valid. As I commented earlier, bloggers who only have a small list or have just started building a list–this post is to show them the importance of email split testing.

  26. Wow! Thanks for the informative post and idea for my future content.

  27. It is a fine line between serving your list and p*£&ing them off. You have to be so careful as you have spent all that time gaining subscribers to then losing them!

    A 47% open rate is really good, on of my best was 36% but the click through is always pretty low. So I need to work on my content inside the email


    • Absolutely correct, Craig. Last thing you want to do is anger or disappoint the people on your list so they unsubscribe.. undoing all your hard work of getting them in the first place!

      Make sure to test & test.

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