Improve Opens With Search Terms!

Dear Readers,

One of the Email Diva's pet peeves is the use of superfluous exclamation points. If your copy doesn't express enthusiasm and energy on its own, punctuation will not help you. Rather, it does the opposite and makes you look like a huckster. But this idea, courtesy of Geene Rees at Acxiom Digital, is so good that it deserves an exclamation point -- maybe two!!

Dear Email Diva,

Here is a recent posting from my blog, about driving relevant emails through search.

Search Born Content

2006 was a challenging year for email opens and clicks. I am always asked by my clients; how can we improve our subject lines? Consequently I spent most of 2006 looking at successful emails and subject lines trying to determine what it was about the subject line that led to a higher open rate. Sure, shorter is better and inspirational can be good, but how many new subject lines will drive higher opens. There had to be a better way.



And then one night it came to me: WHAT ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS SEARCHING ON in Google and Yahoo?

Why not take key word phrases and let those highly ranked phrases craft the email content? Of course. How simple.

I went through the exercise with a client in the eyeglass category and pulled all key word phrases that ranked high for their selected root words. I eliminated phrases that were not relevant and found that there were about 20 phrases that could easily establish content categories for my client. The information was not only USER-GENERATED; it would guide my client to establish an editorial calendar for their email newsletters.

It's a beautiful, simple solution to creating highly relevant email content.

Geene Rees, Acxiom Digital

Dear Email Diva,

You wrote something in a recent article that frightened me. If a subscriber opens one of our e-newsletters in Gmail, for example, but has all the images blocked, does this count as an open? What exactly triggers an open? And if it's an image, can an alternative text-based trigger exist?

I've used unique opens and unique clicks as my two primary reporting metrics, but now I'm not sure if I've been under-reporting all this time.


Dear Nick,

An open is measured when an image is called from the email sender's server. Text opens cannot be tracked. For this reason, where possible, I measure opens as HTML opened/HTML delivered (rather than HTML opened/All delivered), as the latter includes text messages in the denominator.

Some email software will register an open if the reader clicks to the Web-based version of an email and then clicks on a link, even though no open was registered.

We recognize that the open rate is a flawed statistic, but it is consistently flawed. Right now, you have a useful trend as your baseline. While you can "improve" your open rate by employing the measures above, you will compromise the trend you have established. It may be more useful to improve your current open rate with subject line testing or delivery improvements, rather than changing your calculation.

This report by the Email Experience Council looks at the variation in email metrics reporting and calls for standardization within the industry. It also points out the danger of comparing your rates with your competitors or an "industry standard." Good reading.

Good Luck!

The Email Diva

Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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