Calculating the Open Rate for Your E-Mail Marketing Campaign

Open rate is one of the e-mail marketing industry’s most misleading terms. It actually measures the number of specific interactions with an e-mail server after the e-mail is sent expressed as a percentage of non-bounce total. Your e-mail isn’t counted as an open until one of the following interactions occurs:

  • The recipient enables the images in your e-mail to display either in the preview pane or in a full view of the e-mail.

  • The recipient clicks a link in the e-mail.

E-mail marketing programs (EMPs) calculate open rate by taking the number of tracked opens and dividing it by your non-bounce total; you can do the same:

  1. 1.Divide the total number of tracked opens by the non-bounce total to get opens per e-mail assumed delivered.

    For example, if 80 of 100 e-mails you send don’t bounce, and 20 of them are tracked as opened, you received 0.25 opens per e-mail.

  2. Multiply the number of opens per e-mail by 100 to get the open rate as a percentage.

    For example, the open rate for 0.25 opens per e-mail is 25 percent.

You calculate your open rate by using your non-bounce rate instead of the total e-mails sent because your open rate indicates the strength of your e-mail’s identity and content apart from the strength of your deliverability. Because e-mails that aren’t delivered can’t possibly be opened, they’re excluded from your open-rate calculation.

Because the default setting on most e-mail programs is to block images until the user clicks to enable them, some people scan through e-mails without enabling images at all. In such cases, the true number of e-mails that your audience views is probably higher than your e-mail tracking report’s open rate indicates.

Plain, text-only e-mails without any links or images are not trackable unless your audience replies to them directly. EMPs insert a blank image in every e-mail to ensure that open tracking is possible. It’s another great reason to use an EMP for your marketing e-mails.

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