Mailchimp has made designing, writing and sending newsletters easier than waxing a surfboard. But if you’re like a lot of brands and business owners I talk to, you might find that your newsletter open rates… well… kinda suck.

Most successful campaigns have open rates between 15-25%, but if you’re not hitting those numbers, don’t despair. In this post, I’m going to share a few trade secrets that’ll help improve your newsletter open rates. But first…

Why are newsletter open rates important?

Newsletter open rates are important because they’re a window to the performance of your email campaigns.

They tell you whether you’re on the right track or whether you’re so off track that you’re practically a lost soul. Just kidding, but they are incredibly important for two reasons.

The first one is that low email open rates can send a signal to ISPs that you’re a spammer. This can result in your emails getting sent to the spam folder more frequently, which lowers your newsletter open rates even further.

(The definition of a vicious cycle)!

The second reason is that open rates tell you whether people are reading your epic newsletters. You know? The ones that you spent hours writing and designing, only to have them sit unopened in an inbox.

It’s painful to hear, I know. And even more painful to see. The only positive is that for every problem, there’s a solution.

If you’re ready to improve your newsletter open rates, then read on my friend. You’re in the right place.

Here are a few ways to optimise your newsletters to achieve better open rates.

5 ways to improve your Mailchimp open rates

1. Take advantage of A/B testing

You know the saying – when in doubt, A/B test, A/B test and A/B test again.

Seriously though… A/B testing (which is comparing two versions of an email to see which performs better) is a great way to optimise your open rates. With this type of testing, you can test everything from the subject line to the sender name to see what gets your subscribers to open your emails.

Not sure how to get started with A/B Testing? Mailchimp has a great guide that walks you through the process step by step. They even have a handy tool that makes it super easy to set up your tests.

Once you’ve run a few tests and have some data to work with, take a look at the results and see what patterns emerge. You can then tweak your future emails accordingly (or even try the PAS copywriting formula) to get even better results.

2. Ensure your contacts are qualified (muy importante!)

An email list that numbers in the thousands but has incomplete data is the very epitome of a vanity metric.

Sure, having a big database you can communicate to is great, but it’s not nearly as effective (or efficient) as having a tight, well-oiled list of contacts who you know are interested in what you do.

One way to ensure your contact list is qualified is by requiring new subscribers to input their name and email address in a double opt-in signup process.

This means that after they hit subscribe on your website, they’ll receive an email asking them to confirm their subscription. This helps to weed out any fake or uninterested emails and ensures that everyone on your list is there for a reason.

Another way to keep your contact list qualified is by regularly cleaning it up. Just like you should clear out old wetsuits and surfboards every once in a while, you should also declutter your email list.

Remove any contacts that haven’t engaged with you in a while, or that have bounced (meaning their emails are no longer active). This will help to improve your deliverability rate, which is the number of emails that actually make it into people’s inboxes.

3. Avoid using spam trigger words

Congratulations. Prize. Discount. Special. Free. Win.

These are just a few of the words that will trigger spam filters. And ending up in the spam folder is the kiss of death for any email marketing campaign.

So if you’re looking to improve your open rates, avoid using these (and other similar) words in your subject lines. And before you hit send, do a quick check of your subject line and content for any spam trigger words.

If you find any, try to rephrase or rearrange your sentences so the word doesn’t appear right at the beginning.

Check out this list of almost 400 spam words before you send your newsletter.

4. Write better subject and preheader lines

I know, I know. It’s easy for me to sit here and demand that you just “write better subject and preheader lines”… but it’s true!

These are the first thing that your subscribers see, and if they’re not intrigued or excited by what they see, they’re not going to open your email. Here are a few tips to write better subject and preheader lines:

  • Make your readers curious by teasing something that’s coming up in the email content
  • Ask a question
  • Use emojis to add personality and visual interest
  • Offer a specific value proposition or benefit that your readers will get by opening the email
  • Solve a problem that they might be having

Just, please… whatever you do, don’t write bland, boring subject lines like “Newsletter for March” or “Check out our latest blog post”.


Instead, if you’re worried that your subject or preheader is dull, use this tool from CoSchedule. It’ll give you a second pair of eyes and some helpful suggestions.

Oh… and remember to make sure your subject lines are short, sweet and to the point. And your preheader text should be just as enticing, providing a little more information about what’s inside the email.

5. Send a test email to your phone

All of these things will help to better your newsletter open rates. And thanks to Mailchimp, there are lots of tools that make the whole exercise easier.

Before you hit send with a smug little grin slapped across your face though, do this: send a test email to your phone.

You might think everything looks great, but do you really know how it’s going to look in the inbox of your subscribers? By doing this you can check whether there are any formatting issues, images that don’t load properly or links that don’t work.

After all, 65% of emails are now opened on a mobile device. This means that if your email doesn’t look good on a small screen, you’re going to lose out.

So there you have it! By implementing these 5 improvements, you can easily level up your Mailchimp open rates in no time.

Good luck!