Opens, Clicks, Conversions – Oh My! What to Do to Boost Engagement in Your Emails

March 31, 2015

boost email engagementGetting more engagement on your emails is the ultimate quest for email marketers. We’re all looking for the silver bullet that will give way toimproved metrics and subscribers who don’t just open, read, and click content, but crave it regularly.

While I can’t provide you with a magic solution to this never-ending goal, I can provide some insight about how to boost engagement metrics and craft killer content to help you send emails people want to receive.

We‘re all-in for email here at WhatCounts, which means we have a lot of email experts on our team. I wanted to leverage some of the great questions we’ve received and answered to give you the lowdown about email engagement.


There’s no getting around it — good engagement starts with your subject line and pre-header. You need an A+ subject line to get in and stand out in the inbox enough to compel an open.

Q: Have any tips for subject line writing to avoid spam filters?

A: Spam filters are triggered by more than just spammy phrases and all caps; they are also specific to your recipient’s actions, so good subject line rules are good spam avoidance rules. Lead with the most important information, make the reader curious about the benefits inside, stay true to your brand’s voice, and keep your subject line relevant to the content.

Q: What’s a good length for my subject line?

A: In email marketing, the general rule of thumb is to keep your subject line at 50 characters or less. In doing so, you’ll avoid having the subject line cut off especially on mobile devices. Also, a lot of our clients find short subject lines render higher open rate than longer ones. Test this theory out on your own audience, but in short—you can’t go wrong keeping it brief and to the point.

Q: How creative (crazy) can I get with my subject lines without blurring the line between attention-grabber and weird?

A: You can get as weird as your job and your subscribers will let you.

Your boss will (presumably) inform you if you cross any generally understood lines of propriety, brand standards or societal norms. Your subscribers will give you similar feedback in the form of open and complaint rates. The great thing about email is the low latency on the latter’s feedback. With our technologies, you can test a conservative subject line against a cRaZy subject line to a sample of your audience and then automatically deliver the better performing version to the balance of your list.


Once you’ve coaxed your subscribers to open your email, persuading them to stick around to read and click takes some effort. While personalization + behavior-based content is a no-brainer to drive clicks, there are some other, more general elements you should factor into your emails to provoke engagement. Think creative, eye-catching images, videos, carefully crafted calls-to-action, and original, click-worthy reads.

Q: What’s the deal with video in email?

A: Viewing video online has become accessible and commonplace, and consequently is becoming an important tool for email marketers. Due to the variety of email providers and apps, it can be difficult for marketers to understand how to use video as a part of their email marketing.

Unfortunately, due to security concerns, many popular email services strip JavaScript and iframes, two of the commonly used tools for embedding video. However, a few simple solutions provide you the ability to share this rich content with your subscriber base.

From a best practices standpoint, we’ve found success with customers embedding either an image suggesting video playback by overlaying a play button or other visual cues, or more frequently an animated GIF to accurately depict the motion of the video and serve as a teaser for a subscriber to view the video in its entirety.

Q: How do I make the most impact with email without offering a deal?

A: You don’t necessarily have to offer a deal, but you do have to convince people to read your emails. Convince readers to stay subscribed by understanding your value proposition – the unique value you provide to subscribers. It could be your email has the fastest news updates, offers the best industry research, or aggregates the most helpful content. Developing and integrating your value proposition will define the benefits of your email for subscribers.

There you have it, some of our best As to your Qs about boosting email engagement.

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