However compelling your cold emails are, they won't amount to much if your prospects don’t open them to read. That's why nailing your cold email open rate is crucial for any successful email campaign.

In many cases, emails get ignored because they’re irrelevant, fail to spark interest, or simply appear suspicious to recipients. Fortunately, there are simple yet effective solutions to turn the tide and get your emails opened.

In this article, you'll discover tried and true strategies to increase your cold email open rates. First, we’ll explain what cold email open rates are and why they matter.

Then, we'll walk you through optimizing subject lines, adding personalization, avoiding spam triggers, and much more. Stay with us.

Cold Email Open Rate Explained

The open rate is one of several key cold email metrics. It shows the percentage of people who opened your cold email.

In other words, it essentially measures how enticing your email is to open. Did the email pique enough interest for the reader to click and check out the full message? 

A high open rate means your emails are eye-catching and professional. On the flip side, a low open rate signals that something's not quite hitting the mark because it’s either what everyone else is doing or it raises some red flags.

Here's the formula for the email open rate:

Open rate = (Number of Unique Opens / Total Emails Delivered - Bounces) x 100

Note: Unique opens are emails opened per recipient. If someone opens your emails twice, only the first open is unique.

To put this in context, if you send 1,700 emails and 100 bounced while 400 were opened, your open rate would be 25%.

What’s the Average Cold Email Open Rate?

The cold email open rate can vary depending on several factors. That said, the ballpark figure of the average cold email open rate is 44%.

Anything below 40% means you're underperforming, which puts you at risk of a bad sender reputation. If your emails have an open rate of 20% or under, that’s often a tell-tale sign that your emails are landing in the spam folder.

In contrast, rates above 60% put you in an above-average category of marketers, and 80% puts you in the elite category.

But why should you care about this metric? Imagine sending 100 beautifully crafted emails, only to have 20 of them opened. That means 80 prospects never even saw what you had to say.

A higher open rate doesn't guarantee responses, but it does mean you're reaching your audience (a crucial first step). It shows that:

  • Your emails are bypassing spam filters

  • Your subject lines are interesting

  • Your timing is impeccable

This brings you that much closer to driving genuine conversations and ensuring success for your email campaigns.

Typing in a laptop's keyboard

Improving Open Rates in Cold Email Campaigns

While some view open rates as a vanity metric, savvy marketers know better. More opens mean more opportunities for better engagement, higher conversions, and a positive ROI.

Now, let's explore proven tactics for boosting your cold email open rates.

Use a Professional Email Address

You’ve heard it before, but first impressions are critical, especially when entering someone's inbox uninvited. Generic email addresses with free providers scream "spam" nowadays.

To get this right, keep these examples in mind.


Using a professional email with your name and domain adds credibility from the get-go and makes recipients more likely to open your emails.

Make Sure Your Emails Don't End Up in Spam

Spam filters are like bouncers at an exclusive club - they decide who gets in. Email service providers (ESPs) use spam filters to catch shady marketing practices.

To avoid getting flagged, work on making your emails relevant to your audience. This lets you build a good sender reputation and increase your chances of getting into primary inboxes. In email marketing, we call this email deliverability.

You can usually get a solid email deliverability by:

  1. Using a dedicated IP address

  2. Keeping a clean and active email list

  3. Authenticating your emails with SPF, DKIM, and DMARC records

Keep the Subject Line Short & Simple

You've got a split second to capture attention in a crowded inbox. Overly long or confusing subject lines are the fastest way to get your emails overlooked.

How can you avoid this? Aim for 6-10 words max (or under 50 characters) to make your subject lines display fully on most devices. Also, consider mentioning the key benefit or value from the get-go.

You want something punchy, intriguing, but above all, simple. After all, clarity trumps cleverness every time. Consider using QuickMail’s editor to refine your message for plain text sending.

For practical examples and best practices for crafting subject lines, check out our guide.

Avoid Spam Triggers Like the Plague

Certain words, phrases, and actions can accidentally trigger spam filters, dooming your open rates from the start. These should be avoided at all costs if you want your emails opened.

Here are some examples of spam triggers and what to do instead

Spam triggersBest practices
Overly promotional language like “buy now” or “limited time offer”Language that focuses on value and benefits rather than a direct pitch
Excessive punctuation (?!?!?) or special characters (%$#@&)Grammatically correct text with special characters only when necessary
Clickbait-y practices like ALL CAPS and too many emojisUse a professional tone and use emojis sparingly

Steer clear of spam triggers, keep your subject lines clean, and keep your emails professional for the best results. To automate the process, consider SpamTester to filter out these common triggers.

Segment Your Email List

One size does not fit all when it comes to email marketing. Segmenting your email list allows you to tailor your messages to specific groups of recipients.

To segment your list, first divide your audience based on their interests, pain points, industry, buyer persona, past interactions, etc. This way, you deliver hyper-relevant subject lines that pack more punch.

Next, think about how you would like to tailor the message to fit the segmented list. If you’re targeting someone in the health industry, for example, you might want to address pain points for that one specific industry in the preview text to personalize the email. 

If you’re targeting a specific group, you could highlight the benefits relevant to their role. You can even segment your list based on past interactions with your company and provide incentives for them to re-engage with your company.

Add Personalization to the Subject Line

Who doesn’t like seeing their name on screen? Adding a touch of personalization to your subject lines can work wonders for open rates. It shows recipients that you've taken the time to tailor your message specifically for them.

Now, too much personalization can seem gimmicky. But subtle personal touches go a long way in today's sea of generic emails.

Cautiously try out methods like including the recipient’s name, company, industry, or other key identifier right in the subject line. But there’s a golden rule here: only personalize if it adds value.

For example, the following examples are personal and captivating:

  1. "Hey [Name], we know you’ll find this interesting" 

  2. “[Name], here are some big problems with your website”

  3. “Oh no, [Name]”

example email step in a quickmail campaign with personalization

Make Your Preview Text Intriguing

The preview text is prime real estate that often gets overlooked. It’s a snippet of your email that appears alongside the subject line in most inboxes.

After an enticing subject line, use the preview text as a sneak peek that increases curiosity and encourages an open. Pose a thought-provoking question, tease benefits, include some personalization, or mention exclusive offers to compel clicks from readers.

Always Experiment!

adding a variation to a/b test a cold email in quickmail

Last but not least, never stop experimenting. Email outreach is dynamic, so what works today might not work tomorrow.

Knowing cold email best practices is one thing, but applying them to your audience is an art form. Everything from timing to frequency to word choice can affect your open rates.

Start by using A/B testing to experiment with different subject lines and preview text. Then, analyze the results and refine your approach to find that sweet spot that boosts your cold email open rates.

With enough testing, you’ll see your open rates skyrocket, and eventually, you’ll be in the elite category of marketers with an open rate of 80% or over.

Capturing attention is just the first step. When you nail open rates, it sets the stage for follow-up messaging that turns your hard-earned clicks into actual wins.

five people using their mobile phone
What Variables Should You Experiment With to Enhance Cold Email Open Rates?

You’ll need more than following best practices to improve your open rates since what works for one audience may fall flat for another. That's why strategic testing is so important.

Here are some key variables to experiment with:

  1. Time of send: Good timing plays a big role in getting opens. To find your sweet spot, try out different send periods (both time and day). Our study shows that weekends work better for opens, with Sundays being the best and Thursdays being the worst.

  2. Subject line personalization: Try out the prospect's name, company, or industry right in the subject line. But don’t overboard here.

  3. Urgency vs. Curiosity: A sense of urgency can prompt immediate action. Alternatively, interesting questions or statements can encourage openness. Use urgency and curiosity in your subject lines to see if they resonate. "Hey marketers, last call to claim your discount" or "The little-known way to grow your revenue" are good examples.

  4. Emojis in Subject Lines: A well-placed emoji can add a touch of personality to your emails - but they’re not for everyone. Go too emoji-crazy, and you'll look unprofessional or, worse, trigger spam filters.

The opportunities for experiments are endless. You can also:

  • Try long vs. short subject lines

  • Include numbers or go text-only

  • Switch between formal and conversational tones. 

In any case, let data show which hooks and approaches get the most clicks by testing to see what works.

Advanced Metrics

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between open rate and inbox placement?

Your open rate measures the percentage of recipients who open your email out of those who receive it.

On the other hand, inbox placement refers to where your email lands - whether it's in the inbox, spam, or promotions. While a high open rate is desirable, ensuring inbox placement is equally important for higher engagement and conversions.

What’s the difference between the open rate and the reply rate?

Your open rate tells you how many recipients opened your email, whereas the reply rate shows how many responded to it.

A high open rate gets your foot in the door. However, a high reply rate shows deeper engagement and more interest in your message or offer.

Is a 20% email open rate good?

It depends. "Good" is relative, depending on various factors. In general, though, a 20% open rate below our recommended benchmark of 40%. It could be a sign that your emails are landing in the spam folder.

Open rates vary by industry and target audience, but here’s what it means generally:

  • 20% or less - Bad

  • 30% - Below average

  • 40% - Just average

  • 50% - Above average

  • 60% - Good

  • 70% - Great

  • 80% or more - Elite level

What is the best day for email open rates?

There's no one-size-fits-all here. The “best” day for email open rates varies depending on factors like demographics, industry, and region.

In our study, Sunday sends had 18.7% of weekly opens and 15.5% of weekly replies. However, the key is to experiment and track your data to determine the best send time for your audience.

Are email open rates dropping?

Looking at the data, the email open rates have seen a decline compared to, say, a decade ago. But the game is far from over.

Observing proven strategies and fine-tuning your approach to see what works with your audience can get you exceptional open rates.

Ready to Start Improving Open Rates in Cold Email Campaigns?

Your open rate shows how effective your cold emails are at capturing attention. And now you know the proven strategies to improve this key metric.

But knowledge alone won't move the needle. It's time to put these tactics into practice. And that's where QuickMail comes in.

Our all-in-one cold outreach platform provides all the tools and resources you need to scale your email outreach effortlessly - all at affordable prices. And with our ever-ready support, we've got you covered every step of the way.

The path to increasing your cold email open rates awaits. Start your free QuickMail trial today!