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Understanding Email Open Rates: Addressing Low and Inflated Rates
Understanding Email Open Rates: Addressing Low and Inflated Rates

Low email open rates, High email open rates

Indu avatar
Written by Indu
Updated over a week ago

Email open rates are commonly used to gauge alumni engagement, but it's important to recognize their limitations. This article aims to provide a concise and informative guide to understanding email open rates, factors influencing them, and alternative metrics for measuring alumni engagement.

Section 1: Addressing Low Email Open Rates

  • The nature of email open rates: Email open rates indicate whether emails have been delivered to recipients and opened. However, they do not provide comprehensive insights into alumni engagement.

  • Factors influencing email open rates:

    • Email content: Ensure your emails are compelling, relevant, and personalized to increase the likelihood of recipients opening them.

    • Subject lines: Craft concise and engaging subject lines that pique recipients' interest and encourage them to open the emails.

    • Sender reputation: Maintain a good sender reputation by following best practices, avoiding spam triggers, and delivering valuable content consistently.

    • Recipient engagement: Encourage recipients to interact with your emails through call-to-action buttons, links, or personalized messages.

  • Potential issues with email deliverability:

    • Spam box placement: If your emails end up in recipients' spam boxes, open rates may be lower. Review your email content and sender reputation to reduce the chances of this happening.

    • Poor sender reputation: If many users mark your emails as spam, it can negatively impact your sender reputation and potentially affect open rates. Ensure your emails comply with anti-spam regulations and focus on providing valuable content.

  • The evolving email landscape: Email open rates are losing their status as the sole measure of alumni engagement due to limitations with email clients.

    • Tracking pixel limitations: Some email clients or privacy settings block tracking pixels, leading to inaccurate data on open rates.

    • Automatic email opening: Certain email clients automatically open emails upon receipt, artificially inflating open rates.

Section 2: Understanding Inflated Email Open Rates

  • Causes of inflated open rates:

    • Outgoing mail server filters: Scans count as opens, especially with hyperlinks or attachments.

    • Email Service Providers scanning outbound messages: Random scans for spam prevention.

    • Recipient spam filters: Security scans during email processing count as opens.

    • Opening from 'Sent' folder: Opening emails in email clients can trigger false-positive opens.

    • Accidental tracking pixel usage: Copying content with embedded pixels leads to false-positive opens.

    • CC/BCC recipients and forwarded emails: Opens by secondary recipients count for the primary recipient.

    • Opening bounced messages: Bounce notifications may include the full email with tracking pixels.

    • Preview panes and third-party tools: Loading emails in preview panes or scanning tools can register false-positive opens.

    • Integration/browser extension scanning: Scanning tools may generate false-positive opens.

    • Apple's Mail Privacy Protection Program: Initial download to Apple servers may trigger open notifications.

  • Considerations for accurate tracking:

    • Understand the limitations of open tracking for individual email engagement.

    • Use open rates to identify trends at scale rather than precise individual engagement.


Understanding and improving email open rates is crucial for measuring alumni engagement. By optimizing email content, subject lines, sender reputation, and recipient engagement, you can address low open rates. However, it's important to acknowledge that inflated open rates may be due to false-positive opens caused by various factors. To obtain a comprehensive understanding of alumni interaction, it's recommended to consider email open rates alongside alternative metrics and recognize their limitations.

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