I was contacted and asked by a Mailchimp customer as to why her campaign had very low open and click rates. Looking at the report for the campaign (a day after the campaign was sent) there were 98.9% successful deliveries but an open rate of only only 3.2% and a click rate of 0.2%. The email campaign was sent to 3,519 corporate subscribers and almost all subscribers were employees of one specific organisation.
Analysing a high delivery rate and low open rate in email marketing
A delivery rate of 98.9% indicates that Mailchimp sent the email campaign and that the messages were received by the contacts email servers. The click rate isn’t relevant in understanding issues at this time as the open rate of just over 3% is extremely low; we need to understand why the delivery rate was high but the vast majority of subscribers didn’t open the email campaign.
Four causes of low open rates in email marketing
There are four primary reasons for low open rates:
Images not loading
Mailchimp mostly determines if a subscriber has opened the message when a transparent image included in every send email campaign is loaded. Many Australian government departments in particular block images from loading by default. This means that even if the recipient had read the campaign, unless the recipient had manually loaded images, Mailchimp won’t be able to determine accurate open rates.
Mailchimp not sending
We know that there was a 99% delivery rate for the campaign. In the case as described Mailchimp had sent the campaign.
Recipients aren’t interested in reading the campaign
The campaign as sent by the person that contacted me was an internal staff briefing. Similar email campaigns to the same list segment had resulted in good open rates. It’s therefore very unlikely that so many of the recipients would have made the decision not to open the email message.
The messages has been quarantined as spam
If the receiving email server determines that a received message is spam then we often see that the message was delivered (i.e. not bounced) but there are no or few recorded opens.
Why the Mailchimp campaign was identified as spam
The most likely reason for the high delivery rates and low open rates, after deduction of the four common causes for low open rates int his case, is that the campaign was identified as spam by the receiving server.
On looking at the email campaign as sent it was immediately obvious as to the issue; all text in the campaign was embedded on an image. Text should always be added as typed (or pasted) text and not saved to an image which is then added to an email campaign. Facebook provide a great way to test whether there is too much text on your email campaign images. Run your image through the free Text Overlay Tool and if the results are anything but ‘OK’ then your email campaign is likely to be identified as spam by email spam filters.
The email campaign sent by the person that had contacted me had been identified as spam because of the amount of text embedded on an image. An email should not contain an image with text saved to the image itself; Always add text as typed or pasted text in a Mailchimp text content block or image block where typed text is allowed.