7 *easy* tips for better e-mail open rates & deliverability

Cranky marketing guru shouting into bullhorn - You must have an e-mail list!

Every marketing guru insists you must have an e-mail list. But it’s hard to find solid advice on building a list filled with engaged subscribers who regularly open your e-mails.

Friend, we are not marketing gurus. Or even e-mail marketing experts. But what we can tell you is what is working to sustain and grow our e-mail list.

Our list is not like lists in popular, fun, easy niches.

It. is. difficult.

When people new to us come to our website, it’s usually because they have a problem they want fixed nooowwwww. Not because they’re intent on subscribing to a list that may help them solve/prevent problems later.

[ it will, and maybe you should, but we’ll come back to this ]

These tactics have their genesis in the genius of Meera Kothand. We desperately grabbed from Meera what we could quickly implement, adapting and adding where needed. When it started working, we went back and added more to our mix.

[ we’ll also come back to Meera Kothand’s highly-relevant e-mail marketing tips ]

After more than a year of struggling to get more than one or two subscribers a month, we are now getting subscribers nearly every dayin our impossible niche.

If you’re an entrepreneur or blogger in an average niche, and you have quality content and a lead magnet that aligns with your service or blog offerings, the tips and tactics below will help you blow us out of the water.

By next month, probably.

How we boosted our e-mail deliverability & open rates

  1. Auto-confirm subscribers. We don’t require a separate confirmation e-mail before we add a subscriber. We just purge them if the address turns out to be bad.
  2. DIY an actually-useful confirmation. Instead of using our e-mail service provider’s inbuilt “click to download and confirm,” we set up the first e-mail in our sequence to essentially do the same thing. It’s a really short e-mail designed to quickly deliver the opt-in. When they download, it registers as a click. That’s a good signal for their e-mail app/service and can help deliverability of future e-mails from us.
  3. Front load the welcome sequence with value to the greatest extent possible. Make it worth their while to open, and to click. When the value you’re delivering comes in the form of something that also indicates activity, e.g., another click/download, an image they want to see, it’s more likely to register as an open and send another positive signal that helps your reputation.
  4. Spread out the value/welcome over enough days that it strengthens the connection – without exhausting or irritating your subscriber. This is tricky. We do well with it because we keep each message super short, and include a heads up that we’ll send them another related thing the following day. We only do a three-day welcome sequence.
  5. Tell new subscribers exactly what to expect. As mentioned above, we use each e-mail in the sequence to briefly prep subscribers for the next. After the last of the three welcome e-mails, we tell them we’ll be back in a few days with the first of the tips newsletters they signed up for.
  6. Don’t be afraid to prune your list. Up until recently ours had barely grown. As I write, it’s only around 100 subscribers. Pruning a tiny list like ours is painful at first, but ultimately helps quality and deliverability.
  7. Check with your e-mail service provider to see if there is anything you can do with your DNS records to improve deliverability. ConvertKit helped us with this; they added things on their end and gave us text to add into records on our end.

Longer term tactic: Focus on list quality – not quantity

Something to think about as you’re working on your e-mail list strategy is who you want on your list.

It’s really important to try to appeal only to people you want to serve and who’ll be happy with the content or services you offer. If the value you provide and what your subscribers value isn’t in alignment, your list won’t grow or help you or your subscribers.

Ask us how we know.

Our audience of independent entrepreneurs and bloggers needs help with their e-mail lists. I wrote this post to serve them, not to attract people interested in e-mail marketing.

If you’re an entrepreneur or blogger with a WordPress website, you might be a good fit for our list.

However, if you’re only here because you Googled and this post fit what you were looking for, and you don’t have a WordPress site, our list would not serve you well.

If you subscribed anyway, excepting the unlikely scenario of you suddenly becoming a WordPress user, you wouldn’t value the content enough to open regularly. That would take our open rates down a bit, and send signals to your e-mail app that our content isn’t worth opening.

Everyone loses 🙁

So you can probably see why we’re not throwing out lead magnets about e-mail list building. Virtually all our tribe has or needs an e-mail list and should be concerned about open rates. But not everyone who needs help with e-mail would be happy in our camp.

Before you throw out a lead magnet or a promise to AH-maze subscribers if they sign up, it’s important to think about who you’d actually like. And if they’d like you back.


Our go-to for e-mail marketing education is Meera Kothand. Her “300 Email Marketing Tips” book is the best place to go for focused help on e-mail marketing. Entrepreneurs and content creators will also find a lot of value on Meera’s website, MeeraKothand.com.

We use and recommend ConvertKit for e-mail marketing. It seems pricey if you want a free solution, but when you compare it to anything with comparable capabilities, it starts looking like the budget alternative.

It’s possible to do more-complex things with a paid MailChimp plan, but it costs more and does less than ConvertKit. We recommend MailChimp if you need a $0 solution for collecting e-mail addresses and keeping your list warm until you can move to ConvertKit or better.

Finally, if you’re a creative entrepreneur or entrepreneurial blogger with a WordPress or WordPress.com website, our weekly e-mails will help you do your thing better and more easily. Join our tribe here.

Some of the recommendations in this post include affiliate links. Here’s why.

Every day we research, test and work with numerous products and services that help us (or our clients) successfully run WordPress websites and blogs.

It’s work we don’t actually charge anyone for, and it often takes a considerable amount of time. Many of the companies whose products or services we choose use part of their marketing budget for affiliate programs designed to encourage people like us to spread the word.

Even if you don’t work with us directly, you can benefit from and support the solid advice we work hard to provide. Purchasing a product or service using one of our affiliate links may pay us a small commission, without increasing your cost.

We stand behind our recommendations and think you should use products/services we suggest whether or not you use our links.

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Everyone tells you an e-mail list is a must if you want to succeed online. That's only half true. What you really need is e-mails that get delivered & opened. Here's a post with seven simple things we did to get our e-mail list growth UNstuck. #emailmarketing #convertkit #listgrowth #business #entrepreneur