My newsletter open rates have been consistently hitting over 55% recently.

But it wasn’t always like this.

The 6 months prior my open rates were on the decline despite a growing list. I loved the growth, but hated the lower open rates.

First, what’s an ‘Open Rate’ and why does it matter?

(It might be obvious to some, but maybe not all so here’s a high-level explanation.)

Your open rate is the percentage of your email list that opens your emails. There are typically two open rates people focus on:

  • Campaign Open Rates. Each email you send has its own open rate. This is the one I keep a closer eye on, and was concerned with the steady decline.
  • Total Average Open Rate. Most email service providers (ESPs) provide you with a Total Average Open Rate (TAOR) — the accumulated average of all open rates for all every campaign sent.

Open rates matter because they tell you how many people are opening your emails. While it might not be 100% accurate, it’s an important metric to monitor.

Fact of the matter is, we’re sending emails to sell something — either directly or indirectly. So, more opens means more potential customers. More product sales, more coaching service sales, more ad revenue dollars.

And for those selling ad spots, your TAOR matters. Advertisers want to know how many of your subscribers are likely to be exposed to their ads.

My newsletter earns ad revenue. A declining open rate was a concern.

So I tried a few things.

The 2 reasons I believe my open rates have INCREASED lately:

  1. I stopped “resending to unopens”. This improved TAOR, but lowered the ‘overall’ campaign rate.
  2. I pruned my list (ie. deleted cold subscribers). This improved my campaign open rate and TAOR.

Here’s why I recommend you consider both options to improve your open rates.

Why I Quit Resending to Unopens to Increase Open Rate

I read this piece by Tyler Denk in December. Tyler co-founded beehiiv and was one of the first hires at Morning Brew. He knows newsletters. I was using ConvertKit’s “resend to unopens” feature for the past year. This feature allows you to resend an edition of your newsletter to those who have yet to open it.

When used, this is how the open rates look in ConvertKit:

As you can see, there’s an overall campaign open rate, an open rate for your First Send, and an open rate for your Resend to Unopens.

Why resending is a bad idea

Your most engaged subscribers will open your first edition within a few days. And so you’re resending your newsletter to less engaged — or cold — subscribers.

It should come as zero shock that open rates for those “resends” are low. As Tyler explains, resending with low open rates could do more harm than good:

“..a lower open rate increases the chances that [Gmail and Outlook] bulk your email into spam, or block it altogether.”

So the priority shouldn’t be getting fringe subscribers to open. It should be to maintain a higher open rate. Tyler states:

“A high open rate shows email service providers like Gmail and Outlook that they should continue to deliver your mail to recipients’ primary inboxes.”

And that leads us to my second point…

Swallow Your Pride: Delete Your Cold Subscribers

I wrote all about cold subscribers before. Back in May 2022, in fact:

image of an ice cube melting with headline for article

But I have a confession… and I’m ashamed and embarrassed to admit it.

I never took my own advice. I was clinging to the vanity metric which was my email list size. I couldn’t see past the numbers. But two months ago, I finally did it: I deleted over 360 cold subscribers (over 10% of my list).

My only regret? Not doing it sooner.

The result? More opens. More clicks. Better engagement. Those are the metrics that matter more than list size. The goal should be engaged subscribers — not the size of your list.

But before you trim the cold subs…

Check out this great article from ConvertKit on how to best go about it.

And here’s the 14-day re-engagement automation I used to give cold subscribers one last chance to stay on the list.


Of course, it’s harder to monetize a smaller list. And we all want to make that newsletter money. But growth at all costs is pointless if most of your list is ignoring you.

Focus on quality content and high deliverability (skip the resends), and swallow that pride and prune your list.

Your list will grow in time and it will be built on a foundation of quality.

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