Notice anything last week about your email open rates since Apple’s new email privacy changes?

(We’ll wait if you haven’t had a chance to look.)

Did they go wacky? (Ours at The Tilt did.)

Many elements can affect your open rate – subject line, preview text, content in the body, etc. But in this case, there’s only one prime suspect: Apple and their new email privacy changes.

On Sept. 20, Apple rolled out iOS 15. Upon launching the Apple Mail app, users are asked to pick “Protect Mail activity: Hide IP address and load all remote content” or “Don’t protect Mail activity: Show IP address and load any remote content directly on your device.”

Who’s going to say, “Please, don’t protect my email”? Earlier this year, when Apple asked users downloading apps to opt-in to tracking, only 4% did, according to Flurry Analytics.

And yet, marketers are leading the charge to do just that. Two days after the change, email strategist Samar Owais declared it was “official ‘Gift a click’ day. Every marketer in my inbox is asking me to click so they can continue to have a handle on their data post-iOS15.”

That’s not the play you should make. Don’t ask your email audience to give up their privacy just so you can keep your open-rate metrics. (Frankly, most of them probably won’t do it, and you’ll end up in the same discombobulated state of uncertainty.)

Instead, change your email game. (And that’s critical given Apple email users are increasing, making up 38.9% of email users in the first quarter this year – up 5 percentage points in one year, according to Litmus.)

Apple #email users represent 38.9% of total email users in Q1 2021, notes @LitmusApp. #iOS15 #newsletters Click To Tweet

Tilt Advice

You have to do something, even if it’s just realigning your open rate metrics. Here are five ideas to consider with these new email privacy changes:

1. Monitor open rate for non-Apple Mail clients

Segment your email lists into two categories: Apple Mail subscribers and non-Apple Mail subscribers. Then, look at the past 30 or 90 days to see the open rate for the non-Apple subscribers. This analysis will help you understand their unique behavior and set up your ongoing monitoring to see any changes in their behavior in opening your emails.

Caveat: Don’t make this the only email metric you monitor. Unless your Apple audience is a tiny sliver, you should know what emails resonate best with them too.

2. Establish a new open rate benchmark

If you don’t want to segment your lists based on email application, set a new open rate goal based on activity since Sept. 20. If you send out emails at least weekly, look at the average open rate through Oct. 20 and use that as your new standard benchmark. If you send out emails less frequently than once a week, analyze the average open rate on Nov. 20.

Caveat: Use this only as a stop-gap measure. We expect the increased activity in privacy regulations by providers, states, and federal governments to only increase in the coming months and years.

3. Stop using open rates as an informative metric

Cease this week using open rates as an evaluator. Note the change in your analytics report. Inform any sponsors or other partners who rely on that data why you won’t be using open rates as the primary measure of effectiveness.

New and expanding privacy controls mean open rates aren't metrics that are especially helpful, says @AnnGynn. #newsletters #contententrepreneurs Click To Tweet

Caveat: Don’t use this as an excuse to stop measuring. Find better alternatives (keep reading.)

4. Create more click opportunities

Elevate the value of your click-through rate to understand what content resonates and motivates your email audience to take action. Add more clickable links in your content. Among options:

  • Include excerpts of your content that will entice the reader to click to read the rest of the story.
  • Incorporate internal links to relevant articles, videos, or graphics within your site.
  • Add external links for every reference to a company, product, attributable sources, etc.
  • Insert polls that your audience will want to take (and learn what others think too.)
  • Host giveaways and other contests, linking to the entry form and rules in the email.

Caveat: Use “utm tracking” codes within your URLs to better understand how your email “campaign” is working. Here’s an example from Orbit Media on what that looks like “”

Tip from @Orbiteers: Use #utm tracking codes in your #email campaigns or #newsletters to understand user behavior. Click To Tweet

5. Ask for more than an email address

The simpler the opt-in form, the more likely someone will complete it. Asking only for an email address couldn’t be simpler. Consider whether you want to add another field or two for new subscribers to complete. 

If geography is important to your content business, you could ask for a ZIP or postal code as that is far less intrusive than an individual mailing address. 

Or you could ask for additional information further down the road. Use a lightweight marketing automation system. For example, create a free e-book that they can receive if they provide their first and last name, company name, or postal code.

One more thing

The bottom line? If you create great content – content your subscribers really want – and use enticing subject lines, these email privacy changes should have a limited effect on your end results.

If you create great content your #subscribers want, #email #privacy changes should have a limited effect on your end results, says @AnnGynn. #ContentEntrepreneur Click To Tweet

About the author

Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. An IABC Communicator of the Year and founder of G Force Communication, Ann coaches and trains professionals in all things content. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.