Deleted Before Reading: How to Tackle this Sneaky Hidden Metric

It’s easy to keep your mind occupied with monitoring metrics such as clicks, opens, and conversions—so much so that other metrics are often forgotten about. My favorite of these often ignored metrics is deleted before reading rate. It measures the action a subscriber takes to clean out their inbox without actually reading the message you have worked so hard to send them! As a subscriber, I am perpetually guilty of deleting the vast majority of the messages I receive without opening a single one—and that only applies to the messages that actually make it to my inbox. The brands and organizations that once drew me in as an eager subscriber have now become my nemesis, filling up my inbox with 30+ emails per day that all end up in the email marketing graveyard, aka the trash.

This is a trend that reaches far beyond my modest personal inbox. Leveraging our vast Consumer Network, Return Path concluded in the recent Hidden Metrics of Email Deliverability report that deleted before reading rates have increased an average of four percent from 2015. The sneaky little brother of negative engagement, a high deleted before reading rate is an indicator that your mail just isn’t instilling the same starry-eyed response in your subscribers as it used to, and is a potential reason your mail could be going to the spam folder. Rising rates of subscribers deleting mail without reading sends a loud and clear message to mailbox providers—their email account holders do not want your mail. Leveraging Return Path’s Inbox Insight tool will give senders the ability to monitor this hidden metric of deliverability, as well as keep a close eye on competitor rates. 

So now that you know you might have a problem—what can you do to fix it? Here are a few ways to turn the tide on your unengaged subscribers, and perhaps get them to delete after reading for a change.

1. All hail the almighty subject line
This little line of text has the power to influence their behavior, whether that means keeping your core subscriber circle engaged, warming up a hesitant newbie, or reeling back in forgotten drifters. It’s easy to get into a lather, rinse, repeat mentality with your subject lines—however by doing so, you could be missing out on a key opportunity to avoid the recycle bin.

  • Use subject lines that play off current or upcoming events. In Players Aren’t the Only Ones Who Scored In March – Return Path looks at how the savviest brands capitalized on March Madness to increase engagement. Consider taking a similar approach with your subject lines, and use current events to your advantage! Keep an eye out for less traditional “holidays” and events that other senders might not have thought to leverage (Tax Season, Kentucky Derby, National Donut Day, etc.).
  • Test adding relevant emojis & symbols to your subject line. Return Path recently analyzed the effect of emojis around themes and holidays throughout the year. Test out some of these emojis in your upcoming campaigns.
  • Try using a play on words or adding humor. Instead of “All Sandals on Sale Now!”, test out a new approach—”Life’s A Beach: Find the Right Sandals!”. Make sure to keep your brand identity in mind, but try to have a little fun! Humor is a great tool to encourage subscribers to open your message and can make them think twice about immediately deleting.

2. More isn’t always better
When it comes to asking the why for deleted without reading rate, it’s important to not let frequency slip your mind. Perhaps you think your frequency is fully optimized, or maybe you realize you have a problem but don’t quite know how to tackle it. Either way, taking a step back and assessing how often your average subscriber receives a message from you is a crucial first step. The cost of acquiring new subscribers can be hefty, so why not try to keep your current ones around a little longer? Consider adjusting frequency based on subscriber engagement—your most active readers might be able to tolerate that daily cadence that you have always maintained, but the same cadence might be pushing your less-engaged subscribers closer and closer to either “unsubscribe”, or “This is Spam”! As a first step, segment your subscribers into recency buckets to understand how each group is contributing to your program both positively and negatively. If you find that your least engaged subscribers are barely contributing to your opens, why not take your foot off the gas a little?

3. Keep it relevant
Your content and personalization (or lack thereof) is also a key component that could be contributing to high deleted without reading rates. Ask yourself, how different are the offers and creatives that you are sending your subscribers? Are you sending them the same sales over and over? We have all seen the brands in our inbox (or spam folder…) that never seem to alter their promotions. Even the least savvy subscribers can easily bore of this tactic. In order to keep your messages fresh and relevant, it is important to leverage all data in your possession. If you have geographical information for your subscribers, use this to your advantage to create targeted promotions. If you have purchase data on your subscribers, consider promoting other items they might be interested in, and remind them when it might be time to buy again! Overall, treating your subscribers as individuals is an important tactic in keeping your relationship happy and healthy—don’t let your brand fall victim to the one size fits all approach.

We all know that getting to the inbox isn’t easy, and preventing your subscribers from deleting can be even harder. Use the above strategies to make sure your program isn’t getting stale, and above all, always remember to test!

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