Subject Line Best Practices

July 20, 2012 Chris Leonard

Whether we like to admit it or not, when it comes to emails, recipients typically judge the book by its cover.  Subject lines can drastically influence response rates, either positively or negatively, which translates into either won or lost sales.

Adestra Email Marketing conducted extensive subject line analysis research that encompassed nearly one billion emails across six different business sectors.  Below, we’ve condensed their report into a list of best practices that have been proven assets in the fight for higher conversion rates.

  • Consider your email’s objective when writing a subject line – are you focused on opens or clicks – and tailor your subject line to that end.
  • For clicks, the longer a subject line, the better.  Longer subject lines allow you to showcase more benefits and improve results.
  • 6-10 word subject lines deliver high open rates, but lower clicks.  (Consider this length for awareness led emails that don’t need a click through)
  • 49 characters or less in a subject line equates to 12% higher open rates.  60-70 characters is the dead zone.
  • Any word relating to money will engage the B2B sector.  Mentioning price, discounts, or symbols can create a big uplift in both opens and clicks.
  • Using the acronym “B2B” in emails focused at the B2B sector can cause response rates to dive.
  • Using the words “conference”, “seminar”, or “webinar” have much less impact than stressing the benefits of an event in the subject line.
  • Personalization is extremely effective across all channels.  If you’re confident in your data, try to include a person’s first name in the subject line.
  • Always remember to stress the benefits, not the features of an offer.
  • Don’t rely on overused questions or cliché lists, these drive both opens and clicks down.
  • Rather than the generic “Newsletter”, “Forecast”, or “Intelligence Report”, brand your newsletter with action words such as “Bulletin”, “Alert”, or “Update”.
  • Readers respond strongly to “Video” and “Interview” content.  Staying current and cutting edge is vital, especially in the B2C sector.
  • The word “Free” doesn’t do anything for results.
  • Exclusivity, or teasers, work well to entice the B2C sector to view and click an email.

It’s important to realize the affect subject lines have on driving open rates, click-throughs, and eventually sales.  Everything matters, from the number of characters and words in a subject line to the tone and key phrases.  There is no perfect solution, but creating and continually improving your subject lines will help drive conversions and sales.  Never stop testing, analyzing, tweaking, and retesting.  Remaining agile and responsive is crucial in generating higher conversions.

Source:  Adestra Subject Line Study

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