The optimal length for email subject lines has been hotly debated over the years, and it’s always a challenge to get the most meaning out of your limited characters. I just read a study that determined that most subject lines were between 41 and 50 characters, and subject lines with a whopping 61 – 70 characters had the highest read rates.
But a 61-70 word subject lines is just plain crazy
Keep in mind that we’re playing to a mobile audience, and these devices show just half that—25-30 characters. This report broke down the impact into ten subject types, then rated the read rate of some of the most common words/phrases in each group.
- Benefit. If you’re trying to appeal to your audience based on the benefits of your product or service, use words like best, easiest, fastest–prettiest fared the best.
- This is the category with words that are aggressively enticing you to click on that subject line. Words like shocking, you won’t believe. What works best? What you need to know.
- Command. Telling you what to do—open, click on or download. Use download—much better results.
- Discount. Discount did not perform well. Words like 2-for-1, clearance, sale. The winner with a low read rate percentage: Offer.
- How-to. Educating readers on how to do something may work for publishers, but it doesn’t work for subject lines. Save this one for another use.
- News. These are announcements about your products or promotions–words like introducing, announcing, find–not surprisingly, no one seems interested.
- Personal. Using pronouns to make this more personal was not particularly effective, so don’t squander your precious word count on pronouns.
- Reason why. These are words like steps and ways. A surprisingly low category, especially when considering the popularity of telling people 15 ways to do something or 10 steps to better whatever.
- Price. Avoid using dollar and percent signs and the word free—they were losers in this study. A note: these symbols, and especially the use of free will likely send your email directly to spam folders, though the report didn’t mention this.
- Urgency. Subject lines that convey a sense of urgency were the top performers. Let’s face it–people hate to miss a big opportunity. Words like expire, last chance, limited time are big motivators.
One more thing to keep in mind
If you include a call to action in your subject line, it should be positioned at the beginning of the subject line where it’s more likely to be seen.