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What are successful email subject lines?

Mar 17, 2014 | Advice, Marketing

Email is becoming increasingly ineffective as a communications medium as inboxes groan at the seams. This is a creates problems for senders of email newsletters and marketing. How do you get your target readership to open your message in amongst thousands of others competing for attention? Your content might be insightful, useful and attractive, but if no-one opens the mail, then they will never know.

Email subject lines play a massive role in helping drive up (or bring down!) open rates. Outsourced email platform Mail Chimp recently analysed some 40 million emails to see which had the best and worst open rates. The best ones were in the range of 60-87% open rates and mainly featured simple subjects including the name of the company and a quick description. The worst ones had open rates below 14% and appeared to contain a high proportion of exclamation marks and offers! Mail Chimp now provides a tool that allows you to test your subject lines against the data it has gathered.

Of course, Mail Chimp isn’t suggesting that this data means that if you use a subject line that says “<company name> newsletter” you will get excellent open rates. It is more do with setting the expectation of your readers correctly. If your readers have signed up for special offers emails and you send a company newsletter then your open rates are likely to be unimpressive. It says that you should set readers’ expectations correctly and have a subject line that accurately describes the content of the email.

Changing trends in email

Other research in email subject lines comes from Adestra, which looked at a staggering 2.2 billion emails from 90,000 campaigns. Overall the research suggests that successful email subject lines are quite explicit about what is in the email. So using terms like “Sale”, “New” and “Video” are all fine to promote that content.

Interestingly, it says that email usage has changed with fewer and fewer signing up for newsletters means that including the term “newsletter” only provides a very small uplift in open rates, but a strong (-18.7%) decrease in click-through rates. In addition, content marketing strategies appear to been over-used, meaning that terms such as Report, Learn and Book were all trending down. You can check out the full results in Adestra’s report.

"Alert vs Report" From 2013 Adestra Subject Line Analysis Report

“Alert vs Report” From 2013 Adestra Subject
Line Analysis Report

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