New Research Shows Value in Longer Subject Lines; Email Copywriting Tips From Twitter Chat

Longer subject lines may be the way to go…on

It may be time for you to get a bit more wordy in your subject lines. New research from Alchemy Worx, a London-based email service provider (ESP), shows that although shorter subject lines may generate higher open rates, longer subject lines—more than 70 characters—“earn a much higher click-to-open rate, an indication of real relevance.”

The click-to-open rate is the ratio of unique clicks as a percentage of unique opens. So the idea is to measure the number of people who open your message and proceed to click on a link. The thinking is that these folks are more engaged by your subject lines—and then content—than those who just open and don’t click through.

This also comes after an excellent SIPA Twitter Chat yesterday about email marketing. (Check the archive here for the full conversation.) And it comes before a SIPA 2012 Conference (May 20-22) that will feature a session on email with FDAnews President Cindy Carter and Real Magnet CEO Tom Pines, a session on keyword research and reporting with Kim Mateus and Don Nicholas of Mequoda, a session with email expertJeanne Jennings, and roundtables on Email Lists (should you rent or build) and Email Automation.

The Alchemy Worx report says that for years shorter seemed better for subject lines, but that may just have been because they got truncated at 40 characters. Now, 100 characters are often visible in a subject line, and users can control what they see. Looking at 646 subject lines, they found “longer subject lines to be markedly more effective for driving an action.” They also a found a “dead zone” of 60-70 characters where neither the open rate nor the click-to-open rate do well.

The report argues that to be most effective, shorter subject lines are often catchy and, yes, sometimes misleading. So a person may open a message and see that it really does not interest him or her. “Getting more people for whom the message is relevant to open the email requires a subject line that is specific and detailed, which usually requires more words or characters.” They also contend that the click-to-open metric is better because it measures content and design as well.

The study supports the idea of multiple thoughts in a subject line. This “ensures that all the propositions contained in the email are communicated, maximising the number of relevant customers that open.” In other words, why hide a topic that may be relevant to your customers just because you think the subject line is too long? Though they do say that if you have one strong thought and can convey that simply—like “Early-bird rates to expire April 30” (as SIPA 2012’s will)—there’s no need for more words.

The dead zone idea makes me a bit scared to check my past subject lines. They say that a 60-70 character subject line is either going on too long about one idea or going too short about ideas that deserve better.

Among yesterday’s best lines in the Twitter Chat:
“Top mistakes in email copywriting: too long, not enough links, no call to action.”
“Biggest mistake is a lack of structure. Each element should move you toward the click.”
“Don’t ask someone to marry you on the first date.” [about not moving too fast in an email]
“Choose one strong link over a dozen weak ones. It helps you focus your message too.”
“The more you can make something relevant/useful to someone, the better success you’ll have.”
“If content is king, then segmentation is queen.”
“Focus on benefits to the recipient, not features of your product/service.”
“There is a trend towards ‘undesigning’ emails to make them look more legit—like a real person wrote it.”


So it seems like only yesterday that early-bird
rates for SIPA 2012 were a few months away.

And now it’s just a couple weeks!
The time to act is now!

SIPA’s 36th Annual International Conference
Create. Sell. Deliver.

May 20-22, 2012
The Capital Hilton, Washington, D.C.
Sign up at early-bird prices today!

Amazing keynotesexpert speakers, 30-plus
roundtables, certificate programs, awards
presentations and other exciting sessions.
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    Mike R.

    I guess that makes sense – a longer subject line will have more detail which will help more people make of a decision before they open the email. It does, of course, mean that your subject line now becomes even more vital and your body copy perhas less so.


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