The average email user receives 416 marketing emails per month. Whether yours gets opened, deleted, or forgotten altogether depends largely on the subject line.
An inbox filled with new, unopened messages is email marketing’s moment of truth. The right subject line opens up a conversation or a relationship as quickly as “abracadabra.” The wrong line condemns your brand to die alone in the dark. Great subject lines are like great billboards or great headlines — they telegraph easily understood information to drive immediate comprehension and action. Without effective email subject lines, email marketing is worthless.
It’s just as easy to click as to delete. Your 50 characters are competing in real time against scores of other marketing emails. They’re also competing against messages from friends, family, work, and social network notifications. An open is life. A deletion is death.
Adestra, a UK-based email service provider, looked at 2.2 billion emails from 90,000 marketing campaigns in an attempt to benchmark the words and phrases that work best. The study used conventional email metrics to determine the words or phrases that drive opens and clicks, improve the open to click ratio, and/or reduce the opt-out or unsubscribe rate compared to industry benchmarks. These are four of the most critical topline results.
Skip the Expected
Everyone sends newsletters by e-mail, but using the word “newsletter” in the subject line has only a marginal impact on open rates (+0.7%) but causes your click-through rate (CTR) to plummet -18%. Other expected terms like “report,” “learn,” “book,” and “monthly” trend downward in terms of driving opens and clicks. People don’t want to see themselves as scheduled or predictable. They discount standard message cadences.
Aim for Immediacy
The implied urgency and immediacy of the word “alert” prompts a 38% bump in opens and a 61.7% spike in clicks. People are hooked on knowing what’s going on right now. Words like “daily” get 27.8% more opens and 100% more clicks than the norm. “New” yields +17.2% clicks and 38.2% more opens while “News” drives +34.8% opens and +47.7% clicks. “Breaking” gets +35.4% opens and +77.6% clicks. Present your message as new, exciting and of the moment.
Present a Deal
Predictably “free delivery” drives 50.7% more opens and 135% more clicks. “Sale” has +23.2 opens and +60.7% clicks. “X% Off” has a similar impact. Everybody wants to save money or get more for less. Watch out for generic terms like “save” or “cheap” or “free,” and avoid aggressive terms like “buy.” These classic retail words depress both opens and clicks.
Try Multi-Word Headlines
Multiple key words separated by a straight vertical line produce +27.5% opens and 90.7% clicks. The same words separated by commas drive +17.8% opens and 67% more clicks. This news ticker approach probably signals the same kind of immediacy and urgency as the immediacy phrases.
The beautiful thing about email is that consumers vote with their cursors. These votes are easily counted, so marketers and copywriters don’t have to rely entirely on intuition or imagination. Research like this helps those of us in the marketing world engage customers and prospects faster and better.