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Email Newsletter Benchmarks: Open Rates, CTRs, Subject Lines

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Email newsletters with short subject lines (4-15 characters) had the highest average open rate (15.8%) last year, according to MailerMailer's annual Email Marketing Metrics Report.

Longer subject lines resulted in lower open rates, though the effect on open rates diminished as the lengths increased.

Click rates also peaked when subject lines were kept short. Subject lines of 4-15 characters had the highest click rate (2.6%). Very long subject lines—over 51 characters—had the lowest click rate (1.6%).

Below, additional key findings and benchmarks from the report, which was based on an analysis of 1.4 billion opt-in email newsletters sent during 2012.


Open Rates

  • Email newsletter campaigns sent in the first half of 2012 had an average open rate of 9.7%, and those sent in the second half of the year had an average open rate of 10.0%.
  • Open rate peaked in the first hour after delivery, declined rapidly within the next 19 hours, and gradually diminished thereafter.
  • About half (51.7%) of all opens occurred within the first six hours after delivery. At 18 hours after delivery, three-quarters of total opens had occurred.

Scheduling

  • In the first half of 2012, open rate peaked on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10.7%. In the second half of the year, the highest open rate (10.6%) was on Tuesdays.
  • Sundays had the highest click rates—2.2% and 2.6% during 1H12 and 2H12, respectively. Tuesdays had the next best click rates for both halves of the year.
  • Messages scheduled for delivery between early evening and early morning led to better open rates.
  • Both 1H12 and 2H12 experienced their lowest open rates, 5.5% and 7.9%, for messages scheduled for 12 PM.
  • Open rates climbed rapidly after 4 AM, and peaked at 10 AM, after which they declined steadily throughout the rest of the day. 
  • In general, emails were more likely to be opened during normal business hours, specifically between 8 AM to 5 PM.

Personalization

Open Rates

  • Personalizing only the email message content resulted in a higher average open rate of 13.2%.
  • Personalizing just the subject line increased the average open rate to 12.9%.
  • However, when both the subject line and message content were personalized, open rate dropped to 5.3%—lower than that of messages with no personalization at all (9.8%).

Click Rates

  • In contrast to the open rate data, personalization of both the subject line and message content resulted in the highest click rate (2.8%).
  • Personalization of only the message and only the subject line resulted in click rates of 2.4% and 2.1%, respectively.
  • Messages with no personalization had the lowest click rate (2.0%).

About the research: The report was based on data from over 1.4 billion opt-in email newsletters, from over 70,000 newsletter campaigns, sent between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012.


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Ayaz Nanji is a digital strategy and content consultant. He is also a research writer for MarketingProfs. His experience includes working as a strategist and producer of digital content for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, and AOL.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji

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Comments

  • by Karon Thackston Mon Aug 19, 2013 via web

    Thanks for the information. It seems like it changes every week :) For the times mentioned, what time zone were those from? I know that when we write email campaigns for businesses, setting up tests to determine what level of personalization, schedule and content get the highest possible CTR is vital. And it's an ongoing process. Just because one email from one company did well with certain criteria doesn't mean the next email from the same company will continue in the same path. Testing is key!

  • by Ayaz Nanji Mon Aug 19, 2013 via web

    Karon, absolutely agreed on testing. The report didn't specify the time zone, though it did note that that data is from U.S. emails. The folks over at MailerMailer may have some additional insights if you want to contact them:

    https://www.mailermailer.com/contact.rwp

  • by marketer Tue Aug 20, 2013 via web

    Out of interest, how does personalising the content of an email result in higher open rates? Users cannot see the content unless they are opened.

    What was the level of confidence used for this analysis? Which type of emails? How was the control group defined?

    Many thanks

  • by Chris Taylor Tue Aug 20, 2013 via web

    @Marketer I assume that you personalize the content so the recipient's name shows up in the email preview (the first few lines of the email that are displayed in your inbox).

    The inverse effect of dual personalization on open rates and CTRs is interesting, but it's hard to say that you would see the same reactions with your own messages. Each audience will have different levels of expectation, engagement, and acceptance for the messages you send. This study definitely shows the power of testing messages though. Little changes can have big effects!

    Great article, Ayaz. Thanks for the info.

  • by Stephan Hovnanian Thu Aug 22, 2013 via web

    I always love reading this report. Something stuck out at me though...how do you measure open rate differences in personalized emails when your subscriber has no idea if the message (content) was personalized, unless they open it up? In other words, "Not Personalized" should have the same results as "Message only Personalized", and "Subject Line Only" and "Both" should have the same results.

  • by Spook SEO Sat Aug 24, 2013 via web

    I always appreciate reading posts with real numbers and studies. Thanks for the information. I'm sure this'll come in handy.

  • by Spook SEO Sat Aug 24, 2013 via web

    I always appreciate reading posts with real numbers and studies. Thanks for the information. I'm sure this'll come in handy.

  • by Steve Burris Sat Oct 12, 2013 via web

    Is CTR on opens or is it on sent messages?

  • by Rebecca Pappas Wed Feb 26, 2014 via web

    Hi, can you tell me when numbers for 2013 will be available?

    Thank you.
    Rebecca Pappas
    VP Audience Development
    BizBash Media
    rpappas@bizbash.com

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