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The Most Effective Email Subject Line Length

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Emails with subject lines of 6-10 words have the highest open rates, yet most emails sent by marketers have subject lines of 11-15 words, according to a recent report from Retention Science.

For the emails analyzed, those with 6-10 word subject lines had a 21% open rate. Those with subject lines containing five or fewer words ranked second with a 16% open rate, and those with 11-15 words had a 14% open rate.

Despite the effectiveness of shorter subject lines, most emails examined (52%) had subject lines of 11-15 words.

Below, additional key findings from the report, which was based on data from more than 260 million delivered emails.


Personalization 

Emails with the recipient's first name in the subject line had a higher open rate (18.3% compared with 15.7%).

Movie Names and Song Lyrics

  • A separate Retention Science study analyzed 3.7 million emails and 22 campaigns where movie names and song lyrics were referenced in the subject line, and discovered they perform considerably better than traditional subject lines.
  • Those emails with subject lines referencing movies or songs were opened 26% of the time, whereas emails with more traditional subject lines were opened 16% of the time.

About the research: The report's findings on subject line length and personalization were based on data from more than 260 million delivered emails and 540 campaigns. The findings on lyrics in email subject lines were based on an analysis of 3.7 million emails from 22 campaigns.


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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 Sonia Rishi Wed Mar 5, 2014 via web

    Relevancy would score higher?

  • by H Chou Wed Mar 5, 2014 via web

    Does this include those subject lines that have 3-5 topics in them (like your emails, and which have 12 words? For example:

    "Better PPC Performance | Mari Smith Talks Facebook | Subject Line Length | Native Engagement"

    Personally, I find these effective, b/c I can quickly scan to see what topics are covered. BUT, I didn't even notice the Native Engagement topic, so I suppose 10 words is max for me?

  • by Ayaz Nanji Wed Mar 5, 2014 via web

    Sonia - I imagine relevancy would score well/impact the numbers, though it was not (as far as I know) included as part of this particular study.

    H Chou - I believe it did include that sort of subject line, though MarketingProfs itself was not part of the data set. The folks at @retentionsci would have a better sense of exactly what sort of long subject lines were examined. I'll see if they can chime in here. Agreed that (for me personally) I stop reading at a certain point, even when scanning a subject with multiple topics.

  • by Yulya Toporochan Wed Mar 5, 2014 via web

    I'm very interested in the importance of e-mail campaign's segmentation. I guess, we should segment the mailing list and address people with different content. Is that what the experts suggest? In terms of the subject line, we just now sent out an e-mail campaign with a subject line length of 9 words. Already excited to see the results.

  • by Jose Argudo Thu Mar 6, 2014 via web

    Nice article, short subjects have been always said to help open rates, however I would like to see this data mixed with CTRs

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