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The Five Most Effective (and Ineffective) Words in Email Subject Lines

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Which words in subject lines significantly increase consumer opens of marketing emails, and which words significantly decrease opens?

To find out, Alchemy Worx used the Touchstone platform to analyze data from 21 billion marketing emails sent by 2,500 brands. The research included an examination of thousands of subject lines, word by word, to determine their influence on open rates.

The words in subject lines that increase open rates most, on average, are upgrade (+65.7% compared with average open rate), just (+64.8%), content (+59%), go (+55.8%), and wonderful (+55.1%), the analysis found.

The words that have the largest negative impact on open rates are miss (-4.6% compared with average open rate), deals (-4.4%), groovy (-4.3%), conditions (-4%), and Friday (-4%).


Below, additional key findings from the report.

Symbols

Consumers have a mixed reaction to symbols in subject lines

For example, they are more likely to open an email if the snowman symbol is included in the subject line but are less likely to open if they see a finger symbol.

Industry Data

The researchers examined open rates for five industries—travel, retail, media/entertainment, technology, and consumer services—and found vertical-specific variations for each.

For example, the difference between "holiday" and "vacation" for a travel company can result in an eight percent open rate swing on average, with holiday being the word more likely to prompt engagement.

About the research: The report was based on data from 21 billion marketing emails sent by 2,500 brands.


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Ayaz Nanji is an independent digital strategist and a co-founder of ICW Content, a marketing agency specializing in content creation for brands and businesses. He is also a research writer for MarketingProfs. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, AOL, and the New York Times.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji

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  • by Ellen Kominars Mon Feb 9, 2015 via web

    I really like your article. Would you happen to have the best and worst words for the manufacturing or industrial products? I rarely find information for that sector. Thank you!

  • by Kim W Mon Feb 9, 2015 via web

    Whyyy does groovy show up on this list so many times. Who of you out there are still writing things with the word "groovy" in them. Stop it.

  • by Team Alchemy Worx Mon Feb 9, 2015 via web

    Someone asked us via Twitter why we thought putting Friday in your subject line would have a negative effect. The answer would appear to be because consumers are smarter than you think. Friday is the worst day of the week for deals http://bit.ly/1CalbiE and no subject line in the world is going to change that which means consumers don't respond well and that will show up in your subject tests on Touchstone

  • by Shawn Elledge Sat Feb 14, 2015 via mobile

    I'm not sure this report means anything. Who uses one word subject lines, no one. As soon as you add one more word to the study, everything changes. Add several words and the possible combinations and outcomes are limitless. What we need is a study on complete subject lines broken down by verticals, day and time sent, acquisition list vs optin list etc.

  • by Rubie Garcia Tue Feb 24, 2015 via web

    I think the word "upgrade" is definitely effective because it already assumes that recipients are already using the products or services they're offering. This makes the consumers think that they really signed up for the subscriptions. However, "deals" came as a surprise to me. I thought it was an attractive word that can increase the open rate of e-mails. Is it because it appears to be a spam?

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