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Email Subject Lines That Sell

by Ayaz Nanji  |  
April 27, 2015

Which phrases, incentives, and punctuation marks in email subject lines inspire consumers to take action?

To find out, Phrasee examined the performance of more than 700 million emails sent by retail and e-commerce brands earlier this year, primarily from companies based in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The researchers isolated the impact of specific elements in subject lines and examined how they affected open, click, and click-to-open rates. Each element was given a Phrasee Score—a normalized, weighted score on a 1 to 100 scale that aggregated the overall effect a phrase had on response metrics. The higher the Phrasee Score, the more reliably positive the results from a phrase were in motivating consumers to take action.

Below, key findings from the analysis; check out the full report to see results for all the phrases examined.


Words in subject lines indicating something new, such as "introducing," tend to perform well, as do experiential verbs such as 'celebrate"; more functional action words such as "spend" do not tend to perform as well.


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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 bella Tue Apr 28, 2015 via web

    the experience in dhgate tells that the very boastful language would result in bad effect in email to customers

  • by Selling Simplified Tue Apr 28, 2015 via web

    Impressive! good phrase helps in email marketing to increases business sales.

  • by Pete Austin Tue Apr 28, 2015 via web

    Data Dredging is a major risk here. Some words were bound to look good just by chance.

    Any plans to re-test these "good" words using data collected after they were chosen?

  • by Ayaz Nanji Wed Apr 29, 2015 via web

    Pete, that's a very important note to the research. I didn't delve into it in my article, but the full report from Phrasee has a pretty nuanced explanation of how the data was collected/used/analyzed, as well as how it should (and shouldn't) be used:

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