Subject Line Length - Is Longer Better?

Discussion in 'Mail Chat' started by roundabout, Oct 9, 2012.

  1. roundabout

    roundabout VIP

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    Subject Line Length - Is Longer Better?

    Posted by Kim Stiglitz / Vertical Response

    I've spent years in the trenches of email marketing cranking out my fair share of messages. Hence, I've also done a heck of a lot of testing around the basics, including subject line length. For years, we lived and breathed the golden rule of "keep your subject line to 40-50 characters." Why? Most email browsers cut off anything longer, and that put the kibosh on your open rate.

    Fast-forward to 2012 and a few things have evolved in the wild world of email marketing, including devices we use to read email, like mobile phones and tablets, and the emails we receive, like flash sales (which have the longest subject lines known to man). So, does your subject line length need to evolve too? Let's examine some facts first:

    In a recent article on the EmailAudience blog, Jordie van Rijn cites a study from Adestra in which nearly a billion email marketing messages were analyzed. The study shows some thought-provoking results which vary pretty drastically between messages targeted at businesses (B2B) and consumers (B2C). According to the article and study, "in B2B emails, longer subject lines work better than shorter subject lines. Also when looking at the number of words. Subject lines with 6–10 words will drive open rates, but don’t deliver the clickthroughs. In the report 6-10 word subject lines are advised for awareness emails that don’t necessarily have a direct need for a call to action to click.

    After 130 characters, there is a drop of the open rates, but also a huge increase in the number of clickthroughs. Anything over 16 words can deliver on both opens and clicks."

    And the study further notes, "The differences in B2C are much bigger than in B2B. Subject lines with 3-5 words appear to have a very bad effect on open and clickthrough rates. Subject lines with 3 or 4 words perform around 40% worse than average both in open rate and in clicks.

    The subject lines with over 80 characters do hugely better in B2C email marketing. It seems to be that making your subject line stand out, is ever important. A long subject line can do just that in B2C, with the added information and length to account for higher open and clickthrough rates. A 20-word subject line appears to be the real champion in this research, with a 115% uplift in opens and 85% uplift in clicks."

    Does this mean that all your B2B email subject lines should be long, and all your B2C emails should be 20 words? Nope. That would be far too easy, and it's truly not all about how long or short your subject line is, but also about how targeted your email is to your audience. As with many things, one subject line length does not fit all, or even most. But, the good news is your subject line is one of the single fastest and easiest things you can test in an email.

    Inspired by daily deal sites and our own desire to provide more context, we recently began testing longer subject lines for our weekly VR Buzz newsletter. Like many of you, we struggle to pick just one topic from the newsletter we think will resonate with most of our readers. So, we started using longer subject lines like the following:

    In this example, we made the subject line longer (using about 67 characters) and included 2 topics vs. just one, as we'd done in the past. Over a nine-week period, we saw about a 1% improvement in open rates from our most engaged subscribers. This isn't earth-shattering, but what's interesting is that it lead to a marked improvement in our CTRs (clickthrough rates) - an improvement of nearly a percent and a half. To make things really interesting, the longer, multi-topic subject line newsletters also produced significantly higher revenue (ca-ching!). So, what seems to be hitting the mark for us, is not just the length, but also the multi-topic inclusion.

    How can you make your subject lines hit the target with your readers? It might be time to try multi-topic subject lines or to test out the length. Longer may be better for the new iPhone 5, but will it get results for your subject line?

    Source:
    http://blog.verticalresponse.com/ve.../10/subject-line-length-is-longer-better.html
     
  2. postmaster

    postmaster VIP

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    Striking a bullseye to the heart of the target market will produce the desired results every time, regardless of 2 words or 20 words in the subject line.

    I think people sometimes forget that email marketing is MARKETING... not a formula. If your marketing message is not any good, then all the tricks and gimmicks won't work.
     
  3. austincrush

    austincrush New Member

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    Very helpful information!!! Thank you!
     
  4. mrlucky123

    mrlucky123 Member

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    I don't think the length of the subject line matter, as long as it's straight to the point and trigger the desire to open the email, because no open rate will result in no click rate => no sale.

    I have seen email with only 5 words that have higher open rate then an email with a lengthy subject line, so i would say it's the writing skill of your that matter.
     
  5. postmaster

    postmaster VIP

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    Since Roundabout's post, I've actually tested some longer subject lines in a few campaigns.

    I've found longer ones to work better at times.

    What I did was use subject lines that I already knew worked well, then added a little more info towards the end to add length. The longer indeed worked better vs the older version.

    The question is... did the extra length only work better for female recipients?

    hehe
     
  6. mrlucky123

    mrlucky123 Member

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    post, I think what happen was, they only see the first portion of the subject line, not the extra portion, what did you mail it to, GI, TLD? 'cause I know with GI, especially Outlook, when a new message comes in, it only show the first portion and "...", not the entire subject line.
     
  7. PushSend

    PushSend VIP

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    The way Outlook renders anything, including the subject line is very much controlled by the user.

    I tested this myself, I used subject lines of 15-18 words and every one I could read completely and this is because I have the preview pane below, not on the side or non at all. So I saw all the words. And if you think about the level of personalization any email clients allows for you can't make assumptions like that.

    :top:
     
  8. DKPMO

    DKPMO VIP

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    This is obviously incorrect, outdated thinking, a holdover from the ancient times when there was no data and no formulas so marketers did not know any better.

    Targeted creative is critical, but its properties are simply one of the inputs into a formula.
     
  9. postmaster

    postmaster VIP

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    These tests were done on TLD.

    Some of the "long subjects" I tested were still short enough to be fully viewed, and others ended with ...

    The reason WHY the longer ones ended up working better is still a little hazy. Maybe the longer subject simply grabbed more attention when users scanned down?

    Either way, I still believe having the right message is better than the length.
     
  10. postmaster

    postmaster VIP

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    I think you may have misunderstood my point.

    I was simply saying the message must be effective.

    One of the formulas that's been around forever is the AIDA formula. (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) Even if a guy is using this formula to write his copy, it does not mean it will end up being effective.

    As for subject lines... I test these a lot. Luckily, I use a system I can plug in as many as I want and then see which one gets the best opens, clicks and sales. Sometimes I still scratch my head and wonder why some of them produce better than others. I definitely see patterns though. Sometimes one word can be the difference between winning and losing. Sometimes its an art, other times its dumb luck.
     
  11. DKPMO

    DKPMO VIP

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    I guess we've been talking about different kinda of formulas. I meant the math for optimizing the ads and you obviously meant the common copywriting techniques.

    Of course there is no surefire way to predict which copy would work ahead of time (thought it is possible to make a pretty good guess). That's what the testing and collecting the right metrics is for...
     
  12. DoldGigga

    DoldGigga VIP

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    Why is pro-level insight NOT in a clickbank ebook???

    That's not what she's been telling me...

    What math for optimizing ads? Stats add an unrealistic sense of legitimacy to things which are generally abstract and unpredictable. Some of the nerdiest mathletes you'll ever meet work for investment banks in NYC and their job is to continually tweak and optimize so-called "black box" trading programs. These programs, despite their heavy mathematical analysis, do not perform consistently nor do they outperform market indices like the dow jones avg.

    The only stats worth tracking are ones that let you establish a 'baseline' for CTR so that you can have a rough idea of what to expect. Beyond that you're just wasting time and resources that would be better spent banging a hot blond with double Ds.
     
  13. DKPMO

    DKPMO VIP

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    TRANSLATION: "I have no clue how to make this work, therefore it has to be impossible. These smarty-pants posts make me feel inferior therefore I must trash-talk it"
     
  14. DoldGigga

    DoldGigga VIP

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    I just told you how to make it work - there is no magic formula. It's just a numbers game. The more email you deliver the better results you get. When you figure out a way to mathematically predict a type of market, email or otherwise, with relative consistency let me know.

    Some of my best email creatives have had only 3 word subjects. Some of worst have been accurate. If you understand human nature then you'll be able to figure out how to send emails that get opened, clicked and convert to sales.
     
  15. DKPMO

    DKPMO VIP

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    I'll be posting all the trade secrets any moment.

    You are obviously correct that there is lots of randomness in user response, but that does not mean you cannot find and exploit patterns buried in the noise if you know how.
     

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