Does the Length of Your Subject Line Matter?

We all know that in the world of email marketing your subject line matters.

It’s the first thing that is seen by the recipient and will determine whether your email is opened or consigned to the trash.

For a long time, many marketers have gone by the rule that a subject line should be between 40-50 characters in length. But with today’s numerous mobile devices changing the way we read and receive emails, is that still the case?

In a recent post on Email Audience, they look at a report recently published by Adestra, which analysed subject line lengths for different audiences to try and find out what is the ideal length.

In summary, they discovered:

“…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 click-throughs. 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 click-throughs. Anything over 16 words can deliver on both opens and clicks.”

The report then goes on to look at the B2C market:

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 click-through 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 click-through 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.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean to say every B2C email you write should have 20 words in its subject line. Although the subject line will have a big impact on your open rate and click-throughs, how targeted your message is will also have a big effect.

So when devising your next email marketing campaign remember to not only look at your subject line (the one aspect of a campaign that is easy to test), but also your message.

Think carefully about your audience and what is important to them. What words will make them take notice of your email and open it?

All too often marketers get lost in how many characters should be used in their subject lines and lose sight of the important thing – their customers.

The best way to create successful campaigns is to test your subject lines. But remember, there is no magic formula that will work for every audience and every campaign.

Over to you

Have you found any patterns in the open rates of your emails?

Leave a comment below and tell us about your experiences

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