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Winners and losers in email subject lines
Media businesses are now highly reliant on email marketing for their newsletter content, driving web traffic and directly selling subscriptions, events and increasingly, merchandise.
We all know that a great subject line can transform open rates and provide the opportunity for higher click throughs. Plus we are aware that we should be testing more. But where to start with our testing, and are there keywords to specifically avoid? Much of the received wisdom on email marketing is US based and keywords that were once popular can easily be overused.
So the recent research by Adestra of over 90 million emails is very welcome, not least because they split their results by sector, covering publishing, events and ecommerce separately. They also highlighted differences between business and consumer markets.
Here are the highlights from their report, which should provide marketers with some inspiration for good subject lines to test.
Longer subject lines drive more clicks.
While very short subject lines are good for open rates, and have a place if your objective is awareness, most email campaigns are looking to drive clicks: traffic back to your website, registrations for events, subscriptions or purchases. And the trend is that longer subject lines are better at delivering both opens and clicks. For both publishing and events, 15-20 words or over 100 characters deliver above average opens and clicks.
Beware of cliché words and generics
Plenty of common keywords in email subject lines have been over-used, and don't deliver good opens and clicks any more. Examples are “free”, “newsletter”, “report”, “research”, “coupon”, “voucher” and in the events world generics like “conference”, “agenda”, “speakers” or “summit”. The popular "10 reasons to attend" formula is now overused and doesn't attract attention.
Urgent, action-oriented words do better
Better keywords to use include “update”, “breaking”, “alerts”, “bulletin”, “news”, “latest” - and also “new products” or just “new”. Key high value email content like “interview” or “video” draw a good response when promoted in subject lines, especially now some emails can include a video that will play in the email itself.
Use new ways to describe offers and deals
“Free” is spammy, whilst “voucher” and “discount” have been worn out with over use. Try describing offers in new ways. Words and phrases like “sale”, “2 for 1”, “x% off” tend to perform better in subject lines as do the use of “£” or “$” symbols.
Provide specific benefits
Use your longer subject line to describe the benefits of opening your email, using the right industry jargon for your audience rather than generic terms. With a newsletter, list the top headlines or topics.
Money talks in B2B; consumers like news
Most of these principles apply to both business and consumer markets, but there are some subtle variations. In business, avoid generic terms like “B2B”, “industry” and “business”, and try “profit”, “revenue”, “turnover”, or industry specific terms. For consumers, “sales” and “x% off” work well, as do “new”, “news”, “latest” and “video”.
So plenty of ideas for "good" and "bad" keywords to test in your next email campaign.
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