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July 15, 2013

E-Mail Subject Lines Could be Hindering Readership says Study

A great subject line may be the difference between someone opening your e-mail, or passing it by, no matter how great the content is inside, suggests a new study.

According to a study by Adestra, released by the Center For Media Research, 90 percent of marketers aren’t spending enough time writing engaging e-mail subject lines to catch the attention of their audiences.

In the last couple of years, the way consumers interact with email has changed drastically. Much like the broader web, email is now all about usability,” says the report. “The subject line is one of the main things within your control to influence customers’ behavior. Having an ineffective, confusing or ambiguous subject line delivers a poor user experience for their online journey.”

Adestra’s extensive study scores keywords by relative open, click, click-to-open and unsubscribe rate from more than 2.2 billion e-mails, covering numerous key words and phrases, to help marketers understand how to better write an effective and engaging subject line.

Although the charts are somewhat confusing at first, The Center for Media Research breaks down how the data was compiled.

For each key word, you will see the average deviation for the mean for campaigns with subject lines including that keyword. To illustrate: if the industry average open rate is 20 percent, and the word “Foo” shows 12 percent higher opens, that means the inclusion of the word “Foo” in a subject line delivered a 22.4 percent open rate (so a 12 percent increase on 20 percent).”

The intent of the study, says The Center for Media Research, is for businesses to create a long-term subject line strategy to increase overall readership.

E-mail trends are constantly evolving and changing, says the report. While the word “newsletter” is dropping in popularity, the word “alert” is catching readers’ attention with +38.1 percent opens and +61.8 percent clicks.

The word ‘alert’ connotes activity – something that is happening now – and incites a sense of urgency in readers,” says the Center, adding the reaction is similar with the words “bulletin”.

Similar to the word “newsletter”, readers are less interested in opening e-mails with the words “report”, “learn” and “book”.

The data also shows that – not surprisingly – words that insinuate the reader could save money by opening the e-mail do well. “Free delivery”, for example, has +50.7 percent opens and +135.4 percent clicks. But, while the report says people love to see the word “sale”, there’s also a danger in offering too good of a deal. Words like “cheap”, “free”, “save” or “buy” don’t go over well with readers.

The report also focused in on charities and how they can boost readership and even the likelihood of donations. 

“Engagement is key for charities. Whether you’re asking for a donation right now, or for recipients to become advocates, focus on engagement means you’ll have that e-mail address for life and not just one off donation,” says Media Research. 

Words like “donate” (+17.4 percent and -56.9 percent) can be somewhat effective, but a better approach is to use words such as “help” or “volunteer”, which both have much higher open and click rates. Furthermore, charities that suggested they’re working for a large group of people such as a “society” or organizations that provide readers with an “update” on the progress of their charity will also engage readers.

Take a look at the following charts for a much more in-depth analysis of hundreds of words most frequently used in subject lines, or visit Adestra online.

OVERALL RESULTS Keyword table
Keyword Open rate variance vs. average Click rate variance vs. average Click to open rate variance vs. average Unsubscribe rate variance vs. average
Benefits
Exclusive

12.3%

-0.3%

-11.2%

22.0%

Free

-3.0%

-6.3%

-3.3%

-1.3%

Free delivery

50.7%

135.4%

56.3%

82.4%

Gift

12.4%

-11.3%

-21.1%

21.2%

Latest

8.3%

11.7%

3.1%

-9.9%

New

17.2%

38.2%

17.9%

-2.6%

Offer

7.3%

-18.6%

-24.1%

22.3%

Only

-4.1%

-37.3%

-34.7%

11.9%

Sale

23.2%

60.7%

30.5%

31.6%

Save

3.4%

-25.2%

-27.7%

18.1%

Voucher

20.0%

-2.4%

-18.7%

60.6%

Content
Alert

38.1%

61.8%

17.2%

-63.2%

Bulletin

15.8%

12.7%

-2.6%

-22.9%

Issue

10.8%

10.4%

-0.4%

29.6%

Learn

-35.5%

-60.8%

-39.2%

-23.9%

News

34.8%

47.7%

9.6%

-26.0%

Newsletter

0.7%

-18.7%

-19.2%

2.9%

Report

-23.7%

-54.8%

-40.8%

-54.6%

Today

-15.9%

-37.9%

-26.1%

5.2%

Video

18.5%

64.8%

39.0%

-26.0%

Webinar

-16.6%

-70.7%

-64.8%

8.8%

Win

1.8%

26.7%

24.4%

-2.9%

Date
Daily

27.8%

100.3%

56.7%

-75.0%

Monthly

-26.6%

-37.0%

-14.2%

13.8%

Weekly

27.1%

50.6%

18.5%

-49.8%

Call to action
Download

1.4%

-6.1%

-7.4%

-28.2%

Get

-8.6%

-16.1%

-8.2%

2.5%

Register

-9.6%

-54.9%

-50.1%

27.7%

Subscription

5.0%

-19.1%

-23.0%

89.3%

Urgency
Don’t miss

-8.8%

-42.9%

-37.3%

33.2%

Miscellaneous
iPad

31.6%

19.9%

-9.0%

19.1%

Re:

-3.7%

-42.6%

-40.4%

90.8%

Fw:

-14.3%

-47.5%

-62.8%

135.4%

Source:
B2B PUBLISHING Keyword Table
Keyword Open rate variance vs. average Click rate variance vs. average Click to open rate variance vs. average Unsubscribe rate variance vs. average
Content
Alert

32.9%

35.7%

2.1%

-45.5%

Breaking

35.4%

77.6%

31.2%

-65.8%

Editor

28.7%

68.3%

30.7%

-15.5%

Forecast

 -34.0%

-68.3%

 -51.9%

-37.9%

Issue

6.9%

-4.8%

-11.0%

 69.1%

Latest

-2.0%

-8.7%

-6.8%

17.1%

News

20.5%

13.9%

-5.4%

-20.0%

Newsletter

 -11.2%

-52.6%

-46.7%

48.5%

Report

-30.6%

-64.1%

-48.3%

-43.7%

Top stories

-11.2%

-30.5%

-21.7%

-0.3%

Update

26.8%

8.9%

-14.1%

-5.7%

Date
This week

 -18.5%

-28.6%

-12.3%

 5.6%

Daily

12.6%

35.8%

20.7%

-51.2%

Weekly

27.5%

24.7%

-2.2%

-26.5%

Monthly

-6.4%

 -19.1%

-13.6%

134.6%

Subscriptions
(£)

21.9%

 80.5%

 48.2%

-19.3%

Access

2.9%

 -7.3%

 -9.9%

80.6%

Free

3.0%

-8.4%

-11.1%

 64.9%

Renew

0.6%

22.6%

 -21.9%

175.6%

Subscription

-8.2%

-22.7%

-15.8%

266.7%

Trial

8.8%

 -6.6%

 -14.1%

13.8%

Source
B2C PUBLISHING Keyword table
Keyword Open rate variance vs. average Click rate variance vs. average Click to open rate variance vs. average Unsubscribe rate variance vs. average
Content
Exclusive

11.3%

 -1.2%

-11.2%

 3.7%

Newsletter

6.4%

16.5%

9.5%

3.8%

Review

37.1%

152.3%

84.0%

 -66.5%

Special

12.2%

-12.1%

-21.7%

 82.7%

Update

29.0%

 6.7%

-17.3%

141.2%

Video

27.6%

96.6%

54.1%

 -39.8%

Win

-2.3%

18.3%

21.1%

 -5.8%

Date
Daily

35.1%

115.0%

59.2%

 -99.2%

Weekly

-1.1%

2.7%

3.8%

-48.8%

Monthly

-4.9%

-24.6%

-20.7%

 -9.8%

Money
% off

-3.6%

-21.7%

-18.7%

-9.2%

£

-19.7%

-37.7%

-22.3%

 9.9%

Discount

-38.8%

 -59.2%

-33.4%

2.4%

Free

-10.3%

-23.4%

-14.7%

 -35.9%

Half price

9.7%

-44.1%

-49.1%

51.2%

Subscriptions
Last chance

-16.5%

-50.6%

-40.8%

24.1%

Limited

23.7%

16.4%

-5.9%

-4.6%

On sale now

-2.8%

0.9%

3.8%

-15.6%

Subscription

-5.3%

-47.8%

-44.8%

 68.1%

Trial

-45.6%

-74.6%

-53.3%

-8.7%

Miscellaneous
Deals

7.3%

-12.3%

-18.3%

 53.6%

Facebook

-6.7%

15.2%

23.4%

-58.9%

iPad

37.3%

19.4%

-13.1%

16.9%

Twitter

12.2%

18.1%

5.3%

-52.1%

Source:

5 Responses to “E-Mail Subject Lines Could be Hindering Readership says Study

    avatar Shenzhen Lead Opto-Technology Co. Ltd says:

    I have not been email marketing.

    avatar Ledstar Lighting Co., Ltd says:

    I often receive e-mail marketing messages, but every time I put it all did not see it marked as read. The reason is simple, they are not attracted to my eye.

    Only a very special message I will open to see, a lot of web platform are sent over e-mail me directly deleted.

    avatar Stephen says:

    This article is somewhat helpful to those who craft emails. Knowing which words are most effective towards getting opened is huge.

    If just half of the people who send a lot of emails (in their e-commerce campaigns) hired Professional Web Copywriters instead of writing them in house, open rates would greatly increase.

    95% or more of the headlines I see are worthless drivel – not because I am not interested in what they may have to sell…but simply because they are lackluster – not written by professional web sales copywriters.

    In all sales copy – the headline itself does about 80% of the “sales work” and determines whether the copy will sink or swim.

    If it fails to capture enough attention to be read (or opened) it will fail every time. Want to actually make sales? Hire a copywriter.

    Best Regards,

    Stephen Monday

    Interesting article. I am a big fan of email marketing. Comprehensive statistics are always helpful especially with the statistical analysis of how people react to email subject lines now.

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