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Apr 14, 2008
Blog Post

SherpaBlog: The Incredible Shrinking Email Subject Line

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, Content Director

Have you noticed? Some marketers and email publishers are testing shorter and shorter subject lines.

In the old days, weíd all try to fit in as many descriptive words as possible to increase the chances the inbox skimmerís eye would land on a word that delighted it, and youíd grab the open. Not any more.

Now peopleís inboxes are so cluttered with stuff that the teeny-tiny subject line can be best of all.

Itís about white space. When youíre skimming down a list of wordy subject lines, your eyes are trying to deal with a lot of visual clutter. Text, text, text, text.

Then, oooh! A bit of restful white space.

A one-, two- or three short-word subject line leaves space at the end. White space is eye candy in a crowded screen. Your eye dives in there automatically.

Which is why the various presidential candidatesí email campaigns have been relying, for the most part, on very short subject lines, indeed. A sampler (one subject line per line):

Special Request
The crowds
Yes, they can

One of the reasons I started noticing this trend -- aside from the fact that itís glaring to the email-marketing-obsessed like me -- is at Sherpa we routinely review our own subject line success rates. Iíll get a list of all emails sent for 3-6 months for one of our weekly newsletters (we publish nine on various marketing niches altogether.) Then, Iíll skim down the subject lines, looking at open and click rates. Clicks are more important, of course.

The point is to look for trends. Is anything working in particular? Is anything really not working anymore? What tweak should we test?

The biggest standout from my last in-house subject line review was that newsletter issues with just one-two word subject lines invariably got better open rates. Maybe itís an element of the unusual. Or maybe itís that white space. I donít know. What I do know is that for now it works.

And, itís something you should be testing, too.

Got data? Let us know.

See Also:

Comments about this Blog Entry

Apr 14, 2008 - Patrick Rafter of Rafter Communications says:
Beyond short subject lines for E-mail marketing, I'm curious to know what's working best for PR pros who want to catch the attention of journalists who get more e-mail than perhaps anyone else! Standing out in a reporter's In-Box is a major challenge. I'll try the short subject line approach and let you know how it helps my pitches.

Apr 14, 2008 - Jim Lane of 124c41 says:
Now everyone will climb aboard this bus and then the pendulum will swing the other way once again.

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