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120 Character Subject Lines?

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Thursday August 2, 2012 )

Which is best, short subject lines or long ones? After over a decade of reading reports and studies, I still have no idea.

I’ve given up on determining subject line length after the latest study by Adestra.

Depending on the sector, the company recommends 120 characters and upwards.

So what does 120 characters look like? A lot. In fact, this paragraph you are currently reading is 120 characters long.

That’s a big subject line. Huge. Monstrous.

That particular piece of advice was in relation to emails hawking events.

In regard to general B2C emails, the company says a 20 word subject line is a clear winner, “delivering a massive 115% uplift in open rates and 85% uplift in clicks.”

What the heck? 20 words? Can’t say I’ve every tried it though.

Adestra bases its advice on analysis of 932 million emails, so who am I to argue.

Anyhow, there are some other interesting points in the study report. For example, Adestra says posting a question in a subject line can be detrimental; as can be cliché lists (“5 reasons to attend…”).

“These were trendy a few years ago, but the time has passed. They don’t work, so don’t use them!”

I’ve often wondered about the effectiveness of not just “list” subject lines for emails but also for article titles these days – you know the type: “10 sure fire ways to reach no.1 on Google”, “5 Ways To Turn Every Visitor Into A Sale” – that sort of thing.

I’ve noticed over the years that these kinds of articles tend to rehash very common knowledge, so I tend to avoid reading them and writing articles using this type of title.

The Adestra report also includes tips on what words to use (and avoid) in subject lines; plus a bunch of other tips.

You can download the report here (free registration).

… but 120 characters?? Seriously? I still can’t get my head around that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a subject line that long!

This was my final post on email subject line length (I give up) – but I do have some other email subject line tips to offer – notice I didn’t state “20 Subject Line Tips That Will Guarantee An Open!”


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