Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Subject Line Lengths

In my last post we talked about how the Subject Line is the 2nd most critically reviewed criteria in evaluating whether your email gets read or deleted.

While there is still some debate about how long or short an email subject line should be, the real challenge is making what’s actually visible to the reader as interesting and enticing as possible.

So, here is an actual subject line I recently received:

“How Saint John Health Translated Outpatient Data Into Ambulatory Growth Opportunities”

At least that was the full subject line. What I saw in my Outlook 2007 preview pane, looked like this:



Sorry but this means absolutely nothing to me…DELETE

BTW: When I saw this email on my PDA, it looked even worse: “How Saint John He”…DELETE. That’s because most PDAs only show about 15 characters in the subject line.

Let’s see if we can’t rewrite this so it:

(a) makes sense and
(b) makes me want to read the email

Step 1:
“What’s in it for me?” That’s what we’re looking for when we read subject lines. What is this email really trying to tell me?

As I read this subject line, “How Saint John Health Translated Outpatient Data Into Ambulatory Growth Opportunities”, to me, what’s really important is that there are “Growth Opportunities” – and yet it is the last 2 words of the subject line – doubtful it will ever be seen in the preview pane.

So let’s flip this around a bit: “Growth Opps: Successful Use of Patient Data by St. John’s Hospital”

Now, when I get this email in Outlook 2007, it looks like this:


Oh, now I get it…Growth Opps is something I am definitely interested in.

BTW: When I see this email in my PDA it now looks like this: “Growth Opps: Su… You see that the “What’s in it for me” part still shows up.

Since you really never know exactly how many words will show up in someone’s preview pane, it’s always best to put your “What’s in it for me” right up front – the very first words.

Step 2:
As a test, try deleting all but the first 15 characters and see if it still makes sense. If not, rewrite it until it does, because there is a pretty good chance it will be viewed on a mobile device.

Step 3:
Finally, Subject Lines are not only valuable real estate to test, they are also an easy thing to test. For more on testing Best Practices, click here.

Steve Kellogg
a Demand Generation/Marketing Automation Consultant, Astadia
a Eloqua Certified Marketing Best Practices Consultant

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