Subject Lines and the Importance of 87% and 150 Characters (via Sweet Spot List Building with Christine Brady –

Subject lines are the basis for any email marketing campaign.  If you don’t have a good subject line, you don’t have a good email marketing campaign.  If you don’t have a good email marketing campaign, you don’t have a profitable list.

And if your list isn’t profitable, well then, it’s just costing you money for your autoresponder every month.

But it all goes back to your subject lines…

The following series is a complete lesson on subject lines.  At the end of it, you’ll be able to create a compelling subject line for just about anything.

The first part of this 3 step series scratches the surface of subject lines – some facts on effective subject lines and what makes a good performing subject line.

The second part goes into detail about how to create your own compelling subject lines for any message.

The third and last part will be how to test out all of your new found knowledge on subject lines.

Some Facts on Subject Lines

You already know that an effective message starts with the subject line.  Here are some facts and figures on just how big of a difference a subject line makes.

According to a recent study by Mailchimp, the best subject line performers see anywhere from a 60% -87% open rate.  Whereas the lowest performers showed a dismal 1% -14% open rate.  These numbers are grossly disproportionate, but even more than that, the difference in reaching your audience is even more shocking.

Let’s say you have a list of 1,000 people.  Using a lower performing subject line would yield you anywhere from 10 people to 140 people actually opening your message.  Now, let’s flip over to the numbers with a higher preforming subject line…

Incredibly, the number of people opening your message would be in the range of a whopping 600 – 870 people!

So you can see why it pays to use a higher converting subject line.

Longer Subject Lines Lead to Higher or Lower Click-throughs?

What do you think?  Would a longer subject line lead to a higher or lower clickthrough rate?

On the one hand, a shorter subject line gets right to the point and enables readers to scan quickly.  On the other hand, the longer subject lines also stand out because of the length.

Another study done by Adestra released in August 2012, specifically tested this idea of longer vs. shorter subject lines.  The results proved that the old idea of keeping your subject line between 50 and 70 characters is changing.

In a study of 932 million emails across 6 sectors over a 6 month time frame, subject lines of 150 characters in length outperformed those in the 50 – 60 character range by a staggering percentage.


This breakdown of open rates shows that subject lines below 60 characters actually falls below average.

It gradually creeps up with the increase in character length, all the way up to 94.9% for 150 characters.

So, the longer character length is an obvious winner.  What about the actual word count in the subject line?

Word count differs pretty drastically across the six different sectors:

  • For the e-commerce emails, a one-word subject line had the highest open rate.  But 4 word lines had the best clickthrough rate.
  • The events emails delivered the best open rates at 2 -5 words, but longer word counts (19 words!) had the best open and clickthrough rates.
  • For the publishing sector, the results were very clear cut.  Longer word count delivered the highest open and clickthrough rates.  Aside from a spike at 2 words.
  • Charity sector emails performed better with shorter subject lines.  The worst clickthrough rates were at 14 words and up.
  • In the B2C and B2B sectors, longer word counts generally were the best performers for open and clickthrough rates.  Although, 2 word subject lines performed best overall in the B2B sector.

Some Helpful Hints on Subject Lines

Do you have an upcoming webinar or teleseminar or other event you’re promoting?  Using currency or the $ sign, using first names, or the words “thousands” or “millions” can give you an increase in these metrics.

If you’re in the publishing sector (bloggers, product creators), the words “video” and “exclusive” perform above average, whereas the words “newsletter”, “research”, “report”, “forecast”, and “intelligence” all preform below average.

For charities, avoid the words “appeal” and “donate”, but the word “give” shows above average results.

In the B2B sector, the words “profit”, “revenue”, “turnover” and “referral” perform with above average results.  But using the term “B2B” in your subject line is a no-no – it showed a very poor response rate.

Do you sell B2C and want to see a boost in open and clickthrough rates?  The words “sale”, “% off”, “new”, “exclusive” and “video” performed the best.  In contrast, “half-price”, “free” and currency symbols were low performing.

Final Thoughts

Did you notice a pattern within the best performing subject lines?

It’s tough, but there is one.

The pattern is, the best performing subject lines are detailed, intriguing with a little bit of spice all wrapped up into 150 characters.

That’s it.

Does it seem like a lot of data?

Well, I agree it is.  And it may seem a bit mind-boggling right now, but the next parts of this series will help this make much more sense (with actual examples too), so stay tuned for more subject line mastery.

Because ultimately, your message doesn’t matter one bit – even if you are giving away the secret to wealth, happiness and success – it’s a wasted effort if the subject line is a flop and nobody clicks to open it.

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