Hold back on that clickbait headline for email marketing campaigns

(c)iStock.com/Tuomas Kujansuu

Advertisers that focus on clickbait email subject lines that overly sensationalise the content of their email marketing messages are failing according to a new study from data solutions provider Return Path.

The report, entitled The Art and Science of Effective Subject Lines, found that typical clickbait subject lines – such as “you won’t believe this shocking secret” were great at capturing web traffic but not so much at capturing readers of email marketing. The line was amongst the least effective of ten subject lines types examined for the survey. Including the words “secret of” led to an 8.69% fall in read rates when compared to messages containing similar content but with less sensationalist headlines. The use of “shocking” in subject lines led to a 1.22% decrease in read rates.

Conversely emails that included benefit-based subject lines with superlatives such as fastest or prettiest were the more effective at gaining the attention of customers with a 5.3% and 2.87% increase in read rates respectively compared to those with different subjects.

Similarly read rates were also higher for urgency-based subject lines such as “limited time”, “last chance” or “expiring”. And, whilst how to headlines work well for publishers for email subject lines they had almost no impact on open rates (-0.03%).

Subject line lengths were also examined in the report with the conclusion that there wasn’t really much difference in read rates depending on the number of characters in the subject line. Email subject lengths of between 61 and 70% achieved the highest average read rate at 17% but this was only a couple of percent higher than average read rates for most other line lengths.  With the average desktop inbox showing 60 characters of an email’s subject line and mobile half of that the results showed that there was no single typical line length.

The research comes from analysis of more than nine million messages that were sent by prominent global brands to more than two million consumers from January 1 through to February 28 this year using its Subject Line Optimizer solution. 

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