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A Rethink On Email Subject Line Length

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Monday August 12, 2013 )

I’ve developed a new habit when scanning through the many emails I receive; one I didn’t realise I had picked up until today – and its changing my thinking about subject line length.

I use Outlook and I was scrolling through the oodles of backlogged industry publications I receive and noticed the way I was determining what to open was by hovering my mouse over a partial subject line; which generates a little window displaying the full subject line text.

Maybe Outlook has always had this feature, but today was the first day I was consciously aware of it and what I was doing.

It was some of the longer subject lines that got my attention – communications that I may never have opened if the author had  observed the “shorter is better” principle. These longer subject lines contained the details of more stories contained within the communication. Some subject lines were incredibly long – upwards of 170 characters.

While this was somewhat of a revelation to me, it’s important to note that popular email services such as Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail do not have this feature (yet).

Outlook (desktop client version) only accounts for 20% of email opens at present, but that is enough to perhaps make this feature worthwhile playing with – but keeping what you believe to be the most important/appealing/critical/whatever aspects towards the beginning of the subject line; bearing in mind the limitations of most online email clients.

Also, the subject line is not a good place to lump an entire sales message in my opinion – it appears amateurish and salesy-keyword rich text may trigger spam filters. I’m only considering using this on newsletters that contain multiple stories.

Pick up some more email subject line tips.


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