My how times have changed. We used to send newsletters to our customers and prospects. Back in the day, these were actually printed on paper and distributed via snail mail. Then we started sending out email newsletters; they were nicely designed and tried to capitalize on the news of the day. Then news and content aggregators came along, and people could find their own news, thank you very much.
So how do you get your news across in today’s accelerated news cycles and shortened attention spans? A lot of it has to do with the subject line strategy. A good subject line can increase open rates and click rates. A poor strategy can consign your news to the virtual wastebasket.
What makes for a good subject line? Adestra, a British digital marketing agency has just published a study on subject lines that boost or depress readership. Adestra surveyed hundreds of different words in 90,000 campaigns and analyzed how those words affected open rates, click rates, and unsubscribe rates. The word “newsletter”, for instance, marginally increases the open rates but seriously suppresses the click rate and increases the unsubscribe rate.
The word “newsletter” simply describes what’s in the email. It’s all about content. Other content words, including “report”, “learn”, and “book” all suppress both open and click rates. Apparently, people are tired of just reading stuff. On the other hand, words like “alert”, “daily”, and “weekly” tend to increase open and click rates. I was surprised at “daily” and “weekly” – they seem like passive words to me. But Adestra argues that “…customers begin to expect your emails … and get into the habit of reading them.”
We all know that people like to save money but different ways of saving produce different results. For instance, the words “sale” or “save” have a modestly positive impact on open and click rates. The term “free delivery”, on the other hand, has a much more pronounced positive impact.
Interestingly, many terms used as calls to action suppress rather than boost open rates. Words like “get”, “register”, “subscribe”, and “don’t miss” all suppress open rates. On the other hand, words like “breaking”, “alert” and “update” tend to boost readership.
Some email campaigns have used “fwd:” and “re:” to try to convince readers that the message relates to a previous thread or is being passed along by a colleague. Both, however, moderately suppress open and click rates and dramatically increase unsubscribe rates. Recipients apparently feel tricked and quickly unsubscribe.
The Adestra report compares effective and ineffective words in B2B, B2C, retail, and charity campaigns. Refer to the report to find your type of business. But remember that these trends can change quickly. Best practice still calls for split testing: divide your campaign into random subsets and use different subject lines on each. You’ll soon discover which ones work best for you.