Does Your Subject Line Actually Engage Your Subject?

Does Your Subject Line Actually Engage Your Subject?

It’s official – the average human being literally has a shorter attention span than a goldfish.

Microsoft researchers found that the average human no longer pays attention to most things longer than eight seconds. The study was conducted in Canada, but really – do you think that mobile first societies like the United States, Australia, the UK or even Brazil are any better?

Emails fare slightly better than the overall average. Because of the endless techniques that highly motivated marketers constantly employ, the average person stays glued to the average email for 11 seconds, not eight. Wow. So all it takes is decades of research, years of schooling and hours of department meetings for three more seconds of time with your customer! That’s worth it.

The point we’re trying to get across here is that you don’t have much wiggle room with today’s consumer. You need to engage that prospect from the very beginning of your communication. Because we are talking about emails, the subject line is the focal point here.

[Protip shortcut – If you can somehow shoehorn pop song lyrics or a AAA movie title into your subject line, your email open rate shoots to 26%. This is research from Retention Science.]

Let’s take a look at what you should do to optimize your subject line for the best open rate you can possibly get.

  • Optimize your subject line and preview text to match in a mobile first environment. Make sure this introductory content maintains a consistent level of relevance, with the subject line serving as the exciting lead in to the eye opening statistic or unbelievable quote of your preview text.


  • Short is better – unless you have tested a longer subject line and it works. This may seem like contradictory advice, but it isn’t. Research from MarketingSherpa shows that most marketers use a subject line length between 40 and 50 characters. However, subject lines with a range between 61 and 70 characters had the best read rate – 17%. You can bet that industries with an emphasis on technical expertise would appreciate longer, more descriptive subject lines.


  • Personalize your emails at every opportunity. If you include a name in the subject line of your email (the correct name, by the way), you get a 30% bump up in your open rate. Localization is another way to legitimize the email and increase your chances of a longer and more meaningful engagement.


  • Bait and switch no longer works. Make your subject lines as relevant as possible. If you can, include statistics or a highly relevant question that your target audience might want to know about. Test to see what works best. However, we know that you can no longer use “You’re a Winner!” or “RE:” to try to fool your audience into an open. You will get marked as spam and blacklisted.
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