Do shorter subject lines really get higher open rates?
Call it the Goldilocks Conundrum: What character count is “just right” for subject line length?
If ever there were a question with an “it depends” answer, this is it. Before writing subject lines for your next email campaign, check out this research.
What can recipients see?
The number of characters displayed by devices and email clients — the weird term we use for Gmail, Apple Mail and other email service providers —varies widely. For instance, according to the Nielsen Norman Group:
- Outlook displays 78 characters on a browser at the full width of a 15″ laptop.
- Gmail on an iPhone displays 36-38 characters.
- Yahoo mail displays 38-42 characters on an iPhone before truncating the rest.
To avoid getting your subject line truncated, the folks at the Nielsen Norman Group recommend that you limit your subject line to 40 characters.
30 to 90 characters “is the dead zone, and will reduce the chances of opens and clicks in an email.”
But while the average desktop inbox displays about 60 characters, according to a study by Return Path, mobile devices display just 25 to 30 characters. With more than half of your audience members opening your email via smartphone, doesn’t it make sense to make this your standard?
The argument for limiting subject lines to what people can see is that you retain control of the message. After all, you don’t want your truncated subject line to say “lice” when what you wrote was “license.”
But that might be too short …
Get opened: Address the envelope
Want more tips and techniques for going beyond the subject line to convince readers to open your message?
If so, please join me at Think Inside the Inbox — our 2-day email-writing workshop on May 6-7 in Los Angeles.
You’ll learn how to avoid dropping the key element on your envelope. (24% of recipients check this before opening.) Too often, senders forget to write it — or, worse, have never even heard of it.
Save up to $100 with our group discounts.