Break the Rules – Part 1

Welcome to the first edition of our brand new weekly series, Break the Rules. Each week our plan is to highlight something you will have heard from some marketing expert as a best practice to be disobeyed at your peril. And we’ll tell you why it’s a rule you should break.

This week’s rule = Use Shorter Subject Lines

If you’ve ever read anything about email marketing, you’ll be familiar with this rule. Heck, it’s even one of my 50 Golden Rules of Email Marketing.

The concept is simple. Subject lines get cut off after so many characters when viewing them in many different email clients, such as Gmail or Outlook. So in order to get your message across, you should deliver it in as few characters as possible. I usually recommend no more than 60.

But more recently, studies have shown that better subject lines get more clicks, no matter how long they are. Subject lines that are “too long” often get more clicks if they are more meaningful than their shorter counterparts.

As it turns out, length may not be the most important characteristic of subject lines.

The goal of a subject line is to get people to open your email. Think of them as a headline, and the content of your email is the article that follows. You want the headline to get someone to read the article. So it has to promise value and be enticing. If you can do that in less than 60 characters, do it. But if you can’t, you should ignore that rule and use as many characters as you need to.

Next time you send a marketing email, A/B test two different subject lines. One should be short and sweet, and the other should be longer and more descriptive. Then tell me which one gets more people to open the email.

Have a “rule” you think we should write about? Share it with us in the comments below or post it to Twitter @zheller using #marketingrules