Email Subject Lines Are Extremely Important, but Not for Open Rates

I’ve been running the ChurchM.ag email newsletter for over half a year now and during that time I’ve learnt and lot and experimented a lot. Almost every week I run an A/B test of some sort to investigate what is more effective. I’ve learnt a lot but one of the most interesting things I learnt was about subject lines.

You might suspect that subjects lines impact the open rate the most. While they do impact the open rates, they almost always have a bigger impact on the click through rate.

That’s kind of a big deal.

Firstly, it seems to go against the obvious conclusions, a subject line is what you see before you open an email so of course it should affect open rates, but once an email is opened, someone will read a lot more content in the actual email. Yet I’ve seen this time and time again where a subject line will lead to marginal differences with open rates, but dramatic differences with click through rates (even with different content).

It shows that while you can influence the open rate with your subject lines, there is still an element out of your control. It’s dependent on

  • The time of day,
  • The audience and how often they check/open their emails
  • The general impression you’ve built up over time

And more. But, your subject line can really boost CTR which can lead to more sales. [BTW this is similar to blog post headlines which can boost social shares as well as the number of people who read to the end]

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