To change or not to change your subject line, that is the question.

As an eMarketer, I’ll admit I am a bit addicted to testing subject lines in an effort to boost open rates. One client consistently receives 35 to 40+% open rates from its opt-in prospects (non-customers) for its quarterly enewsletters, while its customer open rates remain stagnant at 25 to 30+%. Rather than continuing to create very issue topic-specific subject lines, we’re now going to test more generic “Name of eNewsletter – Spring 2009) subject lines to uncover a possible change in open rates.


When moving forward with a subject line test, I am reminded that while there are published reports by reputable research firms that very straightforward, even “boring,” subject lines consistently and significantly beat “salesy” subject lines (e.g., MailChimp Study), there are, however, just as many reports and best practice studies (e.g., Lyris Tips) that warn eMarketers to focus their subject lines to avoid the “generic and boring.” Some marketers may fear that a more specific subject line will not resonate with all readers, but this should not be the case because your emails should be created and versioned for your targeted segments.


For email data junkies, testing and tracking subject lines (and a lot of other metrics) is really the only way you can move the needle in the right direction. But as much as it is addicting, it is hard work and requires open-mindedness, persistence and flexibility when looking at the data and making decisions moving forward.


The question: Do YOU change or choose not to change your subject lines? I’d love to know … email me at


Denise B. Hearden, eMarketing Director, Johnson Direct

About johnsondirect

A prominent measurable marketing strategist and nationally recognized thought leader, Grant serves as president and chief marketing officer for Johnson Direct, a measurable marketing communications and direct branding™ counseling firm that employs multi-channel marketing strategies that are testable and accountable. He is also a sought-after public speaker, marketing trainer, award-winning author, copywriter, and consultant.
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One Response to To change or not to change your subject line, that is the question.

  1. Ben Holmes says:

    I cannot imagine failing to pay close attention to the subject line… when I was doing a great deal of selling on Ebay – the title was the one factor that had the greatest impact on whether I had traffic to my Ebay offer or not.

    People will click & open due to curiosity, or some emotion – and it’s desirable, in my opinion, to spend a little extra time to find exactly the right subject line that will evoke an emotion – and get those higher opening rates.

    I’m not convinced at all that boring titles are worthy whatsoever.

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