The most successful email subject line from the 2012 Obama campaign was a simple “hey.” It set off a trend of casual, one-word subject lines designed to get a supporter to open the email. This tactic exploited a phenomenon known as the curiosity gap, which is the one weird trick that makes clickbait work.
Today, we’re seeing the 2020 Democrat campaigns use really lengthy subject lines that include complete sentences. One of Bernie Sanders’ recent emails had a 46 word long subject line.
What’s changed since 2012?
Email providers like Google are always engaged in a cat-and-mouse game to keep spam out of your inbox. It used to be the case that a high open rate was the best indicator of whether an email was important or not, but that’s changed.
The click through rate – how many people who click and email after opening it – is now the leading indicator of whether your email will be delivered and avoid the promotions tab or spam folder.
So what should you be testing and optimizing for in your email marketing? When we were aiming for high open rates, the sender name and subject line were key. Now you should be laser-focused on optimizing your call to action for the highest possible click through rate.
The easiest way to improve your click through rate actually has nothing to do with your email copy. Start by sending emails first to segments of your most engaged subscribers. By shrinking the denominator, you’ll get a higher click through rate. Then, if the particular copy does well, then send it to other segments.
When it comes to the email copy, new data reveals that readers are only spending 13.4 seconds reading an email. So if you don’t have a call to action link in the top of your email, you’re missing out on conversions by not even getting the ask in.
And I cannot repeat this part enough: You should only have one call to action and you should repeat it multiple times. You can’t even read this paragraph in 13.4 seconds, much less decide between two, three, four or more calls to action.
Hick’s Law states that the more choices an individual has, the longer it takes them to decide. You’ve only got 13.4 seconds, so if you’re trying to drive an action in your email but offering more than a single choice, you’re swimming against the current of millennia of cognitive development.
Optimize for click through rates by testing your call to action.