Study: Keep Subject Lines At 6 To 10 Words Or Try A Song Lyric To Lift Email Open Rates

Retention Science logo Feb 2014After analyzing more than 260 million emails across 540 retail email marketing campaigns, marketing analytics firm Retention Science found email subject lines kept at 6 to 10 words resulted in a 21 percent open rate.

According to the study findings, while 6 to 10 word subject lines delivered the highest open rate, email subject lines with 5 or fewer words generated a 16 percent open rate.

Retention Science claimed 52 percent of the emails the company evaluated had subject lines with eleven to fifteen words, dropping open rates to 14 percent.

Email Open Rate by Number of Words in Subject Line

Retention Science email open rate subject line

While some studies have reported email marketing mobile open rates as high as 65 percent, Retention Science said 35 percent of the emails in its study were opened on a mobile device, reinforcing the importance of keeping subject lines short:

Given that most smartphones only display five or six words of a subject line, being brief and concise is even more critical in the mobile marketing world.

To help increase open rates, Retention Science recommends using a person’s name in the subject line, or a movie title or song lyric.

The study discovered email subject lines personalized with a recipient’s first name lifted open rates by 2.6 percent.

Email Open Rates with Recipient’s First Name in Subject Line

Retention Science name in subject line

Retention Science noted the emerging trend of using movie titles and song lyrics in subject lines has also helped email marketers increase open rates.

“Movie and music references can be targeted to certain customer segments or encapsulate a promotional theme, making them a creative way to hyper-target and capture attention,” says Retention Science CEO Jerry Jao.

Citing a separate study, the analytics firm revealed subject lines with movie titles and song lyrics had a 26 percent open rate, compared to emails with “more traditional subject lines” that resulted in a 16 percent open rate.

Email Open Rates with Movie Titles or Song Lyrics in Subject Line

Retention Science movie song in subject line

Retention Science is scheduled to publish its finding on March 4.

Related Topics: Channel: Email Marketing | Email Marketing | Features & Analysis | Statistics: Email Marketing


About The Author: is Third Door Media's General Assignment Correspondent, and reports on the latest news and updates for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including,, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy's articles.

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