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Poll: What do you read first when opening an email?

Writing an effective email

     
1:39 pm on Jun 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Our company sends out notifications to our subscribers. (Hundreds of thousands are sent out every week)....I've been challenged with writing a more effective email. In order for people to read the email, they first have to open the email...Therefore, amongst all their spam and other emails, our email needs to catch their eye.

I hardly ever look at the sender's name or email address. I tend to always look at the subject of the email.

Here's my simple poll: When checking your email, what do you look at first? Do you look at the sender name / email address, or do you look at the subject of the email first?

1:45 pm on June 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I'm the opposite.
I have a fairly regular group of correspondents, so unfamiliar names just leap out at me. A fast glance at the subject is generally enough to decide spam v. new person with decent accuracy.
2:04 pm on June 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Hi,

I look at the subject first, I find a [none] catchs my eye in case its a friend whos not bothered to supply a subject - so after a [none] I check the sender. I tend to dismiss long subjects as they're often doing exactly what you say and trying to grab my attention - then again short single words I dismiss for the same reason.

The ones that catch my eye the most are 2/3 word subjects and then i'll check the sender. I give most attention to senders that are the email address and include the company name. My span emails are almost always random normal (two part) names which have I have stopped responding to.

HTH

2:11 pm on June 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Subject.

Which leads to two of my pet hates:

1) Blank subject lines

2) People who put an entire email message in the subject line and then leave the email body blank.

2:43 pm on June 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I always look at the subject first and for mail I subscribe for, I like to be able to make rules to filter the mail to its own folder in outlook. E.g. when I receive mail form GIAC the first word in the subject is [GIAC] making it possible to filter on this. If people subscribe, they must be interested in receiving the mail. Make it possible for your subscribers to “catalogue” the mails you send out
3:12 pm on June 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Bufferzone,

Your comment is interesting as it relates to GAIC placing their name first in the subject line. I'm a big proponent of brand recognition. If we are sending out these notifications, I'm trying to figure out how to best label the subject line of the email in order to maximize the email's open rate. Specifically, what subject line is most effective (for exmaple):

WebmasterWorld: A match was found - CompanyName

or

A match was found for ServiceType: CompanyName

Keep in mind the sender's address would be webmasterworld, so there would be branding there. But would it be better to have the name Webmasterworld in the subject line again...?

Anyone know of any statistics that have been done on open rates depending on the type of subject line(s) used? That would be interesting information.

3:25 pm on June 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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At work I pay attention to the subject. I cannot ignore unfamiliar names or e-mail addresses because they could belong to a customer, or a client's new assistant, or an important vendor.

My personal e-mail, however, is exactly the opposite. I go through and read the five or six I might have an immediate interest in. After that I sort out the unread messages, delete the obvious spam, and go through the remainder.

Newsletters/mailing list traffic has the lowest priority. I usually do little more than skim. Sorry.

1:16 am on June 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Ditto choster, exactly.
5:18 am on June 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

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It really depends on where my filters have sent your message.

If you send me regular e-mail, and you actually want me to read it, you better make the first one that I open well worth reading.

Does the email offer useful information other than your sales pitch? I tend to read the first couple of messages from one source, no matter what the subject. If they are worth reading, the get filtered into their own mailbox. If they are not worth reading, they get killfiled, and no matter how catchy the subject, it will not matter because I will not ever see it.

Remember, for something to be worth *my* time to read, it has to offer value to *me*.

If you are only sending sales pitches, and I am not interested in buying right now, you will probably get killfiled. Then when I am going to be buying it won't matter "what I look at first" because I will not be looking at any of it.

On the other hand, if you send me a newsletter that I look forward to reading, it won't matter how lame or catchy your subject is, it goes into a mailbox that I will always read.

So I guess, that my answer would be "who it is from" matters more than the subject.

5:45 am on June 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

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First thing I look for is to see if it is in English. :) If not, is is spam.

Then subject. Normal emails usually have just two or three relevent words in the subject line.

Then To. A lot of spam I get is to the wrong address.

Somewhere in there I notice if there are any attachments. Those get short shrift unless I am expecting a specific document from a specific person.

WBF

6:38 am on June 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Bradley> I would definitely prefer the first, with the company name in front
5:00 am on June 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I look before reading a mail, usually in the following order:

  1. Subject
  2. Sender
  3. E-mail

I'd suggest go with a simple subject - unlike those spam messages which contain stuff like "Save up to 70% on..." - these always get ignored by people, especially those who occasionally get spammed.

Sid

8:02 am on June 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I'll go for the first one definitely. Website name in first - topic - companyname.
12:50 pm on June 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

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We recently changed around the subject on a newsletter which we send out monthly - so it was website first. It was like somebody put some TNT under the site!

Moral of the story : Peoples email clients don't display a lot of the subject line, certainly not the whole lot, so put the email in context as soon as possible, otherwise it'll go straight in the bin :(