Email Marketing Length Best Practices

November 13, 2018
Written by
Julie Griffin
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

Email Marketing Length Best Practices

Providing valuable content that isn't too long is one of the bigger challenges facing marketers and content producers, and it's especially difficult with emails. 

There are so many factors to consider when writing emails—the devices your recipients use to view your emails, the type of content you're including, your offer/CTA, the list goes on.

To help you determine the best length for your emails, here’s a look into all things email length, from subject lines to copy, and everything in between.

Email subject line length

We analyzed emails sent through SendGrid from last year’s holiday season and found that the average subject line was 7 words in length. But, the emails with the highest engagement rate had only 4 words in their subject line.

Make the most of these short subject lines by:
  • Being clear. You want recipients to have an idea of what they’re opening.
  • Using action verbs. Create excitement for your email with powerful vocabulary.
  • Getting creative, but always testing. See what works for your brand.
Four words don’t give you a ton of room to work with, so don’t feel like you have to stay within that parameter. It’s just a guideline and shouldn’t strain your creative juices. The following subject lines break the 4-word suggestion while still creating interest and driving action. 

For more subject line tips, give our article Email Marketing Subject Lines: Dos and Dont’s a read.

Preview text length

Preview text length is dependent on a variety of factors: the ESP (Email Service Provider) sending your email, whether you’re viewing on mobile or desktop, and your recipients’ preview viewing preferences. Check out how different the preview text of the same email looks on mobile (below) versus desktop (above). 

If there's one rule to follow with preview text length, more than anything, don’t leave it blank. When you don’t include text in the preheader, your ESP will auto-fill the space with generic text such as, “To view this email as a web page, click here.” It’s a good idea to give your recipients the option to view the email as a webpage, but it doesn’t need to be in the preview text. 
The preview text is valuable real estate to get your message across and convince recipients to open your emails.
To make the most of your preview text:
  • Include buzzwords, especially in the beginning of the text.
  • Incite action. Make people want to open your email.
  • Test it! Just like your subject lines, try A/B testing your preview text.
Preview text may not get as much attention as your subject line, but it sure can influence a recipient’s decision to open an email and is not to be forgotten. Learn more about preview text and how it differs from pre-header text here.

Email copy length

Unless you’re sending an email newsletter, our general advice is to keep your emails short and to the point for a few key reasons:

Moving to mobile. Over half of our recipients in 2017 opened their emails on a mobile device, and in some industries, over 70% of recipients open emails via mobile. Reading long emails, long articles, long anything on a phone can be a pain, and your recipients won’t stay long if you’re sending them 1,000-word epics.
  • Preview your emails on your mobile device before sending to your contact list. This will give you a much better idea of the length of your emails and how much scrolling it takes to get to the bottom.
  • For reference, check out the email to the right. Notice how all the information on the promotional offering is shown within the first two scrolls of the screen.
Increasing engagement. You want your recipients to engage with your content. That could mean going to your website and looking at your sale offerings, RSVPing for an event, or clicking to read more. If your email is bogged down with content, you might lose recipients before they get to the call-to-action, or they may not feel the need to go to the website because all the information was provided in the email.
  • Hold back some information. You want your recipients to be curious enough to learn and read more.

It all depends on your content. (We know, we hate the if-y-ness of that statement too.) With such a wide variety of email content, there isn’t a one-size fits all solution. So our strategy is to keep in mind the purpose of our emails, and most of the time, it’s to quickly inform or send our recipients to a landing page that has more in-depth information.
  • Ask yourself the purpose of your email, and if it falls in either of those buckets, consider condensing your content.
If you are sending longer content, such as a newsletter, we recommend breaking up content in your email with bullet points, images, or other elements that make the material more digestible to the reader and help guide their eyes down the screen. Check out the newsletter on the left. It's on the longer side, but is broken up into headers and sub-headers to make it easier to read. 

Email address length

Though email address length is not often a hot topic, it's something to keep in mind when considering your deliverability. The technical limit for an email address is 64 characters before the @ sign and 254 after, allowing for a total length of 319 characters (including the @ sign). If you pushed it to the limit, you would have a ridiculously long email address—one that no one would ever remember.
A lengthy email address puts you at greater risk of spammers since it’s easier for them to subtly change the email address without your recipients noticing.
To protect your brand and your recipients:
  • Keep your addresses on the shorter side.
  • Always use your website domain in the email address.
  • Create logical, easily understandable addresses.
  • Keep the local portion (the part before the @ sign) consistent (e.g. use first initial and last name for all employee email addresses).
Sometimes long email addresses are unavoidable, and if that’s the case, make your email addresses as easy-to-read and logical as possible. If your business has a long name, try abbreviating it for ease of use.

Parting thoughts

For all things email length, our motto is to keep it short and sweet. While it always depends on what you’re sending, we tend to see higher open rates and click-through rates around shorter content. For more information on emails as related to your industry, download our Global Email Benchmark Report.

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