Get Higher Open Rates With Split Testing Email Subject Lines

We all know the power of a compelling, engaging and thought-provoking email subject line. It’s the key to cracking the code of having your subscribers open your emails, read your content and click links to get to your sales pages, blog posts and landing pages. I shared all this in a previous post about the chain of online marketing.

And one of my earliest posts about how to create compelling email subject lines received some great feedback and response from readers as well.

However, there’s something missing that makes it all work together: Knowing what email subject lines work best. But, how do you know?

Split Testing.

That’s right – you need to split test different email subject lines to see which ones get higher open rates. Once you begin to see different open rates for different email subject lines, you’ll begin to incorporate the elements of the higher open rate email subject lines in your emails going forward.

For example, let’s say you’re about to send an email to your list of 1,000 subscribers on a new blog post. The first thing you need to do before even thinking about the body of the email is come up with the subject line. You need to answer these questions:

What is engaging and interesting to the viewer?
What is compelling and thought provoking to the viewer?
What is going to make your email “stand out” from the rest in their inbox?
What is going to get a reaction like – “wow, that’s cool – I’ve got to read that!”

So, you come up with a basic email subject line and then continue with the rest of the email and send it out to your list. Chances are you had a few different ideas or variations of the subject line – but you just couldn’t decide.

That’s where split testing comes in. Instead of using just one email subject line, split test using your #2 choice and see what the response is. If you did just one email subject line and that generated an open rate of 30% – great. But, if you chose to split test the second subject line and got an open rate of 40% – bingo. You know which one would work better for you in the future.

I’ll explain it this way. An open rate of 30% for 500 people and 40% for the other 500 people is not as good as an open rate of 35% for 1000 people. Why? You don’t have the benefit of knowing that the subject line of 40% worked best and be able to refer to the elements of that email subject line in the future for higher open rates.

I split test pretty much every email I send out. And pretty much every email marketing system can support it relatively easily. I’m a stickler for split testing as many different email subject lines to see which ones generate the highest open rates.

Here are some examples:

Even a subtle change with the word “the” and “here” made a 9% difference in open rate…

But here’s a real good example:

65% vs. 47%. Which open rate would you prefer? And look at the difference in the subject line. One is referring to my blog post and actually telling the reader to “open up!” which is pretty compelling on asking them to take action. The other one is more curious and thought provoking about how getting an optin is like getting a kiss on the cheek (I liked that one.) This one is clearly more engaging and interesting and thus got a higher open rate. So, I’ll clearly be using more subject lines like this going forward.

Split testing email subject lines is one of the best ways to gauge how your list responds to your marketing efforts – often better than your emails and web copy.

So, the question is: Are you giving it enough thought? Try split testing for your next email campaign and see what the results are for higher open rates. You’ll be glad you did.

Until next time… Learn It, Love It, Live It!

6 thoughts on “Get Higher Open Rates With Split Testing Email Subject Lines”

  1. Derek – I’ll always open ANYTHING from you, so your slpit test doesn’t count with me! I think the KLT factor has a lot to do with it too. If your list is comprised of your ideal clients, then the open rate will be high. I have a 40-55% average open rate in a list of almost 4000 – mainly because it’s a list of people that know me on some level through my classes, books, product or writing or word of mouth. Of course it’s taken me years to build that list, but it’s rock solid.

    1. That’s true, Lesley! Knowing your list in terms of their wants and needs is a BIG part of it. 40% open rate for a list that size is fantastic! Thanks so much for the compliments and hope you’re doing well… We’re here when you’re ready! 🙂

  2. Hi Derek,
    I know that I should be doing this but how do I actually set it up? I have only just begun building a list from scratch and so it is still small and I am using aweber. How do I split the list so that I can send out different emails?
    Any advice would be gratefully received!
    Kind regards,
    Cath

    1. Aweber has a great way of easily split testing email broadcasts. Check out their “Help” section on split testing and give it a try. Whether you have 10 subscribers or 10,000 – it doesn’t matter. The concept still applies and can be very beneficial…

  3. I don’t have any direct experience using the split-testing feature for emails with 1SC – but I’m sure they can support it somehow. Even if you split your list into two sub lists and email two different emails that way it will work.

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