To get someone’s attention and motivate them to take action via email, you’ll need to write a message that captures their attention.
So what kind of email gets attention and action? There are dozens of variables to consider, including the subject line and the timing, but one important variable is the length of an email.
So, what’s the ideal email length for sales emails, according to the data we have?
Table of Contents
- The Ideal Email Length
- The Ideal Email Subject Line Length
- Email Length Best Practices
The Ideal Email Length
The answer isn’t so simple. This is a subject that’s frequently debated by even the most experienced email marketers—and the data on the subject is mixed.
Ideal Email Length for Maximizing Response Rate
For example, we can look to a study by Boomerang from 2016, which explored response rates to more than 40 million emails (a respectable sample size). The study broke down response rates for emails of different lengths, based on number of words:
- 10 words yielded a 36 percent response.
- 25 words yielded a 44 percent response.
- 50 words yielded a 50 percent response.
- 75 words yielded a 51 percent response.
- 100 words yielded a 51 percent response.
- 125 words yielded a 50 percent response.
- 150 words yielded a 49 percent response.
- 175 words yielded a 49 percent response.
- 200 words yielded a 48 percent response.
At the 500-word mark, the response rate fell to 44 percent, then remained steady until emails reached around 2000 words, at which point response rates plummeted.
The two highest categories here are 75 words and 100 words, with a “sweet spot” hovering between 75 and 100 words. However, it’s worth noting that the differences in response rates aren’t drastic; the difference between an “ideal” 75-word email and a 500-word email is just 7 percentage points—51 percent versus 44 percent. With a difference so small, a well-written 500-word email is very likely to outperform a poorly-written 75-word email.
Ideal Email Length for Maximizing Click-through Rate (CTR)
Of course, response rates are just one dimension worth considering. What about click-through rates (CTR), which measure how likely a user is to click one of the links in the body of your email?
According to data from Constant Contact, CTR changes based on the number of lines of text found in the email. Emails tend to see higher CTR as their number of lines of text increase, peaking around 20 lines of text, then steadily dropping off as more lines of text are added. These 20 lines of text translate to about 200 words.
Somewhat contradicting this finding is an older study by MarketingExperiments, which found that short emails (defined as those around 95 words) tended to have a higher CTR, at 40.19 percent. Longer emails (defined as those around 170 words) tended to have a lower CTR, at 34.38 percent. This difference isn’t world-shattering, but is significant enough to consider.
If you put all these data points together to form a coherent picture of “ideal” email length, you can come up with a reasonable conclusion.
If you’re looking for the best response rate, something around 50 to 125 words is best. However, if you’re looking to optimize for CTR, the picture is fuzzier; 100 to 200 words may be ideal.
So, what is the ideal length of an email if you want to maximize both CTR and response rate? 100 words.
Of course, even with hard numbers, there are many caveats to consider:
- Type of email. Different types of emails should have different lengths. If you’re sending someone an introductory message describing your business and your services, you’re going to need to write more than if you’re sending a simple follow-up message. There are some scenarios where a couple of sentences is plenty to capture your prospect’s attention, and some where you’ll need several paragraphs to get your full point across.
- Device. Roughly 46 percent of all emails are now opened on mobile devices. Mobile users tend to have smaller screens and less interest in reading, so shorter, more concise emails are better. Desktop recipients can afford more time, so longer emails can be better.
- Timing. Your timing can also play a role in the best length for your email. On Monday mornings, when people are bombarded with emails to review, a long email might not get much attention, while a short email may be addressed quickly.
- Audience. You should also consider the nature of your target demographics. Think about your audience; are these people who appreciate taking their time and reading things? Or are they constantly under time pressure, and interested in working as quickly as possible.
The Ideal Email Subject Line Length
The length of your email isn’t going to matter much if your recipients aren’t opening your email in the first place. That’s why your email subject line needs to be your first priority in your email marketing strategy. So how long should your subject line be?
The Boomerang study I cited above also took a look at the ideal length of a subject line. It found that emails with the highest response rates tended to have subject lines with just 3 to 4 words (excluding common email conventions like Re: or FWD: ). As emails added more words, response rates steadily declined. Additionally, it’s worth noting that only 14 percent of messages with no subject line received a response.
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- 35-50% of sales go to the first-responding vendor.
- Following up within an hour increases your chances of success by 7x.
- Salespeople spend an average of 13 hours per week on email.
So, what is the ideal length for your email subject line? Generally speaking, the shorter your subject line is, the better. Aim for 3-4 words.
Email Length Best Practices
When optimizing your email for length, make sure you follow these best practices:
Focus on quality first.
The length of your email isn’t going to matter if the content of your email is poorly written, sloppy, or not helpful for your recipients. Accordingly, your first focus needs to be on quality. Spend time making sure your message captures everything you want to accomplish, and improve your wording and spacing to make it even more effective. Then, you can work on expanding or trimming it to make it fit the ideal length.
Include a short, catchy subject line.
Whether your main goal is attracting more email traffic or closing sales directly, the first step of the process is getting your prospect to open the email. To do that, you’ll need to include a short, catchy subject line as part of your message. A blank subject line will kill your response rate, and a subject line that’s too long will prevent people from opening your message.
Don’t make your emails too short.
Depending on which study you examine, the lower threshold for responses tends to be around 25 to 50 words. If your email is only a sentence or two, it probably isn’t going to attract many replies. That said, there are situations where shorter emails can work (such as follow-ups or reminders).
Avoid exceeding the maximum email length.
Again, there’s some variance here, but it seems like emails peak in effectiveness at an upper threshold of 125 to 200 words. There are some situations where a longer email can be effective, but these are rare. If you find yourself writing more than a couple hundred words, you need to make your message more concise.
Prioritize your core message.
When writing your email, make sure you understand your main motivation in sending the message. What is the most important point you want to convey, or the most important action you want your recipient to take? This needs to be your highest priority, and you should craft your message according to it. This will help you from writing more than you need, and will establish parameters for how much you need to flesh out your message.
Keep your writing simple.
Keep your writing as simple as possible. This means avoiding embellishments, detailed anecdotes and stories, and complex language whenever possible. If you do this, your emails will be naturally more concise, and you’ll also naturally write at a lower reading level; lower reading level writing tends to earn more responses and interactions, so make sure your messages are as readable as possible.
Trim the fat.
One of the best ways to keep your email concise is to review it after you’ve written a first draft and “trim the fat.” Pay attention to the sentences you’ve written and the words you’ve used; are there things you can cut without compromising your message? For example, take the phrase, “I was wondering if you’ve ever thought about time tracking software for your organization, in passing or as a serious consideration” can be reduced to something like, “Are you interested in time tracking software?,” trimming several words. Some redundant words and phrases can be eliminated altogether.
Know your audience.
Like in all areas of sales and marketing, it’s vital to know your audience. To whom are you writing, and what kind of email do they want to see? Do they want to get the message as quickly as possible and avoid wasting time? Or would they prefer to read more details about the opportunity in front of them? Do your market research first.
Make adjustments for your format.
Think about what type of email you’re going to send your customers as well. Is this a format that benefits from something quick, with only one or two sentences? Or do you need a few paragraphs of space to fully flesh out your ideas? Look at some sales email templates to get an idea of the target length for emails in different categories.
Never leave out the ask.
Every sales or marketing email should have some kind of “ask,” whether it’s attracting a response or motivating a click through. This needs to be your highest priority, and should never be neglected in favor of a variable like email length. Polish your call-to-action (CTA) to perfection before working on the other aspects of your message.
Now that you know the ideal email length, check out our post answering the question “when is the best time to send an email?”
Are you using email for your sales and marketing strategy? Do you wish you had more metrics and insights to study, so you can optimize your campaign for more responses, click throughs, and closed deals? It’s time to take the next step toward optimizing your email sales strategy.
Start by using EmailAnalytics. It’s an analytics platform designed for Gmail, and with it, you’ll be able to learn more about your emailing habits. How many emails do you send per day? What’s your average response time? What are your busiest days of the week? Discover these metrics and more with a free trial of EmailAnalytics today!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.