By Ros Hodgekiss on 25th January 2011
You’ve probably heard the advice, ‘Keep your email campaign short and sweet’, often followed by, ‘… because no-one’s going to read loads of copy, anyway’.
As much as this seems like commonsense, we’ve all seen clients attempt to cram in as much information as possible, oblivious to reason. I believe this is largely due to another school of thought, which goes along the lines of, “My subscribers have signed up because they obviously want to read all about my brand values and 5 year plan.” With a lack of hard evidence to the contrary on hand, this can be an frustrating argument to dismiss.
I was skimming through Jakob Nielsen’s research recently and came across a little gem in the form of an eyetracking heatmap. Based on data collected from recipients of an email newsletter, it denotes the areas where they looked the most in red and the least in blue:
From: ‘Email Newsletters: Surviving Inbox Congestion’ - Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, June 12, 2006
Note the emphasis on reading the first two words of the headlines, followed by diminishing interest in the body copy. As the email extends downward, interest in the content rapidly drops off.
If this doesn’t prove how fickle the average subscriber is, then there’s more. Based on this research, Jakob observed that:
“…the average time allocated to a newsletter after opening it was only 51 seconds. “Reading” is not even the right word, since participants fully read only 19% of newsletters. The predominant user behavior was scanning. Often, users didn’t even scan the entire newsletter: 35% of the time, participants only skimmed a small part of the newsletter or glanced at the content.”
Ouch. Just when you thought you could get away with adding at least a tiny introduction to your newsletter, Jacob throws in the following salvo:
“People were highly inclined to skip the introductory blah-blah text in newsletters. Although this text was only three lines long on average, our eyetracking recordings revealed that 67% of users had zero fixations within newsletter introductions.”
It looks like we’ll be keeping our emails to the point this season, hey?
You’re probably speed-reading this blog post, so we’ll get to the good stuff. Here are a couple of tips for getting the important bits of your email read:
Finally, your email design may only get an average of 51 seconds of fame per reader (if it gets ‘read’ at all). How will you make the most of it?
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