Email Word Counts Trending Down
Direct marketer Gary Hennerberg took a big dive into DirectMarketingIQ’s very own Email Campaign Archive — the only “email library” of its kind, separated into 180 product and service categories — to track legitimate email promotions from America’s most respected marketers.
Hennerberg discovered that during each quarter of 2009, the average email word count fell. In the first quarter, the average word count was 429. By the fourth quarter, that average had fallen 14 percent to 370 words (perhaps in response to the holiday season, when brevity may have been the overarching intent).
By the first quarter of 2010, word count had crept back to an average of 391, but it was still under the average word count of each of the first three quarters of 2009. The reasons for the drop aren’t completely known, but one hint comes from the average word count of repeated emails, which trends lower.
According to Hennerberg, another possible explanation for lower word counts is a movement from two-step sales processes to three-step sales and conversion strategies.
A two-step process often features an email with lengthy copy and a link directly to an order page. In a three-step selling strategy, emails have teaser copy and a link that jumps users to a landing page (or “squeeze page”), where more of the selling message appears. Then, if the reader wants to purchase, he clicks through to a third page where he can order.
Regarding repeat emails, the average word count for all email messages from the first quarter of 2009 to the first quartrer of 2010 was 202, yet repeat email from only the first quarter of 2010 had an average word count of 220 — an increase of 8 percent.
For example, self-study tapes, books and videos had an average word count of 902 for repeat email, contrasted with 1,190 in all email, suggesting that lower word counts may be more effective for at least this category.
Ethan Boldt is the chief content officer of DirectMarketingIQ, the research division of the Target Marketing Group. Ethan can be reached at email@example.com.