Use web analytics to choose email subject lines

Want to know what gets people to click and open your emails? Look in your web analytics! Most web analytics packages provide some kind of report about what terms people used to search for your website and clicked on. It’s not much of a stretch of the imagination to take that information and make the inference that people might click on emails with those same search terms.

Let’s look at how you might do this. We’ll use Google Analytics as an example. We’ll also assume that you have it fully and correctly configured, including the built-in integration with Google Webmaster Tools. If you don’t have this set up, Google has provided instructions for doing so. It will take up to 30 days to get reliable data in Google Analytics for this particular report.

Start by navigating your way to Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimization > Queries. Then set the view to the largest number possible, 500 and arrange by Impressions in descending order. I’d also suggest setting a reasonably long time frame, 60-90 days of reporting if you have the data.

Using web analytics can help you find the best email subject line.

From here, export the report as a CSV:

Use the queries tab to find what people are searching for.

Now open it in the spreadsheet program of your choice. Trim off any lines in the spreadsheet where impressions are less than 10, because we want to find statistically valid clickthrough rates. Then sort the CTR rate in descending order:

Find the click-to-open rate.

What you’ve got here are the top 500 keywords people have typed into Google and clicked on to see your website, sorted by clickthrough rates. You definitely want to test out combinations of your top 10 keywords in your subject lines to see if your audience is as interested in your emails as they are in what’s bringing them to your website, and if you see a theme recurring over and over again, you may even want to do a newsletter series on that theme.

Try it out and see how it works for you!

Christopher S. Penn
Director of Inbound Marketing, WhatCounts


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6 Responses to "Use web analytics to choose email subject lines"
  1. Nick Stamoulis says:

    This is a great tip. Analytics is a valuable resource for future content. In addition to email subject lines, incorporate long tail keywords that generated traffic into blog post and article titles.

  2. Joe Bunting says:

    Good tip, but when I export it only gives me the first 10. Any ideas what I’m doing wrong?

  3. tzuming says:

    err, what relevance does keyword searches have to email subject header copy? really?

  4. Remco van der Beek says:

    This is a chicken and egg situation. Which one came first ?

    This report merely tells you with which keyword searches people are able to find your site. In essence this report tells you how well your site is optimised.

    There might be dozens of other keywords that people are using to look for the kind of products and services you offer which you won’t find in this list. And they might be used far more often. But if your site is suboptimised for search you will not see these search terms in this list.

    I would handle this with a lot of care. The data do not tell you what keywords people are using, only which keywords they use through which they can actually find your site. That is a big difference.

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