Here’s a marketing email a colleague received last week.

Is this the best length for your marketing email?

Have you ever gotten an email like this before? How far did you read before you stopped?

I didn’t manage to get very far. There was so much text, and I knew that I didn’t have that much time to read, so I just closed it and moved on to the next one.

This email is an example of why you need to think carefully about your email marketing campaigns. There are three things that are working against this one:

First, it is just plain too long. There is so much text. The real estate agent who created it included two entire articles in the email.

Second, there is very little imagery in the email to capture and hold the attention of the reader.

Third, there is no clear call-to-action. There is no button to ‘learn more’ or ‘schedule an assessment’ or something to deepen the relationship with this agent.

A better approach would have been to highlight the title of each blog post or article with only the first couple of sentences as teaser text followed by a clear call-to-action to ‘read more.’ The full text of the article could be featured on the agent’s website with other helpful and engaging information for the reader.

OK. So the email is way too long, but is there a right length for an email? Maybe. But is that really the question you should be asking? Probably not. It’s better to ask, “What should I write in my email?”

Luckily, Constant Contact has tons of tips for writing emails and we have the following guidelines to help you get started:

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What should I write in my email marketing campaigns?

There are lots of different types of email campaigns that you can incorporate into your marketing strategy, and they fall into two broad categories:

  1. Promotional emails which feature a time-based offer (Events, limited time offer)
  2. Non-promotional emails that have more informational content (email newsletters)

Regardless of which type of email you are sending, you should follow the following formula as you create your content  and email copy. Think about your target audience. Who are they? What motivates them? What is important to them? Picture a potential reader of your email very clearly in your mind and then ask yourself three key questions that’ll help you decide what content to include in your email:

1. What are you offering?

Is your email promoting your products and services or are you offering a discount code to boost sales? Are you sharing valuable product or industry information, asking for feedback, or simply reminding them to renew a subscription?

Once you decide what you are offering your audience state it clearly in the header for your email.

2. Why should your readers care about your email?

Here is where you imagine you are having a conversation with your reader. Give a little more detail about what you are offering and explain clearly why they should care. Think about why it is important to them. Explain why the offer matters to the reader and what type of benefit they can expect — whether it be concrete or emotional.

This is your body copy. You probably only need four to five sentences to get your point across. Alternatively, you might want to have some short bullet points. Either way, keep your message clear and concise. Don’t put in every feature or selling point, just focus on what’s most relevant for your audience when sending emails.

3. What do you want your readers to do once they’ve read your email?

The answer is your call-to-action (CTA). Once you have crafted compelling body copy that will drive the reader toward action, you need to tell them precisely what to do. Do you want them to ‘Buy now’, ‘Register now’ or ‘Donate today’?

Make your CTA super simple and put it in a button that links to the appropriate website or landing page. Feature the CTA button prominently in your email so that it is impossible not to click.

When you ask and answer these questions from the point of view of your audience, you will know precisely what to include in your email.

But how long should my email be?

Okay okay. If you really want to know how long a marketing email should be, consider this official answer. Constant Contact performed a study to see whether there was any connection between the content of customer emails and the click rates/engagement they received. Here’s what we saw:

  • Emails that had no more than 20 lines of text or 200 words generated higher click-through rates. Adding anything more lowered the effectiveness of the email.
  • Emails with 1-3 images performed better than those with no images or more than three.
  • Emails with just a couple of links, especially those featured at the top of the email saw greater clicks. And, people tended to click links that appeared higher up in the email.

So, that’s the official answer, but the unofficial answer is: An email needs to be long enough to get the reader to take the desired action.

It will vary by audience:

Are your readers very technical? Do they need a lot of data before they are convinced? In that case, you may want to include more text. If you’re a scientific research lab that sends out whitepapers and research articles to your subscribers on a monthly basis, you might see higher open rates when you include more detailed abstracts.

It will vary by industry:

If you’re the owner of a small bakery, and you are having a special on summer treats, a mouth-watering image and a couple of sentences will probably suffice. Some industries are clearly more visual than others where relying on photos can help  improve click-through rates and increase overall engagement, so you’ll definitely want to test it out.

It will also vary by type of email:

If you are holding an event, your invitation email will probably only need to include a headline with the name of the event, a compelling image, details about the event’s date like time and location, four or five lines of body copy which demonstrate why the reader would want to attend, and a call-to-action to allow them to register.

Example length of an event invitation.

In contrast, a monthly newsletter might have two or three content blocks each with a headline, several sentences and a unique call-to-action.

Example length of a newsletter.

Finally, an email with a promotional offer might be very simple with a headline calling out the offer, a strong image, a couple of lines of copy and a CTA as in the example below:

Example length of a promotional email.

So clearly, there’s no magical “one-size-fits-all” answer to this. You are the only one who can decide how long your email needs to be.

Just remember that your email should only be as long as it needs to be to convince your reader to act, and no longer. Shorter emails get better click-through rates. When your email is too long, you run the risk of being put in the “I’ll read it later” folder or being skimmed through and having important parts of your message missed.

The best length for an email is long enough to entice the reader to take the desired action

If you ask us, our official answer to “How long an email should be?” is: no longer than 20 lines of text – or about 200 words – and an image or two to accompany your content.

But, don’t be afraid to create emails with significantly less text. In this day and age, not everyone has the time to read long emails, and you might miss out on engaging with a lot of your subscribers if they don’t appreciate your lengthy emails.

If you want your readers to engage with your email campaigns, it’s important to craft them carefully. Think about your audience, your industry, and what you are trying to accomplish and then ask the three guiding questions: What am I offering? Why should the reader care? What should the reader do next?

Create a marketing email that’s short yet relevant and gets to the point quickly. Include a prominent call-to-action and no more than a couple of distinct links. Use images that complement your email copy. Be clear and concise and check to see that you haven’t added any extraneous information that will distract the reader.

You know your industry and you know your audience and your email should be just long enough to get them to do what you want them to do.  

That’s the best length for your marketing email.

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