How to Grab My Attention in 8 Seconds or Less

Posted by Samantha Sussberg on

So you want my attention? Come to my inbox and get it.

The average human attention span has dwindled down to a staggering 8 seconds–falling from 12 seconds back in 2000. Nice work humankind. Goldfish now have a longer attention span than the average subscriber swimming in at 9 seconds.

Now the real question here is what does this mean for marketers? It means they have to work even harder to leave an impact on consumers. To help clients optimize their subject lines, Return Path introduced the Subject Line Optimizer tool. Although there is no magic fix button, here are some tips and creative ways to use the tool to help capture attention with the right subject line.

Test Often
Winning the subject line battle can directly impact email campaign results. Test as often as possible. Even small and short tests of potential subject lines can lead to valuable results. Use Subject Line Optimizer to compare subject lines across thousands of brands and industries. For example, you can prepare for a holiday campaign and gain insight into what competitors are doing.

Below, I ran a search using the keyword “sale” within the apparel industry. Filter the results by industry to find similar, high-performing subject lines based on read rate for competitors:


Keep it Short
Many email clients cut off long subject lines. This is not ideal when you are fighting for subscriber attention in the inbox battlefield. This is why we recommend keeping subject lines under 55 characters. Some mobile inboxes cut off subject lines around 30 characters, so frontloading subject lines with the keywords is also a best practice.

Here is an example from my inbox:


See what a difference a few characters can make? Use Subject Line Optimizer to compare similar subject line lengths vs. read rate lift.

Keywords Are Key
Tell people what they want to hear. Since subscribers usually make a judgment call on whether to open an email within in the first few seconds, it is important to use your words wisely. Popular and strategic keywords are one way to secure more subject lines that lead to opens.

Also, see what subject lines are trending in different industries through the Subject Line Optimizer tool. This is a great way to spot trends and stay relevant. Below is a search of the Food/Drug industry:


What do these three subject lines have in common? Personalization.

Incorporate Subject Line Optimizer into your workflow to craft the winning subject and stand out in 8 seconds! And now, congratulate yourself for having a long enough attention span to make it through this article.

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About Samantha Sussberg

Sam is an Account Coordinator at Return Path in New York City. Her goal is to build great relationships and RP value with clients to be an advisor for all things email. She enjoys researching marketing industry trends, and learning about client strategies to help them optimize their email program. Outside of work Sam can be found exploring the city, eating peanut butter, running, or petting every dog she sees on the street.

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