Short v Long: Email Content Length Demystified


In the world of digital marketing, one question often arises: “Does the length of email content affect conversion rates?” This question was recently posed to me by an email copywriter seeking advice about the relationship between content length, information density, and conversion rates, so I thought I would use this blog post to share my thoughts on this FAQ with a wider audience.

The Misconception About Short Content

A common misconception is that shorter content inevitably leads to higher conversion rates. This belief, however, overlooks the essence of meaningful content and fails to consider the amount of information that needs to be conveyed.

The problem with focusing solely on word count and information density in email or landing page content is that it often neglects the importance of meaning. According to this logic, shorter content with low information density would always outperform longer, denser content. This would hold true even if the shorter content were nonsensical or written in an alien language like Wookieespeak.

The Role of Ambiguity

Another crucial factor to consider is ambiguity. Less dense text tends to be less meaningful and often requires a click to discern whether it aligns with the recipient’s interests or needs. On the other hand, highly specific and explanatory content, characterized by higher information density, tends to attract clicks only from those genuinely interested in the offering.

In the case of less dense content, you may receive a lot of opens and clicks, but many of these recipients may find themselves disappointed in the next steps. Conversely, with specific and dense content, you are more likely to attract individuals who want exactly what’s on offer.

Key Considerations for Optimal Content Length

To make an informed decision about the optimal content length and information density, it’s essential to focus on two key considerations:

1. The Amount of Information: Assess how much information you need to convey to effectively communicate your message. This varies widely depending on the context and the complexity of your offering.

2. Specificity and Ambiguity: Consider how specific you need to be and how much ambiguity you can afford in your content. Specific, highly detailed content leaves little room for misinterpretation, attracting a more targeted audience. On the other hand, less dense, more ambiguous content may garner initial curiosity but might lead to disappointment for some recipients.

Understanding Propositions

I approach this by referring to each piece of information as a “proposition.” Using Subject Lines by way of example, let’s break down what propositions look like:

1. Single Specific Proposition: Example: “50% off all T’s today only!” These are naturally concise and to the point and do not have to be grammatically accurate.

2. Ambiguous Single Proposition: Example: “Summer starts here!” These propositions are not specific and might pique curiosity but will require further exploration via an open or click.

3. Multiple Propositions: Example: “Last Chance for Extra 30% Off | Jonathan Simkhai, Christian Louboutin Shoes, Jetsetter Must-Haves and More Start Today at 8am ET.” These need to be longer because they encompass multiple pieces of information.

Key Takeaways

From this, we can draw a few key conclusions:

  • Multiple propositions naturally require more information and are inherently longer.
  • Single propositions are naturally shorter and more direct.
  • Multiple propositions are less likely to be ambiguous or misleading to the recipient.
  • Adding length to a single proposition solely for the sake of it is generally not worthwhile.
  • Shortening multiple propositions is possible when dealing with highly knowledgeable recipients or widely understood concepts, such as well-known brands, events, or topics.

In conclusion, both short, concise content and long, dense content have their rightful place in email and landing page marketing. The choice between them hinges on your specific communication goals, the complexity of your message, and the expectations and knowledge level of your target audience. By understanding these factors, you can create more effective email content that drives conversions.