Announcing: Winners of the Email Subject Line Contest

You might remember that in December, we worked together with the team at to run an email subject line contest.

In order to preserve the integrity of the test, we didn’t announce any of the finalists before the test was run. But today we’re announcing all 10 finalists, as well as the final winner of the split test.

The quest? To find a subject line that would get their email opened — but also, acted on, in the form of a click through to the offer being made.

This was a real-world promotion for MarketingSherpa’s live Email Summit 2014 in Las Vegas. Five finalists were chosen from the Copyblogger audience, and five from the readers of the MarketingExperiments blog.

The prizes? The writer of the subject line that generated the most unique clickthroughs has won a complimentary ticket to Email Summit 2014. MarketingSherpa is also putting that talented winner up in the host hotel, the Aria Resort & Casino, for two nights.

And the writer of the subject line that got the highest open rate has won complimentary access to the MECLABS Email Messaging Online Course. (Clickthrough was MarketingSherpa’s primary KPI, or key performance indicator, but opens were a secondary KPI.)

How did we choose our finalists?

On the Copyblogger side, we had more than 300 entries to the contest, and the editorial team looked carefully at each one.

First, the ones we didn’t go with.

Based on our own experience and a mountain of research, we knew that “clever but unclear” would result in poor open rates. So even though “Meet The Guy We Gave $2000 To Write This Sentence at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014″ actually made Daniel over at MarketingExperiments laugh out loud, it didn’t make our final cut.

And what is it we want to be clear about? An important benefit of the offer, as well as concrete information about the offer deadline.

To follow spam laws (and preserve MarketingSherpa’s reputation) we didn’t include any that might be considered misleading. “You have won $10,000″ will always get opens — but that doesn’t make it a good email subject line.

And finally, MarketingSherpa was not able to consistently personalize across this entire list, so headers with personalization couldn’t be fairly tested and therefore were left out.

The finalist competitors indicated a clear benefit in the subject line, as well as being intriguing enough that we believed they had a good shot at that click.

The 5 runners-up from Copyblogger

We sent these 5 entries over to MarketingSherpa for the experiment.

Early Birds, save $300 when you register for the Email Summit by January 9, 2014!

What happens in Vegas…will improve your emails! Save $300 now.

Your emails don’t work (We’ll tell you why)

Jim Shirley
Last Chance to Save $300 on Email Summit 2014

Ali Luke
(Open BEFORE Christmas) Email Summit 2014: discount ends Jan 9th

The additional 5 finalists from the MarketingExperiments blog

And here are the five runners-up from the MarketingExperiments side of the contest …

Eugene Nilus
[Email Summit 2014] Last Day of Early Bird Discount is…

Mike Schwenk
$300 Savings | Vegas | More ROI From Email In 2014

Joy Avila
Tick Tock — Email Summit 2014 discounted registration ends soon

Chris Allsop
Get the latest, proven strategies in email marketing — Email Summit 2014

Linda Jackson
What Happens In Vegas Shouldn’t Stay in Vegas – 2014 Email Summit — Bring it home!

Why clickthrough?

Some asked why MarketingSherpa was looking at clickthrough, rather than open rate. And the answer is the same one I pointed to in that “You have won $10,000″ example above.

The aim of your email subject header is to get the email opened, yes. But it’s to get it opened by the right people.

For the purposes of this promotion, email opens by people who have no interest in attending an in-person conference? Not useful.

Interesting, the winning subject line captured both the most clickthroughs and the most opens.

And that winner was …

The contest winner is Ali Luke!

Our winner was copywriter and writing teacher Ali Luke:

(Open BEFORE Christmas) Email Summit 2014: discount ends Jan 9th

Here’s how the other entries stacked up against the winner:

graph showing contest results

Our finalist Danielle also did well, in third place with:

Your emails don’t work (We’ll tell you why)

Congratulations to Ali for winning both prizes! And thanks for making Copyblogger look good in the contest. 😀

You can dig into the contest results in more detail over at the MarketingExperiments blog: 2013 Subject Line Email Contest results.

Editor’s note: Some of the finalist names from the MarketingExperiments blog have been corrected.

Print Friendly

What do you want to learn?

Click to get a free course and resources about:

Reader Comments (24)

  1. says

    Thanks Sonia! I owe the win to Copyblogger … clearly something’s sunk in over the past few years of reading all the excellent posts by you, Brian and the team.

    (Plus I was more than a little inspired by Brian’s entry…)

    Big congrats to Danielle too; I know on a different day, hers might well have been the winner.

    I feel a bit greedy walking off with both prizes! I was aiming squarely at click-through, so it’s really interesting to see that this headline also worked well on opens.

      • says

        Thanks so much, Sonia and Brian. :-)

        I was surprised no-one else went with an “open before Christmas” angle (I even searched the comments to see if anyone else had got there before me…)

    • Danielle says

      Thank you for the kind words! I saw your subject and thought “She did it. Nail on the head.” Great contest!

      My focus was on opens. Click-through focus would have been a better idea.

      Thanks for the opportunity.

  2. says

    Great contest idea. Stimulates much more interest from target audience by creating engagement. Instructional, too. A good lesson, in effect, on how to write email headlines intended to get click throughs.

    Unless you object, I’m going to use this contest in my NYU writing classes except I’m going to leave out the winners until the end and then have the students compare their results. Obviously, I will use everything the way you did — copy, layout, report — so they can see why Copyblogger is the best of the best on the subject of email marketing, and how an expert copywriter writes.

  3. says

    Can we see how the winner’s entry did mathematically or, as an admittedly math-challenged writer, am I missing something obvious to everyone else?

  4. says

    Cool, creative contest. I love how Copyblogger combined crowd sourcing with testing to get the best performing subject line for their campaign. Thanks for sharing the contest results and methodology.

    Congrats Ali. Enjoy the spoils of your victory :)

  5. Claire says

    My absolute fave is the ‘What happens in Vegas… will improve your emails’ great work Cheryl!

  6. says

    Thank you, Sonia, for writing the article in the fashion that you did. I understood clearly your criteria for judging before I read the final cut of the entries. As I was reading the finalists, I was questioning myself would I click open each of them. What a gift of a copywriting lesson.

    Ali you had me at (Open BEFORE Christmas)! Congratulations on a well-deserved win.

  7. says

    Congrats Ali. Now I know why you are the go-to copywriter for my marketing needs. Problem is, the whole world will know about your talents now. Better get my next book blurb to you soon… :-)

  8. Joy Avila says

    Congrats, Ali! Compelling AND effective – way to go. :)

    And thanks so much, Copyblogger. *wink* For a great contest and fabulous instruction along the way.

Comments are open for seven days. This article's comments are now closed.