Subject Lines for High Response Rates

JakeWJakeW IndianapolisCommunity Member - Trial User Guru ✭✭

Subject Lines for High Response Rates

I've played around with subject lines in the past, trying to figure out what might garner the best response rates for surveys sent to students. I'm assuming your work with other populations would apply as well. So I'd like to know if anyone has tips that they feel move the needle on response rates.

During one test I used a subject line that was very polite, i.e. 'please help us... thank you...' compared to a subject line that was more of a command, i.e. 'Take this survey now...' and I was surprised. The 'polite' subject yielded far worse results than the commanding subject line. It may be that students felt like the command made the task sound somewhat like a requirement for their coursework, but I did no more testing on that project due to lack of time and a need to change directions... I'd like to do a similar test with more thorough analysis in the future, but for now, what have you found to impact response rates?


  • JulieTJulieT WisconsinFounding Community Member, Community Member Sage ✭✭✭
    Accepted Answer

    We've found that having a "call to action" subject line provides a much better response rate.

  • JakeWJakeW IndianapolisCommunity Member - Trial User Guru ✭✭

    Any specific examples that you found especially impactful?

  • JulieTJulieT WisconsinFounding Community Member, Community Member Sage ✭✭✭
    Accepted Answer

    Really just using words of urgency. "Take the Campus Climate Survey Today!" "We need your opinion now!" "Final hours ...."

  • KatCKatC [email protected]Founding Community Member Guru ✭✭
    Accepted Answer

    I try to be consistent in both the time and email subject so that participants can recognize the email as something that has a purpose and helps sorta establish expectations.

    I think the language can be a little dependent on the sender/relationship with the participants. For example, I often speak to student-aged folks, but we aren't a school, so I can be a lot less formal and often start email subjects with a literal "Oh look! A ___ survey" it's both casual, but also gets their attention.

    Having it feel personalized can also help, such as adding "for you," "calling all ___ students" "let [college] know what you think" could be potential options as well.

    Within Qualtrics you can set up certain times for the surveys to launch, I would definitely suggest to do some A/B tests with different samples to see what the results are and let us know what you find!

  • AnthonyRAnthonyR Tucson AzFounding Community Member Superuser ✭✭✭✭
    Accepted Answer

    @KatC's point about launch times is very important, and highly dependant on target. For students I would actually imagine seeing the highest response during common class times.

  • JakeWJakeW IndianapolisCommunity Member - Trial User Guru ✭✭

    You know @AnthonyR , I've looked at response time of day for students and there are definitely some interesting things. I send out about 150K course eval emails each fall so I get a lot of data back each term... Peak response times are early morning, and mid afternoon. I typically send the Invite email at 6am on a Tuesday to avoid weekend/Monday email overload, but still get it in their hands early in the week. Then reminders every 3 to 4 days alternating between just before the two peak response times.

    @KatC I've got another 150K+ distribution set for next Tuesday... Maybe I'll do a couple different tests on Subject Line again this semester. Would anyone on this thread want to get together offline later this week and hash out some ideas together?

  • VirginiaMVirginiaM Boone, North CarolinaCommunity Member Sage ✭✭✭
    Accepted Answer

    @JakeW For faculty and staff I've used a subject line with the words "Action Required" followed by a more descriptive summary (e.g. Action Required: Faculty Satisfaction Survey). It seems to get their attention and make them realize that they need to do something more than just read the email. For students, the most commanding subject line I've used so far is "Final Day to complete Course Evaluations", but now you've got me thinking I may change it up!

  • JakeWJakeW IndianapolisCommunity Member - Trial User Guru ✭✭

    @sbrons1 I'll have to try that out. It seems like a perfect way to do some testing. Thanks!

  • lillianclillianc Founding Community Member Sage ✭✭✭

    @JakeW @sbrons1 - thanks for posting this. We'll try some of these strategies - I'd love to hear more about your results if you run more tests!

  • 2baprogrammer2baprogrammer ArizonaCommunity Member - Trial User Guru ✭✭

    Some subject hooks that get my attention are:

    How was (Subject name)? Take this quick survey to rate your experience!
    Did you like (Subject name)? Let them know now!
    Hurry, your response is needed! How did (Subject) fair?
    We need your opinion! Rate your experience with (Subject name)!

    I also think anything with urgency, or a "free" coupon or offer also helps.

  • JakeWJakeW IndianapolisCommunity Member - Trial User Guru ✭✭

    @lillianc You're welcome! I wish I had the opportunity to run more tests, however I've taken a new job elsewhere. In my new role I do plan to run some subject line tests, but it may be a while until I have the opportunity. I'll keep this forum posted.

  • ComEd_MikeComEd_Mike Oakbrook, ILCommunity Member, XM Advocate Qubie ✭

    I like to make them a little fun and unorthodox when appropriate. I've documented improvement with, "We don't normally send surveys, but when we do. . ." One respondent even commented in an open-end, "I don't normally take surveys, but the subject line was intriguing, kudos to whomever wrote it."

  • rmetzgerrmetzger Portland MECommunity Member Qubie ✭

    I've been using the following websites to test effective subject lines lately to lift response rates but don't have evidence yet (A/B tests), other than the 'score' the site assigns to a proposed script. The more you work at it the higher the score. And some of these give tips to improve as well. Good luck!

  • Student_Affairs_AERStudent_Affairs_AER Salt Lake CityCommunity Member Qubie ✭

    @Emily said:
    You can also check out this webinar by Jag Patel of MIT. It has great, research-based advice for boosting open rates on institutional surveys.

    This link does not seem to be working; it just went to the main Qualtrics site. Is the webinar still available somewhere?

  • EmilyEmily Seattle, WACommunity Administrator Administrator

    @Student_Affairs_AER Unfortunately, since that webinar is from February 2018, it is outdated and no longer available. You can find all of the webinars that we have available by going here!

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