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    Do Special Characters Bring More Blog Traffic and Email Opens?

    Written by Carol Casey on April 8, 2014

    It’s always smart to try out new strategies to drive more clicks on blog titles and more opens on emails. But it’s kind of like the physician’s credo – first do no harm. The quick answer to the question we posed in our blog title is….

    YES to using special characters or Emoji (tiny graphic pictures)
    in Email Subject Lines

    NO to using special characters in Blog Titles

    Here’s why:

    Email Subject Lines

    It’s hard to find stats on the effect of special characters in subject lines. But in general there seems to be a growing interest in using them, and anecdotal reports of success. Technology has advanced so that there is more support now for the characters appearing the way they were intended instead of as gibberish.

    The key is to use them purposefully…

    • As a visual shortcut to your brand or topic
    • To emphasize the topic
    • To add humor or playfulness

    …and to understand the potential consequences.

    • Most email providers support special characters but not all of them. For example, Microsoft Outlook 2003 does not support them.
    • On some mobile devices special characters might get converted into an Emoji. 
    • Certain platforms such as HubSpot only allow symbols and not Emoji.

    Make sure to test subject lines with special characters or Emoji on all platforms before sending out an email. Then you might consider doing a test with half of your list getting the email with special characters and the other half getting a standard subject line.

    Here are a few great examples from Exact Target that illustrate smart use of special characters in subject line:

    subject lines, inbound marketingsubject lines, inbound amrketing


    Blog Titles

    With few exceptions, using special characters in blog titles is a bad idea. Using certain characters actually tricks browsers into actions that keep your blog from being properly translated. For example, using Ampersands or the “&” symbol makes the URL for your post title error out because the web browser is confused about where your HTML code either begins or ends.

    Blogging Pro Jackson Nwachukwu lays it out symbol by symbol.

    Yes to using these symbols in blog titles:

    single dash (-), colon (:), question mark (?), exclamation mark (!)

    An emphatic NO to using these symbols:

    • Ampersands (&) (as above)
    • “At” Symbol (@) Using "@" in a post title URL confuses the web browser or RSS reader into thinking it is an email address rather than a web address.
    • Greater Than and Less Than Symbols (< and >) When used on your post title, they cut off your title URL.
    • Pound Sign or Hashtag (#) This character works specifically on links in certain sections of a webpage.

    Now that you know the facts, stay away from the special characters that can keep prospects from finding your blogs, and get started using the special characters that might drive an increase in email opens. If you are not a frequent user of special characters, check back here next week for a short “how to” tutorial.

    One final thought: Have some fun with this strategy, but keep in mind your buyer persona.

    For example:

    I ♡ IBM i Servers

    This might not be a good fit for a demographic dominated by age 50+ computer operators who are predominantly male. Or female for that matter. The icon doesn’t fit the product or buyer persona.

    Will Computer Operator salaries go ⇑ or ⇓ in 2014?

    That works.

    Don't let good ideas fall to the wayside because you are waiting for the perfect opportunity. Test an email subject line with special characters against a non-emoji subject line and see if it drives more opens. Let us know if it does (or doesn't)!

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    Topics: Inbound Marketing, Blogging

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