Email Subject Lines

The success of an email campaign can come down to something as small as the subject line. Why? Because many recipients use the email subject line to decide whether to open or delete an email. In addition to this, spam filters are set up to identify certain trigger words that are common in spam emails and stop them reaching the inbox. Having these trigger words in the subject line can mean your email might never get to its recipients.

In this blog we will cover 10 tips to help increase the effectiveness of your subject lines and your email campaigns on a whole.

1. Subject line length

People receive many emails a day and most of the time they don’t have time to read through each email and so rely in the subject line to decipher whether the email is of importance or interest to them. For this reason it is recommended to keep the subject line less the 50 characters (including spaces) so that the line doesn’t extended beyond the email client’s (Outlook, Hotmail, etc )viewing plane.

It is sometimes argued that having a long subject line reduces the number of opens but may increase the number of click through rates because the recipients know exactly what the email is about and by opening is interested rather than just curious.

2. Get the Key Information in early

As mentioned in point 1, the subject line should be kept short to help increase the chances of the recipient opening the email but also that having a long subject line is not always detrimental. Whether you chose to have a short or long subject line this rule applies to both.

With an email subject line you should always try and get the key point in early so that it attracts those recipients who skim the subject lines and email clients don’t have a set number of characters before it’s cut off. So it’s vital to main the key points at the beginning if the line before it is potentially cut off.

For example:

“Ten tips for improving your email marketing” can be re-arranged and shortened to “Email Marketing: Top 10 tips”

3. Provide an immediate benefit

If you include an immediate benefit or some sort of urgency tag in your subject line then the recipient feels the need to act quickly for the fear of miss out. This is of course dependant on the content of the email and sometimes a time scale or deadline would apply to it. Examples of this are:

  • 10 best places to play golf this week
  • Order now for Christmas day delivery
  • 24 hours left before our sale closes

4. Be truthful

There is nothing people dislike more than someone they deam as untrustworthy. Don’t stretch the truth in the subject line or promise more than the email can deliver, or make grand claims that readers will find hard to comply with in order to get a special offer or benefit. Readers will distrust you (and reach for the report-spam button) if your subject line doesn’t reflect the email content and will most likely automatically delete future emails without a glance.

5. Think about the Spam Filters

It is a thin line between “Catchy” and “Spam” and trying to get this correct is one of the hardest parts of Email Marketing. There are certain words that trigger the Spam filters and if these are used to often in the subject and email body then the email will be automatically put in the Junk Mail. It is always best to run your emails through spam checkers before sending them out to your mailing lists.

6. Support the “From” Field

It is a common mistake to include the company name or organisation in the subject line in the belief that it will increase brand association and forget about the “From” section. If your company name appears in this field then it is unnecessary for it to also be included in the subject line.

7. Personalise

Personalise email subject lines based on users’ previous history of engagement with your emails. If you know what products or content preferences, interests, past purchases, Web visits or links they have clicked then you have an amazing insight into what works for them in email copy. Be careful when personalising on past purchases, however, because the purchase could have been a gift for someone else and might not relate to your reader’s real interests, but it can still provide a vital insight. Always make it easy for readers to find and update their data and email preferences, through an “Update my preferences” link. Avoid using the recipient’s name in the subject line unless you are sure your database is up to date. There is nothing worse then sending out emails with incorrect names in the subject lines.

8. Write the Subject Line early

It is common that the subject line is forgotten about and left till last when building an email but it should be one of the first parts of the email you should think about. As you plan a email marketing campaign, start thinking about what will go into the subject line. That will help you sharpen your campaign’s focus and may even change or tweak the offer or article focus.

9. Look back at previous Emails

The best analytics you have are from previous emails you have sent to be sure to always refer to what you have done previously when writing new subject lines. See which email subject lines delivered the action you wanted – the most conversions, the highest average sale per order, the highest click-through rate, etc.

10. Test, Test, Test.

Test continually to determine trends and styles that appear to work. Pre-test if you can. Add a day to your campaign-creation schedule to give you enough time to try out different email subject lines. Opinions and attitudes changes so don’t assume what works now will work 6 months later.
I repeat – Test, Test, Test

Writing subject lines are too important to ignore or to write at the last moment. Take your time, try out various possibilities, follow the advice of the experts, and you may see your open rates go up.

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