Email Subjects

How To Write Subject Lines

The subject line of your email is the hook that draws your subscriber to open your email.  The subject line as well as the From line are the single most important factors when it comes to whether or not a subscriber reports you as spam.   7 in 10 email recipients judge the From and Subject lines when determining whether they want to mark you as spam. For something so important, many people do not pay enough attention to the subject line.   Certainly not enough attention to split test it to see which subject lines will give them the best response.    Often times the subject line is written thoughtlessly and without testing before the email is sent.

It’s  About the Content Stupid

The content of the email should guide the subject that you give it. For that reason you might want to wait to do your subject line last.  The subject line may appear to be an ideal play to let your creative juices flow.   After all, you want to grab your subscriber’s attention don’t you?   When it comes to subject lines it’s better to be simple and honest rather than catchy and misleading.  There’s nothing wrong with a subject line that looks like this: [Your Company] Monthly Newsletter.   On the other hand think of the spam you’ve gotten recently.    They’re dramatic and give the subscriber a false sense of expectation:  YOU’LL NEVER FIND A DEAL LIKE THIS ONE.   Your subject line creates an expectation for your subscriber about what content they should expect to receive when they open up your email.  Subscribers are leery of anything that closely resembles spam and telling them they’ll never receive a deal like this one not only sets up a false sense of expectation but is likely illegal. 

Your subject line matches the content of your mailing.   The more direct your subject line is the more likely your subscriber is to open your mailing.  You can be direct and still write an engaging subject line that gets your subscriber’s attention.  You just have to let the substance inside your mailing be your guide.   Ask yourself what’s in it for your subscriber?  If you do not have anything interesting to offer your subscriber by opening your mailing then you shouldn’t be sending it to them.   It’s better to hold off on mailing to them until you can offer them something that would interest them.   That way you do not lose them as a subscriber.

What you do not want to do with your subject line is make it sound too much like a sales pitch.   Every possible cliche for trying to grab someone’s attention has already been exploited by spammers.  People prefer authenticity over spin.   If you make your subject line sound too much like a sales pitch or come off as being too needy they will assume you are being misleading.  We talked about some of the things you want to avoid with subject lines when we discussed effective email marketing writing.   Avoid using $ signs, all caps, excessive punctuation, exclamation points, % off, reminder, free, and help.  Stay away from anything that resembles anything in your spam box.

Even though you want to get your subscriber’s attention it’s better to be a little boring than too pushy.  If the subject line even resembles something your subscriber has seen in spam then this will turn them off and they will never open your mailing.  Worse they will report you as spam and this will jeopardize your ability to even deliver your mailings in the future.  Be simple, direct, and modest in your approach.  If the substance in your newsletter makes it worth opening then the subject line should write itself. 

How Long Should Your Subject Line Be?

The general consensus is that short and sweet works best.  Most email clients can display 50 characters or less.  According to Return Path subject lines with 49 or fewer characters had open rates 12.5 percent higher than those with 50 or more characters.  Click-through rates for subject lines with 49 or fewer characters were 75 percent higher than those with 50 or more characters.   More and more people are checking their email using smart phones and the like so as few as 20 characters may be more effective in order for proper display. 

The Forgotten Art of Testing

Because Subject Lines are such an important indicator of whether or not a mailing is likely to be open split testing a campaign to see which type of subject line gets a better response is strongly encouraged.   Find two or more of your strongest subject lines and see which one of them gets the best results.   If you are using email marketing software there is even a winner feature that will determine which of your subjects are generating the best response and send the email out to the rest of the subscribers using the most effective subject line.    You may also want to see how the subject line appears in various email clients or even on an iPhone or a Blackberry to make sure it displays properly.



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