The Opening Line: Crafting The Subject Line That Gets Your Email Read
With email as a primary method of communication, the average working professional receives more than 100 messages a day. How can you make your email stand out from the sea of others in your subscribers' inboxes?
That's where the subject line comes in. Craft a great one to get your subscribers' attention... and your emails opened!
- It's an old wives' tale that certain practices will get you immediately marked as spam. Spam filters can be triggered for a variety of reasons, but specific words alone rarely are the culprit. Don't be afraid to use the
- #1 All caps.
- #2 The ultimate four-letter word: Free.
- #3 Exclamation points.
- Subject. Final hours: 20% off 1 item + FREE standard shipping!
- How content filtering actually works. Spam filters assign to "spam" words in the subject line and body of an email. If the points exceed a certain threshold, then the email is considered spam. However, using any one (or
two or three) of these words won't automatically mean a trip to the junk folder. While content filtering plays a part in spam scores, your sender reputation and engagement metrics are much more important.
- What works? A recent MailChimp study analyzed the open rates for more than 200 million emails to determine which types of subject lines trigger recipient opening. Here are some of the strategies that worked, as
well as others that fell flat.
- Leveraging localization. Collecting (and using) geolocation information can improve open rates by being personal and relevant. Subject: Nautica in Rutland Opens Soon!
- Ask away. Subject lines framed as questions perform better. Consider your audience's needs, interests, or the types of questions your content might answer. Subject: What's your dream adventure?
- Keep it short and sweet. Email marketing company MailerMailer found longer subject lines had lower open and click rates than those that were shorter. Try to say it all in 50 characters or less: 1) Subject (too long,
98 characters): Final reminder for complimentary entry to attend the West Freelands BCI Cluster Conference 2006; 2) Subject (get to the point, 24 characters): Your April Website Stats.
- Emails with 28-39 characters in the subject line had the highest click rates (Keys: Open rate by subject line length; Click rate by subject line length): 1) 4-15 characters: Open rate by subject line length - 15.2%;
Click rate by subject line length - 3.1%; 2) 16-27 characters: Open rate by subject line length - 11.6%; Click rate by subject line length - 3.8%; 3) 28-39 characters: Open rate by subject line length - 12.2%; Click rate by
subject line length - 4%; 4) 40-50 characters: Open rate by subject line length - 11.9%; Click rate by subject line length - 2.8%; 5) 51+ characters: Open rate by subject line length - 10.4%; Click rate by subject line
length - 1.8%
Proceed at your own risk
- The following strategies might drive quick opens but aren't long term-solutions for improving marketing.
- Symbols and special characters: Hearts, airplanes and coffee cups might get your email opened, but the jury's out on their effect on clicks. Subject: It? Get it at 40% off!
- Using "Re:" and "Fwd:" to imply that your message is from a trusted colleague or friend borders on deception and might damage subscriber trust. Subject FW: Get Connected at our B2B Marketing Mixer.
- Fear of being scammed has left many consumers skeptical of emails with pleas for assistance or requests for help. Subject: Help us create the ideal college experience.
- Using numbers can help quantify your message, but constant sales and promotions can lead to subscriber fatigue and general loss of interest. Subject: SALE ends soon - Up to 50% off!
- Including the recipient's first or last name does not significantly improve open rates. Subject: Matthew, SNAZZY SHOES wants you back.
- In a July 2012 study, MailerMailer saw significantly lower CTR and open rates for personalized subject lines compared to non-personalized ones.
Get the open in 6 steps
- When writing the subject line for your next email, consider the following techniques.
- Step #1. Useful and ultra-specific: Make sure it is relevant, valuable, and the message is clear to your subscribers.
- Step #2. Identify yourself: Is it crystal clear to your subscribers who your email is from? ention your most recognizable brand product in your subject line, or prefix your subject lines with a consistent identifier.
- Step #3 Be visually different: In order to make your email stand out, try to make your subject line stand out visually. Consider using brackets, variations on capitalization.
- Step #4. Use timely topics and urgency. Hit home on a point that is top of mind for your subscribers, such as something in the news or a popular topic. Urgency works for real deadlines, but can be overdone. The
MailerMailer study found words that are used to convey relevance (news, newsletter), or to persuade (free, party, sale), and indicate time sensitivity of the message (night, weekend) were most popular.
- Step #5. Call to action: People respond well when you ask (or tell) them to do something. What do you want your recipients to do?
- Step #6. Test it out: Test which subject lines resonate best with your audience, so you can repeat success.
- In a nutshell: What are the do's and don'ts of subject lines? Do set your subscribers' expectations and clearly state inside the email. Don't write your subject lines like advertisements. The folks at MailChimp say it
perfectly: "When it comes to email marketing, the best subject lines tell what's inside, and the worst subject lines sell what's inside".
Litmus | Sources: MailerMailer.com; MailChimp.com.