How To Write Good Email Subject Lines
What comes first? The content or the subject line?
Ok yes, you got me there. Of course you should come up with the content first, but your subject lines should never be an afterthought you tack on after you’ve already written the rest of the email. Even if you’ve crafted the most engaging content ever, it will never see the light of day if it’s hidden behind a terrible subject line.
Across all industries, the average marketing email open rate in 2017 is 21.8%. What’s more, 47% of recipients open the email purely based on the subject line. You might cry, “Don’t judge an email by its subject line” but nearly half of your email recipients are doing just that.
Think of email subject lines like article headlines. How can you seize someone’s attention and sum up your content in just a few words. What will get you the most opens?
We have compiled a foolproof set of email marketing tips that will save your campaigns from a quick trip to the trash. So, if you want to see those open rates really fly high, read on!
Be Brand Consistent
All marketing efforts are an extension of your brand and your email subject line is no different. Before setting pen to paper, or fingers to your keyboard as it may be, reflect on your brand’s positioning, its overall goals and your target audience.
Even if this one line is the only thing that’s going to be read of your email, you want to make sure that you’re sending the right message.
First impressions last, so you want to start on the right foot with the recipients on your mailing list.
Communicate the Benefits
Each one of your email campaigns should contain content that is useful for the reader, and the subject line is where you communicate the benefit the recipient will receive by opening the email and giving you their time.
Whether your campaign is centred around welcoming new subscribers, an upcoming sale, or presenting useful information, the topic should be evident in the subject line so people know what to expect within the campaign.
Of course you can always put a creative twist on this. For example, an email subject line posing an open-ended question like “Is dark chocolate actually good for you?” is a great way to catch a recipient’s attention with the promise of more information once they open the email.
Having said this, always remember to avoid making false promises in your subject lines just to increase your opens as this is a surefire way to lose the trust of your audience.
Timing is Everything
How many Christmas-related emails do you think you’ll receive this season? We’re dreading the assault on our inboxes already but these emails work for a reason. Timing is highly correlated with relevancy.
Staying up to date with trending topics in your industry or even those in wider popular culture and incorporating mentions of these into your email subject lines is an effective way to stay relevant with your recipients.
Whether you like it or not, discounts and deals are one of the main reasons why consumers sign up for company mailing lists. You don’t want to fall into the trap of your recipients being accustomed to constant sales but if used sparingly, announcing a time-sensitive sale via email is a great way to increase email opens and clicks. You can further add to the sense of urgency within the campaign by incorporating a countdown timer.
Cutting down to the wire, sending the right email at the exact right moment can be the best catalyst for action. For example, an email at 3:00PM on a weekday with the subject line “Get food delivered straight to your office right now!” will be opened faster than you can say “afternoon munchies”.
Add that Personal Touch with Segments
Speaking of relevancy, personalisation is the best way to do it.
Personalisation is all about making the recipient feel understood and special. Using someone’s name in the email subject line was a cool party trick once but now it’s just the baseline.
You wouldn’t send the same texts to your mates and your grandma, so in the same vein, why would you mass send the same subject line to your whole mailing list? With Dotmailer’s dynamic content features, you can create targeted subject lines based on custom segments.
Contact and order data that you’ve captured including someone’s age, location, past orders, level of engagement with previous campaigns and more, should be factored in to help you write a more relevant subject line or even decide whether they should receive this email at all.
The Medium is the Message
The devices and email clients that your recipients are using will affect the length of the subject line shown. In general, mobile phones in portrait mode show the least number of characters while desktop email clients allow you more space to exercise your creativity.
Dotmailer’s campaign reports provide a breakdown of how your recipients accessed your emails, so you should take this into consideration when crafting your subject line.
While there is no ideal subject line length that will suit all campaigns, studies have found that subject lines between 6-10 words have the highest open rate.
As such, it is important to keep your email subject lines concise and convey any pertinent information towards the start.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, an emoji is worth 💯 characters.
Nowadays, you can’t get through the day without seeing an emoji and that’s because they’re a uniquely eye-catching and succinct way to convey a message.
Especially if your mailing list skews towards the younger generation, communicating with them through the visual language of emojis is a highly effective way to emphasise a concept or tell a story.
Are you an eCommerce company promoting a certain product with your email campaign? Feature a graphical depiction of that product in the subject line! There are new emojis released every year so take the time to find the perfect one for your campaign.
Keep in mind that emojis display differently in different email clients which can change the tone of your message so always remember to test your campaign before hitting send.
Numbers are your Friend
Every businessperson worth their salt knows the value of solid figures and statistics when it comes down to the decision-making process, so why would it be any different when a recipient is trying to decide whether or not to open your email?
Article headlines utilising specific numbers are proven to be effective and the same is true in email subject lines.
Including a piece of data in your subject line sets the recipient’s expectations of the email’s contents.
Compare these examples:
- 5 steps to increasing your email open rates
- 50 ways to improve your email content
A low number suggests a simple and straightforward process while a larger number indicates a detailed series of information. Either way, numbers lend you a sense of authority on the subject matter and leave a positive impression on the reader.
Match the Tone to the Contents
As the blurbs to your email body content, your subject lines should complement the information inside. If you have an important company announcement to make, you don’t want to sound flippant in the subject line and have people ignore it.
Building on this, transactional emails receive 8 times more open and clicks compared to other types of emails, and as such, the subject lines of these emails should clearly indicate the automated and functional nature of the contents.
For your marketing emails, you can have more fun.
Laughter is the best medicine so if it’s on brand, a humorous email subject line is always going to be received well. Everyone loves a good pun so take the time to come up with a creative one and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts.
When special events and celebrations roll around, emotions are heightened so it’s a perfect time for an enterprising marketer to capitalise on those. For example, charming and sweet subject lines work best around Valentine’s Day and you can throw in a few heart emojis for good measure.
Don’t Feed the Spam Filter
Ah, every email marketer’s greatest enemy. The junk mail folder.
Attention-grabbing for all the wrong reasons, email subject lines IN ALL CAPS or with an overdose of exclamation marks can be fatal!!!!!!!!!
Even if they do pass email client spam filters, they’ll likely be seen as spam by the human recipients and worse than going to junk mail, such behaviour could very easily encourage people to unsubscribe from your mailing list once and for all.
Use Action-Oriented Verbs
The whole purpose of your subject line is to grab the attention of the recipient enough that it encourages them to take action and open the email.
Starting your email subject line with strong action verbs instils a greater urgency in the reader.
Compare the pair:
- These tips will help you stand out in your next job interview
- Stand out in your next job interview with these tips
The second subject line has you excited and galvanised for a reason! Sometimes, a simple rewording can be all it takes to boost opens.
Don’t Forget to Test
The last step is certainly not the least!
So you’ve followed all the steps and come up with what you think is the best subject line for your email campaign. But do your recipients think the same?
If there’s one step you can’t afford to skip, it’s this. There’s no harm in testing your subject lines. Dotmailer’s split testing functionality allows you to test multiple subject lines for each campaign so you can see what works and what doesn’t.
It might be as straightforward as adding an emoji or changing the length of your subject lines that really make a difference to your open rate – you won’t know unless you try!
Over time, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of the types of email subject lines that your recipients best respond to.
Often email clients will show a snippet of preheader text after the subject line, which they’ve drawn from the first fragment of text within your email campaign.
Hands up if you’ve ever used this to screen an email. We’re all guilty.
This is a prime opportunity to supplement the message in your subject line with extra information to entice someone to open your campaign.
Rather than thinking of them as two separate elements, using the subject line and preheader text together to communicate a message makes it immensely more effective.
Friendly From Name
If you’ve taken the time to perfect your email from the subject line to the content, down to the last pixel in the template, you want to make sure you receive all the credit for that.
Before you hit send, check that your brand name, or individual name with your company or job title, is set as the friendly from the name.
And that’s it!
These are our tried and tested tips for optimising your email subject lines.
Once gotten past the initial hurdle of opening your email, your next objective is to captivate them with the content that you’ve teased in the subject line.
Want more help to craft email campaigns which actually convert? Contact us for a friendly discussion.