Though spending five extra minutes on creating an ideal subject line for an email can seem like a lot of work, a bad subject line can render all the time spent on a newsletter or advertising campaign totally wasted. Your consumers won’t open an email that doesn’t immediately grab their attention in the right way, so make sure you don’t lose them before you even have a chance to have them in the first place! These email subject line tips can help you get the most out of your email marketing efforts.
Don’t let spam filters kill your email.
Many email providers have automated spam filters, and users often set up their own filters as well to ensure they don’t receive messages they don’t want to see. Automated filters generally catch words such as “friend” or “hello” that do not often appear in the titles of emails, so avoid these words in your subject lines. Overly “sales-y” language, such as “act now” or “supplies are limited,” also often lead an email to the trash bin in short order. Even those who don’t use filters often throw out emails that use these sorts of titles. Lists of commonly-filtered words and words that turn readers off can be found online.
Make it feel local.
One easy way to make an email seem newsworthy and valuable is to tailor it to a reader’s location. While businesses that primarily operate online or through email sales may have a hard time doing this, retailers and businesses with physical locations can get customers enthusiastic about clicking simply by mentioning the store location nearest to the recipient. In a great subject line, this not only reminds the audience that your business exists, but also gives them a sense that they should head there as soon as possible.
Switch up your headlines!
Though you’ll want to keep some consistent elements, such as at least one mention of your company’s name, email and newsletter subject lines should change a little occasionally. A reference to a major theme of the newsletter or a new product you intend to debut in the email can get a reader’s interest in a way that “Newsletter: Volume 1, Issue 7” may not, and helps your newsletter avoid some of the boredom of routine. Variable headlines also make it easier to highlight new or ongoing developments mentioned in the newsletter.
Watch your subject line length.
The subject line of an email often cuts off when viewed in programs like Outlook or Web interfaces like Gmail, so try to use fewer than 50 characters in your subject line. Not only does this ensure that your whole message will be seen by readers, it also makes sure that you convey exactly the meaning you intended. A subject line that gets cut off can leave a customer with a much different impression of what an email is about, so a short subject line can go a long way in minimizing miscommunication.
Keep your “From:” line consistent and straightforward.
If a “From:” line does nothing to indicate what company a message is from, it won’t have the strength of a brand behind it. Users who see an unfamiliar sender are likely to just delete the email, whereas customers with strong brand loyalty will click messages associated with that brand readily. Even if you have a specific employee sending your email messages, make sure to keep the name on each mail the same. While readers may not like their subject headings to stay too similar, they expect reliability and familiarity regarding senders.
Make the subject line easy to search for.
Whether it’s by putting the company name somewhere in the subject line or by having another consistent element, make it easy to search for messages. By making your newsletter or advertisement easy to find, you allow your customers to refer to them over and over again. Every time a consumer views a message, that message becomes stronger. Make it as easy as possible for the customer to look at the message over and over again.
Keep formatting as straightforward as possible.
Most email programs and providers make it difficult to add meaningful formatting elements to an email subject line. Likewise, special characters such as hearts, copyright symbols, and musical notes may not display well in all clients. Keep formatting minimal, and stick to standard punctuation. Part of building enthusiasm about your message is making sure it’s accessible to all potential viewers, so make your subject line accessible and easy to read.
Stick to the “Four U’s” approach.
American Writers & Artists offers an approach that can apply to heads, subheads, and bullet points, and subject lines can benefit from this approach as well. Attention-getting elements like subject lines should fulfill four criteria: usefulness, urgency, uniqueness, and ultra-specificity. Readers want information they can act on, and will be spurred to action by information they can act on immediately. Giving them a sense that the information offered in the email is something they can’t find anywhere else, likewise, creates an incentive to open the email. Do this in a way unique to your field and your customers and you’ve got a formula for a winning email subject.
Look at what others are doing.
Studying the competition always helps, but consider borrowing lessons from other fields and from experts as well. Marketing geniuses like Seth Godin and Tim Ferris have made their thoughts on titles, subject lines, and other eye-catching components of copy available online, and other professionals often blog about their experiences in online marketing. Look carefully at the marketing emails that catch your eye, too. Chances are good that an email that manages to keep your attention is doing something right.
Always ask yourself: Can I do better?”
After coming up with a strong headline, think of a few major questions and try to refine it. Copywriter Clayton Makepeace has put forward a few questions, including “Does your headline offer the reader a reward for reading?” and “Could your headline benefit from the inclusion of a proposed transaction?” to start with, but think of a few that apply to the unique aspects of the current email as well. Questions like “Are there current events the subject line could use to grab a reader’s eye?” and “Does the reader care about this product or issue?” lead to subject lines that encourage readers to buy products and make plans.
So whether you’re sending a weekly newsletter or an urgent, one-time mail, the subject line is the first chance you get to influence what your customers see and how they see it. Taking a little time to craft a strong subject line will multiply the force of the message you put behind it. Don’t rush it; there are no second chances for first impressions.
Do you have any subject line tips or ticks that we haven’t included here? Share your insights with us in the comments!