Subject Line: Would You Read This?

Lifecycle Marketing

During the day, we’ve all put aside some time to check our email or there are those of us who aggressively refresh our inboxes. You delete the spam, you gloss over the promotions, and you find what you’re looking for, but every once in a while there’s that one that catches your eye.

Well-known brands like Nike can get away with putting almost anything in the subject line because their customers are intensely loyal. But if you’re not Nike, the only way to get the subscriber to open your email is by creating a “good” subject line.

Writing a “good” subject line is harder than you would think. People are constantly giving their advice and opinions on the rules of writing a good subject line. There is no shortage of gurus and listicles on how to craft the perfect email subject line. Luckily, in our line of work we’ve seen subject line wins and losses across platforms, industries, and demographics, so let me be one of those people and let you in on the little tricks that have worked for us.

Keep It Short(er)

Short, concise, and to the point. Less is more. Along with the body of the email, people generally don’t want to read a lot. And most of the time, we’re checking our email on-the-go from our mobile devices, so subject lines tend to be restricted. Ideally, subject lines with six to ten words have had the most successful open rates.

Keep in mind the intention of the email, the reader, and the platform. You don’t want your subject line to get cut off because that leaves your message unclear and you may not get another chance at that first impression. Email services have been making it increasingly easier for users to disregard the noise.

Use Powerful Words

If there’s an incentive offer, show it in the subject. Subscribers are way more likely to open knowing that they are going to get something out of it.

Show a sense of urgency, make them feel like if they don’t open the email, they will miss out on a great offer.

Using ellipses helps visually draw the attention of the subscriber because it breaks up words.

Interchange using power words like “shocking,” “secret,” “best,” “quick,” “amazing,” you get the picture. That being said, there are definitely words you should avoid using as well because they will attract spam catchers. These are words like “free,” “guarantee,” affordable,” etc.

Avoid trigger words that will tip off email spam filters. You don’t want your email to be doomed before it even leaves the outbox.

Go With What You Know

Study your analytics. Simply just see what has worked in the past and what hasn’t. If you’re unsure, use the split testing opportunity that most email service providers (ESPs) provide. Some will send out a small batch (about 20 percent) to test a subject line, and whichever has better open rates will be sent to the remaining 80 percent of subscribers.

People also like relatable and familiar content, so think from the subscriber’s perspective.

Most importantly, put yourself in the reader’s shoes and ask, “Why do I care?”