How to write great email subject lines

Increase your open rates

If your email newsletters  do not have effective subject lines, you may experience low open rates for your messages. People might not read your emails and your messages may even be stopped by ISP spam filters before they reach your customer’s inbox.

There are many factors that affect your open rates: the size of your list, the quality and usefulness of your content, frequency of publication, and the day and time you send it. Your email subject lines, however, are a factor you can control and optimise with relative ease.

A guide to writing the best email subject lines

Here are some things to think about when writing email subject lines.

  1. Elements of a great subject line.
  2. How email subject lines increase open rates.
  3. Subject line tester tools.
  4. Subject line mistakes to avoid.
  5. The ideal length for subject lines.
  6. Reading subject lines on mobile devices.
  7. Understanding subject line preview text.

Let’s get started learning how to craft the best subject lines possible.

  1. Elements of a great subject line

 One thing all great email subject lines have in common is that they’re specific. Readers should know what they’re going to get immediately. Don’t use subject lines like “Check This Out!” Most people will say, “Another sales pitch! I’m not interested”, and delete it.

Good email subject lines are also genuine in tone. They don’t promise what they can’t deliver. Don’t overhype your email with empty promises, and certainly, don’t lie to people. Also, use your company name in the subject line, or the product name, or even both. That reminds people of who sent it and what they could buy.

Subject lines like Just 3 days until our autumn fashion launch and Celebrate our 3rd anniversary with a 3% discount tell the reader what to expect and give them a timeline on how long that email is good for.

  1. How email subject lines increase open rates

 Emotional, compelling subject lines often work best, as do personal-sounding, genuine subject lines. Other suggestions for great email subject lines?

  • Put the person’s first name in the subject line. One MarketingSherpa study found a 36% increase in email open rates just by putting the recipient’s first name in the subject line.
  • Get personal in your subject lines. Not only should you personalise the subject lines, but you should write it as if you’re writing to a friend. Don’t address your entire audience, visualise a single person — talk about “you” not “all of you.”
  • Be humorous, if on brand. If you’re a bank or a funeral home or an accountant, humour might not be on brand for you. But don’t be shy to be a bit playful and cute to engage your audience. You’ll know best whether they’ll respond well to a cheesy pun or one-liner.

Try a few of these email subject line tester tools:

  • Zurb TestSubject: See how your email subject line and sender name look on the most popular mobile devices and email clients, including Gmail, Outlook, iPhone and Android.
  • CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer: You get a score based on the common, uncommon, emotional and powerful words in your headline. Use this one for your blog articles in addition to your email marketing.
  • SpamCheck from Postmark: Instead of checking your email against the ever-growing list, just paste the body of your text into SpamCheck and see if it makes the grade.
  • Email Subject Line Grader from NetAtlantic: Paste in your email subject line. It will tell you what kind of subject line it is, recommend some improvements, and grade it based on the length, character and word count, and even the emotional pull of the words you use.
  • CoSchedule’s Email Subject Line Analyzer: Also from CoSchedule, this tool works just like the headline analyser, but it also tells you about words and numbers that increase and decrease open rates.
  1. Subject line mistakes to avoid

 One of the biggest mistakes you can make is writing spammy subject lines. There are certain words you need to avoid altogether, even if they are the actual subject of your email.

There are a few other tips to consider.

For example, punctuation matters! Turns out you shouldn’t use more than two punctuation marks per subject line. Also, emails with subject lines like “Re: [Your Subject]” or “Fwd: [Your Subject]” going to someone for the first time, are immediately flagged as spam.

  1. The ideal length for subject lines

Your email subject lines should be short. You may have a 150-character limit, but that doesn’t mean you need all of them. A subject line checker will tell you if you have a subject line that’s too long.

  1. Reading subject lines on mobile devices

Many, perhaps even most, of your customers will see your email on a smartphone. So, your email subject lines need to be readable on mobile devices as well. Imagine trying to read a 120-character subject line on your phone. If your subject line doesn’t get to the point in the first 20 characters, people are likely to delete it, unopened.

  1. Understanding subject line preview text

 If you ever look at your email messages on your laptop, you’ve probably seen a basic preview of what the message is about. This is called the preview text, and it’s completely customisable. If you look closer, you might notice that sometimes the preview text is not even in the actual message.

Think of the preview text like the subtitle of a book. It’s a place to say all the things you couldn’t say in the original subject line. You can even include some things that might normally get you flagged or unopened if they appeared in the subject line.

This is one reason to keep your subject line short: If you have a long subject line, your preview text will be hidden from view. And if that was the kicker that got someone to open your email, then all the time and effort you put into the preview text is wasted.

For instance, in the earlier example, Celebrate our 3rd anniversary with a 3% discount you could add “For this week only, you can save on our pet accessories.” You can create a sense of urgency and make it immediately obvious to the reader.

Preview text may result in a few more percentage points in open rates, which can make or break your email campaigns. It’s also something you can A/B test, so be sure to test and send a few times until you settle on the right combination of text and offers to get the best open rate.

Ready to write the best email subject lines?

 Great email marketing  starts with great email subject lines. They need to be short, concise, use powerful and emotional words, be personalised, not spammy, and mobile-friendly. If you can do all those things, you can increase the likelihood that a recipient will open the email.

Put your great subject line to work with GoDaddy Email Marketing today.

Image by: https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/email-campaign-concept-illustration_7472011.htm#page=1&query=email&position=3

Erik Deckers
Erik Deckers is the president of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing agency. He is also the co-author of Branding Yourself, and No Bullshit Social Media. Erik has been blogging since 1997, and has been a newspaper humor columnist for over 20 years. He has written several radio plays and stage plays, and numerous business articles. Erik was recently the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.