As a business owner and marketer, you have a lot to say and a lot to share with your audience, prospects, and clients — and it is easy to get so focused on the content of your email newsletter or email marketing message, conversion goals, and click-through rates, that you lose sight of something as simple as the email subject line. But…
Your email subject line is one of the most important parts of your email. The absolute best email subject lines are short, to the point, descriptive, and enticing. They have one purpose — to get you to open the email.
If your subject line stinks, is boring, or seems irrelevant, or worse, seems like spam — no one will open your email, and it won’t matter how much time you spent creating the killer content inside, because no one will ever read it. That’s why your email subject line needs to be interesting and relevant to the recipient. And while it’s job is to be so awesome that it gets them to open your email, you also need to avoid getting caught in spam filters.
So, do you write a killer email subject line that is practically guaranteed to get people to open your email, but may get caught in a lot of spam filters? Or do you play it safe and go with a slightly safer subject line that may not get as many opens, but avoid the spam filters?
Spam Sucks, But It Works
Yes, spam sucks. It is terrible. No one likes it. Everyone despises it and complains about it. Yet it is still here. Companies are still using it as a tactic, because on some level it works. If sending spam didn’t work, it wouldn’t be so prevalent.
Now I’m not telling you to start spamming people, or that sending spam is a good email marketing strategy. That would be ridiculous and totally absurd. What I am telling you is that some of the email subject lines and compelling headlines typically considered spammy and used in spam-type email marketing, do work incredibly well at getting people to open your emails. And when they open the emails, they almost always scan the content right away.
Finding just the right balance between subject lines that work and subject lines that are too spammy, is a fine line to walk — and it’s a decision you have to make for your brand.
Email subject line best practices
To help avoid your email marketing messages getting caught in spam folders, getting deleted, or getting ignored, follow these best practices:
- Keep your subject lines familiar. Consider adding a recognizable subject line prefix to the headline like [Ezine]
- Avoid words commonly known to negatively affect open rates, like: help, reminder, percent off.
- Avoid words commonly known to trigger spam filters, like: make money, act now, limited time, test, and free
- Avoid cheesy, cutesy, clever subject lines — stick with clear, simple, easy to understand
- Avoid setting your subject line in all caps and using exclamation points
- Avoid using expletives (duh!)
- Avoid making too good to be true claims
Here are some tips to help you write great email subject lines:
- Make it relevant to the audience. If you’re not sure what appeals to your audience or what they care about, ask them or do a survey
- Make it action-oriented. Use strong action verbs instead of weak adjectives
- Know why emails get opened. Understand why a subject line appeals to your list. Is it about them? Is it intriguing or interesting? Will they lose out if they don’t open it?
- Make it personal. Personal emails are the most opened emails there are — which may explain the resurgence of the plain text email, or HTML email with no graphics
- Make it timely. Limited time, time-sensitive, or date specific emails have very high open rates because a lack of action may equal missing out or loss
- Make it obvious. Write the subject line to the recipient knows exactly what the email is about immediately
- Keep it short and simple. Try to keep your subject lines to 50 characters or less. If you go longer, part of it may be cut off by recipients’ email clients. But don’t stress about keeping it to exact 50 characters, if you need to go a little longer for clarity’s sake, do it
- Track your open rates. Look at your emails with the highest open rates, study the subject lines used, and used more subject lines like those
What About You?
Have you found a subject line the was crazy successful for your list? Do you have any other tips on writing a great email subject line? Learned any lessons the hard way?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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