Crafting great email subject lines is partly science, partly art, and partly discipline.
The science comes from reams of studies that suggest certain practices help insure your emails will get opened. However there doesn’t seemed to be total agreement on any particular point.
Art because in that supreme moment when the magic happens, and the perfect words for your subject line appear out of the ether means the perfect match of subject with the body of you email.
Disciple to double-check your assumptions that your brilliant idea will light up the email world. It’s disciple that helps you prevent making rookie errors even when you have years of experience.
Which brings me to the first point in crafting great email subject lines.
1 Resist All Temptation to Be Clever.
This comes first simply because I confess to employing clever subject lines only to be greeted with the defining silence of unopened emails.
Being clever means you are bowing to the gods of creativity without checking in with your own intellect.
While it is okay to be funny, or use humor, cleverness spells disaster for subject lines.
Your ego tells you it’s the best subject line ever, but in reality your cleverness requires that your audience understands all the subtleties and innuendos that make it clever, which almost always never happens.
My biggest failures in crafting great email subject lines comes when I think I am clever.
2 Keep it Simple and Short
Over all the more concise the better.
One of the reasons for keeping your emails short is the sheer volume of emails opened on mobile devices.
This means that long email subject lines get cut off in the readers email viewer.
The recommend length of the subject line in terms of number of characters ranges widely.
Subject lines with 6-10 words generated 21% open rate. Source: Effective Email Subject Lines
A word of caution however, if brevity doesn’t work in a particular instance, then use a longer subject line. But be rigorous. Edit hard and keep it as short as possible.
Just as an aside the shortest email subject line I’ve seen recently was one word. Gladiator. I’m going talk more about this in another point.
I suppose the rube of thumb here would be: never give up clarity for the sake of brevity.
3 Use a Keyword In the Subject Line.
Keywords are like little flags that grab attention. Those who are looking for information about the keyword, or who subscribe to your list who want to learn more about that keyword.
For example: 5 List Building Tips to Explode Your list.
If you subscriber are interested in list building then using the keyword in your title helps grab your subscribers attention and increases the likelihood that they will open your email.
4 Use Brackets and Other Visual Elements When Crafting Great Email Subject Lines.
This is something I discovered in my research. I’ve used emojis in a very limited way since my email provider now makes using them very easy. But I haven’t used brackets.
Here’s an example. [DOWNLOAD] 15-Point Landing Page Audit.
This example is from Digital Marketer from 101 Best Subject Lines of 2016.
Notice how the brackets draw your eyes. You know instantly that the email is offering you a download and precisely what the download is.
Now all you have to do is open the email and find the link to get your 15-Point Landing Page Audit.
Below are examples of subject lines using emojis.
Rule of thumb here is that anything, ANYTHING, can be over done. Stay away from excessive use of any one element.
5 Questions Grab Attention
The use of questions in your subject line is an excellent way to grab attention.
Example “What Are The 5 Biggest Barriers to Successful Email Marketing?”
When you pose a question the mind automatically begins to look for answers. This creates curiosity because your reader comes up with a few ideas about your question, but now they want to know what barriers you’ve chosen and why and how that can help them solve their biggest barrier.
6 Use Numbers.
Just about every source I researched for this article had this one on their list.
If you look back through the samples I’ve given in this article you will see that 3 of the samples have a number in the subject line.
A number is a very specific thing. It tells the reader exactly how many points you are going to make about your subject.
The other thought here is to use uneven numbers. Apparently uneven numbers grab even more attention.
The numbers 3 , 5 and 7 are the best numbers because they help the mind to package groups of ideas.
If you ask me why 6 doesn’t work. I don’t have an answer. Do you?
7 Beware of Your Preview Text
I stumbled across this one in my research. While your preview text is not part of your attention when crafting great email subject lines it does become part of your subject line by default.
I’m talking about the text you see after the subject line in your emails. This is usually part of the first sentence of your email but not always.
Unfortunately controlling what shows up at any particular email provider isn’t easy.
More typically you see this:
Notice how the text I highlighted in yellow expands the subject line.
First I’m offered a Discount coupon then using the pretext area he asked me a questions. He virtually pulls me inside to the email.
By paying attention to that first email line you can enhance the message in your subject line, and not open ( like I tend to do) with a rambling first line.
I didn’t see any stats on this but I’m guessing this can make a big difference in your open rates.
So rule of thumb would be to create a dynamic follow-up, short sentence, to pull your reader further into the email. There is no guarantee where the cut off will fall which gives you good reason to keep your subject lines tight.
Now as promised that one line email “Gladiator” This is an example of curiosity and how it hooks you. But here is what it looked like in my mail box:
I loved it too. I’m done. I have to read the email which is one of the most finely grafted emails I’ve read in a while. If you want to watch a master at work, go >>> Here He offers a freebie that’s worth getting by the way.
Crafting great email subject lines means taking a more measured approach to writing your emails.
I’m sure you are just as guilty as anyone, including me , of dashing out an email subject line while under time pressure.
However, learning to curb that pressure and take your time, (I’m trying to do this too) , good things will happen to your email marketing.
While I haven’t covered every single best practice, I believe that if you use these points as guide lines you will start to see and improvement in the open rate for your emails.
Persistence , practice and split testing will help you hone your skill to laser like accuracy.
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© Nicholas Grimshawe
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