A Better Subject Line in 60 Seconds (10 1/2 tips)

A Better Subject Line in 60 Seconds (10 1/2 tips)

Your email subject line. It’s an invitation, a front door, a salesperson, an ambassador. It’s important, to say the least. Here are 10 ½ tips to make your subject line Don Draper not Al Bundy, caviar not tofu — in a word: better.

  1. Test for bad words:
Over 35% of spam is detected from email subject lines because of spam trigger words. Free, sex, video, trial, sample, mortgage. Just say no. There are lots of ways to test against spam triggers. SpamAssassin (used by EmailSpamTest) is a good place to start. Check lists of spam words from Mequoda and MarketingTech Blog .

  2. Keep it short and sweet:
The average email client only displays 38 to 47 characters in a subject line. According to a Return Path study back in 2006, subject lines with 49 or fewer characters had open rates 12.5% higher than those with 50 or more characters. And your beloved subscriber has a short attention span. Brevity is the soul of wit and the muse of a good subject line. A lot of marketers have had success with one-word subject lines. (They’re certain to stand out).
    • Stuck?
    • Panic

  3. Use content that resonates:
Content-related subject lines and “trigger words” that resonate with your audience work better than general subject lines. You may be sitting on rich data to help you figure out what interests your audience. Use Google Analytics (or other analytics tools) to assess what content (pages and keywords) website visitors were most interested in. These are the topics that resonate with your audience — and a good place to start with your subject line.
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  4. Scintillate don’t summarize: Nobody, except maybe your mother, is very interested in reading your email that bears the subject line “July Newsletter.” Something like “How we made $1 million in July” will generate many more opens. Teasers and questions work well, such as these (from a recent Mequoda column):
    • Are organic foods worth the extra cost?
    • Why 95% of traders lose money in the stock market

  5. Focus on the User: Your email subscribers want to know what’s in it for them. Focus on a benefit to the reader of the email. Not surprisingly, the words “you,” “your” and “secrets” boost open rates more than “free” or “special.” Experian’s 2013 Email Market Study finds that personalized emails of all stripes get higher open rates. Do personalized subject lines boost open rates? Some say yes, some say no, and, at the end of the day, it depends on the type of message, according to this article in Email Marketing Reports. Some examples of user-benefit focus:
    • Boost ROI Tenfold with Segmentation

    • Your Input, Please: Annual Customer Satisfaction Survey
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  6. Don’t be generic: Similarly, don’t be generic. Favoring specificity, USA Today goes with “Obama's phone calls show urgency of world crises” over “Top news from July 29th.”

7. Don’t be repetitive: Even if last month’s newsletter had a killer subject line, chance are you’re better of not repeating it. New is good.

7 ½. Don’t be repetitive: See what I mean? Are you even reading this sentence?

8. Find the controversy or intrigue:
Give people a reason to open that email by focusing on something memorable, shocking, intriguing or just plain outrageous (unless you are, say, the White House or a health insurer). For example:

• Eating French fries makes you healthier
• 10 reasons why the stock market will collapse in 2015

• Introducing the 4-Hour Workweek

9. Make sure the rest of the email doesn’t suck:
As @Copyblogger puts it, “There’s something special in this jaded digital age about being invited into someone’s email inbox.” Don’t take that invitation or granted. Your subject line is only as good as the email that follows it.

10. Never stop testing and thinking:Do A/B testing, look at what competitors are doing, look at open rates and other metrics, bottom line results, read relevant blog posts and studies, and keep a log of subject lines you like. “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow…”

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