Last week I wrote about the importance of headlines and creative in getting prospects and customers to open your emails, leaving the most important part of that particular equation—subject lines—for this week.
We all know that subject lines are what really get them to open your emails. Many if not most inboxes are becoming more and more innundated with email, and scanning the subject lines is a favorite triage method. With that in mind, your email subject lines really really have to shine. They have to be actionable. They have to be strong, compelling, and targeted.
And it’s harder to come up with these subject lines than most people think. But there are some best practices that you can use when you’re devising subject lines, and you should never disregard the testing process, not even if you think you know what the results will be. What worked last year may not be your best choice this year; in fact, what worked last month may not be your best choice this month!
So testing should never leave your repertoire. No matter what special you’re promoting, no matter what new demographic you’re targeting, test, test, test!
Over the years we’ve seen a lot of different email subject lines and have advised on or devised hundreds of them ourselves. So we’ve been around this particular block more than a few times, and have a few suggestions—all right, call them rules—that will ensure that in the rapid subject-line scan, your emails get clicked on and opened. You’ll still need your own creativity, and you’ll still need to test subject lines, but see if you don’t get more clicks and opens if you follow these eight rules.
You’ll have great email subject lines if …
- they’re short—50 characters or fewer. The only exception is when the email is going to a particularly targeted list where more information is appreciated. But in general, this is perhaps the epitome of what I talk about elsewhere in terms of speed: you have seconds, perhaps even micro-seconds, to hook your customer’s interest. You can only do that if you’re very brief, very succinct.
- they avoid using words that will affect deliverability. Think of what goes into spam or junk folders, and don’t go there.
- they’re timely. “Your May savings coupon is here” indicates that immediate action is required.
- they don’t use the word “reminder.”
- they don’t use the word “free.”
- they’re action-oriented. Begin your subject line with an action verb: download, sign-up, learn, start, become, etc. are all words that scan well: they show the customer that there’s something valuable in the email that might make their life better.
- they start a conversation. Many people use the preview pane, so make sure that the first line of copy delivers on the subject line’s promise.
- they include the email’s offer. This would seem to be obvious, but in years of looking at subject lines I’ve been surprised to see that the compelling offer (and it is a compelling offer, right?) isn’t front and center.
What has worked for you? Do you have any rules for email subject lines that would complement these? Let’s continue the conversation!