Email Subject Lines: A Review Of The Basics

In the highly competitive world of email marketing, a well-crafted subject line can make or break an email campaign.  Attention spans are now measured in fractions of seconds, so you have the blink of an eye to make a good first impression with your subject line. Your message will be opened, ignored, or sent to spam based on this small piece of the email alone.  Therefore, businesses using email for marketing need to be savvy to catch their audience’s attention and spur them to open that email.

  • Clarity Over Cleverness!  Make it simple for people to know exactly what the email is about.  Cutesy and gimmicky phrases often confuse the message within an email.
  • Extra!  Extra! Email users don’t want headlines. Subject lines that are crafted to sound like article headlines appear extremely involved.  Subject lines like “Will the recent tax laws encourage employers to drop health plans?” often get overlooked as a deeply involved news story.  People want to know that the information they will view in the email is digestible and important somehow to their life.
  • Sounding Like Spam Wastes Your Time & Money.  Email spam filters pick up on spam-like words.  So, just don’t use them. Period. Familiarize yourself with words that are considered spammy:  ’help,’ ‘off,’ ‘free,’ ‘buy,’ ‘sale,’ and ‘call’ among many others. Avoid these when possible. The worst thing in the world is to spend marketing dollars on an email campaign that ends up in a spam folder!  There are numerous sites online that provide lists of spammy terms to avoid – definitely familiarize yourself with them.
  • Sound Like A Friend. Simple headlines like “Let’s Do Lunch” sound like something a friend would use as a subject line.  Businesses can evoke the feeling of being friends with their customers by using casual phrases like these.  Savvy consumers in today’s digital space like to have a friendlier connection with companies they do business with. Social media is proof of this interest of the broader public wanting to get a behind-the-scenes, VIP look at companies and brands.  Evoke that desire to be friends with your audience and you’ll go far!
  • Short & Sweet.  “It’s been proven that subject lines with 41 characters or less get the highest open rates,” Erika Kauffman, General Manager and EVP of 5W Public Relations.  Think about Twitter and how effective a short, sweet and to the point message can be in today’s fast world! Get too wordy, and your message will be overlooked and ignored.
  • Don’t Waste Valuable Space. Be ruthless as you examine each word in your subject line to make sure it adds value by providing information or encouraging a call to action:  opening the email! As we’ve seen, you have a limited number of characters and a short attention span to work with, so make sure that each word is pulling its weight.
  • Shake it up! Companies that use the same type of subject line with EVERY email they send, find that their open rates decrease over time.  Email users get used to seeing the same verbiage from a company and know what to expect. However, if companies shake up their habits and throw in an unexpected subject line, they will capture the attention of their audience in a more effective way.
  • Include Incentives In The Subject Line.  Don’t be afraid to give your email audience the gold right there in the subject line.  If you don’t tell them about it, there’s no incentive to open the email. Yes, it takes away an element of surprise, but businesses will see a much higher return on their email campaign open rates!
  • Use A Call To Action.  Tell your audience what you want them to do with the email or message with captions.  For example “Here is our awesome subject line [must see]”. The text inside the parentheses is perceived as subtext, but of some value because it made it onto the subject line.  Don’t be afraid to utilize subconscious cues about text in parentheses.
  • Numbered Lists. Hey, you read through this article to find out the 10 Things You Need To Know About Subject Lines!  Our world loves knowing that complex tasks can be broken down into attainable numbered lists. Take advantage of that knowledge with your email subjects to peak your audience’s curiosity.
  • Avoid Unnecessary Symbols and All Caps.  For example, dollar signs ($), exclamation points (!), question marks (?) and other symbols (#, %, @) are often used by marketers but are targeted by spam filters.  Also, using ALL CAPS is a tactic that may prevent the delivery of your email by being filtered by an internet service provider’s firewall: “COME IN NOW TO SAVE MASSIVE MOULA$$$!!!!!!!” while sounding very exciting will have a negative impact on your email’s deliverability.
  • Use Emojis [(prudently 😉 ]. Incorporate these graphic symbols to help get noticed in someone’s inbox.  Don’t go overboard, but a few strategic emojis that fit the context of your business and the email content, can go a long way!
  • Combine Email With IP ID data. When you harness the power of tracking IP address and Device ID data to specific users, you can know exactly whom to send your email messages. You can also learn valuable intel about your ideal audience and create lookalike audiences to reach even more new people. The possibilities are endless.  You can learn more HERE. (link to other blog post focusing on IP ID).

As our world gets faster and busier your business needs to stand out in the sea of endless emails that come each day.   At Data-Dynamix, we know that spending a few minutes crafting a great email subject line is one of the most important things our clients can do to execute effective email campaigns.  That’s why we have a unique tool to help you test your email subject lines (click here to test yours). Businesses have a great opportunity to use email marketing to grab the attention of new clients and prospects, but ONLY if the email is opened!  Wondering what to do once the email is opened? Once you have a winning subject line, you had better make sure the email itself has a strong, branded message! Stay tuned next week as we explore the unique opportunity of branding within email marketing.

Photo Credits:  CoolDesign from freedigitalphotos.net