10 Tips to Make Your Subject Lines Shine
by Audrey Howes
Subject lines are often the last item on our email check list; an afterthought or a last minute entry to meet a deadline. As a result, we often miss an opportunity to increase opens, prevent some spam filtering, and get more clicks on our calls to action. Get out of the subject line slump and turn your subject lines into winners with these 10 tips:
Ditch the Jargon
In your industry you likely have common jargon and abbreviations that those in your audience may not understand. When you are writing your subject line, beware of jargon and acronyms; avoid any words or phrases that could go over your recipients’ heads. Choose language that your audience will understand and resonate with.
Start the Call
The call to action in your email should begin in the subject line. The call to action tells your recipients what you want them to do with your email. For example, ‘Sign up!’ ‘Purchase now!’ ‘Like us on Facebook.’ Tee your recipients up for the call to action in the subject line. Use words and tones similar to the content in your email to draw them in and hint at what you want them to do. For newsletters, give an enticing overview of your content. For a promotional email, be sure to include the promotion in the subject line (i.e. 20% Off the Whole Store – Today Only!).
Do a Test Run
Testing is an important aspect of every part of the email marketing process. The subject line is no exception. If you are getting ready to set up a Drip Marketing campaign or send out a really important email, try experimenting with various subject lines as Pay Per Click ads a few weeks before your send. See which Pay Per Click ads generated the most clicks and try those as your email subject lines.
Avoid Spammy Words
Your email won’t even make it to the inbox if you include spammy words in your subject lines. As tempting as it may be try to avoid words like:
- Percent Off
- Weight Loss
*A note on Free: Free alone won’t get you sent to the junk folder, but combined with other trigger words or bad content and HTML it will raise more red flags.
Use resources such as thesaurus.com to come up with alternatives to spammy words and always run your completed email with you proposed subject line through the Spam Check before blasting it to your list.
Find the Winner
Segmenting your list is always a good idea and here’s another reason why. Let’s say you’ve divided your list into 4 parts (A, B, C, & D). Send your email to A and B with your top two subject lines. Track the results and see which subject line garners the most opens and clicks. Then, send the same email to C and D with the winning subject line. The effectiveness of your email marketing efforts will improve dramatically.
Divide and Conquer
Sending the same email with the same subject line to everyone on your list is bound to reduce your success. Instead, consider the audience of each of your segments and target your subject line specifically to them. For example, let’s say you have a health and weight lose store. You’ve divided your list into two segments. Segment A has purchased from you in the past 3 months and segment B hasn’t. You want to send out a promotion about a new product, ice cream that helps you lose weight, to both audiences. You have already earned the business of segment A so choose a subject line such as, Lose Weight by Eating Our New Fat Burning Ice Cream. For segment B, you are still trying to prove the worth of your business and product and may be better off with a subject such as: Ice Cream that Makes the Pounds Fall Off - New Innovation from Melt Away or Ice Cream that Makes the Pounds Fall Off – Give Us a Try!.
Be a Spy
In order to stand out in the inbox, you have to differentiate yourself from the competition. In order to differentiate yourself, you have to know what your competition is sending. Sign up for their email communications and pay attention to their subject lines over time. What words or phrases do they commonly use? When you sit down to write your subject lines, write them in a unique way that sets yourself apart from your competitors.
Lead With the Benefit
If you are sending out a product specific email, be sure to lead your subject line with the benefit of the product rather than the product itself. Let’s say you get an email about a new watch on the market. Which subject line appeals to you more?
A. New Watch Tells Time and Monitors Your Health
B. Monitor Your Health and Keep Track of Time with this New Watch
Both subject lines give us the same information, but B also speaks directly to the recipient and frames the watch’s benefits to the user at the beginning of the subject line.
Turn Off Repeat
With newsletters and other frequent emails, businesses often keep the subject line the same and just change the content of the email. Over time, we begin to tune out these emails and look for something new and fresh in our inboxes. Here is a great example. I am signed up to receive emails from two large craft store chains. They come almost back to back in my inbox each week. This is what I received this week:
Store 1: 50% off All 54" Home Decor Fabrics + Free Shipping No Minimum Today Only!
Store 2: Weekly Specials and Coupon for May 21 to May 26, 2012
Which do you think I opened? Store 1. It’s nice to know that Store 2 sends weekly specials and coupons, but I want to know what they are before I open the email. Avoid the temptation to put your subject lines on repeat and generate fresh, relevant subject lines instead.
- Count 'Em Up
Subject lines with numbers in them work well as numbers are quickly digested by your readers and stand out as something different in the inbox. Think about that as you title the content for your emails as well. Choose headlines and titles with numbers to allow for easier subject line creation. Here are a couple of examples we liked:
Get an 8x8 photo book for just $9.99. Make the moments shine
20% Off Deal Ends Today! Don't Miss the Ride!
BONUS TIP: Short and Sweet
Subject lines are just a preview of what is inside your email. Give them too much to read off the bat and you will lose much of your audience. An ideal subject line is no more than 50-60 characters long. Use your word count feature in a program like Microsoft Word to test the length of your subject lines before you send.
A well written subject line is essential to a well received email. Back up your subject line with excellent content and a great call to action and watch the results pour in.