Writing Better Email Subject Lines

February 5th, 2010

One of the most important parts of email marketing is writing effective subject lines. You only have about 50 characters to work with if you want to make sure most of your message displays in the subject line of the recipient’s email client. Here are some tips for developing more compelling subject lines.

Use Motivating Verbs
You should start with the most important words that will make the reader act. Some verbs you may want to try out include: focus, boost, improve, discover and launch.

Answer What’s In It For Me
Put yourself in the recipient’s position and write a subject that focuses on the benefits…what would make you take time to open a message right now?

Change It Up
If you’re sending a monthly newsletter or other series of related messages, it can be tempting to stick with the same subject for every mailing. But you may get better open rates if you change the subject for each issue.

Avoid the Spam Triggers
Every ISP has spam filters in place to catch unwanted messages before they reach your inbox. There are some words that tend to get caught in various spam filters, so avoid these words in your subject line to bypass the trap:

  • Sale
  • Free
  • 50% Off
  • Click Here
  • Call Now
  • Act Now
  • Order Now
  • Guaranteed
  • Subscribe
  • Opportunity

Don’t use ALL CAPS or excessive punctuation in your subject line.

Test and Test
Test your campaigns by changing up your subject format for every mailing (and even try split-testing each mailing by segmenting your list), and checking your stats to see how the subjects perform. Then tweak and modify until you find a formula that works for your audience.

Skip the Personalization
It may seem that including the recipient’s first name in the subject line will add a personal factor that simply can’t be ignored, but the opposite may be true. In fact, adding this type of personalization may only scream “mass mailing.”