Optimizing E-mail Subject Lines
Here are a few techniques sure to help you optimize your e-mail subject lines and improve your conversion rates:
Your subject line and pre-header should align in thought, and sometimes also in the same keywords and phrases. Never use your pre-header for the unsubscribe or sharing information, or leave it blank.
This is the first glimpse many of your recipients will have into your offer, so don’t waste the opportunity to extend your message or highlight another benefit as Hydrolze does in this example. Instead, do as Marti Stribling does when she uses the pre-header to announce her business course as being No.1.
Write It Last
If you write your subject line before your copy, you may find it difficult to check off the amazing tips you’re about to read. Don’t struggle with an unformed idea; write your copy and use it to launch your creativity.
Use A Word Processor
Subject lines are prime opportunities for making spelling errors. When you write the preheader, subject line, and all copy in a single document in a program like Word or a Google doc, it will be easier to proofread as a project, check for continuity, and run spelling and grammar checks.
Every email you send is an opportunity to learn something about your audience and what drives them to engage, respond, and become customers. Subject lines are one of the easiest elements to test; there’s no reason not to take advantage of that and test everything.
Focus on the User Benefit
Everyone – including your recipients – wants to know “What’s In It For Me?” (WIIFM). So tell them, and do it quickly. Saying, “Get a Free Tire When You Buy 2” is more engaging than “Does Your Car Need Tires?”
This email from Petco is another example of several best practices in use: All caps are used sparingly, it uses numerals, as well as being short and to the point.
Be Accurate In Your E-mail’s Subject Line
Above all, your subject line should tell your reader what’s actually inside. You can send an email that says “SUBJECT LINE GOES HERE” and people may open it out of curiosity.
But that’s all you’ll get – open rates. Your subject line makes a promise; you have to fulfill that promise to look trustworthy. Set an accurate expectation. In the second example, Bed Bath & Beyond follows many of the best practices in this section.
The message is short and sweet, uses numerals, has a sense of urgency, honesty, and humor.
Make Your E-mail’s Subject Line Short
Most statistics verify that short and sweet is better. If your recipients have narrow preview panes, they may not see your entire message. Limit your subject line to 50 characters or fewer – but even shorter can be just as engaging.
If you think preview panes aren’t critical to your success, consider this:
According to Convince & Convert, 84 percent of people 18 to 34 use an email preview pane.
Motivate Your E-mail Subscribers To React
Use strong action words and phrases – like you do with your calls to action inside the email. Or, for a more memorable experience, use the same words both inside and out.
Include The Most Important Keywords In Your E-mail’s Subject Line
When short isn’t possible, be sure to put the most important words first. Here again, if your recipients have narrow preview panes, the most important part of the message could be cut off.
As wide as this example is, we still haven’t seen the call to action in its entirety. Your recipient might be deciding on whether or not to open your email, without getting the full story.
Make Your E-mail Subject Line Count
People like numerals, numbered lists, and countdowns, but resist being too cutesy or casual – unless preteens are your target audience. While “2 Days Left for 50% Off” is effective, most email recipients balk at “This Offer is 2Gd2BTru.”
Fandango has done a good job of using numerals, and front-loading a long subject line with the most-important words of the message.
Capitalize Your Assets
Use all-caps text sparingly. All caps often triggers spam filters, but also, if everything is all caps, how will the recipient know what is most important? You’ll be the little boy who cried wolf.
Instead, when using all caps, focus on the main benefit or add a little punch to the message in the way Walgreens and Blue Buffalo have.
Using symbols in your subject line can sometimes be a fun way to draw attention to your email, but remember not everyone sees what you see – especially when using web-based email applications with older browsers or older versions of Outlook.
In Wayfair’s subject line, it would have been a completely different experience if the symbols had not displayed properly, but Frontier Airlines’ message was loud and clear, with or without the symbol.
In the example from 4 Readers & Writers, the ampersand of their group name is replaced with the HTML equivalent, making it confusing enough that the reader might give up.
Schedule Your E-mail Marketing Campaign
Timing isn’t just about the time of day you’ll send your email, it can also be about the day, the season, the time frame, and so much more. Timing can also contribute to personalization – you’re telling your recipient, “I know when you’re getting this, so I’m sending a message that will be relevant at that time or on that day.”
Be sure you send expiring offers with plenty of time to redeem. If Big Lots had sent this message on March 1, the recipient’s initial reaction would have been annoyance, and that’s never the right way start – or continue – a relationship.
Likewise, if Petco had sent this email 24 hours after the start of the sale, those recipients would have likely been annoyed, as well. When scheduling, don’t forget to factor in the delay between send and open.
If you’re a B2C business whose subscribers are mostly Gmail users, and 45 percent of them open your emails 10 to 15 days after receipt, this needs to be factored in.
Personalize Your E-mail’s Subject Lines
Most marketers find personalization will improve open rates, but not always. If you choose to personalize, be sure you have rules for missing-field content and extra long entries.
You could also try using “You” and “Your” instead of specific personalization, in the way Pappadeaux does in this example.
Personalization should make your recipient feel like you – as a business – care about them, but don’t overstep this by trying to imply more than that. Using FWD: and RE: to convince recipients they know you will only lead to disappointment – theirs, and then yours – when they delete your deceitful message.
As you can see in this example, it is a common practice among spammers, and that’s just one more reason not to do it.
Ask A Relevant Question
One key to a good subject line is getting your recipients to stop and think for a moment. Questions are an ideal way to gain that moment’s pause.
If you do ask a question, be sure it’s one they can answer, or one you answer in your offer.