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Email Marketing 101: How to Craft the Perfect Subject Line

Recently updated on October 16th, 2017 at 05:20 pm

If you’ve checked my previous post on creating an engaging email marketing campaign, you should be hopefully sending your content on its merry way towards your mailing list. But I feel like I should write a separate article to talk about what I perceive as the most important part of your email—the subject line.

A successful email marketing campaign needs a great subject line

I cannot emphasize it enough. The thing with the subject line is that it is the barrier that separates your recipient and your email. It is critical that you wrote in that blank space something that would hook your reader enough to give that sweet click. However, let me tell you the truth. There is no perfect formula to give you the perfect subject line that will guarantee every email you send will be read.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t create one. It’s just a matter of trial and error, a great mailing list, and perhaps a little bit of luck. Here are some tips on how you can craft the perfect subject line for your email marketing campaign.

Make it the last thing you do.

I know it is not common to write the subject line after we write the body of the email itself (at least according to myself and my co-workers). However, it’s good practice that you think about what you would put in the subject line last.

First, writing it after your email body will give you a clear perspective on what your email really is talking about. You can easily use the most important point in your email, such as that discount you are offering or the central thesis of the blog post you are promoting, and feature it in your subject line. Second, it gives you more time thinking about your actual email body instead of getting distracted by how your subject line will be perceived. Finally, it’s just more efficient to do it last so you can focus more on perfecting it.

Be crafty with your subject line…

Your subject line is essentially the title of your email. A similar concept applies—you need to have an attractive title if you want people to read the rest of your email body. Be crafty. Be clever. Be irreverent. Don’t be afraid to confuse your recipient enough for them to click on and read further. Gimmicks such as not finishing your sentence or using a relevant but intentionally vague statement should be enough to pique their curiosity.

A good combination of emotional words and power words should improve your email marketing game. However, do note that this type of tactic should be consistent with the corporate persona you want to portray. Any inconsistency will lead to confusion in your recipient’s perception of your brand.

…but don’t manipulate your reader.

Let’s be honest, clickbait-y titles do get our attention when it is shared in our social media feeds and we somehow feel the need to open them. I know I do. But afterwards, I come out more annoyed than informed, and perhaps a bit angry. We don’t want our recipients to feel disappointed, or worse, betrayed, by wasting their time.

Manipulative tactics such as putting “Re:” or “FW:” are even worse offenders. Maybe, they would boost your click-through rates in the short run, but in terms of building up your relationship to your mailing list, it fails miserably. Try to work out a good balance between what can bait some clicks and what is actually relevant to your recipients.

Shorten it to its simplest term.

There are two reasons why you should shorten your subject line. One, the space for the subject line in your recipient’s inbox is limited. After a set number of characters, the email provider will cut it, much like search engines with your meta titles. And with most of the internet users checking their phone, this could even be shorter.

Ideally, your subject line should be 50 characters or fewer. Second is your recipient’s attention. Again, your subject line is the deciding factor on whether your email will be opened or not. You should not expect your recipient to do more than a quick glance of your email subject to figure out if they are interested or not.

Ask a question if applicable.

Questions actually do more than simple statements in your subject line. They engage your customers. They try to involve your subscribers in a way that a subject line in a statement form could not. Your recipient would unconsciously try to answer your question or even be curious on how you would answer the question you presented. They get the reader to think on how the topic applies to their lives.

The best subject lines in question form are usually open-ended. Think about how to frame your topic into a subject line that relates to your subscribers’ experiences and behavior.

Create a sense of urgency.

Limited time sales and discounts are always great as your opening line for emails and that probably goes without saying. Your email marketing subscribers and pretty much everyone likes to get some exclusive deals if that means saving money. Use language to your advantage. Words such as “Hurry!” or “Quick!”, similar to call-to-action lines, can motivate your subscribers to click your email and learn more.

Review. Review. Review.

Always consider what your email line would look like from the perspective of your reader. Wear the shoes of your buyer persona and ask yourself how you would understand the subject line and what you would feel afterward. After that’s done, don’t stop your review after hitting the send button.

Review the metrics of your email advertising campaign. Stats such as the clickthrough rate is a measure of how effective your email subject lines are. If you have the time, create an A/B test to check how certain words affect your clickthrough rates. Another important metric is the conversion rate, which is the percentage of recipients who completed a certain action, depending on your definition.


How do you write your subject lines? Share with us your tips and techniques in the comments section below!

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