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Email Subject Lines: The Key that Opens the Door to Success

For most folks, their email inbox is an overcrowded and scary place.

Dozens of emails clamor for attention and call out to be opened. Many are scams. Others are spam. And some are carrying damaging payloads of viruses and worse. And amongst all that are the real emails that a person needs to respond to.

In this kind of environment, it’s essential to make your subject line compelling and convincing enough to get opened. Because, no matter how smart and creative your email is, if your subject line is trivial and dull – it will never be opened.

These guidelines have been shown to boost open rates from email campaigns:

  • Can it be personalized?
    Think about the data you have and how it can be woven into the subject line. In most cases, adding the recipients’ name improves open rates.
  • Eliminate spammy words, phrases and signals
    Never use multiple exclamation marks, multiple dollar signs, all caps text or words like “Viagra, free, guaranteed”. There are lots of lists of spammy words – check with your email service provider for their latest info.
  • Cut to the chase.
    Make your offer and tell them the benefits. Of course, your subject line must relate to the content of your mailing. If users feel tricked into reading your email, they’ll close it and mark your email as spam. (Bait and switch is a sure way to make enemies.)
  • Keep it short, sweetie!
    Most email clients cut off subject lines somewhere between 40 and 60 characters so it makes sense to put your offer right up front. Studies indicate that shorter subject lines work better. Six words or less is a good rule of thumb.
  • Test them constantly!
    Testing what works and constantly refining your subject lines is the best way to guarantee continually improving results.
  • It doesn’t pay to deceive.
    Be sure your subject line truthfully reflects your email content. You can comply with the CAN-SPAM Act by avoiding subject lines with “RE:” or “FW:”.
  • Set a date. By spelling out an expiration date, you’ll increase response. (People just hate to miss out on a good deal.)
  • Double Check Client Compatibility
    Before you send your email campaign, test design compatibility across various email clients from AOL to Hotmail and Outlook. What might look perfect on one application can have a disastrous look on another.

That should be plenty to keep you busy. The email subject line is like a teaser line on the outer envelope of a direct mail package. It can make or break a package. It’s also a lot like an outdoor advertising billboard. The message must be short and sweet, compelling and honest – make ‘em an offer they can’t refuse and you just can’t lose!

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