Inboxes around the world are bombarded by around 205 billion emails every day, so a strong subject line will make or break your email’s chances of being noticed, let alone opened. Discover how an irresistible subject line can help command the attention of your recipient and maximise your chance for engagement.
Write for mobile – short and sweet
On average, over 54%* of emails are opened on a mobile device, and a smaller screen means less space to display your subject line, which puts it in danger of being cut short. To avoid this, always ensure your subject line is no longer than 50 characters. This gives you approximately eight words to play with, which should be plenty to get your key info across, and grab the attention of your recipient’s interest.
Let’s get personal… Use their name
Okay, so this isn’t strictly a subject line tip, but it will certainly help improve your open rates. People are more likely to open an email sent from another person than from a company, so put their name in your message and get people curious about what you’ve sent them.
See our previous blog post dedicated to personalisation to find out more.
Make the most of the preview text
Most Email Service Providers (ESPs) allow you to edit the preview text that displays next to your subject line, and many recipients use this text as a quick screening tool to decide whether or not they want to open your email. If you begin your email with some interesting facts or an intriguing premise, you could mirror this in the preview text to hook the reader into opening the email. Alternatively, you could do more exciting things with your preview text, such as:
Ask a question in your subject line and answer it in the preview text, e.g. “How Will Your Customers Find Your Website?” or “We’ll let you in on our secret tips…”
Elaborate on the subject line, e.g. “Holiday Deals from £99” or “Go to Spain, Italy or Greece for a Bargain Price.”
Give an incentive to open the email, e.g. “Valentine’s Day Sale” or “Up to 80% off Candles and Scents”
Make the recipient feel special
If you haven’t the data, never fear – you don’t just have to rely on the recipient’ name to make your emails stand out with personalisation. Emphasising “you” within your subject lines is a proven way to attract the attention of the reader, with phrases like “Exclusively for You” and “Your Special Selection” to give your subject lines the feel of a personalised message rather than a generic sales email. Done right, your recipient should feel appreciated as a customer and should spark enough intrigue to make them more likely to open the email to find out what you’ve chosen for them.
Be like-minded… Help readers to identify with your emails
People like to self-identify and belong to a group – that’s why all of those Buzzfeed quizzes about your favourite Game of Thrones character, or questionnaires about which Hogwarts House you are most likely to get Sorted into are so popular and effective at driving engagement. By segmenting your audience data into relevant categories, you can start identifying different demographics and audience interests that will help you shape your email copy and subject lines. For example, you could target your 18 – 22 year olds at university with “The Broke Student Guide to a Luxury Holiday.”
Inject some humour
If you make someone chuckle with your subject line, they are much more inclined to open your email to see what other giggles are in store. A classic pun is often a good choice, or you could take your recipient totally by surprise like Groupon did: “Best of Groupon: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)” Cheeky old Groupon did break the 50-characters-maximum rule here, but hats off to them for the wit!
Drive action by creating a sense of urgency
People check their email while on the go, and often see a message they intend to come back to, yet promptly forget about it. Don’t let this happen to your emails. By using targeted verbs (action words) in your subject line, you can help drive the recipient to do what you want them to do. By instilling a sense of urgency, they are more likely to open your email as soon as they see it. Good examples could be “Go On, Treat Yourself”, or “Blink And You Might Miss Out…”
Use reverse psychology
‘Trick’ people into opening your email by setting them a challenge, such as “Bet You Didn’t Know This About…” or simply by telling them not to, like Manicube did: “Don’t Open This Email.” Human nature means that most people will see this and be curious enough to have a nose – just make sure your content is actually worth the trickery, and maintain consistency between the subject line message and your email content so readers don’t actually feel tricked. One of the simplest (but rather unimaginative ways) of linking the subject line and email copy is by saying “Now that we’ve got your attention…” We won’t judge if you want to use it!
Incentives drive opens
If all else fails, offer an incentive in your subject line to encourage people to open your email. This might be the promise of a product sample, discount offer, prize draw, mystery surprise or anything else you can offer to get people to open your email (short of blackmail. Don’t do that.) Just try and avoid features which can trigger the dreaded spam filters – words like “Free,” “Click,” “Sale,” writing in ALL CAPITALS, and excessive punctuation “!!! <3”
See our blog on avoiding spam filters for more useful tips on this.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas to run away with. If you fancy a few of them but aren’t sure which would suit your business, try several different subject lines and perform a split-test to find the one that performs best.
If you’ve got a subject line in mind but you’re worried about potentially triggering spam filters, there are some free testing tools online that will give your subject line a score basenabled on how many spam-like elements it has. Subjectline.com is a useful one we would recommend.
If your mind insists on going blank whenever you look at the box for your subject line, give an automatic subject line generator a go. This one is really handy – just pop in your keywords, and it will generate loads of potential subject lines for you to choose from or tweak.
However you decide to formulate your subject line, a key thing to remember is that the tone and language should suit both your audience and the organisation you work for. . If it sounds drastically different from your usual brand voice, the effect will be jarring and strange; you don’t want people to think you’ve been hacked or have started sending spam. If you’d like to start reaching out to your customers differently, consider it as part of a broader branding shift.
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