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The Do’s & Don’ts of Writing Email Subject Lines

Posted by Emily Hegland on June 13, 2019

It’s not easy to stand out in a crowded email inbox. But a good subject line can be the difference between your email getting opened… and ending up in the trash folder. If you want to boost your open rates, follow these simple do’s and don’ts for writing an email subject line that will get you the results you want.

DO: Personalize your subject lines

Putting someone’s first name (or even first and last name) in your subject line can dramatically improve the performance of your email. A test run by Informz showed personalized emails had a 63% increase in open rates and a 73% increase in click-through rates (CTR) compared to emails with no personalization.

But it doesn’t just have to be the name of the recipient. It could be personalized based on location, like “The best tires for Wisconsin roads” or “Free delivery from Chicago’s top-rated restaurants.” For retail businesses, you can even add personalized recommendations for customers based on their previous shopping habits. If you have the customer data to pull off this kind of personalization, use it to your advantage.

DO: Use words that work

Certain words provoke response. A tried-and-true example: FREE. It’s hard to resist. That’s especially true when it comes to email subject lines. If you can promise free delivery, a bonus item or a gift with purchase, there’s a much greater chance prospects will engage with your email. According to Adestra’s 2013 study, the words “free delivery” increase open rates by 50.7% and click rates by 135.4%. That’s huge.

Another key takeaway from this report: the word “alert” boosted email performance across the board, leading to a higher click rate and open rate overall. “Alert” gives an email an official tone, so if your message has information about an important update, this is a useful word to incorporate. Similarly, the word “new” led to higher engagement. So, make sure to promote new product launches and services accordingly.

DO: Add urgency

An expiration date will get people to act… fast. If you have an offer, put the expiration date in the subject line. Then, escalate the urgency with follow-up emails.

So, the first email of the promotion may say something like:
“New product launch: get 20% off (expires 7/31)”

And a follow-up email could say:
“Only one more week to get your 20% discount”

Then the final email could say:
“One day left — your 20% discount expires in 24 hours”

This way, you escalate the urgency and remind customers why they should act now.

DO: A/B test your subject lines

If you want to know what works, test it. Run an A/B test with two different subject lines. Choose one variable and run a head-to-head test. Want to see if an emoji helps increase response? Run a test with the same subject line — one including an emoji. Another test? See if incorporating [brackets] helps. Track the results to see what works with your audience. For a more in-depth at A/B testing, check out our blog on what to A/B test in your emails and how to do it

DON’T: Use RE: or FW: in your subject lines

Emails that start with “FW:” got 17% less opens than emails that didn’t, according to Invesp. Marketers use this tactic to make a promotional email look like a personal email, but readers see right through it. The same goes for “RE:”. It has the opposite effect as intended — it comes off as an obvious ploy. People are more likely to open and respond to an email that is clearly promotional but offers a benefit than an email with a “tricky” marketing technique.

DON’T: Make your subject lines too long

Most people open emails on a mobile device. In fact, mobile users account for anywhere between 24% to 77% of email opens, depending on your target audience, product and email type (source). That means you should consider the mobile experience of your email subject line.

Smartphones typically only display the first five or six words of a subject line. So, make sure the character length accounts for this. Short subject lines tend to perform better overall. If you can get your point across in those five words, you’ll see results. If you can’t squeeze your subject line into that limit, make sure those first five words are dynamic enough for your prospect to want to click and read the rest of it.

One last takeaway

Reflect on the emails that work on you personally. What makes you want to click a promotional email? Is it a subject line that’s funny… or one that’s straight to the point? Does the preview text add to the offer? Does an emoji enhance or distract from the text? If you don’t already have one, start a “swipe file” of emails that you found compelled to click on… then use it to inspire your own marketing efforts.

 

Topics: Subject Lines, Email

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