Crafting the perfect email subject line: tips and tricks
When you sit down to write an email, the subject line is often one of the most important elements. It’s the first thing your readers will see and can influence whether they open the message.
There’s more to writing a good email subject line than meets the eye. And if you’re going to go to the effort of putting together an email, you want to make sure your readers open it, read it and act on it.
Why are subject lines important?
This one’s very simple. They are one aspect that your readers take into account when deciding to open an email or not. You want to increase your open rates? You need to pay attention to the subject lines you use.
How often have you opened an email with the subject line: Monthly Newsletter? I bet the answer is not very often.
So, if you want to nudge the open rates upwards, then you need to spend some time on your subject lines.
What makes a good email subject line?
Well, we’ve just established that they need to be interesting. Let’s break this down into how you can do that.
Put your readers at the centre
We all have an ego. Yes, we do. So, personalising your subject lines is a great way to go. You can include your readers’ names as one way of doing this. Or simply adding “you” or “your” can work equally as well. Think of what other information you have that you can use to personalise your subject lines.
Create a sense of urgency
At some point, we all have FOMO. Especially when it comes to things we love or that might help us. If you love a bargain, getting an email that tells you time is running out to buy something at a lower cost is going to make you get your credit card out.
If it’s appropriate for your business, making people laugh goes a long way. Think of how you might be able to use puns or jokes in your subject lines. Of course, they need to be relevant to your business, and the content of the email.
Get them in the feels
There are all sorts of ways you can pull at your readers’ heartstrings. This is a great tactic to use if you own a social enterprise or run a charity. How can you use what you do to give people all the feels? It works as well for small businesses because the will to support local businesses is riding high.
Appeal to their curiosity
I don’t know about you, but I’m a little bit nosy. A subject line that piques my interest with a suitable question or fact will make me open an email. What can you do to create subject lines that make people feel curious and want to know more?
People love lists. Using numbers in your subject lines helps readers understand how long it might take them to read your email. Odd numbers tend to work the best, with the number 3 being the most effective.
Ask a question
Using a question in your subject line, especially if it’s obvious the answer lies in the email, is hard to resist. You can even combine this with personalisation to make a bigger impact.
How can you create a thumb-stopping email subject line?
There is one thing I do when I write my subject lines that works for me.
I write my subject line AFTER I’ve written the content of the email. Doing it this way gives me more to work with and always helps inspiration strike!
Beyond that, what else can you do?
Look at what’s worked before
Go back over previous emails and look at the open rates. Remember, your subject line helps readers to decide to open an email. Make a note of the subject lines with the biggest open rates.
By the way, did you know there’s a whole page just for this in my Email Marketing Planner?
Once you know which ones had the best open rates, analyse them and look at the formats. Replicate the formats for future subject lines.
Keep them short and sweet
You don’t want your masterpiece to get cut off in people’s inboxes and make no sense. So, keep your subject lines short. Try to use fewer than 50 characters. It’s even more important for any emails people read on their mobiles. It takes effort to use 50 characters, but it makes you focus on the words you use. Delete any unnecessary ones.
Use a recognisable from name
People are more likely to open your email if they know who it’s from. Every email service provider (ESP) will let you customise this. My advice is to put your business name in this space. If you want to add your first name, that’s fine. But pair it with your business name so people easily recognise the sender.
Avoid clickbait subject lines
People are very protective when it comes to their inboxes. Too many clickbait subject lines and they will stop opening your emails. Worse still they might decide to unsubscribe, which means you can’t email them at all.
Even worse than that, they might mark your emails as spam. Too many spam reports will mean that email providers like Gmail and Yahoo will mark future messages as spam.
Also avoid spammy words, such as “free”, “discount”, and “cash” which can trigger spam filters. The same goes for too much punctuation (think !!!!) and lots of emojis.
It’s all in the timing
A well-crafted subject line sent at the right time is going to get that email opened. So, what is the right time? That information is in your email reports. Look back at a few emails for how many people opened your emails within the first three hours of you sending them. That’s when the majority of opens happen.
Another thing to keep in mind is timeliness. If you own a bar, sending an email at 4.45 pm on a Thursday (which is the new Friday) with details of your happy hour is going to get opened!
Use action words
Action words tell people what you want them to do. One of my best-performing subject lines is one I use every time I send a recording of a webinar. It’s really simple: Open for your webinar recording. I’m telling people exactly what I want them to do. Action words are powerful and mean you don’t leave your readers wondering what to do next.
Ready to test?
If you’re not sure which subject lines you’ve come up with are the best, do an A/B test. This means you send an email with subject line A to a proportion of your list (say 15%) and an email with subject line B to another 15%. Monitor which one gets the most opens and send the winning one to the rest of your list.
How can you increase the effectiveness of subject lines?
I’ve given you quite a few tips and ideas about creating great subject lines. There’s one thing we haven’t talked about.
The preheader text. Also known as the preview text.
What is it? It’s the line of text that appears below your email subject line in people’s inboxes. Take a look at the image below.
Let me tell you straight… this is another space for you to entice your readers to open your emails. I can’t tell you how many emails I get from big businesses that don’t use this space. Why? It’s going to help you improve your results.
Pairing a really good preheader text with your subject line that expands on it will nudge that needle a bit further up for you.
It really is worth spending some time on this. It’s arguably one of the most important parts of your email.
If you want to up your game, download this cheat sheet. In it, I share seven subject line and preheader text pairings.