6 Email Subject Line Best Practices - The Content Experiment
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6 Email Subject Line Best Practices

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When you’re competing with hundreds of other emails your audience receives every day, your email subject line matters. You need to grab your audience’s attention quickly so the folks receiving your emails as part of your email campaigns will open them up, instead of dooming your emails to the recycle bin.

But how? Does anyone even open emails anymore? According to Constant Contact, open rates vary widely by industry—from more than 40 percent for child care services to about 17 percent for many financial industries and less than 10 percent for insurance.

Overall, email campaigns are an inexpensive marketing tool that provide a good ROI. But first you have to get readers to open the emails. Here are six best practices to keep in mind for your email subject line, along with two tips to walk away from.

Keep it Short

Email systems (Gmail, Outlook) show about 60 characters in a subject line while a mobile app only reveals about 25. And since 67 percent of people check their email on their smartphone, according to Pew Research Center, it’s best to keep your subject lines short. At the very least, give your hook in the first 25 characters so your recipients aren’t left guessing.

[bctt tweet=”#Email campaigns: give your hook in the first 25 characters so your recipients aren’t left guessing.”]

Offer a Hook

Give recipients a reason to open your email, without being salesy. The key is to provide value to your email list without outright selling. So offer a hook that your audience can’t resist.

  • “10 Time Hacks for SAHMs”
  • “Why Your Workout Isn’t Working”
  • “2 Secrets to Blogging Success”
  • “Save Money, Invest Wisely”
  • “Best Products for <your industry>”

These give recipients a reason to open the email. They indicate how long the article or email is (how much time it’s going to take to read) or clearly spotlight a topic that the reader is interested in (because they opted into the email list to begin with).

Be Clear—Sort Of

People want to know what they’re opening, but you need to pique their interest with a little mystery. In the examples above, we’re giving a teaser, but not giving away the content. Resist the need to give value in the subject line.

  • “Apple Top Investment Opportunity”
  • “Plan Ahead for Productivity”
  • “Google Apps Top Productivity Hack”

These subject lines give away too much. Now I know to invest in Apple, plan my day ahead of time and to use Google Apps in my business. Great! No need to open my email to see what other tips the sender has.

Use a Question

A question in the subject line gets your audience to start thinking—and might encourage them to open the email to find the answer. “Do you hate getting spam email?” for example, is one we can all resonate with, right? These questions may pull at your audience’s heartstrings or interest them enough to want (need!) more information:

  • “What’s the best cleaning product?”
  • “Suffer from networking phobia?”
  • “How do you boost online presence?”
  • “Trouble with your teen?”
  • “Trying to kick caffeine?”

Include Logical Keywords

Even though search engines aren’t going to crawl your email marketing campaigns, it’s still important to include logical keywords in the subject line. Not only do keywords make it easier for the recipient to search for the email later, it also increases the chances that your audience will open the email. Plus, the contents of the email (which hopefully you’ve curated from your existing content and some outside links) is indexed by search engines once recipients click on the links you’ve provided.

[bctt tweet=”#Keywords in the email subject increase the chances that your audience will open the email.”]

Proof It

You’ve heard the saying, “I do my best proofing after I hit ‘send.’” It’s true. And we’re all guilty of sending off emails that we haven’t proofed carefully. If you’re sending off an email newsletter to your opt-in list, be sure your subject line is free of typos. It’s a short piece of text, so no excuses there!

What Not to Do

Personalized Subject Lines

This practice might work if you have a highly accurate email list and all your subscribers’ names. However, more often than not, opt-in subscribers are keen on this trick and omit their name when they’re subscribing to a list. Not only that, but the subscriber’s name in the subject line is a clue that the email is spam.

Promotional Words

As I noted in my blog about providing value in your email campaigns, no one wants to be sold to. If you’re a small business owner, stay away from “Special Offer” or “50 percent off this week” and other similar subject lines. These are highly salesy and aren’t likely to garner high open rates. Another huge turn-off is “limited time” offers. I see these time and time again and guess what? That “limited time” seems to be hanging around forever—because I get the same offer from the same folks for weeks at a time. These sound like desperation to me!

As you’re developing your email campaigns, test out a few of these tips—not all of them will work for every email or for every audience. Look at your metrics after each email and see which one gets the most “opens” and the most clicks within the emails. Only you can determine what’s going to work for you.

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