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Email Marketing Tips: Writing Effective Email Subject Lines

Email Marketing Tutorial

In the last article of this Email Marketing tutorial series we looked at email copywriting and the goal of each element of your emails. We also looked at the importance of your subject lines in getting your emails opened. Let’s look at this aspect in detail.

As previously discussed, your email subject line has one main priority; get the recipient to open the email.

A Word of Warning

First of all, we have to keep in mind the risk of being flagged as spam.

While there are plenty of ways you can ratchet up the impact of your subject lines, balance this impulse by remembering you want to maintain the long term value of your list.

What do spam emails look like? Just look in your spam folder. They shout, they use lots of dollar signs, excessive punctuation, and tend to be, well, needy. Having said that, you can learn a lot from the good spams, there is a reason why spam continues … it makes money, so some of this has to be down to copywriting and not just sheer quantity.

Keep your email subjects familiar and consistent also, start with the same words so the recipients recognize you. I tend to start with the name of the newsletter. You are better off starting with the name of the newsletter because a lot of email clients will chop off the words at the end for space reasons.

Now, some of you will be thinking “Hey, there is no need – the recipient gets my email address”, which is true if you send your emails from “XXX Newsletter” but a lot of people don’t have a special email account for your newsletter. For example I like people to reply to the emails I send out so I send them out from me. Also, a lot of times email software shows the email address, not a friendly name, or the recipient only looks down the subject lines. My advice, as always, is do your own testing.

Optimal Email Subject Line Lengths

“How long should my email subject line be?” is the next question we need to cover. I get asked this a lot, and my answer is always “Long enough but not too long” :)

The maximum subject line length will be enforced by your software, but always try to keep it below 50 characters (including punctuation and spaces), because after that you are almost guaranteed to get cropped by email clients. Personally I aim for much lower, a goal of 20-30 characters has worked well in my testing, and certainly those with below 30-40 characters perform much better than those above …

That said, I do NOT rigidly stick to this. It’s important to get your point across clearly, and if that takes a few extra characters, so be it. I refer again to my point above about long term value. Your emails have to make sense.

Writing Compelling Email Subject Lines

The trick to writing email subject lines that get your messages opened is to appeal to the recipients emotions, needs and curiosity.

Consider your own behavior. When you are going through your inbox, what are your thought processes? You open emails based on the five ‘I’s …

  1. Importance – If it is work-related, or a PayPal payment, you are going to open that email smartish
  2. Intrigue – Curiosity, like a good joke or riddle, causes you to open the email to see what the punch line is.
  3. Interest – We all have subjects that we love to read about, so sometimes all you have to communicate is the topic
  4. Involvement – Pull on the heart strings, appeal to passion, greed, narcissism or any other emotional hot button
  5. Investment – Recipients will be personally or financially invested in something. Craft your subject line around it and it will get opened.

So how do you put that into practice?

  • News – Tell your recipients what’s new, something that is happening or just happened that they will want to know about
  • Tips – “How to” is a great way to get your email opened, providing you connect your solution to the recipients needs
  • Offer – Make a compelling offer that the recipient will want to take up
  • Question – Ask a question that the reader will answer “yes” to, or maybe put the subject in the form of a mystery or puzzle where the they will feel compelled to find out the answer.

You can mix and match, of course. Consider the headline “Who else wants to learn how a librarian made $1,000 in one day?”. It’s a question, a how-to, and it is news.

The Most Important Factor in Email Subject Effectiveness

What people forget, of course, is that it is not how clever the email subject is but how much it appeals to the reader. The main factor that will impact your success (or lack of) will be how well you address your target audience.

In fact, naming your target audience (“Freelancers! Now you can …”) can sometimes increase performance.

Appeal to your audiences current interests, needs and challenges and your emails will get opened. As an example, I knew my readers were interested in the Thesis theme but had a reason to resist buying, read about how my email overcame their sales objection.

It’s all about knowing your market.

Got any email copywriting tips to share? Please add your tip or link in the comments. Remember to subscribe so you don’t miss the next part of this email marketing tips series!

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Comments

  1. nice tips….great post….thanks for sharing….

  2. nice tips….great post….thanks for sharing….

  3. Great piece, Chris!

    I notice myself that it’s important that whatever you send out it must never come accross as an advertorial – a self-promotional article.

    It’s all about angling your copy with informative content that will garner continued interest in what you have to say. By building a relationship of trust based on knowledge and authority, you then start to hit the point when people enquire about hiring your services.

  4. Great piece, Chris!

    I notice myself that it’s important that whatever you send out it must never come accross as an advertorial – a self-promotional article.

    It’s all about angling your copy with informative content that will garner continued interest in what you have to say. By building a relationship of trust based on knowledge and authority, you then start to hit the point when people enquire about hiring your services.

  5. Great post Chris.

    I’d like to expand on your point of considering your behaviour. There are two questions I think someone should ask themselves when considering a subject line.
    1. Would this make me want to open this email if it came in my inbox?
    2. Would I consider this to potentially be spam – or something relevant of interest to me?

    It’s also important to consider not just “Would I open this,” but “Would I open this right now.

    We alll get so much email in our inbox that we often keep emails to go through when we have time – but how many of us go back to them in any kind of timely fashion. So in summary, it’s not enough just to entice the reader, but to grab their intention in that instant that they have no choice but to open your email right away.

    I believe that might be how the word “Free” got so overused :)

  6. Great post Chris.

    I’d like to expand on your point of considering your behaviour. There are two questions I think someone should ask themselves when considering a subject line.
    1. Would this make me want to open this email if it came in my inbox?
    2. Would I consider this to potentially be spam – or something relevant of interest to me?

    It’s also important to consider not just “Would I open this,” but “Would I open this right now.

    We alll get so much email in our inbox that we often keep emails to go through when we have time – but how many of us go back to them in any kind of timely fashion. So in summary, it’s not enough just to entice the reader, but to grab their intention in that instant that they have no choice but to open your email right away.

    I believe that might be how the word “Free” got so overused :)

  7. A test by a marketer shows that surrounding your subject line with parentheses actually increases open rate…

    Another thing is to write the subject line in lower case in order to appear that a friend is writing in a hurry.

    Tried a few other tricks, but not everything works for my subscribers.

  8. A test by a marketer shows that surrounding your subject line with parentheses actually increases open rate…

    Another thing is to write the subject line in lower case in order to appear that a friend is writing in a hurry.

    Tried a few other tricks, but not everything works for my subscribers.

  9. I get a much higher open rate when I add the person’s name to the subject line. In fact, for me it increases the open rate by about 30 percent.

  10. I get a much higher open rate when I add the person’s name to the subject line. In fact, for me it increases the open rate by about 30 percent.

  11. I have started building up names but I haven’t started sending out emails yet. I am going to start an affiliate marketing program once I get over 200 names. Thanks for the posts

  12. I have started building up names but I haven’t started sending out emails yet. I am going to start an affiliate marketing program once I get over 200 names. Thanks for the posts

  13. Superb stuff buddy…I am totally impressed the way you have presented each of the points…thanx a ton for sharing great stuff :)

  14. Superb stuff buddy…I am totally impressed the way you have presented each of the points…thanx a ton for sharing great stuff :)

  15. You forgot to mention to include the name of your subscriber in the subject line..

  16. You forgot to mention to include the name of your subscriber in the subject line..

  17. Great post! I love how you have given specifics, the actual number of characters for example, a lot of articles and even books that I have purchased on similar subjects leave that out. But you’ve still made it a really easy to read article. Thank you!

  18. Great post! I love how you have given specifics, the actual number of characters for example, a lot of articles and even books that I have purchased on similar subjects leave that out. But you’ve still made it a really easy to read article. Thank you!

  19. I wonder if you find, as I often do, that most want the tricky way to get their emails read when, in actuality, they should focus more on writing about subjects that will interest their target audience. If they do that, the other part takes care of itself.

  20. I wonder if you find, as I often do, that most want the tricky way to get their emails read when, in actuality, they should focus more on writing about subjects that will interest their target audience. If they do that, the other part takes care of itself.